Okay. Look. I wasn’t going to tell you what I think of Sarah Palin, but so many people are asking, so fine. Here it is. She is nuts. And the Republicans are nuts for putting her on a ticket. She has a five-month-old kid with Down’s Syndrome.

Why is no one writing about this? I have a special needs kid. I have two. Here’s what happens when you have a special needs kid. You are in shock. You love the kid. I loved my first one so much that even though there was something like an 80% chance of having another kid with autism, I had a second kid.

And guess what? The second kid had a different disability than the first. Amazing. Statistically phenomenal, really. But my point here is that I’m very qualified to tell you what it’s like to be a breadwinner mom of a five-month-old special needs kid. And, it’s not just from my perspective. I am a magnet for breadwinner moms. They constantly write to me. And when I write about this topic—being the breadwinner and having a special needs kid—women come out of the woodwork. They all say exactly what I’m telling you now: it’s insane. It’s insanely hard.

Here’s what’s insanely hard. You go through a mourning period. Don’t tell me about love and how everyone is different. Because everyone is the same about their kids: They love their kids no matter what, and they didn’t plan on having a special needs kid, no matter what. So you need adjusting time.

And here’s more I know from both statistics and first-hand experience: It’s nearly impossible to keep a marriage together with a special needs kid. And it’s nearly impossible to keep a marriage together when the husband quits his job to take care of the kids (which Palin’s husband just did). And Sarah needs her marriage to stay together pretty badly right now.

And who will take care of the newest member of the family? Certainly not the 17-year-old daughter who is pregnant with the newest kid. So the dad now has three teens at home and soon two kids under one year old at home and one has special needs. This is not a reasonable job. For anyone.

I know that I’m going to be reminded me that I have a nanny, a house manager, and a cleaning woman (who actually shows up every day). But I also have a job that allows me to leave at 2:30. It’s a compromise for me. Because every parent in the world has had to compromise, and it’s fair to judge public figures on the choices they make.

It’s really hard to know where to compromise. Here’s what I was doing when my kid was five months old: I was at home. Hating it. Telling myself that I was not cut out to be at home. I was sort of a columnist and sort of a mom and sort of a psychopath. Because having a five-month-old with special needs is very very hard. Not just learning to take care of the baby, but mentally coping.

Why is no one talking about this? The Republicans should dump Palin. She’s got too much responsibility at home.

Don’t tell me that this is not fair to women. Because you know what? People should have railed against John Edwards running for President when he had two young kids at home and a wife fighting cancer. Fine if she wants him to run for office while she fights the cancer. I get it. But I don’t get how the President of the United States was going to have time to console two school age kids about their mom’s death while leading the country. It’s irresponsible.

I know it’s not cool to tell people how to parent. I know it’s not cool because every day someone asks me how I run my company when I have two young kids and what they are really saying is “you suck as a parent.” It’s hard to hear every day, so I have empathy for the idea that everyone should shut up about how other people parent.

But it’s absurd how extreme these presidential-wanna-be cases are. I don’t want someone in the White House who has kids at home who desperately need them. I don’t want to watch that scenario unfold on national TV. So at some point, it must be okay to speak up. At some point we have to say that we have standards for parenting and we want the community to uphold them.

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278 replies
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  1. Kare Anderson
    Kare Anderson says:

    Kudos for your candor. my much-needed sanity check today – just as dooce was yesterday on her complementary slant on this topic. The political commentary and converations on this are going to bring out so many feels and strong opinions before the election… it may be the tail that wags the dog of issues for many… i know what i hope will be the result on election day

  2. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Any candidate running for office at that level probably truly believes that they’re going to improve the conditions of this country, and give their children a better future. (At least I hope so.) She’s making a temporary sacrifice of her time with her family to accomplish that. Yes, it’s a difficult choice, but if you believe in a cause, that’s probably an acceptable trade-off. We don’t know the extend of her family’s support – we only know what the (biased) media has chosen to tell us. Time to put away the jump to conclusions mat.

  3. Jim
    Jim says:

    I think one of the problems is that most of Congress is made up of lawyers. They have had no experiencerunning a business, do not understand economics, and have no reference for day to day life.

    When it comes to education and degress:
    Bill Gates – College Dropout
    Steve Jobs – College dropout
    Larry Ellison – College dropout

    It is not about grades in college, but how well they have adapted, adopted and overcome barriers to success.

    By our education account, Bill Gates would never be qualified to be President.

    There are too many lawyers in Congress skewing the perceptions and views of this country.

