Jennifer Lopez and Shakira set to perform Sunday evening. AP photo

Column: Shakira and J-Lo just latest of the power moms

Once invisible, mothers are showing that the skills of motherhood qualify them for high office.

By Petula Dvorak / The Washington Post

You know that deadeye, you’re-invisible thing most of us moms get around the time we pass 40?

The guy at the electronics store doesn’t notice you (or your credit card; hello!). The new interns look right through you. The waiter treats your mom-party-of-four like a horrible inconvenience in his night.

Time to adios them. It’s our time, moms.

Two moms over 40 just slayed the Super Bowl halftime show, two moms are Democratic contenders for the presidency, a mother of five ran impeachment in the House of Representatives and eight U.S. governors turn their heads whenever they hear “Mom!” Add to that three places that aren’t states — the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico — currently headed by moms.

This isn’t the election year of the soccer mom (1992), security mom (2004) or hockey mom (2012). The is the year of the power mom. And power moms refuse to be invisible anymore.

“I’m a mom, I can do two things at once,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D- Minn., said on NPR Monday morning, when asked about the difficulty of juggling the Senate impeachment hearings with campaigning in Iowa. It’s her standard answer when her ability to lead is questioned.

Why? Because moms are friggin’ amazing.

From pioneer women shooting wolves, nursing babies and running the homestead to CEO moms helping with plaster volcano projects and finishing presentations, the role of motherhood calls for the very skills that leadership requires.

It seems like America is slowly and finally coming around to understanding that.

“Motherhood is becoming increasingly politicized,” said Susan Carroll, a Rutgers University professor and senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics there. “It’s not seen so much as a liability anymore.”

The political discord in the United States is even encouraging the louder voices of American moms, Carroll said. In other words, President Trump has a special talent for making moms mad.

“This wasn’t the case two or three cycles ago, but now we see the trend and we see it continuing,” she said.

In 2018, we even saw campaign ads that celebrated motherhood, such as the one featuring Krish Vignarajah breast-feeding her infant daughter in her campaign for governor of Maryland.

Klobuchar is emboldened enough to do one the most mom things ever: talking about and bringing her tater-tot landscape “hot dish” casserole to campaign events.

It’s OK, people. You can make a casserole and balance a federal budget. The very things that go into running a household — navigating the needs and peccadillos of little people, negotiating between squabbling factions, meeting deadlines, prioritizing goals and plans — are exactly the crucial characteristics of awesome leaders.

“They see issues through a different lens,” Carroll said.

The notoriously private D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, didn’t even wait until after her reelection campaign to adopt and to announce the District’s new first daughter, Miranda, in 2018. And since becoming a mom, she told WAMU, local issues such as sidewalks, child care and paid family leave have come into much sharper focus.

Some of the most crucial issues facing our nation today have to do with children: from a growing threat to the integrity of our educational system, health care, child care and lack of paid parental leave to the climate crisis, ballooning national and student debt, gun violence and the caging and separation of children at the border.

These are human crises. But there is something about being responsible for every single thing about a tiny human that makes these things especially personal.

That mom ethos even shined through at the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

Two women — Shakira, 43 and J-Lo, 50 — both mothers of two, fearlessly danced harder and longer than any play that happened on that field. And Emme Maribel Muñiz, J-Lo’s daughter, closed the show out by singing with her mom.

“The fact that they would invite women who are that old is a sign that the world is changing,” Carroll said.

But they did something smart and sneaky, too.

Those superstar moms sparkled and gyrated like any 20-year-old could, but they also had the wisdom, maturity and chutzpah to slip a lesson in morality in between the glamour and decadence of America’s football obsession.

The show included — brilliantly — little children in little cages, along with the fireworks.

Well played, moms.

Petula Dvorak is a columnist for The Washington Post’s local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things. Before coming to The Post, she covered social issues, crime and courts.


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