I wish I didn’t love watching Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican convention so much. I love her hair. I love her outfit. I love that she is a great speaker even without a lot of time to train for the convention. I love her sort-of-Wisconsin accent that I sort-of hear myself getting the longer I live in Wisconsin.
I saw her husband hold the baby when she talked about family. I saw her husband give the baby away when she talked about how strong her marriage is. I saw the strain in his face when he smiled. He is a stay-at-home dad, and she didn’t mention that. He just quit his job after twenty years at work. She didn’t mention that.
I can relate to all of that.
I could follow yesterday’s post with a post clarifying my disdain for her. Believe me, I hate her politics. Her politics are so foreign to me that I don’t think I’ve ever even spoken in person with anyone who honestly believes rape victims should not get abortions.
But really, I’ve been like her. Like when she signed up for the PTA to make her kid’s school better. I tried that. It sucked. The lack of power and influence you have in the PTA sucks. It’s the tip of the iceberg of why it sucks to be at home with kids if you are a woman who is a leader — when there is no one to lead, but leading is in your DNA.
On some level, I admire her. I understand how women with big jobs and young kids manage: Compartmentalize, prioritize, multi-task. I am great at that stuff, and so are all the women I know who have big jobs and young kids.
But there is a spot about Palin as VP that mystifies me: Travel. In my life, I have found there is no way to have time with kids when you travel because there is no chance to carve out time; you’re just not there.
And you can’t average it out—kids don’t add up the cumulative time over a month. Maybe an older kid does, but not my three-year-old. Three days away from a three-year-old is a lot. Even for a three-year-old who is supposedly used to it, like mine. Every time (even now) when I’m gone, my husband, who is sort of my ex-husband but not yet, is right there, in the house, taking care of my sons. And it still feels bad for it not to be me.
So I love watching Palin because she makes me believe that I can handle all the travel I do. She is so pretty and capable and somehow, if I ignore that her daughter is pregnant and her husband is lost and her special needs child does not have a mom who is meeting the doctors and therapists and specialists involved in the child’s treatment. If I ignore that, I think that I can travel five times a month and not have a nervous breakdown from the sadness of leaving my kids.
I want to be that. I want to be the CEO who can travel all the time. Because I get invitations to travel to appear on TV, and to travel to deliver speeches, and to travel to wrangle investment in the company. And recently I have been that CEO: I traveled every week for twelve weeks, sometimes twice a week. And everyone said, how do you do it? And I said I don’t know. Because I didn’t know if I was pulling it off or pulling my family apart. I wasn’t sure.
And then I took a break. And when it was time to start traveling again, I had a panic attack. I was driving with my kids to the farm and I remembered how I would be traveling again and I started crying uncontrollably and I snapped at the kids and I drove the car to the farmer‘s house and told him to drive up and down the dirt road for a few minutes while I called my friend who is the only friend I know with both a venture-backed company and the mom responsibilities for a young child, and I told her I can’t do it anymore and she told me she doesn’t know why I didn’t have a breakdown earlier.
She said stop with the speeches and the media and the sky-high aspirations. And after a while I stopped crying and I said okay. And I got back in the car. And I drove to the farm. And we played with chicks and baby pigs and cooked over an open fire.
And then I resumed my travel schedule.
Because I am trying to figure out what’s right. And canceling everything is not what’s right for me. I did the PTA. It sucks. And I’ve done travel every week. It sucks. I don’t know how Palin will do it.
But part of me wants to watch. Will she take her baby? (I’ve done that. It’s impossible to focus.) Will she travel with a nanny? (Done that. It’s awkwardly intimate.) Will she cut back on travel? (Done that. People started doubting me.) What will she do? I want to see because I need some new ideas.