Todd Palin, The First “Second Gentleman?”
The announcement of Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, has sent shockwaves through the American political arena. Palin introduced herself in her first national speech last Friday as the ultimate working mother: a self-proclaimed “hockey mom” who intends to “shatter the glass ceiling” that Hillary Clinton had managed to splinter just a few months before.
As the mother of five with a special needs infant and a soon-to-be-wed pregnant teenager, Palin is dealing with family issues that would try any mother. Currently, she has managed to juggle all of this while governing the state of Alaska, running seven miles a day, weathering “trooper-gate” and is now stepping up to take on one of the most prestigious posts in our government.
This has caused a lot of people, both Democrat and Republican, to wonder: has she bit off more than she can chew?
Some would argue that a woman shouldn’t have to put her family over her career, woman should be able to “have it all,” and no one would be asking this about a male candidate.
I can’t say that I disagree with any of these statements. What I find curious however, is that Todd Palin, at least so far, is curiously absent from public view.
When most male politicians take major national office, such as the Presidency, their spouses usually follow and are active on the campaign. I’ve always just assumed that the women left their careers to accompany their husband to around the country and eventually to Washington (and if anyone knows of a First Lady or Second Lady who has continued to work outside of DC during their time in office, please jump in).
In light of the demands on political spouses, will Todd Palin choose to leave his career in Alaska to fulfill the duties of “Second Gentleman?”
While some might argue that the Vice Presidency is a secondary role consisting of nothing but luncheons and photo-ops, I think we can all agree that it is more than a 9 to 5 job with minimal flexibility in scheduling.
In response to a post I wrote about balancing work and motherhood a majority of the women who shared their stories touted flexible work schedules and reliable childcare as the best way they found to manage the juggle of full-time work and full-time parenting.
If Sarah is busy fulfilling her political duties, who will step in to take care of her personal ones?
A recent study cited in The Wall Street Journal surveyed a number of female executives about the support they receive from their spouses.
The study shows that what high-powered women prize above all is emotional support — a partner who listens to her and backs her respectfully when she’s angry or upset…
Executive women also valued their husbands’ willingness to help care for family members — picking up children at daycare or tending to aged relatives. One husband raced to the bedside of his wife’s ailing father, comforting him until she was able to get there. It was also important that a husband would step in voluntarily, often without being asked, when the wives had to travel on business or stay late at work.
Most Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates include their spouses in their campaign. They run as a unit–John and Jackie, Ronald and Nancy, Bill and Hillary. On Barack Obama’s campaign website there are selections that allow you to meet Michelle Obama and Jill Biden in addition to their husbands. Michelle and Jill are in the spotlight, whether they want it or not. The same is true for Cindi McCain and now Todd Palin.
Will Todd Palin fully embrace his wife’s candidacy the way other Vice Presidential spouses have? Is he up to the challenge of being the first Second Gentleman? And if so, what effect will his presence have on gender roles in this country?
I guess we’ll just have to wait another 60+ days to find out.