In a twist on Freud's classic query, politicians are asking: What do Soccer Moms want?
Two years ago, candidates hunted the Angry White Male. This year their prey is the woman who plays chauffeur, cheerleader, motivational speaker and granola-bar toter to her brood of ball-kicking, goal-tending, grass-stained tots. She is the glue that binds the network of extracurricular sporting activities that since the dawn of Little League has propelled America's youth into adolescence.Aside from those common bonds, she belongs to a group as diverse as any. All SocMoms do not think alike, and there is something irksome in the presumption that this is a homogeneous vote, as women once again are defined not by their ideas but by their function: Stepford mothers handing out juice boxes.
Cindy McPeters is a Soccer Mom, though she's at a loss as to why her vote is being courted. Her life does not revolve around politics. As the phone rings and the doorbell chimes and her youngest emerges from a bath, McPeters plops down at her kitchen table and sighs. "It's one of those days," she says with a laugh. "I'm out of breath and I'm tired. I don't know how working moms do it."
McPeters, 42, married at 18 and helped her husband start his own business. They're comfortable now, parents of five children ages 5 to 21. "My kids are my life," she says.
Seven-year-old Joel is the soccer star. With three young children, McPeters is also a T-ball mom, a basketball mom, a karate mom and a dance mom. She lives life behind the steering wheel. Politics? "I don't have time!" she says.
Her opinions are not as black and white as politicians might like. Educated in Catholic schools, she sees no problem with school prayer, but she's pro-choice on abortion. Her husband has a gun collection, but she favors gun control and bans on assault weapons. Immigration? "We have enough poor people already who need help." Equal rights for women? "I think things are pretty equal."
She thinks health insurance rates are too high - especially for small-business owners. When son Joel broke his leg on the playground, medical fees totaled just under $1,000 - the family's deductible. Their premiums run $500 a month.
What scares her most about America is the crime rate, which she blames in part on single-parent families that don't supervise their children. Too many couples, she believes, bail out of marriage too soon. She and her husband have had rocky times over 23 years but stayed together, once reuniting the day before their divorce would have been final. "It was always worth working at," she says.
McPeters is also concerned for her children's future, worried that they won't fare as well, even with college educations, as she and her husband. "We've been lucky," she says.
Neither presidential candidate has yet won Cindy McPeters' heart. She voted for Clinton in 1992 but hasn't decided whom she'll choose this time. Her epiphany will come in the voting booth.
Soccer Mom Jennifer Rhodes has made up her mind. It's Clinton. "I always vote Democratic," she says.
Rhodes, 47, a psychologist with a part-time practice, is a double SocMom - both her children are on teams. "I love soccer," she says. She also loves politics, boning up through the newspaper and discussions with friends and her husband, owner of a skills-training business.
She is pro-choice on abortion though admits it would be hard to have one herself now. She believes women have not achieved equality with men, though she thinks part of the responsibility falls to women. Immigration? "We're in a global community, and we need to help each other as a world community."
She believes too many Americans fail to take responsibility for their actions, "and society reinforces it" with lawsuits that vindicate bad behavior.
Rhodes is optimistic about the country's future and that of her children, who are better off than she was at their age. Hers was a dysfunctional family touched by alcoholism. But Rhodes, too, is concerned about crime rates, which she believes are fueled by violence in movies and on television.
What do Soccer Moms want? Safe streets, a promising future for their kids, a compassionate but responsible country - what all moms want, what all women want, what everybody wants.
They also want what no politician can give them. Time.
"A 30-hour day would be nice," Rhodes says. "But then we'd just find more things to fill it with."