    John McCain – Not a Lawyer
    Sarah Palin – Not a lawyer

  4. Résumé Bullets
    Résumé Bullets says:


    I’m checking out of this website and others until after the election that allow this type of devisive issues enter into what is generally a sane and useful website.

    I grew up with a cousin with Down’s and my mother was a divorced night club singer. She raised three kids and my cousin. My cousin with “Downs” just retired from the Post Office after a 30 year career as a Mail Room Assistant. I’m not so sure that give the same situation that I could volunteeer to raise a Down’s syndrome child today.

    My response is that God never gives you more than you can handle. Who am I to judge when I don’t really know the tangible and personal resources available to the individual. We see this through our own experiences and I have mine and you have yours.

    Can we leave it at that?

  5. finance girl
    finance girl says:

    I absolutely love the fact that Palin is our possible next VP.

    She has 5 kids, great!! All the better that she is going after this with 5 kids in tow because it shows what is possible for anyone who wants to achieve their goals.

    Her kids are all old enough to take care of themselves day to day (e.g. dressing, eating, making their own bed), with the exception of her 4 month old.

    If her and her family think they can do this, who are we to hold them back and say she can’t?

    Who are we to say tsk tsk her priorities are all out of whack?

    Would we say this if it was her husband running for VP and not her?

    Hmmmm….don’t think so.

    Additionally, c’mon, you really can’t possibly think you can control what a teenager is going to actually do, can you?

    The best you can do is raise your kids the best way you know how and the values you have, and hope for the best.

    If they go against that in their actions, or goof up (we are talking about teenagers here, remember?), you are not responsible for the consequences, they are.

    So, why are we putting the blame on the Mom for the actions of the daughter?

  6. Becky
    Becky says:

    I’m kind of torn on whether I not she should have accepted the VP nomination with everything else that’s going on (and not just in her family life), but I take exception to the statement as if it is fact that if a 17 year old has a baby it will be raised by her parents. Part of the growing up that must be done when you decide to become a parent is that you realize you no longer get to be the “kid.” I know not everyone lives this way, but not every teenage mother passes their child on to their parents to raise, and assuming that’s what Bristol will do isn’t fair to her. I know of many women who became pregnant while in high school who raised their children themselves. They might have still lived at home for a while, but their parents weren’t built-in babysitters, and the women had to give up a lot of the things the rest of their high school class got to do because they were responsible for someone else (prom, extra-curriculars, etc).

    We shouldn’t assume we know what other people will do, just because we think it’s the way we (or most people) would do it.

  7. Marissa Ferrari
    Marissa Ferrari says:

    If you were so down on John Edwards’ choice to run for President, why didn’t you rush out to write a giant post about how irresponsible and insane his decision was? Any reasonable person would be silly to think that any man in a similar position would be criticized for taking on a demanding job while balancing family responsibilities the way you’ve criticized Palin.

    That being said…I agree that Palin shouldn’t be McCain’s choice for VP. And that is largely because McCain’s choice implies that women are very, very dumb. So dumb, in fact, that we would support a candidate just because she happens to be female. That we would, in a you-go-girl frenzy, look past the OBVIOUS indicators that Palin won’t help, and will probably hurt, our standing in the home, the workplace and the world.

  8. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    No one would ever question a man’s ability to take on a job just because he is a father. Special needs kids or not, it’s sexism pure and simple.

    The author of this article http://thetyee.ca/Views/2008/09/05/SarahPalin/ recounts the story of how a widowed Joe Bidden raised his kids as a single dad while he was a US Senator. At the time, he was encouraged not to leave his post to tend to his kids.

    So why is it the opposite with Sarah Palin?

  9. Billy
    Billy says:

    In typical, self-centered, human fashion – I can’t do it, so nobody else can fashion, what works for me will work for you and what won’t work for me won’t work for you. I hear this from parents all the time since we’ve had two children. The “oh just wait” comments, the “you’ll see” comments and the “when you child is this age, they’ll be doing this. Mine did and so will yours.”

    You know what? Horse stuff. I don’t pretend to know how to raise other people’s children – and you shouldn’t either.

  10. Phil
    Phil says:

    I don’t get it PT…how is Sarah Palin supposed to talk to foreign dignitaries, other members of government etc. about whether she shaves, waxes, or doesn’t trim her pubes if she doesn’t run for VP? I cannot believe you are suggesting she shouldn’t be out and about discussing such important topics like that and instead be home being a mom. Hmmm, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black!

