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Parenting Her Children Saved Jackie Kennedy From Misery After JFK’s Death

Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images

Jacqueline Kennedy was devoted to being America’s First Lady between 1961 and 1963, when her husband, John F. Kennedy, was president, although it was not her priority. As soon as she became a mother, it was clear to her that her children would always come first. As such, after the assassination of her husband, she gave herself wholeheartedly to raising her kids. This ultimately saved her from the grief of losing JFK.

Jackie and JFK had four children

Jackie Kennedy holding a baby, John F. Kennedy standing beside her.
John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy at the christening of their son John F. Jr. in Washington. (Photo Credit: Keystone / Getty Images)

Jackie and JFK got married in 1953, and just a few short years later, the couple started to expand their family. Jackie had suffered a miscarriage in 1955 but got pregnant again soon after. Sadly, this child, who came to be known as Arabella Kennedy, was stillborn in August 1956.

Their next two children, Caroline, born in 1957, and John Jr., born in 1960, would survive infancy. Sadly, tragedy would strike the Kennedy family once again as Jackie’s next pregnancy resulted in a premature birth. Their son, whom they named Patrick, survived only 39 hours before he too died from complications.

While these tragic deaths were never ignored, Jackie and JFK were both thankful for the children they were able to raise.

Raising good kids was important to them

John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy with their two children, Caroline and John Jr.
President John F. Kennedy and the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, with their two children, John and Caroline. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

When you think of the Kennedys, you might not think of heavily involved parents. Instead, it’s easy to assume most Kennedy parents handed their children off to nannies while they vacationed, partied and attended public events. However, that was not the case with Jackie.

When she became a mother, she became a very hands-on figure in her children’s lives. As Pamela Keogh, author of Jackie Style, described: “She was there playing with them and reading to them and painting with them – all kinds of stuff. She was a young mother but she wasn’t phoning it in and she was very involved that’s why her two children were beautifully raised.”

Jackie’s former Secret Service agent, Clint Hill, also described her hands-on approach to parenting. He said she “insisted on their children being respectful, acknowledging people and having good manners. But at the same time [she] wanted them to have a lot of fun and be happy.”

Being a mother saved her from ‘misery’ after JFK’s assassination

Jackie Kennedy sitting on the floor with her two children.
Jackie Kennedy kneels on the bedroom floor, reading a storybook to her children, John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy. (Photo Credit: John F. Kennedy Library / John F. Kennedy Library / Getty Images)

It is no surprise, then, that after her husband’s assassination in November 1963, Jackie found solace in focusing on her children. Paul Brandus, author of Jackie: Her Transformation From First Lady to Jackie O, said that after JFK’s death, “she was miserable for quite a long time.”

Of course, this is a natural response to losing one’s husband, but it haunted Jackie. She suffered from recollection and took up drinking. “She could not stop thinking about it. She had nightmares during the day,” Brandus explained. “And going to sleep brought her no rest.”

When her entire family had to leave the White House, she did everything she could to make sure the transition was as smooth as possible for her children. In their new house, she painted her children’s rooms the exact same colors as they were at the presidential home and would spare no expense to give them exciting birthday parties and more.

“Her love for her children gave her strength,” Brandus said. “She said at one point that if you do a poor job of raising your children, then nothing else you do in life really matters. She lived up to that. They always came first.”

More from us: The Touching Reason Some of George Carlin’s Ashes Were Sprinkled at a Children’s Summer Camp

Jackie’s exact words were: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!