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On 5 th May 2016, I started out on the most incredible journey. I had the most enormous honour and privilege of being elected at the Welsh Labour Assembly Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.

I quickly realised that there was little time to learn about the role, It was a baptism of fire!! The day after I was elected, I was swearing the Oath of Allegiance at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, this is a pre-requisite to becoming a bona fide Assembly Member! It was an amazing experience, and I was very proud that members of my family, friends and my campaign team were able to be there to witness it.

I sit on three Policy and Legislative Committees – the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee (which is dealing with Brexit issues from a Welsh perspective); the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee (self-explanatory); and the Health and Social Care Committee, dealing with scrutiny of the single biggest Welsh Government expenditure, the Welsh NHS.

A typical week for me as an Assembly Member when the Assembly is in session is as follows:

Monday morning: constituency meetings or visits

Monday afternoon: External Affairs and Additional Legistation Committee. Maybe evening constituency engagement

Tuesday morning: meeting of the Labour Group to discuss the Plenary business of the Assembly which is dealt with on Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Tuesday afternoon: First Plenary session of the week with First Minsiter’s Questions, Government statements and debates and legislation

Wednesday morning: Health and Social Care Committee

Wednesday afternoon: Second Plenary session of the week with Ministers’ questions and opposition debates, individual member debates and individual member legislative proposals

Thursday morning: Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee

Thursday afternoon: Catch up on reading, constituency business and Welsh lesson! Maybe evening constituency engagement

Friday: Team meeting with my staff and then constituency engagements for the rest of the day/evening

Saturday/Sunday: Constituency engagements as necessary

There is very little spare or “me” time – I’m not complaining, it comes with the territory – but it is something we all need for our own health and well- being. So how do I make sure that pressure doesn’t turn to stress and that stress doesn’t become an all-consuming factor making my life miserable?

I am fortunate in that I have a very loving and supportive family – which is good, because it is certainly not a conventional life living with a politician! totally understands the work that I do and the need to be the best at it that I can be. My husband will take what pressure he can off me by doing a lot of the basics like cooking, washing and ironing. I do the cleaning because I like to – I find it very therapeutic and satisfying. A real stress reliever for me!

Breaks and holidays are now not as frequent as they used to be, but I do ensure that I take time off at key times throughout the year to spend with family and friends. They keep me grounded and allow me to switch off and that is important.

A long walk, a drive into the country, a quiet meal, a good book, talking to friends and family, planning the next interior décor project, cleaning the house, having the cats purring on my lap – all simple things that cost very little, but take the stress out of life for me and enable me to keep going and be the best I can be in my chosen role in life – representing the people of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney in the National Assembly for Wales.

Dawn Bowden
Welsh Labour Assembly Member
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

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