  11. Renee
    Renee says:

    I’m surprised by your view, Penelope (maybe that’s simply because I don’t have special needs, or any, children). I respect you greatly, but I agree with other posters that it seems like the pot calling the kettle black. Your experiences (with special needs children, career, and marriage) are not universal, and, from what I can tell, look very little like Palin’s. A VP Palin would have considerably more assistance raising her family than any of us mere mortals could ever imagine. That’s no substitute for a present, attentive parent, but help with household duties leaves a parent more available to be there for their children in other ways. After all, it’s stresses over money and everyday household management that often place the largest burdens on families, and neither of these will be an issue for the Palins.

    I’m not going to be absurd and use a label like “sexist” (which is so overused it doesn’t mean anything anymore), but I will also say that this issue would never arise if Palin were a man. I don’t think mothers and fathers are perfect substitutes, but only the family in question knows how tradeoffs in parenting can be made to work.

    In my skimming of the comments I am surprised not to have not seen (or missed) this said yet: she has been the governor of Alaska for two years, and was the mayor of a town for six. Do we not think she has SOME idea what the time commitment of a VP will entail? Doesn’t her husband? Hasn’t she probably already done some important work toward striking a balance between career and family, and an understanding between children and parents? It’s not as if this would just be thrown on them suddenly come January. Perhaps her decision to be in this campaign reflects that she already knows her family can do it.

    As a political aside, it kills me when people, liberals and conservatives alike, assume that Penelope’s critique of Palin is BECAUSE she may be liberal, or that those who support Palin’s choice as a mother to join the campaign mean they MUST BE conservative. There are so many other, more interesting elements to this issue, and all perspectives are pretty legitimate — it’s that hard of an issue. We’d all do better at understanding each other if we could avoid those labels, especially when they are used dismissively (really, does ANYONE feel that one party or the other represents them perfectly?).

  12. Steve C
    Steve C says:

    Penelope. I appreciate your jumping into this issue,and I believe you are correct; but it’s not a problem for republicans because:
    1) They want the air time for anything other than McCain prattling on with a straight face about “change”.
    2) Republicans don’t give crap what non-republicans think

    But let’s give the Rovian strategists credit where credit is due. They have correctly recognized that P.T. Barnum was wrong when he stated, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” There are actually thousands of suckers born every minute, and most of them live in this country.
    Note to Palin’s husband: Keep the boat, it will help you maintain a shred of dignity down the road.
    Steve C.

  13. ChrisB
    ChrisB says:

    Oh, frankly the Obama’s should probably follow your advice too — even if they don’t have a “special needs” child, they still have to young girls.

  14. GG
    GG says:

    Right on Penelope. I am so tired of hearing – €˜if sarah was a man, no one would be questioning her dedication to her children'. Well she's not a man. She is a mother! Her 5 children (especially the baby – regardless of special needs) need her to be available for them. If you don't understand the difference between a father in this situation and a mother in this situation, you either don't have a uterus or don't have children.

    I am a mother 4 kids and work full time. It's is safe to say that most things get done pretty half-assed because I only have so much time in the day, and I only work 40 hours a week. My job (as most) holds no where near the time commitment or responsibility needed to be the VP. I would guess the VP of the US would need to put in a lot more that 40 hrs a week. VP of the US – .mothering 5 children – .somthings gotta give in this situation.

    People need to get over trying to be so PC and understand that children need their mother and Sarah's kids will suffer if (god forbid) she becomes VP. The US will surely suffer, but that's a whole other comment – .

  15. Yuan
    Yuan says:

    I think it’s important for parents to be there for their kids, but the definition of “being there” should be emotional and quality-driven, not the # of hours you devote your life to them. Let me explain.

    When I was in middle school my mom gave up a few opportunities in order to be there when I come back home from school so she can prepare my afternoon snack and my dinner filled with vegetables.

    But the truth is, I hated the fact that she was home all the time. She got moody a lot and complained in all the wrong spots (I think it has to do with her being home all the time, but she would argue it’s because I need to change as a bratty teenager) and her demands for me to do my homework on time never really helped – I have always done my homework because I want to make good grades, my friends have had more influence on me than my parents in terms of doing well in school. So her yelling at me did not make me any more or less successful at performing in school.

    So I don’t think her “staying at home” made me any more grounded than I already am and in fact it made that whole middle school period a lot worse. When I was in high school she got a full time job and I felt as if I was set free. I enjoyed those solitary afternoons of doing whatever I wanted and while I procrastinated before they both came home, I know where the bottom line lied and never got into drugs or had crazy parties and always finished my homework. I also loved the fact that we got to order out a lot more now that she’s working and I was allowed to buy “unhealthy” but much more delicious snacks. She stopped being so obsessive.

