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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 05/18/2011

Mr. Jennifer Granholm talks family life in the public eye

Parenting in the public eye has not gotten a good rap lately.

From the Arnold scandal to Cheri Daniels 15-year-old-decision to take a break from her marriage, the travails of public families are under scrutiny.

Some have managed to navigate the rocky course with less fanfare.
Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and her husband Dan Mulhern wave to supporters after Granholm was sworn into office in 2003. (AL GOLDIS - Associated Press)
“There are upsides and downsides,” said Dan Mulhern, a.k.a Mr. Jennifer Granholm. That would be former Michigan governor and Democratic star Jennifer Granholm. “You have to know that people are always watching,” he said.

“Since Gary Hart said ‘Follow me,’ politicians have been on notice that you will be followed.”

Mulhern, an author and consultant, and Granholm have three children between the ages of 13 and 21. They are celebrating their 25th anniversary next week. He understands the special strain that comes with the spotlight.

For one, he said, the public spouse is in a tenuous position. Their day job has them under “concentrated pressure,” but the politician often can’t rely on home life as a shelter because the kids and spouse usually think he or she is not doing enough. “There’s an element of, ‘You don’t do anything around here.’ ”

Then there’s the non-public spouse. Resentment and jealousy can fester. “You have to acknowledge your ego,” he said. In an essay recently published in Newsweek, Mulhern did just that in the form of a letter to his son.

Here’s an excerpt:

“… the choices Mom and I made to put her public service in front of my career, and for me to lead at home, left me vulnerable and caused me to rethink what it means to “be a man.” It has not been a tragic end to my manhood, but a wondrous beginning.”

Most important are the children: They get perks in many forms, maybe concert tickets, cool introductions, travel or connections. But Mulhern said they “are always in somebody’s shadow.”

Moreover, if the politician stumbles in a personal way, it takes an especially high toll on the children. “In this field, your enemies are after you, the media is after you. ... [If you create a scandal], you are giving them ammunition, boxloads of ammunition they can aim right at your kids.”

When that happens, he said, “I don’t feel bad for the politicians, I feel bad for the spouses and the kids.”

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 05/18/2011

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