Sarah Palin's Paradox for Working Moms

Last Updated Sep 11, 2008 8:31 AM EDT

Sarah Palin's Paradox for Working MomsSarah Palin has seemingly made Republicans and Democrats switch places when it comes to the issue of working women and family values.

Some Republicans are crowing that women should be given the opportunity to simultaneously serve as vice-president of the United States and raise a large special needs family -- with a moose kill thrown in every once in awhile. Some Democrats, meanwhile, are taking the unfamiliar position that the mother of a pregnant teenager and a child with Downs Syndrome needs to step off the career express and tend to her family. The party of Family Values should walk the talk, their argument goes.

In a Harvard Business Publishing blog post, Christina Bielaszka-DuVernay wrestles with this contradiction and the basic question that never seems to go away:

"Do such obligations somehow make women less suited than men for certain professions or roles?"

Women commentators to her post offer contrasting opinions. Here's a sample:

  • "Raising children is a family affair. I find it unbelievable that we are still having this conversation. A woman has the same rights and privilege as a man to have a career in business or politics."
  • "I personally have never found a tremendous outpouring of support for stay at home mothers. The questions is always, 'So you don't work?' Somehow we should be able to do it all but those of us that have tried usually realize sometimes that just cant be done."
  • "While (Palin's) desire to make a difference is admirable, her home life seems to need more of her time and attention than the Republican party needs."
  • "Motherhood requires strength, dedication, leadership, determination, and pride. If a women finally receives the chance to show these qualities to a country in need of such qualities than the answer to the question is yes, women can be both a mother and a leader."
What do you think? Should we also be asking Barack Obama how much time he will be spending with his children should he get into the White House? Does is matter that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has five children? Is their any situation when a mom needs to disqualify herself from a job? Are decisions like these really made by families and not just moms?
(Palin in Kuwait image by secondhandconjecture, CC 2.0)
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.