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Tough decisions ahead

April 10, 2008 - LLee Janssen

I've waited all of my life to vote for a woman for president. But now that I have that opportunity, I'm not sure how I will vote in the April 22 primary election.

A true independent, I switched my political party registration to become a Democrat for the primary, even though a big part of me is sad that I can't also weigh in on the GOP side for other just as important races: Congress, state House and state Senate. Still, it seemed even more important to cast a ballot for the Democratic nomination for president, with Hillary Clinton on the ballot.

The problem is, I can't just cast a vote based on gender. My vote, instead, will hinge on which candidate would support a government that recognizes the diverse needs of people from all walks of life.

I am a single parent whose children are grown but frequently return to the nest. I'd like that nest to be here for Christopher to have a landing space, however temporary, when he returns from Qatar. I'd like that nest to be here for Dana to catch up on his sleep following long periods on the road as a touring musician. I'd like to hang onto my family homestead, where memories have been built and a sanctuary awaits, along with my puppycat Maxie, at the end of long days at the office.

For many years, I hated that term, single parent. I chose to view myself instead as a present parent, one who is there and present for the young ones. Often, I would go to school board meetings as a reporter for the Sun-Gazette back in the 1980s, only to hear blame for the problems of our society placed on the backs of "single parents." I would ask, what about absent parents? How do those who run out on their wives when they have toddlers in tow get to be released from society's dim view? How did I end up raising children alone? I trusted my partner to be committed to a lifetime of marriage; my father trusted him to be a playboy. I sometimes wish I had my father's vision, as he also said to keep the state government job I got at age 18 as I would be set for life. I didn't heed his words, but I have no regrets, only wisdom earned through mistakes of my own making.

A lifetime of marriage, apparently, wasn't in the plan for all involved, despite my  Catholic upbringing. But I managed, through the grace of God who lifted me up when the road got rocky. I didn't question it, I just took it one day at a time.

I'm taking it one day at a time a lot these days. We all know how much the economy stinks right about now, what with the energy crisis driving costs skyward at every turn and sucking up any extra cash. I've gone from successfully raising my kids and buying my own home to survival mode and wonder how I'm going to hang on. I know I'm not alone; I know I am in good company here in rural Pennsylvania.

Our society has gone from a mother at home and a father at work to the need for both parents to work. Yet the divorce rate remains high, and ultimately more and more children end up in homes with one parent, who must work twice as hard to take care of everyone.

The musician in my household is like many other young people who are socially aware these days in that he favors Barrack Obama. And I must admit that I've gone back and forth between him and Hillary. But the one thing that right now is separating the two, in my mind, is their backgrounds. Yes, Hillary is a mother, and she has Pennsylvania connections. But what does she know of the struggle to survive as a single parent? Or to devote her younger years to raising children, only to wake up at middle age and find herself alone, still yearning to keep the home for when the young ones return. Obama comes from a home much like the one in which my sons were raised, one with a present mother. It would make sense that he could understand the plight of myself and hundreds of thousands of others who struggle to provide a home as a solo but present parent, and whose American dream is threatened by this economic crisis.

Big oil doesn't care about the little folks. After all, big oil sends 40 percent of its profits to the government, and the government isn't about to do anything that would cause it to lose that huge chunk of revenue. Not long ago, I added up all of the taxes I pay, from state and federal income taxes to property levies, and found that 35 percent of my income goes out the door in taxes. Sales tax isn't included in that 35 percent, so it must be higher.

I'm not closing the door on Hillary or saying that I'll cast a ballot for Obama, not yet. There's still 12 days to go before the decision is final. But right now, it seems that the product of a single mother might know a bit more about the struggle to do right by the offspring a person brings into this world than somebody who has never had to walk in those shoes.


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