C'mon, bearing children is natural, not a nuisance

May 11, 2001|By Susan Reimer

MALE POLITICIANS in Massachusetts are the reason God gave the job of having babies to Eve and not to Adam.

Jane Swift, the acting governor of that state, is hospitalized while awaiting the imminent birth of twins. She was ordered to bed when contractions started because the babies aren't due until June 15.

Twins are notorious for arriving early, and Swift's babies are fine. But doctors would like her to hold onto them for another week or so.

However, Massachusetts Democrats - Swift is Republican - are dithering like frantic, first-time fathers. Swift is still running the state from her hospital bed, and the men of the opposition party are acting like her brain is in her bottom.

They want her declared incapacitated so one of their own, Secretary of State William Galvin, can take over. This is considered a wonderful opportunity for Galvin, who many think wants to run for governor.

His political allies are trying to force Swift to step aside by challenging the constitutionality of running meetings via speakerphone from a hospital room.

Don't get me started.

Apparently, there are still men who consider pregnancy to be a debilitation instead of a natural state, who consider birth a crisis instead of what it is, a temporary inconvenience, who consider motherhood a handicap instead of what it is, the most demanding juggling act in the world.

Running the tiny state of Massachusetts is going to seem like a fool's errand to Swift after eight weeks of being the full-time mother of newborn twins and a toddler. I'm betting she's back after six, sighing with relief.

Didn't any of these guys read "The Good Earth" in high school? The heroine of Pearl Buck's classic takes a break from working in the fields to give birth to a child - and returns to work the field before the sun sets on the day.

We were made for this job, guys. Most women I know can hatch a baby and have dinner ready by 6. And thanks to managed care, most women have to get back on their feet that fast.

Women can manage a household while nursing a baby, a ruptured disk or a broken heart. We all know mothers are supposed to show up for duty even if suffering from the flu. Well, I know women who haven't missed a day at their post even while undergoing chemotherapy or planning the funeral of a child. Swift has a staff, a car and driver, a helicopter, a fax, a cell phone and the state police at her disposal. Run a state? A woman could run a Third-World country with that kind of support system. Women run PTAs, for goodness sake. States are child's play.

I don't recall anybody calling for New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to step aside while he battled prostate cancer.

And Ronald Reagan was showing signs of Alzheimer's disease while president, and nobody tried to push him aside. Kennedy couldn't stand up straight, so he was photographed in a rocking chair. FDR couldn't walk and the country re-elected him twice.

And the male politicians in Massachusetts are worried about Braxton-Hicks contractions? Most of them probably couldn't clean a child's dirty diaper without 20 minutes of dry heaves.

Swift has been in trouble before. The first time for asking her staff for help with babysitting and errands, and for using the state helicopter to get home to her family. She was fined $1,250 and roundly criticized. Now she finds herself criticized again for continuing to exercise her duties, despite a distraction significantly more important than a dry-cleaning pickup.

You know what this is all about? Besides good old-fashioned politics and the continued second-class citizenship of women? This is about face time.

If Democratic politicians can't handle the fact that their governor is at the other end of a squawk box instead of in the room where they can see her governing, I think we can safely say that this country isn't ready for telecommuting.

I bet they don't believe she is signing documents and giving direction over her cell phone. I bet they think she's wallpapering the powder room.

You know what guys? She might be. But she'd still be able to run your state.

And that's the difference between you and her.

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