No babies allowed!

What the ban on children in Parliament tells us about women in the workplace

Palace of Westminster and Westminster Bridge in London
Image by Marcin Nowak via Unsplash
Why we need more babies in Parliament

By not offering Creasy a locum and leaving her in a kind of post-natal professional limbo, the suggestion is that, if an MP happens to become pregnant, they should just step down, being, as they surely are, unable to complete the duties of an elected representative. With relatively few pregnant male MPs in the Commons, this is an expectation that has thus far only applied to women. To take the subtext further, women should only be allowed into Parliament in the first place if they behave like men, and men don’t have babies, at least not visible ones.

Despite what the right-wing media might have us believe, Creasy isn’t an outlier. Around the world, babies in Parliament aren’t uncommon (and provide a delightful Google image search on a grey November day). Jo Swinson was the first British MP to bring her baby into the Chamber in 2018; Australian Senator, Larissa Waters breastfed her baby during a debate; and New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern’s daughter, Neve, accompanied her onto the floor of the UN in New York.

MP Stella Creasy in her official portrait with her baby in a sling
Stella Creasy with her daughter in 2019 (image from UK Parliament)
The motherhood penalty
Final thoughts

Stella Creasy isn’t the first mother to be made to feel unwelcome in her workplace. Women are invariably subject to lower pay and reduced opportunities as a result of becoming parents.

Ultimately, nobody should be in a position where they feel they are unable to raise a child and play a part in the workforce; not Stella Creasy, not a nurse and not a lorry driver.

The criticism levelled at Creasy that she is, in some way, taking advantage by bringing her baby into the Commons is exactly the reason she should be doing so. It serves as an important, if visually-jarring, reminder that when we drive women out of decision-making, everyone suffers, especially families.

Weigh in! Should the ban on children in the Chamber be overturned? What has been your experience of working while parenting? How can we make work life more conducive to family life?

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