“I became involved in a political party at a very early age. At 18 I was already running my first campaign, and a few years later I was the youngest elected senator in the history of my country. It really gives me satisfaction to see that I can contribute to make things progress. But the impact on family life is very big and I have to be careful not to transgress the person I am. I’m a mother of two, and in my mind this is clear: family first, work comes second. But in reality… I’m not often at home.
In politics, in addition to my basic responsibilities, I have a lot of meetings in the evenings and events on weekends. I constantly struggling to organize my days! I only manage to eat with my children once or twice a week. And when I’m on the phone while my children are in front of me, or when I give them a bath and at the same time answer emails, I’m really transgress who I am. Even my two year old daughter often says to me: “Mommy! No work tonight!” The message is clear…
The feeling of guilt is very strong. But the guilt is also the other way around, at work. When I arrive late because I drove my kids to school or leave early to attend a school meeting. Or compared to my colleagues who have a really different lifestyle than me, often without children, and who have time to produce more than me. And that sometimes pushes me to get back to work once everyone is asleep at home. So for a long time I had this feeling that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t the mother and the worker that people wanted me to be.
My husband is a huge source of support, but I think he’s getting a little tired of the situation. We discussed recently and found that he was taking care of the kids 75% of the time. He says it should be 50-50 but I’m trying to negotiate for it to be 60-40%… It’s ridiculous, I know! But it’s also because I need more than just my family life. At home I’m a mom first. But work is my world. And there, I am first a woman, full of projects and ambitions, and sometimes also with a stronger confidence. At work, I feel I can test other facets of my personality, test my limits.
For example, ever since I was little I’ve been trying to make everyone around me feel better. So much so that I end up exhausting myself. It’s a curse, I can’t stand conflict. And that’s a flaw in politics. And it’s true, in politics, there’s nothing you can do, at some point you have to be frontal. When you fight for a project, you have to have the last word and when you have to allocate positions, it can also be violent. To survive in this world, I had to learn to be more severe, to assert my authority when necessary. And when it works, it gives me a sense of fulfillment.
And a big part of why I am in this position is to advocate for women’s rights. It’s one of my biggest fights at work. It’s no big news that there’s a lot of sexism in politics.Whether left or right, we’ve all been through the same things. I remember at the beginning of my career this elected official who made very sexual comments about me in the middle of a meeting. Everyone laughed. And it went on like that every week! That was 10 years ago and I never forgot. And at some point I understood; when I reply with force, it calms them down right away. I don’t have a character like that at all, but I learned to get tougher.
A year and a half ago I ended up having a burnout. I was given a three week medical leave, but I only took two. I know… it’s not enough at all. But this time I asked myself: well, should you quit politics completely? In the end I decided to continue and to run again for elections. But this time I decided to let go of the guilt. I don’t care if I can’t live up to everyone’s expectations. If I can’t be the perfect mother and colleague. I’m doing the best I can. And since I made this decision, everything seems easier, at work and at home!”