After Donald Trump said Hillary Clinton employed a magical “woman’s card” to wend her way through the presidential campaign thicket with greater ease than might be so if she were a man, I thought about writing something. But despite possessing one of those woman’s cards, it was not easy for me to get something done at that moment.
I’ll explain. First, let me hasten to add my voice to the multitudes saying, oh (expletive inserted, then deleted) Donald, those woman’s cards you describe with such furor do not guarantee ease. Not even when some holders might meet your standards of beautiful. For one thing, we know that Hillary Clinton’s physical appearance and marriage receive much more unfair scrutiny than that of any male politician. That includes you, Donald. To be fair to your party, the physical appearance and marriage of your supporter Sarah Palin have received much more unfair scrutiny than that of any male politician. And we all know how a whole lot of women make quite a bit less than men who do the same jobs, for the same amount of time, at the same time. We know all too well about the relatively small number of women (compared to the number of women in the population) in Congress, in CEO suites, in the skilled trades, and more. We also are aware of the many complicated reasons for the lack of women in any number of fields, including the sometimes inconvenient fact that women are more likely than men to need to leave the workforce to raise families.
Here’s another hugely inconvenient fact, one that explains my lack of ease in getting a commentary written any sooner. It is the fact that when children with special needs, elderly parents, or spouses need caregiving, it is usually a woman who takes on the role of primary or even sole caregiver. In my case, I’ve been my mother’s primary caregiver for nearly two years (actually, I’m more of a senior citizen’s dormitory resident adviser, but that’s another story). The National Alliance for Caregiving has estimated that about 29 percent of the U.S. adult population, or some 66 million people, are serving as caregivers for at least one family member.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 53 to 68 percent of all caregivers are women (the range in percentages is due to caregiving differences and the amount of time spent providing care). Women caregivers spend an average of 21.9 hours per week on caregiving and male caregivers put in about 17.4 hours. Female caregivers are more likely to shoulder the tougher aspects of caregiving (such as bathing), while men are more likely to arrange outside care or help with finances. And 44 percent of caregivers live in or head households that are under twice the federal poverty level, as opposed to only one-third of non-caregivers living at such levels.
I’m fortunate in that I’m not poverty-stricken and I’m childless. I work for myself, which permits more flexibility than might be the case if I were working at a “regular” job, as is the situation with most caregivers (many of whom also have dependent children). All the same, the caregiving life is far from easy, “woman’s cards” notwithstanding. In order to more readily receive help from my two brothers, I had to leave my Minnesota home and move my mother and myself to Arizona, where both brothers have lived for years. It’s a place where I knew almost no one. After four months here, I know a few people but none who can yet be called friends or solid professional contacts. If I want more than a day or two off, my brothers have to get away from their jobs, which is not always easy to manage or schedule. Caregiving can be tough on friendships. I’ve had people bluntly tell me they would have invited me to join them on vacations or other fun events but that “we thought you probably cannot leave your mother.” Yes, they are now former friends.
I’m not trying to whine. Compared to a whole lot of caregivers, I have nothing to whine about at all. As my mother has sufficient financial resources and is in that zone between being able to live alone with lots of help and being in assisted living, I think she is better off living with me at present. Still, while reflecting on how often women are called to caregiving, I cannot resist pointing out that Trump’s daughter, the poised and intelligent Ivanka, is the Trump family member who is her father’s primary promoter.
If The Donald ever needs a caregiver (many will say that idea is subject to great interpretation), it’s a good bet that Ivanka will provide the care if Melania Trump cannot do so.
I’d also say that if such happens, no matter the Trump billions, her life will not be easy.
Even though she’ll hold a woman’s card.
Mary Stanik, a writer and public-relations professional, lived in St. Paul until her recent move to Arizona. She is the author of the novel “Life Erupted.”
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