My phone rang at 3:30 pm. Right on time.
“Hi Ann Marie. This is Jenny Sanford.”
It was as if one girlfriend was calling another, rather than the wife of the South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford phoning in for an interview.
For a woman who has long craved a quiet life, Sanford has found herself smack-dab in the middle of the spotlight—on a well-publicized tour for her book Staying True.
By now, Sanford’s story is well-known. Married for more than 20 years, she was publicly humiliated when her husband admitted in a press conference that he was deeply in love with another woman. But the lovely, Winnetka-bred mother of 4 boys refused to be a victim. Instead, she became a symbol of grace and strength to women everywhere.
“When that famous press conference took place, I issued a statement that wasn’t just a sound-bite,” Sanford says. “I thought long and hard about those words—about the importance of faith and family and they really seemed to strike a chord. The outpouring of support from people all over the country was amazing–and a bit surprising.”
For this reason, Sanford set out to write her story after her boys returned to school last fall. Her hope was to set the record straight on the details of her life that had been made public. “It was important to me that my book not be angry or vengeful,” Sanford explains, who has been careful to correct the media for persecuting the governor for things some other husbands are equally guilty—like forgetting a birthday or being overly frugal. “Anger is something you feel but you have to let go of it. That’s truly what happened in the process of writing my book. I was able to let it go, forgive Mark, and begin to heal myself.”
Strangely, Sanford believes that her life as a political wife and advisor prepared her well for this challenge. “We wake up everyday knowing that half the state isn’t on our side because of the political views we have. Instead of worrying about righting these wrongs, we have to hold on to what’s most dear—and not concern ourselves with changing things that are out of our control.”
When reading Sanford’s book, it’s clear she knew that one day this book would be in the hands of her young sons. The empathy she has for her husband whom she has filed for divorce is palpable. “I know that Mark has the weight of the world on his shoulders. That type of stress can make you do things you wouldn’t under normal circumstances. Character takes constant work,” Sanford explains.
And it’s the character of Sanford’s boys that is now her number one priority. “This is never something I wanted to have to talk about with my sons. If Mark hadn’t been a public figure and we could have handled this just between the two of us, that would have been better. But because this all played out so publicly, I had to prepare my boys for what they might hear. I had to assure them that things would be okay. They needed to know that what happened was nothing they caused or could have prevented.”
When asked if she would have handled this situation differently if she had four girls, Sanford laughed. “I don’t know. I’ve never had girls. I suppose girls would have asked more questions—my boys were pretty straightforward.”
Sanford is looking forward to returning to Winnetka next week. “The North Shore is a special place to me, filled with family and friends. It will feel good to be surrounded by familiar faces.”
Jenny Sanford will appear at The Book Stall on Tuesday, February 16 at 7:00 pm. The Book Stall is located at 811 Elm Street, Winnetka, 847-446-8880.