Kellyanne Conway, the political pollster who became the first Republican woman to run a presidential campaign, said Wednesday she might not continue to advise President-elect Donald Trump from inside the White House because of her four young children.
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“My children are 12, 12, 8 and 7, which is bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea for mom going inside [the White House]," Conway told the audience at Politico's Women Rule event at the Park Hyatt in Washington, D.C. "They have to come first, and those are very fraught ages."
Conway said that while there are opportunities for working mothers in the nation's capital, "we still have to make choices, and there are limits."
President Barack Obama's senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, the event's keynote speaker, said she imparted some advice to Conway about being a working mom in the White House.
“I encouraged her to give it a try,” Jarrett said. “First of all, because the experience inside the White House, working with somebody who you respect and know as well as she does — the president-elect — is unique, and I’ve had the benefit of that, and I wouldn’t have traded the last years for anything.”
Obama made helping working families a priority during his administration and during the 2016 presidential election, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump spearheaded efforts to make childcare support for parents a part of the Trump agenda.
Despite Conway’s personal concerns about juggling motherhood and a formal White House role, she dismissed any notions that Trump does not support mothers in the White House.
“Mothers and married women and unmarried women — they’re all welcome in the Trump White House, and he’s made that very clear to me,” she said. Turning down a job at the White House, “would be my personal choice and not a demand on me.”
Conway explained that the adviser leading a political organization outside Pennsylvania Avenue needs to have someone with the trust and ear of the president, “who actually has relationships with donors, grass roots, Capitol Hill, so that we can play prevent defense but also go on offense when it comes to supporting his nominees for the cabinet or for the United States Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary.”
She said the organization would get the message out on important agenda items for the White House. It would also allow her to spend time at home with her family.
Conway said a friend made a suggestion about splitting her time between home and the White House.
“He’s going to want to see me on the morning shows and then go into the [Oval Office], and then by 2:00, I’ve put in a full day, but it’s not a full day, because it’s the White House. But maybe I could go home and see the kids and help them with homework and then go back,” said Conway.
“Maybe I could help America’s women in terms of feeling less guilty about balancing life and career and perhaps Skyping or Facetiming and showing how that’s done. I mean there’s something to that. So we’ll figure all that out.”
During interviews with candidates for Cabinet positions, Conway says she asks the male candidates to see their role through the eyes of their spouse.
“I do politely mention to them that the question isn’t ‘Would you take the job?’ — the male sitting across from me who’s about to take a big role in the White House — but ‘Would you want your wife to?’ And you really see their entire visage change. It’s like, oh, no, they wouldn’t want their wife to take that job.”
Still, Jarrett thinks Conway should raise her concerns about balancing home and potential White House work with Trump.
“I think tone starts at the top and if you have a relationship with your boss such that you can say, ‘Look, this is a top priority. There’s nothing more important for me than being a good mom, but I think I can be a good mom and have the flexibility enough to do this job well,’” said Jarrett. “And that’s something I encouraged her to try.”