As the election season heats up we'll be seeing more and more candidates out there stumping for your vote. When candidates are out and about it gives us a chance to see them as "regular" people. At least that's the image they hope to portray. This is where we see the cliche baby smooches and grandma pecks on the cheek as the candidates establish their own brands. We'll see candidates at various local diners and fire houses high-fiving all the townspeople and wiggidy wacks. Soon the candidates will step out from the shield of a podium and show their true selves (or as much of their true selves as their handlers want us to see). This is where it starts to get good. It's at this point of the circus campaign we see the candidates' families come out to play.
The spouses stand by proudly wearing their crisp suits and earnest smiles. Their manicured hands wave as they beam for the crowd. They're careful to look polished without looking ostentatious and leave the jewels and Cartier watches at home. And peeking from behind Mom's skirt we see a scared yet curious face. This is when Dad scoops up the child and holds him as a trophy for the crowd to cheer maniacally as if he were really a scout leader kind of dad like them. The same holds true in the case of a woman running for office. She has the added challenge of looking like equal parts professional career woman, soccer mom, devoted wife, and hard ass negotiator. And she has to pull this off in a prim skirt and heels. Every time I see this familial scenario unfold on the campaign trail it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable and I just want to read those little kids a bed time story and tuck them in.
Sarah Palin did it best, parading her children around all the events and rallies. I watched the media frenzy around them and thought of my owns sons' privacy and safety and noted how the Palin children often looked bored or sad or bewildered. I bet it was hard work sitting still, smiling on command, wearing uncomfortable collared shirts and stiff shoes, and behaving more like a China doll than a kid all the time.
I simply cannot fathom taking my sons, ages 8 and 6, on the grueling campaign trail. I would not have time for them like they are used to, and my swinging moods would surely put them on edge. There is no room for family dinners on the campaign trail. Handlers, reporters, and volunteers run amok, and everything seems to be very urgent. The public places excruciating demands on you. There are people at the ready to bash you and trash you. You are spent, exhausted, no longer owning your own self, much like the early days of babydom and motherhood. This is not how I would want my sons to live.
I would want to shield them from politics' ugly side and let them live as normally as possible in their own routines. I would make time to go home regularly and be there one hundred percent rather than be present but not truly available. I also have no desire for my sons to serve as my trophies. They are children and should not feel that sort of pressure. The campaign trail is no place for kids. Besides, all those events run late, and I'm a stickler for their 7:30 bed time.
This post is part of a weekly conversation with our 5 Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. Read the original question and find links to all their responses here: Candidates' Kids on the Campaign Trail: Good Idea or Bad?
Image via Carol Highsmith