How do you have a rant about women, children and work and not sound misogynistic? I am going to try, but be prepared because my biases will pop out right and left here.
Let me begin by saying I like to think that I am a very open-minded person who is left-leaning moderate. I believe that women should be paid the same as men. I believe that women get the short-end of the career climb due to misconceptions and true responsibilities relating to childcare, elder care, etc. I am very appreciative of all the women (and men) who have fought to gain women the right to vote, own property, handle our own finances and more.
Now let’s outline some basic facts about the new Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. She is a very smart, well-educated person. No one disputes that. She is a career-driven person. You do not become a federal judge without having strong aspirations and political drive. Her husband was a federal prosecutor for over a decade and now is in private practice in South Bend.
The children, in order of age, are Emma (19), Vivian (16) who is one of the adopted Haitian children, Tess (16), John Peter (13) who is also Haitian, Liam (11), Juliet (9), and Benjamin (8) who is the special needs Downs child.
Of the two adopted children, Vivian was born in Haiti and came to the family at 14 months. She weighed 11 pounds. John Peter is also Haitian and came to the family at age 3 after the earthquake that leveled Haiti. Benjamin is the child with Downs.
Now with that background, let me rant. I don’t believe you can have it all. I really don’t. Either you have family or you have career but one will be sacrificed in order for the other to thrive. That has been my experience.
Current advocates for ACB speak about her getting up at 4 am to get to the gym, her 3-hour roundtrip commute to Chicago for court sessions and they say this to emphasize her strong work ethic. But what about the kids? Where do they fit in? Are they squeezed in between the gym and the long morning commute? Being a federal justice is not necessarily a 9-5 job, so when ACB gets home in the evening how much 1-on-1 time is spent with the younger kids?
I think the kids are the ones getting short shrift of quality mom time. They are being raised by others. Since this is a conservative Catholic family who believes in traditional roles of husband and wife (I am basing this on ACB’s involvement with the People of Praise organization), I do not expect the husband/father (Jesse) to be picking up the slack on this. He is no Marty. He can’t be based on the teachings of the People of Praise.
I have known, befriended and worked with my fair share of driven, Type A, highly successful women. I mean highly successful including elected officials and women running companies. I have observed their kids lose the battle of getting their mom’s attention. I have seen the kids began trying all types of high jinks because any attention is better than none. I have very, very rarely seen the kids of a successful mom come out OK. Chelsea Clinton is one public example. Sorry, Hillary haters, but she did do a good job. Michelle Obama is another. Sorry that I am not balancing my examples with more conservative women, but work with me on this.
Even when these kids (that I have known firsthand) have decent dads (although I will say some were single moms, some blended families, some with dads), the dads could not compensate enough for the mom’s absence. I have seen older kids seem to be almost an after-thought for some women.
A great, warm fuzzy news article around Mother’s Day showing a lovely photo of a mom with her daughter at the barn. Nobody at the barn had ever met the mom. They had all thought the housekeeper was the parent. The mom had a very demanding, stressful leadership role and flew all over the country. The kid at 13 had a cell phone, credit card and was a whole lot of messed up.
Another kid pulled a huge stunt at school that got him suspended. He did it the same day that his mom had a huge, huge presentation. He did it on purpose to make her choose. To her credit, she chose the kid. She also began losing her hair over the stress of the two situations. She kept up the high-flying career for another 8 years before buckling under it all. Now she lives on the beach with her hubby. She looks really happy. One kid lives aboard, and I lost track of the other.
I can go on and on with examples. I have watched from the sidelines for years. I will admit that I am being quite judgmental. I can’t help it. This is about the kids. This is about kids who do not get to choose their family or their parents. Parents can really fuck up their kids. It’s pretty easy.
I also have issues with high-profile women who seem to “collect” children. I am thinking of Mia Farrow and Angelina Jolie. I just think there are some underlying issues with those woman. What empty need are they trying to fill with more kids? How do you give the kids the attention and one-on-one time that helps kids thrive? I want to toss ACB into this category as well.
I could barely pull it off with two. I was an occasional school volunteer, but oftentimes team mom, and always horse show mom. I rarely if ever missed a game, horse show, award presentation – you name it. I showed up. Their dad was also good about showing up quite a bit. My kids really appreciated it both then and now. It really makes a difference.
Now I will admit that I sacrificed a lot of me to do this. However, as I wrote recently, I think it was worth it. I don’t regret putting my family before my career. OK, there are days I question that decision and wonder if it was the right one. But my kids turned out OK, so I think it was the right one.
So my rant is that is ACB there for her kids? We don’t know. I hope so, but I don’t think there are enough hours in the day. How can you be a successful federal judge, active church community leader and all the other amazing things plus be a mom to 7 kids. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.