Right now, the best hope for any solution to the Congressional stalemates over both the government shutdown and the debt ceiling seems to be a bipartisan effort spearheaded by Susan Collins and involving several other senators, mostly women. Which doesn’t surprise me at all. Many, if not all, of these female senators are mothers, and once a woman has dealt with the range of challenges from toddler tantrums to sullen teenagers with body odor, she can handle anything.
Years ago, I would illustrate that theory by imagining a mom tackling the Middle East — “Israel and Palestinians, if you can’t find a way to share the occupied territories, neither of you can play with them.” But these days, it feels like that conflict pales by comparison to Washington, DC. So how would my motherhood experience help me deal with the issues that have led to governmental gridlock? Well, for starters, many Republicans have cited public image as a key factor, i.e., “We won’t be disrespected.” Moms have moved way past that concern once they’ve had a preschooler in a shopping cart say something embarrassing and loud to a packed grocery store. (Most of my friends dealt with things like, “Why is that lady so fat?” or “Why doesn’t that man have any hair?” My personal humiliation was when my four-year-old son announced loudly, “Mommy, you know how you said babies happen when a daddy plants a seed in a mommy? How exactly does the seed get there?”) So it makes sense that there are no women chiming in about how important it is that they save face.
Another issue raised by Republicans is their fear that once Obamacare is the law of the land, we won’t be able to repeal it because Americans will become “addicted to the sugar,” in the immortal words of Ted Cruz. That wouldn’t bother any mom who has given up trying to get her kids to eat anything but pizza, nachos, and Dr. Pepper. (Or in my case, that even extends to my husband, to whom I had to explain that a bowl of Fruit Loops didn’t count as a serving of fruit.) Or there’s the concern that by raising the debt ceiling, the GOP will lose its chance to ‘teach Americans a lesson’ about fiscal prudence. Most moms of teenagers have given up trying to “teach lessons” — logical consequences often work best when we don’t plan them. (Like when my 17-year-old forgot to set an alarm on the day before school started, when he planned to do all his summer reading, so he slept til 4 p.m. It was a new personal record for him, but he also learned his lesson — which was to ask me to double-check he was awake, so okay, he isn’t totally on his own yet . . . . but I digress.)
Perhaps the biggest problem right now is the inflated language on both sides, comparing each other to Nazis, terrorists, etc. Moms know that yelling and name-calling don’t work (as tempting as they are), and often humor can be the best response. Plus we know that when our kids are young, they learn best when things are set to music, like the ABCs or the names of the states in alphabetical order (anyone who ever had to learn the “Fifty Nifty” song knows what I mean — I can’t complete a crossword puzzle without singing that song!). So here’s some humor, set to music, to explain why it might not be such a good idea to let the radical fringe take control of a party. (As one op-ed columnist noted, of course there are extremists on both sides, but there aren’t any Occupy Wall Streeters or throwing-paint-at-fur-coat-wearers-activists in Congress . . . )