There are more moms in Congress than ever before

By Sophie Lewis

/ CBS News

Record number of moms in the U.S. House

Natalie Brand contributed reporting.

More than 100 women are currently serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, more than any other time in history. The increase not only adds diversity to Congress, but also the number of working moms. More than one-fifth of the Congresswomen are moms to young children, according to analysis by the Center for American Women and Politics.

California Democrat Katie Porter is a new member and single mother of three — and commutes between both coasts. Recalling the January government shutdown negotiations, Porter told CBS News' Natalie Brand, "I had to hop on a red-eye on Tuesday night to come back here, and my kids asked me 'Mom, when are you coming home?'"

"I had to tell them, 'Truthfully, I don't know,'" she said.

With the increase in parents, House leadership changed the schedule to make it more family-friendly this year, according to Politico. The chamber typically won't vote before 1 p.m. or after 7 p.m., and members will be able to spend more time in their home districts. Members are scheduled to be in session 130 days in 2019, slightly fewer than the 139 legislative days in 2017, the last non-election year.

"I think for any working mom, having the certainty around the schedule makes a big difference," Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers told CBS News. She is the only member to have given birth three times while serving in Congress, although fellow Washington Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler is currently pregnant with her third child as well.
"I remember when I first became pregnant, I was put on a list of members that would potentially retire that cycle, and this was my second term in Congress, and I wasn't thinking about retiring," McMorris Rodgers said. She said becoming a mom has made her a better legislator. Her oldest child, Cole, has Down syndrome, and she's developed a personal passion for advocating for people with disabilities.
"All of the issues, all of the legislation and the questions, I see it through the perspective of being a parent, having kids, thinking about what their future is going to be," she said.

Porter said she was constantly asked about balancing work and family life during the election cycle last year. "What I took from those questions was just how much energy and concern there is among the public about balancing work and family, so it just caused me to come to congress even more energized about working on this issue," Porter said.

Porter said one of her legislative priorities will be working to reduce the cost of childcare, which she fears is driving women out of the workplace. She also wants to see expanded daycare options on the Capitol campus — the current facility has had a years-long wait list in the past. "In terms of how Congress is changing to accommodate mothers of young children, I think it hasn't," said Porter.

Progress has been slow, but new members are eager to implement changes. In an effort to provide a support network for member moms, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz from Florida launched an informal "Moms in the House" caucus last year.

The group hopes to meet monthly in 2019. They held their first dinner meet-up in late January.

First published on February 8, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

There are more moms in Congress than ever before

"In terms of how Congress is changing to accommodate mothers of young children, I think it hasn't," one representative said of being a mom serving in the House

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