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Jewish World Review May 22, 2001 / 29 Iyar, 5761

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports

Swift judgment? -- JANE SWIFT of Massachusetts has just given birth to twin girls. Wonderful, but not remarkable in itself, really - except that she happens to be the governor of the state. Swift is America's first state chief executive to give birth in office, but it's not the first time this "governor mom" has made fertility news. Swift has a daughter, now 2, delivered just weeks before she was elected lieutenant governor. (Swift was recently bumped up to acting governor when Governor Paul Cellucci left to become U.S. ambassador to Canada.)

Swift has been regularly hailed in the national press for being a trendsetter for women. But this kind of "governor-mom" is one trend we don't need.

Sure, men have held executive office with little ones running around. Just look at President Kennedy. But so what? Women are not men, mothers are not fathers, and sometimes life isn't fair. Meaning that we moms get the better end of the deal when we care for our little ones, what we want most to do anyway, and don't kid ourselves that we can hustle 80 hours a week for the brass ring, lovingly look after our babies who want a mom's special brand of nurturing and not cheat someone terribly in the process.

I wonder, when one of Swift's children is sick and wanting her mother, will Swift be able to just blithely leave the child behind with dad, who reportedly stays with the kids, or perhaps with sitters, while she tends day and night to the business of the state? Or will that ill child occupy her heart and mind as little ones do in a very special and unique way with us moms? Answer: Swift has already gotten into trouble once for using a state helicopter to get home fast to a sick baby.

I can understand Swift's professional ambition. What I can't understand is how she's allowed it to completely trump her so-young children. After all, she's deliberately separated from them by her professional priorities, commitments and the demands of her executive responsibilities, not to mention geography. The twins, like Swift's older daughter, will be raised in Williamstown, Mass. - hours away from mom's workplace at the state house in Boston. Of course, pointing out the obvious, that young children want most to be nurtured by their moms and that moms almost always want to be the primary nurturers to their little ones, is politically incorrect to say the least. Wondering what's gone askew when seemingly normal, loving mothers turn their backs on that equation is a positively explosive proposition - but a profoundly relevant one, as any honest woman knows.

Senator John McCain often talks about his experience as a POW during the Vietnam War. He recounts how his father, an admiral and commander of the Pacific forces at the time, ordered massive bombings even while knowing they might kill his son. No matter what one thinks of the merits of the case one recognizes that Admiral McCain was doing the right thing by putting duty first in that extraordinary instance, no matter how difficult that duty was.

But what if Mrs. McCain had been the admiral - could she, would she, have ordered the bombings and so deliberately put her son's life at stake? I certainly hope not. In fact, I wouldn't want to know a mother who could do such a thing. More horrifying still is the idea of a nation filled with such hardened moms.

But a national, heralded example like Swift makes me think that's exactly what we are in danger of becoming. We are losing the understanding that men and women, moms and dads, are very different and our children need both - desperately and differently. That's good for the kids and good for the larger community.

Any doubts about the distinction? Christian scholar C.S. Lewis once asked, if your dog bit the neighbor's child, who would you rather talk to about it - the kid's mom or the dad? The answer is obvious, because we all know that in most cases the mom would (rightly) rip your head off. No Governor Swift is not, for now, deciding the course of a war. But she is on a dangerous path of putting her ego before what must be her natural instincts as a mother - to be with her young children and babies as much as she can. She's kidding herself if she thinks she can be good at both jobs, and she's cheating everyone involved. She's not proving something in a "man's world" - she's cheapening the role of women and moms.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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