Newly married, my husband, Eric, and I moved to a new home with our kids. Now we would start trying to blend our families.
From the beginning, it was total chaos. There were endless chores, to say nothing of the logistics of caring for four kids under 8 (two from our previous marriages and two we'd had together). At the same time, I had just started a new full-time job writing legal briefs from home, and I was trying to finish a dissertation for my Ph.D. in history. All of which meant that I was trapped inside for days at a time with my kids, whose constant bickering was driving me nuts.Like millions of other modern moms, I tried to change them by yelling and nagging. This, of course, only made their behavior worse. After one especially trying day, I stomped off to my home office. Too exhausted to work, I sat at my desk and stared at a dusty shelf of books. And there I saw it: an old copy of "The Prince."
Pulling it from the shelf, I studied its cover—a portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli. His determined eyes stared out humbly at me; his thin lips turned up in a slight, knowing smile; his stance, powerful and confident—everything that I was not at that point in my life.
Machiavelli's name is synonymous with duplicity, deceit and the cunning, ruthless use of power. But the more I read, the more excited I became.
Machiavelli began writing "The Prince" in the midst of his own crisis. Fired from his position in Florence as a high-ranking diplomat, he had been arrested, imprisoned and tortured for his alleged role in a conspiracy to assassinate Cardinal Giuliano de'Medici and seize the government by force. Upon his release, exiled to the Tuscan countryside, he resolved to write a primer on politics in hopes of gaining favor among the Medicis and obtaining a new government post. Thus was born "The Prince," the most revolutionary and widely maligned political tract of all time.
Machiavelli never wrote the infamous phrase often associated with him: "the ends justify the means." His methods weren't about acquiring power for its own sake. He saw power as a tool for securing the safety and stability of the state. He wanted to show princes how to ensure the happiness and well-being of their subjects.
A stable and safe home? Full of happy and prosperous subjects? It sounded like a worthy goal, not just for a prince but for a parent too. Maybe I could use Machiavelli's rules to help me reclaim my own kingdom.