Jenny Sanford -- The Political Spouse Role Model for My Daughter

The message often sent to our kids is that it's okay for husbands to wander and that wives will still stick around, regardless of how badly they've been betrayed. That is, until Jenny Sanford.
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Personally, I couldn't care less about the personal "antics" of so many politicians these days. It's not really important to my life how people like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford characterizes "adventure travel."

What does bother me a lot, though, is the money shot we so often see of the wives of philandering politicians -- standing by the side of their husbands, trying to show solidarity and the apparently elusive family values that so many of them talk about before they get caught doing something, well, not so family values-like.

Why do I care? Because sooner rather than later, my nine-year-old daughter is going to start watching more news and she'll see these women who have decided that even though their husbands have done something terrible to them, and to their families, there is still an obligation to stick with them. Personal decisions aside, it just seems that visual is the rule rather than the exception, these days. And the message it sends to our kids is that it's okay for husbands to wander and that wives will still stick around, regardless of how badly they've been betrayed.

That is, until Jenny Sanford.

You had to guess that there was something up with the story of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and his quick "decision" to change his trip from the Appalachian Trail to Buenos Aires! When the truth came out, as it always does, it was refreshing not to see his wife at his side, silently condoning what he'd done and the lies he had told.

That's the example I want my daughter to see. Not that there isn't a time and place for forgiveness, but I hate it when these Masters of the Universe get caught and we have to see their wives standing next to them, telling the world implicitly that what happened was okay.

Jenny Sanford is the example I want our children to learn from. She's a strong woman in her own right, apparently gave her husband a chance to make things right when she learned about his affair and when he didn't, there was no big scene -- she just did what she knew she had to do for herself, her children and her own life.

Jenny Sanford was apparently instrumental in making Mark Sanford the political success he is today. According to the Washington Post, when asked about what the South Carolina governor was going to do now without her advice, she responded:

"His career is not a concern of mine. ... He's going to have to worry about that. I'm worried about my family and the character of my children."

That's a pretty refreshing response from a political spouse these days. It's given me hope that in the future there will be space for the aggrieved spouse ('cause you know it's going to happen again) to choose something other than the "standing by your man" photo op and sending a message that sometimes it's better to do what's right for your own life, regardless of the political consequences.

Joanne Bamberger writes about the intersection of politics and motherhood at her place, PunditMom. You can also find her at BlogHer, where she is a contributing editor for News & Politics, and on Twitter @PunditMom. Her book about the growing trend of mothers' involvement in politics and social activism is scheduled to be published by Bright Sky Press in Fall 2010.

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