Shopping: More Interesting Than Mothering?


Contributed by MOTHERS volunteer and guest blogger Kelly Coyle DiNorcia
There is one morning cable news program in particular that I like to watch in the morning. I like it because I think the anchors are fair and relatively unbiased, and because they have a wide range of guests on each day that present varying viewpoints. I feel well-informed after watching each day.

The other morning I woke up and turned on the television, to find that the lead story that day was the fact that $150,000 has been spent on Governor Sarah Palin’s clothing since the beginning of September.

On one side, people were saying that candidates, and female candidates in particular, need to present a certain image, and this requires a certain kind of clothing. Besides, it is the campaign’s money and not her personal money that is being spent. On the other side, people were saying that she cannot claim to be “just another hockey mom” when her wardrobe is worth 388% of the average per capita income in the United States. It was quite the hot debate.

As for me, well, I can see both sides of the story. I am not naïve to the fact that women in high office – indeed, this woman is a candidate for the second highest office in the country, arguably in the world – need to look a certain way. They need to have “power clothing”, to look authoritative and put together. I recall a lot of talk about pants suits when Senator Hilary Clinton was vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, and yet I haven’t heard any talk about the wardrobes of any of the male candidates. Perhaps I’ve missed it, or perhaps women’s clothing is just more noticeable. Mostly, I think it is because the coverage of both these candidates has been a cross between serious political analysis and coverage more befitting Brangelina than a high level political candidate, because for all our advances powerful women are still on the fringe.

On the other hand, if Governor Palin is supposed to be the down-to-Earth candidate who is appealing to “Joe Six-Pack”, then it might be more consistent to have her appearance be in line with that image, rather than dressing her to look one way while she talks as if she were something different. Either way, I don’t see how this rates as the top story on the morning programs.

Here’s the story I’d like to see the pundits pounce on: estimates that a non-wage-earning mother of three young children would earn a median $116,805 per year if she were paid for her household responsibilities, including housework, laundry, childcare, cooking and driving. A mother who earns wages still does $68,405.00 worth of work at home, according to their data. Clearly, mothering has a significant economic value. Yet, our society places no value on this work. We talk about mothering as a personal choice instead of an economic activity.

Governor Palin may have dropped $150K at Nieman Marcus and the like, but she and her husband – theoretically, at least – are spending just as much in terms of time, effort and support to make sure their children are cared for while she blazes ahead on the campaign trail. Shopping: Interesting. Headline-Making. Mothering: Not so much. Why is that? What does that say about us?