Celebrate the Mothers in Congress – Not the Double Standards

Image: Speaker Pelosi on Bring Your Kids to Work Day

This weekend, families around the country will celebrate Mother’s Day! It’s a day to honor mothers – biological or chosen – and the female role models in our lives. One group of women that could use our attention this year? The mothers serving in Congress.

Currently there are over 100 women in Congress and roughly 1/5 of them have school-age children. These mothers include…

Representative Katie Porter (CA-45), the only single mom in Congress. In a POLITICO profile she discussed the importance of increasing that representation:

If we don’t have voices like mine, trying to figure out how to do it — to juggle and serve — then we won’t have anyone else speaking up to try to improve the system.

2018 also brought the first two Muslim mothers to Congress; Representatives Ilhan Omar (MN-5) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13). In a New York Times article, Omar shared her thoughts on being the first:

If I wasn’t here, my children wouldn’t see a representation of themselves. Not only my children but a lot of children like them can see themselves having a seat at the table someday because we are opening that door for them.

On the other side of the aisle, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5) shared her story with CBS. When she announced she was pregnant during her second term in Congress, many thought she might retire, but she stayed and continued to champion issues that affect families:

All of the issues, all of the legislation and the questions, I see it through the perspective of being a parent, having kids, thinking about what their future is going to be.

While the number of mothers serving in Congress is at an all-time high, we still have a long way to go before we reach true representation for working moms. Part of the reason we’re not quite there yet is the double standards that mothers face while they’re on the campaign trail.

Barbara Lee Family Foundation research has found that voters still hold mothers to an outdated, higher standard, worrying that they won’t be able to balance their family and work lives. Voters acknowledge that this double standard exists, but continue to consciously participate in it. However, research shows that when candidates and electeds are open and matter-of-fact about their personal lives, it can go a long way with voters and constituents.

Interestingly, in 2018 we saw an uptick in women embracing their ability to be 360-degree candidates on the campaign trail– women were running as their authentic selves, using the whole of their experience to connect with voters. Hopefully, as women with young children continue to run and win, voters will put these double standards to bed for good.

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