Mothers as Public Servants

Over the last week the media has spent considerable time and space questioning whether a mother of five children, including a baby with special needs, can balance family and the duties of Vice President.  Like many women across America I am embarrassed this question is being asked.

Eighty eight years ago women were granted the right to vote.  From before suffrage, we have told our daughters they could be anything they wanted – no limits.  Do we now need to qualify this?  You can be anything you want unless you have a family?  I hope not.

We should be celebrating the progress and success of every woman in America.  Politically we have recently experienced many firsts.  The first woman Speaker of the House, the first woman to run a viable campaign for President, a record number of women serving in Congress, and now another woman running for Vice President.  All of these milestones should be celebrated. 

For decades millions of women have successfully balanced work and   family – many because they have to, some because they desire the challenges and rewards of a career outside the home.  In 1955 only 27 percent of mothers in the workforce had kids under the age of 18; today that number is over 70 percent. 

As a Member of Congress, Co-Chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus and a new mom with a 16 month old son with special needs, I believe women bring a different and necessary perspective to the workforce.  I can tell you being a mom has given me a renewed perspective on the issues that come before me in Congress.

It is why earlier this year I worked with other women in Congress to introduce the Family Friendly Workplace Act so parents can have more flexibility in their job.  It is why I helped co-found the Down Syndrome Caucus so we can bring more awareness and support to the developmentally disabled.  This is why I have worked to improve our access to quality, affordable health care.

Governor Sarah Palin is someone who will bring her real world experience to the White House.  Her experience is grounded in her role as a wife, mother of five and Governor.  Her career has centered on her family and it is because of her family she has been able to rise from PTA mom to Mayor to Governor of Alaska and to candidate for Vice President of the United States.

She has balanced raising her family with running a state that is critical to our energy security.  She has managed a state with 24,000 employees and a $10 billion budget.  She oversees the Alaska Air National Guard.  And, time and time again, she has proven she is not afraid to shake up the status quo and fight the special interest groups.  

Like so many working women Governor Palin knows balancing family and work isn’t easy.  Sometimes you have to skip your morning shower, work through lunch, and drink a lot more coffee.  You rely more on your friends and family to help out.  But like many women know — you just make it work.

The advancement of women is important to the workforce and our economic growth.  Women-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment of our economy, women manage 83% of the household income, and women make 80% of the health care decisions in a family.  Women can’t regress from working and raising a family.

At a time when women are breaking down so many barriers, shattering the glass ceiling, and having a tremendous impact on our country, we should be celebrating our achievements, not questioning them.    

–By Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

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