The choice of Sarah Palin has seemed to throw the doors wide open for conservatives and progressives alike to discuss, and sometimes judge, the role of parents in the political realm. No doubt the conversations will further ignite now that Palin’s 17 year old daughter, Bristol has gone public with her own pregnancy.
I have my own thoughts – how exhausted must Palin be with a small baby? What about Bristol’s privacy? Did she ask to have this play out on a national stage?
Mostly, I try to keep them to myself. I think mothers are scrutinized and judged perhaps more than any other segment in society. As Molly Ladd-Taylor writes in Bad Mothers: The Politics of Blame in the Twentieth Century, many feel free to fault women who stay home for their supposed laziness and then, the next day, attack women who work outside of the home for their apparent lack of maternal instinct. We can’t win.
While many enjoy bashing mothers, what sometimes goes unacknowledged is the tremendously positive role that involved fathers can play.
I’ve decided to focus on one such father. A father who struggled, every day, to put his own children first in the middle of a very demanding career and overpowering grief. A father who refused to upend his children’s lives for his own sense of ambition.
As many now probably know, just months after Joe Biden won his first election to the Senate, his wife and daughter were killed in a horrific car crash. Biden’s two older sons, 3 and 4 at the time, were seriously injured. As Biden tells it, “A tractor-trailer, a guy who allegedly — and I never pursued it — drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch, broadsided my family and killed my wife instantly, and killed my daughter instantly, and hospitalized my two sons, with what were thought to be at the time permanent, fundamental injuries.”
Having just been elected to the Senate, Biden took his oath of office at the hospital bedside of his two young sons, and as they recovered, he didn’t budge. If he had to leave, his wife’s parents took over the care of the boys. Biden never moved to Washington, committing himself instead to a long commute from Delaware so that his boys didn’t have to lose their house and community, too.
Obviously, his devotion paid off. His older son is the Attorney General of Delaware and a member of the Delaware National Guard. He will be serving his country in Iraq in just a few short weeks. His younger son is a successful lawyer in Washington, DC.
Five years after the death of his wife and daughter, Biden married a school teacher, Jill and a couple of years later, became once again the father of a daughter, Ashley. Ashley is now a social worker.
By all accounts, Joe Biden put his children first and has raised responsible adults who have made service to others the center of their lives.
Joe Biden a super-dad. That, in my mind, is the kind of role model I want to see in the Vice President’s office.