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Jewish World Review / June 16, 1998 /22 Sivan, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Senator mom?

TWO YEARS AND A HALF YEARS AGO, when Rep. Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-Arkansas) discovered that she was pregnant with twins, she resigned her seat in the House of Representatives and announced that she was going home to be a full-time mom. The twins are now 2 years old, and she is running for the Senate.

Not just running but running as a "family values" candidate! According to The New York Times, one of Lincoln's campaign spots depicts her in a number of maternal poses -- fixing lunch, balancing one child on her hip, bouncing another on her knee and laying a weary head on her husband's shoulder. The voice-over then intones "Daughter, wife, mother, congresswoman. Living our rock-solid Arkansas values."

The Lincolns, at home
Some people will always attempt to have it both ways.

No, it's not impossible for a mother of twins to work -- some. But running for and serving as a United States senator is not a job one would call "family-friendly."

In the first place, members of Congress in both houses -- with the exception of those from states abutting the District of Columbia -- spend a good portion of their lives on airplanes. Every Friday, there is a massive exodus of congressmen and senators from Reagan National Airport to points west, south, and north. And every Sunday night and Monday morning, they return, jet-lagged and red-eyed. What will our senator/mother do on weekends? Will she schlep two babies, a double stroller, two diaper bags, two favorite stuffed animals and a portacrib back and forth to Arkansas?

Once in the home state, it is expected that senators will make the rounds of clubs, civic groups, even the occasional wedding and christening. There are town hall meetings to conduct and constituent service to attend to. Will Lincoln be taking the babies with her to these events -- or just her snapshot album, as she now does on the campaign trail? What happens when a town hall meeting conflicts with nap time?

Lincoln says that if elected, she plans to move her entire family to Washington. Her husband will practice medicine, and she will serve the people of Arkansas. Who will care for the children? The boys, one suspects, will be dropped, as little Susan Ruby Paxon -- the daughter of former Reps. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) and Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) so admired during the 1996 Republican convention -- was, in the Capitol day-care facility.

For a description of what passes for "quality care" at the Capitol's facility, turn to the most recent issue of the Women's Quarterly. According to Kathryn Jean Lopez, the House and Senate facilities have been praised as "first rate" by their administrators, but a visitor found a sight that would break "even a day-care advocate's heart." A little red-haired boy "rocked back and forth alone in a sea of toys, while staring at the corner wall." Another stood at the wire fence, looking longingly at the traffic. Susan Ruby Paxon, a regular at the House facility (which accepts infants as young as 2 months old), came down with a common ailment of day-care kids, recurrent ear infections. The solution? Her parents put plastic in her ears each morning to keep the germs out.

Let's face it, what Lincoln is asking is to be elected to a position that will require a substantial degree of child neglect -- in the name of family values. And some voters seem to be swallowing it.

"From one mother to another, I'm so glad you're running," a supporter told Lincoln. "That's why I want you there." Why, exactly? So that someone with a mother's sensibility can vote for more "quality child care"?

Lincoln gets asked about her child-care plans a lot as she campaigns. And it sounds as if she's starting to resent it. She told The New York Times that "it's going to be hard for a while, until more women begin to support each other in the different ways we do things."

In other words, do not tell the truth. Well, sorry. The truth may hurt, but here it is: Running for the Senate is incompatible with being a good mother to very young children. And using them as campaign props compounds the offense.


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©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.