TALK BACK: Sarah Palin & the Glass Ceiling Dilemma

I've been struck by the story of Sarah Palin, a governer from Alaska who is the first woman to ever grace a Republican Presidential nomination. Her life is an inspiring story: a hockey mom who became president of the PTA, and then got nominated to city council, and then won a position as mayor of her town, which led to winning the role of governer of her state.

Almost as interesting as her political career is her journey as a mom. She has a son who will shortly be deployed to Iraq - a stressful situation for any mother. She has a 17-year-old daughter in an unplanned pregnancy - another challenge for their family to endure. And she has a five-month-old son with special needs, who will undoubtedly need lots of care and attention.

I've been thinking lately about how difficult accepting this nomination must have been for her. The vice-presidential nomination is certainly the job of a lifetime for someone in her field. And yet, a job with potential 60-hour work weeks would certinaly give any mother pause, much less one with a newborn and four other children who will be deserving of time and attention in the coming years. She is publicly facing the difficult decision between self and sacrifice that so many of us will face on a smaller scale.

Without casting judgement on her choices, what would you have done if faced with the same decision? Would you have jumped at the chance for a job of a lifetime? Or would you have sacrificed your career dreams to assure more availability at home?


  1. wow, good question. I don't think I can answer it. I want to say I would put my dreams on hold, but what if the chance never came along again? Maybe I'd just have to have faith that sacrificing the now would be just as great in the long run as my dream job? Not that choosing the dream job is a bad thing to do. I've just been realizing that for me, personally, in my specific situation, I'm supposed to work on being present. If I had another (huge) thing on my plate, would I be able to do that? Would I have time for it? Oh so many questions. I think about this A LOT. It's so case by case. My answer is "I don't know!" :)

  2. This is a question that could have us talking all day long. I am with Heather, it is really hard to answer.

    What i LOVE is that, as women, and fellow mamas, we can all offer great empathy in this situation. Who among us cannot identify with making decisions that impact our family? Who cannot identify with having your child be in a place that you never wanted them to be in?

    This situation is a bit different than those that we deal with on a daily basis in our own careers and life (the whole Vice Presidency thing), but one thing that is common between them is the need for a supportive community to be around us. I just do not think that we were meant to parent on our own, without the resources found in a tight knit community surrounding our kids.

    Now, to REALLY answer your question... If I put myself in her shoes. No, I do not think I could move forward with a role this big. I cannot imagine having a newborn baby with special needs and being on the campaign trail. I would be a complete wreck! I cannot imagine having a daughter in the midst of a surprise pregnancy at a very young age planning a wedding and preparing to give birth and being on the campaign trail. I would want to be walking alongside her in that season in a way that would offer complete availability and help if she wanted it. I know me and I know that under that many pulls and pressure and expectation, I would be overwhelmed and spread far too thin. But, that is me. I am a perfectionist with a capital "P", and I also do not feel called to help rule an entire nation.

    I am very glad I do not have to make that decision. But, I do have to wrestle with who I will vote for, and it is also very difficult to make THAT decision.


  3. I've made a conscious choice not to judge other women for their priorities. We all have different upbringings, different personal goals. It's not exactly comparing apples and apples. Truth is though, I would choose my family over a high power career option.

  4. I think it would be a really hard thing to decide as well. I would imagine that as the governor of Alaska, she MUST have some kind of reliable help/support system already to be able to manage a family of five with and maintain her current career. If she can maintain that support system then... who knows. Maybe it would work. If she goes all the way to Washington does her husband quit his job and become full-time daddy? That kind of consistency for a family cold make a major life-change like that more manageable, I guess.

    Personally I don't think I could do it. I'm too much a worrier. I would constantly be fretting over the impact my schedule would have on my kids. I definitely think it is a good thing for many women to be in high-power, high-profile positions, I just don't think I am one who could manage it all successfully.

