Some of the finest, most helpful and brightest people I have known are women. As a rule, for me, women tend to be more thoughtful, generous and caring than so many of the macho-burdened guys I’ve known. This bias of mine began with my mother who I could depend on for anything and everything no matter what, while my wife of 45 years is my best friend, confidant, love interest and mother to our children.
In the history of our planet, the length of my life has been nothing more than an innocuous hiccup. However, when I was in high school, a mere five decades ago, the women in my class were mainly relegated to motherhood, librarian, nurse or teacher. Then, too, teachers were often required lifelong spinster status. A few women actually held public office but usually got there when a famous husband passed and sentimentality demanded it.
Having kids and trying for public office was not only considered an impediment throughout the America of yesteryear but comparable to women as blacksmith or street car conductor. Like it or not, and there remain many who don’t like it, several women are running for office and claiming active motherhood as a political asset. For example, in Maryland, a candidate there for governor, Krish Vignarajah, made her case for the job in a 30-second ad showing her breastfeeding her baby daughter with photos of her family and select moments from her political career.
Many female candidates are doing something similar or the same. Vignarajah has been joined by Kelda Roys who is running for governor of Wisconsin and has openly breastfed her child as well as made efforts to ban a potentially harmful chemical in children’s products. M. J. Hegar, a congressional candidate in Texas, has displayed her own take on motherhood when she announced, “I’m an Air Force combat veteran and a mom.” Hegar wants her constituents to know that she has opened several formerly closed doors to women by building a career while being a mom.
Others who’ve written on this subject argue that we’ve moved into a new outsider role after the 2016 political election. They say that the mothers in the public office movement is the result of an abnormal political era where more voters prefer people who’ve not been long-serving in office, the kind of office holder who repeats the same tired refrains and stands pat on the status quo, no matter the breadth and depth of problems screaming for attention.
What’s been a typical point of view was in the double standard category where men running for office could have a wife and children while seen as wholesome and normal. Wives were expected to serve as primary child-care providers for their families and thereby not suited to hold public office. In the past, women were directed to assume major responsibility for the children while a common comment on those who dared was: “Well! She’s not looking after the kids (in Salem, Washington, D.C. or wherever), when she should be doing so!”
Men can do more about raising families. When my wife and I returned from years working overseas, we brought a newborn home with us. We had no jobs to return to and my wife had always wanted to try her hand at a line of work of considerable interest to her. I took care of our infant daughter and our other child from dawn to dusk every day and thereby acquired a personal appreciation for the amount of time, effort and patience involved. Bottom line was I succeeded as Mr. Mom while my wife and I learned we were “diaper-brigade” interchangeable in raising our children.
More power to those women in Oregon who chose to run for public office. I’ve noticed over the years of my life that women often do better than the guys because so many of them have a knack and talent for effective communication and problem-solving cooperation, resulting in getting along with other people and compromising at middle ground points to get things done. There have been many a trail blazer at all levels of government and the gate’s wide open so expect more young mothers to run for office while some will be pregnant and some will be breastfeeding. May we encourage them and applaud their efforts and achievements in a new social order where no one is held back by outmoded and unnecessary restraints.
(Gene H. McIntyre shares his opinion each week in the Keizertimes.)