Is Obama a Good Enough Father to Be President?

by Marinka on September 5, 2008

My husband (aka A Wonderful Man), has been away on a business trip for the past two days. This is a huge pain in my ass, because despite the fact that he travels fairly regularly, our kids feel his absence acutely, every single time. They miss him and they also feel the power balance shift.

They know that I am more tired. They know that I am more impatient. They know that I will bend the rules. They know it’s two against one and they proceed with their game plan.

When I see Obama accepting the Democratic nomination and then appearing on the stage with Michelle and their daughters, my sympathy goes straight to Michelle. I can just imagine how they need their father. And how much Michelle needs for their father to be there. I also think of Barack himself, who has stated so, yes, eloquently, that he was shaped more by his father’s absence than his presence.

Yes, I thought of this during the Democratic convention, before Sarah Palin’s motherhood exploded all over us.

I absolutely wondered whether what Obama was doing was the best for his family. For his daughters and for Michelle. Maybe it’s because our kids are the same age (10 and 7), maybe because I’ve always adored Michelle because she always looks slightly pissed off in photos, like me, I wondered if it would have been like for me. I can hardly stand it when my husband is away for a week, after all.

I thought about it, but ultimately, I didn’t care. Because I am electing him to be President, not father of the year.

Fatherhood is his problem, and his family’s. Just as motherhood is Sarah Palin’s.

The people questioning whether Sarah Palin would take on such a demanding job if she really cared about her children’s welfare confuse me. Because really? Who gives a shit? Since when do we judge presidential and vice presidential candidates based on what kind of parents they are? There is just no way that it is not a double standard.

Let her campaign. Let her answer questions. Let her debate. But please ask whether her children are so much more important that Barack Obama’s. Because each set of children will potentially be feeling the hardship of having a world leader for a parent. And yet she is the only one getting flack for it.

One year ago ...

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Insta-mom September 5, 2008 at 12:03 pm

I’m standing on my desk cheering.

Though he didn’t travel when I was a child, my father would often come home for dinner and then go right back to work. When I was in high school and had my own busy schedule, I could go days without seeing him, even though we slept every night under the same roof. A sudden and unexpected trip to the hospital and a surgery changed his work habits, but those memories still lingered from my formative years.

As an adult, I feel his absence more acutely. I feel how the choices he made shaped me. But I resent neither him nor his choices. He was a parent, doing exactly what he thought was best for himself and his family. Much like I imagine Barack Obama and Sarah Palin do, too.

I think people need to lay off the parenting issue and judge these candidates based not on their own family dynamic (which we know so little about, really) but on the issues, the things they are going to do for OUR families.

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Amy in Ohio September 5, 2008 at 12:04 pm

You’re absolutely right about the double standard. It’s a very clear one that many working moms feel.

Sometimes old-fashionism takes hold of me and I think “but Mommies are different”. I know in my family, where both parents work, the burden is heavier on my end when it comes to child-rearing. I’m not complaining, I’m not unhappy, it is what it is. It’s that unspoken agreement between my husband and I – things are just not even right now and probably won’t be for many years to come.

Did you watch Mad About You way back when? That episode when they become pregnant, just as Jamie finds out that she got a huge promotion at work. She challenges the old regime and demands that she can do it all. And then it hits her as Paul says “But you’re the Mommy”.

It’s totally old-fashioned and anti-feminist, but it lingers in my mind from time to time.

But the bottom line is what you said – it’s THEIR problem to deal with not mine and I’ll stand up every day for her right to make the choice to pursue her career.

I’ll stand up even more for her not to be the next Vice President, but it will have nothing to do with her family – it has everything to do with MINE!

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Deb@Bird On A Wire September 5, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Thanks for your insightful post. It only makes sense to look at it from both sides and yes, you’ve done that. (The first person I’ve read do that as a matter of fact) Thanks for your audacity

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foolery September 5, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Bird on a Wire directed me here, and I’m glad she did!

Such an insightful post, and a clever title that made me groooooooan because I thought it was, you know, just another one of “those” posts stirring the poop. But you got me.

