Missoula Moms Test Senator Tester: Concerns of Parents Heard

By JEN SLAYDEN

Photos by Justine Schulerud of Mamalode

When I first received the email from Mamalode to join a group of Missoula moms and staff members to meet with Senator Jon Tester, I hesitated. Most of my life, I have remained on the passive side of anything contentious. I recognized early in life that if you want to deflect confrontation, the two subjects to avoid are politics and religion.

I was raised in a very conservative, Catholic household in Bozeman. When I came to U of M for college, I realized that Missoula had a different flavor. A taste of many different opinions and faiths. I liked it immediately, having had years of internal conflict between my own opinions and the opinions that others in my community thought I should have.

Over the next several years, life in wonderful Missoula morphed me into more of an independent thinker. Thank God, because I had no idea how important that would be when I became amom!

My early years of parenthood demonstrated that all parents need to be the voice of their children, and that most mothers are more alike than different, regardless of where and how they grew up. Once I was a mom, I no longer could be passive.

With this in mind, I readily joined the group at the Florence Hotel, where Senator Tester was running behind because of an emergency landing in Billings on his flight to Missoula. He bounced into the room, his presence and energy were immediately palpable as he described his adventures in travel.

The purpose of the meeting was to hear the concerns and voices, from a mother’s point of view, of important-to-mom issues. Believe me, we had plenty.

With open ears and sincere responses, the Senator listened to each mom individually discuss her personal stories, frustrations, and concerns on such topics as health care, business, and education.

Although he did not make any promises, he acknowledged that our system needs to step up to the plate, and that in some of these areas our government has failed. He urged us to spread the word to others that writing letters and being involved by lending our voices really does make adifference.

Senator Tester spoke of one such letter to Congress that asked him to consider unpaid time off in the Family and Medical Leave Act. The letter inspired his advocation for up to three months for families who had lost a child 18 years old or less. With other parents writing in letters of support and starting a nationwide petition, this prompted the Senator to propose the Parental Bereavement Act, which is now getting co-sponsors.

Senator Tester is a big proponent for small business, and has sponsored several Small Business Opportunity workshops around the state. His office plans on uploading video of some of the workshops onto his website. Give it a look to learn more and stay up-to-date on future events.

I left the meeting feeling very fortunate to live in Missoula and proud to be surrounded by incredibly savvy and smart mothers who have to know the art of juggling more than just soccer practice schedules. Families and mothers make sacrifices to live in our beautiful valley and we need all the support we canget.

Despite anybody’s political views or affiliations, no one could argue that Senator Jon Tester isn’t a down-to-earth, friendly gentleman with a good sense of humor. He already won my heart since he is a musician and former music teacher! He truly cares about our state, and the issues of the people.

Who would not agree we could certainly use more of that type of personality in politics OR religion?

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Enjoy this story by Jen Slayden? You might enjoy some of her other perspectives on life on the other side of the mountain: Missoula is Like Relaxed Fit Jeans and Autumn Comes to Bonner.

   Visit The Other Side of the Mountainarchive.

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Jen Slayden is a Missoulian who makes her home on the outskirts of town with three outdoorsy kids, a fly-fishing guide husband, and an outdoors-loving black lab named Cody. She juggles her time teaching music, life coaching, playing music in her family bluegrass band, and taking in all the great recreational and cultural activities that Missoula has to offer. Then, she writes about it all on her own website: Find YourHarmony.