Meet The Campaign Widows

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white house
Having a spouse who's a campaign staffer can hit a marriage hard.

Olivia Plouffe is a campaign widow who literally moved her life for the campaign. Her husband, David, became Obama's campaign manager, which meant leaving her beloved Washington, DC lifestyle, job and new home for a Chicago high rise rental in a city where she knew no one. Now, she's raising their three-year old son, missed Christmas with her parents for the first time ever, and can't even remember her last "date night." But she's built a support network through her son's preschool and at campaign headquarters, in addition to becoming a part-time volunteer consultant on the campaign. Believing in the campaign keeps her spirits up. "If I didn't believe in the cause, I'd have a different attitude," she says. "I look at these eighteen months as an adventure."

I see it as an adventure, too, only it's hard to sneak in snuggle time with someone who's on night 393 of just six hours of sleep. As the lone parent with two boys, ages 6 and 3, it's the little, nightly non-tangible things that are most trying: staying strong when my three-year old screams at bedtime; saying goodnight to the dog. I'm trying to manage household finances even though I am hopeless at math, and making split-second decisions about paint colors my husband might hate. To my husband’s credit, he somehow coached our six-year-old's football team to victory last fall—and never missed a game.

Campaign widows are too clever to just complain. We know people are worse off than we are. People have lost spouses to death, divorce, or military service. But we're in an odd place; neither here nor there. And here is the thing: Ours is a thankless job. We are a forgotten lot, because there are no resources or support groups for people going through campaign wars. Communities don't rally around us. Neighbors don't drop by with food or sympathy.

Talk about mixed emotions…on the night of Super Tuesday, I'll be watching. My eyes will be glued to CNN as the votes roll in. (Note: On Iowa Caucus night, I was happy to see my first grader use his new math skills to figure out the percentage gap between candidates!) Despite it all— the missing my husband, taking on garbage duty, and feeling like a single mom—I will still want "our" candidate to win. Though her not getting the nomination would make my life easier—and probably better—I am not a campaign widow without a heart. I know how hard my husband has worked—too hard to lose now. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, the folks who come out of this campaign with marriages intact will be the real winners.

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