The midterm elections sent a record number of women, many of them young women, to Capitol Hill. According to reporting by Politico, this has left Congress struggling to adapt to a new reality: a lot more young moms with young children serving in office.
The fact that Congress is a place for old, white men is embodied in the literal architecture; as Politico reports, new baby changing tables had to be installed in the members-only bathrooms over break. It was a change so novel that “when lawmakers returned from August recess, female lawmakers packed into the restroom off the House floor to get a glimpse of the new baby changing tables that were placed in the members-only bathrooms.”
The influx of young moms is also prompting questions about childcare costs and making legislative schedules more parent-friendly. As newly-elected California Representative Katie Porter, a single mother of three school-aged children, put it to Politico, “Congress wasn’t built for members like me. For those of us who have young children, which is a minority, there’s definitely the built-in assumption of a two-parent model… There is no template for how to do this in my situation as a single mom.”
The challenges that Porter faces will be familiar for parents across the country. Young children are the poorest age group in America, in large part because of the lack of government support—such as robust child care and paid family leave policy—for their parents. Congress isn’t ready for these young mothers, and neither is our country’s system of social programs. Let’s hope that more young parents in office will help change both.