Sunday, September 7, 2008

Signs that summer is over

The kids are back at school, & the weather has been chilly and rainy this weekend. I put on my heavy, fluffy terrycloth bathrobe last night for the first time in months! I'm not ready for this...!!

Mel was asking in her Friday roundup where everyone has been. After my posting frenzy in August (!), I know I've been kind of quiet myself lately -- here as well as in comments elsewhere. It's been a busy few weeks, getting back from vacation, covering for others who were still away; farewells & welcomes at the office (students & others leaving us, & their replacements arriving). Also, I've been joking to some people that first it was staying up late to watch the Olympics, then the Democrats, then the Republicans, & that this week will probably be my first decent night's sleep in nearly a month, lol.

Of course, being Canadian (albeit one with an American-born mother & lots of American relatives), I can't vote in the U.S. election... but U.S. politics has a huge impact on Canada, so we can't help but take an interest here. Plus, your election is infinitely more interesting than ours -- which was just called today for Oct. 14th. (I am sick of it already, lol.)

Speaking of the conventions, they're the subject of a lot of interesting posts I've been reading lately. I think my favourite was Io's, because it touched on a pet peeve of mine -- the elevation of the cult of mommyhood, to the detriment of those of us who have not been blessed with a family.

Even before I read her post, I had e-mailed myself a New York Times story about Sarah Palin that caught my attention (and raised my hackles) with the following paragraph:
“I admire her intelligence and I admire her integrity, but first and foremost she’s a mom, and she has an understanding of what being a mom is,” said Janet Kincaid, a grandmother and Republican who last summer opened her lakeside Wasilla home for a $20,000 Palin fund-raiser.

Forget the question of whether six years as a small-town mayor and not quite two years as governor is enough experience to assume the vice-presidency (&, by implication, the presidency) (let alone how well it stacks up against Barack Obama's political resume). She's not JUST a woman! She's a MOM!! -- that experience trumps everything else in some people's opinions. I guess that means politicians who don't have kids (whether they wanted them or not) had better pack up their marbles & go home, hmmm?

I have blogged about this before, long before convention season -- and I realize that most parents do this unthinkingly -- but so often when they talk about various aspects of parenthood, the implication is often made that if you don't have kids -- for whatever reason -- you're simply not as important or valued a member of society. Your personal time is not as valuable, your extended family demands are not as important, your reasons for leaving work early are considered less "legitimate" than similar requests made by parents.

We all tend to seek common ground with the people around us (that's why one of the first questions you'll likely be asked when meeting someone new is whether you have kids). And we all like to think of our political leaders as being "people like us."

Political candidates have long relied on their families to present a positive public image, to some extent... but the consideration of a self-proclaimed "hockey mom" for the second-highest office in the U.S.A. seems to be elevating the question to a whole new level. Does family status really matter in a political candidate? Should it? Are childless/free political candidates at a disadvantage?

I'm still mulling over these questions, but I'd love to hear what you think.

9 comments:

  1. Did you see this story hon? I'm so pissed about it, I can barely write.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080907.welxnfamily08/BNStory/Front

    Apparently, Dion's family doesn't count---because they were infertile and adopted internationally, which Harper very well bloody knows.

    The whole thing has me apoplectic.

    Even worse than my anger at Palin for using her kids as props.

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  2. You're right--the whole idea that the politician is "like us" is at the heart of this whole matter. I suppose to many people, a "hockey man" is much less intimidating than a businesswoman in smart suits. Even four weeks away from my due date, I get annoyed by people who act like being a mom is some sort of special club.

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  3. Aurelia -- I did! & I had the same reaction. I'm sure he knows damn well that Dion has a daughter. He's a smart man -- he can't be THAT clueless.

    The attempt at presenting a "warm & fuzzy" image in the ads that have already been running before the election was called (is that legal?) made me laugh (it also made me want to gag). Who is he trying to kid??

