How do we begin to talk about politics and motherhood in the time of COVID-19, Trump, and the absolute need to dismantle institutionalized racism in the United States? There are fires everywhere and as mothers, as women, as humans, we are frantically trying to put them out.
I don’t know about you but my sense of responsibility is through the roof. Like I should fix all the things all the time for all the people. This is an unhealthy belief. It’s also more than a bit arrogant if I’m being honest.
We have all seen the memes going around: let it all burn, or that maybe 2020 is the year we all really need, or how this time is for growth and reconnection, and whatever other saying is passing along the halls of social media on any given day. Perhaps these are truths, or at least partial truths. In reality though, what we must do, what falls on our shoulders as moms in politics, is to remember what we started.
Why are we here to begin with and what do we want to accomplish in the end?
Everything else is something we can (and should) address through the lens of our original purpose.
How do we know what our reason is then? Perhaps some of you will know right away. Maybe it was the need for speed humps in your neighborhood, clean drinking water in your city, equal funding for schools across your state…maybe it was as simple as wanting to give back to your community in a way that feels meaningful and productive. Maybe you were bored and wanted something to do.
Some of you may not remember or may not have been sure when you started. Some of you may not have committed to run yet. All of these options are okay. But it is important to think about it. Why are you running for office or planning to run for office? What thing or things motivate you enough to want to take on this challenge?
You might be feeling a little panicky right now. Or wondering why this matters and what I’m talking about.
Let’s start by taking a deep breath.
The first step in figuring out your why is a simple brainstorming session. Get a pen and paper, or your laptop, or memo device or whatever tools you use to write things down. This is NOT the thing to get hung up on. Just pick anything you can use to make a nice long list. It does not need to be pretty or perfect (I’m looking at you fellow perfectionists).
Next take your pen and paper (or whatever you have) and start brainstorming. At the center of the paper write the office you are running for or thinking of running for. Draw a circle around it. All around that name write the things you hope to accomplish by winning that election. Write down everything even if it seems ridiculous when it pops into your head. This is not the time for censoring your thoughts.
Once that is done, take your list and read through it a few times. Start crossing out the ones that really are ridiculous…like banning clowns in your community (sorry clowns). Whittle away at your list by crossing out the things that don’t ring true to you, who you are, and what you really want to accomplish for your district/community/family. More often than not, you will find that you are left with a much smaller list of things you want to do and you will be able to recognize some commonalities among the remaining items.
Now, take whatever is left of your list and write it down on a fresh piece of paper. Somewhere within the confines of that list is your reason for running. It can be something as concrete as redevelopment concerns to something more amorphous like wanting to be a voice for people who are underrepresented. Maybe the theme is wanting to bring fiscal responsibility and openness, maybe you want to be a voice for conservation in an area with rampant development, maybe you live in a food desert, or you are in an area desperately in need of transportation and infrastructure development. The options are unlimited. You don’t have to fit in a box.
Right now, only you can see what is in your own list, so take the time to really look at what you want to accomplish and define the terms.
Final step. Once you have distilled your list into something that feels right to you, and rings true to your reason for running, get specific. Start filling in the details of how the issue(s) applies in the district where you are running. If questions come up that is great. Save those to research as you build your campaign.
“But I want to talk about COVID-19 and BLM and social justice,” you say. Absolutely you should. We all should be talking about it and working to make things better. It is hard in the political world to effect change if you don’t know who you are and why you are there in the first place.
It is also easier than most people realize to forget your purpose once you are elected. There are distractions and distortions, and day to day banalities abound.
Grounding yourself in your original why, whatever it may be, gives you strength and fortitude in the midst of those distractions and during the moments of crisis like what we are experiencing now.
If your reason for running is COVID-19 or systemic racism or a crisis then flesh that out too, reach deep into it and how it relates to where/how/why you are running for office. Be specific and concrete just like you would for any other reason.
I encourage all the moms (or anyone else) reading this to dig deep into their reasons for running, campaigning, and believing in their own political future. Write it down, tape it on a wall, keep it close. Be adaptable and change as you need to, but never forget why you started your journey.
Go out and do good things for the world.