October 26, 2010

The Mommy Card

I don't think I have ever come out and said this on my blog, but if you have read my blog for any length of time, you may have figured out that I live in Oklahoma. You know, the place where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, where football reigns supreme, and where we think of ourselves as America's heartland.

Source: Google Images
This coming Tuesday, we will join the ranks of states who have elected women governors since, for the first time in Oklahoma history, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor are women.

It's wonderful that we have reached a point where a woman will lead our state, however many of us are less than thrilled with our choices. Like many Oklahomans, I voted for someone other than the nominee in my party's primary. It's not that either woman is totally unqualified for the position. Both have served as lieutenant governor, and I have voted for each woman (at least once) prior to this election. It just seems that there were others in both parties who were better qualified.

Having said that, in the interest of full disclosure, I have leaned towards one candidate over the other over a moral issue in the other candidate's life. It's an issue that came up after I voted for her a number of years ago - one which I feel has never been honestly addressed by this candidate. Had she ever come clean publicly it would no longer be an issue But instead of admitting her own failing, she has repeatedly chosen to shift the blame, and I believe that speaks volumes about her character.

But I have not been excited about this vote.

Suddenly over the last week our gubernatorial race has received national attention, and I feel my choice has been validated. Perhaps you've heard about it. Last Tuesday during a debate, the candidate I was leaning against - who is the mother of two and the (very recent) stepmother of four - was asked what set her apart from her opponent. This was her answer:

"Being a mother and a wife is an important part of who I am as a person. I have been a businesswoman and served in both state and federal government, but I think my proudest achievement is raising my wonderful children. If I am asked what 'defines' me, either as a candidate or as a person, I can't ignore being a mother or being a wife any more than I could my gender, my Christian faith, my conservative values, or my experience in both the private and public sector. All of those things affect who I am and how I see the world. They have absolutely nothing to do with my opponent, who is free to explain how her life experiences qualify her to be governor."

Really? Marriage and motherhood are her primary qualifications to be governor?

Her opponent has never been married and has no children so this can be construed as nothing other than a particularly mean-spirited, low blow. And while it opened the door through which her opponent could have easily stuck back and brought up the moral failing in this candidate's life, to her credit, she (the opponent) has chosen not to do so - at least so far.

When later asked if she lacked an important credential, the opponent spoke for many of us, saying,  "I always expected to be married and have a passel full of kids, [Editor's note: I would never have chosen the phrase, 'passel full,' but whatever...] but none of that ever happened. Rather than sit back and worry about it, I devoted my life to trying to serve all the children of Oklahoma." She also pointed out - with some humor - that not one of our past governors has been a mother.

This issue is precisely why I started writing Single and Sane. I wanted to encourage other single women and men whose lives haven't turned out the way they expected. I wanted younger adults to understand that there is nothing wrong with singleness. And I wanted those who have been blessed with marriage and children to understand that God has blessed those of us who are single, too, even though he has chosen to do so in different ways.

So it is appalling to me that a woman who is a candidate for the highest office in my state would suggest that a childless woman is "less than". It's true that even male candidates trot out their families for photo ops, and often imply through their ads that being a husband and father makes them more "solid" candidates. It's wrong, regardless of whether a man or woman does it, but it seems deliberately cruel when it comes from another woman.

I have found the response of many Oklahoma parents to be gratifying. They have been as offended by the comment as those of us who are childless. They understand that there are many Oklahomans who struggle with the pain of miscarriage and infertility, and are not in any way "less than" anyone with children. They understand that there are many people with children who make horrible parents. They understand that God blesses each of us differently, and that any one type of blessing does make us better than another. They understand that God doesn't desire for all of us to have identical lives and experiences, and it is those different experiences that enable each of us to make valuable contributions to the world. They understand that marriage and children do not make us whole. They understand that motherhood - or the absence thereof - should neither qualify nor disqualify a candidate for any office.

I am grateful for the Oklahoma parents who have spoken up for those of us without children. On behalf of the childless women (and men) across my state, thank you!

Until next time,

"Sing, O childless woman, you who have never given birth! Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem, you who have never been in labor. For the desolate woman now has more children than the woman who lives with her husband," says the LORD. ~ Isaiah 54:1 (NLT)


  1. Wow... I am so incredibly thankful I have found your blog. This year has been an incredibly hard struggle for me in my single life and I am so thankful for people like you, especially women who stand up and fight against singlism and are a voice to others about living life as a single person. The discrimination is so unfair but at least there are those of us who are standing together as a support and a strong voice for those of us who are not coupled or married.
    Great post!

  2. Wow. That other candidate sure played the mommy card in a mean-spirited way. I hate it when anyone does that, anyway - as if children are a means to an end.

    I have children, therefore I am qualified.

    I have children, therefore do not bother me because I am far too busy to stay late at work and do my share.

    I have children, therefore that is my reason for always being exhausted and scatterbrained.

    I have children, therefore I am anally-retentively hyper-organized because anyone with children knows that's how you must be in order to survive.

    Pfffffffffft. Yeah, right.

    I don't think I'd vote for that candidate, either - and I have children. I just don't buy into that line she's giving, that marriage & family instantly qualifies one for government office (or whatever).

  3. i cannot muster the enthusiasm to vote for either candidate.

    one of the things i admired about ronald reagan was his
    ease in admitting mistakes and saying, "sorry," it's such a
    character flaw to not be able to do that.

  4. Thanks for this, Margaret. As you well know, this kind of thing happens in church all the time--you are somehow less qualified to do certain things because you don't have children. Recent example: our church took a missions trip overseas with quite a number of youth. There were plenty of adults on the trip, but a couple of parents of the kids decided to go, because the other adults going "weren't parents" and might not be as watchful over the kids. What an insult! I didn't go on this particular trip, but have done other overseas trips with teens and spent countless hours holding kids while they threw up (I'm a pediatric nurse), etc. We still live in a society, at least in Christian circles, that you are a 2nd class citizen if you are a woman without kids.

  5. I get fed up with the idea that to be happy we all have to be married with 2.5 kids and a dog. As a single person I am still out in the world living a life that is not only fufilling, but valide.

  6. "So it is appalling to me that a woman who is a candidate for the highest office in my state would suggest that a childless woman is "less than".

    Margaret, you just got my vote, even if you aren't running for office.

    Single people are NOT less than -- ever, ever, ever.

    Great post

  7. I appreciate all of the comments. The Mommy candidate is way ahead in the polls, but her opponent did quite well in the last debate, sticking to issues and laying out actual proposals - something the Mom has never bothered to do.

    We'll see...

  8. I pull the mommy card all the time, but i know when I use it that it's a bunch of bull crap, it's just an excuse not to do something!!! hahaha...

    I was voting for Jeri Askins before her opponent made that stupid remark so like you I feel validated in my choice.