Jennifer Bransford, Founder of Count on Mothers, sat down with Jemima Talbot, Vermont Moms’ Owner and CEO, to discuss the recent launch of her new business aimed at amplifying moms’ voices where they count most – in legislative policy-making.
Count on Mothers helps shape Federal laws and policies by getting mothers’ feedback and determining what issues are most important to moms. Each month, Count on Mothers surveys and interviews mothers across the country about pending legislation in Congress and share their findings with the bills’ sponsors.
Count on Mothers is not affiliated with any political party and does not push any specific agenda. It collects and shares data from a broad cross-section of mothers in all 50 states. The concept behind Count on Mothers is brilliant because it steps away from party lines, political posturing, and infighting to really dig into the issues that moms care about and share that information with national decision-makers.
Regardless of their political stance, moms want to raise healthy, happy, and thriving children. That’s what Count on Mothers gets so right. Moms know it’s time to focus on what needs to be done.
And the fact that Count on Mothers’ founder, and co-founders, are mothers themselves makes all the difference.
Before Jennifer Bransford became a mom, she worked as a television actor. Without family living nearby, Jennifer and her husband soon discovered that the costs of childcare made her irregular hours and inconsistent salary as an actor incompatible with family life.
Jennifer’s situation is far from unique as the lack of affordable childcare impacts families all over the United States and more often than not, women either drop out of the workplace for a time to raise kids or pay a disproportionate part of their salaries to be allowed the privilege of working outside the home. Time away from work can be seen as a weakness or disadvantage on a professional resume, and this leaves a lot of moms in the frustrating and vulnerable position of having to work nearly for free to be able to maintain their career advancements. And yes, there are stay-at-home dads. But not many.
I will never forget my former colleague who shared that her salary as a state employee covered her son’s daycare and her transportation, but after those expenses were taken care of, she was left with $150 per pay period. $150 for food, bills, medical care, clothing, haircuts, toys, fun, etc. She wanted to work and loved her position but she simply could not afford to continue working after her son was born.
As a new mom and, eventually, as a stay-at-home mom of three, Jennifer felt stressed out and unable to do anything other than (barely) keeping the family afloat. Her days were spent breastfeeding and playing catch-up and, even now, the recollection of this time makes her anxiety rise. The lack of a second income created financial stress and stress in her marriage. Paying for healthcare, even with insurance, was a heavy burden.
Jennifer isn’t ashamed to admit that she found motherhood difficult. Who doesn’t? Even when her children were enrolled in full-day school, the challenges didn’t relent. There were issues related to education, social media and technology, relentless marketing towards children of toxic and dangerous products, and an overall lack of family-friendly policies. She felt isolated, unsupported, and unheard.
Not surprisingly, after staying home with three little kids, Jennifer was sensitive to bickering. She saw the same petty behavior her young children exhibited during squabbles playing out in politics and, tired of the divisiveness (which stood in the way of solving the real and pressing issues faced by families) she wanted to work with other mothers to build infrastructure across the political spectrum to capture the collective voice and experience of motherhood to inform policy making.
Jennifer realized that she needed to do something to help empower mothers and allow them (us!) to collectively inform and influence policy-making.
Count on Mothers believes that mothers’ first-hand experiences and knowledge are critical sources of information that are not being tapped into nearly enough in the federal policy-making process, particularly on bills that affect kids or families. Regardless of political background, mothers share many common concerns and aspirations related to raising children.
A pivotal moment for Jennifer was one many of us can probably relate to. She was sitting in her car in the school’s pick-up line, listening to a radio news segment about a piece of legislation, and found herself saying out loud, “Did they ask a mother about that?” Jennifer wondered, “Why not?” She reflected that,
“What a mother experiences first-hand, what she sees day to day, what she grapples with in order to raise children is maybe the most critical source of information in the policy-making process IF we want a future that is sustainable for families.”
This is the WHY behind the birth of Count on Mothers.
The data that Count on Mothers collects informs our legislators about what issues really matter to moms, regardless of political ideology, and at the same time, holds legislators accountable so there’s no confusion about whether a bill would have a positive or negative impact on the safety, health, or well-being of families. Count on Mothers puts families first.
In September, they surveyed moms on the Childcare for Working Families Act and found that 77% of surveyed mothers from across the political spectrum all agreed that the federal government should pay to establish childcare infrastructure, and 97% of moms believe there should be more access to high-quality preschool programs for families with 3 and 4 year olds.
In January, mothers are focused on discussing and providing feedback about the “Secure the Border Act,” which was introduced in the Senate in September and addresses issues of immigration and border security.
In the future, we look forward to surveying moms about bills related to health care, vaping, and the food industry. Before December, prior bills addressed child care, paid family leave, social media, and abortion.
If you are interested in learning more about Count on Mothers, check out their website. This is also where you’ll want to go to sign up to be surveyed and interviewed. It’s about time moms’ voices were heard.
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