#1 “Americans will forgive a lot in a politician. But a woman who leaves her kids is...
01-25-2014, 01:44 AM
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“Americans will forgive a lot in a politician. But a woman who leaves her kids is just beyond the pale.”
Wendy Davis has no future in politics
By Naomi Schaefer Riley
January 24, 2014 | 12:41am
Want to know why Wendy Davis will have trouble winning higher office in Texas or anywhere else in America? It’s not because she stretched the truth in her “from mobile-home-living single mom to Harvard Law grad” campaign biography, nor because her husband paid for her education, nor even because she placed a lot of value on her career.
Nope: It’s because Davis, the Lone Star State senator who became famous for her filibuster of an abortion-limiting bill in Texas, lost custody of her children to her ex-husband.
This revelation about Davis’ past, which came to light thanks to reporting by Wayne Slater at The Dallas Morning News, is nothing less than shocking to most women, regardless of their political affiliation.
According to Slater’s account, Davis decided to leave her children, then ages 8 and 2, with their father in Fort Worth while she went off to Harvard Law School. Who could resist the siren call of the Ivy League? Well, I suspect that most women and plenty of men would, if it meant moving across the country from their kids for three years.
But before we get to that, note two things. First of all, that 8-year-old was not her husband’s biological child. I don’t mean to cast any aspersions on Jeff Davis’ commitment to his daughters; in fact, he looks like the knight in shining armor of this story.
He not only took on raising his own daughter alone, but also another girl, who’d been abandoned first by her father and then her mother.
Second: After Jeff finished paying off the last of Wendy’s school loans, she filed for divorce and gave up custody of her children. According to Jeff, his wife just decided, “While I’ve been a good mother, it’s not a good time for me right now.”
That line sounds like it was lifted from MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” but even the girls on that show are probably not self-absorbed or immature enough to utter it. I hope Jeff Davis made it up, but somehow I doubt it.
There are single mothers all over the country in dire straits who can’t afford to have such a thought. And even if someone offered them the chance to get away from it all and start over without a child, few of them would say yes.
Sure, there are women who pursue high-powered careers and need to spend time away from their children. Take Florida Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz, who (according to a recent New York Times blog) manages to do plenty with her 9-year-old and 13-year-old twins over the course of a weekend at home. She played basketball with her son, read with her daughter, shuttled one to ballet, took another to the bookstore and out to lunch.
Still, when her son complains about her work schedule, she says, “My heart hurts.” Can you imagine Wasserman Schultz saying “it’s not a good time” for her to be a mother?
Anne Marie Slaughter decided to take a job in Washington even while her family was still in New Jersey. But she was home every week and her kids were teens when she began — and it still bothered her enough that she quit and wrote an Atlantic cover story about it, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”
The working moms I know sometimes discuss which is harder — leaving an older child or a younger one. The older ones are awfully good at the guilt trips when you come home, but also they’re old enough to know that you are coming back. They can talk on the phone and Skype. But when a 2-year-old’s mother leaves for some significant amount of time, her life is up-ended.
A few years ago, one of my guy friends was dating a woman who didn’t have custody of her child. Every one of this man’s female friends told him to run. The fact that she would either willingly give up custody or that a judge would deem her unworthy of even joint custody raised alarm bells.
Feel free to call it sexism, if you want. But it’s a double standard that I don’t expect will change any time soon.
Americans will forgive a lot in a politician. But a woman who leaves her kids is just beyond the pale.
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