Meredith O'Brien Says Candidate's Wives Can't Win.

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“With all due respect, what you would choose to do is relevant only once: when you choose how to spend your remaining days. I made my choice; because of our lives it was a public choice, but the choice doesn’t belong to the public, it belongs to me. And with all due respect, you have no idea what the quality or amount of the time I spend with my children is . . . You don’t get to say I am a terrible mother because you think you wouldn’t make my choice in my situation.”

Michelle Obama – attorney, mother and outspoken spouse of another presidential candidate who ranks second in many polls for the Democratic nomination – was the subject of similar condemnation earlier this year when she announced that she was going to scale back her work in order to help her husband Barack campaign. However the attacks on Michelle Obama weren’t over her maternal judgment, they were over her level of commitment to feminism and whether jettisoning her full-time career to become a “professional wife and hostess,” as one critic said, was a retro, 1950s-ish move that will set back the cause of professional women.

 

Given the recent attacks on Edwards, I have to stand by the point I made in a column in June: No matter what a presidential candidate’s spouse does in the area of work and family life (let’s leave Hillary Clinton’s husband out of this argument for now), she’s going to get slammed.

 

No matter what.

 

The article that started this recent round of criticism was, ironically, headlined, “In 2008 Race, Little Ones Go With Daddy.” [Emphasis added.] While it mentioned other candidates’ families, it pit the Edwards and Obama families against one another when it came to how they handle having their young children on the campaign trail. “Emma Claire and Jack Edwards, 9 and 7, were on their umpteenth campaign trip earlier this month, this time through small towns where their father was decrying rural poverty and the power of lobbyists,” the piece began. “The two children barely listened. They scampered away as fast as their parents would allow, to vending machines and arcade games and swimming expeditions . . . and they treated an interviewer the way politicians surely wish they could at times, refusing at first to remove their iPod earphones for a discussion of life on the trail.”

 

Later in the article – which said “all of the candidates use their children to charm voters” -- the Obama children, ages 9 and 6, were described as being kept from their dad (who they see “one day a week most of the time, twice if they are lucky”) and being hauled around on seven campaign trips during the summer, but the article noted that the girls will go back to Chicago to settle into the school year. “Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama represent the poles of the debate,” the article asserted, “Mr. Edwards has upended his children’s lives for the campaign while Mr. Obama is determined to keep his daughters rooted at home with their routines in tact – while the others fall somewhere in between.”

 

SadiesMom
10.10.07

There have been so many different kinds of First Ladies, and I'm sure Michelle Obama would be more than just a hostess. As for Elizabeth Edwards, she can make her choices just as anyone else can. Like Scarlett said, 2017 is a long ways away. I'm amazed Dick Cheney is alive after all of his heart attacks. Did that keep him from being a Vice-President?

mommydiva79
09.13.07

Of all of the candidate's spouses, I appluad Michelle Obama. Who says a professional mother & wife can't practice her profession in another light? Helping her husband's candidacy is not only beneficial to the family, but also falls right in line with her legal career path. I think this is a great way to diversify her own presumably lengthy resume and be that "doting wife and mother" role at the same time.

scarlett
09.11.07

2017 seems a long time away. Anyone in anyone's family, including one in the White House, could die...even well before then. For that matter, one of the other candidates could be run over by an SUV driven by their security detail even before the election takes place, or have a heart attack, or ...whatever. We have to vote for the candidate we think will do the best job and leave the rest to chance, which will rule regardless.

Young Widow
09.10.07

My concern isn't about childcare and education. I hate this, but I can't imagine that Elizabeth Edwards will be alive in January, 2017. When she dies, I expect a reasonable amount of chaos in their household. Which will be a private grief unless their household is the White House. I like John Edwards, but...