  5. I don't know....this blog and others have often discussed the common mama dilemma of identity. Who am I today? Who am I right now? Who was I a few minutes ago? I think having a career in addition to being a mama allows a sense of identity that you can always count on. I guess here I am referring to a career on a much smaller scale, but the principle remains.

    If I personally were offered this position, no I would not take it, but I do agree with Kimberly's choice to not judge other women. I look forward to watching how Palin balances all these demands...I will be rooting for her!

  6. Excellent question. I would love to take this poll to the streets and hear the responses of women at large. When I first heard about Sarah's nomination, I have to admit, I thought "You Go Girl!"

    There is something about this woman that I resonate with. I imagine I could sit down talk to her woman to woman about my kids education, the challenges of raising daughters, the balance of raising children and trying to pursue your own interests, healthcare, raising globally conscious kids. I think it is an added bonus that she is personally committed to exercise and taking care of herself AND who seems to care enough about the future of our nation to challenge her family time/priorities in a BIG way.

    Something stirs in me when I see a woman like her taking such big strides in a completely male dominated world. (There, I said it. )

  7. You know, I really respect what Obama said about families being off limits. In many ways, I agree.

    However, as a voter, I think I am always the type who is going to look at a candidates personal life, and that includes family. Right or wrong, it DOES matter to me. Maybe it's the therapist in me, but I think that how someone conducts their family life is indicative of their overall value system

    That having been said, I did lose a lot of respect for Clinton when he had an affair. I was also disappointed with John Edwards when he ran for president despite his wife having a serious prognosis. To me, these are men with serious value conflicts, who choose their own needs over that of their wives.

    I'm sure we are all influenced by our personal experiences. My experience is growing up in a family where my dad had a high-profile job that demanded lots of hours. We were indoctrinated that it was acceptable because his job was so important. But at the end of the day, I think my sisters and I all felt cheated of a parent. I also think that deficit at home was reflected in some of the choices we made as young women. Not good.

    So I do tend to stand on a "family first" platform, and feel defensive for the children in families such as this, whether it was the mother or father running for the position. So knowing myself, where I in her position, I don't think I could do it. Perhaps she is one of those people with boundless energy who can survive on 5 hours of sleep and always has her ducks in a row. Personally, I can barely raise 2 children and remember to return a phone call. I am barely managing with the 10-15 hours I work per week. And I don't have a child with special needs - who will undoubtedly be having lots of OT, speech, PT, and doctor's appointments. Not to mention, a pregnant high schooler, and two girls stuck in the middle who will need even more attention in the midst of this.

    Wow. I am tired just thinking about it. Yeah. I couldn't do it.

  8. i could never get this chance.
    there is no way i could work a 60 hour a week job and raise 5 children even with live-in help.
    no possible way.
    i have 5 kids and i stay at home and i still feel like there isn't enough time for each one of them. kids need their moms SO MUCH. being away for that much of their everyday life would be rough on everyone. the first thing i thought when i heard her story was "she must never sleep."
    i guess i would say that i could not accept the job. but would never be an option for me anyway. i would've dropped out of the PTA halfway through the first year.

  9. It's interesting that we (myself included) are all comparing accepting the VP nomination to where we are right now... many of us sahm's or wahm's or working a low-key job.

    But, Sarah Palin is currently the GOVERNOR of a state. So, her current job is high-stress, high profile, etc.

    I can't see doing it either, but I also can't see being the governor. or the mayor. or the PTA president. :) She's obviously a very gifted, incredibly smart woman.

    So, anyway, my point is, how MUCH more intense will VP be compared to Governor?? Obviously more intense, but not as much more intense as it is than MY job.


    Good question, excellent discussion!

