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Why Motherhood and Politics Don’t Mix

I’ve written on this blog before about the twinge of disappointment I’ve felt when I definitively had to face the reality that motherhood and a career in politics just don’t mix. I was just reminded of it again when I read a Facebook post from a friend and former coworker who is now sitting on the sidelines for the first election cycle in her career. She called it a bittersweet moment and focused on the sweet part — sitting in her warm home snuggled up with her baby girl. But I know the bitter part too. It’s not just that the hours, the travel, the pressure and the stress of a campaign season make it virtually impossible to be a mom and a real political player.

While we hate to admit it, what makes it that much more difficult to reconcile, is that it doesn’t seem to be impossible for dads. My husband worked on a campaign two years ago when our daughter was 3. This friend of mine — who, mind you, has worked for the President of the United States, several governors, and a national political party — is on the sidelines in a campaign season while her husband is a central figure in the campaign of a significant candidate for the presidential nomination. I know my husband’s long hours during that campaign season had a lasting impact on his relationship with our daughter, and it’s not a sacrifice I’d be willing to make. I presume my friend feels the same way. But that individual decision we moms make for ourselves also has an impact on our nation. Because, as every voter should be aware, no matter how much a politician may talk about soccer moms, the fact is there really aren’t many, if any, moms (at least of young children) playing on their team.

3 comments

  1. Mary

    Mary January 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Unfortunately, it’s not just in politics. It’s careers in general. I know if I didn’t have children I would definitely have more time for my career and probably be moving more in an upward motion. In fact I was just discussing with a friend the other night that as a mom, you sort of put your career on hold – whether by choice or by misconceived notions from those who can lead you to the top. The question becomes, how and when do you relaunch with the least amount of impact your children? Wait too long and you could miss your career opportunity window but I certainly wouldn’t want to miss being able to embrace and cherish these moments with my kids either. I’ve watched my husband’s career soar past mine and it’s certainly not because I don’t think we’re equally as capable. The reality is, as women, we tend to take on a different role once we have children, in most cases by choice but not without pondering the “what if’s”.

  2. Andrea January 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Don’t think its just politics. Even in a career like mine, where most of the work is “out of office” hours, I have seen many of my colleagues giving up on their careers to be full time mums. Some careers might allow for part time work, but then, its often cheaper to be at home then py for the babysitter.

  3. Rachel January 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Andrea and Mary, points well taken. I think there’s a difference here though. On the one hand, moms in many industries might wonder if they’d have gotten farther up the ladder by now if it weren’t for their choices as moms.
    On the other hand, there are still some industries that clearly remain impossible for moms — at least moms of babies and young children — from participating in the way this post describes. And in politics, the impact is more far-reaching than we might realize.

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