Tuesday, September 02, 2008

President Mom?

I'm back! More about my fabulously long vacation shortly, I promise.

I don't intend to talk much about American politics on my blog, but McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as a VP running mate took me and the rest of the country enough by surprise that I had to comment.

I tend to vote Democrat, and I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't manage to vote in the primary election this year. It was partly because I was too lazy to get around to registering to vote overseas by this spring, and partly because I was presented with a difficult choice. Obama's intelligence and eloquence are indisputable, and his candidacy alone makes me feel more optimistic about the direction my country is heading in than any event in a very long time. But Hillary is a strong, opinionated, intelligent woman, and she represents all that my mother's generation fought so hard to earn for their daughters.

Since le Petit's birth, one other fact weighed heavily in Hillary's favor in my mind. She's a mom. I started to wonder just what might change for the better, in education, health care, even foreign policy, if a mother were in the White House.

It is fairly clear that McCain chose Palin as a running mate to rip off the band-aid hastily placed the gender issue after the Democratic primaries. Like most of the country, I know next to nothing about her. Our political beliefs differ sharply and she seems painfully short on experience, but I will not pass judgment on her character or abilities.

One thing hits me, though. Her youngest child was born in April, which will make him nine months old if she is sworn in in January. I personally cannot imagine being simultaneously a seventy-two-year-old's heartbeat away from the presidency and the sleep-deprived mother of an infant or toddler. When le Petit treats us to a rough night, I can barely find matching socks in the morning, so I cannot picture making national policy decisions, authorizing military movements or meeting with world leaders. The most sophisticated diplomatic negotation of my day is keeping le Petit from grabbing the spoon full of prune applesauce from my hands.

Patience, diplomacy, the crafting of a measured reaction, the art of balancing needs, all these skills we learn as moms would serve a world leader well. If a president saw the children of the world with the empathy of a mother, I think a different, more human, set of national priorities might emerge.

And yet, when the nine month sleep regression coincides with the first month in office or the toddler hits a clingy stage during a national crisis, I just can't see how a President Mom wouldn't be stretched to the breaking point. Or a President Dad, for that matter.

So my advice to future candidates is to wait until your children are in kindergarten. Then, put your hard-earned experience in the trenches of parenthood to good use, and I'll consider giving you my vote.

If I'm well-rested enough to figure out how to punch the hole in the ballot correctly, that is.


Isabelle said...

Bonjour Parisienne, nice to read you again!
I agree on what you wrote, except that I believe that Sarah Palin probably has one or several nannies taking care of her newborn, even during the night. I strongly doubt that she wakes up in the middle of the night when her baby is crying, she couldn't face her duties as a governor if so. Chances are that she has a cook and a cleaning lady too (and probably other employees that make life much more easier for her!).

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

I agree, she certainly isn't doing it alone, and it sounds like her husband is pretty involved. And I can't imagine a president or even a vice president not having plenty of help -- multiple nannies, housekeepers, and the like.

I guess I just can't imagine being in her place, especially since her youngest is a special needs child, which will bring a whole new set of challenges for the family.

But then again, I can't imagine why anyone would want to be president, whether they have children or not!