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Palin paradox: Why do we hold working moms to a different set of standards?

Would we be asking the same questions if Palin were a dad? I doubt it.

by Dory Devlin  |  39629 views  |  6 comments  |       Rate this now! 

Amid all of the questions raised by Republican Sen. John McCain's vice presidential choice of Sarah Palin -- and, wow, there are many -- this one rises to the top: Why do we continue to hold working moms to a different set of standards in their personal lives when considering their working lives?

When the Alaska governor was first named by McCain as his surprising pick for the second most powerful job in the country, she got lots of kudos for standing up to big business and being a working mom of five. Sure, her breadth of experience as a government leader was questioned. But less questioned (at first) was whether as a mom of five, including a four-month old baby boy who has Down syndrome, she could juggle a big job with a family. Progress, right?

Then, the news that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant hit the holiday weekend news, and the questioning began. How can she possibly handle all of her complicated family issues along with the duties of the second most powerful job in the country? How could she put her daughter and family through such intense public scrutiny in pursuit of this job? Can she really be there as a parent and be there for our country?

Tell the truth: Would we ask the same questions if Bristol's dad were the governor and he was tapped for the VP slot on the ticket? Do we criticize Barack Obama because he is on the road most days, far away from his impressionable young daughters?

This New York Times article calls it, "the Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition." The interesting thing is how the arguments are all over the place. Socially conservative women who ardently defend women who choose to leave the work force to care for children are coming to Palin's defense. Women who have long advocated working mothers' advancement in the workplace question Palin's ability to do both jobs. I have long argued that women should have the same choices as men when it comes to work and parenthood, how it is up to us as individuals and couples to work out how to provide a living for our children while being there for them personally. Yet, I found myself shaking my head when I read that Palin had returned to work three days after giving birth to her son, Trig, who has Down syndrome. I know as governor, she had to appear on top of her job; but as a mother, I know those early days with a baby are so intense and all-consuming, as they should be, with or without a complicating disability. I think it does all women a disservice to give the appearance that it's possible to "do it all" within the first week of a birth.

About the Author

Dory Devlin is the Work+Money editor on Yahoo! Shine. Check out Shine Work+Money here.

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6 comments so far...

  • I don't think we should be juding Palin on returning 3 days after work. We are not in her house, we do not know her situation, the hours she worked, her help, her husband's arrangement etc. The only time it sends a message is if we allow it to. People need to understand we are all different people with different needs and to stop focusing on what she does with her family and focus on whether or not she has the capability to be the next VP plain and simple.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by CreditMom on 15th September 2008

  • We are held to a different standard if we let others dictate who, what, we should be, its not others who set standards, we set our own standard. Stop blaming others, if you are not able to set your own standard for yourself, that is why Sarah Palin is running for VP, she is not letting others set her standard, she knows who she is, we should all know who we are, if you don't, then, you let others dictate your standard. Make a change, in your own life, you set your standard not let others do it for you.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Ekela on 10th September 2008

  • That's quite an ad hominem you've got there Sindy - good on you, you've completely rebutted my assertions.

    Who is this Sara Palin, by the way?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Rachel Lane on 9th September 2008

  • rachel i saw your reply and it maid me so mad i had to sign up.

    its people like you who are destroying america from the inside you question everythin but why??? sara palin is a good women who is standing up for all of us everywhere and wants to change america. you really make me sick with all your liberal conspiracys.

    sara palin is a mother and a hero and i cant wait to get my vote in for her!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Sindy Howard on 8th September 2008

  • Well, I think the questions being raised aren't so much about her parenting style, but are more about the fact that she has vigorously campaigned to cut funding for young mothers, has declared that abstinence-only education is the perfect birth control solution, and that children and intercourse outside of marriage are sinful and shameful, yet, here's her unwed 17 year old daughter, pregnant, and a shotgun marriage about to ensue (much like her own was).

    Also, the question shouldn't be whether she's a good choice for VP, it's whether she's a good choice for president - chances are, McCain, given his health record and advanced years, will die whilst in office, at which point she becomes Commander in Chief.

    So, we know plenty about Mrs Palin. She's opposed to freedom of speech (, she's opposed to supporting young mothers (, and she's pretty dishonest about her opinions (

    But hey, what does any of that matter - McCain's a war hero!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Rachel Lane on 5th September 2008

  • I think you raise some good questions here. But only time will tell with Ms. Palin. We, as Americans, as mothers, as working inside or outside of the home moms, don't really know a whole lot about her yet. We really don't know what makes her tick. I suspect in the months to come, we will learn (through good sources and bad) way more than we really need to know about Ms. Palin and her family.

    In light of that, I find it sad that we, those who strive to "do it all" as moms, judge each other for very personal decisions. We each know our own limits, our own families. Why must we impose our way upon others. So she went back to work, maybe that was her way of dealing with an internal struggle, maybe she feels an overwhelming sense of duty to the people she represents, maybe she is just that tough. God knows I couldn't have done it, but never in my life would I have judged another women for making that choice.

    What if she would have resigned from her position after the birth of her baby? Would the view of her be different? What we have to remember is that our perfect balance, may not be hers.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mary Brosch on 4th September 2008