I feel pretty cool sometimes about being a mom who also writes, takes care of a house and pets, volunteers, acts as a Brownie leader, gets her kids to the bus stop on time (usually) and is there when they get off the bus (except when the bus drops them off early and I'm not yet at the stop, and I can hear them yelling down the block, "Mommy's late! Mommy's late!") I jog, read to my kids every night, try to make a tasty dinner most evenings and do it all without complaining. Okay, that last part is a lie, but I've learned to complain considerably less over the last year or so.
In the middle of one of my "I am woman" moments, a Breaking News alert flashes across my television screen. John McCain has picked his running mate. She is my age, 44, and was a journalism major in college. I started out in journalism, although I wound up as an English major. Still, I'm sure our college classes were similar.
That, however, is where the similarities between Sarah Palin and me ends. She is governor of Alaska, has five kids including a newborn with Down Syndrome, hunts, ice fishes and has run a marathon.
I cannot balance the family checkbook, let alone try to run a state. I often throw up my hands and wonder how I can possibly handle my three children, who are perfectly healthy. She is governing Alaska while raising five children, one of whom has special needs.
The youngest person and first woman to be governor of Alaska, Palin expressed reservations about the V.P. slot a month before she was hand-picked by McCain. "I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration," she's quoted in Wikipedia as saying. "We want to make sure that the VP slot would be a fruitful type of position...." See, if I was told that the role of vice president would require less work than I was used to doing, I'd be doing a happy dance.
Palin seems to be amazing, and that really irks me.
It's not that I don't cheer on other women who reach for their goals and beyond; it just annoys me that I can't seem to reach as high. And it's hard to complain about the housework, the schlepping of children and the writing deadlines that come every week or so, when you know there's someone out there hunting moose, catching fish and taking care of 683,478 people, 683,471 of whom are not part of her immediate family.
I'm not the only woman who has experienced this blow to her ego. I've got plenty of friends who do more than most people can imagine, yet feel inadequate when they see someone else who seems to be even more productive.
So how do we overcome this inferiority complex? We search for the one flaw--however small--that will make the "perfect" mom/wife/working woman appear human. Maybe she's always late for school functions, or yells at her kids in front of other people or gets into lots of fender-benders.
I remember talking with a friend about another mom we know who, as far as I could tell, was perfect. Her children were always beautifully dressed and well-behaved and got good grades; she volunteered for absolutely every school event; and she never had a bad word to say about anyone. "I can't compete with her," I said sadly to my friend. "Don't worry," my friend replied. "I've been in her kitchen, and it didn't look very organized."
What joyous news!
It's not that I want other women to have flaws so that I can make fun of them or feel better about myself. It's that I need to know I'm not the only one who doesn't have it all pulled together all the time. If I get my work done on time, get the kids to the bus on time and volunteer, my house will be a mess. If I clean the house, help the kids with their homework and get my daughter to gymnastics practice on time, dinner will be late. It's like life is a ball of yarn that's rolling along at a good speed and in a positive direction, but there's always one strand that's out of place. When you fix that strand, up pops another one.
And you know what? That's pretty normal from what I understand. Still, it's hard for busy moms to always feel like they're doing the best they can. And so we get a little giddy when we discover that someone else has a thing or two out of place.
So my hat's off to Sarah Palin: wife, mother, hunter, fisher woman, pro-life advocate, governor and the presumptive Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States. Secretly, though, I'm hoping for a little dirt, like maybe her kitchen's a mess.