May 13, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Bay Buchanan is not a mom you want to cross.
Pat Buchanan’s policy-wonk sister, once the youngest-ever U.S. treasurer under Ronald Reagan, Bay is well-dressed, well-spoken, and could probably handily cut you down in a live televised debate on trade policy.
She has just published a book that features herself on the cover. Ms. Buchanan looks crisp but relaxed above a wide white collar, red cardigan, and understated jewellery, not unlike her appearances on CNN and MSNBC. Yet for this cover, she ditched the debate table and is instead flanked by three handsome, smiling men.
These are the surroundings she likes best - the three boys she raised alone from the moment two decades ago that the political strategist known for her “rapid-fire retorts” found herself staring at a handful of divorce papers. When their father abruptly walked out of their California home, Billy was four, Tommy was two, and Stuart had not yet been born.
In “Bay and Her Boys: Unexpected lessons I learned as a (single) Mom,” we get a fascinating view of what Bay herself surely wished she could have seen that dreadful first day: just what happens when a sharp analytical mind and a truly indomitable will turn to attack full-force the problem of bringing three boys across the ocean of a fatherless childhood.
The results are extraordinary, and Bay wants everyone, especially single moms, to know that - no matter what the statistics say about kids without dads - it can be done.
Ms. Buchanan lays out a short list of the essentials: put the kids first. Strip parenting down to the basics. Give your kids a home to love. Rely on family traditions. With an unflagging determination to “love being your kids’ mom,” she says, these will get you through.
But she insists early on: this success is simply impossible under the illusion that single motherhood is a system that inherently works. Instead, it’s precisely because of her clear-eyed certainty that a father is irreplaceable that she says she was equipped to meet her son’s real needs.
It is a bittersweet testimony to the importance of family that stands at the heart of the book. That man, to her nothing more than a painful void in her life, was more than solid gold in the eyes of her boys. No matter how thin the scraps of that gold, she decided, they would have them all.
Even though friends pushed her to take advantage of her large extended family and great job opportunities in Virginia, Bay stayed in California after the divorce to give her boys a chance to see their dad in custody visits - which were often rescheduled or dropped - for six years. And her sons couldn’t be more grateful.
“What little time I did spend with him is more precious to me than all the riches in the world, more precious than anything, save time spent with my Mom,” wrote Stuart.
“Today,” wrote Billy, the eldest, “I would trade most anything for a moment longer with Dad.”
It’s a truth about family Buchanan couldn’t have missed if she tried. The product of a strong Catholic family of nine children, she often reflects in “Bay and her Boys” on her own father’s role in her life, anchoring her family deep into a home that flourished with strong affections.
When she describes the cluttered, comfy home her boys grew up in, although Bay acknowledges it’s far from the ideal of her own childhood home, her words betray a deep pride. She and her sons agree: however messy, however overrun with pets (the house had twelve furry additional members), their home was the boys’ sanctuary and Bay’s masterpiece.
“My house wasn’t just a building where I ate, slept, and loved. It was where I always wanted to eat, sleep, and live. And I wasn’t the only one; my friends felt the same way, and if any of them try to deny it, ask them how many days they spent at their own homes during the summer,” wrote Stuart. “And my house was hardly the biggest, or the cleanest, or the nicest. But we loved it, and that made all the difference.”
Bay’s advice on building a physical home was plain: “Design it around them,” she wrote, “and join them there.” She molded her home the way she molded her own life.
Throughout the book are peppered stories of how kids clashed with career - or more accurately, with whatever assignment she happened to snatch up in those unsteady years. One live debate in Texas on the impact of U.S. trade policy on agribusiness required hours of research that evaporated into a sleepless night with a vomiting 9-year-old. At other times, Bay came away the victor, turning down producers of the political talk show Equal Time offering a co-host position until they agreed to tape the show when her boys were at school.
Her honesty about these clashes is brutal. “For years,” she wrote, “I had heard so-called experts talk about the need for moms to set aside personal time and private space. ...
“And every time I did, I laughed out loud. What were these people talking about?”
“Many professional women argue that they’ve worked too hard getting to where they are, that they’ve got too much to lose if they put it all on hold, that they’ve grown accustomed to the money their career provides,” she mused. “I suspect many are just scared.
“It’s a huge change for them, a significant sacrifice that takes them out of their secure world and drops them into unchartered waters. But being a good mom means putting your kids ahead of your career along with everything else in your life.”
The book is an often funny, often incredible testimony to the force of a full-throated “yes” to life and family, even after a family has been broken. Bay’s intelligence and intimidating drive focused like a laser beam on how to be her son’s mom, no compromises, period. An analytic precision that could have launched her to the top of the political map was instead poured into the title she valued most.
Bay, who now resides in Virginia, says that she hopes the book will fill an appreciation gap for single moms who feel battered by both sides of the aisle.
“It is indisputable that life is tougher for kids raised without a dad in their home but, for millions of us, that is no longer an option for our kids and we struggle every day to see that our kids beat the awful odds,” she said in an interview accompanying the book. “Surely, I would often think, there is a message of hope for us - an encouraging word or some guidelines on how we too can succeed? But I never heard it from the right or left.”
Ultimately, “Bay and her Boys” is a fascinating tribute to the power of motherhood - single or married - and a heartening encouragement to all moms who feel beaten by the odds.
“It’s our job to see that our kids make it. It is tough and, at times, brutally difficult, but we can do it, and we can do it well,” she wrote.
“Numbers don’t tell our story. We do. We are moms.”