Congressman Jimmy Gomez told me that personal experience had long informed his politics. So, I wasn’t surprised to see him taking the lead this week in forming the Congressional Dads Caucus, which will work on policy for working parents and be a support group for elected dads in Congress.
Rep Gomez is a first-time father at age 48, and he’s wearing his working fatherhood with pride – literally. He’s the Congressman who voted with his 4-month-old son in a sling for Speaker of The House.
Late one night, as the vote dragged on for days, I was finishing work I had saved until after my daughters and wife had gone to bed. I emailed his press person to see if we could talk. He was up for it.
When we spoke last week for The Company of Dads podcast, he told me that taking Hodge onto the floor started out as a proud father moment. But as the vote dragged on – 15 in total over the course of the week – it became a necessity.
Rep Gomez’s wife Mary is a working mom, a deputy mayor for the city of Los Angeles. She had to fly home to get back to work. And the couple’s childcare – his mother – fell through.
So Rep Gomez kept Hodge with him, and father and son kept voting.
What did we talk about on the podcast? A bunch of topics, serious and less so, but all relatable.
- How are these two working parents who work in politics figuring out childcare?
- How will being a first-time father influence his legislative priorities?
- Is it easier for a Congressman to find childcare? (Actually, not that easy, it turns out.)
- Paid family leave is s start – but what about paid days-off for child emergencies after those first months?
- AOC’s offered to watch Hodge on the weekends, but would Rep Gomez cross the aisle to ask one of his Republican colleagues to take care of Hodge? (Yes. Finding legal childcare isn’t easy.)
What stuck out to me about the announcement were two things: 1) The caucus is only Democrats. 2) The equivalent Moms in the House Caucus only started in 2019.
Overdue? For sure.
I’m an optimist. It’s why I started The Company of Dads. We have a moment as working dads, but we need to come together as working parents.
Some critics said there should be a Congressional Parents Group working together. Of course, there should be – but every town in America should also have Facebook and WhatsApp Parents groups – not just Mom groups that don’t let Fathers in. In doing so, they’re keeping private key logistics of local parenting. (Rep Gomez told me that he can’t get on the Facebook Moms group for his neighborhood in L.A.)
One of the last questions I asked Rep Gomez was for memories he had of his own father. He pivoted and credited his siblings for helping raise him. His parents worked multiple jobs to provide for them, so they weren’t around as much as his friends’ fathers. When they had to miss work to take him to a doctor’s appointment, they didn’t get paid. He’s working to change that for all parents.