Thursday, July 23, 2009

Make a Good Choice, My Friend!

I have a riddle for you today: What is sometimes frustrating, often corrupt, and always entertaining?

No, not parenthood!

Anyone who lives near me knows I’m talking about Illinois politics, of course.

We’re famous for corrupt politicians on the city, county, and state levels. I’ve actually heard that people won’t come visit us because of our nasty reputation. And I’m not singling out one political party over another in this—both parties in Illinois have their challenges in the integrity department, that’s for sure.

It seems that people who run for public office in Illinois tend to have an attitude of looking out for Number One, if you know what I mean.

Which is why I found it exceedingly refreshing to read about our Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, last week, who made the ever-important decision to put her family above her political career. See, Lisa is a go-getter. She’s been a pretty good AG, from what I can tell. She hasn’t been caught up in scandal. She’s basically kept her nose to the grindstone and done her job.

Which is more than I can say for some. Ahem.

Anyway, Lisa Madigan, probably because she has a pretty good reputation, was being talked about a lot in the media. It was thought that she could probably run for Governor or even Senator (to replace Winnie the Pooh . . . I mean Roland Burris) and get the job. Either one.

But last week, Lisa announced that she wasn’t going to seek either the governorship or a senate seat because, according to an article I read in our local paper, “To hear her tell it, she has a job she loves and a family, including two small children, she wants to be with.”

The article goes on to quote Lisa Madigan: “At the end of the day, I have a job that I am deeply committed to, and extraordinarily satisfied by, and not everyone can say they have a job they love, and have a wonderful family they love as well. So that’s how I came to the decision. . . . Obviously, I’m cognizant of the fact that we have two wonderful, little daughters, and I want to be around to see ‘em.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much blown away by a woman who could have been Governor, or even Senator, who chose to stay in her position because of her family. I don’t have big enough hands to applaud loudly enough for this woman.

And then I think about the example she is setting for her own two daughters, and I think that’s pretty great too. She’s not saying you can’t be a mother and have a satisfying career at the same time. She’s not saying you cannot be fulfilled by having a family (she obviously is). She’s just saying that sometimes in life you have to make hard choices and, for her, that time had come.

Can you imagine people whispering in your ear, “Come on, run for the Senate. You’ll have a beautiful townhome in Georgetown and you’ll get to go to all the great parties. Oh, and you’ll have the ear of the president because you’ll be sitting in the seat he once occupied. Come on. Just do it!”

I don’t know about you, but for me the temptation would have been very great. Not so much about the senate seat, but the parties and the townhome in Georgetown would have been reeeaaal sweet. Just keepin’ it real here, folks.

I’m sure Lisa thought about those kinds of perks, and probably many others that I’m not privy to, and weighed those in her mind for a long time.

But then, I imagine, she looked at her family and said, “No. The time away is too much. I want to be around to see my daughters grow up.” And then she made an intentional decision that will affect all of their lives forever.

I wish more parents thought through the consequences of their actions and made intentional decisions like that.

Choices. Those are what we’re all faced with every day. Will we choose to put the needs of others in front of our own desires? Will we choose selflessness over selfishness? Will we choose to affect the next generation instead of worrying so much about our own reputation today?

I talked to my girls about Lisa Madigan’s story over dinner one night, and we talked about choices we have to make in life. I told them about how, after Kate was born, I decided to put my Ph.D. on the backburner because I didn’t want to have to pour myself into my studies and my baby at the same time. I didn’t have it in me to do that. Other mothers have made a different choice in that area that has suited them very well, but, for me, I couldn’t divide myself like that. Too hard.

My girls were surprised to hear about that. They asked if I ever thought about going back to school now that they are older. I told them, no, I didn’t, because I’m too old (!) and, to be perfectly honest, I just don’t want to work as hard as I’d have to work to get it done. I gave up that dream, and it was O.K. Really O.K.

Sometimes I think our kids have to know these things about us. They need to know that we have sacrificed some things for them. It’s not a guilt-motivated thing, just a life-lesson thing.

Because life is all about choices.


  1. I've always liked our AG and hadn't heard her recent announcement. I think it's terrific that you're talking with your girls about choices and the responsibility of choosing. These are wonderful times for being a woman. And there is much responsibility that must be taken in choosing between all the options availability to us. It is easy to not make the choices clear to our daughters. Nice work taking the challenging path of interchange and discussion!

  2. Madigan has been such a pleasant surprise. I really thought with that name and those connections she would have to be corrupt - no evidence of that yet which is so refreshing!

  3. I'm from your lovely state too, gotta love our politicians. I hadn't heard about Ms. Madigan, but then again I seem to catch very little news lately. I thinks it's important for our kids to know why we choose or chose certain things in our lives, especially with reguards to them. I think it helps them to know how much we value them and maybe it will stick when they get older too! I've thought about going back for my masters, but even now with the kids 16 and almost 13, I just personally can't juggle it all. Maybe later, or then again maybe not!