Rachel Campos Duffy: A Real Housewife of Wisconsin
At National Review, Kathryn Lopez interviews "Real World" alumna Rachel Campos Duffy, a Catholic mom of 6 kids and the wife of Sean Duffy, a Wisconsin GOP candidate for the House of Representatives seat currently held by retiring Democrat David Obey:
... a book like Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-Home Motherhood, by Rachel Campos-Duffy — which will wind up in the self-help section, if we’re lucky — is so welcome. The author is looking to preserve that which many prominent women — and men — ran away from for all too long, and have paid a price for losing. And she is living, breathing credibility: a young, Catholic, Hispanic mother of six. Who — for a pop-culture reality check — was once on MTV’s The Real World (she and her husband met at a Real World reunion, as it happens) and was almost a co-host of The View (she has been a guest co-host). And she may also be spending time in Washington come January, when her husband, Sean, hopes to be sworn in to the seat of Rep. David Obey, an appropriations powerhouse who has been in office since 1969 (longer than Duffy has been alive). Obey is now retiring, Duffy having run him out of the race.My Comments:
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: When did you decide to become “a self-described advocate and cheerleader for at-home moms”?
RACHEL CAMPOS-DUFFY: I was a finalist for co-host of ABC’s The View twice. The second time I narrowly lost out in the competition, it occurred to me that I was already doing what God was calling me to do — being home, taking care of my kids. Before that, I sort of thought I was “between gigs,” waiting for my next big break. My oldest was five at that time, and I was starting to see the fruits of my time at home with them — their manners and sense of compassion, the things that happen when you parent well. As I began to appreciate what I was doing as a mom, I simultaneously became aware of how little the culture values it. I’m grateful that Sean verbalizes his appreciation for my choice to be home, but so many other women don’t get that validation. Even if we feel good about our days and choices, we still crave that outside validation. I guess I hoped that by writing this book I might in a small way help elevate this noble profession.
LOPEZ: Isn’t it a betrayal of the women’s movement to announce that a woman can stay home and be happy?
CAMPOS-DUFFY: Absolutely not! I’ve heard old-school feminists refer to the trend toward at-home motherhood as the “recolonization of women back into the home.” It’s so patronizing. They say our education and degrees are wasted on our children. The truth is that, despite the hard work and long hours, there are many pleasurable aspects of motherhood, and women derive very real satisfaction from feeling like they are doing it well. I think there’s a certain type of feminist who finds that truth threatening to the movement. It’s silly. I have made a choice to fully enjoy my kids and this particular season of my life. It’s a very conscious, powerful decision. In some ways, it takes more guts to buck the financial rewards and adulation that come from a professional career to pursue something so culturally undervalued as at-home motherhood.
LOPEZ: How often do you run into fellow thirtysomethings with six children? And how often do people say inappropriate things about the fact that you have them?
CAMPOS-DUFFY: Not too many thirtysomethings with six kids these days. People always wonder how we do it. I don’t know how we do it. It’s our normal. I do know people who have been chastised by strangers for their big brood and yes, sometimes I worry about environmental fundamentalism and its propensity to see and treat children of large families as environmental “terrorists” guilty of violating some arbitrary carbon-footprint quota. Look no further than the Internet comments on the Duggar family. The vitriol hurled at them is off the charts.
My sister has four kids, and we both find that kids from small families love to come to our houses. One little girl, an only child who was playing at my sister’s house, didn’t want to leave when her mommy came to pick her up. When her mom insisted she get her shoes on, she said, “No, I want to be one of them!”
LOPEZ: You were on a totally different track — Los Angeles and glamour. How did you wind up in Wisconsin and Walmart, and when did you realize you were happy with that life?
CAMPOS-DUFFY: I have MTV to thank for that. Only on The Real World would a conservative Latina from Arizona meet an Irish-American lumberjack attorney from rural Wisconsin. We fell in love and married while I was auditioning for The View. The deal we made was if I got the job, we’d move to New York City. If I didn’t, I would move to Hayward, Wisconsin, his hometown. I didn’t get the job, and I moved from Beverly Hills to rural Wisconsin. I have fallen in love with the people of Wisconsin for the same reasons I fell in love with Sean. They are kind, unassuming, good-natured, and honest. In a nutshell — so not L.A. There is truly no better place to raise kids. As for Wal-Mart, well, I’m not above admitting that most of my date nights with Sean end with a trip to Wal-Mart to pick up diapers and anything else I need. Shopping sans kids is a luxury for me these days!
LOPEZ: You spend a good amount of time talking about the dad’s role in the life of the at-home mom. Has the feminist movement been damaging to the life of the husband and wife at home? Beyond academic arguments, is it impossible not to see damage that has been done even in fairly conservative family life?
CAMPOS-DUFFY: In some ways, feminism has helped. 1950s dads rarely “partnered” with their wives in matters of home and kids. Boomer dads talked the talk, but ultimately, their wives were “super moms” who ended up burnt out from the double shift. Gen X husbands like Sean walk the walk. Sean’s as comfortable in the courtroom or wielding an ax as he is changing a diaper. He may not always know what I want or need, but he’s genuinely open to being a partner in the relationship and in the division of labor in our home. Clearly, there are some gender differences. For example, Sean splits the wood to heat our home, and in the winter, he also brings it in from the porch every morning and evening. He’s better suited to doing that, and frankly, I don’t want to do it. I’d rather stay in and cook. And that’s okay too. I think today’s men are a big reason why being a wife and mom is getting better. In many ways, men are better. I guess we have their moms to thank for that.
LOPEZ: What’s been the importance of prayer in your life? How do you even do it with kids running around, a busy husband, and your various projects? Isn’t it one of those things that could easily find itself getting dropped?
CAMPOS-DUFFY: I need prayer for sustenance. As a busy mom, I can’t get picky about when or where it happens. I take the moments when and as they come. My prayers include short appeals to God to get me through a difficult “toddler moment,” or our chihuahua peeing on the carpet . . . again! I also learned to count the time I spend with my kids or in service of my family as prayers. We’re driving a lot these days for Sean’s campaign events, and those are perfect times to pop in a CD of the rosary and pray together as a family. It’s easy to let your prayer life fall by the wayside, and sometimes it does. But again, the secret is to remind yourself of the benefits. When I take excellent care of myself from the inside out, I have more to give to my family.
LOPEZ: Your husband, Sean, is running for Congress. How can that possibly work with six children?
CAMPOS-DUFFY: It’s very tough, and there have been some serious sacrifices. Sean’s a very hands-on dad, and the kids miss him a lot. Sean hits the trail by himself so I can stay home and try to keep things as normal as possible for the kids. In many ways I’m operating like a single mom, and I’ve gained a new respect for at-home moms. . . . Parenting is definitely meant to be a two-person job, and I believe I’m a better parent when he’s around. I hope that as the weather gets warmer, we’ll be able to do more events together as a family. Right now, the kids are looking forward to parade season this summer. I figure they’ll either start to enjoy the campaign more, or they’ll start to hate parades.
[Read the whole thing]
I find myself torn on Sean Duffy's election prospects. On the one hand, I hope he wins because we need more young, strong Christian family men leading our nation, and the Duffy family would be an excellent example to our country of a young Catholic family who walks the walk. On the other hand, Washington corrupts whatever it touches, and I'd hate to see this beautiful family taken from the Midwestern lifestyle that is so obviously serving them well and placed inside the Beltway cesspool.
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Rachel Living in the Real World; The View Hags, Not So Much [UPDATED]