The usual politics aside, there’s more to John McCain’s recent appointment of Sarah Palin as his running mate and candidate for the vice presidency. While many pro-life and pro-family voters cheered her appointment, some are more hesitant to elect a mother of five children, one of whom is still an infant, to the vice presidency of the United States.
Over at his blog, Steve Skojec summed up the thoughts of some around the blogosphere when he asked,
For someone who is so pro-life, why is she a governor-going-on-VP? She’s got young kids. Politics is a profession for workaholics, especially once a candidate is on the campaign trail. If she really is still breastfeeding, she won’t be for long! Why is this a good idea and how does it reflect positively on her family values?
I think we can all agree that babies need nurturing. Not just a little bit here and there or at the end of a long workday, but all-day-long loving from a consistent caregiver. Mothers, of course, are the primary nurturers in most families. It’s how God designed us.
And this, I suppose, is where some of us get off the train. If Sarah Palin is working, we think, she is not mothering, and that kind of example is an offense to traditional families everywhere.
But do we know that? Do we know the inner workings of the Palin family dynamic? Of course not. We only know what we see.
Here’s what I see:
- An extraordinarily talented and motivated mother who has not aggressively sought out political opportunities, but who instead has answered a call to public service, almost by accident.
- A woman who has consulted God and her family every step along the way as she sought balance between serving her family and serving her community.
- Someone who gives voice to an all too often silent majority — mothers. Mothers of families, large families even, who embrace, nurture, and protect life in all its states and stages. Mothers at home, mothers at work, and mothers everywhere who despair in the face of a culture that all too often fails to recognize the value of their contributions.
- A woman who is unafraid to put her family’s needs first — even if it means breastfeeding under challenging circumstances or holding a press conference while wearing her baby in a sling.
- A mom who makes a bold statement — a huge statement — about the value and worth of motherhood by unapologetically combining her family obligations with public service.
We might not understand exactly how Palin answers the call to political life; we might marvel at how she manages to do it, and we might quite readily come to the conclusion that we ourselves could never pull it off.
But that doesn’t mean Sarah Palin can’t. God, through Sarah Palin, can accomplish what to us seems unconventional, or even impossible.
I can’t help but wonder about the finger-wagging and tongue-clucking over “propriety” and “a woman’s place” that St. Joan of Arc must have endured when she answered God’s unconventional call. Only she heard the voices that called her to serve God and her fellow man in unorthodox ways — and in the end, only she could answer them.
God’s view is bigger than ours. God’s plans are bigger than our own. Might it not take the unique strength and perspective of a woman, and particularly that of a mother, to wake our sleeping souls and at last affirm and protect the dignity and worth of all human life?
In his 1995 Letter to Women, Pope John Paul II encouraged women’s participation in society because
Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them.
In Sarah Palin, I see a politician who not only represents my values with regard to human life, but for the first time ever, a politician who is one of us — a mom in the trenches. Standing behind her as she speaks, I see a loving, nurturing family that reminds me of my own.
I know that tiny face peeking out from her baby sling. I know the sweet smell of that tuft of hair. I know the preciousness of that gummy grin. The fact that Sarah Palin knows these things too and that she doesn’t hide them from the world, even in places where mothers and babies have previously feared to tread, gives me great confidence in her values, her abilities, and her potential as a champion for women, for moms, and for babies everywhere — at home, at work, and all the places in between.