About a year ago, I wrote an open letter to Michelle Obama and published it here on the Huffington Post. It was picked up by the Chicago Sun Times and for one reason or another became a heavy topic around the web and at dinner tables because me-the white suburban mom-dared to utter the word everyone is thinking but no one wants to say.
It was probably one of the most sincere and heartfelt things I have ever written in my life. At the time I was getting ready for Christmas with my family and watching the candidates slowly declare for 2008.
I couldn't help but wonder what on earth Michelle Obama was thinking. Not as a prominent player in American politics or as the wife of a Senator. I was wondering what the "Mom" in her was struggling with, if anything:
The simple fact that I know you are weighing this decision with such intensity makes me like you and your husband even more. It confirms to me you are the type of people I think you are: smart, loving, educated, and with great common sense. Frankly, it makes me want your husband in the Oval Office even more. I'm just not sure my needs outweigh the cost to you and yours. I don't want to seem like a selfish American, but it will take something BIG to give hope to this country and those of us disheartened, disenfranchised, and just plain disgusted with the current state of affairs. Yes, I want Senator Barack Obama to be that something big. I want him to be the answer. I want to ask you to support his run in 2008. But I can't. I can't ask you to do it for me. I can't ask you to do it for the children or for the future or for the good of mankind. You are a mother, like I am a mother, and I know I can't ask that of you.
I can only wait.
Whatever you decide, the Moms, if no one else, will understand and have your back.
Many things have happened in the year since I wrote those paragraphs. Senator Obama is, in fact, a presidential candidate and depending which poll you like best, he's not just in the race-he's in the lead.
Again I find my mind wandering back to Michelle Obama. Because she's a mother. Because she's a woman holding two little girls hands, standing next to her husband, with history on the line.
I get twinges of this feeling with Senator Hillary Clinton. They are more reserved, and I haven't exactly figured out why. The mother piece is there. The woman piece. The history. The first. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Senator. If she is the Democratic Nominee she will absolutely get my vote and I'll be first in line to champion the first woman President of the United States of America.
Maybe it's the sacrifice that is missing. Maybe I look at Michelle Obama and her family's potential first differently than Senator Clinton's. We all know the Clinton family has been dealing with the White House and all it entails, and Chelsea is grown and it seems just less...risky? Maybe that's naive of me. Whatever the reason, the more I see Senator Obama climb in the polls, the more my mind thinks of his wife and family.
When the firestorm erupted over my original article I responded on my personal blog,
But that really is what all of this is about. It's about being a mother. Do you go with showing your children just how big of an impact you can make on the world? Do you take the safer route? It's about choices. And the millions of choices that go with motherhood. Breast or bottle. Work or home. Cloth or disposable? It. Never. Ends.
My letter to Michelle Obama was nothing more than my sympathy and empathy for having to make yet another motherhood decision. And as we all know, what is best for one family is not, necessarily best for the next.
I still breastfeed my 21-month old. That is a choice that I get shit for. But it works for my family. Sure, it's not an oval office issue or anything, but it's an issue none the less. And it seems we women get shit for any decision we make on any motherhood issue.
As a mother, and a mother with a rather LOUD speaking platform, I will happily get the back of ANY MOM for their decisions. It's time for the world to SHUT THE FUCK UP and remember it's the mothers who sacrifice, suffer, and agonize over those decisions.
Then, of course, I received another round of hate mail because I'm a mother and a woman and I curse.
The Obama and Clinton family will always have my utmost respect simply for trying to be the first-motives not withstanding. There is risk in this for white Southern male John Edwards but I'm not sure it's the risk of the first minority or the first woman.
I realize we're all trying to get past this whole race/gender thing...but let's be real here-you and I both know people who say things like "I just don't want a black man as president" or "I just can't vote for a woman." Throw in the "mother" and "family" factor and I think the Obama's and Clinton's will never get a fair shake.
I know- I'm a woman. I'm a mother. We can't even pick out the right toy at the store without it being a national issue.
I am at a total loss for what I may be writing one year from now. I'm not even sure who I'm voting for let alone what I think might happen come next holiday season. Will we be talking of risk and firsts or will we be over it entirely and already bitching about those first 100 days in office?
What I do know, is the same holds true today as I wrote last year:
The talking heads and pundits can make fun of me all they want, but how soon they forget photos like this, and this, and this. It's easy to dismiss a 'self-described Mom' when she's showing support for a fellow mother, but it's not so easy to dismiss all the mothers, wives, and children I see in those photos.
So mount your protests and do your best spin on my very honest letter. Just keep reading. Because the Mom voice will stay loud, and we're making the decisions that rock the world-whether you like it or not.