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“Taking your child to an event is like knitting in a meeting,” said one “progressive” woman to another.

It’s hard to organize all my thoughts as to how disturbing that statement is, but what’s even worse is that one woman said it to another. But what I know for sure is that we have to stop getting in our own way. We have to stop beating each other up for making different choices. If our goal is to get more women involved in the process, we have to stop being roadblocks to each other.

We can start by realizing that every woman is going to make different choices to make their lives work. Sometimes that means that children will come to events or that a woman will skip an event because she actually wants to see her children. And sometimes that means that it’s not just mom who brings their kids with them, but dad.

As someone who frequently brings her children to events, there are a variety of reasons I make that choice:

  1. I ran for office because I wanted to make my small part of the world better for my children. Doing that shouldn’t mean my children never see me and it should mean they are a part of the work I do, especially since they are part of the reason I do it.
  2. Politics should be about people and, last time I checked, lots of people have kids. If we want to be inclusive, we should find ways to allow families to spend time together. You shouldn’t have to choose between spending time with your kids and participating in your government. This isn’t to say that kids should be at a long Planning Board hearing, but they can definitely take an hour at a fundraiser.
  3. Politicians are people too – One of my biggest hopes is that my children view elected officials as public servants, not someone to be put on a pedestal or dragged through the mud. Having my children exposed to elected officials helps them to see that and it helps others to see how human elected officials can be.  One official I have known and respected long before I had children has taken the time over the last 3 years to engage my daughter at various events and it has made me look at this person in a whole new (and more favorable) light. Maybe by making those elected more human, we might have more civilized political conversations – and wouldn’t that be a good thing?
  4. Children grow into adults and should have the social skills to match. The only way to learn these skills is to use them and see them used. Political events are good places to learn such skills, especially if that’s where mom and dad spend their time.
  5. Getting young people, young women especially, involved in the process means we have to find ways to engage them. If I had to get a babysitter for every event, I would never go out. First, it would be cost prohibitive. Second, I wouldn’t want to spend every night away from my kids.

I make choices all the time. Some events are not suitable for my kids to attend and those I go to alone or sometimes I don’t go at all. But some events where my children will know 85% of the people or where I know there will be other children or where we are socializing in an appropriate setting, I bring my kids for all those reasons above and for the simple reason that I like to spend time with my children.

I know I’m not alone in making these choices every day.  So, to prove that in the right setting children are perfectly appropriate I’m asking folks to send it photos of your kids at events. Post them your facebook pages and your twitter accounts #eventwkids. Let’s prove them wrong!

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Cathleen Lewis
Cathleen, the Mayor of Lawrence Township & a full-time Public Affairs professional, counts her best job as being Mommy to Abigail (3 years) and Bridget (6 months ). A New Yorker originally, but Boston raised, Cathleen enjoys the challenge of raising the girls in a mixed household with her Yankee-fan husband Paul. She hopes to make up for the confusion by encouraging the family’s love of Rutgers football. She dreams of sharing her love of beaches, margaritas, music and adventure but is happy to squeeze in a family walk with the dog and a back yard BBQ these days. Formerly an avid reader and writer before work, life and children; Cathleen hopes she hasn’t lost her ability to capture thoughts through the written word but often can’t remember where the grocery list is.

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