End the Mommy Wars!

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Begala

A conservative tells the truth about single motherhood.

It used to be a cliche in politics: "Congress is so gridlocked, it couldn't pass a resolution honoring Mother's Day." But now that hyperbole has all but come to pass. In this hyperpartisan political year, even motherhood is ammo for the howitzers.

Bay Buchanan has waded into the Mommy Wars with characteristic fearlessness, and her take might surprise you. From her time as treasurer of the United States under Ronald Reagan to her work advising GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Buchanan's conservative credentials are gold-plated. Yet in her emotionally powerful new book, Bay and Her Boys, Buchanan rejects an ideological approach to the family. "We can talk about the importance of marriage and fathers all we want," she writes. "But we can't forget the 18 million kids whose fathers no longer live in their homes." The stat should hit you hard: the United States has more children growing up without a father than Germany has children.

Buchanan has written an unvarnished, at times heartbreaking, account of a young mother whose husband left her with boys who were 4 and 2--and with a third boy on the way. She doesn't sugarcoat the challenges. Her advice? If you lack job skills, get 'em; never trash the absent father to the kids; be the children's parent, not their friend; and, most important, put the kids first--in terms of your time, attention, and priorities. Buchanan recalls when she was at home fielding an important political call. Her young son wanted her attention and, like every parent trying to juggle work from home, she gave her young boy the universal sign for "one more minute"--an upraised index finger. Little Tommy's response? Toddling up on top of Bay's briefcase and peeing all over it. Message received.

When Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life," it was a 10-megaton explosion in the Mommy Wars. What you might not know is that, like Bay Buchanan, Hilary Rosen is a single mom. Four days a week she has custody of her two teenagers, juggling work and family on the high wire of politics.

"I don't know of a woman," Rosen says, "myself included, who doesn't feel some pang of guilt or regret at the choices they make--even if they have no choice." Of the career versus child-rearing dichotomy, she says, "Most of us are torn, wishing we could have more time at one or the other. …