Margaret Thatcher, She Changed the World, But What about Her Family?

Lately we've been discussing what it costs for women to work in and out of the home. 
I don't have easy answers, or even any answers.
People often praise Deborah as an ancient example of super woman. She did it all.
How could Deborah, judge of Israel, still be submissive to her husband, and obedient in her role as helpmeet? 
Are there exceptions to the principles set by God?

My husband reminded me of Margaret Thatcher.

I preface this comparison and evaluation with these statements:
Even if you do all the right things as a parent, that's no guarantee your children will walk in obedience to God: look at God, with Adam and Eve. They chose wrong, even with a perfect role model.
Nor do I wish that Margaret Thatcher had not been Prime Minister of Britain. She saved her country. And helped ours.
I only look to her as an example of a modern day Deborah. And try to answer my own questions.
What did she sacrifice?

Before Margaret Thatcher came into office:

Tim Ross gives the setting before Margaret Thatcher took office in 1979: “The British economy had been brought to brink of collapse by the ‘winter of discontent’, which saw public sector staff on strike for weeks. Mountains of rubbish accumulated in city streets and, in Liverpool, bodies even remained unburied.”

She was remembered
Lord (Digby) Jones, former head of the CBI and DTI, said: “She set the business environment free; she gave a dictator a bloody nose; she freed up the individual from the undemocratic grasp of unrepresentative trades unionism. She changed a nation and very few people can say that about their time on this earth.”

Lord Sugar said Lady Thatcher had “created [the] opportunity for anyone to succeed in the UK.”

Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The reforms Lady Thatcher introduced, though deeply controversial at the time, have subsequently become accepted wisdom.”

John Cridland, the director general of the CBI, said Lady Thatcher “took the UK out of the economic relegation zone and into the first division. What Baroness Thatcher did to reshape the British economy gave us a generation of growth.”

Sir David Lees, chairman of the court of the Bank of England and former GKN chairman, said: “She was prime minister in that awful period of 1979 with inflation rushing away and the trade unions being a significant menace to business. Her strength and courage are the two things I would pick out in dealing with them and giving business the confidence to address the trade unions. It is a huge legacy.”

Boris Johnson told of her, “I cannot think of any other modern leader who has been so fierce in sticking up for her core beliefs, and that is why she speaks so powerfully to every politician in Britain today, and why we are all in her shade. In the end she was martyred by lesser men who were fearful for their seats.

"But by the time she left office she had inspired millions of people – and especially women – that you could genuinely change things; that no matter where you came from you could kick down the door of the stuffy, male-dominated club and bring new ideas. She mobilised millions of people to take charge of their economic destiny, and unleashed confidence and a spirit of enterprise.
"She changed this country’s view of itself, and exploded the myth of decline. She changed the Tory Party, she changed the Labour Party, and she transformed the country she led: not by compromise, but by an iron resolve.”

Bernard Ingham, her chief press secretary, said, “She was the original executive woman who conquered a man’s world by saying what she thought with conviction, force and integrity. Her endless courage in persevering with her economic policies for seven years until they bore fruit, embarking on the Falklands campaign, facing down the IRA and eventually seeing off Scargill, marked her out as a phenomenon.
"I call the after-dinner speech that I sometimes give about her Life with the lioness.” 

What about her family?
In her autobiography, she wrote: “When Denis asked me to be his wife, I thought long and hard about it. I had so much set my heart on politics that I hadn’t figured marriage in my plans.
“But the more I considered, the surer I was. More than 40 years later I know that my decision to say “yes” was one of the best I have ever made.”
In 1951, she married Denis, a wealthy, divorced businessman.
In 1953, after studying chemistry at Oxford, she birthed twins, Carol and Mark. From the hospital to ensure that she would qualify for the Bar, she posted her exam application to be barrister.
The twins were installed in the nanny’s room, the usual situation of someone of wealth and status.
Within six years, Margaret had entered the male-dominated Parliament.
When interviewed in 1960 with BBC with her children present, she said, “Certainly until these two are a little older I couldn’t take on any more political responsibilities.”
Ten years later she became Education Secretary in the Heath government.

Carol recalled how her mother was “never off duty”. She wrote: “My mum worked, and that was that, and to my dying day I will admire how hard she did work.
“A secretary would pop in with news of a phone call, and Mum would slip back into her power heels and march off in purposeful mode. Late-night phone calls were especially frequent during the ­Falklands conflict in 1982.”
In a BBC documentary, Carol said: “All my childhood memories of my mother were just someone who was superwoman before the phrase had been invented. She was always flat out, she never relaxed, household chores were done at breakneck speed in order to get back to the parliamentary correspondence or get on with making up a speech.
“You couldn’t distract her… she had tunnel vision in terms of whatever she was doing.”

