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Selective sympathy for moms in public office

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 2, 2008 10:29 AM


Photoshop: David Lunde

In observing the P.D.S.-induced mania about Gov. Sarah Palin’s work/family life, I was reminded of a very sympathetic piece in the Washington Post from last July on female politicians in Congress who have young children.

Let me give you a taste of the long, page one WaPo profile, titled “Mom’s in the House, With Kids at Home For Congresswomen With Young Children, a Tough Balance.”

Before the sun rose over their Florida home, Debbie Wasserman Schultz pulled the thermometer from the mouth of her 8-year-old daughter, Rebecca, and checked the mercury: 103 degrees.

Stay home? Or go to work? It’s a dilemma familiar to millions of working mothers. But her situation is complex: The job is 1,037 miles away, in Washington.

She got on the plane and flew to a New York fundraiser and then on to Washington for her workweek as a Democratic congresswoman. She knew her husband could handle Rebecca’s fever.

Still, the guilt traveled with her. “It feels like someone’s ripping my heart out,” she said. “No matter how good your spouse is, kids want their mom when they’re sick.”

Wasserman Schultz, who also has a son, Rebecca’s twin, and a 3-year-old daughter, is part of a select group, the 10 women in Congress raising children under 13. It’s probably a congressional record, although no one has kept this particular statistic.

They reside on a shaky high wire, balancing motherhood with politicking, lawmaking, fundraising and the constant shuttle between Washington and their home states.

Most of the House members live apart from their children during the week, parenting by phone, e-mail and faxes and relying on husbands, family or nannies to fill the gaps. It’s a lifestyle dictated by election cycle. The four senators live with their families in Washington but wake to the daily frenzy of integrating children into unpredictable workdays that can exceed 16 hours and fray relationships.

And they all live with a reality possibly even more difficult: The public will scrutinize and judge the mothering choices these politicians make. It is this that sets them apart from other professional women and their male counterparts in Congress, and the 10 in the group are keenly sensitive to it.

Wasserman Schultz is a Democrat, by the way. So are most of the other working moms profiles, though a few Republicans are tossed in for the semblance of balance:

Several are determined to show that a woman can raise a family while serving in Congress. Nearly all say they feel compelled to use their own perspective as the tiny minority of working mothers in Congress to represent the 70 percent of mothers who have school-age children and jobs outside the home.

“In the Senate Finance Committee, we were talking about higher education and I looked around the room and thought, ‘I’m the only one saving for college,’ ” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), whose twin boys are 11. “I’m not professing that my colleagues with grown children are any less compassionate. They’re just not going through it.”

Often, motherhood colors the legislation they propose. Wasserman Schultz has introduced a bill to improve swimming pool safety, because accidental drownings account for the second-highest number of injury-related deaths of children under 14. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is pushing a bill to ensure the rights of women to breast-feed in public. And Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) is trying to increase federal money for childhood cancer research.

The response from lefty and feminist blogs was positive and sympathetic. Here’s an example from a liberal female blogger at Tapped:

So where are the husbands? I read the entire article, looking for husbands who had given up their careers to stay home to support the kids, but alas. In fact, there wasn’t a single quote from the husbands of these women or even an indicator they were doing more to pitch in and help with the family.

…It seems that women can’t choose to focus on their career in public office totally or they risk being ousted by voters for being a bad mom. In many ways, the story of these congressional mothers isn’t any different than the lives of regular working women. They’re still the ones pulling the majority of the family responsibility, even though they have demanding and prestigious jobs. Instead of women having to do it all exceptionally well, when will partners start making the sacrifices that women have been making for their husbands for years? Those kinds of stories are few and far between.

Well, Gov. Sarah Palin’s story is one of those stories. Her husband took a leave of absence as a North Slope oil field production operator to support his wife. But instead of extolling their choice, the leftists have morphed into ultra-social conservative “women belong at home” caricatures. And they are going after Palin’s husband now — digging up dirt on a two decade-old DUI arrest and reportedly offering money to bottom-feeders for damaging info:

As Obama operatives scour records in Alaska for dirt on Gov. Sarah Palin, they are also seeking embarrassing materials about her husband. And it isn’t just the Obama campaign. Several left-wing groups with ties to MoveOn.org have used their network to offer as to $5,000 for damaging employment or personal information about him.

If a Democrat mom chooses public office, she’s a patriot Wonder Woman imbued with Absolute Moral Authority on children’s, health, and social welfare issues.

If a Republican mom chooses public office, she’s the child-neglecting spawn of Satan who has no business debating any domestic public policy because of alleged hypocrisy.

Ain’t feminism grand?

***

Related: There is now a Sarah Palin Sexism Watch.

More: There is now a Fight the Palin Smears website.

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