Saturday, September 6, 2008


Mamapop had a great discussion Thursday about feminism, and how it applies to politics, specifically Sarah Palin. Feminist is not one of the labels I apply to myself (like juliaink). Just don’t consider myself a pioneer in moving the cause of women forward. I also don’t tag myself as a political animal. However, this election has me fired up because I feel that the items the media has picked up and discussed are issues in my back yard.

As women in medicine and specifically mothers in medicine, we have a unique perspective. My occupation is 24/7. I share call with other physicians, now, although I was once a solo practitioner. The ownership part of my practice is still there seven days a week and requires maintenance whether it is employee reviews I need to write, maintenance of the facilities or just a late night security call. Being a physician is a 24/7 job whether I’m on call or not – and I suspect it may be that way for my fellow MIM writers. Have you fielded a phone call from a worried neighbor or family member because you have MD or DO (or RN, PA, NP) after you name?

Mothering, Fathering and Parenting are also 24/7 jobs. Even with my two healthy children, the balance is precarious and dynamic. I can only imagine what adding intense media coverage, decision making for 300+ million citizens, and overlapping passport stamps would do to my stress level. It’s not that the VP (or presidency, for that matter) job isn’t compatible with parenthood. It is. I’m not sure the job that will require 110% focus seven days a week (or at least this is what I expect out of elected leaders ) is balanceable with children that need their parents as much as 2 of the 5 Palin kids will need their parents in the coming months.


  1. That was the exact same comment/reasoning that kept women "shamed" from having children while they were doctors, or even becoming doctors at all. Men have been doing these jobs for years with young children. It's time for women to adapt, and it's DEFINITELY time for our attitudes to adapt.

    I would like to think that women such as ourselves, who are in medicine, who have children, would be the ones cheering on movement forward, much as I'm sure some others were when medicine was experiencing (still experiencing...) this shift.

    I'm a little disappointed, to be honest. You'd think we'd be the ones saying, go for it, honey, it's about damn time.

    For the record, I'm not a feminist either. I'm just a woman who knows I can do a hell of a lot more than people give me credit for, and I believe most other women can, too. Have a little faith.

    - Kate

  2. I feel like this is a pretty loaded post, one that I was avoiding myself, but I actually agree with you. (And for the record, I think it's terribly sad also that one of Obama's daughters burst into tears at the DNC because she hadn't seen her dad in so long.)

    Much like Palin, I don't know exactly what being VP entails, but I've heard it involves a lot of traveling and not getting to see your family much. I don't know much about Palin's family dynamics, but I when I was younger, I don't think I could have gone without seeing my mom for long periods of time... or I could have, but it would have been really hard. And even though I love my dad, it wouldn't have been nearly as big a deal if he had not been around. I wouldn't say that's true of every family, but I think the mom is often the one that the kids turn to for comfort. Not ALWAYS because I know someone will come up with like five examples of dads that are more involved than the mom, but OFTEN. My mom was my go-to person for everythng. And I didn't have any major problems, like being pregnant at 17.

    I think given everything going on in that family, I would have even found it questionable if Palin's husband ran for VP at this point. They are having the kind of difficulties now that would cause a lot of families to take a leave from work and focus on their kids, not run for the second most important job in the country. Being Pres or VP is a huge sacrifice for anyone.

    And I put my money where my mouth is. I took an easier residency so that I could spend more time with my daughter.

  3. In the beginning I thought about what you've expressed. How could she possibly be prepared to take on the job of campaigning for VP when she's so recently a mother?

    This woman is the Governor of a state. She's not going to drop what she feels is her important work to attend 100% to baby/teen. The VP is a paying gig - she can hire help!

    Either you agree with her politics and think she's an addition to the ticket or you don't.

    She has made her decision - make yours and leave the motherhood trip out of it.

  4. Wow. I AM a feminist, and always find it disheartening when other women (who, you know, want to be paid the same as men for the same work and not treated like shit and all) say they aren't.

    In the case of Palin, she isn't a candidate I can get behind. It has nothing to do with her family/kids (although there is a touch of shadenfraude there with the whole Bristol thing), and everything to do with the fact that I think her policies suck. She panders to a side that I won't be a part of.

  5. I've had similar feelings about other specialties, sadly. How could you possibly be a good mom and a Cardiovascular surgeon? It was actually at 1 am last night (when I finally got home last night after getting my last patient delivered) reading G's post that it dawned on me that people in other specialties and other professions might have those same thoughts about me.

    When I read this this morning I was a little disturbed.

    I personally wouldn't make the same choices for my family. But she's chosen to serve her country in this way, and I for, one think she's WICKED AWESOME.

    She also looks like Tina Fey which will make for several great plot lines on 30 Rock this fall.

  6. Do you see a woman resident or fellow with young children in the same light? If anything, I would say being VP is less stressful/time-consuming than being a resident. Yes, being VP may consume 8 years but that is not much longer than a residency combined with fellowship. Should we then say that a mother in residency is not a good mother? I find that insulting.

