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As a working mom with a child with Down syndrome, Sarah Palin makes me shriek

A couple of Fridays ago, I woke up, staggered into the kitchen for my morning Diet Coke, and found myself to the right of Sarah Palin.

It was unfamiliar territory, to say the least.

"Guess who McCain picked?" my husband asked.

I guessed Lieberman, then Hutchison, then I stopped in my tracks.

"No way. He did not pick her."

"Oh, yes."

Neither of us was sure how to pronounce her name, and we didn't know much about her politics, but both my husband and I knew exactly who Sarah Palin was. We paid attention in April, when she had her fifth baby, Trig.

We pay attention to things like that. Our 5-year-old daughter has Down syndrome.

I immediately started shrieking, and didn't stop for a week.

"I knew it I knew it I knew it I knew it I knew it I knew it! I KNEW John McCain couldn't resist putting a baby with Down syndrome up there on the national stage — that opportunist!!"

I paced the kitchen with my husband at my heels, admonishing me to keep my voice down so I didn't wake the kids. I gave him a dirty look and paused to take a breath. And then it happened. I said it.

"And what the fuck does this woman think she's doing; does she have any idea what it takes to raise a kid with Down syndrome? She thinks she can be vice president and take care of that baby?"

I stopped, startling myself, and clapped my hand over my own mouth. Where had that come from?

How Sarah Palin parents her kids is absolutely none of my business. I know that. At least, the rational me knows that. I mean, it's not like I want to hear what Palin thinks of my life.

I have two daughters — Sophie, my 5-year-old, and Annabelle, who is 7 — and I have a full-time job.

My own balancing act is inelegant. Forget leading the free world; I can't even balance my hair on the top of my head as well as Sarah Palin does. I don't wear high heels. My glasses were on clearance at LensCrafters. And my milk never did come in, so I never got to leave a meeting to breastfeed. I sneak out of bed at 4 a.m. to get some work done before it's time to make lunches, so I can sneak out of work at 2:30 to take my kid to her Brownie meeting. My eye twitches all the time from fatigue, and there are currently three overflowing baskets of laundry in my living room. My office is even worse.

I know how hard it is, being a working mom. And how important.

But I stopped yelling only for a moment. Then I started again. I had taken up a pitchfork and joined the Mommy Wars — and on a side I never would have expected.

"Oooooh, no judgments. We don't judge each other," a friend (another working mom) said, almost under her breath, when I called her that morning after dropping the kids at school, and continued my rant.

"I know!" I screamed. "I don't know where this is coming from!"

Actually, I did. As a staff writer at New Times for many years, I wrote a lot about John McCain — on other topics, too, but a lot about McCain. When Annabelle was born, that continued. It wasn't until Sophie came along that I felt compelled to take a different job at the paper, as an editor. It's just as tough, but not as all-consuming as writing those long cover stories we publish each week.

So, basically, I stopped writing about McCain so I could spend more time with my baby with Down syndrome (I was also, frankly, banking on the notion that he'd never make a run for president in 2008) and now here he is, poised to be the next leader of the free world, and his running mate is a woman with a baby with Down syndrome.

People say otherwise, but politics is at its best when it's personal, when it cuts so close to the vest it nicks your heart. That is when people make it out to the polls. It's when change happens.

But really, this is ridiculous.

Tell me you wouldn't run around your kitchen shrieking, too.


I'm pretty much done shrieking. Now I'm just scared.

And mad that I wasted so much time being pissed at myself for being distracted by Sarah Palin's personal life. Her personal life is not a distraction; it's her selling point, and to that end, it deserves the scrutiny it's gotten, and more. When she put her four kids center stage — literally — and talked about the fifth fighting in Iraq, she made perfectly clear what she brings to this campaign: her experience as a hockey mom.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.