The morning after the election, I drove my kids to their school, which is situated in a strongly Republican neighborhood. Bleary-eyed from staying up late watching the election returns, I stepped out of the car and walked into my son's classroom. His teacher was already sitting at her desk in the still empty classroom, and not knowing where she stood on the political spectrum, I couldn't help but tentatively ask a rather generic: "How about that election?"
Matching my rather generic tone she said back, "How about it?" At that point I think I said one word: Obama.
The dam broke. The night before her daughter had phoned right after the election was called for Obama, and with the sound of kids playing in the background said: "Mom, do you know what this means? It means that your grandchildren now know they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. They really know it." Her children and grandchildren are biracial, just like Obama.
She shared how for many years she'd thought of the sometimes ignorant responses from people about the make-up of her family as teachable moments, about the weight of carrying it all, and about how seeing Obama elected was such a relief--such an opening of possibilities for her kids and grandkids. We both had tears in our eyes.
Then we went on to talk about how she didn't cast her ballot for Obama simply because of his genetic make-up, but for the man himself, for his policies, his ability to lead the nation. He had caught her attention both as a mom, and as a voter with an eye for the policies needed by many.
At the same time, stories of parents bringing their children with them to vote were pouring into the MomsRising website. At first I was curious why this happened when we'd asked the question: "Tell us about your voting experience, the issues that were top of your mind as you cast your ballot and ideas for moving forward after Election Day!" Not: "Did your children cast your ballot for you?"
But what we heard back from our members was amazing--story after story of how little children helped push the buttons in voting booths, kids who were late to school because they took time to vote with their parents, and children mistaking "Vote" for "Boat" with hilarious implications, but somehow still getting it in the end.
For many people, from all parts our nation and all kinds of families, this election was really about addressing concerns like parents being worried that we're creating fewer opportunities for our children than their parents had, not more. It was about addressing the fact that a full quarter of families with young children were living in poverty before this current financial crisis--and sadly things are only getting worse.
This was an historic election in many, many ways. Our nation elected a President who spoke powerfully about valuing women and families and put economic security policies--policies like the incredible lack of affordable early learning/childcare opportunities for young children, our need for sick days, fair pay, and the ridiculousness of not having a national paid family and medical leave policy while over 170 other countries do--at the front his political agenda in a way that previous Presidents haven't.
The mainly invisible, shared struggles of women and families sorely needed to be addressed in the national political dialogue as our President-Elect did in his campaign.
This was not only the right thing to do, it was the politically smart thing to do. Moms vote. Early exit polls found that moms listened, voted, and played a major role in determining the outcome of this election. Other early exit polls found that women made up 53% of the vote (and a huge percentage of those women are mothers, since over 80% of women in our nation have children by the time they are forty-four years old).
And, not only do moms vote, they are also paying attention to where candidates stand on these issues: One such poll conducted by Lake Research Partners found a wide margin (63%) of voters said their candidate's position on issues that help American parents balance work and family, like fair pay, health care and paid sick time, made them more supportive of that candidate. This voting trend wasn't so surprising. Weeks before Election Day, we saw Senator Obama pull ahead in the polls with women precisely because he addressed exactly these issues, which are absolutely critical to our nation's current and, importantly, future national economic security.
The frame shift toward addressing the too often invisible, and too often shared, issues relating to the economic security of mothers and families was a long time coming. With a full-three quarters of mothers now in the labor force, and many struggling to keep up with rising costs, it's critically important that we work toward common-sense solutions to our shared struggles that have too long been swept aside as an epidemic of personal failings. For the good of our children, and for the future economic stability of our nation.
Clearly there is pent up demand for such leaders. Obama broke the dam holding back the issues from center stage where they below. Future candidates who ignore these issues are now put on notice: Moms vote and moms care.
As I left my children's school that same morning, little kids looked on in confusion as several moms high-fived each other. Moms don't regularly do that, you know. But that day, they did.
A Peaceful Revolution is a blog about innovative ideas to strengthen America's families through public policies, business practices, and cultural change. Done in collaboration with MomsRising.org, read a new post here each week.
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