The selection of Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin to the GOP presidential ticket has put a working mom in the headlines. This mother of five has not only galvanized her party’s ticket, she’s created a stir that isn’t exactly what you might expect.

Democrats are suddenly questioning how a working mom can take on the vice presidency and still do justice to her family. Republicans insist it’s no big deal and are applauding her choice to run. Politicians are often accused of flip-flopping, but this is a doozy!

Working moms and stay-at-home moms who are familiar with this discussion can’t help feeling a bit disoriented by the surprising reversal of opinions. I must admit it has taken me aback. Costly sacrifices made by both groups of moms, nights of complete exhaustion, endless multi-tasking, a firm resolve to steward our gifts and callings, unswerving commitment to family, and a determination to tackle head-on the demands of the unique personal circumstances God places before us—suddenly seem thrown into a chasm of confusion.

Whatever else you might say about Sarah Barracuda, the hockey mom from Alaska, she has turned family values upside down. Liberals are taking up the cause of stay-at-home moms. Conservatives are advocating for working mothers. What is the world coming to? Whichever side of the divide you’re on, you’ve been betrayed by those you thought were cheering for you.

My own life as a mom has never fit neatly into either category. At times I’ve been fulltime in the corporate world. At others I’ve blended work and home, career and family. I’ve even taken a turn as a home schooling mom. In every stage of my life, there have been solid reasons for my choices. But, like a lot of other women, every choice has been accompanied by that nagging sense (reinforced by raised eyebrows and comments I’ve heard along the way) that I’m “not doing things right.”

As a mom who worked to support my husband’s academic career, I recall looking wistfully out the window of our third floor Oxford flat at moms who were getting together with their little ones. I felt torn between my longings to be part of that group and the project deadline facing me that would put food on the table. But there were also wonderful reminders of the importance of what I was doing. Once, during a business meeting, I reached into my briefcase and pulled out a miniature Elmo that my preschool daughter had tucked inside to keep me company.

Governor Palin—standing at the podium with her husband in the bleachers cradling their infant son in his arms—has unintentionally reshuffled the deck and forced on us questions about God’s calling on women’s lives in a rather public way. Only this time we aren’t asking on behalf of women, like my mother, whose days of active mothering are over. Nor are we asking for single and childless women who have yet to be admitted to the mom’s club (although we need to ask questions for them too). This time we’re asking for a mom who has major challenges at home and yet is answering a call to be doing something above and beyond traditional roles.

I keep coming back to the ezer-warrior, who leads us beyond this political flip-flopping. (If the ezer-warrior concept is new to you, go here.) In embracing the ezer as my identity as a woman, I find the courage and the freedom I need to embrace the particular life God is giving me—whatever that might be.

So far, the first ezer is the only woman to be born (so to speak) into a perfect world. The rest of us have had to cope with unexpected changes, catastrophic tragedies, fluctuating economies, disappointments, opportunities, and a lot of messiness. Walking into life armed with a tightly scripted formula for how a woman ought to live her life doesn’t equip us for the contingencies we encounter. In fact, it often ties our hands behind our backs just when we need to step up and fight a battle we never expected to face.

We need a compass that enables us to embrace God’s purposes for our lives today—no matter what particular complexities we face. By embracing our calling as ezer-warriors, we can cheer each other on, instead of splitting into hopelessly divided camps.

So, what do you think?

About carolyncustisjames

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11 Responses to Flip-Flopping

  1. meredith says:

    Hey Carolyn,Thanks for this — I have to say, I’m thrilled about Sarah Palin. However, at last count, 100% of my friends here in Oxford are dismissive or actively hostile toward her, because she’s too conservative (or not qualified enough)! But my Christian friends at home in the US are also hostile, because ‘she should be a home with her baby’!!! Argh!! I am struck afresh at how thoroughly other people like to tell women what they can or cannot do. My liberal friends diss Palin because she doesn’t have the CV of a career politician. My conservative friends diss her because she doesn’t conform to the culturally-defined role of stay-at-home mom. When I read the Bible however, I see a God who has great things in mind, even (!) for women, and who does not put cultural limitations on us. I LOVE Proverbs 31 because it does NOT show a woman whose only sphere of influence is at home. Say, could you write your next book about that? Did you know there are seven Hebrew words in there that have military (=masculine) usage elsehwere in the OT…?!


