When a Parent Runs for Congress, Kids Get Front Row Seat to American Politics

Filed under: In The News, Single Parenting, Activities: Family Time

rachel sean campos-duffy picture

Courtesy of Rachel Campos-Duffy


On November 2, my husband, Sean Duffy, had the honor of being elected to represent Wisconsin's 7th District in Congress. In a decisive eight-point victory, our northwestern and largely rural district voted for a Republican candidate for the first time in 41 years.

Election night was the culmination of a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice. I can now say with absolutely certitude that unless you've been through it, it's difficult to understand the toll it takes on candidates and their families. It was probably a good thing that we didn't know what was in store for us in the 18 months following my husband's announcement.

As a spouse, the campaign transformed me from a busy-but-happy at-home mother of five to a frazzled and often lonely single mother of six (we discovered we were pregnant three weeks after Sean announced his candidacy and we had our sixth child, Maria Victoria, on April 1). With my best friend and partner crisscrossing one of the largest congressional districts in the country to hit every dairy breakfast, polka Mass, parade and county fair, my workload doubled instantly.

But equally frustrating was the realization that no matter how hard I worked, it was impossible for me to fill the void that Sean's constant absence left on each one of our kids. From family dinners and story time to missed baseball games and an unfinished tree house, there was palpable disappointment whenever dad couldn't do something because of the campaign.

As summer drew near, and campaign "parade season" came into full swing, things improved. Our kids discovered that they could rollerblade the parade routes with dad, passing out campaign literature and throwing candy to the kids in the crowds. With the kids out of school, we did our best whenever possible to include our children so they could feel a part of the experience and get a little more face time with dad.

In the end, despite the sacrifices, I wouldn't change a thing.

Our kids received an invaluable front row seat to American politics. There isn't a civics class that could teach them what they learned and experienced first hand. From retail politics to navigating negative ads against their dad to traveling from county to county in a campaign RV (not to mention stumping with Rudy Giuliani and other political celebrities), our kids understand the work it takes for the privilege of serving in office. Equally important, they know that no candidate wins on his own -- he needs scores of volunteers and supporters to make it happen. In the end, our kids are better and smarter for having gone through this process.

During his victory speech, Sean declared that the first political promise he would keep would be to our kids. It was a promise he made to them during a family meeting when we told them about daddy's plans to run for Congress. And so, three weeks after they entered the polling booth with their mom and dad and watched them cast a vote in an historic election, the eight of us will be traveling to Orlando for a much-deserved Disney World vacation.

Politics has its rewards.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.