In 2018, our Founder and CEO, Liuba Grechen Shirley, ran a historic congressional campaign to represent New York’s 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the time, her children were one and three-years old. She would make calls to donors, while nursing Nicholas, while Mila covered her head in hair clips. Her mother, a teacher, was able to watch her children every day after 3:30 p.m., which allowed her to head out the door, meet constituents and attend community meetings. For months, she built forts, changed diapers and made lunch with her phone attached to her ear. This schedule was unsustainable — but so was paying for childcare after giving up her salary to run.
Research shows that childcare obligations are among women's biggest considerations when deciding whether to run for office.
Six months into her campaign, Liuba petitioned the Federal Election Commission and became the first woman in history to receive federal approval to spend Campaign Funds on Childcare. This groundbreaking decision gained support from Hillary Clinton and 24 members of Congress. It received unanimous and bipartisan approval by the FEC, removing a major financial obstacle for working mothers and families at a time when women are increasingly considering running for elected office. Her campaign received the highest vote share of any Democrat to run against the incumbent, Peter King, in 25 years and raised over $2 million through grassroots fundraising.
Since 2018, 59 federal candidates have used their campaign funds for childcare - both moms and dads, Democrats and Republicans.
Liuba had firsthand experience with the lack of support for working families before her congressional run. While pregnant with her first child, Mila, she was the Director of a Research Institute and didn't have any paid family leave. Before her daughter was born, Liuba put her on the waiting list for childcare in New York City.
In NYC, childcare centers have the capacity for only 6% of infants citywide.
Even if she had made it off the waitlist, childcare would have cost Liuba about 50% of her take home pay. Liuba eventually left her job and began consulting from home because of the financial stress of childcare without paid family leave. She was terrified of being "mommytracked," but instead ended up running for Congress.
Most parents have stories similar to Liuba's.
1 in 4 women in the United States go back to work only 10 days after giving birth.
88% of women in the United States don't have access to paid family leave.
Single parents spend 40% of their pre-tax income on childcare.
Sending your infant to childcare can cost more than sending your teenager to college.
Now, Vote Mama Foundation is working to make it easier to be a parent and a child in the United States, and not just for candidates running for political office. We work with a family of organizations to overcome the systemic hurdles that mothers face while running for office and that legislators face while fighting for family-friendly legislation.