By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – A new coalition has formed in the state legislature to represent mothers called the New Hampshire MomsCaucus.
It is part of a national movement called MomsRising.
MacKenzie Nicholson, senior director of MomsRising in New Hampshire, said economic security is central to the effort.
“We are specifically working on access to paid family leave, earned sick days, affordable childcare, and for an end to the wage and hiring discrimination that penalizes many mothers,” Nicholson said at a news conference at the Legislative Office Building Thursday morning.
Behind her were a majority of all 23 elected mothers of young children who have joined to announce the New Hampshire MomsCaucus.
These included state Senators Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton, and Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, D-Portsmouth, and state Rep. Megan Murray, D-Amherst, who all spoke.
They said they would work collaboratively with other mothers to advance and understand issues that are important to New Hampshire’s growing families.
Moms of children 18 and under represent almost 18 percent of the nation but just 5.4 percent are in the New Hampshire legislature.
The New Hampshire MomsCaucus is a nonpartisan alliance of mom elected officials and allies who provide support to one another and who are dedicated to improving the lives of all Granite State moms, to breaking down barriers in public service, and to achieving equality in all aspects of a mother’s life.
Nicholson told her own story of being a 23-year-old mother, the first of her friends to have a child, and the difficulties of making that choice so young in life.
“Those first few years were so hard,” Nicholson recalled, fighting off tears. “It was incredibly isolating,” but she said she shared her experiences and found a strong bond with other mothers and began to network and speak out for the issues that they mutually faced.
“I did it all hoping that some mom out there would hear my story and not feel so alone,” she said.
Now, a decade later, she said she is celebrating the launch of this new coalition.
“For me just knowing there are strong women standing in my corner has shown me that when we work together we can create powerful change,” she said.
The announcement comes about a month after members of the Senate Republican majority said their agenda this legislative session is to focus on families and their needs.
Members said they are hopeful that there can be a meaningful change made through legislation to help moms in their hectic and challenging job and they listed off a number of pieces of legislation now making their way through the House and Senate.
“Momscaucus is a product of us thinking about how we can better be moms where they are at and create a dedicated pipeline to other moms in positions of power. Together, we have ‘mom-mentum’ to end discrimination against women and mothers and to build a nation where both businesses and families can thrive,” Nicholson said.
Whitley thanked Nicholson for bringing the caucus together and said when she first ran for office she had a kindergartener. She said she did so because she thought it was important to have the voice of a working parent in the state Senate.
Whitely said moms are resilient and resourceful on their own but when you bring a group of them together they become a formidable force for families and kids.
“I am proud to be part of such a powerful group of moms coming together and working across our communities and across the aisle to tackle the challenges that moms and their families face in our state. It is not a secret that moms face unique challenges right now.”
She said she will be working on increasing access to affordable childcare, recruiting more moms to serve in the legislature, and will work on New Hampshire’s “Momnibus” which is working on a bipartisan basis on increasing access to healthcare, untreated mental health, and substance abuse and improve maternal health outcomes, as well as helping moms to get back into the workforce if they choose to help the workforce crisis in the state.
Rep. Murray, a mom of three kids, said there still is no childcare at the State House and she has had to juggle her roles.
She said there has already been a virtual gathering of about 40 moms who joined to talk about goals and will again meet in March to help develop their agenda for change.
And there are related events being planned.
To address the development of a strong childcare system in the state, an event is being planned by Save The Children Action Network, New Futures Kids Count, MomsRising, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The Child Care for NH Working Families Advocacy Day is Wednesday, Feb. 22 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s Church in Concord. For more information and to register for the event which includes breakfast and lunch, call Dellie Champagne at 603-496-8660.