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All Politics is Hyperlocal

Getting out the vote during dinner and bedtime

In 2001, Michael was elected to his first political office in Brookline, filling the Town Meeting seat vacated by Representative Frank Smizik upon his election to the State House. At the time, we were living on Fuller St., in Precinct 9, and we didn't yet have Muffin and Squeaker. Michael attended meetings that sometimes started early in the evening, and during the weeks of Town Meeting he was frequently out past 11 PM.

Seven years later, we moved from Fuller St. to Garrison Rd., which politically meant a new precinct and a new constituency. Again Michael got elected to Town Meeting and again he had meetings. But now things were different – I was nine weeks pregnant with Muffin and Squeaker when we moved, and by the time May elections came, I was six months pregnant. And by the time of the November 2009 Town Meeting, we had four-month-old babies who had not yet quite figured out that night time was for sleeping (Muffin was well on her way to figuring this out; it would take Squeaker almost a full year from then to realize that sleeping at night was a much better plan than screaming all night).

Last year, the girls were ten months old when Michael ran for reelection to the Library Trustees, and we went out and campaigned as a family, standing one Sunday in Coolidge Corner to greet voters. We decorated Muffin and Squeaker's stroller with "Michael A. Burstein for Library Trustee" buttons and postcards. He had a few late-evening meetings, but since the girls were still not on a real schedule, his meetings did not have a major impact on their timing.

This year, however, things are quite different. Muffin and Squeaker are well established with their six o’clock dinner and seven o’clock bedtime. While Michael did not run for any office this year, . And that means meetings – more meetings than any of his previous campaigns. , and that's on top of his monthly meetings with the Library Trustees and occasional meetings with the Precinct 12 Town Meeting delegation. Many of these meetings have been late enough in the evening that we can put Muffin and Squeaker to bed before he has to leave. But what about those other nights?

Well, those nights, I'm on my own for dinner and bedtime. That means me wrangling two twenty-one-month-olds through the process of eating, cleaning up, and getting into pajamas, followed by night time rituals such as songs and books, after which I place the girls into their cribs, give them good-night kisses, and hope that they will soon drift off to sleep. The girls are usually understanding when there's just one of us doing bedtime. They understand, I believe, the slight changes in their routine – adaptations that are necessary when only one parent is available. So instead of marching to the bedroom and then doing final books and songs and bedtime, we do songs and books in the living room, thus allowing me to use the sofa to have the girls both sitting on my lap, whereas a two-parent bedtime typically involves each one of us holding a girl.

Also, Michael and I have wonderful friends who are willing to be pressed into service on nights that Michael is out for bedtime. They don't typically participate in the specific rituals of bedtime, but they are very helpful with wrangling one girl while I am putting the other through the steps of diaper change, pajamas, wearable blanket, and tooth brushing. The girls love these particular friends, so it is fun for them to get extra time with them on random weeknights. While they miss Daddy at bedtime, they know Daddy will be there when they wake up, ready to say good morning and start .

The local political scene will settle down a bit in the coming months, between the end of the  and the beginning of preparations for the November Special Town Meeting. There will be occasional nights that Michael will be out and I will be doing dinner and bedtime on my own, but they will be fewer and further between. Bedtime is, of course, doable by just one parent, but it is made significantly smoother–depending on the girls' moods, of course–when we all can do bedtime together.

This week’s column is written by Nomi S. Burstein.

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