    The point I’m trying to make is that I think there’s very little influence parents can have on a kid that is direct and intentional – you can’t make a kid better by packing him lunch rather than giving him $5 to buy pizzas. Kids learn from parents in the most subtle ways.

    The most important life lessons I learned from my mother are not how she sacrificed opportunities to make me lunch, but how she dealt with her crazy mother-in-law. I hate the word sacrifice because I don’t believe it, I believe in making choices and if they are the right choices, they should not hurt anyone.

    My parents never once saw my report card in high school and did not know what I got on my SAT or how I got into the universities I got into. But I never felt like they didn’t care, on the contrary, I felt less pressured and much more free and therefore motivated from within because I know they will always be there for me if I needed them.

    I don’t think Sara Palin has to be there for her kids physically speaking on a daily basis, I think KNOWING that she will be is much more important. And by setting your kids free and giving them responsibilities and trusting that they are good kids are far better than you sacrificing your life choosing to not pursue your dreams, that’s NEVER okay. Because when you sacrifice your life, you get depressed and you will transfer that depression onto your kids whether you like it or not, they will sense it from the way you treat them and it makes their life miserable, not hopeful. Kids are smart, so pretending to be all happy with life when you are not never succeed. So however much you suffer emotionally, your kids will suffer with you.

    So in order to make your kids happy, you have to be happy yourself. So I say whatever makes you happy, go for it.

  16. Roger
    Roger says:

    Are you deliberately trying to drive down traffic/sabotage your blog as part of your divorce strategy?

    Absolutely pathetic — and quite telling. Given your comments here, how dare you criticize anyone else’s judgment?

  17. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    I think the only reason a discussion of Sarah Palin’s home/family life is legitimate is because she has become a standard bearer for the the party that would come into our homes/families/lives and bedrooms and tell us Who to be and How to act – NOT because she’s a woman and a working mother.

    And, I DO think it’s legitimate to judge people by the standards and values they proclaim.

    Abstinence only/family first.
    The former failed her family; the latter, she’s failing.

    Is she a “do as I say, not as I do’ mother? Governor? Would be VP?

    She can’t have it both ways, and though I’d love to give her a feminist high-five, I’ll have to save that for someone who isn’t a hypocrite.

    And, lastly, the reason a discussion of the Obama’s family life might not be relevant, is because they don’t represent a group or philosophy which would try to dictate what ‘family’ means.

  18. Rich
    Rich says:

    Can anyone tell me what the VP really does other than waiting for the president to die? Split ties in the senate? Right, remember all those ties that were busted up last year.

    C’mon, if she could pull this off as gov she can pull it off as VP. Is her job going to be less demanding that Michelle Obama’s?

    Interesting how politics blurrs our perceptions. Dems suddenly care about the family (please ignore the womanizing behind the curtain) and the Reps suddenly want to fight for the rights of a woman to have it all (how short lived will that be)?

    Penelope, I thought you wrote an article (post?) a while ago about why it is better for women to stay home if a choice has to be made. If I am correct, than congrats for being consistent.

  19. serina drake
    serina drake says:

    As a parent of twins with autism and one of them with Cerebal Palsy as well as other issues and 2 regular kids I still say yeah it’s about time women /moms were recognized in high demanding jobs . How dare you call her insane we women know how to multitask and dosent her child have a father hello why should women be protrayed as having to be the nurturers all of the time .Yes it’s hard but it’s also possible I work two full time jobs and no bs about it Love is the only thing that keeps me going.Did I mention i’m a single mom .It is easy for us to look outside the box and judge what is inside more power to her I say and shame on you as a women who judges her before she gets a chance.

  20. JP
    JP says:

    Wow, by this logic no one who has ANY kids should be in ANY position of authority AT ALL. Which is great for me because it means we child-free people can have our pick of the high status jobs while you parents stay home changing diapers!

    I agree with most other folks who said this post is both an extreme double standard (Obama isn’t being questioned about his ability to be president even though he has two young kids) and completely hypocritical. If you truly believed this crap, Penelope, you’d be staying home yourself. Why is it that career-driven women with kids preach that other career-driven women with kids should stay home?

  21. Phil
    Phil says:

    PT, I guess it is time you stop having sleep overs at the “farm”, stop doing photo shoots at the coffee shop, and stop wasting time on your speaking engagements and online blogging. You have a special needs child you should be devoting your time too. I would hate for you to contridict what you do and what you preach to others.

  22. Jordan
    Jordan says:

    So what your saying here is that moms just can’t win because even other moms are going to criticize how other moms parent.

    I’m not Republican and it drives me nuts how a lot of women journalist are coming out of the wood work to bash Palin and especially to say how wrong she is as a parent and how right they are.

