Jenny Sanford and Katherine Jackson. Did we even know their names before last week? Can we connect them by anything other than the point size of the headlines surrounding the doomed men in their lives? Is it about what mothers have that allows them to hold themselves together for their children? Or is it as Amelia Earhart would have had us believe when she said, “Courage is the price life exacts for peace?”

These questions insist themselves as one reads today’s newspaper (Yes, most of us who write for and read WVFC still read newspapers).

Jenny Sanford has said that though she knew of her husband’s affair with an Argentinean woman since January of this year, she decided to plug on and keep her home intact until the end of her children’s school year. Descriptions of her paint the picture of a bright, directed woman who could have run the state of South Carolina single-handedly.

Katherine Jackson reared nine children on her own and bore up under the repeated humiliation of her husband’s infidelities. She was Essence Magazine’s mother of the year in 1985. Yet she saw herself shuffled aside as her sons’ careers as performers took off, though it was she who sewed their costumes in the early years when the Jackson Five was but a family-held dream of success. Now she will hold her dead son’s family together, by caring for his three children until the courts decide custody. If you surf the Net, you’ll find that most believe it will be she who will prevail as their legal guardian.

While one can read these raw facts and opinions, we have no way of knowing the day-to- day of the lives and histories of these women (though the TV movie with Angela Bassett, above, tried with Jackson). But we can imagine some of their inner states from what we know of our own.

As women grow, most of the time they opt for responsibility over distraction, for the care of the next generation over the generation of pleasure for themselves. Two men’s careers came to a standstill this week. One man continues to govern a state as his wife calls for repentance. The other is departed from this world as his mother enacts her calling as a caregiver.  Two women continue on, their eyes as ever on the children for whom they have hopes. Their hopes for themselves seem to have repeatedly been put aside.

There may not be a lesson for the ages here, but there is reason to pause. As a people, we bow to the power of celebrity and political gain. We read the stories of these men in terms of the mighty in free fall. As mature women, let us stop and realize the might of the women who carry on, and resolve to stand as examples of strength and steadfast belief in the value of setting aside self-pi.jpgty and self.

It has been a sad week, as so many of them are on the front pages of America. Let us stop and offer up a moment of support for those whose sacrifice is implicit—between the lines.

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  • Dr Patricia Allen June 29, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    It does occur to me that self care needs to become a valued commodity for women themselves. Selflessness often engenders just more expectations from others that we women of a certain age will manage all those in free fall in our families and communities. It is not in the best interest of the men and often grown children in our lives to encourage us to find our spiritual path, to pursue our passions because, after all, someone has to do the laundry, buy the food, make them a home. If women do not define the boundaries of their lives and line those boundaries with armed sentries, then we can expect no more than the media presents us to be: dutiful, understanding, forgiving, selfless, until our time here just runs out. This is a conversation for our time.