On Thursday, Hillary Clinton announced she was expecting her first grandchild. In the midst of all the excitement for the newest Clinton, speculation has already kicked off about the baby's potential effect on Hillary Clinton's 2016 bid for the presidency. USA Today, for example, reported: "It's unclear how Chelsea's pregnancy will affect Hillary Clinton, who is considering a race for president in 2016."
Wait, what? While this may be a valid point, it is also incredibly sexist, considering no such speculation has ever arisen about the effects of, say, Mitt Romney's grandchildren on his bid for the presidency. Why should Hillary Clinton, then, be subject to questions about her commitment to running for office, now that she can add "grandmother" to her long list of accomplishments?
Hillary Clinton is a spectacular woman. Having a grandchild will not change that. Far from allowing her husband's political career to overshadow hers, Hillary Clinton left the White House in 2000 only to return to Capitol Hill, representing New York in the Senate from 2000 until 2008. She then returned to the White House as Obama's Secretary of State, where she remained for five years as the first former First Lady to serve in the United States Cabinet.
Hillary's track record of achievement matches, and perhaps surpasses, that of many of her male colleagues, and her qualifications for running for president are undisputed. But now, with a grandbaby on the way, a pall has suddenly been cast upon her ability to serve as the leader of the country. Because being a grandmother and being the president are, apparently, mutually exclusive occupations.
Never mind that Mitt Romney, who ran against Obama in 2012, has so many grandchildren that he initially lost count when announcing his latest grandchild in 2013. Kieran James Romney, who was adopted last September, actually makes for Romney's 23rd grandchild. Joe Biden, current vice president and former (and perhaps future) presidential candidate, has five grandchildren. John McCain, Obama's Republican opponent in 2008, has four grandchildren.
None of these men's grandchildren were touted by the media as potential roadblocks on their way to the presidency. In fact, other than proving that these candidates were family men, their grandchildren were hardly mentioned during the presidential races. Of course, Chelsea Clinton is an only child, and her baby will be the first Clinton grandchild, but even so, there seems to be little to no reason for speculation that this will dissuade Hillary Clinton from running in 2016. Except, perhaps, that she is a woman who must privilege the needs of her grandchild over her ambition.
Women remain disadvantaged in the workplace, and politics are no exception. We're sadly underrepresented in Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 CEOs, and make up less than 20 percent of Congress. It seems that, to some extent, women are socialized to dream smaller — to recognize that there's an inherent and inevitable choice to be made between family and career, and it is a choice that men do not make with nearly the same frequency.
A Harvard Business Review article made painfully clear how much of a "woman's problem" work-life balance is, with many women noting feelings of guilt for leaving their children, while men seem to have few of the same trepidations. One of the women interviewed by the Review articulated just how big of a deterrent family life can be for women in positions of power:
Because I’m not a mother, I haven’t experienced the major driver of inequality: having children. People assume that if you don’t have kids, then you either can’t have kids or else you’re a hard-driving bitch. So I haven’t had any negative career repercussions, but I’ve probably been judged personally.
And now, the same choice is being placed upon Hillary Clinton — not of her own admittance, but from the speculation of those who believe that being a grandmother is not necessarily compatible with being the president. Of course, this is not a problem with grandfathers.
When Clinton resigned as Secretary of State in February of 2013, it was the first time in approximately 30 years that she assumed the status of a private citizen, away from public office and public life. And it is our sincerest hope that this status is reversed in 2016 as the first female president of the United States.
Should Hillary Clinton decide not to run for president in 2016, we will respect her choice to do so. But until an announcement is made, let's keep speculation at bay for what an unborn baby will do for a presidential campaign.