Why we need more moms in office

Photo by Laura Buckman for The Texas Tribune

DALLAS — You can’t really understand what it’s like to be a candidate mom until you walk into Target at 8:20 p.m. on Cinco de Mayo to redeem a 20-percent-off coupon for a car seat, wearing a Moms Demand Action t-shirt, eight hours after an NRA protest, three hours after a visit to your mother-in-law’s house, twenty minutes after your put your kids to bed.

No, you can’t really get it until you stand in the coupon line with your dirty, used car seat — required to redeem the coupon that expires at midnight — when an even more tired checkout lady looks up at you in your red t-shirt and asks, “Did you have a good turnout?” for the protest.

And you say, “Yes.” And she says, “Good!” with an enthusiasm that makes both of you smile.

I wish more moms experienced this type of tired inspiration that has become such a part of my life on the campaign trail. There aren’t nearly enough women like me running for office. There aren’t nearly enough women like me writing legislation for women like me in office.

Like most campaigning moms, I work at balance every day. Mostly, I work at trying not to become unbalanced and overwhelmed at the motherload of responsibility, financial worries, emotional upheavals, lack of sleep and childcare.

My children are three and six. I’m a politician in-the-making who’s also having to work on potty-training at home. I’m also a working parent and just completed my last series of college finals, the last of which was at 8 a.m. I had to arrive in full makeup and a dress because of a luncheon that followed.

I’m a Democrat campaigning in Texas House District 108 in the middle of Dallas, a county that state and national media consider the epicenter for change in Texas and a bellwether for the country. I find myself exchanging a car seat with a coupon, balancing budgets, hiring staff, working on proposed legislation, while the NRA holds a national convention in my district.

And I want more young, working mothers recruited to run for office. Our husbands are recruited. Our bosses are. They are considered leaders. What does that make us? Followers? Unqualified?

I hope this election cycle serves as a rallying cry for mothers in Texas. We are enough. We are qualified. We need a seat at the table, a bag of goldfish, a booster seat and lid for a sippy cup so our toddlers don’t spill.

Mostly, we need the respect and support it takes to run for office as working parents because our voices are desperately needed in Austin. 

Issues like paid maternity leave and paid sick leave are as important to me as a candidate as they are necessary to me as a working mother of two small children who had no paid leave during two pregnancies. Well-funded public schools matter to me as a taxpayer and a parent.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this process for any mother. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy to give a speech at 6 p.m. and shop for diapers at 7 p.m., because the stress of campaigning is like having a colicky newborn. It’s a struggle.

But it’s worth it. Because when I meet another tired mom in a Target at night and she wants common sense gun control, too, I remember how important it is that moms like her have moms like me running for office.

The University of North Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Joanna Cattanach

Candidate, Texas House District 108

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