TOPICS : Sarah Palin can have it all

The five children. The newborn diagnosed with Down syndrome. The pregnant daughter. Sarah Palin’s life — chockfull of challenge — confronts her opposition with some formidable challenges of its own. After decades of pushing equal rights and treatment for women, the Left is backtracking. Suddenly motherhood — well, at least too much motherhood or too-complicated motherhood — is incompatible with executive responsibility. Fathers with little children or complex family issues — even some who cheated on their wives — have held office without having to justify their continuing careers. Yet women once again face a very different standard.

Who knew that beyond the glass ceiling feminists vowed to shatter there existed another barrier, imposed by feminists themselves? What happened to choice? To having it all? Have we had a paradigm shift since Aug. 29? What’s to stop Governor Palin from doing it all? This debate matters a lot to me. I have 12 children, including four diagnosed with Down syndrome. Three were adopted. I’m a professional writer. And yes, some people wonder how I do it all, or if I’m doing any of it as well as I should.

The skepticism about Palin’s ability to juggle responsibilities has been punctuated with below-the-belt punches. My heart goes out to her and to every mom who soldiers on in the face of such flak. The hardworking mother rolling up her sleeves to tackle a “man’s job” is a staple throughout American history and folklore. Think Rosie the Riveter. Think “Places in the Heart,” featuring Sally Field as a Depression-era widow succeeding against all odds. These tales of women transformed through their work resonate with me.

In 2001, Jane Swift of Massachusetts became the first governor to give birth in office — to twins. Her maternity leave included a governor’s council teleconference from her hospital bed. And while Swift was rebuked for using aides to babysit her daughter, Palin’s record of eschewing the trappings of power — selling the governor’s jet on eBay, for example — suggests she wouldn’t make such mistakes.

So what to make of the fire and brimstone raining down on Palin? Is it because her choices aren’t the ones feminists anticipated? Just because Palin’s choices skew away from abortion and toward the affirmation of life — even in difficult circumstances — does that mean they shouldn’t be accorded the same dignity as those more in line with today’s feminist party line?

“How do you do it all?” people ask me. All I can say is that my capacity has grown with each child. I’ve learned to assess situations quickly, gather information and advice, negotiate, delegate, communicate clearly, and work under great pressure and with little sleep. Put simply, motherhood is its own executive office. That’s why it’s a proving ground for political leadership. “The personal is the political” was a feminist mantra I still believe. Which leads me to a qualification for office that sets Palin apart from her peers: Consistency. — The Christian Science Monitor