The brilliant Ariel Gore (you must read her awesome and inspiring and dead-on funny book, How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead) wrote a post yesterday about people asking of mother-of-five and Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin, “But who will take care of the children?”
Funny, I was thinking just this morning that I’m amazed that no one had asked this question yet, so I must not be listening to the right media. I was starting to think that we might actually be finally past this kind of questioning with regard to professional women with children, but if Ariel’s post is any indication, I’m guessing, uhm, no.
I don’t have children yet and am not sure I ever will, but I do know one thing: I’m so very glad that I was heavily exposed in my youth to a culture that doesn’t frown upon women soliciting assistance — paid, part-time, full-time, or otherwise — from relatives and nannies in raising their children and pursuing their careers. I don’t recall mothers ever having to put themselves through the terrible angst of deciding between motherhood and a livelihood. Nearly everyone I know was raised with at least a part-time nanny — my brothers and I had one until we moved to the US — and there’s no stigma attached to the practice at all. And guess what? We all turned out fine, we all ended up loving our mothers fiercely and appreciate all the hard work they put into giving birth to and raising us. I still remember with great fondness the woman who helped my mom with the housework and childcare, but not once did I ever think of her as “Mom.”
I hope to see the day when this society recognizes that childcare cannot and should not be a one-woman show. There was a time even in the United States when children had entire extended families helping to raise and nurture them; kids spent huge blocks of time hanging out with cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. It would seem that the more power and influence women gain in the public sphere, the more pressure there is on them to be the perfect, self-sacrificing moms. What kind of fucked-up feminist backlash is that?