September 2nd, 2008
05:16 PM ET

Erica's News Note: The messy politics of parenting

[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]

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

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.

Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note • Sarah Palin
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Michael J. Arch

    I filter out any nonsense when it comes to color , creed , sexual orientation , religion or the lack there of ( because we are a free thinking nation ) . Faith cannot be measured by humans neither can emotions . Only actions or the lack there of regarding any situation can be judged .

    The question remains the same . This mother has young children who need their mother and father at the age of Palin's children . With that said how is Palin going to be an effective leader when her hands are full at home? Now she has a grand child on the way ?

    September 2, 2008 at 8:20 pm |
  2. bdmiller

    it's real simple. palin is applying for the job of the vp of the us. we, the people, are interviewing her. we all have the right and duty to question her ability to run the country – just as if she were applying for a job as a ceo of a multi-national corp. we need to look at her education, job experience and lastly, her ability to work 24/7 and still look at her face in the mirror in the mornings as regards her family's needs. i promise you, she wouldn't get a job acting as a ceo with her bachelor's degree and her thin experience. are we to believe that being the vp of the us calls for less experience than it takes to run a corp? come on, this is business and god help us if palin has to step up and run our country.

    September 2, 2008 at 8:15 pm |
  3. Lorna

    When she intoduced her son to the public SP stated he was going to Iraq.
    Why didn't she intoduce her eldest daughter with the statement she would soon be getting married?

    Wouldn't that have been a pre emptive strike?

    September 2, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
  4. nanabelle

    I think the news media should let the daughter of Sarah Palin alone. As far as Palin's experience, she has more than Obama. We need to concentrate on important issues such as rev wright, Rezko,Pflager and taking your children to hear hate filled sermons at wright's church. I'm voting for McCain/Palin because I think they will keep America safe.

    September 2, 2008 at 8:04 pm |
  5. Kristi from KC

    Susan is dead on. Its a BIG job. Either her family will take back seat or her job will. And neither one of them can afford it. And who wants to be responsible for electing her into it?

    And as for her daughter who has already suffered from having an absent mother . . . it is fair game for information. How can Sarah Palin impose her "family values" on the rest of the country and expect hers to be off limits?

    September 2, 2008 at 8:01 pm |
  6. Linda

    Well, there is no such thing as a perfect parent, or a perfect politician. I guess we are all simply human. It may seem sexist to ask the question is she ready for this responsibility when she still has 5 children to raise, but it is a realistic question. Through my experience it seems impossible to spit parenting responsibilities 50/50 between both parents. Sooner or later one parent or the others career and time spent is defined by childrens needs. Most often in our society its the mothers. Not always. I haven't heard much about Palin's husband and what he does. It is possible he's parenting full time?
    It is interesting that as a society the image of a father tucking his kids into bed at night via a laptop and webcam is sweet but that makes a mother bad. hmmm, but is that sexist

    September 2, 2008 at 7:52 pm |
  7. Mary

    I'll comment on two issues here. #1. How does a father of 5 children do his job. Boy are we letting the men off easy on this one. I would expect Mr. Palin to assist in the home in every way possible just as Sarah would if it were he running for office. Come on people it takes TWO parents to raise a family, NOT just the MOTHER or just the FATHER. If Sarah Palin becomes VP these children will be just like other children that come from VP's and Presidents. Sarah has already proven she is very adept at multi tasking. These kids will survive just fine. If you think this is rough what about our service people's spoues and children never knowing from one day to the next it their loved one is dead, injured or missing. #2. McCain really ticked me off picking a women thinking women will vote for the ticket just because a women is on it but I'm going to scream FOUL!!!!! as loud as I can to the media. HOW LOW CAN YOU GO!!!! Do any of you moronic people have children? How would you like them to be plastered all over the media. The physical condition of Bristow Palin is NOBODY's business and has nothing to do with this election. How dare you drag that young women into the middle of this political mess. This is a new LOW for the MEDIA. DIRTY! IS DIRTY! IS DIRTY!

    September 2, 2008 at 7:39 pm |
  8. Randee

    I feel this issue has nothing to do with the circumstance that Palin's daughter is in. My concern and which should be the concern of many who have had to hold down a job and raise a family at the same time is can she do this job with a CLEAR MIND. Can she, if need be, run a country in crisis if on any given day she may have her mind on her family issues. With five children, one with down syndrome and a young daughter about to be a mother can she keep her mind completely on running this country if the she had to step in as President?

    I raised three children and worked and I know that there were many times when I couldn't even think straight! And I didn't have the job of keeping a country safe, only my family.

    I have my doubts.

    September 2, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  9. glenda

    On july 11th she fired the public safety commissioner and then turned around and offered him a job as the Exec. Dir. of the Alcoholic Beverage control board.She states that she does not believe global warming is a man made problem. She supports Gun Safety for children but not sex education for them. In Dec. 2006 Alaska Business Monthly ask her about her views on the troop escalation in Iraq. She told them she had not really focused on the war much. But she did want to find out if there was an exit plan in place. She opposed putting the Polar Bears on the Endangered species list. And supported the predatory aerial hunting of over 1,400 wolves. This woman even eats Moose burgers. The next thing you know she will be advocating its healthy and asking McDonalds and Burger King to sell them.

    September 2, 2008 at 7:29 pm |
  10. Ann

    I am a small business owner and mother of 2 and hey- being a working mom is hard! How could she possibly do THIS job properly while having small children and a pregnant teenage daughter??? Palin seems like a loving and devoted mom. So where do you think her mind and heart would be if she were trying to deal with a national crises and her kid got sick?
    This is not a double standard... it's just reality. A loving mom's first devotion WILL BE to her baby before her job. I would love to see a woman become president and I'm sure it will happen in my lifetime. But to me, this is not the woman. She is too young and has too many other obligations to commit herself to this very important job!

    September 2, 2008 at 7:25 pm |
  11. Lisa

    I think the difference is that the VP is not a "normal" job. The pressures are much more intense. It is after all, the country we are talking about. And with some of the concerns regarding McCain's health and age, she is literally a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

    The one thing, though, we have not heard discussed is her husband. Will he take on the role of "house-husband" and be the one who is the main care provider to the children.

    Families have been raised in the White House before. The question really becomes one of is her husband willing and up to the task of being "Mr. Mom".

    September 2, 2008 at 7:25 pm |
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