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Like millions, Conway power couple struggle with pandemic parenting

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway announced she is stepping down to focus on her family
White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway announced she is stepping down to focus on her family Olivier DOULIERY AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway has been one of President Donald Trump's fiercest defenders.

Her husband, George, to put it mildly, can't stand him.

But one thing the Washington power couple can agree on is the welfare of their four children.

And in the midst of a health crisis that will see their school-age children stuck at home for months to come they jointly announced on Sunday that they are stepping away from politics to concentrate on their family.

The Conways' decision is more public than most, but the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing parents across the United States to make all manner of adjustments to cope with children who will be at home instead of at school.

"Conway's story is not unique, not unique in the broader history of women and work," said Taryn Morrissey, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University.

"Millennial mothers (those born between 1981 and 1996) are nearly three times more likely than Millennial fathers to report being unable to work due to a school or child care closure," according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress which Morrissey co-wrote.

Millions of children across the United States will be studying remotely as school resumes for the 2020-2021 academic year after the summer holidays.

While Trump has been pushing schools to reopen in a bid to show that normalcy is returning and improve his November election prospects, the decision resides with individual school districts.

Some have opted for classes as usual while others are going online only or offering a hybrid model, a combination of remote learning and in-person instruction.

The largest school district in the country -- New York City with nearly one million students -- is offering a hybrid model of online learning and in-person classes one to three days a week.

The three next largest districts -- Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami -- will be offering only remote learning to start the semester.

"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," Kellyanne Conway said in her announcement that she was leaving her White House job at the end of August.

"For now, and for my beloved children, it will be less drama, more mama," the 53-year-old Conway said.

- 'Routine' -

George Conway, a 56-year-old Harvard- and Yale-educated lawyer, likewise said he was withdrawing from The Lincoln Project -- a group of prominent Republicans dedicated to Trump's removal -- to "devote more time to family matters."

Conway also said he would take a hiatus from Twitter, where his biting criticism of the president earned him the label of the "husband from hell" from Trump.

Ruth Milanaik, a specialist in developmental pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York, said that parents need to provide a routine for children who are learning at home.

"Children -- kids and teens -- need a routine, a schedule, need to wake up at a regular time, eat breakfast, be on time in the classroom even if on Zoom," Milanaik said.

"Virtual classes are better than no classes at all," she said. "They also need afterschool activities."

Brittany LeMonda, a neuropsychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said parents have a delicate balancing act before them.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, parents are trying to keep their children and family safe by limiting interaction and practicing social distancing," LeMonda said.

At the same time, they are trying to make sure that "there are no repercussions from the isolation and loneliness of their kids," she said.

LeMonda said she has encountered the "whole spectrum" of experiences among children who have been stuck at home.

"For students who are bullied (at school), home is very positive experience, a safer place," she said.

"For others, missing out incredibly formative, exciting years of high school, or who are more social, involved in social activities and sports, it's heartbreaking."

Quarantined teenagers are a particular challenge for parents during these unusual stay-at-home times and there has been plenty of drama in the Conway household with their 15-year-old daughter.

The teenager publicly shared her father's disdain of Trump and posted frequent criticism of the president on Twitter and TikTok, earning her hundreds of thousands of followers.

She tweeted last week, for example, that she was "DEVASTATED beyond compare" that her mother planned to address this week's Republican convention.

Following her parents' announcement, however, she announced that she too would be going silent and would be "taking a mental health break from social media."

"No hate to my parents please," she added.

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