Father’s Day and Presidential Politics

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Much gets made about whether women candidates for political office are mothers. Do they have young kids? If so, should they be running for office? We ask how will they manage, without giving a thought to the obvious — that few ever ask that of fathers.

As both Mitt Romney & President Obama are celebrating Father’s Day — and, of course, using it as a 2012 campaign photo op and fundraising moment — I’m thinking about why we don’t ask these same questions of men.

Why aren’t men’s decisions about parenting put under scrutinization in the same way as women’s decisions?

And then there’s this — how do we feel about the two candidate’s views on traditional motherhood. Both fathers, maybe we shoukd be asking Romney & President Obama more about how they approached their husband/father roles in their marriages. Romney has been praised by saying he didn’t care if he ate peanut butter sandwiches every night because his wife Ann couldn’t cook for the family when she was diagnosed with MS and then breast cancer. In telling that story, it would have made him a more sympathetic character if he’d talked about whether he took on the cooking for the kids, carpool duty and the piles of laundry that five boys surely produced.

As for the President, he’s often praised his wife Michelle for the tough work of managing a career and kids, and how difficult it was for her on the work/life balance front. But if he knew, as a husband and a father, how tough things were for her, why didn’t he step in to help? Why doesn’t he tell any stories about giving up a professional road trip to help out at home? Michelle Obama has told many stories openly about how she did a good deal of single parenting while Barack was off pursuing his dreams. An anecdote or two about how he passed on some opportunity so his wife could take one would be refreshing.

So I ask on Father’s Day — when will we ask more of our high profile fathers? Clearly, none of us is privy to their day to day parenting lives or every story of their marriages, but in light of the way each of the presidential candidates has talked about their earlier married years with young children, I’m looking forward to the day when I hear a male candidate for the White House talk about how they did a bit more in taking on some of the more traditional women’s roles. I want to hear their stories about arranging summer camp, juggling their work travel schedules because there was no child care for the kids, and how they stayed home to care for their kids when they has the flu or that nasty strep that swept thought their children’s classrooms.

Call me crazy, but I want to live long enough to see a man elected to the White House who has stories about juggling parenting, work and the household in the same way women do. When we hear that Father’s Day story, we’ll know that mothers have arrived.

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2 Responses to “Father’s Day and Presidential Politics”

  1. Reticula Says:

    Bravo! One way we’ll know we’ve achieved equality is when the standards for being a good father are just as high as the ones for being a good mother.

  2. Sara Says:

    Yes! I hadn’t really thought about it, but you’ve got a great point here. Ambitious women have to explain what they sacrificed to get where they are, but men don’t, and it will be a sign of more equality if someday they do.


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