Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Childcare Arrangements Are Not Relevant to Her Skills

By Rachel Malehorn – Direct link, smugmug.com, CC BY 3.0,

WARNING: This post has nothing to do with politics. Any comments about the political side and whether Judge Barrett is qualified or unqualified to be a Supreme Court Justice will be deleted. I do not care what your political beliefs are. This is about women being judged on something other than knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Supreme Court Nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, has seven children–the oldest is 16 and the youngest is five. Everyone is, presumably, out of diapers and in school. And while most women don’t have seven children, most women do have children (or will have at some point). And just what type of mother she is or if she sends them to daycare or has a nanny is completely irrelevant to her ability to do her job.

So, when I saw these tweets, I went apoplectic.

It absolutely is not worth asking. We NEVER ask these questions of job candidates. And I can’t imagine that this type of question has ever been asked of a male Supreme Court nominee. Chief Justice Roberts had toddlers when he was nominated. Former Justice Antonin Scalia (for whom Coney Barrett clerked) had nine children. I couldn’t find the ages of his children, but here’s a picture from 1986, when he was sworn into the court.

Time Magazine

Clearly, there are some young kids there. And while I don’t remember anything about his senate hearings (I was 13), I’m pretty sure no one advocated asking about his child care arrangements.

This is 2020. We should not ask any female candidate for any job about her child care arrangements. We should not ask any female candidate if she has children. I’d point out that we shouldn’t ask this of male candidates, but we don’t already.

We should ask women the same questions as we ask men. These questions should determine if the candidate can do the job. As long as the children don’t show up at the office, it’s all good.

These questions are sexist and inappropriate, period. If you don’t like Judge Barrett, they are inappropriate. If you love Judge Barrett, they are inappropriate.

We need to eliminate this line of questioning from every job interview, and that’s what a Supreme Court Nominee hearing is–a job interview.

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28 thoughts on “Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Childcare Arrangements Are Not Relevant to Her Skills

  1. This is just one more reason why people should totally ignore the divisive comments posted on social media. Unless there’s some reason to believe that a nominee has failed to pay Social Security taxes on their nanny’s wages — which, actually, derailed at least one prior potential Supreme Court nomination — the person’s childcare arrangements are nobody’s business.

    Edited because you went political. Love you!

    1. Well, perhaps it’s true that everything can be considered political after all, even when not partisan. I was just pointing out that — in light of her known position regarding an issue that will come before the Court — Judge Barrett cannot object to questions regarding her childcare arrangements on the basis that they are an invasion of privacy.

  2. Totally agree. I’m certain that like any other woman with resources she has her child care well in hand. She has someone to watch the kids and make sure they are safe, cared for and raised to her standards. Whatever issue I may have with her, her ability to care for her kids is not one of them

  3. As I said on the FB page, yeah, this should be off-limits so long as there’s no legal or ethical questions involved. Same with a nominees religious views. Though I’ll add here that if there’s a significant split between someone’s public pronouncements/rulings and how they live their own life – and I”m NOT saying that’s the case here – that’s reasonable to question.

    1. While I understand the sentiment, I’m not sure I agree with it. After all, this person isn’t being nominated to uphold a lifestyle; they’re being nominated to uphold specific interpretations of laws. While I would certainly be uncomfortable with someone who professed to interpret the law one way, but to live another, I can see an argument that so long as the interpretation is what those who nominate her want it to be, lifestyle doesn’t matter.

      This isn’t a new argument. In the late Roman Empire the Church had this exact debate: does a priest need to be a good person for the sacraments to be effective? They went with no–the office, not the person, is the important thing. I am not a Christian, and am not advocating their stance on anything; I’m merely pointing out a historical argument that parallels this one.

      1. It’s not about upholding a lifestyle at all, it’s a matter of hypocrisy and ethics. Certainly none of us is perfectly consistent, but at some point if there’s a significant gap between what you are prescribing as the law, or requiring of others, and your own conduct, that at least should be open to question.

        1. Why? What I mean is, why is the person’s private life an issue if they do the job they are hired to do? I’m in environmental compliance/mitigation, and no one has ever asked me if I recycle, re-use gray water, bike to work, or the like. My personal life doesn’t matter–so long as I do the job I was hired to do, no one cares. I’ve known plenty of doctors who smoked, safety managers that did stupid things at home (they make for GREAT tailgate topics!), engineers with dilapidated sheds, etc. And we all accept this sort of behavior. When was the last time you asked your doctor about his or her diet? My guess is never; it would never occur to most people to do so.

          What is it about this job that makes one’s personal life subject to inquiry that would be considered overly invasive (if not downright illegal) in other fields? Why, in other words, should we be allowed to care here, when we wouldn’t be allowed to care elsewhere?

          1. Because they’re ruling/legislating (in the case of elected officials) on how other people get to live their lives.

            1. I still don’t see how that answers your question. Doctors do exactly the same thing, yet we don’t generally delve into their private lives to determine if they are sufficiently consistent to issue orders (which in some cases do have the weight of law).