While some personal choices are indicative (or at least strong hints) of a person’s character, those are usually the extreme choices. I agree — nothing in any of the four candidates’ family lives is extreme enough to be a red flag, so we all need to LET. IT. GO. Great post!

— Laurie @ Foolery

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Vodka Mom September 5, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Frankly, I want to know what drugs Sarah is taking. I only have THREE kids, two dogs AND a full time job – and I’m fucking exhausted. campaign? jesus, I can’t even cook dinner right now.

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Feener September 5, 2008 at 1:44 pm

so fucking true

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Madge September 5, 2008 at 2:18 pm

what feener said

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Mama Ginger Tree September 5, 2008 at 2:29 pm

I’m standing up and cheering too. Well said Marinka. I have wondered as well why no one is questioning Obama’s choice of giving up family time like they are with Palin.

Bravo.

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anymommy September 5, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Yes, uh huh, exactly, brilliant. I don’t know what else to say without overly kissing butt and looking like a big butt kisser. You took my thoughts and made them coherent and together and relevant. How’d you do that? Awesome.

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Maura September 5, 2008 at 10:41 pm

Well said, indeed. This is essentially what I’ve been saying in person to people about this but haven’t blogged about it. There are SO many other things to object to about her and the Republican ticket, we don’t need to trot out double standards.

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sdl September 6, 2008 at 6:06 am

I’ll play devil’s advocate here and say that although I certainly agree that there’s a double standard where working mothers and working fathers are concerned, I don’t think comparing Palin and Obama is comparing apples to apples.

The choices Palin has made concerning her family go to character. When you make the choice to put your son’s face on television right before he deploys to Iraq, thus putting him and his company in danger, that goes to character. When you decide to run for VP knowing that your 17-year-old’s pregnancy will be the source of conversation for millions of strangers, and that baby will be known in that context for its life, that goes to character. And when you bring your tiny Downs Syndrome baby into a hall of bright lights and screaming people for hours, that goes to character too. I’m sorry, but it makes me think she’s extraordinarily self-centered.

I wonder how I’d feel about it if I didn’t already disagree with her on virtually everything–if I were on her side otherwise, I wonder if I would see it differently. But since I already dislike her and her sneery attitude and her positions on many issues important to me, then I can’t help but see some of the choices she’s made with her family and to pull those into the picture too.

Sorry to ramble so long! I really like what you said about Michelle Obama, btw.

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Kate September 6, 2008 at 12:33 pm

This is a perspective that seems obvious – yet I have of yet to hear it vocalized. Your point is made so well that I may have to memorize this post so I can recite it when this issue comes up in conversation.

Very well done.

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Kylie w Warszawie September 8, 2008 at 4:22 am

Very well said! I’ve had these discussions lately because I have a billion children, and I stay home, and people ask me “What do you think?” I say, she should be able to do whatever a man is able to do. Who cares?

One woman actually told me that she worries that her children will want for “mothering”. I was like, Um, my mom died when I was a kid and I was raised ONLY by a dad. I do not think that dads are incapable of raising children. Did I want for a mother? Yes, of course. Would it have been different had it been my father who died? No, I would have wanted for a father too.

I have a position that people don’t expect me to have. And that makes me angrier (and happier in a weird way – I’m unpredictable) than the whole discussion on it’s own. Why, because I stay at home with my kids, should I dare to say that it is the best thing for other people?

Sorry for the long comment:).

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Dee Light September 8, 2008 at 12:48 pm

What a great post. I love your perspective on the topic.

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Me September 18, 2008 at 9:37 am

Normally, I would totally agree with you.

However, being the sister of a Downs person, I know there is a completely different impact to what Sarah Palin is doing. Husband or no husband.

I could go on all day, but I don’t want to bore you with things that you couldn’t possibly understand unless you have lived it.

I love your blog!

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Kelly October 21, 2008 at 9:57 am

Well done! Thank you for sending me this link. I couldn’t agree more.

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