January 24 2014
Wendy Davis and Biogate
Naomi Schaeffer Riley has today’s must-read: a piece in the New York Post on what could be the most politically devastating aspect of the Wendy Davis biogate scandal.
Is it that Ms. Davis claimed to have put herself through Harvard Law, even though her husband cashed out his 401 K to pay for her Ivy League law degree?
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.
The saga of Happy Rockefeller, who abandoned her children to marry Nelson Rockefeller and thereby may have sunk his presidential hopes, seems so long ago. The family structure has taken a beating since then and, on a positive note, we are—rightly—as a society desirous that women be able to take advantage of professional opportunities.
But Wendy Davis’ callous behavior still has the capacity to shock:
After [Wendy’s former husband Jeff Davis] 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.
I hope you won’t regard me as sexist for commending Jeff Davis (until further notice) for taking on his own daughter and Davis’ daughter by a previous husband. This little girl had been abandoned twice, by her own father and now her mother.
Riley points out that many women pursue high-powered careers but still find time for their children, citing in particular DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who (as reported in a New York Times blog) doesn’t let her busy schedule prevent her from finding time to spend with her children.
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.
Ms. Davis opted for another path.
I don’t have children, but I just spent two days at a conference with high-powered women who do. They are women who, despite their busy schedules, make their days longer by being committed to their children. Ambition is a great quality, but when it is not tempered by humanity it is not so beneficial for society.
Feminists may well rally to Ms. Davis, calling those who are put off by her having left behind her children sexist. But I wonder if somebody so ambitious that she is cavalier about two little girls is the sort of human being to whom we should entrust the commonweal. Will she look out for us or herself?