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How Does She Do It?

A couple of weeks ago, a reporter called me to ask what I, as the co-founder of a Web site for crazy busy working moms, thought of Sarah Palin as the VP nominee. Did I think she could take on such a powerful role given her demands at home? With five kids, including an infant with Down’s Syndrome and a seventeen-year-old who is about to become a young mother herself, it certainly begs the proverbial question: “How does she do it?”

I don’t know how she did it as governor of Alaska. But here’s how she’ll do it if she’s VP: she’ll have help. A lot of it.

As I understand it Sarah Palin’s husband left his job when she became governor. He’s raising the kids. That’s actually not so uncommon these days. In my immediate social circle, I know several stay at home dads (and several more who wish they were). The wives have important jobs that require long hours and often include business travel. That doesn’t mean they love their children any less than a mother who is home full time. And curiously, no one ever seems to ask the dads how they feel about “opting out.” But that’s a post for another day.

Sarah Palin can have it all because the job she’s hoping to get will provide all sorts of benefits that are not available to the average American working mom. She’ll have assistants, schedulers, handlers, security, and probably the best child care known to woman. Her family will have multiple homes and a travel budget and access to private jets to fly them back and forth.

At first I thought Sarah Palin might shine a light on the issues facing working parents today. And she still might. I’m looking forward to watching her interview tonight on 20/20 with Charles Gibson. But let’s not kid ourselves. Sarah’s not calling in sick to tend to her child’s fever or squeezing a conference call in between carpool and hockey practice. Her nanny won’t quit and leave her high and dry and it’s unlikely she’ll be taking calls from the president during a parent-teacher conference unless it’s for a photo op.

Most working moms I know run their homes with the precision of a military operation because they have to. On any given work day there are bums to wipe, errands to run, laundry to do, activities to get to, homework, grocery shopping, meal prep and more. As much as we like to think we’ve got this working mom thing nailed, we’re all just one stomach bug away from unbridled chaos.

And that’s why good child care is critical to every working parent’s success, whether it’s provided by the spouse, a family member, day care center or nanny. If your kids are not well cared for while you are at work, how can you possibly do a good a job? If you figure the majority of moms in America are working and the majority of kids in America get out of school between 2 to 3 p.m., you have to wonder whether there is a better way. Kids left to their own devices get in trouble. Heck, they even get pregnant.

If nothing else, Sarah Palin has made an already interesting election even more fascinating. I’m hoping this debate about whether a mom of five could handle the job of VP leads us into a national conversation about the challenges working parents face today. Without a doubt, Hillary was right on this—it really does takes a village.

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