  10. When I heard about Sarah Palin's nomination, I was very excited and positive. She is real in the sense that she is more like any of us: a mom, a fighter, a survivor... She also has difficulties that she bravely faces and are ready to deal with, like a baby with special needs and a pregnant daughter... And as Jenny said, I am convinced that she already knows how to balance family life with a high-profile job. She probably has a good help, and probably her husband and children are committed to support and help each other so everything work out kind of smoothly... I believe she is a very capable woman.
    If I would take the position... that I cannot answer... I wouldn't right now with the kind of life I have: a foreigner in The Netherlands, with no possible help from my relatives, with a husband working like a crazy at the university.... But maybe, if I were in a more familiar enviroment, my country (Spain) or my husband's (US), I would run for it.
    Motherhood has been and still is a challenge for me, and I choose to be the manager of my little family and give them the best life I can... But! This is my choice and no one else... And with this I mean that we all know what we are able and capable to do and pursuit... I just hate this stupid idea that because you are a mother you have to stay at home. I am an Egyptologist ( or better to say, I WAS) and I worked as such for years; I met my husband working both in Egypt; I devoted my energy and time to a beautiful project for 7 years... and suddenly I was kicked out because I became a mother and wanted to have more children! And this was one of the worst slaps I ever received! My boss didn't ask. My boss just assumed that I should be at home without questioning if I would be able to continue working... And do you know what? I could have done it perfectly well because I am a professional and not only a mother! I am a very capable woman who can find balance.
    I love my children with all my heart and I will always do the best for them... But as a capable woman, I also can do many other things out of the house!
    SO now, I quit Egyptology and the nasty Academia, and I am ready to open a new door... and I am sure I will develop a professional career again in any other thing while I give the best to my little family.
    There are many women like Sarah Palin. For the queens and princess is not easy either but, at least the European ones, they are loving mothers and their children look happy and loved.
    It's a question of balance, be organized, and have the power and energy to manage all!!!
    Motherhood is a real job. And mothers are like managers of a company call family... Don't you think that Sarah Palin is going to be a good VP because she is already a successful mother and woman?

    Go for all of us!!! and show to everybody what a very capable woman-mother-wife is able to do!!!
    What a great speech!

  12. This is such a great discussion.

    Amy- I agree with you on the identifying aspect. There is nothing like knowing that a fellow mama is weighing in on decisions. The perspective that she will offer on so many issues is invaluable. I think that we women just "Tick" differently and that the mama bear in us sees every issue from a slightly different angle (the one that is more concerned with how it will impact our kids). Truth is, I am very concerned for the children in our nation. I think there are big issues that need to be addressed, and pondering a mom championing some of those causes is an exciting thing!

    -Jenny - you are totally RIGHT! Here is a woman who has already been in a high profile and intense job. I think that the campaign itself is the most intense part, and once the swearing in happens, things would be more normal, and probably very similar to her demands as Governor. I feel badly for her in regards to the timing of her daughter's pregnancy -- here she is in the midst of two of the most demanding seasons in her life. But, isn't that the case with so many of us. I feel like we are pulled in these kinds of directions every day. It will be very exciting to see how she can show the world what it looks like to be mom - ding - passionate person fighting to make a better world - ding - wife - ding - ding - ding ... (that was in reference to heather's post the other day)

    -Marga - I love your perspective. I think that as long as we are putting our kids needs first, we are on the right track. I believe for some women that means being a stay at home mom. For some, balancing vocation outside of the home and family life is the right place for them. I have friends who would probably shrivel up and die if they were home day in and day out. Getting out and "working" outside of the home fuels them and makes them better mothers. It is a personal decision for sure. But, when we choose to have these babies, I believe that we are also choosing to put their needs very, very high on our list of priorities. We are entrusted with these lives and that is a HUGE responsibility!

    I love women! I love the complexity of us!

    Did anyone else see Sarah's speech. I totally spaced on that. You tube here I come!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  13. Good for her trying!! Not that I don't think a woman can do that job, but she also has an important role at home with her young children. I'm sure she can handle the responsiblities of such a hard demanding job because she probably has nannies who are beyond the normal persons working hours. Great she can afford to have the nannies. But do you want someone else raising your children when you are in a 24/7 job? I'm not saying that moms shouldn't work outside the home but the vice presidency is not your typical job. It never stops. Whose going to suffer from all of the hours and traveling will be the two young children.

