Kellyanne Conway Is Proving That Conflict Hurts Kids, Not Divorce
No one ever researches the damage that intact married couples such as George and Kellyanne Conway do to their family
In a surprise message Sunday, Kellyanne Conway — one of Trump’s longest-serving advisors — announced that she was leaving the White House to focus on her family. She also made known that her husband, George — a conservative lawyer and outspoken critic of the president who co-founded the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans devoted to defeating Trump in November — would also be making changes to put their family first.
In a statement, she said:
“I will be transitioning from the White House at the end of this month. George is also making changes. We disagree about plenty but we are united on what matters most: the kids. Our four children are teens and ‘tweens starting a new academic year, in middle school and high school, remotely from home for at least a few months. As millions of parents nationwide know, kids ‘doing school from home’ requires a level of attention and vigilance that is as unusual as these times. This is completely my choice and my voice. In time, I will announce future plans. For now, and for my beloved children, it will be less drama, more mama.”
I am no fan of Kellayanne, who has lied for Trump and made “alternative facts” become a distressing reality. But the reaction to her decision illustrates yet again the gendered view many have about family and ambition.
Of the Conways four children, their 15-year-old daughter, Claudia, has earned a huge following on social media for her outspoken views against her parents, especially her mother, and recently indicated that she was seeking emancipation.
What parent wouldn’t reassess things given that?
Yet, Kellyanne is being seen as the one who needs to take control of their family. As comedy writer Nick Jack Pappas tweeted:
For those expressing empathy for KellyAnne Conway — don’t. She chose fame and fortune over family for three and a half years. She cared more about keeping Trump happy than her daughter.
What career-minded woman hasn’t heard something along those lines? You want to put your career before your family? How dare you! You’re a selfish woman whose priorities are wrong. What career-minded man has heard that? I can’t think of one. Can you?
Most people who work, whether it includes a desire for fame or not, are caring for their family. Not just in a financial way — although being able to feed, clothe, educate and house your children is important — but caring for them emotionally. Yet we tend to see the emotional support of children as being a mother’s job, whether she works outside the home or not. And we always see the emotional support of a marriage as being the wife’s job as well.
The Conways have a complicated marriage, at least since Kellyanne became such a promoter — and liar — for Trump, and many wondered how they could remain a happy, healthy family, especially after Kellyanne defended her boss over her husband after Trump called George a “loser” and a “husband from hell.”
As marital historian Stephanie Coontz writes:
Perhaps the couple is playing a competitive political game, with neither caring enough about the real-world impact of the actions they so strenuously defend or condemn to erode their love for each other. But that’s still a dangerous script for a marriage. And either way, it sends an even more dangerous message to their four children about prioritizing power, fame and money over shared core values in their future relationships.
Conservatives hate divorce and often point to it as the reason society has frayed. And yet, the Conways are a very married — and very Republican conservative couple— who are proving, for all to see, that conflict is the destroyer of families. Conflict isn’t just the domain of the divorced; it occurs in intact families, too.
And while researchers love to focus on the repercussions of the divorced, no one knows the extent of damage caused by so-called “normal” families such as the Conways. That said, we can clearly see how at least one of their children feels, and it’s heartbreaking. That’s the real-world impact of their actions.
The Conways are finally doing the right thing for their family, but let’s be clear: it’s not solely Kellyanne’s— or any woman’s — job to keep their children happy or to prioritize family over career. That said, prioritizing family will mean little if they don’t find a way to deal with conflict in a healthier way.
Want to have a marriage that minimizes conflict (Of course you do!) Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore (please do) or order it on Amazon. And we’re now on Audible.