By Allison Stevens
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
When mothers of young children got elected to Congress a nursing room and day-care center opened on Capitol grounds. That's the kind of representation and advocacy that parents with young children need out here in the real world.
Every two years, Congress-watchers slice and dice the demographics of Congress, measuring the numbers of blacks and Latinos, men and women, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, veterans.
But no one yet appears to think it's worthwhile to keep watch on parents in Congress.
Nora Barry, an enterprising reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, conducted her own count and found 10 mothers of young children at the start of the current Congress. One of them, Linda Sanchez of California, broke a barrier as Congress' first unwed mother.
Barry sees the presence of these 10 as a "paradigm shift" from 1973, when Pat Schroeder of Colorado brought two young children with her to Washington, D.C., amid a barrage of questions about whether she could really work and raise kids at the same time. Her famous reply: "I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both."
That same year, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke became the first lawmaker to give birth in office, a feat that is still rare. It was repeated once in 1995, once in 2007, twice in 2008 and once in 2009, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The presence of just a few young mothers has already made a difference in the halls of Congress, Barry notes. There's now a nursing room and a day-care center on the Capitol grounds.
It would be nice to get those same amenities out here in the real world too.
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Allison Stevens is a writer in Washington, D.C.
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