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For Campaign Moms, Politics Is Child's Play

Courtesy William Moree
Martha McKenna and her daughter Nora rely on family members who live nearby to help keep their busy schedule on track.

Alixandria Lapp and Joanna Burgos spent months of time and millions of dollars battling over House seats, but they agree on one thing: Don’t bother calling them from 5:30 to 8:30 each night.

Lapp and Burgos are two of a growing band of mothers balancing the demands of the constant campaign with the desire to raise a family. And these mothers guard those precious hours before their kids go to bed more fiercely than a majority in Congress.

Whether these women are Democrats or Republicans, a few consistent themes emerge in each of their lives that allow them to play dual roles: a strong support structure, an encouraging and flexible work environment and close proximity to the office.

But first comes the decision to start a family.

The Decision

“You always put it off for one more cycle. There will always be an excuse,” said Burgos, 31, who had her daughter, Alicia, in January 2012, just as she was transitioning from deputy communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee to the independent expenditure unit.

But even though it was no secret that she “was dying to have kids,” it didn’t diminish her anxiety of how a pregnancy could affect her ability to do her job. “I’m a very career-oriented person. I felt like I owed the candidates, the members my attention,” Burgos said.

“It’s tough because someone makes an investment in you and then you get pregnant,” Lapp said about two-year election cycles. “Women struggle with it.”

But having a post-pregnancy plan can reassure the most encouraging colleagues.

Lapp, now 38, had her son Thomas days after the 2008 election, when she was working for a small boutique lobbying firm. It was an admittedly slower pace than her previous job at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But she started House Majority PAC, the go-to outside group for House Democrats, in the spring of 2011, when she was pregnant and she gave birth to her son Jackson that July.

Of course, childbirth doesn’t always fit neatly into the election calendar.

Democratic media consultant Martha McKenna was due to have a baby six months before Election Day 2012. But she had a miscarriage in the fall and McKenna and her husband had to decide when to try to start over.

“Marty and I had made a decision to start a family. It wasn’t about the election year,” McKenna said. “It was about our marriage and when we were ready to become parents.”

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