The Shortchange Debate: Can A Mom with Five Kids and A Demanding Career Do Both Well?

BlogHer Original Post

It's human nature to overlay our own values and beliefs on other people's decisions -- particularly when the decision is to accept one of the most challenging and demanding jobs in the world.

 So you see this young mother with five kids who is given the career opportunity of a lifetime and you image it's you being asked to become vice president of the United States. You wonder, "Given the same circumstances, would you say yes to that offer?"

While some would say, "Hell yes!" Many others would say, " Not a chance."

Maybe it's because most of us are simply not that ambitious. Maybe  it's because most women don't want to choose between family and career.
There are careers and then there are careers.

Becoming vice president of the United States is a job that demands putting career first.
And that's got a lot of women talking.

On the Today show, Amy Robach was interviewing Jodi Kantor who wrote about this issue in The New York Times   and said

the broader question is
if Sarah Palin becomes vice president, will she be shortchanging her kids or will she be shortchanging the country?"

With one child already grown and another safely deposited in her college dorm,I have already made my choice in the shortchanging debate. I have to live with the decisions I made. So do my kids.

Like Sarah Palin, I was back at work three days after giving birth.People thought I was crazy and worried what kind of mother I would end up being.

Like Sarah Palin I have a job I love and never had a desire to be a stay at home mom. I wanted it all.

At this juncture, I have no regrets.  I don't see any evidence that my kids were shortchanged.

With a 24 and 19- year old I have the benefit of being able to talk to them about what it was like to have a working mom who worked a lot.
During their growing up years I was racked with guilt and self-doubt,

I always wondered was being the best mom I could be? I could have saved myself a lot of aggravation.

My kids didn't feel neglected by their mom. They thought I worked a lot. They didn't think I cooked a lot. But they knew no matter what I was doing, no matter who I was having a meeting with, if they called, I took the time to talk to them.

That's because in the shortchange debate, I opted to shortchange the career.

That doesn't mean I didn't work incredibly hard or long hours its just that I opted not to work at a job that would have demanded more than I wanted to give. Was the career shortchanged? Absolutely


So when I heard that Sarah Palin had not one, not two, but five children and an infant with special needs, I had an emotional reaction. I was sad.

I realize I'm putting my value set on her family values. I realize that I'm judging her based on my experiences and my capabilities and my viewpoint of what a "good" mom should do.

I do believe women can have it all. I don't believe they can have it all at the same time.

And to be the kind of mom I wanted to be, I couldn't have a corporate job that demanded 14 hrs a day and 40% travel. I would have felt I was shortchaging  my kids and myself. I loved being a mom to young kids.

I felt sadness when I heard about  Sarah Palin  because if history is an indicator, she will ultimately shortchange her family if she is elected.

But that's me and my worldview of being a mother.

I have no idea what kind of mother Sarah Palin is. I have no idea what her beliefs about parenting are. And I have no idea whether she worries if she is spending too much time away from  them.

She may see the benefits of the lifestyle and experiences that her kids would have if she where to become vice president, would far outweigh the loss of time and attention by mom.

Regardless, a lot of women and men are trying to come to terms with their own values regarding work life balance and whether a 44 -year -old woman with five children and an infant with special needs can do it without shortchanging either role.

Raising Smart Girls say,

I evntually gave up that whole part of me for my children and family - because I wasn’t able to do both well but that’s because I wasn’t strong enough to do it. I know exactly what I gave up, and while I’m careful how I handle my girls that I don’t let them see me too unhappy, and I guard myself against feeling bitter, I’m still sad about the loss of my career.

Vinegar Martinis has a message to the Twitterdom. " Give Me A Break"

The twits online are saying that Palin is a bad mother and that her number one job should be parenting not politics. Excuse me? Who the heck is saying that parenting her kids isn't her number one job? I work and believe me parenting my kid is number one through number infinity if compared to anything else I do in my life. But - apparently unlike the twit brigade, I'm capable of multi tasking and doing a few more things than birthing, then staring at my child for the rest of her natural life.

Feminist Legal Theory has excerpts from the New York Times Article

Many women expressed incredulity — some of it polite, some angry — that Ms. Palin would pursue the vice presidency given her younger son’s age and condition. Infants with Down syndrome often need special care in the first years of life: extra tests, physical therapy, even surgery.

Sarah Robertson, a mother of four from Kennebunk, Me., who was one of the few evangelical Christians interviewed to criticize Ms. Palin, said: “A mother of a 4-month-old infant with Down syndrome taking up full-time campaigning? Not my value set.”

Julie Poland at the Summit Blog asks Is the mommy track kaput?

Families can adapt to a lot, but at some point each woman (or man, for that matter) has to consider whether she's asking her family for an unreasonable amount of adaptation for the sake of the advancement of her career.

Comment if you 'd like to tell me you disagree, but I believe that ultimately there is no substitute for a mom. It's not that I think Sarah Palin shouldn't be allowed to run - I do think, however, that she's doing a grave disservice to her family to do it right now.

If you had five kids and an infant with special needs would you take on a demanding new career that would definitely take away from time with your family? What do you think of the shortchange debate - Can moms do a good job with a demanding career and a house full of kids?

More importantly, are you judging Sarah Palin because that's  the choice she's made? Elana blogs about business culture at FunnyBusiness


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