After stumbling downstairs with exhausted eyes my shower hadn’t cleared and putting in as much work as possible before my four kids tumbled upon me, hustling them through the morning — which included socking and shoeing four pairs of feet, a diaper change, and coating and gloving three people — and dropping them off with a lovely friend who had offered a parent-free playdate between my toddlers and her teens, I zoomed off to do grocery shopping and a few other errands so I wouldn’t have to do it late at night after putting in some more work once the kids got to bed.
As a working mom does in a frantic effort to keep down the volume waiting for once she hits the desk again, I checked email between errands. It included a link to the latest from Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. She’s not sure if she’ll take a full-time White House job, The Week reports: “‘My children are 12, 12, 8, and 7, which is bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea for mom going inside [the White House].’ Her kids ‘have to come first, and those are very fraught ages,’ Conway said, but turning down a White House job ‘would be my personal choice and not a demand on me.'”
ABC News further reported: “Conway said that while there are opportunities for working mothers in the nation’s capital, ‘we still have to make choices, and there are limits.’…Despite Conway’s personal concerns about juggling motherhood and a formal White House role, she dismissed any notions that Trump does not support mothers in the White House. ‘Mothers and married women and unmarried women — they’re all welcome in the Trump White House, and he’s made that very clear to me.'”
— ABC News Radio (@ABCNewsRadio) December 8, 2016
Wow, good for her, I thought. She’s so totally right. I myself have turned down several requests to consider moving back to DC to work in the shiny orange administrative state, and in large part for the same four little reasons Kellyanne has (albeit with different faces). Way to love those kids, Kellyanne! After all, polls consistently show that between two-thirds and three-quarters of mothers don’t want to work full-time. In fact, more than half of moms who do work wish they didn’t have to.
We ladies know what’s up. It’s really, really hard to work and care for kids, especially when they’re little. Plus, we happen to like the little buggers most of the time. We want to be there for their formative years, not constantly telling that sweet baby face, “Go away. Mommy’s working.” Nobody thinks anything of it if mom chooses to work, but nobody except the very obtuse can’t figure why she wouldn’t. Like Conway says, “there are limits.” This is one of the most basic of life’s realities people need to learn early.
So you do you, moms! Decide what you want given your individual circumstances, and make it happen. You’ll learn fast that you can’t do everything, so you’ll have to prioritize and choose. This is called “tradeoffs.” Life has many. What lucky ladies we modern American women are that we have so many choices we have to say no to so many good ones!
Besides, working for the president is not just a full-time job; like mothering, it’s an all-time job. Pretty hard to do both of those well at once without hating your life. As Conway tells (still quoting The Week) male colleagues wondering why she’s not gunning for a full-time White House job:
Conway said that when she helps interview potential Cabinet appointees, ‘I do politely mention to them the question isn’t ‘would you take the job,’ the male sitting across from me who’s going to take a big job in the White House. The question is would you want your wife to?’ she said. ‘Would you want the mother of children to? You really see their entire visage change. It’s like, oh no, they wouldn’t want their wife to take that job. But it’s, it’s all good.’
Well, that might be what a middle-America mom like me thinks of Conway’s totally sensible and totally mainstream thoughts on this issue, but Slate predictably jumped down her throat for daring to voice a typical mother’s thoughts about how professional work can or cannot fit into raising children. “Kellyanne Conway Suggests That Women With Kids Shouldn’t Take Jobs in the White House,” their headline read.
2 women I know who attended this event say this headline/piece are ridiculous and false and say it totally twists what Conway said. fwiw https://t.co/XwszKdabRG
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) December 8, 2016
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) December 8, 2016
I know, it’s Slate. You should expect that from them. But it’s not just Slate. “Kellyanne Conway Suggests Mothers Shouldn’t Take Jobs in the White House,” tooted New York magazine. “Kellyanne Conway muses that the White House is no place for working moms,” misconstrued Mic.com. A pack of howling lefty writers and outlets took to the Twitter streets, like they do, to bash Conway’s rather amazing willingness to prioritize her four kids above seeking further glory and influence.
Well this is upsetting: Kellyanne Conway told Politico that mothers should not take White House jobs. https://t.co/mszmlfNKHc
— Kate Bahn (@LipstickEcon) December 8, 2016
Trump’s administration has virtually no working mothers. https://t.co/jeIbBzcb0O
— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) December 8, 2016
— Claire Landsbaum (@landsbaumshell) December 8, 2016
Now, a typical response article like this would usually go on to talk about how all these overreacting people are either stupid, insane, or perhaps deliberate liars. Conway’s remarks in full are nothing at all shocking. This incident is merely a kick-ass career lady opening up about what’s inside her head on a topic of great personal interest to millions of American families. When Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and the Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington do this, the media hosts a veritable round of debutante parties for them.