    Bless her for having such a supportive husband, family and friends and people who believe in her.

    It’s sad how women fall into this trap that if you have children you have to give up your life.

    It doesn’t send a good message to our children and it mainly has to do with what other people think about you. More women should be like Palin and ignore people who say certain things can’t be done. It’s her life not theirs.

    It is two competing mindsets: those who want one or the other and those who want both.

    Girls need to stick together not be competitive.

    Learn to want both.

  23. Monique
    Monique says:

    I have been feeling a strange sort of disequalibrium since Palin was announced as McCain’s pick.

    As a mother of two young children, I have spent the past five years ramping and off-ramping my career to match our family’s needs. (A luxury many don’t enjoy, I realize.)

    Even when I was in labor with my first child, I was adamant that I would return to full-time work six weeks later. Once my daughter was in my arms, I knew that we were not in a place as a family for that to happen. It just wouldn’t work for any of us.

    Many of my friends have been equally surprised by their professional choices after having children. Some are surprised by their eagerness to return to work even before their maternity leave is over, and others have found themselves downright heartbroken at the prospect of returning on even a part-time basis.

    After much agonizing, here’s what I’ve decided about Palin and the “parenting trap:” I couldn’t successfully predict what would work for myself or my closest friends. What gives me the right to think I might know what would or would not work for Palin? Only her family knows what is best. It is their decision to make — and the rest of us who consider ourselves to be friends and advocates of women should simply celebrate the fact that the choice is there.

    One more question for the sake of conversation: How much of the strong negative reaction to Palin is coming from people who are angry because, deep down, they do not feel that she has “earned” the right to be where she is? How many elitists out there are REALLY just fighting mad because they went to prestigious schools, did not have children early in their careers and entered into high-power marriages strictly for professional advancement — only to find it didn’t get them very far and didn’t bring happiness?

  24. Roger
    Roger says:

    @Lauren: The circuity of what you said is dizzying. Are you saying that the criticism of Palin leveled by Trunk jive with “your” feminst values?”

    You’re right, Palin shouldn’t have it both ways (of course the abstinence comment applies to her daughter, not Palin, as you so deliberatly ignore in furtherance of your own venom-filled agenda). Nor should Trunk, which makes her criticisms/judgments here so galling.

    Your use of the term hypocritical is indeed hypocritical.

  25. Chris Yeh
    Chris Yeh says:

    Penelope is absolutely being a hypocrite. So what?

    If people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, then who can? We all live in glass houses. None of us are perfect or even close. But if we see something we think is wrong, we still have to speak up.

    The last word on hypocrisy belongs to George W. Bush in “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.” In it, the titular characters encounter the president, who offers them a joint. When Kumar criticizes him for being a hypocrite, W replies:

    W: “Do you like getting hand jobs?”

    Kumar: “Yes.”

    W: “Do you like giving hand jobs?”

    Kumar: “Hell no.”

    W: “Well then, you’re one of them hypocriticizers too.”

  26. Steve C
    Steve C says:

    Penelope, as I read the heartfelt comments coming from all sides, contrary to what I first felt about your post, I think it was a mistake to raise this issue. What I think is happening here is the classic “divide and conquer” strategy, designed to pit women against women. I don’t think you could dream up a more visceral issue to put before the public, racism(a political no-go) included. I really think that regardless of what your opinion is, we are all being manipulated. If everyone just stops making such a big deal of this person’s characteristics, and just let your vote do the talking when the time comes, you will have had the greatest impact you can have. As we go back and forth debating this across the country, Rove and McCain are chortling away like pedophiles at a daycare center.
    Steve C.

  27. Roger
    Roger says:

    Thanks for clearing that-up, Chris. I haven’t any idea what you’ve added to the analysis, but I do have a whole new perspective on hand jobs.

  28. mph
    mph says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Good discussion, but It’s not you, it’s that we as Americans are so polarized we’re paralyzed as a nation. We can’t agree on anything anymore like, basic healthcare, education, and human rights for our kids. We waste so much energy in the minutiae. I would not be surprised if down the road we split in two as a nation.

  29. Just another thought
    Just another thought says:

    Has anyone stopped to think what the Presidency and Vice Presidency offers for the family as a whole? Let’s flip this debate on it’s head and stop talking about Palin’s parenting ability and stop to think about what opportunities, open doors, and life experiences it offers for her children.

    Surely, a life under a celebrity or political microscope is not normal (who lives normally, anyway?), but it does give a platform for understanding the world in new ways. These kids have more opportunity as the children of the Vice President than then do of the Governor of Alaska. Or, for that matter, than a stay-at-home mom (no offense, raised by one myself). I just don’t think this is a bad deal for them and it shouldn’t be a point we are debating. For Sarah. For Obama. For whomever.

