Amy Coney Barrett – Which comes first – career or family?

By Dissident Teacher

My first impression of hearing about Amy Coney Barrett as the Supreme Court nominee, was wondering how could she possibly be a good mother while putting so much emphasis on her career? I thought, ‘her children need her.”

No amount of power can substitute for the time and attention you give to your children, no matter how gifted a woman is, and she is very gifted.  Four of her children are teenagers. Good nurturing is crucial during this tough period of their lives.

Nancy-Ann DeParle was President Obama’s deputy chief of staff. I’ll never forget the picture of DeParle’s oldest son on the front page of the Washington Post.  The 12-year-old boy desperately wanted his mother to give up her job at the Obama White House, after she served two years as deputy chief of staff during a very intensive time. He needed her to be at home with him. DeParle really should have listened to her son; what he told her was a warning about putting career ahead of family.  Kellyanne Conway learned the hard way that putting career above family has consequences. DeParle may be regretting her choices today; ditto for Sarah Sanders.

When women “Lean In” one way, like Sheryl Sandberg, Sarah Palin or Amy Barrett, they’re leaning out another way and something gives. Quite possibly it could be one or more of Barrett’s children will not do well because of her choice. For women to seek the glass ceiling is to be dismissive of child-rearing, quite possibly the most important job there is in a society.  The vast majority of women don’t have the skills to balance career and family the way she does.

Obviously, anti-abortion conservatives are pushing her candidacy to make a statement of the value of bringing life of all children and allowing them to thrive. They should value the day-to-day nurturing of children just as much as they value life itself. It bothers me that Trump seems to have made the Barrett appointment to make a statement. I was also disappointed with Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow hearings on Merrick Garland who would have made an excellent justice.  Republicans and Democrats today always put their party before the good of the country, and each party does it.

What we can admire about Barrett

What I appreciate most about her nomination to the Supreme Court, is that she’s not a native of New York City, like the three most recent female justices, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor. Those who grow up in the dog-eat-dog world of New York City have innate defense mechanisms, unique to that part of the country. So their perspectives vary greatly from women raised in the Heartland. They hardly represent me as a woman.  

I admire Barrett for being a mother of seven, and for adopting two children from Haiti, a sincere and committed manifestation of love. Barrett’s outward example holds women to an impossible standard.  You can have it all, but not all at once.  In ten or fifteen years or so, her children will need you far less. Why couldn’t she wait until that time to have the Supreme Court nomination? At 63, her mind should still be sharp and vigorous.

Caring for children is a very specialized, nuanced type of care, at all stages.  It entails knowing their moods, feelings, and responding to their unique personalities.  Nancy Pelosi had already raised 5 children to adulthood when she decided to run for Congress, at age 47. 

Are the problems and depression of young adults today related to the fact that women leave their babies in droves shortly after their birth. Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, is concerned with severe mental health problems for those in the 18-25 age group, a group that has grown up primarily in daycare and without mothers at home.  (That age group suffers from mental health problems far more than other age groups, and it’s a growing trend.  The fact that too many grew with moms working, putting career before children, is just one reason for this problem. The economy, loans for education and poor prospects for the future add to the mental health issues.)

A Congresswomen who is a single, working mom, Rep. Katie Porter, introduced a bill to make it easier for new parents to run for federal office.  It passed unanimously, even though it’s a bad idea.  Society will be better off if new parents, especially moms, spent more time with children during the first six years of life.

The feminists want abortion so women can rise to the top in corporate, legal and political.  Barrett shows that you can still have plenty of children and rise to the top.  Feminists think that Ruth Bader Ginsburg made it easier for women by supporting abortion, the ERA, equal pay and other platforms that didn’t tie women to the home.  I admire Ruth Bader Ginsburg because of her dedication to her beliefs, but not for how she helped diminish society’s consideration of the importance of parenting children.

Feminists think that roles out in the world – in positions of power in law, politics and banking – have more influence than the nurturing of children that goes on the home.  I disagree.  I have a hard time believing that Amy Barrett is living up to her potential as a mother while pursuing a seat on the Supreme Court. 

Dissident Teacher, a mother and graduate of a Big Ten university, who has taught college for more than 25 years.

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