As 2014 dawns, women on the run in political office and public service have myriad multitasking ahead. How well we juggle doing it all -- home life, work life, personal space and public engagement -- may well determine the fate of our families and our nation. So are we embark on this new year together, five New Year's Resolutions for women on the run,
1. Be who you are, where you are
Resolve to be present in your moment. If you're on the phone, be on the phone. If you are with your child, be with your child. If it's homework time, it's homework time. If it's dinner, it's dinner. You have to do your work and be intense about it, but then you have to, as my mom says "put that on the shelf" and have a regular life, so that you don't miss out on trying to be a good friend, being a good parent, a good spouse, a good relative, a good citizen outside of being a political activist.
2. Walk your talk
This is more than the standard "the microphone is always on" adage -- that is true of course but beyond that, even in your off moments, you are always on. Your family, friends and foes look to you as a role model, so rather than shy away, value your voice at the national microphone and practice what you preach, walking that talk at home not just in public.
3. Laugh at yourself
Finding the humor in tense situations will go a long way to dissipate an otherwise short fuse. I learned this when my then three-year-old daughter Bella inadvertently (I think) tossed my iPhone down an airplane toilet moments before we were due to land in Los Angeles for my Veterans Day boot camp. Either I would let the entire weekend be stressful or I would bid my iPhone a pleasant eternity in the friendly skies and remain grounded in motherhood. An expensive but important lesson in choosing laughter over anger (and having a backup phone plus a good insurance plan).
4. Get out of your own way
We diminish ourselves far more than our foes do, letting fear of failure or success hamper us. We listen to that little voice inside telling us that our skin or clothing is too loose or too tight; the relatives who cheer our professional advice then ask "when are you getting married?" or the ghosts of boyfriends or girlfriends past reminding us of old failure, and we stunt our own growth with self-sabotage disguised as advice. Let that go.
5. Make room for others
The first word of feminism is solidarity -- and yet we still have far too much competition among women and schisms along racial fault lines. Enough. We are never going to solve income inequality or advance gender equality unless we work together from positions of intersectionality and respect. If we're going to have a legitimate society, women of all backgrounds and life experiences have to be in leadership positions across all sectors of our society. We know the organizational math: one is alone, two are competing; three become critical mass. Sometimes that only happens because one woman extends a hand backward or laterally to include another. The challenges of drugs, gun violence, human trafficking, child abuse, rape, sexual harassment, mental illness, poverty, poor health care -- all of which disproportionately impact impact low income families --- need the voices of all women working together. The sign of a successful woman on the run is not how far she goes alone, but how many sisters she brings with her.
In 2014 there's important work that needs doing, and women have to be a part of leading the way. Whether running for office, volunteering for a campaign, or advocating for a cause, remembering to be who you are, walk your talk, laugh at yourself; get out of your own way, and make room for others will ensure that more women on the run will go far together. Happy New Year!
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