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How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter

The Mommy Brain Blog

Monday, September 15, 2008

david foster wallace...

...wrote the best commencement speech I've ever read, and here's the site for it...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

hopeful news on climate

...but also a sign of how urgent things are. Nasa scientist James Hansen, who until now to the best of my knowledge has not played an activist role, is now helping toorganize young voters to demand action on the climate from this year's contenders....Let's hope they listen.

Friday, September 05, 2008

yes, ask sarah palin about childcare

I do realize Judith Warner probably wasn't referring to my humble blog today when she made fun of women who, considering Sarah Palin, are so eager to know about her childcare situation.
But I thought I'd answer anyway.
Granted, we're at war. The economy stinks. Terrorists lurk. Our natural environment is collapsing. These are obviously priority issues. But that doesn't mean that any future U.S. leader should diss childcare, just because government after government has done so. It's not a luxury item.
After leaving my job as a foreign correspondent eight years ago, with two babes then under 4 years old, I chose -- because I'd worked long enough in a good enough job to have the choice -- to stay home but keep working. And I could write a book -- some day I may -- about my childcare nightmares. All the while, I'm always painfully aware that what I've had to go through is cotton candy compared to what millions of U.S. women who haul themselves to fulltime jobs each day because they have no economic alternative must endure. Including paying small fortunes for the privilege of knowing their babies are not quite safe, or perhaps spending the day staring at a TV screen.
This isn't "just a women's issue," as so many early feminists have disparaged it. It's one of the most basic human issues, directly effecting the emotional, mental, and physical health of the next generation.
Childcare belongs high up on our list of priorities, which is why it's not just okay but really mandatory that we talk to Sarah Palin -- and of course Barack Obama, too -- about policy ideas and personal examples.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

palin's choice

When I was making the rounds of radio stations promoting "The Mommy Brain," I used to get calls, quite a few of them from Utah, asking, "So do you get smarter the more kids you have?"

That was a tough one.

And frankly, I doubt it.

There's a limit, isn't there, to what one person can do, the responsibilities she can take on without dropping a ball? I'm talking, of course, about Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin, the presumptive Republican vice-prez. nominee.

To be absolutely clear, I whole-heartedly support a woman's right to choose whether to become a mother. Whatever benefits accrue to a mother from having children depend enormously on whether she's on board in the first place about the life-changing commitment, and whether she has even the minimum means to support her child without intolerable stress. It is stressful enough to be a parent in the best of times. Not to mention the stress for an unwanted child.

That aside, Sarah Palin's predicament brings up the knotty question about just how much a working mother can handle before sacrificing her children's best interests.
I'm surprised that I haven't seen any coverage to date about just how she does it. Is her husband caring for the five kids, including the infant? Does she have a grandma ready and able, like Michelle Obama? Sure, these questions wouldn't be asked of a man. But let's get real. It is the woman who gets pregnant, breastfeeds (if possible) and most often notices the runny nose, untied shoe, the sadness after school. You can out-source these jobs, but there's a price. And so much more if a child has any handicap, such as Palin's 4-month-old infant's Downs' syndrome.

"A learning disabled child is a career-killer," an editor recently told me. I've been thinking a lot about her comment in the days since the Palin announcement. It implies that a mother who has the resources to do so will sacrifice professional ambitions, because, to be blunt, the buck stops here. This isn't Palin's choice. And it throws light on a difficult and fascinating question unanswered so far in both feminist and anti-abortion debates. Does being "pro-life" stop at birth? Or is it a life-long commitment?

p.s., here's something funthat just came in over the transom....