Ketanji Brown Jackson highlights challenge of being a working mom in Supreme Court confirmation hearings

Jackson, a mom of 2, said she's learned, "you don't have to be a perfect mom."

March 23, 2022, 1:42 PM

If Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, she will set precedent as not only the first Black woman to sit on the nation's high court, but also as the second-consecutive working mother to be confirmed.

Jackson, 51, is the mother of two school-age daughters, Talia and Leila.

The most recent justice confirmed to the Supreme Court, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, is a mother of seven children, five biological and two who were adopted from Haiti.

When Barrett was sworn in as a justice in October 2020, then-President Donald Trump noted she was the "very first mother of school-aged children to become a Supreme Court justice."

Now if Jackson is confirmed, there will be two working moms among the nine justices.

PHOTO: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson arrives for her nomination hearing to be an associated justice on the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C on March 21, 2022.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson arrives for her nomination hearing to be an associated justice on the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C on March 21, 2022.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

In its 233-year history, the Supreme Court has had five female justices, including Justices Barrett, Sonia Sotomayor and Elana Kagan, who currently serve on the court.

Jackson, who has served as a public defender, district court judge and federal appeals judge over her career, has spoken in her confirmation hearings this week about the difficulties of balancing a career and family.

Throughout much of her testimony, Jackson's daughters and her husband, Dr. Patrick G. Jackson, a Washington, D.C.-based surgeon, have sat behind her.

PHOTO: Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, March 21, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., with her husband Dr. Patrick Jackson and daughter Leila.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, March 21, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., with her husband Dr. Patrick Jackson and daughter Leila.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

“Girls, I know it has not been easy as I have tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood,” Jackson said in her opening statement Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “And I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right. But I hope that you have seen that with hard work, determination, and love, it can be done. I am so looking forward to seeing what each of you chooses to do with your amazing lives in this incredible country. I love you so much.”

On Tuesday, in response to a question from Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, of New Jersey, Jackson opened up more about juggling her career and motherhood.

She spoke about missing events in her daughters' lives because of her job, and said that she "didn't always get the balance right."

“I would hope for them, seeing me — hopefully, you all will confirm me — seeing me move to the Supreme Court that they will know you don’t have to perfect in your career trajectory, that you can still end up doing what you want to do,” Jackson said. “You don’t have to be a perfect mom, but if you do your best and you love your children that things will turn out OK.”

PHOTO: Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, photographed during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, on Mar. 21, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, photographed during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, on Mar. 21, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Polaris

Jackson's honesty about the difficulties of work and parenthood drew replies on Twitter, with one mom writing about her remarks, "I feel this in my bones."

"It does wonders to hear someone you admire and who is *obviously way successful* talk candidly about working mom life," wrote another Twitter user.

The writer of the tweet linked to a 2017 speech Jackson gave at the University of Georgia specifically on being a mom and a judge.

"The hours are long. The workflow is unpredictable," she said in the speech. "You have little control over your time and your schedule, and you start to feel as though the demands of the billable hour are constantly in conflict with the needs of your children and your family responsibilities."

Jackson's comments on being a working mom come at a time when moms in the workplace are facing extreme strain due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In the first months of the pandemic, in 2020, around 3.5 million mothers with school-age children left active work. In the past, working mothers have made up nearly one-third, or 32%, of all employed women, according to the Census Bureau.

In total, women have lost over 1.8 million jobs since the start of the pandemic, according to the National Women's Law Center, which compiled its analysis using monthly jobs data.

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