Sarah Palin: A friend of the American mom?

Posted by Saraline , Saturday, August 30, 2008 7:45 PM

As I'm sure the entire world knows by now, John McCain chose Sarah Palin to be his vice-presidential running mate yesterday. Palin is the governor of Alaska, married with five children, and presents an image of a strong woman. There has been speculation that McCain chose her in order to win Hillary Clinton's supporters over to the Republican side.

Fat chance of that. Palin is pro-life, against gay marriage, and likes guns. Still, she is a mother. Can other mothers relate to her?

In a discussion in a breastfeeding community that I've been watching, a woman said that she thought it would be cool to have a breastfeeding woman for the president or vice-president, although the poster also said that she does not like Palin's stance on some issues. Just because a woman is a mother does not mean that she is pro-life.

Breastfeeding awareness is important for many mothers, and having a high-profile politician who breastfeeds would be fantastic. However, there are other issues that American mothers are facing.

I'm an outsider looking in at the situation of mothers in the United States. Right now I'm sitting up here in Quebec and looking forward to starting my maternity leave in two weeks, which is four weeks before my due date. I will be taking 18 weeks of paid maternity leave and 32 weeks of paid parental leave, 50 weeks total. I will only be getting a percentage of my wages, but that's better than not getting any money at all.

Mothers in the U.S. are not as lucky. According to,

Actual paid "maternity leave" — while the norm in every other developed country — is unusual in the United States, although some enlightened companies do offer new parents paid time off, up to six weeks in some cases.

Most likely, you'll use a combination of short-term disability (STD), sick leave, vacation, personal days, and unpaid family leave during your time away from work.

The picture did improve in 1993 with the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which entitles most workers to up to 12 weeks of job-protected medical leave for birth or adoption. However, the FMLA doesn't cover those who work for smaller companies and guarantees only unpaid leaves.
Some women enjoy their careers and want to "have it all." Sarah Palin, who returned to work three days after her youngest son was born, is evidently one of them.

Lower income women, however, who have "jobs" instead of "careers," may not enjoy their work as much as somebody who is a governor and may have a more difficult time finding child care for a newborn infant. These women are "doing it all" instead of "having it all." They work because they have to and not because they want to.

Taking care of a child is hard work. If you get somebody else to do it for you, you have to pay them. If a parent is getting paid parental leave, they are getting paid for doing a job that they might enjoy more than the job that they had before their child was born. Doesn't a low-income mother with a job that she does not get any fulfillment from deserve a chance to nurture her newborn child instead? How can a low-income woman afford to do that? Will Sarah Palin, a woman who has it all, be an ally to women who are doing it all for next to nothing?

2 Response to "Sarah Palin: A friend of the American mom?"

Kate Says:

Is she breastfeeding? I saw one of the newspaper stories about the birth of her son and she seemed to be bragging that her new baby wasn't going to affect her work at all.

Saraline Says:

I just did a search, and all of the mentions of Sarah Palin breastfeeding were comments on message boards or forums. (There was also one comment that I saw somewhere that she isn't breastfeeding.)

I finally found this interview in People where she says that she is pumping breast milk.

"We don't sleep much. Too much to do. What I've had to do, though, is in the middle of the night, put down the BlackBerries and pick up the breast pump."

So I don't know if she's pumping exclusively or if she is also nursing her baby.