Taking my babies to work at three months old would have been the last thing on my mind – in smart clothes, breastfeeding and all the bits and bobs such as wipes, bibs and nappies
Image: PRU/AFP via Getty Images)
Labour MP Stella Creasy’s decision to take her baby son into the Commons has divided working mums across the country.
As a working mum of two, I really feel for her. Early years are hard, juggling work, childcare and life with not much sympathy or empathy.
But there are two threads to her story. First, a mother’s right to take their baby into their working environment – in Ms Creasy’s case cocooned to her chest in a sling while a debate was going on.
Unfortunately that right had been taken away by a parliamentary rule banning infants from the chamber – now to be reviewed.
For me, taking my babies to work at three months old would have been the last thing on my mind – in smart clothes, breastfeeding and all the bits and bobs such as wipes, bibs, nappies etc. I like to keep work and my personal life separate – for my own sanity and the baby’s too.
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I breastfed for eight months, in shopping centres, parks and cafés. But I’d never have done it in front of colleagues in a meeting. Not because of embarrassment, but out of consideration for those without kids and who may feel uncomfortable seeing my breast out and a baby suckling while discussing a profit statement.
Also, the Commons is no place for a baby’s natural development. Mine during this early stage were keen to learn through touching, hearing, smelling and looking – they’d make gurgling sounds, let out screams of excitement and yelps of joy – this is what they should be encouraged to do.
So if I were in a meeting with my child strapped to my bosom, I would be distracted and feel guilty for not giving both my child and colleagues my full attention.
Also, is Ms Creasy trying to set a precedent for all women to have the right to take their baby into their work environment? So will a TV presenter have the right to read the news while breastfeeding? Can a police officer have her baby with her on patrol? Can a teacher take hers into the classroom? Where do we draw the line?
On a parenting course, a key message for me was that it’s important to put the needs of the child before your own.
The second thread to Ms Creasy’s story is the need to make holding down a job easier for mums – so more creches at work, help with childcare and more nursery places.
As an MP, Ms Creasy already has it all – maternity leave on full pay, use of the family room in Westminster, an on site nursery, £30,000 for a locum to cover constituency work for six months, and a baby leave proxy vote while away.
Being allowed to vote remotely in those early years, between 9 and 5, instead of trudging into Westminster for late-night divisions would be good sense.
I think these are the points Ms Creasy should be making. Waving your flag for having babies in the Commons just makes a mockery of more fundamental challenges for working mums everywhere.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.