Last week, writers in both The Washington Post and Daily Beast argued that having more mothers on the U.S. Supreme Court would be positive in helping the Court understand the needs of families and add an important new kind of diversity. Having a mother of school age children as a justice would help her understand and represent values such as for work life balance.
The same is true in Congress. Having politicians who understand work life balance is important to our passing laws as a nation which help families find balance. In yesterday's election in Arkansas, Senator Blanche Lincoln failed to win enough votes to be renominated and will head to a run off in June. A mother of three children, Lincoln understands the issues of work life balance and has been a leader in workplace flexibility in the Senate.
The demands on Congresspeople for their time are so intense that it is difficult for many who truly value work life balance to serve. Earlier this month, Eric Liu, a very promising state Senate candidate in Washington, decided to pull out of the race in order to spend more time with his daughter. Last week, Rep. David Obey from Wisconsin announced he is retiring because he is exhausted. Congresspeople are too frequently leaving because of the time demands.
That is a major problem if we believe we want people who serve in Congress to understand and represent values of work family balance.
There is potential for a new group of mothers who have large families and deal with work life balance every day to be involved in this policy space directly or by example. Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, conservative commentator and possible future Virginia Senator Liz Cheney and Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest each have five children. Former U.S. Department of Labor chief economist and labor market columnist Diana Furtchgott-Roth has six children. I worked with Furtchgott-Roth in government and marveled at her ability to succeed as a mother and policy leader with her six kids while I struggle with balancing work with raising our two. How do they do it? Obviously education/resources is one reason, but their examples are worth watching.
One might wonder how these conservative women manage to have large families, be so successful in the workplace, and how their experiences shape their views on work life balance policy.
My sense is that the answer to a large degree lies in flexibility. Workplace flexibility has potential to allow women, and men, to be successful parents and employees.
The past few months have been very significant in the world of work life balance policy. Last October, Maria Shriver released "The Shriver Report" which focused on the impact of women being a majority of the workforce. On March 31, 2010, President and Mrs. Obama hosted the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility to draw attention to the need for flexibility in the workplace.
Those who care about this policy area should involve, ask and learn from successful conservative women with thriving careers and larger than average families.
We should also look at ways to make it possible for people who value work life balance to be able to succeed in serving in Congress so that they can represent values of work family balance.