Campaigning for Two
For the past year, Patricia White has been experiencing all the private joys and torments and hurried diaper-changings of new motherhood in a very public forum. Last November the now 35-year-old City Council candidate and daughter of former Mayor Kevin White discovered she was pregnant, with a due date not long before this September's preliminary election. Having narrowly
lost her first bid for one of the council's four at-large seats two years before, she was determined to use the groundwork she'd laid then to triumph in this go-round. But do to so, the Democrat knew, she'd have to outmaneuver heavy competition—with City Councilor Maura Hennigan running for mayor, this year's council race drew the largest and best-financed field in memory—all while dealing with unique wardrobe challenges and demands on her time.
As she wrestled with whether to continue, White worried about being, as she puts it, a setback to women if she lost or if physical
complications forced her to drop out; after all, Massachusetts politics is still haunted by the missteps of the state's most famous working mother, acting Governor Jane Swift. But White decided to press on. As she set off, on swollen feet, to navigate the campaign trail, she agreed to share regular updates with us. Her chronicle provides an unusually candid look at a politician's personal affairs and some surprising revelations about electoral strategy. It also makes clear that, even with an entourage, it's never easy balancing the needs of baby and career.
The first weeks
So I didn't have this brilliant idea of getting pregnant right in the middle of a campaign. We were shocked when it happened, but very happy.
In the beginning, I lay low. It was hard because all my opponents were out campaigning. I had bad morning sickness and I wasn't telling anybody. I think, not just me, but women in general have that anxiety of, “How do I walk into my boss's office and tell them I'm pregnant?” There's that lingering question: “Am I going to lose a little? Am I not going to be given that important account? Is it going to affect perceptions of my ability to perform at a professional level?”
Of course, I was also dying to tell people because, oh my God, I had gained so much weight! Those early months I gained maybe 10 pounds. So people are thinking, “Wow, she got married and hit the buffet table.”
May 7, 2005
I'm seven months along, and my energy is great. But my feet are absolutely killing me. Yesterday I was between events and said to my campaign manager, “We've got to pull over and buy shoes.” Up until now, I have been wearing heels every day. I'm small, and I think that's always a disadvantage in politics, so I wanted a little more height. Yesterday I realized I've got to sacrifice fashion and wear flat shoes.
May 22, 2005
I just got off the phone with my mother-in-law, who's planning my shower. It's a good thing, because I don't have time. Right now we're trying to figure out how to juggle the gay pride parade, which I am signed up for, and the shower. It's our first baby-campaign conflict.
June 1, 2005
My husband and I spent the whole weekend cleaning out the extra bedroom in our apartment, which has been the satellite campaign office. We moved out the computer, fax machine, and campaign paraphernalia. In
came a rug, changing table, and crib.
We've decided to use podiums instead of simple mic stands [at public appearances]. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit
self-conscious about my size: 45 pounds heavier than I was. I'm not sure I want so many people capturing this moment on film.
June 12, 2005
We had the shower yesterday, and I think the baby now officially has more clothes than I do. It was probably 100 degrees out. I went to the shower at noon—which I enjoyed immensely—and my staff kicked off the gay pride parade without me. On Boylston Street we caught up to the car.
My new office is up and running. We're subleasing from a baby store in West Roxbury, so there are baby clothes hanging in plastic bags all around me. It's very symbolic and funny. I'm all politics and babies right now.
July 8, 2005
My due date's tomorrow. I've turned into a clean freak. My husband doesn't recognize me anymore. I'm one of those women whisking away the empty glass the minute it's put down.
I'm trying to delegate and organize. I don't want to be in the delivery room fielding calls from a staff member asking me to sign off on a direct mailing.
July 9 to July 21, 2005
I've been in the same pants for 11 days, a pair of khakis from Target. They're the only ones that fit. My husband wants to have a
ceremonial burning of them. My feet are so swollen I can only wear backless shoes, and those have developed holes. Thank God this isn't a beauty contest.
July 21, 2005
William Hagan Fine, 8 pounds, 15 ounces, is born at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
We named him William, after my grandfather and my husband's grandfather. Hagan is his middle name, and is mine as well, and then Fine is my husband's name. But it's hard to call someone that adorable a man's name, so I call him Peanut. When they brought him up in the middle of the night so I could breastfeed him, honest to God it was the happiest moment of my life.
August 16, 2005
The first weeks after the baby arrived, I was completely overwhelmed. I really questioned the decision I had made in trying to
be both a mother and a candidate. I couldn't get my bearings on motherhood. I just wanted to take the baby and go live at my
mother-in-law's house. I wanted to hide there under the guidance of a steady hand, an experienced mother.
It's been hard healing and getting my energy back. I have always been a very strong-willed person, very hard-working and very
disciplined. But no amount of discipline will make your body heal faster. At this point I can't just campaign hard, like my opponents. I have to campaign smart. . . . Then there's the double standard we're fighting, of how early to get me back on the campaign trail. It's not about, when am I physically able to do it? It's, when is it politically acceptable to other people that I'm back out there after giving birth?
[Two days later, after a month's maternity leave, White returned to the campaign full-time.]
August 21, 2005
I have two opponents who've had children during this race [Sam Yoon and Ed Flynn, son of former mayor Ray Flynn], and their
responsibilities are very different from mine. Ed Flynn, whose wife had a child the month after I did, was asked, “How's the baby?” and he said, “To tell you the truth, I'm not really involved.” Can you imagine the reaction if I said that? [Flynn won't confirm or deny making the comment.]
Day to day, the biggest challenge is getting out the door. This morning I had to go to a church, Holy Name in West Roxbury, and I wanted to be there at 10:30. All was quiet until quarter till 10, when my husband jumped into the shower and I went to dry my hair. The baby hates the sound of the hair dryer and just had a complete meltdown. I find myself running a good 15 to 20 minutes late for everything. Before the baby, I always prided myself on my punctuality.
The very good news is I'm wearing heels again. I was dying to put my heels back on. The bad news is I'm in between sizes and had to run out to Target again to find something that fits.
September 12, 2005
Talk about juggling work life. Today we filmed a television commercial, and there I was between cuts, changing diapers. I've
chopped my hair short, which helps in the morning . . . the baby is still scared of the dryer and, let's face it, blow-drying takes 10
minutes I don't have anymore. That's 10 minutes that otherwise I would be holding him or playing with him.
My husband has gone back to work and my mother-in-law has stepped in. No matter how much the family helps, or how good the support system is, I still get the graveyard shift with the baby.
I've realized that flexibility is what women need from employers, across the board. It does not mean women working less. It just means, where possible, having a little more control over their schedules.
September 21, 2005
Peanut—mostly I just call him Nut—is smiling! I come home and he smiles when he hears my voice. It's the greatest. I think, “Thank God. I know we're spending enough good time together.”
September 26, 2005
White places sixth in the preliminary vote, qualifying her for one of the eight spots on the ballot for this month's general election.
On election day, I was shaking hands around 2 o'clock when I turned to one of my supporters and said, “Drive me home. I need to see the baby.” I was there for about an hour. When November 8 comes, I'll go back in the middle of the day and spend time with him again. Election day is the same as any other day as far as my child is concerned.