    People make their choices. Kids are incredibly resilient. If she is going to be a bad mom, she’s going to be one regardless of her position. This is just another opportunity for the women of the world to feel guilty or slighted. Have we not figured out that we can’t win either way?

  30. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to accuse Penelope of being hypocritical. Her (soon to be ex-) husband is home with the kids and she has a job that lets her be home by 2pm. She says it’s still really hard. Being VP is a million times that.

    However, as I said before, I think the appropriate debate about Sarah Palin is about her politics, policies and experience.

  31. Dale
    Dale says:

    Regardless of everything that has been said here and elsewhere, or maybe because of it, if the Republicans win this race, I’ll be praying hard for JMac. to remain as safe, healthy, and lucid as possible.

    And that is the reality of it!

  32. CAK
    CAK says:

    To Chris Yeh, who aptly noted that we all live in glass houses and have double standards at times; and change our minds at times; and can see both sides, at times . . . but not always . . . Amen.

    How about this analogy? We are extremely tolerant of physicians, who are absent from their families in the interest of saving lives. We are not only tolerant, we place them on a pedastal. What is the difference between a doctor, male OR female, and a VP who may be absent from her children/family?

    PT’s point about how difficult it is to rear a special needs child is spot-on. It is extremely difficult. I, too, speak from experience on this matter. I work part-time on a schedule opposite my partner, in order to “be there” for my son, who has complex/multiple medical issues and who will never live independently. If the governor of Alaska is satisfied to see her child provided for by her husband, her older daughters, nannies, household help, fine. As long as the child is well provided for.

    We cannot very well stick to political issues and leave her family out of it if Sarah Palin has freely chosen to be a public figure. Palin has bought the whole package, including living in a fishbowl. I think it IS possible that her family could get thrown under the bus in the interest of her quest for public office–some would say, in her quest for power.

    PT, as usual, is brutally, brazenly honest about how she may believe in good parenting, love her children till she aches, AND, at the same time, have a hard time staying home full-time with young children. A lot of people feel this way. Your heart is divided–on this and on many things, in life, it seems to me. I.e., I love my son AND he drives me nuts–both at the same time. Heart divided. It is okay to feel this way and to admit that you feel this way.

    It is what you do next that counts. Do you flee from your children to go to work, to a career that brings you more satisfaction, prestige, and has a paycheck, to boot? Do you compromise and work part-time? Do you throw your career under the bus for your kids’ sakes?

    Or do you do some of each, by turns, over the years, as your children mature. However, in the case of some special needs children, they do not grow up to be self-sufficient, and the parent may have to keep on making these difficult choices for a lifetime . . .

    And that may be the hardest thing about raising a child with special needs: Your child will ALWAYS need you in the same intense ways. You will never be done putting out in ways that may cost you career and your marriage and more . . . (the divorce rate in marriages with special needs kids is about 85%, I believe). Like PT says, it is a hard reality.


  33. Steve C
    Steve C says:

    @MPH. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ceased to exist as a nation, let alone as a split nation. No one in my family is going to fight in a war so some fat-cat politician or executive can own 6 or 7 homes and rob the people they work for blind, while the rest of us can’t get healthcare or student loans.
    Steve C

  34. GenerationXpert
    GenerationXpert says:

    I think you are absolutely correct. Just was talking about this with my best friend today. People would think you were crazy for trying to be the VP and hold to your job as governor, too. Same thing. Two huge jobs.

  35. amy
    amy says:

    I felt this way too until I realized that we ask men to do this ALL the time…put their country first, whether they’re running for office or going off to war. We are sabotoging our own steps toward equality by treating women differently or holding them to different standards. If Palin has a situation worked out where her husband is the primary caregiver, who are we to judge and say that that isn’t the best option for her family??

    How arrogant for us to presume that we know better than she does what’s best for her.

    It would probably be better for Barack’s kids to have their dad around more often, too, but we understand why he’s not: for his own ambition and the potential good of the country.

    It is no different for her.

    This double standard hurts not only our country but all women as well.

  36. Mina
    Mina says:

    This is not about you. The bitterness is so palpable in your post today. I question – shouldn’t you be at home with your special needs child? You obviously took the opportunity to continue your career despite having special needs children. Why shouldn’t Palin do it? The problem is not everyone’s life will turn out like yours and not everyone’s marriage will dissolve upon adversity. If the husband were the one in her shoes you wouldn’t be saying this because Palin would be at home taking care of the family.

