Peter Beinart, who has a column on The Daily Beast, a "working wife" and a two-year-old daughter, wants Obama to nominate a woman who has kids to the Supreme Court. As Jezebel notes, Beinart is being provocative here. He writes:
"It’s important (to have women with kids in positions of power) because otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both. And without quite realizing it, that is the message our government has been sending. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of American women over the age of 40 have children. But look at the women who have held Cabinet posts in the last three presidential administrations. Only two of the Clinton administration’s five female Cabinet secretaries had kids."
Reading Beinart's piece, I felt like I was talking to a new, nice and very earnest dad at a birthday party. Why can't you ladies have it all!?! We'd nod over the general unfairness of workplace requirements and division of family labor. Maybe I'd mention the piece I read in the Wall Street Journal back before I had kids explaining how a lot of women who worked while their kids were young found they really needed to scale back on office time when their kids were in middle school. Wow, we'd agree, it's terrible. Right before I wandered away to get more seltzer, me and Pete would really break some new ground in that conversation.
Of course I'm all for women with kids succeeding in the workplace, but, of all the messages our President has to send with his next Supreme Court nominee, one that reassures women that they can work at the highest levels and have kids need not be one of them. Really. Because if I've learned anything from five years of motherhood, it's that no two women do it the same way and since everyone's pretty much doing the best she can given her own special circumstances and family needs, shining examples of extreme success are nice, but they sure aren't roadmaps.