Martha McKenna and her daughter Nora rely on family members who live nearby to help keep their busy schedule on track.
Of course not everyone has someone to lean on, which virtually requires that a mother has advanced her career to the point where she can afford child care. And it’s important to remember that “there’s no one size that fits all,” according to one mother. But proximity is often key to sanity when time is the most valued commodity.
Burgos’ home and office are separated by about 3 miles. DCCC Executive Director Kelly Ward, 32, can get to the office in four minutes after she leaves her daughter, Emma, at home with the nanny. Much of Ward’s life is contained within a few blocks.
For another campaign mom, who preferred to talk on background to keep her family life private, her office and the kids’ schools are within a 10-block radius. “If I lived out in Reston, I’d probably slit my wrist,” she said about a potential commute to the outer suburbs.
Some families factor commuting into daily routines and aim to maximize efficiency.
The Lapps bought a Toyota Highlander. It fits their family of five and cut 20 minutes off Alixandria’s commute each way between their Falls Church home and her Georgetown office, because hybrids are allowed on Interstate 66 during rush hour. Lapp is dedicated to leaving the office by 5 p.m. to ensure that her commute is just half an hour.
Virtually all of these moms work from home in the evening after the kids are in bed, but many find it difficult during the day if the kids aren’t in school or there isn’t a nanny to watch them. “Working from the house is hard,” Lapp said, “particularly with two kids banging on the french doors.” And working from home can be challenging if you are managing people regularly or working for members of Congress.
At the office, it helps when co-workers and bosses foster a positive environment for families.“It’s important to work with people who respect families,” Burgos said. When she has to bring her daughter to the office, she won’t likely be alone. “She can play on the floor and no one minds,” Burgos said. “And sometimes she has playmates,” because it’s not unusual for her colleagues’ kids to be around, too.
Schedules can be unforgiving and working for the campaign committees can be more demanding than the consulting world. But the key is to “make yourself as invaluable to a company as possible,” Lapp advised. “Then you’ll be in a better position to ask for flexibility” for a new family.
Either way, the only “my time” many of these mothers often get is early in the morning before the family is awake, and then it’s a sprint to get everyone ready and out the door. “By the time you sit down to work, it’s vacation,” McCleskey laughed. But these mothers wouldn’t have it any other way.
“As young women, we were told, ‘You can have it all.’ It’s a myth,” Lapp said. “There are limited hours in each day, it’s not just a matter of balance. There are just choices you have to make. We chose a path with flexibility and time to be the parents we want to be.”