Yesterday, I watched Dr. Jill Biden — Helping Families Thrive, a special episode of Scary Mommy’s Live. Work. Thrive series.
Dr. Biden, educator, mom, and wife of Presidential Candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, spoke with host Micaela Birmingham, and mom of two, Kellie Artis, founder of Millie, a network to connect military families with resources during their many permanent changes of station.
As a military wife, I was interested in hearing what Kellie and Dr. Biden had to say. My husband’s job doesn’t require us to move and he doesn’t deploy on a regular schedule, but as full-time Air National Guard, issues relating to the military affect our family, too.
The interview started with a friendly chat about family life during the pandemic. When Kellie shared that her husband was deployed for the first half of the year, and explained some of the difficulties of being the “default parent,” Dr. Biden warmly responded with an acknowledgment that oftentimes, “moms are the glue of the family.”
Dr. Jill Biden would know. She’s a mom of three, a military mom, and a bereaved parent. She has experienced motherhood from a baby’s first cries, to a grown son’s final breath. She’s raised children that she birthed and some she did not. She knows motherhood.
And she knows marriage. When asked how Joe Biden plans on bringing the US back from COVID and getting kids back into the classroom, she assured the audience that she “made sure he heard her” when creating his plan. She’s been an educator for decades, and she knows the value of her experience.
As I listened to Dr. Biden explain that Joe Biden will listen to doctors and scientists, increase access to testing, continue to work toward a safe and effective vaccine, and give resources to schools to make the classroom a safer place to be, I felt my shoulders relax for the first time in a long time.
This is what I want from a prospective First Lady.
She just kept going. Better mental health support for students and teachers. Equalizing inequities in education by providing access to better internet and laptops. Dr. Biden understands education. It makes me feel hopeful to know that as president, Joe Biden would have her wisdom to draw from when he makes decisions about my children’s educational future.
Jill Biden is warm, pleasant and gracious. When she talks about her late son Beau’s military career, you can see the pride in her eyes. As Kellie and Dr. Biden chatted about life as a military family, I could easily see that she really cares about families like mine. No losers or suckers here.
I couldn’t shake the feeling of familiarity as I listened to Dr. Biden express her thoughts and her faith in her husband of over 40 years. I couldn’t put my finger on why her words felt so comforting to me. At first, I thought maybe it was her accent. It’s reminiscent of my own mother, aunts, and grandmother, who are all from New Jersey, as Dr. Biden is. But that didn’t quite feel like the whole reason. After a few hours of reflection, it hit me — Dr. Jill Biden feels like the adult I want to see after four years without a real grownup in charge.
Let me tell you a quick story: When I was a teenager, my family visited my dad’s brother’s family in Texas, and the adults left me in charge of my three young cousins and my little brother. I loved babysitting, and when my parents and aunt and uncle left, everything was fine. But over the course of the evening, all hell broke loose. One of the children started feeling unwell, and a tarantula the size of a toy poodle took up residence on the front door, trapping us indoors. My 7-year-old cousin fell off the couch, hitting his head and leaving a gaping wound in his scalp. While I was trying to figure out how to stop the bleeding, the TV news informed me that a tornado was spotted not too far away.
At fifteen years old, I found myself in the windowless bathroom with all four kids piled into the bathtub with pillows and blankets, trying to keep them from panicking about the impending tornado. Meanwhile, I was holding pressure on my cousin’s profusely bleeding scalp. For a few minutes, I was terrified, unprepared and felt no real sense of leadership or control.
Then my dad walked through the door.
He thanked me for doing my best. My uncle was seconds behind him, and he took over tending to my cousin’s head. My aunt calmed her screaming baby, and my mom was there to comfort my little brother. Suddenly, all the problems felt manageable. I knew it would be okay.
Of course, the spider was still on the door. The storm was still raging. My cousin was still bleeding all over the bathroom, and the baby was still petrified of the thunder. The adults’ arrival didn’t magically fix everything.
But I wasn’t alone anymore, and I trusted the people in charge. All of the problems that overwhelmed me when I didn’t have any reliable leadership felt less catastrophic when I trusted the people who promised they would fix them.
This afternoon, as I watched Dr. Biden talk about the pandemic, military families, educational inequity, and motherhood, I felt the same sense of relief as I felt all those years ago when my parents finally arrived back home on that scary, stressful evening in Dallas.
The problems that feel insurmountable under our current administration feel less overwhelming to me when I consider someone with more experience taking over. An administration change won’t magically fix all of our problems, but maybe we could finally start working on everything that has gone wrong.
Dr. Biden has already spent eight years as Second Lady. She’s been an educator for decades. She’s a mom, a wife and a grandmother. She knows how this is supposed to work. Dr. Biden knows what our schools need to be successful. She knows how to support, advise and encourage her husband if he wins this election and gets his chance to hold the highest office in the country. I hope she will have her chance to make a difference as First Lady.
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I couldn’t let #WorldTeachersDay go by without celebrating the best teacher I know. Jilly, the way you’ve worked tirelessly and passionately for your students year after year continues to inspire me. Don’t forget to thank your teachers today who are continuing to guide and inspire our children remotely.
Toward the end of the interview Kellie’s daughter, 10-year-old Hannah Artis, asked Dr. Biden what she would tell people who want to help and make a difference.
Of course, Dr. Jill Biden encouraged adults to go out and vote. She commended Hannah for her early interest in politics and important issues, then she gave a practical and human suggestion that every single one of us can do:
“Go to your strengths. Don’t wait. Commit to an act of kindness. There’s nothing better.”