Monday, October 13, 2008

The Mommy Wars have entered Politics!

A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from a mom I know in one of my special needs Internet support groups. The e-mail asked me to join her in a group called, "Special Needs Moms against Sarah Palin." While I am friends with this mom in all that we've shared and been through together as special needs moms, this is one request from her that I couldn't support.

Before I go further, I will let you know now that I am a registered Republican, and I have already cast my vote for McCain/Palin via absentee ballot (sorry, you can't change my vote now!) But this issue is more than just politics to me. If I were supporting "the other guy", I would still be offended by a group of moms opposing another mom for her decision to follow her career. And by no means do I consider myself to be a feminist. I simply believe that a woman can have both; a career and children. And I know for a fact - it is possible that a Mom can work full time and raise a child with special needs. Especially a child with complex medical issues.

I will admit, I had no choice when I had to continue working when Jenelle's medical issues became a priority. My job carries the medical benefits we desperately needed at the time. I didn't have the luxury of quitting my job to attend to her needs 24/7. I had to find a way to make it work.

The first glaring questions about my continuing to work came from Jenelle's first neurologist. He flat out told me to quit my job so I could enjoy the few months or years we had left with Jenelle. This doctor refused to try the Ketogenic Diet for Jenelle, because in his words to me, "The fact that you are still working tells me you are not committed to your child and that you are not committed to do this diet!" It was horrible, and I cried for days. I felt like my job was an albatross hanging from my neck. Something I couldn't get rid of because I couldn't pay the medical bills.

And then, I received some of the best advice I'd ever heard from another special needs mom that works full time. She told me, "Kelly, your job is to be Jenelle's mother. You are not her doctor, nurse, teacher, therapist, bus driver, aide or social worker, you are her mother. That means you are the one who loves her. You get to kiss her after a blood draw and to hold her in the night as she cries or comfort her after a seizure. You are her Mother and the only requirement of you is to love her unconditionally and to advocate for her passionately. Let the others do their job!"

With that advice, it became clear to me. In the world of special needs, none of us can do it alone. While I admire all the special needs moms who do stay home and who's lives revolve around the complex medical schedule of their child, I am thankful that I have found what works for me. I am thankful for Jenelle's wonderful therapists, teachers and doctors. And to borrow a phrase from that woman in the "other" political party, it takes a "village" to raise a special needs child.

One last thought... why is it the Mom has to be the one to stay home with the sick child? Why can't a man be as involved or more in the life of a special needs child? I know quite a few Fathers who play a very significant role in the life of their special needs child. Brett is one of them. While the divorce statistics are very real when it come to raising a special needs child, a couple has to take parenting to another level and become team players to work together when they have a special needs child. Eighty percent end up divorced, ninety percent if that special needs child dies. Those statistics are frightening, and very real! If parents can't work together, then they are only working against themselves.

So while this election has surprised me at times, I was shocked to see the discontent some women have for the choices other women make. Who are we to presume Sarah Palin isn't involved in the lives of all of her children? Who are we to demand she stay home and attend therapies with her disabled son? I'm positive Sarah Palin has the resources behind her to help her make the best decisions in regards to her special needs child. Maybe more than the average American. Who are we to question her love and devotion, when other families find it can work in non-traditional ways.

Why do women need to beat each other down for the choices they make? Personally, I'm tired of liberal women defining what women should be. Yes, I identify greatly with Sarah Palin. We are both working mothers with nothing but love for family and love for this country. God bless any family dealing with issues surrounding special needs and the individual choices special needs families have to make each day. Who are we to judge one another?


Leightongirl said...

Bravo to you for stepping into these waters, K. I know you and I disagree on our candidates (and I'm glad we can still be friends and do so). I would never question whether or not a mom could be a mother, work and also be the parent of a child with special needs. My reasons for being concerned at Sarah Palin are different, and I won't belabor them here. My biggest worry, in general and often, is the degree to which our kids get the services and support they need. I will always back the candidate I feel most likely to preserve those supports. And since social services *tend* to be better protected by Democratic candidates, that's how I roll. We'll see how the truth plays out.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Kelly, and I agree with you one hundred percent on the "mommy wars". I think we've all earned the right to make our own choices, work or stay at home or some combination of both, and I respect every woman's right to choose for herself and her family.

I've made no secret of who I'm supporting come November, but my choice has nothing to do with the decisions Gov. Palin has made for herself or her family. I just believe the democrats are going to do a better job of turning things around for this country. I'm banking on a big change.

Anonymous said...

AMEN!! Exactly the way I feel.

I, too, don't like the way liberal women define the role of a woman these days. I am unable to return to work due to the special needs of my child. I would love to return to work, but my job now is being a Mom, not punching a clock.

