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Kellyanne Conway Plays the Mommy Card, But Can You Relate?

Vivia Chen

September 1, 2020

800px-Kellyanne_Conway_2018Let me say I’m bummed that Kellyanne Conway didn’t say a thing about why she’s leaving her job at the White House during her swan song speech at the Republican National Convention. I was hoping that she’d talk at least a teensy bit about the challenges of being a super career woman and mom—you know, all that balance stuff that young lawyers love to yak about—so that we can all relate.

We know Kellyanne has been having a hellish time on the home front. Almost from the start of her job as senior White House counsel, her husband George has been unrelentingly criticizing her thin-skinned boss Donald Trump. Then, right smack in the middle of the pandemic, Kellyanne’s 15-year-old daughter Claudia turned on her. Not only is Claudia a vocal anti-Trumpster, but she’s accused her mom of physical and emotional abuse. Oh, and she’s seeking pro bono help for emancipation from her parents.

Alas, la telenovela Conway is coming to an end. Just days before the Republican convention, Kellyanne tweeted, “It will be less drama, more mama.” She added: “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.”

Where to unpack? First, did Conway admit that her kids aren’t marching off to school? I hope somebody breaks that news gently to Trump because he’s quite adamant that schools open this fall.

But let’s get to my main point: Kellyanne shouldn’t be quitting. I mean, she’s at the top of her game. If she can’t handle the heat, what hope do the rest of us have?

While she might not have been the most honest appointee in the administration (pop quiz: who is?), she served her boss like an unflappable pro. Unlike scores of other high Trump officials and affiliates, she didn’t get fired or ousted. Or indicted! And let’s not forget her cultural contributions: She inspired Kate McKinnon’s brilliant impersonation and introduced the term “alternative facts” into our lexicon. What a winner on so many levels!

We thought she’d go down with the ship. Yet she’s bailing out. Which brings up this larger point: Have you noticed how often high-performing women pick family over job when things are bubbling at home? (You might recall Anne Marie Slaughter sort of did the same thing when she left her State Department position under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because of demands at home.)

The sad truth is that when push comes to shove, women resort to traditional roles. Part of that, I think, is that no woman wants to be labeled a “bad” mom. We can forgive high-achieving men for being lousy dads, but an accomplished woman who neglected her kids? She’s a failure, a crummy human being and probably a slut.

So perhaps it got to Kellyanne when Claudia tweeted: “my mother’s job ruined my life to begin with. heartbreaking that she continues to go down that path after years of watching her children suffer. selfish. it’s all about money and fame, ladies and gentlemen.”

Of course, we all wonder if Kellyanne just wanted off a sinking ship and pulled out the mommy card for a quick, clean exit. After all, it’d be a loud slap at Trump’s face if she simply walked out at this juncture. But who can criticize a woman who quits for the sake of the family?

Indeed, as Politico reports, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said: “We certainly will miss her here at the White House. But listen, this is all about making a priority for family. That’s what this president’s about, and that’s what Kellyanne Conway’s about.”

All about “making a priority for family.” How rich for this administration.

But I digress. Back to the mommy stuff. So maybe Kellyanne is deploying the mommy card for another career move—like taking a hiatus to work on a tell-all memoir about her Trump years—a guaranteed best-seller. Though the Trump administration reportedly has nondisclosure agreements with employees, I’m going to assume that Kellyanne will have top-flight legal help to get around such obstacles. (Remember, hubby George was a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.)

In any case, I don’t think anyone really buys that she’s leaving her job to hover over the children at the kitchen table to help them navigate the frontiers of remote learning. (In a nod to equality, George is also taking time off from the Lincoln Project to devote time to the family.)

Besides, more parental time could drive Claudia even crazier.


vchen@alm.com

Twitter: @lawcareerist

Comments

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I think this mommy exit is a cop-out. If she was so worried about her daughter's emotional issue, she would have left the Trump team probably as soon as she joined it. I agree that this is the beginning of her writing a book. Everyone else on the Trump team has increased their income; why not Ms. Conway? My opinion.

Kellyanne Conway is a beast. Your label of "unflappable pro" was spot on. While I hate everything she has to say, I have to give her props on how well she did her job. That said, her family problems are not typical. Her daughter's Twitter pleas are epic and suggest that her daughter viewed her mother's role in the administration as the cause of her family's demise. Given her husband's politics, he wasn't a fan either. So, in this case, I think it makes sense for KC to step down. She gave the "I chose my family excuse", but the subtext is "I cannot do this job and be a part of my family." If that's true, I think she did the right thing.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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