Fun fact: A record number of women are running for office in 2018 elections. Pretty awesome, right? Well, yes. Except, as more women throw their hats into the political ring — whether it's at the local, state, or national level — candidates' families are left to figure out the logistics of childcare. In the past, male politicians have gained permission to use campaign funding toward the cost of care for their young children. However, a female has not — until today! This mom will be the first female candidate to use campaign funds for babysitting, and here's why it's a big deal.
On Thursday, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) gave the all-clear for Liuba Grechen Shirley — a Democrat from New York who is running for Congress — to use part of her campaign funds to pay for babysitter for her two young children, BuzzFeed reported. Shirley pays $22 per hour for childcare for her 3-year-old daughter, Mila, and 2-year-old son, Nicholas. Before running for Congress, however, Shirley worked from home as a consultant while being able to care for her kiddos. In a letter petitioning the FEC for permission to appropriate campaign funds for childcare, the Congressmember hopeful cited examples of two cases — in 1995 snd 2008 — during which male candidates were granted permission to do so. "As the primary election approaches, I expect to need full-time care for my children, along with additional support on evenings and weekends, so that I can devote the time necessary to run a successful campaign," she wrote in the letter, according to BuzzFeed.
In an April interview with Newsweek, Shirley really put things into perspective:
Our babysitter is just as important as my campaign manager or my finance director She's just as integral, and she's paid as staff. I couldn't run my campaign without her.
The official FEC ruling — which applies to future candidates who have childcare costs as a result of running for office — reads:
The Commission concludes that your authorized campaign committee may use campaign funds to pay for the childcare expenses described in your request because such expenses would not exist irrespective of your candidacy.
Following the unanimous vote in her favor, Shirley took to Twitter to share her reaction. "WE WON! Thank you to the FEC Commissioners for their unanimous vote to approve our request to use campaign funds for childcare!" she wrote, alongside a photo of her family. "This is a game changer for women and parents considering a run for office."
On Thursday, Shirley also released a statement saying how important this decision is for women in politics. "There’s a reason more than half of Congressmembers are millionaires: running for office takes a huge toll on a family’s budget, especially while raising children," she said in her statement to BuzzFeed. "This groundbreaking decision will remove a major financial obstacle for working families and mothers at a time when women are increasingly considering elected office."
Shirley will be on the Democratic primary election ballot on June 26, facing off against fellow Democrat DuQayne Gregory — and eventually Republican incumbent Peter King — for the 2nd District seat, CNN reported. Interestingly, Gregory's campaign actually opposed Shirley's request to the FEC. The argument was that using campaign funds for babysitting would "desensitize her to voters' financial pressures," according to CNN. "I've been told by a number of women recently that they've been inspired to run," Shirley told the publication "People are realizing you can do it with small children and I — they were my biggest hesitation to run, because I didn't know if I could manage a schedule with — I mean they're 2 and 3 years old."
As Time reported, a record number of women are running for office in 2018 elections. Chances are, at least some of them are mothers — so it's only natural the issue of childcare would be coming up more and more. To me, it's inspiring that a mom of little ones is willing and able to follow her political calling. But that doesn't mean she doesn't need a little help. (Especially if she was a stay-at-mom mom before entering the political scene.) I think the more that people see young parents in politics, the more attainable this career path will seem to aspiring politicians. And that's definitely a good thing. Because we need parents' perspectives in politics — maybe now, more than ever.