Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pregnant and president

One early morning in my sleep it came to me that our next group of presidential candidates should include a pregnant or nursing woman. When I first woke up, this seemed brilliant for reasons that I now have to make up.

First, I should note that this concept is in no way self serving. At nearly 47, I am well past my reproductive peak. The odds are that pregnancy is not in my future, so I am not the candidate that my dream life is proposing (your loss). My nieces are too young for the presidency, so I'm not looking out for their interests, either. My dream life can't even come up with an idea that would benefit me or mine.

Let's assume our pregnant/nursing candidate is over 35 and under 40, which seems reasonable if we assume a non-assisted pregnancy. Some would say that, while technically qualified, our under-40 mother-to-be is too young. On the other hand, the minimum age of 35 is purely arbitrary (perhaps even set partly because at one time many people would have completed their families by then), and there are people in their 50s and 60s who will never be mature no matter how long they live.

Some feminists will undoubtedly object on the principle that the president of the United States shouldn't be such a blatant brood mare, symbolic of male oppression and stereotypical gender roles (or perhaps they would come up with a more original, sophisticated argument full of portent and devoid of meaning). I could argue that a pregnant president symbolizes fertility and the rich potential of the future, and that it's progress not to sacrifice such symbols.

(Or she could simply be a woman who happens to run for office during pregnancy.)

Some might say that the last thing the nation or the world needs is a hormonal woman with power. Nonsense. All of us are prone to hormonal fluctuations, and we've had at least a few presidents whose hormones overcame their common sense (if they had any). On the other hand, few people are as motivated to build a better world than mothers, especially new mothers. A woman with a baby suddenly realizes, if she hasn't already, that it does matter that food is safe, that workers are treated fairly, and that polar bears continue to be available to grace the cover of National Geographic. The next generation shouldn't suffer for the excesses of their parents and grandparents.

There's the issue of lying in; for a few days the president will be physically but not mentally incapacitated. That's no different than when our past middle-aged male presidents have been hospitalized for various procedures from which they duly recovered. A woman can serve as president from a bed as well as a man. In fact, with planning, she need not leave the White House at all. She could give birth right at home, next to the red phone if necessary.

As a nursing mother, our president is going to be busy and tired—some might say too busy and too tired to run a nation. I would point out that, while Hillary Clinton claims that she will be fully suited and ready for when The Call comes at 3:00 a.m. (as though she is hoping for The Call, although why at that time who can say?), our presidential mother doesn't need to claim anything of the kind. As any parent knows, mothers are on the alert for when the call comes—the call of hunger, damp diapers, crankiness, or loneliness. New mothers are naturally wired for the needs and crises that arise in the wee hours.

What about matters of state? With all the responsibilities of motherhood, how could our president attend to tricky trade, military, and other important negotiations? If George Bush can interrupt a diplomatic dinner with vomiting, why can't our president take a little time off now and then to nurse? I'm not suggesting that the presidential offspring be brought to the table and that our leader nonchalantly whip out a breast, but perhaps these occasional short breaks will serve to easy any building tensions and to remind all the parties of what is really important—our shared future.

Of course, in time the presidential infant would become a toddler. How cute would the White House holiday card be if it could star not only the presidential pets but a winsome toddler, too? In the meantime, the media would not be distracted by critical issues such as the partying, drinking, and drug habits of presidential adult children, or his or her sexual proclivities. The worst that the press would be able to report is that the president's toddler knocked little Susie over in day-care or piddled on the Oval Office carpet, for which we'll find it easy to forgive him or her. By the time he or she is seven or eight years old, our president, assuming she had earned a second term, will be leaving office, at which point we might be ready for another First Baby.

I didn't eat or drink anything out of the ordinary the night before, so I don't know what inspired this wonderful idea. I'm sure it has some flaws, although I don't see what they could be.

Maybe I didn't get enough sleep.

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