Rick Santorum Learns What It's Like to Be a Mom in Politics

Rick SantorumNo matter your political affiliation, it's hard not to feel at least a modicum of sympathy for Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum this week. Word has it his 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Bella, has Trisomy 18, a serious genetic disorder. And how do we know this? Because for once, a male candidate for major political office is being treated like a woman.

Pundits and the public alike are picking through the conservative's family tree this week, and their pronouncements are pretty personal. There have actually been more than a few folks who have said Santorum should be ashamed of himself for running for president instead of staying home and enjoying what may well be his child's last months on earth. Harsh, but pretty incredible too.

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After all, when's the last time a male politician got this kind of judgment on how his choices to run are affecting his kids? Off the top of my mind, I can remember ... well, none. As for female candidates, well, let's just take a look at the thoughts on average Americans' minds, shall we?

On Sarah Palin, one blogger wrote during the 2008 presidential campaign, "Is that really what Family Values means to the Republican Party? Women that can 'have it all' including leaving a baby with Down Syndrome at home while you pursue your own ambitions?" And that was just from a regular joe. The Wall Street Journal actually titled an article on Palin "Can Politics and Motherhood Mix?" 

And how about the other side of the aisle? When Nancy Pelosi spoke about motherhood as she was sworn in as Speaker of the House, she was accused of reinforcing "negative stereotypes of Democrats as the 'mommy party.'" Because apparently, "mommy" is a bad thing, or as The Prospect explained, it's an "outmoded gender stereotype."

Ironically, the one thing even Republicans seems to agree about President Barack Obama is the guy is a good dad, and I've seen no complaints from Dems about how our commander in chief might be branding his compatriots as the "daddy party." And I don't know about you, but in all the talk about Herman Cain possibly being Ginger White's sugar daddy, I haven't heard a thing about how the Republican should have thought about his kids and grandkids before allegedly carrying on an affair.

As a mother who struggles with the balance between being proud to have had a child and yet maintain my own identity as a successful career woman, I can't say I really like that people are pretending they know Rick Santorum's family dynamic without actually walking a mile in his shoes. I don't have to agree with the guy's politics to agree that it's a separate issue. He says his daughter's illness is part of his motivation, and that's his choice to make.

But it's high time male politicians and female pols are treated alike, don't you think? Can you remember a male politician getting this sort of questioning before?

 

Image via vharjadi/Flickr

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