I've mentioned before that while pregnant I read a great book, and one of the things it says about parenting is that you have to realize, as a parent, that you can have it all, maybe, but you definitely can't have it all at the same time.
But what if you get it all at the same time?
On this blog we have periodically gotten very oratorical about politics, so you all know where I stand. I want to bracket my political inclinations right now and say that--I don't agree with her, a lot of her opinions and decisions make me VERY ANGRY--but I am really feeling empathetic about Sarah Palin right about now.
I don't fully know how to say what I want to say carefully enough--I am not trying to be offensive or argumentative, here, but just to notice that most of my closest mama friends have a very difficult time balancing work and self and mothering. It's tough. Even if you believe that it is important to balance those things, that you could not be good as a mother if you denied your need to be an individual and a professional, it's hard. I'm going to go on the job market this year without a major publication, and that's partly because I chose to spend my afternoons with my son rather than writing, and that was a really good compromise for me, but it was indeed a compromise. Most people I know are negotiating a similar balancing act--you keep your balls in the air, but you know none of them are flying as high as they might.
I normally have a sense of what I want in my life: that my professional life is important, but not the only important thing, and that I don't want my professional life to require me to neglect the other things I love.
I know that, but would I really turn it down if Harvard called and offered me a job? Would I really say no, even if I'd be ambivalent about all the work it would demand?
What if Harvard called, right after I'd just had a child with special needs--needs even more special than the needs of my other four children? What if Harvard called when my oldest daughter needed me more than ever?
What if Harvard called and said: we're calling, but we might never call back? What if Harvard called, and you thought you could really do some good, but weren't sure you could really do all that good right now, but maybe you'd just have to try, because this is your now, this is your moment, this is the time when life invites you and your babies and their babies onto that american idol stage?
A lot of attention has been paid and will be paid and should be paid to Palin's judgement in the next few months. I am not, right now, interested in evaluating the judgement she showed in making her choice. What I just want to say is that this moment in Sarah Palin's life is like a crystallized version, is like the reductio ad absurdum, of a decision all mother's face. It is absurd to be in her position; it is stranger than fiction, it is so hyperbolic I can almost not believe it's real, and that's not even counting all the weird Alaska-moose-cubing bits.
So I empathize. What I will have to decide, this year as I think about my own career, is whether I sympathize. I will be interested to watch as America judges the judgement of a mother, trying to have it all on our most public stage.
What a strange strange moment, when conservatives argue that a mother of five is qualified to be VP by VIRTUE of her mother-of-five-ness, while even liberal mothers wonder if really this is the level at which you say, you can't really have a professional career at this level, with this kind of family situation. We're all reaching the limits of our ideological foundation. Watching her extremity, we are all stretched too far.