Monday, March 2, 2015

What We Ask of Public Servants

Michael Dresser's article in The Baltimore Sun about the work/life juggle required of Delegates and Senators came at a time when this issue is just about all I think about.

"What kind of father would you have been if you had won?"

I've had this discussion with a number of friends and family since the election, normally beginning with the disclaimer that this is "easy for me to say now", but I can tell you honestly that I probably think about it four to five times a day, every day, and it jars me.

If you've read this blog for a significant amount of time, you know that I like to stay busy.  I've been warned of burn-out may times and even experienced it transiently over the past year (if anything will burn you out, it is a campaign).  But for the most part, I can normally recenter and keep my priorities straight.

Family comes first.  Many people say that, but it takes humility and dedication to put it into practice.  You can't be "everywhere" if family comes first because sometimes family means making dinner or staying in to watch a movie.  Once a baby comes around, family expands in number and time, with empathy for your partner being just as critical as love for your baby.  I still prize community work, and make time for service, but if I ever need to let things drop to make sure I'm living up to the standards I've set for myself, you can be sure that it won't be anything having to do with my wife or my daughter.

And in this context, I see my friends who were successful in 2014 spend 13-14 hour days in Annapolis.  Weekends at community events, pancake breakfasts, and town halls.  They are straight grinding.  The campaign was just the start.

I want to be careful to make sure this is not a vague critique of parents in public office.  I've seen that in my community work where people will fit these pokes under the disguise of "I don't have the time".  I'm not saying that.  I'm saying that maybe we don't appreciate everything people give up to be in that room.  It sure as heck isn't for the $43K that will likely upset whatever salary/career they had in the works before taking their oath.  They are committing the entirety of who they are, their personality, their good days, their bad days, on days like this - their safety, to be in that room.

If I may be allowed a personal story (and my parents excuse me for sharing), when I told my Mom about these concerns, she mentioned that my Dad worked so hard the tax season after I was born that when he was finally able to spend more time with me, I treated him like I didn't know him.  That shook me.  I have a fantastic relationship with my Dad now and learned my work ethic from seeing that same dedication during my formative years, but I know there are some people in Annapolis who are making that same sacrifice right now.  My heart breaks for them.

We don't need to love everyone who serves.  We can be frustrated with their decisions.  But we should have admiration and respect for their sacrifice.

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love!