Imagine your typical candidate for public office. Just call up the first picture that comes to mind. What do you see?
Is it a guy? A younger person or an older one? White? Yeah, I thought so. Me, too. But I’m starting to change my mind. I’m envisioning a younger woman, and one with kids.
I think mothers would make excellent candidates for elected office. Being a mother gives you a very particular set of skills that is perfectly suited to solving problems which is what public policy is all about. Your average mother is operating on limited sleep, in less than ideal circumstances, with only so much time/money/food to satisfy multiple people at any given moment.
Tough choices are her daily fare. She has to make snap decisions, some of them life or death, with incomplete and possibly inaccurate information. She can see problems looming, and solve them before they arise. A mother must anticipate meltdowns, tantrums, boredom, and the need for a change of clothes, her own or somebody else’s. She can control behavior with a raised eyebrow, command authority by the set of her mouth, and silence a room with a certain kind of glare.
Mothers are pragmatic. They live in the here and now, constantly responding to external demands, negotiating, collaborating, adapting, and are generally several steps ahead of everybody else.
They are used to networking. They know the other families in your street, the families with kids in the same school, the coaches, the teachers, the businesses, the play groups, the doctors, the repair guys, the bankers, the mechanic, and they have great women friends they can call on at a moment’s notice. Your average mother realizes on a molecular level that she can’t go it alone, and that our well-being is all connected.
She couldn’t get through the day without the goodwill of others, and she’s ready to pitch in, organize, manage, solve, and get on with whatever the situation demands. She has no time for bullies, braggarts, brats or boneheads. She simply has too much to do.
This is exactly the kind of person we need in the policy-making positions that influence so much of how we live. Pragmatic problem-solvers, people with lots of real world experience, with empathy and a vested interest in the long-term goals of our society. That’s mothers, to a “T”.
What do mothers do once they are elected? They make change. The range of legislative issues becomes broader, the menu of possible solutions more varied. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York made sure that lactation services were covered in the Affordable Care Act, and that employers were required to provide break time and a suitable space for working mothers to express milk. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill introduced stronger provisions for dealing with the scourge of sexual assault in the military, and on college campuses. Newly elected US Rep. Katherine Clark from Massachusetts is pushing for high quality infant and toddler care, citing her experience as a mother of three school-aged children.
And don’t worry – women lawmakers are heavily engaged in other areas of governance. They are tackling the regulation of big banks (Sen. Elizabeth Warren), chairing the Senate Budget Committee (Sen. Patty Murray), monitoring the activities of the CIA (Sen. Dianne Feinstein), and chairing the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. And they all have children.
I’m ready to turn conventional wisdom on its head. Raising kids makes you especially qualified to run things – like your state, the country, a federal agency. It’s not a disadvantage, but a hands-down asset.
Where else can you get the kind of experience and training so suited to motivating others, satisfying opposing interests, and crafting solutions to seemingly insoluble problems? Add to that the fact that research shows women are more ethical and less corrupt than men. Also, women are the more educated half of the population, earning more degrees than men at all levels.
Motherhood, baby. It puts you ahead of the pack. Vote Mom.
Sign up to receive ShriverReport.org newsletters directly to your inbox!