Our Story & Mission
If you are a mother with children under 18 running
for political office, your story is our story.
Liuba Grechen Shirley is the Founder and CEO of Vote Mama. One of the most difficult aspects of Liuba’s decision to run for Congress in the 2018 election was figuring out how to do it with small children. When she launched her campaign, she had no idea what it would be like to run.
There is no playbook on how to run
for office — and definitely no playbook for
women running with babies.”
Liuba’s decision was met with skepticism and discouragement. She was told that she would barely see her children and also wouldn’t be taken seriously as a mother of young kids. She had no support system of women who had run for office with small children before. Yet, she thought to herself,
If ten women have given birth while serving in Congress, I can certainly run with two toddlers."
When Liuba launched her campaign, her mother, a teacher, was her only source of childcare. Her mom would watch her children every day after 3:30 p.m., which allowed her to head out the door, meet constituents and attend community meetings. During the day, Liuba would make calls to donors, while nursing Nicholas, while Mila covered her head in hair clips. For months, she built forts, changed diapers and made lunch with her phone attached to her ear. This schedule was unsustainable — but so was paying for childcare after giving up her salary to run.
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 24 members of Congress, opened the door for more working moms and dads to run for office.
Read about our sister organization the non-partisan non-profit Vote Mama Foundation’s work to pass Campaign Funds for Childcare in all 50 states for state and local candidates.
During her campaign, Liuba’s toddler broke his leg. She remembers one particularly tough day at the doctor’s office, where she felt emotionally and physically exhausted. That day, she received a call from Senator Elizabeth Warren. They briefly discussed politics and then talked about motherhood. Senator Warren shared her experience of nearly quitting her job as a law professor when her children were young because of the lack of childcare. She told Liuba,
We moms, when we run out of milk, we
make breakfast with orange juice!”
It was the pep talk Liuba needed - because on your hardest day, you need to talk to someone who’s been through it before. The desire to build support for moms running for office motivated Liuba to launch Vote Mama.
Running for office as a mother, especially a mother
of young children, is extraordinarily difficult.
Moms face cultural pressure with questions, such as “who will watch your children while you’re campaigning?”
Moms are confronted with logistical hurdles, like the fact that women are 15 times more likely than men to be responsible for the majority of childcare.
Moms also have to overcome structural barriers, such as the inability to afford childcare while campaigning full-time without a salary.
Because of these cultural and structural hurdles moms face, many choose to wait until their children are older before running for political office. Since they wait to get started, it’s harder for women to achieve leadership positions at the same rate as men. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who waited to run for Congress until she was 47, has said how important it is for more young women to be in Congress “so that their seniority would start to count much sooner.”
Even after the swearing in of the historic 117th Congress, our representatives are overwhelmingly male, wealthy and above the age of 50. We need more women in Congress, but we also need more mothers.
We’re missing out on a critical voice. We’re missing out on the voice of people who know at a visceral level…
What it’s like not to have access to paid family leave.
What it’s like not to be able to find affordable, quality childcare.
What it’s like to go into medical debt to give birth.
We need to address the motherhood penalty in America—and this starts with electing more Democratic moms and changing the face of elected officials nationwide.
That’s why Vote Mama:
Endorses - we endorse Democratic moms running up and down the ballot across the country.
Funds - we provide direct financial support and coach candidates on how to build their war chest.
Mentors - we match each of our mamas with a mentor from our Advisory Committee and provide them with a comprehensive support system of moms who get it.
Congresswomen recently formed a “Moms in the House” Caucus. Senator Duckworth changed the rules so that babies are allowed on the floor. Speaker Pelosi pushed to install the first lactation room in the House. And more than 100 candidates running for federal office have spent their campaign funds on childcare since Vote Mama’s CEO and Founder became the first in 2018.