  7. This line of thinking (from the media in general and subtly repeated in this post) is as sexist as it gets. If Mr. Palin was running for VP, no one would even know (much less care) how many kids he would be "abandoning" if elected.

    Apparently only liberal women are allowed to be strong leaders. When it's a conservative, she should just stay at home and raise the kids, eh?

    As full time dad, there's nothing I'd rather see than another at-home dad married to the VP.

  8. I think it might be easier to accept Palin running for VP if she were someone who had earned this through years of hard work and had a real vision for changing the country. Instead this is all just a transparent ploy to lure in female supporters of Hillary Clinton. There are probably millions of people who could do the job of VP much better than she could. Why abandon her children, who need her, for something that she's so poorly suited for?

    Sarah Palin didn't earn a spot on the Republican ticket, the way we earned our jobs through years of grueling medical school, residency, fellowship, etc. It's an insult to compare her to us.

  9. Russ,

    unfortunately, Mr. Palin isn't a SAHD. He works as an exec for BP, is also a commercial fisherman, AND is a competitive snowmobiler.

    Since my DH is, like you, an actual SAHD, I'm sure he would like to see an at-home dad married to the VP. Mr. Palin just isn't that.

    And personally, what she does with her kids is NOT why I'm not voting for her. Too many other reasons not to in the first place for her "personal life" to even register, for me at least.

  10. I too am shocked at the backlash against Ms. Palin for the decision she has made. Are we living in the 1950s or the 21st century? Is this not what our mothers fought for in the '60s and '70s - the ability to choose a career if we want it? I remember in residency, several women had children and would bemoan the fact that they were not there for the first step or the first work. Does that mean they were poorer physicians or less caring mothers? One surgical resident had a child w/ spina bifida. It seems some of the commentators feel she should have just quit her tough residency, and as such her career choice, so she could be at home taking care of her special needs child. Maybe mothers of special needs children, or w/ more than one child, should only be allowed to practice primary care, or urgent care. God forbid we actually work in fields like critical care, or trauma surgery, or ER, w/ multiple lives in the balance, as we cannot be trusted to fully commit to our job b/c we have children at home.

    For the record, I'll probably vote for a 3rd party candidate, but I still applaude Ms. Palin's decision.

  11. First, Palin is about as far away from being a feminist as you can get. She supports abstinence-only education, which increases the rate of teen pregnancy (her own daughter is a great example). Then at the same time, she cut funding to programs to help teenage mothers. These girls now have no chance to achieve what she has. I can't support that.

    Second, imagine you have a still breastfeeding newborn with special needs. And then on top of that, your unwed teenage daughter just told you she was pregnant, despite her wonderful abstinence only education. Now do you:

    a) Launch a new career that will take you completely away from your family while exposing all these very sensitive problems to the entire nation. For a job that you admitted on TV that you're not even sure what it is.

    b) Continue to serve as governor and be around for your family.

    (or c) Start Zoloft)

    Nobody is saying she CAN'T run for VP. Or that she should quit her job and be a stay at home mom. But there are times in every person's life when the people who (supposedly) are most important to them really NEED them. And I think this is a time for Sarah Palin when her family needs her. Obviously, she's ALLOWED to run for VP, but my personal opinion is that her priorities are screwed up.

  12. Your post suggests that there is a limit to what working mothers can handle, and that you know what that limit is for another mother.

    Do you realize that there are those who think that a mother in medicine has already stepped outside the bounds of what is doable? That there is plenty of criticism out there of physician mothers who work full-time, take on grueling residencies, and return to work a month after delivering a baby, with the charge that they are selfish, second-rate mothers?

    If you believe that you are the best one to judge your emotional, mental, physical, social and financial reserves; that you know your family's needs best; and that you are the one to best make decisions where your career meets family, maybe you should afford the same courtesy to Palin.

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  14. I am astonished by the venom I have seen all over the place about this topic. it is really polarizing.

    I could never vote for Sarah Palin because her politics are gruesome to me. Start with abstinence education only-- which has been shown a failure-- and move on from there. She is unqualified and politically so far from anything that I think is good for women and families, well, I could never see eye to eye with her on anything, I think.

    Still, I am thrilled that she is running if only because this fall we will either have a black man as president (please, oh please) or a woman as vice president, and either way that is great news for the country. great news.

    As a feminist, though, all I can say about her otherwise is that I am impressed. I know that I could not make that choice in her situation- no way could I consider either walking away from my family or uprooting them. I just couldn't do it, so I find it bizarre and unthinkable that she can. At the same time, I applaud her for being willing to try. Just because I couldn't begin to make it work doesn't mean the same for her. She and her family myst have ideas that will work for them, and dammit, that is all that matters.

    We cannot judge her and her family by ourselves or by what we think women "should" do because that sets us all back to zero.... again. I am not willing to do that to my daughter.