It's not easy being a mother. It's not easy working and raising a family. Anyone who says otherwise either has a full-time household staff or needs serious therapy. This afternoon, for instance, I have to pick up my daughter from school, drive my son to the doctor, figure out dinner, pay bills, ferry my daughter to soccer practice, and somewhere in here return work calls. If only my secretary weren't sick. Oh, that's right -- I don't have a secretary. Sometimes I'm on the road so much I feel like I'm on the campaign trail.
This does not make for much glamour. But it does make for real life. Now multiply that insanity 1000 times. Imagine being the wife of a presidential candidate. Every time you open your mouth, make some remark about the importance of family, putting your young daughters first, the media accuses you of either pandering to holier-than-thou conservatives or being snarky about your husband's main political rival. Who just happens to be female. What an awful mother she is. What a phony she is. And the ultimate put-down: How she can't handle her man.
This is the question that many in the blogosphere are furiously debating now about Michelle Obama: Was she trashing Hillary when she told a reporter, "If you can't run your own house, you can't run the White House"? Was she not so delicately suggesting that she was a better wife and mother than Hillary?
Parse it any way you want, but if Michelle were a Harvard-trained lawyer named Michael we wouldn't even be debating this. But we are. And because we are still living in the political dark ages in this country as far as women are concerned, notwithstanding a female Speaker in the House and a female presidential candidate, here is what I think Michelle Obama meant: If you can't keep your kids in line, juggle a job, grocery shopping, school meetings, soccer, fundraisers, birthday parties and your husband's insanely busy work life and look halfway presentable while doing it, then the White House is probably not for you.
I tend to agree with her. I, for one, would be very bad at it since my house is perennially in chaos and my hair is messy. Just this morning the 14-year-old was running around before school yelling, "Aren't there any socks?" "Look in your brother's room!" I shouted back.
I bet that doesn't happen in the Obama household. Not because Michelle Obama is fussy about laundry, but because she's incredibly focused and organized and serious. And she doesn't take guff from her charismatic though flawed husband. Quit smoking, she told Barack, or you can forget about that little ambition of yours of running for president.
But the main reason I think that Michelle wasn't insulting Hillary is because she wouldn't. She's got too much class and poise and self-respect to engage in the unseemly politics of personal attacks. She has too much awareness of the struggles women have gone through, the difficulties they face and the distance they still have to go on such pressing issues as health care, childcare, and achieving economic parity with men. Given her own demanding life and experience as a part-time single parent as her husband campaigns, she knows she could tackle the dizzying responsibilities of the White House with one hand tied behind her back. So could that other woman, the one conservative troublemakers like Drudge keep trying to pit Michelle Obama against. And who said men weren't catty?
As far as the White House goes, it's too bad Michelle isn't running against Hillary. Either woman would be far superior to the current male occupant.