Moms in Congress, Part I

We all know the Supermoms of America, but on Capitol Hill, several women lawmakers take this idea to a new level. They’re the Super-Congressmoms, flying to and from their districts every weekend to see their children, writing bills by day and changing diapers by night, following through on carpool duty between votes, and bringing their children to the office for the ultimate multitasking.

With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, The Hill asked several female lawmakers with children at home about their dual roles of mom and legislator, and how the two relate.

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The Hill will feature four more lawmaker moms  in Thursday’s edition. 

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.)

Landrieu has a son, Connor, 19, and a daughter, Mary Shannon, 13.

What does it mean to you to be both a mom and a member of Congress?

My role as both a mother and a senator is essential to what I’m all about. When I started out my political career 35 years ago, I was still single. I was confident that with the right support system, a married woman with children could achieve success in both family life and in politics. Each role presents its own demands and challenges, and juggling those is an ongoing exercise in setting priorities. Ultimately, both roles are all about the difference you can make in the lives of others, and that’s extremely rewarding.

When do you think about your kids most while on the job?

I think about my children off and on throughout the day, particularly in the after-school hours when they’re engaged in different schedules of activities. I try to keep their schedules in mind as I go about my own busy schedule. Sometimes I take the time to call and remind or talk to them about things. I also take part in the carpooling, which can be a challenge all its own.

Are there any “mom skills” that are also useful on the job?

I find that parenting skills are extremely useful in politics, since parenting requires a lot of juggling, negotiating and settling disputes in a way that is satisfactory to all sides, even if no one gets all he or she wants.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mom in Congress?

The hardest thing about being a mom in Congress is not being able to make all the school and athletic events. Sometimes at the end of the day, it’s also difficult to disconnect mentally from the job so I can give my family full attention. These are issues all working parents can understand. Balancing work and home life takes skill and practice. The more you work at it, the better you get.

And the best thing?

The best thing about being a mom in Congress is the opportunity my children have to meet influential people and leaders, including other senators and presidents. They have a front-row seat on the inner workings of Congress and the government. The educational value of that perspective and experience for them is priceless.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)

Rodgers has a son, Cole, 4, and a daughter, Grace, 5 months.

What does it mean to you to be both a mom and a member of Congress?

It’s a true blessing. I am grateful every day for my two beautiful children, Cole and Grace — they are truly gifts from God — and also for the opportunity to serve the people of Eastern Washington in Congress. And since none of that would be possible without my husband Brian, I am grateful for him as well. When I was growing up on my parents’ farm, I could never have imagined that one day I would be elected to Congress. I have truly lived the American Dream. And that’s why, as a mom in Congress, I see my most important job as preserving that dream for Cole, Grace and all of America’s children.

When do you think about your kids most while on the job?

They’re never far from my mind. And it’s worth noting that I bring them to the office from time to time. That always creates a lot of excitement! 

Are there any “mom skills” that are also useful on the job?

Almost everything about being a mom is useful to my job — from listening to motivating to multitasking. But perhaps more than anything else, being a mom gives me a great appreciation for what other American moms and dads go through. Parenthood obviously contains a great deal of joy, but it also contains a great deal of responsibility: keeping our children safe, educating them, making sure they have good healthcare, etc. And that’s why our government needs to empower moms and dads, instead of trying to undermine them. That’s a lesson I take with me every day in Congress. I should also mention that having a child with special needs has inspired me to be a leader in the disability community. Being Cole’s mom — and being part of that community — has given me a renewed purpose and passion for being in Congress. And that’s why I co-founded the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mom in Congress?

Even after four years, I’m still learning how to successfully juggle Congress and motherhood. The biggest challenge is finding enough hours in the day to meet the vital needs of my children and family while continuing to be responsive to the needs and issues facing the people of Eastern Washington. Then again, these are the exact same challenges faced by millions of other American women who successfully balance their career and motherhood, and I am inspired by their example.

And the best thing?

One of the advantages to serving in Congress is a flexible schedule that allows me to spend quality time with my son and daughter that many other women may not have. Through that time with Cole and Grace, I have experienced a whole new capacity for love that continues to grow as they grow. And that has made me a better congresswoman as well. 

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.)

Noem has two daughters, Kassidy, 16, and Kennedy, 13, and a son, Booker, 8.

What does it mean to you to be both a mom and a member of Congress?

It is a privilege. I have the rare opportunity to show my kids the way Congress functions firsthand.

When do you think about your kids most while on the job?

I think about them all the time, but especially when I vote on the House floor. I know that each vote I make affects them, and as a mother, I try to make the best possible decisions for my children.

Are there any “mom skills” that are also useful on the job?

Moms have a special knack for multitasking, listening and mediating. As a congresswoman I listen to my constituents and work with my colleagues to hammer out the right policy for the people of South Dakota.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mom in Congress?

It isn’t easy being away from my three kids during the weeks I spend in D.C., but it was because of them that I decided to run for Congress last year. I want to make sure that, through my work here, Kassidy, Kennedy and Booker have the brightest future possible.

And the best thing?

Going back to South Dakota to see them every weekend.

This article initially gave incorrect ages for Landrieu's children.