When I ran my first campaign, I had no idea the marathon that I was about to endure. I went into it in a sprint, and with every hurdle, I was exhausted! I knew about the politicking I had to do: Having coffee with no fewer than 60-70 community and organization leaders, listening to each special interest group’s concerns and suggestions, etc. But no one prepared me for the logistics of running! The onslaught of endorsement questionnaires, all of which, of course, asked the same questions in just different enough ways that you had to write an entirely different response. Then the endorsement interviews, many of which, of course, were scheduled for the same date and time in very different parts of the city. The party circuit, which again all happened to fall on the same nights. The fundraiser circuit. Not my own fundraising, of course, but the fundraising events for other organizations and candidates, which—you guessed it—often fell on the same nights. And, of course, my own call time. All on top of a full-time job. I remember new parent friends telling me how tired they were and thinking, “Pft. Can’t possibly be as tired as I am!” I also distinctly remember wondering how anyone could do that with a kid. On most nights I could barely get myself fed! I lost that election by about 500 votes.
Two years later, I found out what tired upon tired can look like when I did it all over again while pregnant and then with a newborn. The filing deadline for the November 2014 election was August 7. I remember the date because it was also my due date. I had procrastinated for several months in deciding whether I was going to run again, and had talked to so many people seeking advice. Interestingly, the only people who tried to persuade me that I should focus on being a mom and not run were women. Women of a different generation, certainly, but women.
At the last minute, just days before the deadline, I waddled into the Department of Elections and filed my papers. Thankfully (I can say that now), I went a full week past my due date, which gave me some time on maternity leave before baby to copy and paste previous year’s responses to complete many of the questionnaires. Of course, after the baby was born, I didn’t think much about the campaign in the fog of new momness. Between the sleep deprivation and the panic that only first-time moms can understand, the campaign and fundraising were the last things on my mind. With the support of many friends in the political community—particularly mom friends—I was able to finish the endorsement cycle and even make some of the interview meetings in person. For others, someone went and spoke on my behalf. And through it all, my partner, the first-time dad, was an anchor who held me up and cheered me on and took on much more parenting responsibilities than most new dads I know. And after all that, I won.
My daughter was almost 5 months old when I was sworn in. In retrospect, I wish that I was holding her while I was being sworn in. After all, she pushed me to run, just as she pushes me to do everything I do to make our community better.
The challenges of learning the ropes of a new elected office while learning the ropes of being a parent to a tiny human—not to mention being the food source!—were many. I was sometimes reluctant to leave a board meeting to pump for fear that I’d miss important information. At the time, it didn’t occur to me to just bring the baby to the meeting. And no one suggested it. I’d like to think that in the few years that have elapsed since then, that would be a conversation. I’m grateful to have such a supportive partner that we were able to make the work-childcare-family-elected duties balance work.
In my training at Emerge California, one of the first things that we learned was that who we choose as a partner will be the most important decision we’ll make as professionals. I can attest that this is so true!
From this experience, I learned that the best thing I can do to support and help other parents to run for office is to help with logistics. Whether that’s child care or help filling out questionnaires or offering to speak on someone’s behalf at a meeting, the support is key to the balance! Let’s be each other’s support!