09/29/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Gov. Palin: Is Not Taking Maternity Leave a Conservative Value?

I'm intrigued by Senator McCain's choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his runningmate. I, like most Americans outside of Alaska, had never heard of Governor Palin before the media hoopla began. I understand that McCain expects Gov. Palin's conservative background to boost his appeal to the base of the Republican party. She is a member of the NRA and she is pro-life.

When I read that her infant son, born just last spring, has Down syndrome, that caught my attention. I have three children with autism. We mothers of special needs kids share a tight bond. So I did a bit of Googling. Then I read an article from the Anchorage Daily News that said she did not plan to take maternity leave after his birth. What? With that, our bond loosened.

Now I'm thinking about what it takes to be Vice President of the United States. The days of clocking into the White House at 9am and toddling back home to the Admiral's House at the Naval Observatory at 5pm and attending funerals are long gone. Cheney has set the standard for a fully involved VP - regardless of what you think of him. So how does a mother of five children, especially one with special needs, accept the nomination for a job that will put her within a heartbeat of the Presidency and take yet take her away from the five heartbeats of her family for at least four years and still be considered conservative? If she were a Democratic nominee, wouldn't the religious right be attacking her already?

I believe in a woman's right to any career she desires. Yet as a mother of kids whose needs have taken precedence over my career for over a decade, I know the realities of special needs parenting. And I find myself asking a question that makes me feel like Donna Reed: Once you've chosen to have five children, and your infant has special needs, who needs you more, your family or your job? And if I can ask this touchy, old fashioned question, I wonder if conservatives will warm to a woman willing to make such a profound family sacrifice.

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