  2. Don says:

    I went to a McCain/Palin rally today in VA and the outdoor park amphitheater was overflowing. There IS something happening that was beyond my expectation. There is no question that McCain adding Palin has shook up this race.


  3. Gem says:

    I am a long term SAHM of 8 and Sarah Palin represents ME in a way I have never experienced in my lifetime. The secular world looked askance and questioned our family’s “fruitfulness”. The Christian world was filled with messages that left me feeling like God really didn’t think much of women (after all, they cannot be trusted with ANY leadership or authority!) Enter Sarah Palin: a professing Bible Believing, church going, politically, theologically, and morally conservative Christian woman ascending to a position of leadership, responsibility, authority…I’m weeping even to think of it…..


  4. J. K. Gayle says:

    <>no matter what particular complexities we face<>What if we face complexities as African American women, complexities that white Americans, male or female, can’t easily imagine? What if Barack Obama is more like me than Sarah Palin? What if Hillary Clinton is an ezer warrior, a Christian one too? Does Geraldine Ferraro fit neatly into our categories? And then the women of the Bible, really, how much were they like American “Liberals . . . taking up the cause of stay-at-home moms. Conservatives . . . advocating for working mothers?” How about the ezer Rahab, a foreigner, a prostitute? The Moabitess (Ruth) who was not the same race as God’s chosen race either? The first evangelist, a half-breed, the Samaritaness at the well, not a family woman? There are others who are minorities, and because women, double minorities. How I wish we could embrace differences in America, and “cheer each other on, instead of splitting into hopelessly divided camps.” When we’ve done it to the least, then we’ve begun the embrace, I think.Thank you for getting us to think outside our usual boxes about our positions, our privilege. “< HREF="The%20Dictionary%20According%20to%20Jesus" REL="nofollow">The Dictionary According to Jesus<>,” is just an incredible, most relevant, post!


  5. Carolyn says:

    I welcome this kind of rigorous cross-examination of the <>ezer<>-warrior paradigm. We have to ask, “Who (or what part of ourselves) are we leaving out?” So far as I can tell, the <>ezer<>-warrior holds up under this kind of scrutiny. But you are right. The challenge for all of us is to embrace and support one another. Jesus means for the kind of embracing you describe to characterize relationships among His followers—not because we are the same, but in the midst of our differences (see < HREF="http://www.whitbyforum.com/2008/08/one-world-one-dream.html" REL="nofollow">One World One Dream<>).


  6. Gem says:

    <>When we’ve done it to the least, then we’ve begun the embrace, I think.<>Who are “the least” JK Gayle?I had a spontaneous abortion at 3 months gestation and held my fully human son in the palm of my hand. He was not part of “MY OWN body”. He was one of “the least” IMO. To me, that is black and white. There is no gray area and no compromise. Hillary nor Obama speak up for “the least”.


  7. Carolyn says:

    Comments here expose an undercurrent of deep pain all around and reveal how potent our pain can be. GEM, my heart goes out to you and the terrible loss you have suffered. At the same time, I hold out hope that by God’s grace the pain each of us feels—for different reasons, to be sure—will birth greater compassion in all of us. JK Gayle is in a lot of pain too. When I put both of your comments together I begin to see how large a concept “the least of us” really is and how easy it is for tensions to emerge where we should be ministering to one another. One of the central themes of the Bible is how those with advantages should disadvantage themselves for the sake of others. When Jesus coined the expression “the least of these” He was casting a wide net for the definition we’re supposed to carry around with us for “the least.” Jesus mentioned those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, or in prison. This is not an exhaustive list, but examples intended to guide us in discovering others who are among “the least.” Jesus’ expectation seems to be that those who follow Him will be on the frontlines—keeping our eyes open and our hands outstretched to those in our day who fall within the perimeters of His definition. This, of course, includes both the unborn as well as those fully born who need advocates to lift them up.This blog isn’t about which political party to support, although I hope we can admit that <>both<> parties are advocating for some segment of “the least” and neither party has it all figured out. Having said that, I’d like to return us to the central subject of questions stirred up by the Palin selection, namely the choices women wrestle with daily, the impact the current reversal of views on the subject of working moms is having on us, and how the <>ezer<> changes the whole discussion.Nancy Gibbs of <>Time Magazine<> has written an article on the subject you may find interesting: < HREF="http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1838535,00.html" REL="nofollow">Can Palin Escape the Parent Trap?<>


