In a special Mother’s Day edition of our Sunday Spotlight, ABC’s “This Week” had a glimpse inside an exclusive club on Capitol Hill: women who give birth while serving in Congress.
Rep. Jaime Hererra Beutler (R-WA) recently announced her pregnancy, and will become the ninth woman to have a baby while serving in Congress. Although Washington is known for its partisan divide, Beutler said babies can bring both parties together.
“The fun thing is, babies aren’t partisan,” Beutler said. “So even folks who we do not agree on policy, are so excited because they recognize that this is a great thing.”
Several women in Congress balance the roles of mother and elected official. Before announcing her pregnancy, Rep. Beutler reached out to Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), mother to 4-year old Joaquin, for advice.
“Probably the best piece of advice I give to women who are trying to juggle career and family is you really have to learn to be forgiving of your own self,” Sanchez told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz. “When you have a lot of balls in the air, this is what I tell women, inevitably, one or two are gonna fall. And you can’t beat yourself up about it.”
Women currently hold 98 of the 535 seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) – the first woman to give birth twice while serving in Congress – said the female lawmakers rely on one another for support.
“There’s some days that I think, ‘Okay, I have this figured out.’ And then the next day it feels like it’s all fallin’ apart,” Rodgers said. “And that’s where it’s good to be able to talk with other working moms on Capitol Hill that understand, that can relate to you, and give you those words of encouragement.”
The women said there are many unique challenges that come with being a working mom in Congress – including picking up their children from school between Congressional votes and flying back to their home districts with young children in tow.
But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), mother of two, believes motherhood gives them a unique perspective in Washington, and encouraged more women to seek public office.
“I want more women in government. I want more women members of Congress,” Gillibrand said. “Because even though we shouldn’t have to be the bearers of these issues, we passionately are, because we see it. We see the challenge every day.”
On this Mother’s Day, the congresswomen also reflected on their own mothers, and said that much has changed since the days when their moms were raising families.
Rep. Sanchez called the difference “night and day.”
“My mom was a mother to seven children. She was a stay-at-home mom,” Sanchez said. “I think she should be sainted. She went back to night school, earned her degree and became a teacher.”
“What they’ve accomplished, and frankly what all the women who come before us have accomplished, makes everything that we do possible,” Gillibrand added.