Nine members of the House of Representatives met for a historic early breakfast caucus recently at the Library of Congress. One thing they all had in common? All are moms who are frustrated that that role — in the eyes of their male colleagues — continues to detract in 2019 from their work on Capitol Hill.
According to the Washington Post, the group was joined by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who spoke of life as the only (yup) female FCC commissioner and the rage she felt when she was told at work, “It must be so hard for you to do this job as a mom.”
The nine congresswomen swapped stories of feeling judged for not hiding their motherhood.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said she once nursed her baby girl in her congressional office, much to a male colleague’s displeasure. “Because, yeah, she had to eat,” she said, prompting nods from the other women present.
Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) said that she — a single mother of three — most resents the question “How are your kids doing?” with the singular emphasis on the final word of the question.
“As if they’re suffering. As if they’re not thriving and doing great,” Porter said, clearly irritated.
This 2019 “Moms in the House” caucus was the brainchild of Wasserman Schultz, who arrived on the Washington political scene back in 2005 with twins, 5, and a 1-year-old. She was inspired by the historic 2018 election and its stunning (and far overdue) wave of new female lawmakers, including many mothers. Wasserman Schultz invited House members who were moms with school-aged kids (21 Dems and four Republicans, 25 in all) to join the caucus, which remarkably marked the first of anything like it in the history of the U.S. Congress.
Wasserman Schultz told the breakfast caucus, “We are doing these jobs differently than the majority of Congress. I want this to be a vehicle, not only to be supportive of one another, but also to help each other be successful, to use it as a way or us to advance an agenda and collect our power, to move things forward… and to just maybe have some comfort, where we can come together, because we’re living through the same experience.”
A record number of women were elected to Congress in November. That's why I'm creating the "Moms in the House" caucus to serve as a support network and a sisterhood that will allow moms in Congress to work together and learn from each other.
— Debbie Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) December 4, 2018
If you don’t think this is radical, think again. Want to guess when the very first women’s restroom off the House floor was added? 2011. The first lactation room? 2007, demanded by Nancy Pelosi, thank you, ma’am.
The Moms in the House caucus includes Muslim moms (Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) as well as the first gay mom elected to Congress, Rep Angie Craig (D-Minn.).
I'll never forget the time I was told "It must be so hard for you to do this job as a mom." I talked about that and more with the new Moms in the House group–an inspiring group of women who are making their mark on Capitol Hill. https://t.co/8odcbeqZTm
— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) April 16, 2019
The monthly Moms in the House caucus events started in January, and thus far only Democrats have attended, but Wasserman Schultz said Republican colleagues showed interest and she hopes they will attend. There’s also a very active group chat via text where the colleagues can go to share and ask for advice: Does the whole family need to move to Washington? What can I do with my kids when I have to be on the House floor for an important vote?
The plan for the group: to use strength in numbers to delve deeper into family issues like affordable, accessible child care and better parental-leave policies, and get those issues pushed hard to legislative action. But the support among the colleagues is possibly the most valuable and empowering aspect of the caucus, strengthening the work of each member individually and as a team.