Image showing a scattering of office and baby supplies

Becoming a mother while pursuing a career in local government is a unique journey filled with challenges, triumphs, a few awkward moments, and a lot of joy that comes from being both a public servant and a parent.

New and young parents often feel in constant pursuit of striking that perfect balance between serving your work community and being present in your own home. The two concepts can certainly co-exist if one finds that right balancing act. This requires near constant attention, planning, anticipating, adapting, and rearranging just to manage the day-to-day responsibilities. But most local government professionals are not satisfied with the status quo and seek out opportunities to learn and expand their networks, adding to the burden of keeping up with it all.

Life is not as neatly defined and separated as it may have once been with one primary earner and one primary caretaker. We are fortunate that our predecessors paved a path


forward and made sure that we have a seat at the table. While that has certainly created new opportunities, it also presents a new set of challenges and the pressure of trying to be and do it all in every facet of our lives. Though it feels impossible at some points, it can actually be done. It is possible to be an effective local government professional as well as a good mom (or parent), a friend, a spouse, and any of the other many hats we all wear.

This new world we are in requires a different model and it often looks quite different than what most of us thought it would to make it all work. This article explores the benefits and possibilities that arise when we make our lives more seamless than separated, and integrate our families realistically into our professional lives so that mothers can thrive in local government, and not just survive through the years with littles.

Breaking the Stereotypes

The proverbial balance between work and home has long been a challenge for working mothers, particularly those in service industries where the demands can be unpredictable and often require an immediate response. This, in many ways, is a lot like being a parent to a little one. They too often have demands that are unpredictable and require immediate attention, so the skill sets are very well aligned.

Giving a toddler a banana that was peeled the right way so they can “do it themselves” (those with toddlers know this is an art, not a science) is not too dissimilar from providing information to a resident who wants to understand a project themselves. Each requires prompt attention and tailoring to meet their expectations. In many ways, parents are extremely well equipped to serve and, the authors believe, have a better understanding of how to respond calmly with patience and logic from working with their own kiddos.

Prior generations may have felt the pressure to separate their personal lives and professional lives, being careful not to let a personal obligation such as a sick kid interfere with that important meeting. The pursuit of that clean separation feels neither practical or possible some days. Working so hard to work as if we have no other outside commitments or features to our lives besides local government is a disservice to us all. It has the potential to depict us as boundaryless, robotic bureaucrats who cannot connect with people. Most days it also is not possible with many of us being one part of a working duo of parents, who constantly have to shift and pivot based on priorities and obligations of the day.

We submit that it is better to let our personal sides show at work, to remind people of the why behind our work beyond public service: to provide for our families. It turns out that it is possible to take the call in the car on the way to the doctor’s appointment or be mindful of what time the meeting ends so we can make the school pick-up on time. We encourage parents to bring their families, babies, and young toddlers, with a backpack full of snacks included, to the groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, and community events to celebrate your work and the work of your team with your family.

Practical Challenges and Creative Solutions

Beyond the day-to-day service, it is also completely possible to pursue professional development as a working mother. The conventional boundaries between work and home have blurred, allowing for a more flexible and inclusive approach to professional growth.


The belief that professional growth must be put on hold during motherhood is a stereotype that we can challenge. We recognize that reliable childcare during evening public meetings and weekend community events is often scarce. This reality can make travel and attendance at conferences seem daunting for mothers. However, thanks to evolving perspectives and supportive workplaces and organizations like ICMA, mothers can now consider attending conferences and training with their babies in tow.

Having experienced the positive impacts firsthand, we can attest to the benefits of bringing our babies to professional development conferences. With unwavering support from our supervisors and families, we have been able to continue our learning journeys while fostering deeper connections with our children. The baby will cry, and you may miss a point because you were changing a diaper. You will also expand your network beyond professional niceties or convenience because you have the same role or community size. Other attendees who may be caregivers themselves will share stories of their own children or grandchildren or nieces or friends. Some will offer to hold or stroll your baby while you participate. (You decide what that looks like). The authors learned a lot about themselves and how this new title of “mother” coincided with their career commitment to serve their local community. We’ve learned a new level of patience, expanded our professional network and deepened friendships, and renewed our commitment to the local government profession.

By embracing the idea of bringing babies along, we open up new possibilities. Weekend events, in particular, provide an excellent opportunity to involve your child in your professional world. Showing community members you have a life outside of work hopefully reinforces needed boundaries. The key is to communicate openly with supervisors and explore creative solutions that suit both personal and professional needs. Reach out to conference or training staff for location or program information that would help you organize your and your baby’s day.

Some examples the authors employed were utilizing a baby carrier to wear your baby to sessions or events. Being hands free allows you to easily walk around in the back of the room and fully participate in tours and hands-on activities. If possible, bring a friend or family member along on the trip for an extra set of trusted hands. Most conferences now have special rooms dedicated to nursing mothers, allowing them some privacy and a quiet place away from the crowd. An exhibit hall can be a fascinating place for young children, allowing them to walk around with you, have a snack, and sometimes even play games at the various booths. At the end of the day, be confident in your dual role and integrate both “titles” at events to know that you do not have to take a backseat to furthering your career.


Crucial to this paradigm shift is the support of supervisors. Initiating a conversation about the possibility of bringing a baby to a conference might seem intimidating, but many


supervisors are open to accommodating such arrangements. Highlighting the potential benefits, such as maintaining employee engagement and fostering a supportive work environment, can make a compelling case for this non-traditional approach.

You Are Not Alone

For mothers contemplating attending conferences with their babies, it’s essential to recognize that you are not alone. Many women have successfully navigated this path and found it to be a fulfilling experience. Sharing stories, tips, and advice within professional networks can help create a sense of community and encourage others to explore this option.

The choice between career and family should not be a binary decision for mothers in the professional sphere. By challenging stereotypes and embracing the idea of bringing babies to conferences and work events, we can foster a more inclusive and supportive work environment. Through open communication, creative solutions, and the support of supervisors, mothers can continue to grow professionally while nurturing their bond with their children. Let’s empower each other to break down barriers and redefine the possibilities for working mothers in our ever-evolving professional landscape.

TAYLOR LOUGH is assistant city manager of Anna, Texas.


LAUREN ROSE is assistant city manager of Sachse, Texas.


IMELDA SPECK is the housing and redevelopment senior manager of Irving, Texas.


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