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?