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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Modern motherhood has become a performative minefield

She could have dropped him off in the on-site nursery, left him at home with her partner and older sister, or hastily parked him with a terrified usher (I’ve done that with a random doorman). But she was making a stand, highlighting the fact that, although MPs receive maternity leave and money to hire extra staff, there’s no provision for maternity cover.

Creasy argues a “like-for-like” replacement is necessary in order to maintain the quality of representation for those in her borough. “Either my constituents will be short-changed, or my baby will lose me for six formative months – this would be illegal in any other real workplace setting,” she pointed out before the birth.

Without that safeguard, she fears voters will be discouraged from supporting female candidates of childbearing age in future. She’s almost certainly right, and I respect her campaign – but it’s her tactics that I question.

Let’s just say despite mother and child’s undoubtedly photogenic appearance – I’m not alone in a gasp of envy at the sight of such a blissful bundle of warm milkiness – the wider optics most certainly did not look good.

Babies have no place in Parliament, not just because there are also times when they are very awake but because offices are adult spaces. End of.

Why should we pretend otherwise? What’s so wrong with asserting grown-up rights? Cue pantomime boos from the bring-your-baby-or-miniature-dachsund-or-emotional-support-Boston-fern-to-work millennial brigade.

When BoJo signalled his support for Creasy, so swiftly after her publicity stunt, saying Parliament needs to be “more family friendly”, it bore Carrie’s imprimatur. Yes, Westminster needs to change, but I think parading a baby sets a troubling precedent.

Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has launched a review of the rules and I trust progress will be made to support MPs whose second job is being parent, rather than paid lobbyist or Virgin Islands lawyer.

Against this backdrop, my heart goes out to the family of Rashelle Baird, the Scottish mother who has died of Covid aged 27. She was unvaccinated, not because she was an anti-vaxxer, but because she was “too busy” looking after her children to make the time for her jabs.

How sad. Shocking. But not so very surprising. Sometimes those mothers who make the least noise need the most help.

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