Moms in Congress, Part 2

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, The Hill continues to feature the women in Congress who find time in their busy schedules to make dinner for their children and tuck them into bed at night while filling their role as public officials.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

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Gillibrand has two sons,Theodore, 7, and Henry, 3.

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

As a mom and a lawmaker, I understand the challenges women have juggling their careers and their family life. I am humbled to have the opportunity to be a voice for women, because women lawmakers bring a different perspective to policy decisions. For example, last year when Congress was rewriting our child-nutrition laws, I had a unique view. With a three-year-old and seven-year-old at home, I know how every parent feels coming home from a busy day at work and cooking a balanced meal that my kids will eat. Learning good nutrition is an important part of meals in our house.


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

I think about them all day long — they are an endless source of joy and inspiration.

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

Patience. As a mother and a member of the Senate, when negotiations get intense, it’s good to take a step back, assess the situation and figure out what everyone needs in order to compromise, work together and move forward.

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

Like every working mom, I find there are never enough hours in a day. I try to create a schedule that is compatible with being a good mom and a good senator. I try to not schedule things between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. so I can pick up my kids, make dinner and put them to bed before heading back out.

And the best thing?

I am perusing my passion — representing New Yorkers and standing up for people who do not have a voice in Washington. My grandmother told my mother, and my mother always told me, “You can do anything if you put your mind to it.” I hope my sons learn that lesson from me too.

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) Ellmers 

Ellmers has a son, Ben, 16.

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

The reason I decided to run for Congress was because of my concern for my son’s future. I saw the way the country was headed and did not see him having the opportunities ahead of him that I have enjoyed. As a member of Congress, I can do something about that. Being a mom, and keeping my son always in mind, the decisions I make are not only based on what is best for us now, but for future generations as well.

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

I think about my son constantly, but especially when I am able to work on an issue that I know will affect his future in a meaningful way.

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

There are many “mom skills” that are useful in this job. Multitasking is a big one because of the busy schedule we keep and the many different issues we handle. Another is the ability to choose the best course of action, rather than the most popular. Any mom knows that if she lets her kids eat ice cream for every meal and skip their homework every night, she might win short-term favor but do long-term damage. We sometimes have to make hard, unpopular choices in Congress, just as we do as moms.

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

Having less time to spend with my son is the hardest thing.

And the best thing?

A great thing about being in Congress is being able to show my son first-hand that we all can make a difference and that God has a distinct plan for all of us — we just have to be open to see it.

Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.)

Sanchez has a son, Joaquín, who turns 2 this month.

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

It means that I am acutely aware of the challenges working moms everywhere face every day. There are parents all over this country who have no flexibility in the demands of their jobs, who can’t miss a shift at work when their child is sick. Wearing both hats as a mom and a legislator means that I take an active role in working towards policies that help make the lives of working families a little easier.

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

I think about my son when drafting legislation and when I’m voting. I try to think of how what we’re working on will affect him and his future.

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

Being a mom forces you to multitask and anticipate needs when you’re juggling the demands of kids, work, family and laundry. As a member of Congress, I can squeeze in extra meetings because of good multitasking. Additionally, because I know the day-to-day challenges in balancing work and family, I try to make my office friendly for staffers who have families and kids.

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

Definitely the travel, especially as a West Coast member. For every trip home, the plane ride is five hours, plus three more hours getting to and from the airport. That’s tough on a toddler, and I have to make that trip with him several times a month. On top of the long plane rides, the time change from the West Coast and East Coast makes it hard for my son to keep his sleep schedule.

And the best thing?

Being a mom is the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life. One of my proudest moments on the House floor is when I introduced my son to my colleagues and the world.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.)

Jenkins has a daughter, Hayley, 19, and a son, Hayden, 16.

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

Being a member of Congress is a very important job, but being a mom is the most important job I’ll ever have.

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

When we are discussing the nation’s debt and deficits.

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

As preschoolers, I taught my kids how to count money and how to play well with others. I’m hoping to use that experience to teach a few members of Congress that as well.

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

Being away from my kids several nights each week when I am in D.C.

And the best thing?

Working to preserve for their generation a nation that will provide an opportunity for success similar to the opportunities my generation has enjoyed thanks to our parents.