When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi met with two dozen women reporters and editors at the Huffington Post late last week, she was considered a role model by many in the room. Here was a woman who’d had five children (in six years!) then went on to hold the highest office ever held by a woman in this country — Speaker of the House.
But role models often teach unexpected lessons, and while Rep. Pelosi (D-Calif.) was describing “how she does it,” her youngest daughter, Alexandra, who had come along on this visit, interrupted.
“She was a stay-at-home-Mom for all those years,” she said, wanting to make it clear that her mother had not been raising five children while running the country, or even running for office. In fact, she did not run until Alexandra was almost out of high school.
“Explain that to them,” she said.
And so, Pelosi explained. “I don’t have any idea of how people have kids and jobs,” she confessed. “Some days I just didn’t wash my face,” she said, when her children were young, and that was without any workplace demands.
Today’s women, with all our choices, could not be more grateful to Pelosi’s generation, which blazed the trail. And yet, looked at closely, it becomes discomfitingly clear that hers is a path effectively closed by its own success.
There was a moment in time when women could live their lives serially — have their children during the 1950s and 60s, when not much more than that was expected of them; launch those children by the 70s and 80s, when doors were newly opened to women. Pelosi, now 71, was of that moment. So were Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, 81, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 78. Both graduated from law school during the 1950s, then spent years on the slow career track or as a stay-at-home-mother, and came roaring back when their children were older. READ MORE