I'm a legislator and a mom. Tammy Duckworth is my hero

On Thursday, Senator Tammy Duckworth and her newborn daughter Maile ...

Posted: Apr 24, 2018 9:22 AM
Updated: Apr 24, 2018 9:22 AM

On Thursday, Senator Tammy Duckworth and her newborn daughter Maile made history for working parents everywhere when they entered the Senate floor together for mom to cast a vote.

As a legislator who has given birth twice while in office and brought my infant sons to work, I have been cheering on Senator Duckworth with admiration and empathy.

The image of a peacefully sleeping baby surrounded by smiling senators didn't come without a fight. Senator Duckworth and Senator Amy Klobuchar, ranking Democrat on the Rules and Administration Committee, spent months pushing to amend the Senate rule barring children from the floor so that new parents could bring babies younger than a year old. They had to overcome concerns from colleagues on both sides of the aisle about decorum, with Senator Orrin Hatch famously asking, "But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?" Others suggested that voting from the cloakroom should be good enough for a senator with an infant.

The discussion highlights a tension that working moms and dads across the country know well: visibly caring for children can undermine one's perceived professionalism or credibility as a leader.

Too often, our societal norms still set up a false choice between parenting and professionalism.

As a newborn, my older son could sleep through anything so long as he could sprawl out on a flat surface, arms and legs splayed out on either side. In the weeks before our slot at the child care center opened up, I would occasionally bring him to committee hearings and let him sleep on my desk while I asked my questions. If he got fussy, I would take him back to my office and watch the proceedings over the livestream. At one otherwise uneventful hearing, a local news outlet shared a picture of the baby sleeping in front of me.

Although the public reaction was mostly as supportive, as my wonderful colleagues were, one online critic began to call for my resignation. "If she cannot devote her full attention when doing Council business, she should not serve," he tweeted on one occasion. The assertion was that a baby -- even silent and asleep -- was distracting and unprofessional. Back then, this critic tried to justify an archaic standard of professionalism by pointing to Congress as an example -- something that's no longer possible, thanks to Senator Duckworth and her colleagues.

And the reality is that a baby can be no more distracting than colleagues having a loud side conversation or engaging in many other types of multitasking. Certainly, workers in many industries do not have the privilege of being able to balance parenting at the workplace, and we must fight especially hard to support working parents in low-wage jobs. But holding up an archaic, sexist standard of decorum forces new parents (and especially new moms) to make an unnecessary and unhealthy choice between work or family. It's also a foolish economic decision to limit entire segments of our workforce and diminish the societal return on investment that would come from supporting our next generation of workers and community members when they first enter the world.

That's why Thursday's scene from the United States Capitol is so important. The ability for Senator Duckworth to openly serve as senator and as parent has impacts far beyond her constituents and beyond Congress. When one of the most storied institutions in our country has recognized that caring for a baby does not diminish a new parent's capacity to be a professional and a leader, that redefines norms of professionalism and leadership to be more inclusive. When new moms and dads can better support their families and give our youngest Americans the healthiest, most loving start to life, we all benefit.

Let this be not merely a rule change in the Senate, but the start of a sea change everywhere.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 20573

Reported Deaths: 878
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin6918534
Ramsey231697
Stearns192312
Nobles14572
Anoka116455
Dakota105935
Olmsted55110
Washington50626
Kandiyohi4541
Clay36623
Rice3652
Scott3462
Wright2401
Sherburne2081
Todd1970
Benton1662
Carver1612
Mower1501
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Cass113
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Brown112
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Marshall80
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Pope70
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Wadena60
Yellow Medicine50
Koochiching50
Lincoln50
Mahnomen51
Renville50
Lac qui Parle30
Red Lake30
Big Stone30
Redwood30
Traverse30
Grant20
Houston20
Clearwater20
Hubbard10
Kittson10
Lake10
Roseau10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 17227

Reported Deaths: 456
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3714108
Woodbury255524
Black Hawk167639
Linn92775
Marshall86611
Dallas84914
Johnson5987
Muscatine54339
Wapello5004
Crawford4772
Tama39023
Louisa3347
Scott3319
Dubuque31916
Jasper25616
Buena Vista2310
Pottawattamie2106
Sioux1990
Washington1798
Allamakee1184
Wright1170
Plymouth1080
Warren1060
Story941
Poweshiek888
Bremer676
Henry611
Clinton601
Boone540
Des Moines531
Mahaska526
Cedar451
Guthrie433
Taylor370
Benton371
Jones360
Monroe334
Iowa320
Clarke320
Osceola320
Shelby310
Buchanan310
Clayton303
Marion290
Webster271
Fayette260
Hamilton260
Madison241
Monona230
Cerro Gordo221
Lee220
Winneshiek210
Davis200
Lyon190
Grundy190
Harrison190
Floyd181
Jefferson150
Cherokee150
Butler150
Mills140
Delaware140
Humboldt130
Sac130
Greene130
Keokuk130
Hardin130
Howard120
Hancock120
Appanoose123
Audubon111
Jackson110
Cass110
Ida100
Page100
Clay100
Winnebago100
Carroll90
Van Buren80
Franklin80
Dickinson80
Adair80
Chickasaw80
Kossuth70
Emmet70
Lucas60
Montgomery60
Union60
Adams50
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Palo Alto30
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