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  4. She is totally using her kids as props. So irritating. Then again, I do think it's pretty awesome that she knew she was having a Downs syndrome baby and chose to step up. It is a deeply personal issue, and I can't say I know how it would feel, but I admire her decision. I guess my beef with her is that she is using her kids and their personal stories for her own gain. And I, of course, hate that once again Mommyhood goes at the top of the resume. Grr.

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  5. Yeah, those ads with Harper trying to warm up his image are ok until he looks into the camera with his cold, soul-less eyes and you need to go watch an episode of Care Bears and take a hot bath just to try and get the chill off you. And all this from the man who was photographed shaking hands with his son as he dropped the kids off to school.

    I just checked out that story and I am so pissed, too. I expect more from our politicians, even if they are cyborgs.

    I really like this post, Loribeth. I completely agree that the way Palin is using her motherhood for political advantage is repulsive. It seems to be the worst kind of hypocrisy - I'll use my family to prop up my public image, but woe betide the liberal media who dares to ask questions. And worse are the many people who seem to support her for doing so, and in fact see that as a qualification for being a heartbeat away from the presidency. Seems to me that being a mother has become a moral qualification, and that it trumps everything else, including practical experience and ideas. Which is exactly what Harper is trying to do with his whole campaign, too. Sickening.

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  6. Yup, being a "hockey mom" definitely will have prepared her for the presidency should J.M. expire in office. Like motherhood is some sort of proxy for experience in international and labor relations, etc.

    Pulleaz. I guess it is a way of making her seem like an "everywoman" but to tout her ability to reproduce as a qualification for office is ridiculous.

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  7. Like you, I can't vote, and holding my breath to see how the Americans will vote this time around...
    I dunno, I think Americans like to talk about FAMILY-blah-blah-belch, but at the same time, does everything to undermine it as well.

    And yeah, you've hit it. There's smth about parenthood that makes you complete, ya know.... yeah riiiight.

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  8. Well, I really get what you and IO and many others are saying and alot of the perspectives I have read lately are ones that I embarrassingly have never thought of before and have given me much to think about. I don't have kids, I very much want kids, been there done that with infertility treatments and have more than 5 years of getting my hopes up each and every month only to be crushed. We are in the process of adopting now and I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I will never have a "baby" (we are going to adopt older kids 4 years+). Our family is going to be created a little differently than I had planned.
    However, I have been so dismayed at the way Sarah Palin has been attacked and criticized. I kind of assume that being a mom is a pretty big deal and a really tough job. Let's face it; fathers might do just 10% of the parenting. The bulk of the job lies with the mother and that hasn't changed much. Sarah Palin is a mother. That's who she is. It is normal that politicians use everything positive about their lives to try to win votes and appeal to the public. We may not like it and we criticize it but that's a fact. I do not think I am any less valuable as a human being, a wife, a worker, a member of society because I don't have kids but I do very much support workplace policies that support motherhood and the demands of parenting. When someone in our office goes home early for a sick kid or gets 4 weeks extra vacation the year they give birth or adopt or when someone has to leave early to go to their little one's school event I do not feel one ounce of the resentment that many others express. I might be alone but I am one of the childless women who like to see moms rush home to be with a sick kid or attend an event. Some people might use their kids as an excuse but I think that's rare.
    The owner of our very family-friendly company said once that mothers who work feel guilty if they are at home with their kids or if they are at work away from their kids. They feel guilty no matter where they are.
    And reading the blogs about Sarah Palin I have to say that we help perpetuate that guilt. It's not like a mother is rushing home to water a plant. It's a human being!
    I am really dismayed too that so many WOMEN are criticizing her when we should be commending her. Women are always so critical of each other and Sarah Palin has certainly not been spared.
    (AND to shoot down a rumor I have seen on a few blogs. It is a fact that Sarah Palin did not cut funding for special needs kids she tripled it!)
    I really think everyone needs to lighten up. Seriously.

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