But I don’t want to talk about that, because I’m sick of the outrage machine getting fuel. I want to talk about Conway’s points, which are important, and which American women need to hear. When we’re only fed feminist ideology that demands we cut and paste some miniscule percentage of elite women’s priorities over our own desires and often our family’s needs, our children suffer. How do I know? I work and I have children. I have female friends who work and have children. We talk about this honestly, based on our own experience. And our words sound a lot more like Kellyanne Conway’s than they do her detractors on this.
Ladies, if you want kids — and nine in ten millennial women do — you should be strategic about a career, like centuries of women have before you. Having children does not make you a breeder or any other word a small cabal of bitter people have used to shame this good and natural desire. Creating life makes you beautiful. Part of that beauty is in the sacrifice you and your husband (and hopefully the community surrounding you) will have to make to raise those lovely beings into their own maturity.
Since you’re the only one who is optimally designed to carry and physically and emotionally nurture that preborn and young child, you’re going to have to make some choices about how to create the space for that long, laborious, and creative process. This includes thinking about how to cycle and flex and negotiate your career. Develop a strategy, because you’re going to need it. Talk to other ladies and learn how they negotiate with their bosses after birth and to accommodate family changes. Choose a career that offers a family-friendly schedule, like anything that can be contracted (legal, editorial) or anything that routinely offers part-time options (education, health care).
Here are a few more excerpts from Kellyanne’s recent thoughts that offer some insights about how to manage this part of your life. If this whets your appetite, I recommend this book for a more detailed discussion. It’s a good way to get all the competing ideas you probably haven’t heard that transcend the facile and false “women can have it all, all at once.” The truth is that it’s very difficult to work full-time while mothering, especially small children, and many women find the personal and financial rewards too small to justify the massive frustration. So, some strategies to help navigate this rocky terrain, courtesy of Kellyanne Conway.
Push For Technological Solutions
Many, many companies have yet to enter the Information Age with the options they offer employees. This is particularly disadvantageous to women, who have more biological reasons to need this flexibility. If companies want more female employees, like they’re always telling us, they should put their office structures where their PR is, rather than trying to bend women’s lives to fit their man-driven 8-5-in-the-central-office model. Push them into it. Conway:
Conway said a friend made a suggestion about splitting her time between home and the White House.
‘He’s going to want to see me on the morning shows and then go into the [Oval Office], and then by 2:00, I’ve put in a full day, but it’s not a full day, because it’s the White House. But maybe I could go home and see the kids and help them with homework and then go back,’ said Conway.
‘Maybe I could help America’s women in terms of feeling less guilty about balancing life and career and perhaps Skyping or Facetiming and showing how that’s done. I mean there’s something to that. So we’ll figure all that out.’
Talk to Your Boss About What You Want
As part of the event where Conway made her remarks, Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett had some insights, also: “First of all, because the experience inside the White House, working with somebody who you respect and know as well as she does the president-elect is unique, and I’ve had the benefit of that and I wouldn’t have traded the last years for anything,” Jarrett said. “I think tone starts at the top and if you have a relationship with your boss such that you can say, ‘look, this is a top priority. There’s nothing more important for me than being a good mom, but I think I can be a good mom and have the flexibility enough to do this job well.’”
Realize That Your Children Really Do Need You
Most women instinctively know this truth, but we are ideologically pressured to ignore our children’s silence, their lack-of-attention tantrums, their overscheduledness and material indulgence as substitutes for a well-developed family relationship ecosystem. Men are not as nurturing and sensitive as we are, so they will not often realize this until you bring it up, as Conway notes in the quote below.
Also, political correctness has deeply infected the social sciences and suppressed the findings from research that show that a lack of a close bond with their mother, especially as it becomes a social norm, can have strong and lifelong negative effects on children. So bypass the ideology and listen to your intuition. Don’t let the men and the feminists tell you that you don’t really want what you do really want. Think carefully about what is right for you and your family, do it, and don’t listen to the naysayers.
when discussing what role she could play after the election, senior campaign officials would begin the discussion, ‘I know you have four kids, but….’ [Conway] told the audience. ‘I said there’s nothing that comes after the ‘but’ that makes any sense to me, so don’t even try. Like what is the ‘but’?’ she asked. ‘But they’ll eat Cheerios for the rest of the day? Nobody will brush their teeth again until I get home?’