Rattling the Cage: Go home, Mrs. Palin

Children need a mother and a father, but they need a mother more.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit:)
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
Whatever else can be said about Sarah Palin's candidacy for vice president - which, of course, is a whole lot - it's turning out to be one hell of a lesson on the limits of women's equality. Don't misunderstand: I have absolutely no doubt that a woman can be just as good a vice president of the United States as a man, and just as good a president, too. But that's not the issue. The issue is child-rearing. And the question is: Who is more important in that process, the mother or the father? I say that as a rule, it's the mother. Why? Biology. Evolution. (Or even intelligent design.) Pregnancy and childbirth just naturally make motherhood a bigger deal than fatherhood. And after childbirth, the maternal instinct takes care of the kid better than the paternal instinct. I recognize these as basic facts of life. And I think just about all men and women, whatever they might say, recognize them too. Second question: If children, or any of a family's children, need more than the usual amount of parental care - if they need so much that both parents really shouldn't be working full-time - who should be the first to take time off work or quit the job altogether, the mother or the father? As a rule, I'd say it's the mother. By rights, she is more important to the kids than the father. TRUE, THERE are variables to consider - whose job brings in more money, whose job gives more personal satisfaction, whose job is more important to society. These and other matters being equal, though, the mother should make the career sacrifice before the father - for the sake of the kids. Also, I think, for the sake of the natural order, which favors the man as the breadwinner and the woman as the parent. If you don't believe me, watch National Geographic. Don't misunderstand: I'm not saying fathers have no responsibilities, or negligible ones, in raising kids. I think we have huge responsibilities, and I think we have to be fully ready to take time off work - if it's at all financially possible - should our kids need a lot more care than usual. And if I were Todd Palin, Sarah's husband, and I were a fishing boat operator and she were governor of Alaska and a candidate for vice president, and one of us had to take off some time from work because, after all, we have five kids - I would offer to be the one (or at least I should) because her job is so much more important and time-consuming than mine. But it would be understood that she still has to make time to be with the children. Governor, vice presidential candidate, she is a mother first. (And the role of wife even ought to fit in somewhere.) Could the Palins juggle it? Could they do justice to their five kids when the mother has such a colossal job? With five ordinary kids, I think that in principle, it's possible. But when the fifth child, who was born in April, has Down syndrome? Then I think it's very, very iffy. No, actually, I think the answer is no - I don't think a woman who's already got four kids can be governor of Alaska and be a good enough mother to a newborn baby with Down syndrome. Either the job or the baby is going to be suffer, and Sarah Palin, whatever her approval rating in Alaska, is replaceable as the governor; she is not replaceable as the mother of Trig Paxson Van Palin. When this boy was born, she should have given up her job because it's way too demanding. I'm not judging her as a political figure, I'm judging her decision as a mother, and staying on as governor was the wrong decision. Accepting John McCain's offer to run for vice president, of course, only compounded it. She has no business running for vice president, or serving as vice president, with an infant who has Down syndrome, plus four other kids. AND I must admit, this never occurred to me when she surfaced as McCain's choice and made such a splash. Hey, she's a wonder woman, she hunts, she fishes, she's Miss Congeniality, she gives birth to a baby when she's 44 and knows he has Down syndrome. You gotta admire her. But now it comes out that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant, and Bristol is going to marry the father of the child. No matter! Nothing stops Sarah Palin! On to the White House! I am woman hear me roar! Oh, please, please, enough of this farce. Let's stop being polite, stop being politically correct, stop being so blindly obedient to the creed of women's equality. Let's come out of this trance and say: Wait. There are limits to women's equality. Who's going to be with this 17-year-old girl as the baby comes due, who's going to be with her after the baby's born? Who's going to be with the infant boy who's got Down syndrome? Not mom. Mom's going to be flying around America running for vice president, and then she's either going to be the vice president or go back to being the governor of Alaska. And while she's doing that, who the hell is supposed to play mother to those two extraordinarily needy kids? Mr. Palin? Even if he were the best father in the world, he'd be completely out of his depth. Even if he were married to a woman who didn't work and could be with the kids full-time, he would still, by rights, be thinking about whether he could take time off his job to be at home with the family more. But I wouldn't expect him to quit his job when he's got a wife who can quit hers, as huge and important a job as hers may be. That's where women's equality ends. Children need a mother and a father, but they need a mother more. (You don't have to be an evangelical Christian, Republican, "pro-life" mother of five to know that, but I would have thought it helps.) Sarah Palin sets an extremely high-profile example, especially to women, and as such she should turn down the vice presidential nomination, resign as governor of Alaska, go home and take care of her kids. As for McCain, now would be a perfect time for him to erase "Country First" as his campaign slogan, and make it "Family First" instead.