  14. That is such a tough question. I think the same question should be asked about Michelle Obama. The role of First Lady is just as demanding on your schedule as the role of the Vice President, but somehow no one has raised that debate. I know that Governor Palin must feel so torn, yet somehow she has managed to make it work as a Governor. I'm glad I don't have to make that choice :-)

  15. Do you know what? I am surprised with the comments I've heard from some close people... As some of you know, I live in The Netherlands, I am Spanish and I am married to an American so I don't vote but what happens in US matters to me because my daughter is American and she will probably grow up there... Today I was talking with an American friend and she said that Palin was a faker and hypocritical because she "pretend" to be so traditional and good Christian but her daughter is pregnant! I was quite pissed off by this comment because it is very unfair to blame parents, or more specifically MOTHERS, for children's mistakes... My friend doesn't have kids and she will not have... I replied to her that Bristol's pregnancy is not her mother's fault: a mother can give the best education to her children, but once they step out of the door, they are kind of out of mom's control... My mother stayed at home with us, she has been always very caring, loving and I believe she gave us a great education... but I was really stupid in my 20s and I did many stupid things that my mother taught me not to do: I drunk like a crazy, I smoked pot, I had sex... And I was lucky because I didn't have big problems... I can even say that I am lucky to be alive because I didn't have any car accident when I was drunk, or I didn't got pregnant by any boy or I was not beat up... C'mon, we should be honest! Who wasn't a little bit crazy and cross the "dangerous line"???... If any thing had happen to me, it wouldn't have been my mom's responsibility because she gave me and my brother and sister the best values... but we were stupid young folks believing that we could control our lives... I don't like to hear that Sarah Palin should be blame for her daughter's pregnancy... I told my friend that Sarah has showed herself as a normal woman who deals with this kind of problem...
    Do you know what I mean?
    Why are we questioning so much Sarah Palin? What about Michelle Obama? She also has little girls and the job of First Lady leaves very, very little time for family... true or not?
    As I said in my older post, I am glad I don't have to choose... but I am already tired and sick of all this critics... As far as I know, there are a lot of women with full time jobs, and even without partner, who manage to raise their kids successfully...
    Please! please... let's not throw stones to our own roof, as we say in Spanish... Women are very capable... WE ARE!... Why do we criticize ourselves so much? This sound to me like machismo...
    I apologize if I sound too dramatic... It's just passion... I am very passionate and I can't help myself...

  16. I am really horrified by all of the hype around Sarah Palin. She is nobody's role model, and the whole hockey mom thing is whipping up comraderie with suburban white women across the country. Listen, ladies...she is literally one heartbeat away from becoming the defacto President of the United
    States. Just contemplate how SCARY that is...she doesn't know anything about foreign relations, and she is a pro-lifer without any exceptions. She made her personal choices, and that's where we should leave it...this has nothing to do with what women in this country should be contemplating as a role model. Palin is provincial, right-wing and conservative, and she does NOT represent the majority of women in this country! The media needs to stop comparing her to Clinton, becuase there are no similarities other than gender.

  17. I really wish women in this country (soccer moms, softball moms, SUV moms) would STOP setting Palin up as the next role model. She is literally one heartbeat away from becoming the President of the United States. She doesn't know anything about foreign policy, and she is very provincial, right wing and conservative. I don't care about decisions she has made in her personal life because she has nothing in common with me or the majority of women in this country. Personally, I think her nomination is a low-ball, cheesy attempt to steal Clinton supporters, and I don't buy it.

  18. wow nik, you're taking it to another level politically. Nothing in there related to the mamas. Interesting. Maybe you should stick to the huff post to get your fix.
    As for Sarah being provincial (sounds a little elitist and condescending), might the Obamas have a little Chicago-provincial left wing liberalness to them perhaps? just asking for a little objectiveness...


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