The Ryan Decision


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As noted in many news outlets last week, when Paul Ryan, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced that his retirement was prompted by wanting to spend more time with his three teenage children, I impulsively thought that there might be more politics than family in his decision. I regret that cynical first impression, considering the exacting way he explained this critical time in his household.


According to, he said, "If I stay, my kids will only know me as a weekend dad. I can't let that happen."


Call me naïve, but timing, politics and parties aside, if this is the heart of his decision then I get it. I really get it. But I didn’t right away.


For a few minutes after his statement I have to admit I got hung up in rhetoric. What isn’t he saying? What is the real reason? Would it be as much of a big deal if a woman in that same exact position had made that decision? Do we accept (even covertly expect) mothers to carry the brunt of childcare in 2018?  Note to self: this is not a gender issue of Mom vs. Dad but parent helping parent. Mr. Ryan’s deciding to be the other full-time parent must be an especially big relief for his household, given the demanding high school/college days to come for his children. 


Sometimes I think about my parental relationships when I was growing up and in the household I share now. As a daughter, my dad worked nights and I didn’t see him much. But he tried his best to give me advice. He reminded me to stay patient when I was a frustrated, chubby kid who couldn’t do a sit up. He taught me to keep trying and trust in adolescence to help me grow and lose that “baby fat” I so despised.


In our current home, I am the “go-to” parent for academics while my husband is the social commentator and common sense dad. I am the Woody Allen to my husband’s Mel Brooks. I am trusting, he is pragmatic. I am serious, while he is lighthearted. In the end we are grateful that our daughter and son can benefit from varied perspectives — seeking out each parent for different opinions and needs.


Mr. Ryan, whether I agree with your political viewpoints is irrelevant as I do agree with your decision to put your family first. Parenting isn’t easy and not many Americans can do what you’ve planned, but if you can, you give pause to us all. 


A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.