Melinda Mommy Meets Melinda Lobbyist

For the most part, my advocacy activities and my mommying don’t meet. In part, that’s because we have learned that our kids thrive on routine, which means no dragging them to evening meetings or long events. I also know myself well enough to know that I don’t do anything ‘halfway’, and so I made an intentional decision to compartmentalize my life–this is my mommy period, and I’m pretty hardcore about it, and I know that there will be other intense advocacy periods in the years to come. That’s not to say that we raise our kids apolitically; even though my children are young, I’m very open about my political beliefs, and they see Mommy and Daddy volunteering for causes, debating policy, discussing current events, and certainly keeping friends with mostly progressive people. My oldest son likes to look at my magazines and the websites that I frequent, and I try to answer all of his questions honestly. Still, my advocacy mostly takes place while the kids are asleep or on the one day a week when I have babysitting help; that’s when I’m at the computer sending emails, reading analyses, connecting with other groups. I talk with my state representative at least a couple of times a month, but she also knows the kids and my life, so I feel more comfortable letting that blend together a bit. I care about issues that affect my children directly, of course, especially school finance, but most of my priorities are only indirectly related to their well-being; I want to build a fairer, safer, healthier world, in part, because that’s the kind of world in which I want my kids to grow up.

Last week, though, Mommy Melinda put on her lobbyist hat to take a stance on an issue very directly related to my kids, and I’m getting my oldest son involved too. The park three houses down from ours is across a busy street, and I have always worried about safety there, especially because it’s at the crest of the hill, so visibility is limited. I knew that our city was in the process of doing a new park plan, and, when it was announced, my husband sent it to me. I saw that one of the proposed improvements was a crosswalk and signal crossing to our park! I wanted to make sure that that piece rose to the top in the city’s consideration of the plan, especially since it will be phased in over several years. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know who my city council people were before this–I have worked closely with city officials in other cities, but not much in my own and, again, the compartmentalizing got me! My husband helped me find out our Ward, and I sent emails first to our two councilpersons, describing our situation and why I want that crosswalk to be a priority. I also talked to my son about the danger of that crossing and explained that the city might add a stoplight if we convince them that it’s important. I told him what I was trying to do, and then I had him listen while I called the councilperson who had not responded to my email. I also asked the councilmen to notify me when the plan would be on the city council agenda; they allow public testimony, and I want to go to speak.

My son has been talking about the light quite a bit, and he has been asking questions about ‘the people who will decide if we get to have one.’ I want him to be curious about them, skeptical even, and I want him to see Mommy using her “work talk” to address something that is a concern for our family. It’s still new to me, this being a mommy in the public arena and letting my public work come into our family, but I know that it’s where my life needs to head, as I bring my two halves together.

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