Arnold, never the public dad

May 17, 2011

Some public figures revel in their roles as parents (see Obama, Jolie).

Some don’t (see Arnold).


Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that wife Maria Shriver separated from him after he admitted to fathering a child with a member of their household staff. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver have four children. Maybe it’s a good thing that the kids, ages 14 to 21, are not front and center now. They can grieve more privately.

Though one has to wonder what this episode would look like, or if it ever would have transpired, if Schwarzenegger had tied his public persona to his family role. He’s long sold himself as a rogue tough guy. While other politicians may admit to slipping away for a parent-teacher conference or a celebrity parent might drop by the Air and Space Museum, Schwarzenegger was more likely to be admitting, as he did in 2003, that he “behaved badly.”

Of course, pushing the family angle does not protect a public figure from behaving badly (see Edwards, John), and it doesn’t mean they are better parents, but it does acknowledge that a parent in a public position has two constituencies to serve.

Plus, if a public apology has to be made to the family at any point, it makes it sound a bit more sincere.

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