  8. GUNNY says:

    I would be considered a conservative, complementarian, hardcore type when it comes to passages like 1 Tim 2:12, which prohibits women from teaching or having authority over men … in the church.But, I appreciate this “conundrum” presented by Sarah Palin because I think evangelicalism has embraced cultural norms more than they realize, they’re just the cultural norms of the 1950s.I see no biblical prohibition of women in the work place or the fact that only mothers should prioritize their children (i.e., fathers are also so tasked).I think this will force us to approach these issues per the principle of <>sola Scriptura<>, “Scripture alone” as our ruling authority.If Christian parents settle on a course of action that ensures the well being and biblical development of the children, what’s up with giving ’em the business because they don’t conform to “our” preferences?I think somewhere along the line my people (the evangelicals) transitioned from defending a woman’s validity if she didn’t work outside the home to crusading against those who do.My thoughts aren’t necessarily a response to any of the comments herein, but I think they’re pertinent to the conversation.


  9. Carolyn says:

    Gunny, Yes, Sarah Palin has certainly forced an interesting conversation. Thanks for joining in and for your honest reflections on the controversy over women (moms especially) in the workplace. I appreciate your point about evangelicals embracing cultural norms of the 50’s. (Now <>there’s<> something to ponder.) The challenge for each new generation is to wrestle honestly with how to live out our faith in the present and in our specific circumstances and not to anoint one particular period of history as the model. <>Semper Reformanda<> applies to parenting issues in the 21st Century too. Thanks also for including dads and their parenting responsibilities in your comments. However, a cloud remains over this discussion—one that carries a lot of guilt. For what parent can ever be certain they’ve done enough to <>ensure<> that their children are physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe? Isn’t this the very question that surrounds the Palin debate? And if we’re truly honest, won’t most of us admit that as parents we struggle with this, no matter how hard we try or how we configure our lives?Every parent faces tough decisions, costly sacrifices, sleepless nights, and an unreasonable pressure (often coming from other Christians) to “get it right.” This pressure conflicts with our theology, for <>none<> of us “gets it right.” The reasons kids turn out healthy and spiritually alive is not because of perfect parenting, but because God’s hand is on their lives. And He is able to employ parents—His deeply flawed instruments—to get the job done.The bottom line is that the choice to work or stay at home or to move from one scenario to another is a profoundly personal one that comes with no guarantees of a successful outcome. It involves sacrifice, commitment, exhaustion, and ultimately a deep reliance on God. But we are called to heed His call on our lives and fight the battles He places before us, despite the fact that the path we take may not be what others think we should do. I do hope the outcome of all of this discussion will be that Christians will learn to come alongside and (instead of critiquing) support women who are facing these difficult choices, whether they choose to stay-at-home or choose some blend of home and career.


  10. Karen says:

    It’s worth reflecting that there are few times and places other than present-day America in which the “how should women spend their energies” controversy could even exist. So many women around the world are consumed nonstop with keeping their families alive and fed and clothed. A humbling example to consider: In this country we love, before the civil war, there were many Christians who did not encourage, expect or allow enslaved women to “stay at home” with their children. They were expected to work dawn to dusk in the fields, and then squeeze caring for their families into the hours between dawn and dusk. Let’s acknowledge that legacy, even as we strive to smooth the way for every woman and man to listen to the voice of God in their lives and freely honor Him in doing what is best for their own families, no matter what their circumstances.We may or may not agree that Sarah Palin has the experience to be a heartbeat away from leadership of the free world, but many more of us can agree about this: to watch her move forward (without blinking!) is to see a woman who intends to act as an ezer in her family, her state and the national spotlight. She no doubt hears God’s voice through Scripture affirming as He does to all of us, “You are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do the good work He prepared for you to do.” Whether that’s a role as vice president or not, time will tell. In the meantime, let Sarah be Sarah! Go Ezer!


  11. Nathan Stitt says:

    I’m not really sure what to make of the concept of an <>ezer<>-warrior, however I agree that it has been very interesting to see the sorts of dialog going on right now. A female politician with lots of kids and possibly a future leader of the world’s only superpower. We’ve had some enlightening conversations among some of my friends and it is interesting to see how much you learn about other people just from discussing the current political situation. Nice post.


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