“House Divided” by Jami Deise
Blurb: When it comes to the work/life seesaw, Erin Murphy is a balancing-act expert. True, she works for Democrats while her husband Jack is a spokesman for Republicans, but at home they’re in sync. Their jobs stay at the office. Their children — 13-year-old animal-nut Jessica and 8-year-old Batman-obsessed Michael – come first. And her career is just as important as his. But on Election Day 2014, everything changes. Suddenly, Erin is out of a job … and Jack is the new star of The Right Choice TV network! As Erin searches frantically for her next position, Jack begins to practice what he preaches. Their house turns into a battlefield: What’s wrong with saying “Merry Christmas” to their Jewish neighbors? How can there be global warming when it’s cold outside? Jessica takes her mother’s side (her father is a “disgusting planet murderer”), while Michael just thinks it’s cool that Dad’s on TV and he’s making a million dollars. And Michael’s not the only one impressed with the family’s new money: Who are all these new people floating around Jack, and what do they want? As Erin’s friends take sides about what she should do with Jack 2.0, the only person who understands is a fellow stay-at-home parent: Scott. Scott is easy to look at, and just as frustrated with his marriage as Erin is… But the biggest battle is Erin’s alone: Should she keep pounding the pavement? Or become a perfect trophy wife and mother that Jack now wants her to be? Without a title and a salary, how can Erin figure out who she really is?
Because even though Jack and I shared the same sarcastic sense of humor, love for action movies and disdain for country music, we spent our working hours opposing each other.
Jack and I met on opposite sides of a House/Senate conference committee table. It was three in the morning, and my colleague Zoe Nelson and I were arguing passionately on why a funding mechanism for recycling that our boss placed in an energy bill absolutely, positively needed to be preserved no matter what. Zoe was in tears and I’d been shouting. The people on Jack’s side of the table were just as wound up.
But Jack was just sitting there, scribbling on a note pad. I thought he was mapping out a response, but when I looked over, he’d drawn a very professional caricature of his boss, complete with the drunkard nose and hairy ears. I covered my mouth to hide the laughing fit, but he looked over and smiled. And then he reached into his backpack and pulled out two beers. I was hooked.
On our first date that weekend, he told me a friend of his dad’s got him the job with his Republican Congressman — he didn’t really care one way or another. Fifteen years later, that hadn’t really changed. Currently the vice president of communications for the American Business Association, Jack watched politics the way a sports reporter watched sports. Some days it was because he was cynical; other days he just didn’t care. He worked for ABA because they offered him more money than the hospital people and the shipping people did.
Republicans paid a lot better than Democrats. Even though Jack was only a level or two above me, his salary was three times what I brought home. Which worked out, because Jack was only in it for the money. Maybe that’s why he was so good at his job. It’s easier to craft arguments for or against a position if you really didn’t care either way.
The other benefit to Jack’s not caring was that we didn’t take our work arguments home. Our house was about our children, thirteen-year-old Jessica and eight-year-old Michael, their after-school activities, where we were going on vacation, questions such as have you seen my yellow tie? It was a place of peace, an oasis in a political jungle.