As a nursing mother with a one-year-old and three-year-old, our Founder and CEO, Liuba Grechen Shirley, ran for Congress in 2018 against Peter King.
She would campaign each day with Mila and Nicholas in tow, until her mom, a public school teacher, would come home to watch the kids, and Liuba would head back out on the campaign trail. A few months into the campaign she realized that wasn’t sustainable, but neither was paying for childcare after giving up her salary to run.
Research shows that childcare obligations are among the biggest factors women consider when deciding whether to run for office.
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, which gained support from Hillary Clinton and 25 members of Congress, was unanimously and bipartisanly approved by the FEC, and removed a major financial obstacle for working families and mothers at a time when women are increasingly considering elected office.
Since 2018, 46 federal candidates have used their campaign funds for childcare - both mothers and fathers, Democrats and Republicans.
But Liuba’s experience with childcare struggles didn't begin there...
When Liuba was pregnant with her first child, Mila, she was the Director of a Research Institute at New York University and didn't have any paid family leave. While pregnant, she went to put her daughter 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, the childcare would have cost about half her take home pay.
When Mila was a year old, Liuba and her husband moved from the city to Liuba’s hometown on Long Island so that her mom could help with childcare. Liuba ended up leaving her position at NYU and began consulting from home because of the financial stress of childcare and no paid family leave. She was terrified of being "mommytracked," but instead ended up running for Congress.
Most parents have stories similar to Liuba's without a history-making Congressional campaign.
One in four 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 costs more than sending your teenager to a four-year college.
Now, the Vote Mama Foundation is working to make it easier to be a parent and a child in the United States. We are part of a family of organizations working to overcome the structural and cultural hurdles that mothers face while running for office and that legislators face while fighting for family-friendly legislation.
The Vote Mama Foundation’s mission is to achieve gender equality, by breaking down barriers for working mothers to run for elected office, winning universal childcare for all Americans, and the use of campaign funds for childcare for all candidates running for office.
We will elevate these issues among candidates, elected officials, and the American public so that they are no longer referred to as women’s issues, but as economic issues that affect all Americans.
The lack of childcare in American costs us $57 billion each year in lost earnings, productivity and revenue.
Having parents, especially mothers with young children in public office will change the conversation and priorities at the decision making table.
Moms in Congress write and pass five more bills over the course of their term than other women do, and their legislation is focused on healthcare, childcare, education, paid family leave, and affordable housing for families.
We are working in partnership with the Vote Mama Action Fund to develop family-friendly policies to help legislators empower families and improve the lives of American children.