Kingsley Malo: Here’s why Canada needs more moms in politics

Mothers’ experiences as primary caretakers give them a more urgent interest in tackling society’s inequalities.

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It’s time to elect more moms.

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We are more than two years into a pandemic that has disproportionally affected women — particularly mothers. Yet our government policies have not adequately recognized or supported this reality. It’s time we had more mothers as politicians to understand and fight for our needs.

The pandemic kicked off a global “she-cession” and it’s not over yet. But mothers have had it the worst. A 2021 report from RBC found that 10 times more women than men had fallen out of the labor force after the COVID-19 pandemic began, with mothers facing significantly higher job losses.

Tasked with picking up the pieces of family life during the pandemic, it has been mothers who have disproportionately jumped in when child-care centers have shuttered, and mothers who have supported their children’s education during endless school pivots. Twelve times as many mothers as fathers left their jobs to care for toddlers or school-aged kids.

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Many mothers have also carried the mental load of pandemic safety for their families, struggled with children’s declining mental health and endured a sharp rise in partner violence. The bulk of elder care and the majority of housework and other domestic responsibilities, along with increased pandemic stressors, has also fallen on women’s shoulders – a double whammy for mothers.

Throughout the pandemic, moms have been employees, caregivers, educators, homemakers, psychologists, public health specialists, and more — all while experiencing significantly less access to health, educational and social support services.

Arielle Kayabaga's experiences as a single mother and a woman of color were instrumental in helping her lead the battle at London city council to include an anti-racist lens when looking at budgets.
Arielle Kayabaga’s experiences as a single mother and a woman of color were instrumental in helping her lead the battle at London city council to include an anti-racist lens when looking at budgets. Photo by Mike Hensen /Mike Hensen/The London Free Press

So, where are all the policies recognizing that women, particularly mothers, need tailored and robust supports and services? They have been few and far between. All levels of government have scarcely addressed this issue with the necessary gender lens.

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Moms are the collateral damage of the pandemic. Yet this puts them in a unique position to know exactly what needs to be done to fix things. It’s time to put more moms in power. If they can shoulder every other job out there, they can do politics too.

There are many reasons we need more women in politics. Women lead differently, they’re more likely to work collaboratively and shun partisanship, and they bring a wealth of different experiences to government. But it’s also time to talk about what specifically mothers could bring to government and why now is the perfect time to prioritize their perspectives in our governments.

A 2019 study on working mothers reveals that moms believe parenthood has made them better leaders, as well as more empathetic and efficient, while their colleagues believe moms are better multi-taskers, more time-efficient, more flexible and more responsive.

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Mothers’ experiences as primary caretakers give them a more urgent interest in tackling society’s inequalities. We already see this in the ways mothers in politics are advocating, at all levels of government.

Bhutila Karpoche brought her baby to the Ontario Legislature and rose to declare that “maternal mental health is not a luxury” because, as a new mother herself, she understood that such services are severely lacking. Karina Gould, federal minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and the first cabinet minister to give birth while in office, is the architect of the newly minted national $10-a-day child-care strategy.

When she was a municipal councilor in London, Ont., Arielle Kayabaga’s experiences as a single mother and a woman of color were instrumental in helping her lead the battle to pass a motion to include an anti-racist lens when looking at budgets, and in getting more funding for affordable housing. MP Laurel Collins rose in the House of Commons to discuss the importance of a hybrid-format (virtual and in-person meetings) for Parliament for MPs who are pregnant, new mothers and parents.

We need more of this.

The pandemic has taught us that we can’t wait to have better policies on issues that directly impact the backbone of our society, such as child care, education, elder care, health care and climate change. It’s time to revolutionize our government institutions to encourage and support more mothers to become politicians.

Amanda Kingsley Bad is the founder of PoliticsNOW, an organization dedicated to electing women to municipal councils across Northern Ontario.

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