Where are the Moms in the White House?

The political conventions of 2012 made one thing clear: both parties want to woo the moms of America. As Lisa Belkin pointed out in the midst of the Republican convention, in his convention speech, “Mitt Romney used some version of the word ‘mom’ 14 times.” Romney’s mom-laced speech came after both Paul Ryan and Ann Romney had courted the moms of our nation as well.Ann Romney explained that the moms “always work a little harder” than anyone else, and she said there are some things the men just can’t understand. The Democrats followed with Michelle Obama’s powerful words about what it means to be an American, which ended with a proud declaration that her most important title is still “Mom in Chief.”

Both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama praised their husbands, and they painted similar portraits of family life. They described marriages that began with some degree of financial duress–the Romney’s dining room table was an ironing board, Barack Obama’s most prized possession a coffee table he had found in a dumpster. They both called upon memories of their husbands years ago to help us imagine these men without the trappings of fame and power and fortune. They extolled their husbands as fathers, and then they returned to their appeal to the mothers of this nation. There was something in those speeches for everyone, but it was the moms who were praised, and the moms who were being courted.

Moreover, both women implied that there is wisdom in being a mom, that moms know something about leadership, about values, about what matters to this nation, and about how to work hard to achieve goals.

Of the 15 members of Obama’s cabinet, four are women, and two are mothers. Hillary Clinton, one of the moms, has already announced her intention to end her tenure as Secretary of State after the election. And both she and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius have grown children. The dads on the cabinet include at least four who have school-aged children. Romney has begun preparations to form a cabinet, although he has not named his choices yet. But his transition team and circle of close advisors rarely include moms.

So why are there so few moms on Obama’s cabinet? And why so few advising Romney? If moms are so great, and so valuable, to both parties, why aren’t more of them in official positions of influence?

Keep reading Where Are the Moms in the White House? in my series of posts about the upcoming Presidential election for parents.com…

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).


  1. All I can think is it is SO hard to be an involved mom and follow such a path of active public service. For 15 years I’ve managed to stay home with my kids (including a decade of home schooling) while building my writing career. I’m even a local city councilor! But I can’t imagine running for anything greater until my kids are grown.

  2. Great insights, AJ. One thing about a Cabinet position is that usually they go to people who have well-established careers, so the idea that any parents there have grown children makes some sense. On the advisor level, though, there are often wunderkinds; I wonder if this is a group that often puts off parenthood (fatherhood and motherhood both).

    • Amy Julia Becker says:

      Well, although I see your point about well-established careers, as far as the cabinet goes is that there are a lot more men there, and proportionately, a lot more dads, both of small children and older kids, so I don’t think it’s completely related to their age. President Obama himself fits this bill–he began his tenure with relatively small children and a wife who put her career aside for him to serve us all. I’m grateful to them both for this, but I’m also aware that sacrificing career goals for family health often falls most heavily upon the women.

  3. Former Colorado Representive Pat Schroeder often said she was one of the first in Congress to attend with diapers in her purse. Didn’t say it was easy, didn’t say she was the best mom in the world or had the best kids in the world. Women become attorneys, have children and work, so do many other professions. My daughter is a medical doctor, she has a 10 month old, she does it. My mom was a widow at 34 with 4 children under 9 1/2, one (me) in the hospital with polio back in the 1950′s and 60′s and worked full time from the time I was 5. She did it. We all attended college, none of us were ever in jail (we were too afraid of her to get in trouble, she put the fear of both God and her in us), we brought up families (had a reunion this summer, 30 of us). And we knew she loved us and we’re a pretty close family. Never said it was easy but it can be done. I believe women are far stronger and tougher than society leads us to believe. You can be a woman of faith, be a decent, even good mom, and still serve. Our foremothers worked the farm and brought up good children. Thousands of moms in uniform do it every single damn day. Think Abigail Adams.

  4. Would it be as good to increase the number of former stay-at-home dads in the White House? If not, why not?

  5. Could it be MOM’s are busy Raising the Next Generation… I’m as liberated as the next woman but really… Maybe it’s best mom’s be at home raising the children. Instead of impersonal Daycares and Nannies…

  6. There is an idea presented by many that women can have it all and do it all well. I have no doubt that women are capable of doing anything they want to do. I have no doubt that many women would be qualified for cabinet level positions. Unfortunately, women can’t have it all. I say that because men cannot have it all.

    When someone makes a choice to go into a career path that leads to cabinet level political position, they are necessarily going to have to choose other things that will not receive as much of their attention.

    When someone makes the choice to become a parent (Mother or Father), they must also choose what things are actually more important to them or less important to them than their family and children.

    If the woman spends three quarters of her time working away from her family, exactly how much of an influence does she have as a “mother” in that position. She effectively becomes a woman appointed to a cabinet level position who has a child not really a “mother” in a cabinet position.

    Maybe, it is possible that people who choose to be mothers would rather not spend endless hours away from their families. Also, just because someone isn’t in a cabinet level job, it doesn’t mean they do not have the ear of the President and the Government.