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Bay Buchanan: Life As A Single Mother

Conservative pundit Bay Buchanan. She’s rallying for Romney and talking life as a single mother.

Author Bay Buchanan and her three sons.

Author Bay Buchanan and her three sons.

Bay Buchanan grew up Catholic and conservative and ready to fight for faith and family.  She signed on early with Ronald Reagan.  At 32, she was the country’s youngest-ever Secretary of the Treasury, working for the Gipper as did her famously conservative brother Pat Buchanan. 

She was on her way, now a Mormon, with two sons and a third on the way when her husband walked out.  Suddenly, Bay Buchanan was a single mother, alone, broke, and nothing – conservative or liberal – was working for her. 

This hour, On Point:  hard politics and real life.  Bay Buchanan on toughing it out as a single mom.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Bay Buchanan, author of the new book Bay and Her Boys: Unexpected Lessons I Learned as a (Single) Mother. A senior adviser to Mitt Romney, she served as United States Treasurer in the Reagan Administration.

C-Segment: Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, millions of phone calls, cards, gifts, flowers will be sent to deserving women around the country.  Back in 2006, we heard from Santa Fe resident Robert Wilder about why he honors his father on Mother’s Day.

From Tom’s Reading List

Newsweek “Bay Buchanan has waded into the Mommy Wars with characteristic fearlessness, and her take might surprise you. From her time as treasurer of the United States under Ronald Reagan to her work advising GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Buchanan’s conservative credentials are gold-plated. Yet in her emotionally powerful new book, Bay and Her Boys, Buchanan rejects an ideological approach to the family.”

Buffalo News “Even Buchanan — the youngest person ever to serve as U.S. treasurer — knows what it’s like to suffer criticism for your mothering, whether it’s because you are single, working or a woman who has chosen to stay home with children.”

Human Events “I was baptized into the conservative movement in the waters of Reagan back in 1976.  In that campaign we had no money, few wins and little prospect.  But none of that mattered.  We had a candidate we believed in with all our heart and soul.”

Excerpt: Bay and Her Boys

from Chapter 4 of Bay and Her Boys

Before kids it all seemed so simple. In my dreams I’d put their clothes out in the morning—clean, fresh, and matching, of course. Then I’d feed them a yummy, nourishing breakfast. The day would be spent in those organized activities that help children develop their talents and social skills. In the evening I’d have them brush their teeth and take baths. And then I’d read to them before bed or they’d read on their own. What was so hard about this?

I couldn’t have been more clueless. Those ideals were too high for any parent. But even reasonable two-parent standards don’t apply if you’re raising kids alone. How could they—there’s only one of you. You can’t do it all, no matter how hard you try. So you have to pick the important stuff and let the rest go. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for failure.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I had to cut my expectations significantly, both the ones for me and the ones for my kids. Clothes on their bodies, food in their stomachs, church on Sundays, school on time—these were reasonable goals. Team sports used up energy, taught great lessons, and reduced idle time. I kept those. Scouts took too much of my time and took me away from the other two. We dropped it and never looked back.

To make this new life work I had to strip parenting down to the basics: no frills or shiny shoes. The boys needed to be fed, yes, but cereal worked fine (even for dinner, when necessary). As for clothes, I was humbled by the way my kids dressed. My priorities were good manners and good grades—the boys’ rooms were a mess, but I learned not to care. They might be ragamuffins, but—what the heck—they never used bad language. I couldn’t fight every battle, so I picked the important ones and let the kids run free of the others.

Bay Buchanan’s Eight Rules for Single Parenting

Rule #1: You’re a Single Mom—Take Charge

It doesn’t matter how you got here, how traumatic the trip has been, or how discouraged you are. What matters is that you are now a single mom. It’s time to stop thinking about the past and to start thinking about your kids. Take charge of your life, so you can take charge of theirs. Their lives hinge on you getting it together.

Rule #2: Let Their Dad Be Their Dad

Children who live with both parents are far more likely to thrive than those who don’t. So give your kids the next best thing—a chance at a close and healthy relationship with their father. Don’t tell them anything that would make them think less of him or feel bad about him. Tell them good things so they are comfortable openly loving him in their own home.

Rule #3: Put Your Kids First

Forget about blocks of time for yourself and high-powered jobs; forget about dating and romantic getaways. Spend your evenings and weekends with your kids. Do whatever it takes to put your kids first in your life. Then keep them there.

Rule #4: Strip Parenting Down to the Basics

Single moms need to forget all thoughts of perfection. You’re one person with the job of two. Cut expectations down to size. Scrap the nonessentials and give your kids what they need the most—time with you.

Rule #5: Give Your Kids a Home to Love

For kids to thrive, their home has to be a place where they are part of something bigger than themselves. Put televisions, computers, and game systems in a family room. Drive your kids out of their bedrooms and into family space. Time together is what makes families, and this happens in the home. It’s your job to see it happens in yours.

Rule #6: Be Their Parent, Not Their Friend

Single moms have to establish—and enforce—rules. Simply talking to them is totally and completely inadequate. In fact, it’s nothing but a cop-out. Your kids need absolutes from you, not chit-chat. Give them clearly defined rules and explain the driving principles behind them. Then enforce them and never stop.

Rule #7: Establish Family Traditions

Traditions establish a familiar and special world for your kids. The traditions you choose for your family will define the culture in which your kids are raised, give direction to their lives, and leave them with precious memories of time together that will last a lifetime.

Rule #8: Love Being Your Kid’s Mom

Every day, look for the joy of being a mom. You’ll find it in the smiles and in the tears you wipe away, in the funny expressions and in the hugs and kisses. Raising kids alone is enormously challenging—and at times brutally difficult. But it’s the most amazing job you’ll ever have—and the most crucial.

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