But Carol's perspective was questioned by Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken, Carol’s ex-boyfriend, when he remembers their planned holiday conflicted with a three-line whip, requiring all Tory MPs to vote. Mrs. Thatcher (then leader of the Opposition) rearranged parliamentary business so as not to disappoint her daughter.

After leaving Aitken, Carol did not marry or have children.

Carol complains, “Nobody will ever know me for being anything other than Margaret Thatcher’s daughter, so at the end of the day whatever I did was never good enough.”

Judith Woods reminds her audience, “It’s a painfully harsh judgment, but one, it must be remembered, that she makes on herself.”

Mark, the ‘favored twin,’ was confident, in spite of failing his accountancy exams and gaining his playboy reputation. In 1982, while driving in the Park-Dakar Rally in the Sahara, he drove off-course. Search planes found him six days later. Lady Thatcher cried publicly.
He, unlike his twin, benefited from his mother’s connections, becoming a wealthy businessman.
He divorced his first wife after Amanda and Michael were born. They live in Texas. He lives in Spain with his second wife.

In his attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea, he plea-bargained and received a four-year suspended jail sentence and a fine.

Early in Lady Margaret's career, Denis made money in the oil business to give financial security.
Their marriage, viewed as one of the strongest in politics, was questioned when Denis stayed in South Africa after a nervous breakdown and a mid-life crisis when he turned 50, leaving his wife and young twins. The prospect of a divorce was real.
According to their daughter, Sir Denis “didn’t like every aspect of being married to a politician.” How could he protect his wife from the media, from those who did not like her policy, from threats from other countries? He couldn't. 
Denis places no blame on his wife’s career for his breakdown, but Carol Thatcher records that “friends believed that Margaret’s absorption in her own career at this time left him feeling isolated.”

Lady Margaret’s most important relationship was with Denis, who offered unwavering support. She described their marriage as the “golden thread running through my life.” She confessed, "I couldn't have done it without Denis. He was a fund of shrewd advice and penetrating comment. And he very sensibly saved these for me rather than the outside world.
"He gives me a sense of perspective. If I am upset or think I have done something silly, we talk about it and he makes me see sense."
He in return said: "I have been married to one of the greatest women the world has ever produced. All I could produce, small as it may be, was love and loyalty."
His part was a great sacrifice, since he regarded journalists as "reptiles." He explained that his father warned him that "whales don't get killed unless they spout."
Carol recalled: "Dad always used to defuse difficult situations with humour. If there was a crisis, he'd pour himself a stiff gin and say: `Let's just relax.' He lived on gin and cigarettes and made it to 88."

Martin Flicker describes Margaret Thatcher’s family life:
“Margaret Thatcher had been out of power for five years before the truth dawned on her.
She had devoted most of her adult life to politics and wholeheartedly dedicated herself to public service. But after leaving Downing Street the mother-of-two suddenly realised she had neglected the ­importance of family.”

Her children rarely visited their mother.

Mark’s children, her only ­grandchildren, lived in Texas.

Lady Thatcher told Saga magazine: “Look, you can’t have everything. It has been the greatest privilege being prime minister of my country… Yes, I wish I saw more of my children. We don’t have Sunday lunch together; we don’t go on holiday skiing any more. But I can’t regret. And I haven’t lost my children. They have their lives. I took a different life.”

Thatcher once told of her sadness at not seeing much of her grandchildren, saying: “My greatest delight exceeding everything else is when my daughter-in-law sends me photographs of the grandchildren.”

Carol responded to her mother’s complaints, “A mother cannot reasonably expect her grown-up children to boomerang back, gushing cosiness, and make up for lost time. Absentee mum, then gran in overdrive is not an equation that balances.”

Judith Woods concludes, “Harsh words, but the outside world meddles in family dynamics at its peril. Lady Thatcher was a pioneering politician and a working mother before the term had even been properly coined. Retrospective feelings of guilt, or circumspection over the sacrifices demanded by the office of prime minister, would not be so very surprising.”

But privately she told her friend Lord Spicer in 1995: “If I had my time again, I wouldn’t go into politics because of what it does to your family.”

The world needed her. But so did her family. Was the cost too great?

Please Note: Many of the articles have British spelling and punctuation.

Displaying 1 comment

Wow, a great article about Margaret Thatcher. It leaves us with a lot of questions though about what role a woman is to play. If she hadn't been prime minister, would God have raised up a man to do the job she did? Or would it just not have been done and many suffered because of it? I don't have the answer, but I'm glad you don't either, so I feel better. Was she a Christian? God can't guide us unless we're one of His.

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

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Margaret Thatcher, She Changed the
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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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