Columns 2008

It isn’t babysitting if they’re your kids

As the media furor over our Sarah continues, I find myself wondering when people will remember that it’s not Sarah who’s running for president. The reality is that once the election is over, should John McCain win, Sarah will be relegated to photo shoots and state funerals. Proving, as John Nance Garner so colorfully put it, the vice presidency “is not worth a bucket of warm spit.” In the interests of full disclosure, the word “spit” was not necessarily what he actually said but the papers felt the word he did use was not appropriate to print.

The amount of misinformation spread in print and over the airways about Alaska will be overwhelming during the campaign. We have only ten weeks to make our case that Alaskans don’t live in igloos, do not use wampum as money and, with all apologies to Mike Doogan, fashion no longer means our fur hats are dead.

Wait, scratch that last thought. People who miss the joke will be swearing that Alaskans wear live animals on their heads. And many will find that an absolutely credible statement given all the other outlandish statements being passed around about Alaska. I’m betting I’m not the only Alaskan who is suddenly the most popular person in her online address book.  Everyone assumes since Alaska is SOOOO small, we all have the governor and her family on speed dial and know everything there is to know about her.

One of my favorite rumors is the one where she wasn’t really pregnant and Trig is actually her daughter’s baby. When I ask people why she would have announced that her daughter was, in fact, pregnant if the pregnancy was over and she was holding the result, no one has a good answer. The rumor was simply more fun than the reality. Plus, for a lot of women, there was some comfort in thinking that the reason Sarah could pose for Vogue at seven months pregnant and have no one notice was that she actually wasn’t pregnant.

The part of this whole vice president thing that is bothering me the most is the part where people question why Sarah would choose to have a special needs child and then run for vice-president instead of caring for him. Or why she would work instead of paying attention to her pregnant teen.  It’s funny, isn’t it, that if Todd Palin were the candidate and all the circumstances were the same, no one would question his run for office. The assumption would be he has a wife to take care of things and he would have all the time he needed for affairs of state.

Given my basic belief that once you are past birth, and possibly breast feeding, there is nothing a woman has that a man doesn’t have in order to successfully raise children, I find the questions over her run rather offensive. Is the assumption that Todd Palin is not capable of raising his family as well as Sarah? Or that raising a family is only woman’s work?

When John Edwards’ wife announced that she supported his run for vice-president despite her cancer, no one really made a fuss over it. They all praised her courage and went with the assumption that he would still be able to handle the business of running a national campaign.  So why isn’t the assumption that Todd will pick up the slack for his family if Sarah is busy running for office?

I find the questions about whether we use wampum for money in Alaska, or whether there is really is no sun for six months, rather amusing. I look forward to the chance to clear up some of these misconceptions. And maybe, just for fun, I’ll fan the flames of some of the more outrageous rumors about Alaska.  It will keep my family in awe of my ability to live in a state where there are more bears than people and they all live in my back yard.

But let’s clear the air over the ability of a woman to run despite the needs of her family. As I have always said when my female friends have commented that they can get out for an evening because their husbands said they’d baby-sit. When it’s your kids, it’s not babysitting.