Last Sunday the New York Times ran an article on the changing face of this year's presidential campaign trail. Namely, the increase in the choices the candidates and their families have had to make in regards to negotiating the logistics of campaign life and family life. These campaign circumstances have no recent precedent. It states that "no fewer than five presidential contenders have children under the age of 10." The main focus of this article features the Edwards family who have made the decision to bring their youngest children--Emma Claire and Jack Edwards, 9 and 7-- on the road with them. This has brought Mrs. Edwards' mothering decisions under fire. One thing that really needs to be remembered in this scenario is that Elizabeth Edwards is not just a mother to young children. She is a mother with cancer. Terminal cancer. A mother who wants to spend as much time with her children as possible. You simply cannot take that out of the equation and still get the full picture here.
Of course, on the day that the reporter was there, the children were not in the mood for "campaigning" or dealing with reporters.
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.
What parent does not want their children on their best behavior when a reporter-- a New York Times reporter-- is present? My guess is most of us want the best in our children to shine through when a person recording your every movement and word is watching, listening and recording. However, Jack, a child of only 7 did not want to play the "perfect son" to the reporter on this particular day. Who could blame him? He is a child! But that was not taken into account. What was brought to the front was criticism of Ms. Edwards and the choice to bring these children on the road with them as they campaign.
The boy sat for a few more minutes, fidgety but obedient, before being freed and happily bounding with his sister to the fort they were building in the back of the bus.
To me, that shows a normal boy. Any normal boy. It could have been my son at that age. It could have been your son at that age.
However, Rebecca Eisenberg of Silicon Vally Moms Blog saw it quite differently. She quite frankly states that she does not like Elizabeth Edwards and is not afraid to say so.
Elizabeth, I DON'T LIKE the choices you have made!
Take your kids home. Get off the campaign trail. Your husband is not going to be the candidate, and he is not going to be president. He is not ahead in the polls. He is not going to make it. We need a Democratic in office desperately, and you are harming that chance by going around saying negative things about the TOP candidates and splitting the vote. Worst of all, you are forcing your young children, who should be in school to ride in buses and talk to the press when they obviously don't want to. This election is NOT ABOUT THEM. They deserve some peace, not time with nannies and campaign-trail daycare providers, since, as the Times article describes, you don't have time to see them when you are busy campaigning too.
Very harsh words. As it tends to do when when there are essays with such intense feelings, it brought out many commenters. Not all of them voices of dissent. White Trash Mom stood behind Rebecca's words.
Today I got even more confirmation that Rebecca is great. She wrote a pretty opinionated blog post about John Edwards, presidential candidate and future hair club for men patron. Rebecca gave her opinion on a New York Times story about the Edwards family...and the shit hit the fan.
Commenter jen states: "I couldn't agree more. I like John Edwards and don't really care how he made his money, but I think they are crazy. Go home, build up your resume, and you'll have lots of time to run for president when your kids are in college and hopefully your wife is still alive. If I had 10 more years to live I wouldn't spend it on the campaign trail."
However, for the most part, the entire post rubbed people-- women and moms in particular-- the wrong way. One of which was Mrs. Edwards herself. Not a woman or mom to sit back and let anyone disparage her parenting, she responded personally to Ms. Eisenberg's essay. Her entire comment is located here, but this is the part that made me so proud that she stood up for herself.
I want to be entirely clear. You don't get to say I am a terrible mother because you think you wouldn't make my choices in my situation. You don't get to say that my children don't want to be with us when you don't know them and when, parenthetically, you know that happy children can be periodically disagreeable. You don't get to judge me because you think you know exactly what you would do if you had my disease. I want to be really clear: you don't know. And if the sun always shines on you -- and I pray it does -- you will never know.
One mom in particular, Chris of Notes from the Trenches, took the entire issue to task. Completely furious with the Mommy Wars and any mom attacking the choices of another mom, Chris let loose with her opinions on the entire issue.
The Mommy War makes my blood boil. The insinuating that she is doing her children, and the COUNTRY!, a disservice is maddening. Don’t people take their children out of school for year long cross country trips or around the world trips all the time? How much will these children see while they are traveling? How precious will this year be, whether their father wins or not, when their mother is gone?
And that is what really bothers me the most. The implication that she would be a better mother somehow by waiting patiently at home, baking cookies, wearing her apron and waiting to die. And she should do this for YEARS. Push down her own will and desires so her children could have proper memories of her. As if there is some good parent manual of how to die and leave your children behind.
Personally, I know that when my own mother was dying she wanted her children with her. And we are grown with our own children. How can anyone deny this mother her chance to be with her children? How could any deny her children these moments with their mother?
The general tone in the comments of this entire post was irritation with the Mommy Wars. Moms have to stick together. We simply have to stop judging and criticizing the choices of other mothers. Especially when we do not know them and have not lived the experiences they have lived.
My respect for Ms. Eisenberg grew when she came back to her post and updated it. Changing her harsh words and realizing it was wrong of her to call Ms. Edwards a terrible mother. It takes courage to get the kind of heat Rebecca received for her post and then come back and amend it to clarify her thoughts. To think about the comments and words that were sent her way and rethink her words.
After considerable thought, and reading your responses, some of which were thoughtful and some not, I now think that I too maybe would bring my kids on a campaign bus. I honestly don't know what it would be like to be dying, that is true. And I also don't know what it is like to have limitless financial resources, which the Edwards family does, and which probably gives them the ability to create a nice experience for their children on the road.
Kim of gratitude365 was angered by any mom attacking the choices or another mom.
What bothers me is that I'm getting the sense that Rebecca has chosen to label Ms. Edwards as a bad mom becuase of a choice she made for personal fulfillment. It's almost like a SAHM criticizing another mom who works becuase she wants to, not becuase she "needs to," which is ironic since Rebecca has made it clear that she works.
I just don't see why we have to put our dreams on hold just becuase we have children. And won't we be better examples to our children by pursuing our dreams, especially if we were in our dying days and had the opportunity to influence a nation?
I think those are very important words for all moms to take into account. We ARE better examples to our children when we show them we are pursuing our dreams. (Are you setting that example for your children?)
Rebecca Eisenberg has opinions. And she shares them. She is not setting out to stage a mommy war and I certainly do not want to add fuel to that fire. Coming back and admitting her words were too harsh and amending them shows she is an intelligent woman who is just as sick of the Mommy Wars as the rest of us.
At the end of the day, I'm just a full-time-working-mom-of-two without limitless financial resources, who has opinions and sometimes blogs about them. Those include the fact that I still think it is wrong to use your children to win an election. And it still includes the fact that I don't support the Edwards candidacy. But I certainly don't stand for the things that many of you think I stand for, and if you want some sort of finger-pointing mommy basher, you may now look elsewhere. There's nothing to see here. If Edwards ends up being the candidate, I will support him -- and I really, truly, hope that he'll support whoever the not-him candidate as well. Bottom line: If you want some sort of Mommy War, go wage it without me.
I am not going to get into the politics of the Edwards family because I am the Mommy & Family beat editor. What I want to do is make you think. Think about what it must be like to be Mrs. Edwards. Think about what it would be like to walk around every day knowing that you are dying. Knowing you are going to leave your children behind. What would you do? How would you handle such a situation that is unimaginable to most of us? Would you change your entire life, beliefs and convictions to become the most Donna Reed-like mom that outsiders may think you should become or would you stand tough against any criticism, complaints or false accusations?
We've all heard the phrase "live each day as if it were your last."
Elizabeth Edwards is.
More from entertainment