Let's get real for a moment: exclusively breastfeeding a young infant is hard work. As nursing moms know all too well, this around-the-clock responsibility is basically a full-time job in itself. So when maternity leave ends and a new mom is expected to leave her baby for a good chunk of the day, there are more than a few logistical hurdles to address. What if the baby refuses to take a bottle? Will the mother even have a clean, private place to pump if she can't nurse throughout the day? How can a working mom fulfill her career obligations while also ensuring her baby has enough breastmilk? Politician-moms are no exception to these issues. And while Tammy Duckworth's maternity leave might be over, she's planning on bringing her breastfed newborn to the office.
Before I delve into how much of a bad*ss mama Duckworth is, let's catch up a little on her backstory. In April, the Illinois Democrat became the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office, NPR reported. Duckworth, 50, welcomed a baby girl named Maile with her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey. The couple also has a daughter named Abigail, whom Duckworth delivered in 2014 while serving in the U.S. House of Representative. "Parenthood isn't just a women's issue, it's an economic issue and one that affects all parents — men and women alike," Duckworth said in a statement that announced her Maile's birth, according to NPR. "As tough as juggling the demands of motherhood and being a Senator can be, I'm hardly alone or unique as a working parent, and my children only make me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere."
Later that month — largely because Duckworth was the first sitting Senator to give birth and because she pushed for the rule change — the Senate voted to allow infants on the Senate floor with their mothers, CNN reported. In a statement, Duckworth thanked her fellow senators for "helping bring the Senate into the 21st Century be recognizing that sometimes new parents also have responsibilities at work."
She continued, "By ensuring that no Senator will be prevented from performing their constitutional responsibilities simply because they have a young child, the Senate is leading by example & sending the important message that working parents everywhere deserve family-friendly workplace policies." (Yas, girl!)
On April 19, Duckworth became the first Senator to bring her infant onto the Senate floor when she made an appearance to vote.
Which brings us to July. As of Monday, Duckworth's 12-week maternity leave is over — meaning she has returned to her responsibilities as a senator full-time, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. And apparently, she is bringing her infant daughter and her nanny with her. “I’m going to bring Maile to work with me. And I’ll have a nanny in the office," Duckworth told the publication. “… We’re going to be a very progressive office when it comes to this. We’ve already put up a health and wellness room that will have a breast pump, a refrigerator."
It's worth noting that while the mom of two was out on maternity leave, she wasn't ever completely detached from her work responsibilities. Her staff sent her a briefing book on a weekly basis, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, on top of Duckworth making appearances to vote/carry out other duties with her infant in tow. “I came in not every week but I came in frequently to vote and do things," she told the publication. “It was both a blessing because I have a job that I could take the time and spend as much time as I wanted with her. But it was really scary and depressing as I watched Justice Kennedy (retire) and I watched families being separated.”
Unsurprisingly, Duckworth has also been vocal about the controversial family separation policy at the Mexico-U.S. border — and she even spoke with protestors last week outside of the Hart Senate Office Building, the Daily Beast reported. "I actually was coming in to vote and the protest happened and I went over to the protesters to talk to them," she explained. "But I wasn’t using my child as a prop, she is just always strapped to me. I was just doing my job.”
There's no doubt in my mind that Tammy Duckworth is a bad*ss mom and Senator. But when it comes down to it, she's just doing what needs to be done to get the job done. It's awesome that she was able to take 12 weeks of maternity leave while still fulfilling her duties. It's equally awesome that she is bringing her baby girl to work with her, and that her office is so accommodating. So let me ask you this: What if all working mothers were afforded these same rights? Because I have a feeling more of us could be equally as amazing if workplaces adopted more family-friendly policies. For now though, Sen. Duckworth is leading by example and showing fellow women the sky is the limit — if we're only given equal opportunity to "do it all."