Family Comes First

We often examine politicians based on their family lives and the actions of their family members, especially children. We all have heard plenty on the Bush twins in recent years, and who could forget about Al Gore's pothead son, or John Kerry's daughter Alexandra and her see-through dress at the Cannes Film Festival, to name a few.

Here in Boston, a new topic for discussion about politicians and family has surfaced, this time, about a mother-to-be running Boston City Council. Patricia White, daughter of former Mayor Kevin White, recently became aware of her pregnancy after committing to run for an at-large seat on the Boston City Council she ran for and lost two years ago. And surprise surprise, she staying in the race.

The question is, should she continue her campaign for City Council?

I do not know what her party affiliation is, as in this case, it doesn't matter, but I would tend to think she should bow out of the race, and wait for the next election to run again. The reason is simple: Being a mother take full time committment. This will be her first child, and as parents will say about their child's early years, they are the most important years of the development, and you'll never get them back--there is no "do over." She can hold off on running for City Council, the seat will be there next time. You only have a first child once. This is not a case of a working woman who gets pregnant and goes on maternity leave. This is an elected office, an office she doesn't have to run for.

Commitment to which, her child or her elected office? The fact is, one of those commitments will be lessened, and in all likelihood, both, especially her duly elected office (if she wins). My hope is that voters would come to this same realization, and vote accordingly. There is no sense in running for an office you devote all your resources too, and certainly no sense in voting for a candidate who can't either. Former Acting Governor of Massachusetts, Jane Swift, was pregnant while campaigning for Lt. Governor, and had young twins while serving as Acting Governor--and we in Boston know how horrible that was. (Oh yeah, she was a Republican, too.) Lactating rooms in the State House?

If her pregnancy is having such a dramatic effect on her campaign, won't having a newborn in the house have an even greater effect? If she had her baby today, she could probably be a full time mom, but her plan now is to hire a nanny. What happens down the line if her political aspirations take her up the totem pole, and she has to advocate young mothers-to-be to stay at home with their children? She is being a poor role model by continuing to run for an office concurrent to her pregnancy, and potentially serving that position while being new mother.

The best way for her to show her commitment to the city is run for City Council when she can best demonstrate that commitment, and being a new mother conflicts with that commitment. There is no shame in taking time away from your own wants and needs and focus your family. It is the most admirable thing you can do. Family comes first. If she thinks it's physically challenging to be campaigning with an extra 70 pounds, it will be a lot worse when as a City Councilor with an extra eight pound five ounce infant.

Campaigns will come and go, but family is forever, and that's a challenge you don't want to lose.