BEAN COLUMN: Every parent makes sacrifices

Published 7:09 am Wednesday, September 10, 2008

By Staff
In the days since America was introduced to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — and learned far more about her personal life than perhaps we wanted to know — much of the debate has focused on Palin’s dual role as a mother and a governor.
Some people have asked whether she can handle the pressure of holding the nation’s highest office while also mothering five children, including an infant.
Contrast those questions with the backstory of Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, who spent his first five years as a senator with a most important second job: single father to toddler boys. Biden’s wife was tragically killed in a car accident along with his young daughter in the few months between his election and his swearing-in to office.
That little nugget in Biden’s biography is often touted as evidence of his family values, including the detail that he never moved to Washington, instead taking the train home to Delaware every day. Biden, by all accounts, is a terrific father whose children have grown up to contribute to their communities.
Biden did not give up his seat, but his actions are considered the sacrifices of a single father, so why is Palin criticized for going back to work, when she has a husband at home who can care for their children?
To be clear, I wouldn’t criticize either candidate’s decision, which they made many years apart.
The fact is, mothers and fathers make sacrifices every day, whether they stay home or go to work or some hybrid of both. But somehow we spend most of our time and attention on the decisions that mothers make.
A few weeks after our son was born, I sobbed to my husband that I didn’t think I could leave him every day to go to work. My husband listened patiently, but when I told him that he couldn’t possibly understand how upset I was, he said, “How do you think I feel when I go to work every day?” It was an eye-opening lesson I haven’t forgotten.
But my husband and I are lucky. Though we do both work, we have excellent childcare for our son, and we know his daycare providers give him a lot of love and attention while we are at the office.
So many people don’t have the luxury of that kind of care for their children, or the kind that the Palins have and that Biden had, with an extended family and adequate finances to help bridge the gap between work and home. Most single parents — and many two-parent households — have to work to afford health insurance, housing and other necessities.
Instead of focusing on whether Palin herself is making the right decision — especially since one person’s right decision is not necessarily right for anyone else — perhaps all of the candidates should make it a priority to fight for more affordable childcare, better maternity leave benefits and other opportunities to make sure parents can provide what is best for their children, whether or not they have to work and whether or not they choose to work.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at or at 251-867-4876.

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