[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/art.palin.baby.jpg caption="This undated photo provided by the Heath family shows Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with her daughter Piper in Wasilla, Alaska." width=292 height=320]
The McCain campaign is running on a simple motto, a seemingly simple concept: Country First. For John McCain, those words are more than a campaign slogan; they’re also the foundation for McCain’s personal journey. Just after returning from Vietnam, McCain wrote about his time as a POW. “I had a lot of time to think over there, and came to the conclusion that one of the most important things in life - along with a man’s family – is to make some contribution to his country.”
Country and family. For many Americans, if you add God to that list, you’d complete the list of things they hold most dear. But which of those very important parts of your life truly comes first? That is the uncomfortable question many voters are now posing, and there is no easy answer.
The life of a working mom has never been – and likely will never be – easy. Full disclosure: I am a working mother. I am also far from perfect.
This is not to say the life of a working father is easy; it’s not. But let’s be realistic, men and women deal with situations differently. We feel different pressures. Some are very real, others certainly seem that way. We also feel differently. No matter how far we have come, we are judged differently because we are different.
When Gov. Sarah Palin was announced as John McCain’s running mate on Friday, the reality of working moms and dads - their responsibilities, their loyalties, their daily struggles - was suddenly a hot topic… again. She’s not just a working mom; she is the working mother of five with a job that doesn’t come with many days or hours off. Her youngest, Trig, is still an infant. How do you juggle a baby and the #2 elected job in the US? That question has ignited the blogs, especially the Mommy blogs.
A warning if you haven’t spent much time on these parenting forums: they are not all warm and fuzzy. Anonymity can bring out the absolute worst in people. The flamethrowers on some parenting blogs are so vicious, I wonder if they ever have a kind word to say. The judgments come swiftly and they sting. This happens whether you’re talking politics or chocolate chip cookie recipes.
Thankfully, not all the comments are meant to hurt. Right now, there are some very frank, informative, thought-provoking conversations happening in cyber space. One of the most popular topics is this very timely question of country and family… and which should come first.
In my very unscientific trawling of the blogs last night and today, one of the hottest topics wasn’t about Sarah Palin’s foreign policy experience or even her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy. The elephant in the room – set free online – seems to be whether you should be running for this all-consuming job with an infant at home.
Is it sexist? Is it a swipe at working moms? Would the father of a 4-month-old baby be under the same scrutiny?
In response to the last question, the answer is almost assuredly “no.” The answer to the other two questions isn’t so clear. Of course, as Barbara Kellerman, who studies women and politics as professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, told Newsweek, men don’t usually run for office as fathers.
The questions are difficult, uncomfortable and tough to answer about outside the anonymous comfort of cyberspace. Women and men, mothers and fathers do have traditional roles, but are they the best roles for every family? Are they the best roles for this country?
Some bloggers talk about how they could never get behind Palin politically because they disagree with everything she supports, yet they want to support her ambitions. They have just one nagging fear: that she will do her job too well, that she may in fact put country first. It is a sentiment echoed in posts from both sides of the aisle.
This is a discussion we want to have with you, dear bloggers. Let us know how you feel about country vs. family, men vs. women, moms vs. dads. It is one of the most difficult topics to put into words, but one this country must learn to talk about.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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