Desiree Peterkin Bell, A Working Mother

Leading a Life of Purpose, Not Position

I am a mother, a wife and I am driven by purpose, not position. I have often been the youngest, brownest, only female at a decision-making table in politics and government for over 20 years.  And trust me when I tell you, it has not been easy. But, it hasn’t stopped my desire, or my drive to be in politics and government to make an impact. Being driven by purpose and not position means that I operate to make an impact in the world and my community and I’m driven by that every day. I don’t chase titles, accolades or roles. I chase impact.

Overcoming Workplace Challenges Like a Champion

Throughout my career, there have been a few who questioned why I was even at the table. The intersectionality of the hierarchies of race and gender speaks to challenges that black women face both as women and as black people in politics. But in the words of Congresswoman “Auntie” Maxine Waters, as a mother in politics trying to make an impact every day for my daughter, I am reclaiming my time.

After serving and advising some great leaders in government and politics, President Barack Obama, Former Mayors Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, now Senator; and many others, I run my own team at DPBell & Associates. We represent people who want to make an impact, movements that disrupt the status quo, and brands that want to influence.

Making Impact While Family Remains Top Priority

Every day is an acrobatic challenge of managing my family life and my desire to want to make an impact with my work. I do not believe in work-life balance, it’s a fallacy. Balance means 50/50 and the reality is that there are days when your time as a mother, especially a wife and a political advocate will look more like 60/40 or 80/20. I believe in work-life integration. I think we need to rewrite the rules of what is expected and accepted for mothers who work in politics. We define our own rules and can still make an impact.

While I have been blessed with a partner who understands my desire and need to be in Georgia stumping for a candidate; hosting fundraisers across the country to get the right candidates elected; or me rushing to the aid of city leader helping to manage a crisis, I do the work because I want my daughter to know there are no limits to her vision of who she can be. My husband also knows quite frankly, what’s at stake for our daughter’s future and the necessity of seeing representation, believing in her own abilities, and having confidence in who she can become.

In my work, my daughter Kaelyn has met (I have often had to bring her along with me to these meetings) congressional members, city council members, activists, Governors, foreign leaders and Presidents. Today, my daughter knows even at her young age she can speak truth to power and influence and make an impact in her world. She and I constantly have conversations about her desire to ensure that young women know they can be in any room and use their voices. She has already begun to do this on her own at school where she insisted after significant accounts of bullying were documented, that the school bring in and develop an anti-bullying curriculum so that students can feel safe.

I want young women of color particularly black women to know they have the power to make change. The trials and tribulations of life and the severe insecurities of others can be a bit overwhelming. But you can’t let the small-mindedness win.  No one can take your power, you are a force to be reckoned with.

My Daughter with Former First Lady Michelle Obama


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