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April 30, 2014

PARKER: Didn't take too long to jump to Grandma Hillary

The word is out that Chelsea Clinton is with child, making the favorite Democratic presidential nominee a soon-to-be grandmother.

The headlines were inevitable — “Grandma Hillary” — followed by the similarly crucial question: Will being a grandmother help or hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances in the 2016 election?

Note: We do not yet have another Clinton presidential candidacy, but we may as well have. She’s running in the American mind if not in fact.

Other questions have run the gamut from “Will Hillary give up her presidential aspirations once she’s a grandmother?” to “Is Hillary too old to run?”

The latter question is based on the dated assumption that grandma-hood makes one “old.” The former inspires contempt from women who fume that no one would ever ask the same of a man.

Is a man too old? Ronald Reagan, almost 70 when elected, wasn’t. Would a man give up his political or any career because he became a grandfather?

It is true that we would never consider asking men such questions. But it is also true that women and men are different (hold your horses) when it comes to babies. Women don’t love their children or grandchildren more than men do, but their roles are significantly different. I know, the spoiler rides again, but most adults really do know this.

That we are different speaks to women’s obviously greater role in childbearing and the attentions that babies need from them. It also speaks to the very qualities (nurturing, communication, intuition — which parent wakes before the baby cries?) that many career-bound women seem unwilling to acknowledge.

The reasoning isn’t complicated, but it is both sad and perhaps self-defeating. Women assume, probably correctly, that admitting to instincts and maternal pulls would suggest that they’re less committed than men to their professions — a First World problem, we remind ourselves — thereby risking hard-won advances in the workplace.

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