But what if we moved to a third way? One that acknowledges that family does have an impact on our lives, without assuming that women automatically bear the brunt of this impact. This would require moving past the idea that a candidate’s fitness for the position is contingent on their family life, while still acknowledging that it will color their time in office. And it should.
The good news, at least for those of us in favor of gender equality, is that this conversation has already started with our current president. Obama is an engaged father and proud family man who passes up D.C. schmoozing opportunities in order to be home regularly for 6:30 family dinner and to help his daughters with their homework. If this sounds heartwarming, even quaint, that’s because it is. What it isn’t is politically benign.
In his most recent profile of the president, The New Yorker’s David Remnick points to Obama’s lack of socializing, along with a few other traits and habits, as the reason why his presidency hasn’t been as successful as many had hoped. While Remnick doesn’t draw the connection between his desire to be home with his reluctance to break bread with D.C. players (I suspect he would have if he was writing about a woman), he does quote the president talking about what a big family man he is and how unwilling he has been to sacrifice that role.