Steven Waldman

I know I’m treading into dangerous territory by commenting on what the Palin’s should or shouldn’t do for her family but her nomination has triggered a national conversation about parenting, and I think there’s a big point being missed.
Let me start with an interesting post from Beliefnet member 1AmazingGrace, who describes herself as a former Hillary supporter:

“I have a brother with Down Syndrome and a daughter who has had rheumatoid arthritis since age four. I love them both and can’t imagine my life without them. Also, my remarks are directed toward Gov. Palin as a parent, and as a candidate, not as a woman. Whether you are a man or a woman, it is unrealistic to expect to be an involved parent of a child with disabilities and take on even more responsibilities as Vice President of the United States. Someone will get shortchanged.
It’s hard to have children, but kids with problems add a level of difficulty impossible to imagine without experiencing it. Despite what you were told in the 1970’s, you really CANNOT ha’ve it all, Governor Palin. Right now, you need to give your family more time and energy than ever before — and you want to give them less? That’s not very pro-child to me.”

Combine the difficulty of having a child with Downs Syndrome with the supreme stress of helping your 17 year old daughter deal with an unplanned pregnancy and the birth of a new child — oh, and then add, running for the vice presidency — and you have a monumental burden on the family.
But AmazingGrace and other critics assume that Sarah is the one who needs to renounce work to spend more time with the kids. She’s the governor of a state and has a chance to shape the world for the good as vice president. I don’t think she by any means has a moral obligation to turn away from that. The obvious solution would be for Todd Palin to announce immediately that he was becoming a full-time dad.
Maybe in her circles this sounds like wierd lefty thinking but this is 2008, for crying out loud. No one should expect Sarah Palin to give up this opportunity for her kids; we wouldn’t ask a man to. But we would expect the Palin Family to come up with a solution that works for their kids, which in this case would be for dad to spend more time at home.
Now, in googling this, I’m having a hard time telling how much Todd is working now. There’s some indication he’s taking more time to be with the family. If so, fantastic. But with a family that has a disabled child, a teen mother and a matriarch running for vice president, Todd should, it seems to me, be on full-time home duty.
What’s more, if the Palins (and the McCains) are making such a big deal about Sarah caring for the disabled child, why not also trumpet Todd’s stay-at-home role? Think of what a great teaching moment this could be. A conservative, blue-collar guy giving up his job to take care of the kids, so his wife can help change the world.

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