Thank you for this post!

DDanielle said...

Thank you! I am so sick of mommy wars. I think half of the problem is the constant need to defend yourself no matter what side you are on.
"Oh I am a stay at home mom BECAUSE my husband and I feel that is what God WANTS for woman."
"I'm a working mom because I want the best for my child."

I think in trying to defend ourselves we unintentionally offend others. Working moms read what SAHM say as "you're not following Gods are EVIL"
SAHMs read what working moms say as "You don't want the best for your child"
Really its a choice based on many factors. No family is in the same exact situation so no choice is the same.
As a working mom though I must admit I rarely feel defended lol.

Anonymous said...

just like you, sarah palin is many things, not just a mother. and it is several of these many other things that scare me, not the choices she makes about her son.

we are all permitted to believe what we do. but please don't paint all of us anti-palin folks with the same brush: it's more than about a working mom here!!

~ kdk

Ivey's Mom said...

perfectly stated Kelly.
I am borrowing your quote from the bottom of this page if you don't mind.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! Well said!

Anonymous said...

The doctor who told you to quit your job or you weren't an adequate mother should be given a vigorous rectal examination with a Roto-Rooter.
How dare he?
Physicians are among the most sexist people on the planet. I am an attorney with a J.D. and a PhD. and yet these jerks insist on calling me by my first name while THEY want to be called Doctor Whoever. That's just one example of their superior attitude but it is rampant.
You give your heart and soul to your daughter. You're a fabulous mom and no one should question your devotion.
Doctors, by the way, are notorious for working practically 24 hours a day. I doubt that particular person spends much time with his children, assuming he has any.

Anonymous said...

You and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I respect your opinions and certainly do not think I have the right to judge anyone for the vote they cast in this race. I am a working mom, and you know that Langan has very complex needs. It is a choice I made- a difficult one- and I am not ashamed of it. I have no problem with Sarah Palin being a working mother. My biggest problem with her is that she and I disagree on just about every issue that is important to me. And I have to admit that it bothers me that she "didn't blink" when asked to be V.P. As a mom who struggles to balance family and a profession, it scares me that someone- mother, father, parent of a child with a disability or anyone else- would sign up for being a heartbeat away from the presidency without at least giving it some serious thought. I think she was trying to look strong and dedicated, but it came across- at least to me- as either insincere, power hungry or naive. And that gave me another reason to question her candidacy. Either way, her choices are hers to make, just as mine are mine. But I think we all lose if this race breaks apart the strong network of parents that we have.


jeneva22 said...

You capture so well the way the medical establishment often dismisses mothers. And why it is so important that women's needs in the workforce be supported. I, too, am responsible for our family's health insurance for my special needs child (Robert has a form of basal ganglia disease that has yet to have an 'official' diagnosis). It's funny, though--you mention concerns that liberal women define what a woman should be--yet I'm a registered Democrat and was extremely disappointed with the way the Party represented its women at its convention this year! And I guess I've always felt ticked off that conservative women seem to be defining what a woman should be! Anyway, stay strong. Clearly, you're beating the odds with Jenelle and doing the right things.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, and thanks for commenting on following Elias (how I came here).

How very insightful of you to see the "contest" amid all the political circus.

If you are so inclined, I'd love to see you post on this too at

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! for cross-posting this at

Heather said...

This post was great Kelly.I agree a thousand percent.As well as your response to Christy's article and comment on Vicki's blog..My life line has been other mom's of children with various levels of disabilities,without them I would have continued to feel like an island,all alone.Many I only "know" through this crazy world of the internet but still feel connected.If we divide,how sad would that be?I live in So.California as well and Zoey also sees Dr. Sheields at UCLA.Janelle is a beautiful child who has endured far more than any little girl should.I admire your honesty and forthrightness.Sometimes I wish I could cut through some of my fluff and really spell it out better.Anyway,thought I would drop by and say hi and thank you.I am often not left with a loss of words but with this, I feel you said it for me.

Anonymous said...

Me again. Have you seen the response to your post on BlogHer? Quite a discussion! Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I found your blog through the new momtourage site. Thank you for this post - I couldn't agree with you more.

heidi @ ggip said...

Very good post. When Palin was first chosen for VP, my hope was that this would spur constructive conversation regarding special needs and not this divisiveness.

Anonymous said...

Kelly, That doctor has some issues of his/her own. You should have him/her to judge you after he/she had spent a month in your shoes.
I admire you in your complete and excellent care of both of your exceptional children who are so completely opposite. I don't know how you and Brett do it, but both of you do it with grace and calmness.

Jennifer Ortiz said...

I enjoyed reading your blog. My son has just been diagnosed with numerous things and one being epilepsy I too have to go back to work because the health insurance we really need is there.