Facing new political responsibilities as a parent.
By Julie Marsh
What do I know about politics? Certainly not as much as I used to, back in the days when I was free to watch “Meet The Press” on Sunday mornings. Now my girls clamor for cartoons instead. Perhaps if NBC were to animate Tim Russert and his guests…now there’s an idea!
It seems that many parents – especially mothers – aren’t nearly as politically informed as they once were. Understandably so -- our priorities have shifted from reading the newspaper to reading Goodnight Moon. Parents who work at least get a chance to read the paper on the train or surf CNN on their lunch hour. Parents who stay home – well, we’re lucky if we get a chance to go to the bathroom alone. Keeping up with current events is next to impossible with a toddler tugging at your sleeve.
But when election talk starts up, it’s important to be clear on where candidates stand on the issues and how well their views match up with your own – which means that you ought to be informed on the issues yourself. Easier said than done, I know.
In last Sunday’s Washington Post, an article by Linda Hirshman helped solidify my focus for this column. She hypothesized that elections don’t turn on female voters because we “vote on impulse, and on elusive factors such as personality.” Specifically, she spoke to several women – educated former executives who now stay at home – about how they obtain their political information. Aside from listening to talk radio in the car, they rely on their husbands to keep them up to date.
James Carville and Mary Matalin may be an extreme example, but I think they illustrate well the fact that husbands and wives aren't always of the same mind politically. Shouldn’t mothers (and fathers) take responsibility for gathering information and forming their own opinions?
Absolutely, and I expect most women – and most men – would agree. Unfortunately, I would postulate that the reason we don’t do so is that all of those issues seem so distant and irrelevant to us. The war in Iraq is half a world away. Environmental change takes place so slowly that it’s difficult to notice. Estate taxes won’t affect us for many years (we hope). And we’ve been saying the Pledge of Allegiance for so many years we don’t even notice that “under God” part anymore.
Until your son wants to join the Marines and comes home with enlistment papers. Or your newborn baby is diagnosed with a rare genetic disease and will require expensive regular treatment for the rest of her life. Or you announce that you’re pregnant and your boss says he’ll have to let you go. Or your parents die and in order to settle their estate, you actually owe taxes. Those seemingly irrelevant issues can hit home when you least expect it.
There’s a lot of excitement in the media concerning the prospective candidates in next year’s presidential elections, not to mention all of the other congressional, state, and local elections that will take place. There’s also a lot to learn, about both the candidates and the issues. Where do they stand, and more importantly, where do you stand? Don’t let your votes be determined by the personalities – or even merely the political parties – of the candidates.
In this column, I’ll tackle the various issues and policies on the national and global levels. My intent is not to tell you what you should think, but to provide a digest of the vast amounts of information available, summarize the key points, and point you toward more comprehensive sources – factual sources, not op-ed sites – for the details.
With the birth of our children came many new responsibilities. We were not absolved of the responsibility to educate ourselves politically. If anything, it’s more important now than ever to have a clear understanding of our world so that we may vote accordingly. The parental most certainly is the political.
Julie is a former Air Force officer and professional project manager turned web writer. She spent four years at the Pentagon and five years in New York City, and her suburban life in Colorado seems pastoral by comparison. She's no political pundit, but she is an objective thinker in a sea of partisan propagandists. She writes for The Mom Slant, Cool Mom Picks, and is co-founder of The Parent Bloggers Network.
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