Parenthood feels a lot like an enormous and complex government bureaucracy. Surviving it and emerging victorious is like living in a permanent session of Congress. Both Congress and parenthood are complicated, long and divisive. Just representing competing interests is hard enough, but democracy falls by the wayside when both parties try and push opposing agendas.
So, I present the top ways my house is like the United States Congress:
- Laws: The House is where the laws– designed to protect all constituents– are made. Not everyone agrees that these laws are beneficial or necessary. Sometimes you have to release one law (wearing a coat) to make sure another law gets enacted (going to school). It is a balancing act. Often, a bill goes through different versions before it is law. For instance, your goal when you draft a bill may be a total ban on screen time. Yet, by the time it is official, it is watered down to “no screen time except when people need to be quiet and occupied so everyone can get through the rest of the day without bodily harm.” And that is ultimately what passes.
- Filibuster— Some issues are hot buttons, like, say, bedtime. When the minority party senses the vote is not going their way, stall tactics are inevitable. An all-out effort featuring babbling, general shenanigans and no apparent word limit will be waged. Every night. Eventually, they will have to yield the floor but not before they have exhausted every possible bathroom function and your patience.
- Addendum—There is an addendum to everything brought before the House. There is no such thing as a simple proposal. It is just part of the process. A request to do homework may be brought to committee but then members follow up with a request to listen to music, sit on the deck, have a snack and promise not to get distracted by clouds while they do it. Senior members of the House are adept at deciphering which codicils are worth fighting for and which are just dragging down the process and act accordingly.
- Lobbyists— Someone is always trying to curry favor and sway your vote. This maneuvering pits members against each other and calls for a strong commitment to your position on any given matter. Members will pinky-swear, vow loyalty and make false promises to influence you. Do not fall for the rhetoric! Realistically, no one is going to happily clean the bathroom every week until they move out even if it sounds convincing in the moment.
- Budget—Much of the House discussion and subsequent votes surround the budget and escalating deficit. Budget cuts are unpopular. Each member truly believes there should be no reduction in funding for their particular, personal cause. A proposition by the majority to decrease cell phone data plans or eliminate Chipotle stops due to monetary constraints is sure to rile up the minority. (see Filibuster)
- Joint Session—Most days, the senior representative can go it alone. Occasionally, however, resolving an issue requires reinforcement from someone on the same side of the aisle. Make sure you have an ally in the House. It is surprising how quickly alliances change depending on the matter at hand. As an example, the colleague you chose to spend eternity with may completely disagree about the laws of the land—like curfew–making you wonder how they ever got the job in the first place. Work together and compromise. Presenting a united front at all times is essential to maintaining control of the House.
- Recess—When the House adjourns for the day, unfinished business is tabled. There is zero chance that even the most trivial of old business will be forgotten during the recess. Instead it is painfully resuscitated every morning until there is a resolution. Even if it takes forever. Members will be unable to find their shoes (new, urgent business) but will remember that the day before another member had the last Oreo.
- And my favorite similarity to Congress is the Power of Veto. As President of this bureaucracy, I can veto anything that doesn’t align with my agenda. My seniority affords me some perks that all the checks and balances in the world can’t take away.
God Bless America.