I was raised Roman Catholic and have 45 younger first cousins. Like my mother, my aunts, their friends, my friends' mothers could not afford to attend college before they had children. They had their large families very young, then got their degrees and started their careers by the time they were in their early forties. Since their children were largely grown, they were able to focus their tremendous energy, talent, and experience on their jobs.
At that time being a mother of a large family was considerably more respected than it is now. My grandmother had 8 children; my mother had 6; I had 4. I am so pissed when I read mockery of Palin for not knowing how babies are made. With my fertile genes, having only 4 planned children required practicing birth control every day except the four months it took me to get pregnant and the 8 months I was knowingly pregnant with each baby.
The extensive volunteer executive experience of my mother and my aunts was more likely to be acknowledged. My aunt went to law school when she was 40 and in a few years was chief counsel to the president of a large university. Now even many professional women don't seem to value women who chose to emphasize mothering instead of careers while their children were young.
I stayed home with my children full-time for 14 years, then got two master's degrees. I was a political activist, editor, childbirth educator, breastfeeding and parenting counselor, researcher, nursery school vice president and treasurer, PTA leader, volunteer teacher and librarian, mental health advocate. i Even in the traditionally female fields of library science and social work, I often felt that my experience as a mother and community activist was not acknowledged and valued. In social work school, I often was regarded as a beginner, and the tremendous amount of knowledge I had gained by reading, childrearing, and counseling, activism was regarded as cheating, because I hadn't put in the requisite years on the job.On the job,. I was given the responsibilities of an experienced librarian and social worker, but paid and promoted like a beginner.
Ann Crittenden has a provocative book, If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything." Anyone who doesn't think PTA activism is political experience has not been involved in Long Island PTAs:) Mothers' executive experience seems invisible to most people because they are not highly paid.
Women need not follow the traditionally male path to political power. Otherwise they have to be Hillary Clinton's age before they can aim for major office and then are dismissed as too old, too entrenched in the status quo.
Women who have raised families are the most untapped resource for political talent. The mother bloggers who list a truly impressive list of achievements and experiences, claiming that doesn't make them qualified for being vice president are undervaluing themselves. Women who run for political office are relatively successful. The problem is most women, not graduates of elite law schools, aren't confident enough to run because work that mostly women do is often unrecognized and even scorned.
The positive aspect of Palin's candidacy is the possibility of opening up dialog and debate about what kind of experience qualifies you for public office.