              To put it formally: There’s an assumption in your argument that bridges the gap between your reasoning and your conclusion that I’m not seeing. I don’t mean this to be offensive; assumptions are part of argument. I’m just saying, re-stating your position isn’t going to fill that gap. I’m asking what your assumption is.

  4. Great points. Thank you.

    “These questions are sexist and inappropriate, period. If you don’t like Judge Barrett, they are inappropriate. If you love Judge Barrett, they are inappropriate.” Well said!

  5. Thank you for bringing up the main continuing problem facing all women who are working. Childcare has absolutely nothing to do with work performance on the job. It is still assumed even today that the woman is the primary caretaker and has to be physically present to do this or society labels her a bad mother. I have always felt that all working mothers should be entitled to help to perform those duties of running a household, especially if they are actively involved outside the home. No one assumes that a man needs to put childcare as a priority over his work. He is assumed to and not downgraded or shamed, have the right to have help to run his household, merely because it is been assumed that the man is the only breadwinner and can’t be expecting to have to change their work schedule for childcare. This is main problem facing women, the assumption. As long as you have this assumption, we will always have naysayers towards women in all fields of work.

  6. I completely agree with your comments. I would add that her children should not be displayed as a reason to confirm her either. So far, it is she or her sponsors who are introducing her children as proof of her moral character. We heard little about John Roberts or Anton Scalia’s children until after the confirmation hearings. We need to enforce these comments on the whole picture.

  7. It really shouldn’t be shocking that random people on Twitter are ignorant of basic human resources questions. But it’ll be very interesting to see if US Senators, who ought to know better, are better informed.

    1. Please. Plenty of corporate executives are ignorant about basic HR issues. Why should random people – and reporters – on twitter be any better (this is me rolling my eyes. a lot.)

  8. This whole argument is absurd. I cannot believe any woman in the 21st century even thinks it is slightly appropriate to question if a woman can do a job based on whether or not her children are taken care of. I only had 2 children, but I worked full time, went to school full time, and still managed to go to soccer games, school plays, and teacher conferences. My children went to a private daycare in the home of a trusted friend. Guess what, they survived me being a working mother. I still work full time and I still have time to see my grandchildren and have family dinners once a week. I have never been asked if my children or their childcare will interfere with my ability to do my job. And it never has. And I am also the breadwinner in my house. I make a significant amount more than my husband, and he is not offended by that.

    1. The problem is that this lady tries to pose as a devout Catholic while hiring nannies to raise her kids while she and her husband work all day. If she were indeed a devout Catholic, she would have quit her job a long time ago and put her children first.

  9. I think it is worth noting that her husband’s aunt has lived with them since her oldest daughter was very young. Her husband helps significantly. Her previous employer (Notre Dame) was supportive of working mothers. Any time someone makes it to her position (male or female) it is important to note that many people have helped and supported and contributed to the success. Amy Coney Barrett gives appropriate recognition to her husband, fearless babysitters, family. It’s a beautiful story IMO.

    1. Why is it a “beautiful story” for this lady to hire nannies while she and her husband work all day? If she is indeed a devout Catholic, why didn’t she quit her job and be a mother to her children? What greater calling is there for a woman? She could be a role model for Catholic women around the world if she quit her job and put her children first.

  10. Wait. SEVEN children! I have two and have been the mediator of so many sibling squabbles it exhausts me. Seven kids in my opinion makes her more qualified than ever.

    Seriously though. Questioning this has no merit and is absurd.

  11. I would like to say that it’s not about the mothering of her children but the way media exploits that she’s a super mom. Bottom line up front (BLUF) she has a nanny. Just like if you had a 4500 sf home, full time job and seven kids; would you clean it yourself or get a house keeper…duh!

    I’m not questioning her skills, knowledge,& abilities to do the job; I’m just saying let’s keep the parenting challenges clear. Parenting is no joke no matter how many kids you have. A house wife go through a lot of stress with the father working, this situation both are working and it seems like they don’t need help juggling their careers…..BS

  12. I can’t believe I’m reading some of these comments from WOMEN. As noted above this is not about political parties. Every single woman in the country should be outraged that Judge Barrett would be asked about her childcare arrangement. Can you imagine a male candidate EVER being asked that question or asked to justify how he will care for his family as a loving father if he assumes the role??? It’s absurd. Would never happen.

    I do Executive Search placing CEOs in the nonprofit sector. If I or any member of one of our search committees posed that question to a candidate, we would be opening ourselves up to a lawsuit. Senators should be held to no lesser standard.

    1. The problem here is that Judge Amy is trying to pose as some kind of devout Catholic. If she is indeed a devout Catholic, she should quit her job and be a mother to her children. It is the hypocrisy that bothers people here.

  13. If Judge Amy is indeed a devout Catholic, then why doesn’t she quit her job and be a mother to her children? She could be a role model for Catholic women around the world! Fire that nanny and be a mother to your children, Judge Amy.

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