FORMIDABLE Labour MP Stella Creasy has been reprimanded for bringing her three-month-old baby son in a sling to Parliament.
In an email from some pen-pusher she has been reminded of Paragraph 42 of the Rules of Behaviour, which states: “You should not take your seat in the Chamber when accompanied by a child.”
Bit harsh when you consider Creasy’s son behaved less childishly than many members of parliament.
I have watched Stella, who also has a two-year-old daughter, standing up on many occasions, babe in arms, making points and speeches without distraction and I have had nothing but admiration for her.
The prospect of taking any of my four children to work over the past 27 years has always filled me with dread — and unbearable self-consciousness.
I do not think I have ever been Chill Mum.
Part of this stems from setting high professional standards, regardless of my personal circumstances or the size of the job at hand.
And it has been a struggle to evenly and justly give equal attention to work commitments and family life whenever the two worlds collided.
To that end, I have always attempted to keep the two separate.
My heart strings would be pulled with such force with kids around in the work place and my head strings (whatever they may be) would tug in an entirely different direction.
This may have something to do with women’s overbearing and over-whelming feelings of responsibility, which seem to encompass everything in our lives.
But also our subconscious telling us that we must — in all circumstances and at all costs — give 100 per cent to both the personal and the professional.
I recall once bringing my firstborn to an early recording of Shooting Stars some 26 years ago. I was fortunate to have a husband in the dressing room on this one occasion, tending to our son.
Creasy’s son behaved less childishly than many members of parliament
I was breastfeeding and my boobs were full to bursting and wanted by my son.
Meanwhile, I was expected to make some kind of comic contribution to the programme.
I was torn, distracted, an emotional mess and my stress levels couldn’t have done much to placate those instinctive fears of leaving him behind in the first place.
Yet, over the years people would, from time to time, taunt me about the fact I had a nanny for my children: “It’s OK for you, you have a nanny!”.
But I was forced to employ nannies throughout my childrearing years because there simply was, nay, is not any childcare for those of us who work silly hours and weekends and for those of us who have sometimes had to walk the road of parenthood alone.
There are many layers to the Stella Creasy situation. Apparently, MPs don’t have a right to proper maternity cover.
She has battled for a paid locum to cover her constituency case work because without it the residents of Walthamstow will be denied representation.
Of course, this is not an issue that only affects politicians. Plenty of other professions make it quite impossible for mothers to get suitable maternity cover.
So, in turn, many cut short any leave due to the sheer pressure of work or for fear of losing out on promotions.
Childcare in this country remains extortionate and inflexible, making it impossible for mothers without extended family or friendship networks to consider starting a family or even go to work in the first place.
I was forced to employ nannies throughout my childrearing years because there simply was, nay, is not any childcare for those of us who work silly hours
And while I have absolute respect for Stella, I do question whether bringing your child to work can really work.
She claims “politics and parenting can mix” and we must ensure they do otherwise many mothers will be missing from the political landscape (and the workplace in general).
I know the formidable Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Premier, was the first world leader to take her baby on to the floor of the UN General Assembly. Respect.
But while, fundamentally, the ability, possibility, practicality and facility of bringing your child to work is a personal one in many circumstances, it is we, collectively, who have to find better solutions to these age-old problems.
Or risk alienating 50 per cent of the population from the workplace.
PINING FOR A SHORTER CHRISTMAS
STOP right there! Lay down your Christmas tools and just pause.
It is only the end of November. And, yes, I too can hear December come a-knocking but when will this country abandon its obsession with starting Christmas prep in November, October or even September?
My eyes bleed every time I see yet another sleb unveil their Christmas tree prematurely – just as pop star Britney Spears did this week.
My ears burn as soon as the radio DJs throw another Chrimbo tune on the turntable. I’m SO over being over Christmas before it has even begun.
I will never forget, a few years back, seeing the Back To School stuff AND Christmas decorations in a very well-known department store at the end of August, and I can’t deny that the temptation to tear it all down nearly got the better of me.
I absolutely LOVE Christmas but this kind of enforced, engineered, premature, commercialised drive is what makes people hate the season.
It’s little wonder it gets too much for some and that many simply can’t take the pressure when they’ve had to endure a good three months of it before they have even got their winter clothes down from the loft.
We have a strict rule in my house – created by my youngest, headstrong daughter – that no Christmas songs are allowed to be played nor a Christmas dec cross our threshold before December 1.
Years ago, when she first insisted on the rule, I thought it was a tad militant.
But then I would hark back to my Yuletide celebrations in my native Sweden, where nothing appears in the shops before this date.
No one puts up a tree in November because as a general rule – living in a country outnumbered by pine trees – most people have a real tree. Not a tinsel, upside down one.
I’m already feeling extra pressure this year as I’m involved in an intensive work project which will take me right up until December 18.
So I’m not sure how I’m going to fit in all the prep and cooking.
But I will, of course. Which means that if I can do it while juggling work, Ungratefuls and a clingy bulldog, I’m pretty sure we can condense our excitement and build-up into just three weeks.
Yes, I’m precious, sensitive, a diva and a snob about tradition and the arts and crafty side of Christmas, because I don’t want to fall down the never-ending rabbit hole that has become so commercialised.
I like themes and well thought-out vibes. Imagine my shock during one of my first Christmases in England when I saw people putting cotton wool on their trees. I mean, what are you like?
To that end, last week I announced on the family group chat that this year’s Christmas colour scheme in my house is going to be (drum roll, please): Teal and gold.
To which one Ungrateful, who shall remain nameless, replied: “What is teal?”
Is she even my daughter, I ask myself.
LASS IS MORE AT TOP
SWEDEN just voted in its first female Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson.
Hard to comprehend that my home country, one of the most egalitarian in the world, has taken so long to do such a thing.
It is 100 years since Swedish women were given the vote.
I came to the UK in 1979, just when you had voted in your first female PM, Margaret Thatcher, and yet the country seemed so behind Sweden in every other aspect of equality.
Good to know some balance is restored, although Ms Andersson resigned just hours later, after the collapse of her party’s coalition with the Green Party.
I'M A CELEB FALLS SHY OF EXPECTATIONS
I’M A Celeb has always been a firm favourite in my house.
For years, the whole family would gather in front of the telly and watch it religiously with as much enthusiasm as fear, dismay and astoundment.
There simply was not a better show on TV than one making celebrities do things they could never have contemplated at the height of their career.
And I understand Covid has put a massive spanner in the works of so many productions and TV programmes and it’s no one’s fault.
Everyone is trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. But the Wales location just isn’t cutting it for me.
It feels unnatural and so fabricated somehow. It feels like a set because, I guess, it is.
It’s like watching an episode of Crossroads but with rats and testicles.
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