It’s no secret that women are under-represented in political office. Women with young children are even more under-represented.
There are various reasons for this — the cost of running for office, the existence of powerful political networks that might exclude women — but a key one is that running for office takes time. This is something that many women with young children feel is in short supply.
It makes sense, but when groups aren’t represented in political office, their concerns might not rise to the top of the priority list. Regardless of what one thinks of government spending in general, or whether certain policies are wise or not, it’s not a coincidence that we have Social Security for retirees but no equivalent universal system of paid parental leave. It’s not a coincidence that we have a reasonably maintained network of interstates that people use to get to work, and yet very limited subsidies for childcare (which would also help people get to work).
Anyway, Best of Both Worlds is not a political podcast. Instead, we wanted to talk about running for office from a logistical perspective. How can working parents make it work?
So we were delighted to welcome Anne Johnson Landry to the program. Landry recently ran for the state house in Massachusetts when a district opened up. She’s no stranger to the legislative process, having worked in policy for years. She’s also the mother of a little boy who just turned 2 years old (he was about 18 months when she began campaigning).
One key decision: She scaled down to part-time to accommodate her campaign. This was a tough financial decision — as she noted, her family can have one big emergency expense this winter, but not two — but she and her husband agreed this was worth the risk.
Speaking of her husband, he has been fully supportive of her decision to run. Campaigning can involve a lot of criticism and rejection, so knowing your family has your back helps a lot! Landry’s husband is a school teacher, and so — with the summer off — he served as her campaign manager and managed the childcare, grocery shopping, etc.
She noted that some aspects of campaigning are relatively flexible. Running for local office involves a lot of knocking on doors, but this doesn’t need to be done at certain times. Landry did a session before recording our podcast, and went to do another session after! The evening events that are important for local campaigns also work reasonably well around a toddler’s schedule. Landry would hang out with her son from 5-7:00 p.m., then go to an evening event when he was going to bed.
(As for being out late and then waking up with a toddler? Well, that’s a different matter…)
There has also been a shift — as more women are running for office — in thinking on questions like whether campaign funds can be used for childcare. While not a panacea, new thinking here definitely can open up possibilities.
Obviously, different positions involve different things. Running for statewide office in a large state might involve a lot of travel. Races requiring a lot of advertising and staff would involve more time spent fundraising.
But as people like Landry are showing, if you do want to run for political office, you don’t have to wait until your children are older. You can serve your family, and ask for the chance to serve your community at the same time.
A postscript: Landry’s primary was in early September. She wound up losing this race by 27 votes. In local elections, things can be incredibly close. But perhaps Massachusetts voters will get a chance to hear from Landry again in the future!
We also took a question on so-called “mommy brain” — really a term for chronic sleep deprivation. That was a great discussion, so please give the episode a listen!