She was the first senator to give birth while serving in office and made history by bringing her baby onto the Senate floor. Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth knows what working mothers are up against each day. Her ability to juggle work calls and juice boxes while simultaneously getting her daughter off to preschool is impressive, and her legislative record proves how important it is for mothers to be represented in government.
During the fourth episode of The Motherly Podcast, Duckworth tells Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety why America needs mothers in government, and she also says that mothers—even decorated war heroes—need to accept help and lean on the village sometimes. “I thought I could do it all. I thought, you know, I’m a Congresswoman, I run my own office, I have my own schedule, I can make this work,” she recalls. “Boy was I wrong.”
Thankfully, Duckworth had her mother in her corner, which meant she didn’t have to send her oldest daughter to day care as an infant, but so many American mothers don’t have family they can rely on for childcare.
They’re heading back to work just weeks after giving birth, which can negatively impact their health, their baby’s health, and their family’s overall well-being, and that is bad for America’s well-being, says Duckworth.
“We’re the only developed nation in the world that does not have a paid family leave policy,” she explains. “And I think it’s an economic detriment that we don’t have that. I think we’re competing with European nations and Asian nations that actually have this, and it makes us less competitive on a global scale to not have this for our workers.”
Every other member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has paid leave on a national level, and such policies have been shown to increase job retention, labor force participation, productivity and economic growth.
Most Americans (including the President of the United States) agree with Duckworth that the country needs paid leave. In this way, paid leave is a bipartisan issue, much like another issue Duckworth championed, the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act.
Her own experience as a frequently flying, pumping mother was the catalyst for the act, which passed last year and ensures moms traveling in major American airports don’t have to express milk in a bathroom stall or plug in their pump next to someone’s laptop at Starbucks.
And this week Duckworth, along with fellow democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican Senator Steve Daines, introduced the bipartisan Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act, which aims to require location rooms (that are not bathrooms) in federal buildings that are open to the public.
Tammy Duckworth proves that when lawmakers have lived the reality of mothers, laws that protect mothers become reality.
To hear more about Sen. Duckworth’s experiences in motherhood and government listen to The Motherly Podcast, sponsored by Prudential, for the full interview.