  37. Leanne
    Leanne says:

    My boys have had their dad home as primary care giver since the youngest one was 2 1/2 years. Granted I am not VP of the biggest lump on earth but work is work and not there is not there.

    The one who really suffered in this situation was me – suffered from comments from ill-informed strangers that I should be home with my babes, suffered assumptions that their dad could not parent like a mother – no he did not – he parented like a father. And I suffered guilt, stress, angst and all the other negative stuff.

    Yet against this all I still stand up for each family to choose how to parent and raise children – a stay at home mother is not better than stay at home father – mearly different. And it is the differences that make the world go round.

    Reading this work made me sad as what I really felt Penelope was your pain.

  38. Renee
    Renee says:

    Hip Hip Hooray. Thanks for stating what I think is obvious. IMHO, Palin accepting the nomination as VP candidate is one more example of her willingness to sacrifice women’s right to choose. She had a choice to say NO to the very tantalizing invitation to run as VP, and she passed up on that choice – because she didn’t feel as though she had a choice. I hope we end up with someone in leadership who supports all of our rights to make many choices. Regardless of gender, regardless of the choice.

    * * * * * *

    I love this comment. Thanks, Kathleen. Your point is eloquent and sharp and I wish I had said it this way.



    How on earth do either of you presume to know that Palin felt like she didn’t have a choice in this matter? I don’t get it.

  39. CAK
    CAK says:

    I enjoyed this true story about the decision to carry a Down Syndrome child to term . . . you may recognize the author . . .

    Expecting Adam is an autobiographical tale of an academically oriented Harvard couple who conceive a baby with Down’s syndrome – Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic

    About 85% of women who, through prenatal testing, discover that they are pregnant with a Down Syndrome child, will abort that child.

    The older a woman is when she conceives, the higher the likelihood that, due to “aging” eggs, she will have the chromosomal abnormality known as Down Syndrome or Trisomy 21. For a woman in her 20’s, the incidence is about one in 1500; for a woman of 45, the incidence is one in 32.

    I have taken care of many Down Syndrome newborns in my line of work.
    Here is what they are like:
    They often have low muscle tone, as someone else has already stated.
    That means that their posture is poor–the don’t keep their head in alignment with their body; they aren’t able to support their head for a very long time.
    When they feed, they may have a tongue-thrust, which makes it difficult to feed them. They lack the coordination necessary to successfully place their thick tongues underneath the nipple and “milk” the nipple.
    A certain percentage (40%)have cardiac anomalies and some of those will require surgery.
    They may have skin issues–ruddiness and/or dryness. Their lips and later, their tongues, have fissures.
    Eight percent will develop seizures.
    They have depressed immune responses.
    They may have vision issues: strabismus, amblyopia, nystagmus.
    They are vulnerable to periodontal disease.
    As they grow older, they may be delayed in achieving developmental milestones. They are said to have “global developmental delays”.
    As they get older, they are subject to weight gain.
    The children in my son’s classes through the years have had delayed speech and motor delays.
    There is the issue of cognitive disability–most have some degree of cognitive disability. This is highly variable. The literature says that children may have I.Q.s anywhere between 15 to 69, with the majority between 40-55. The cutoff for a “mental retardation” diagnosis is 70 (though some references will say 90).
    To this day, the children in my son’s class do not speak clearly. Even when they learn to talk, others may have a hard time understanding them.

    The parents of a Down Syndrome child will have to get services for their child: OT (occupational therapy), PT (physical therapy) and Speech or SLP (speech/language pathologist). The schools spend huge sums of money on these services, and may give the services grudgingly. The parents will have to become savvy about Special Ed law/ IDEA, and learn the lingo. They may have to FIGHT every year, as the child’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) at school is reviewed, for their child to continue to have services. Typically, as the child grows older, services tend to be withdrawn, little by little.

    Really involved parents will go through emotional turmoil over these fights and adaptations. There is a syndrome called “chronic grieving,” in which a parent grieves cyclically, again and again (perhaps each year at the time of the IEP Meeting, for what might have been . . . for the unfairness of it all, including the loss of their own career or marriage.

    So, when PT says it is “hard,” this is what it means, blow by blow . . .

    While Sarah Palin’s Trig is an infant, he may not be so different from other infants, all of whom require total care. After that . . .


