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Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her granddaughter attend the opening session of the 116th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 3, 2019. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Forged by five

‘I know a temper tantrum when I see one’: Mother-of-5 Nancy Pelosi on how parenting made her a better leader

February 14, 2019

Much has been made of the influence of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s parents on her ascension to one of America’s most powerful women, but she says more is owed to her children in shaping her as the leader she is today.

Pelosi, born Nancy D’Alesandro, was the seventh child and only daughter of Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. — a Democratic congressman and three-time mayor of Baltimore. But it’s her kids who forged her, she says.

Pelosi, 78, regards being a mother as the most exciting, exhausting, important work of her life, according to the Washington Post’s Ellen McCarthy, and hopes that society will come to see child rearing as she does — a “gold star” on anyone’s professional resume.

Married in 1963, Pelosi was a mother of five by 1970. “I became so energized and efficient in the use of time and willing to delegate, to the children, responsibilities,” she says. “It really shapes you. There’s no question.”

And while her intellect and political nous alone would have undoubtedly propelled to a powerful and effective role, she does credit her experience as a mother as being significant in developing and fortifying her skills set, and driving her ambition to effect policy change. “What took me from the kitchen to Congress was knowing that 1 in 5 children in America lives in poverty,” she says. “I just can’t stand that.”

During the recent government shutdown — the longest in U.S. history — Pelosi cited her parenting experience when describing the president’s petulant exit from an unsuccessful meeting about funding for a border wall. “I’m the mother of five, grandmother of nine,” Pelosi told reporters. “I know a temper tantrum when I see one.”

Pelosi’s reprimands, her adult daughter Nancy Corinne Prowda recalls, were seldom loud but deeply withering — a style she recognizes persists, when she sees broadcasts of her mother at work.

Pelosi’s transferable skills aren’t all disciplinary, though. Raising five children has also made her effective at coalition politics and marshaling consensus, McCarthy oberves.

Pelosi’s advice to women caught in the perpetual challenge of achieving a satisfactory balance between work and parenting is to “Know your own power.”

“Don’t let anybody diminish for one moment the time you spend at home,” she says, “because probably nothing is more energizing, purposeful, better to orient you to know how to use time, delegate authority.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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