Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Joe Biden and the double-standard of single parenting

Over the weekend the news broke out that Beau Biden, Joe Biden's son, had passed away. Cancer took another life, the bastard. Amid the coverage and discussion afterwards, I also found out that Biden had also lost his first wife and infant daughter many years ago (I had heard something about his first wife dying, but didn't know the full story). I have always liked Joe, I like his energy and goofyness. Donovan and I saw him and Jill speak at a political rally in New Hampshire a couple of years ago. It adds a layer of meaning to his jovial nature to know that he is that way in spite of living through great tragedy.

I watched the conversations about Biden and his family, and about his past, all the heartbreak he has seen. How brave and strong he was in the face of raising two toddler boys alone with his wife and daughter gone. His resolve at following through with his new job as a member of the senate, his four-hour daily commute to work and back, so he could be with his boys in their hometown.

I don't deny any of his courage or strength or resolve or ambition. I think anyone who goes through what he has more than deserves the title of a Hero. What I will say next is in no way meant to lessen or belittle any of what he has done or been through.

All that said... As people talked about Biden, I saw a picture float through my timeline. The picture was of a young Joe Biden being sworn in to his new position in the senate, right there in the hospital room beside little Beau who was still recovering from the crash. The photo was described as moving, heartbreaking, proof of Biden's resolve to be there for his kids.

I looked at that photo and I couldn't help think, "But what if he had been a mother?"

What if it had been a woman, and her husband and baby were killed right before she was to take office? What if she were the one with a photo of her swearing-in by her kid's hospital bed? What if it were a single mother now traveling four hours each day to go to work, and be back home to tuck her babies in at night?

Would she be applauded as a hero? Praised for her bravery, her ambition, her commitment to both her work and her family?

I doubt it. Most likely people would have criticized her for "abandoning" her children when they needed her most. They would have questioned her competency at work, her ability to commit to her job when she had grieving children to worry about and care for. The backlash would have been immediate and intense, not just in 1972 but even today. Just look at the way Hillary Clinton was questioned and criticized when her grandchild (not her own kid, but her grandbaby) was born. People actually thought that her becoming a grandmother would change her ambitions about running for president.

Single fathers are viewed as brave heroes for stepping up to the plate of caring for their own children. Meanwhile single mothers are a favorite target of many, often blamed as the cause of everything that is wrong with society today.

I don't begrudge Joe Biden being praised and applauded for what he has done-- I think he should feel damn proud of himself for managing to be both the parent and the politician he wanted to be. I like and respect him as a person, and my heart goes out to him and his whole family for everything they have gone through.

But this double-standard where single dads are awesome but single moms apparently suck, all for doing the exact same thing? It's just infuriating.

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