  40. Lynne Irvine
    Lynne Irvine says:

    When children were only a ‘theory’ in my life, I would have considered the commentary about Sarah Palin’s ‘motherhood’ as sexist. After having children, ‘theories’ go out the window. I didn’t know the strength of my own biological programming to be a mother until I gave birth. Then, the ‘mother bear’ woke! How ironic that a self-proclaimed feminist and liberal would end up being a better mother than a self-proclaimed conservative following the will of God. Her views on abortion and reproductive education also lead me to question what her views on birth control are. Since Palin became pregnant with her fifth child only seven months after taking over the Governor’s office, can we expect the same when she is Vice President. It is not politically incorrect to ask difficult questions. It is responsible! Times have changed for women. We can have it all. Just NOT simultaneously!

  41. c
    c says:

    For you that think its not possible to have kids or family requirments and still have a job and do it well need to take a look around and get with the program.

  42. Tiger184
    Tiger184 says:

    My, my, my Penelope.

    Coming from someone with 2 disabled kids that refuses to stay home, instead hiring a “house manager” is pretty outrageous and just downright stupid.

    Why are all you liberal women running hysterically around without a clue these days?

    Perhaps it is because the first woman vice president is going to be a Republican? a conservative?

    Well listen to me you little snarky mess. Women all over America took the women’s movement seriously. We might not subscribe to the extreme liberal left ideas you do, but we did find a way to work, raise a family, cook meals, do the laundry, grocery shop, get a pedicure, take the kids to the doctor, etc, etc, etc.

    I am one of these women and I am totally disgusted with the reaction we have been witnessing this past week.

    Shame on you for valuing your party over your sisters!

  43. Carla
    Carla says:

    Your opinions are ridiculous. Just because you are incapable of of balancing your personal life with work doesn’t mean that another woman can’t live up to the test. Stop being so selfish!

  44. Aptor
    Aptor says:

    So did you rail against John Edwards when he was campaigning? It seems he had a small child as well as as his wife’s illness to (not) take care of. Should we be upset with Biden for ditching his sons in the hospital after the death of his infant so he could go be a senator? These issues have not come up and a good part of the reason is because columnists (like you, Penelope) have never raised them. Because a man is allowed to have a family and a career.

  45. Bucky
    Bucky says:

    Interesting post and interesting comments.

    One thing that I think is missing from this discussion is the realization that the job of President of the United States is perhaps the most demanding and important job in the world.

    My very life depends on the president being able to do her job well. Failure in other jobs doesn’t potentially result in nuclear world destruction.

    Although only the VP nominee, Palin’s ability to preform well as president is the how we must judge her — particularly because McCain is aged and in ill health.

    I look at Palin and see a person who has a family in crisis. She’s got a 17 year old daughter who is pregnant and a newborn Down’s baby, and a son about to be deployed to a war zone. That is the definition of a family in crisis.

    I am not saying that they can’t weather the crisis and thrive as a family. I hope that they do. They seem to have a strong family.

    But am I willing to risk my life on a president who is in the middle of a crisis in their personal life?


    I want a president who is focused on the job at hand.

  46. Steve C
    Steve C says:

    Penelope. I have been wondering how long it would take for the really rabid, vicious, so-called conservatives to weigh in. In her response to your post, the phrases, “My, my, my, Penelope,” and “well listen to me you little snarky mess,” Tiger184 clearly shows why we can never have people who behave and think like that in control of the white house, because:
    1) It is exactly that type of visciously condescending, patronizing behavior that has destroyed our country’s credibility around the world, and will most likely lead us to more destructive and wasteful warfare.
    2) It clearly shows that the issue isn’t about the perks and support Palin’s family will receive as a Vice President, it is about who should be in position to be president, as has been aptly pointed out before.

    It is a stretch to say that Sarah Palin subscribes to exactly the same thinking and characteristics as tiger184, but these are the types of people who elect people like Bush, Mccain, and Palin, and so these elected individuals at the very least feel licenced to behave that way.

    So I guess if your post exposes these real underpinings of today’s Republican party, as Tiger184 has so eloquently modeled for us here, the post has done us all a service after all.

    Nonetheless, I still maintain that the selection of Palin as a running mate is a manipulation by the Rove strategists to neutralize the women voters of the country, not the the least of whom is Palin herself. The fact that she is either not bright enough to see that, or couldn’t care less about it, pretty much tells the whole story.

    The fact that none of the right wing respondents have understood your’s and Kathleen’s view that Palin really isn’t free to choose here, also clearly explains the phrase, “doesn’t get it!” which has so aptly been applied to McCain.
    Steve C.

  47. Joel
    Joel says:

    @Steve C: Thanks for covering the liberals and being “the voice of the really rabid, vicious, so-called [liberals].” Impressive that it seems you didn’t even pause halfway through your rant and see the patent hypocrisy of what you were saying? Really deep.

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