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Kentucky lawmaker fights to normalize, help working moms

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Posted at 10:29 AM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 19:22:51-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Just like every other member of the Kentucky House, Representative Josie Raymond casts votes, meets with the people she represents, debates bills, and is constantly on the move at the Capitol. But she does it all with her newborn at her side.

"Who doesn't love seeing a baby in the middle of their work day?!" said Raymond.

Rep. Raymond gave birth to her daughter, Faye, five weeks ago and became a historic first. She became the first state representative in Kentucky to give birth while serving in office.

"I'm the first woman to give birth while serving in the Kentucky Statehouse," said Raymond. "It's cool to be a historic first, but there's no one to really guide me (on how) to navigate it and how to pull it off."

So, how is she pulling it off? Raymond has two older children at home, but with her new baby being so young, she decided to bring her to work.

On the fourth floor of the Capitol, Raymond was given a room for all of Faye's things. That's where she keeps a pack 'n play, a diaper changing station, toys, extra clothes, and baby bottles. It's a cozy, little room where Faye can do what babies do.

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"She'll be doing some tummy time," said Raymond. "She'll have a bottle every few hours and hopefully we'll get a full diaper."

While Raymond is in the room with Faye, she keeps a close eye on her computer. That's where she checks emails and watches televised committee meetings.

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When she's doing other tasks, like meeting with constituents or listening to debate on the House floor, she brings Faye with her. But she does not do it all alone. She has help.

"I have an incredible husband and I have a wonderful nanny - a constituent of mine who drives from Louisville every day - and I couldn't do it without each one them," said Raymond.

Faye's nanny is at the Capitol to assist. She sits in the audience with Faye while Raymond questions bills in committee meetings and helps out with diaper changes while Raymond listens to debate on the House floor.

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However, even with the help, Raymond admits things get stressful at times.

"When we have tough moments and I'm thinking 'what am I doing here? what am I doing here? what is she doing here?', I'll hear from moms who say 'mom goals' or 'if you can do it, we can do it,' these sorts of things and that's been really heartening," said Raymond.

Overall, Faye is a good baby, but all babies cry.

"She'll start crying on the House floor, I'll go 'oh gosh' and think should I run out the door or something?" said Raymond.

Although it made her nervous at first, Raymond stopped stressing about it.

"Babies crying is a pretty normal thing and so if they do it everywhere else, then they can do it on the House floor," said Raymond.

The set-up is working for Rep. Raymond, but she knows she's one of the lucky ones. She can afford a nanny and she works a flexible job, where she says her colleagues are supportive.

The House Speaker assigned her a desk by the door on the House floor, so she can easily run out if she needs to. Her colleagues have also showered Faye with gifts.

"The majority party gave me a wonderful gift basket that's bigger than the baby," said Raymond.

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But this is not the reality for many moms in Kentucky. Raymond knows not all families can do something like this because Kentucky doesn't guarantee paid parental leave, not all jobs offer flexibility, and child care is expensive. So Raymond wants to change that and she believes it starts with having conversations about what's really happening.

"Not everyone has that privilege. There are so many women who are back at work already and don't have their baby in their arms and there's women who choose to leave their positions because they don't have the flexibility to care for their child," said Raymond. "It's having these conversations in public - out loud - so we can make changes."

Raymond is also trying to push through bills that could help set up support systems for Kentucky families.

"My top legislative priority here has been bringing pre-K for all - to every three and four year old in the state of Kentucky," said Raymond. "I've got a parental leave bill. I've got a full day Kindergarten bill. I'm living this experience. I know that when we invest in families and mothers and children, we empower the whole family - the whole community."

Raymond is also trying to change the way society looks at career women starting their families.

"It's 2020, but we're not used to seeing mothers with very young children serving in office, and in the media, in high positions," said Raymond. "So it means a lot to me to have those responsibilities. To represent and show that women who just had babies are fully capable of participating in the public space."

Her goal is to make the image of a working mother with child the new normal in Kentucky politics.

"We're trying to normalize it," said Raymond. "I'm the first women to give birth while serving in the Kentucky Statehouse, but I will not be the last."

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Statistics prove Raymond's point. While men historically have dominated the Kentucky General Assembly, women are now running and being elected to office more frequently.

There are 138 lawmakers in Frankfort and this year, 33 of them are women. That's about 24%, which may not seem like a large number. However, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, that percentage has more than doubled in the last 20 years. In 2000, only 11.6% of Kentucky's General Assembly was made up of women. In 1990, it was only 5.8%.

National trends also show that younger women are now running for office, which means their years in office could line up with the years they have children.

In Kentucky, another women in Frankfort also became a historic first. Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman gave birth to her baby, Evelynne, in February - making her the first lieutenant governor in Kentucky to give birth while serving in office.