March 20, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke put his foot in it the other day. The former Texas Congressman who’s seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination was on a speaking tour during which he announced that his wife raises their children, “sometimes with my help.”
That set off a mini-firestorm of protest from some who argued that only “white male privilege” could allow such a casual approach to childrearing . And indeed, O’Rourke is highly privileged. Forbes figures he’s worth between $5 million and $10 million and his father-in-law’s net runs to the hundreds of millions. So O’Rourke, unlike the vast majority of other dads has no pressing need to go to work every day to ensure the kids have food on the table and clothes on their backs.
That means that O’Rourke could have, if he’d wanted, been very much a hands-on dad. But he’s chosen to let his wife do the heavy lifting of childcare while he ran for office. (He’s been an El Paso city councilman and U.S. Congressman for three terms.) As such, I have to join the criticism of him. He’s had every opportunity to be there for his kids and he’s chosen his career over them to a degree even he seems to regret. Will he step up his parental game? We’ll see.
O’Rourke’s hasty apology was more about his words – that he characterized as “ham-handed” - than his failings as a father. Perhaps he “misspoke,” but that’s not what his children will remember when they’re adults. What they’ll remember is his absence, his choice of career over them.
Still, it’s a hopeful sign that O’Rourke’s small dish of crow can make the headlines.
The National Parents Organization takes no position on O’Rourke’s or any other office-seeker’s qualifications or fitness for office. But when the issue of fathers and their role in the family comes to such prominence, we can’t ignore it.