A Personal Mother’s Day Reflection:
Six years ago, I was early in the adventure of elected public service while parenting a preschooler. I wrote the piece, Before I Was a Mom, at the only possible time I had available to write or reflect, 2 a.m. Today, my son is halfway through childhood at 9 years old and I’m nearing the end of my second term on the Denver City Council. He rarely shows up in my bed at 2 a.m. these days, but I still reflect and learn from the tensions and intersections of my roles.
You’ll see me smiling and laughing with my son in the photos shared on Facebook or mailers. These pictures will represent a true joy I feel parenting a rambunctious, bright and loving kiddo. But those photos aren’t my only truth.
Another truth is how hard it can be to live up to my own expectations when my roles as mom and councilwoman collide. For example, when the annual school concert is at the exact same time, on the opposite side of town, as an important community meeting. Or when my plan to spend a school holiday swimming at the rec center is derailed by a crisis on a housing bill I’m sponsoring. I want to be that supermom who is always there, who brings the snack on our assigned day, who listens without distraction to the retelling of how the Hot Lava Monster game went at recess, and who tucks my son into bed every night he is with me.
Before I decided to run for re-election, I had to really pause and think about all this. For a minute, it seemed so simple. If I wasn’t a councilwoman, I could be: The. Perfect. Mom. I would always be home for bedtime. Well, unless I did another kind of work with travel. I would never be distracted from recess stories by the issues of the world. As long as I never watched the news ever again. I’d never be too tired to play. Unless I was overwhelmed with dishes and laundry.
As I paused, I also tried to imagine what it would be like to be a councilwoman with no family. Meetings every night, my job the only and most important thing in my life. I’d be free to meet every expectation, would never disappoint my constituents. Except when the community was divided and no matter what someone would be angered by my vote. I would have time to craft the perfect policy solutions. Except when faced with problems as complex as traffic, or housing affordability, that have no single, one-shot solution. I’d never miss an important meeting. Except when two, or three, or four of them were happening at the same time.
We all want a superhero who delivers every time and never disappoints. It’s tempting to try to be that superhero. But I’m running to be your councilwoman again because I’ve found peace with the realization that I can be both a good councilwoman and a good mom, even if I’m not a superhero.
Parenting and public service have surprisingly boiled down to the same mantra for me: Be bold. And be humble. Dare to raise a human being, impart values, care for their physical needs, and make them a priority. Then survive many, many failures, which may change in flavor, but will come regardless of career. Be humble enough to know no mom is a parent alone. Lean into the love and support of teachers, coaches, relatives, neighbors, and especially your wife, who is celebrating her first Mother’s Day as a step-mom, having earned her stripes through countless dinners and pick-ups I had to miss.
Dare to represent an entire city, to dream and fight for big policies and solutions to meet important challenges. Be humble enough to realize you’ll never know every community the same way the residents know them. Rely on them to point the way, partner with them on the details and fail sometimes. Try something hard that stalls or gets shot down.
And get up again. Speak the truth of it all. Thank your family and the people you represent for the unspoken pact they may not even have been aware of–a pact to accept your imperfections and the moments you can’t be there, because when you’re not, you’re somewhere else important. Together, those two wholes make you the councilmom you are.
Happy Mother’s Day!