Ronda Kaysen: What's up with all the power-mom talk?
Last week, Liesl Schillinger of the New York Times put Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Nancy Pelosi in the same elite sorority: powerful politicos with a brood of five kids. The large number of offspring is, in itself, a political credential these days. "Could it be that the skills of managing sprawling households translate well into holding office?" Schillinger asked. "Or that such a remarkable glut of mom cred makes a woman's bid for external power more palatable to voters?"
And yesterday morning, The Daily Beast's Peter Beinart called for tapping a mom for the Supreme Court, because a mom on the Court would be a good role model for girls. After all, 80 percent of women over 40 have kids, while only a small fraction of the few women who make it to top Cabinet posts or other high-ranking government positions have kids. (Think Janet Napolitano and Condoleezza Rice.)
This sudden deifying of moms strikes me as patronizing. No one says that Antonin Scalia is a better justice because he has -- count 'em -- nine kids. And I don't recall long discussions about how fathering five kids each made Mitt Romney and Ron Paul better equipped to be President than their less-fruitful counterparts.
As much as Beinart argues that tapping a mom would give young girls a healthy image of a working mom, it's not like being a childless woman is an easy road to travel in the world of top political appointments. Look at Elena Kagan and the rumors threatening to undo her simply because she doesn't have kids. And Sonia Sotomayor raised plenty of eyebrows for not being a mother when she was confirmed.
For years, the line has been that if a woman has kids, she can't possibly "do it all" and also have a high-powered career. Now the tide seems to be turning to a new impossible standard: In order to break that glass ceiling, a woman better have baby-burping cred spelled out clearly on her résumé.