Wednesday, 29 April 2015

It's Election Time, Baby

It's Election Time, Baby! The realities of standing for election with a baby.

There's an interesting article on BBC news today about campaigning with a baby. Your own baby, that is - the politician kissing infant routine thankfully being consigned to the past, more or less.

George Bush with crying baby
It has way too much potential for disaster.

Obviously council is a much lower level of elected politics, but some of the same problems still apply. Although council business itself takes place in the day, most of the outside bodies (school governors, charitable boards, etc) meet in the evening, which is also the preferred time for party business. On the one hand this is good as it accommodates people who are working during the day. On the other, it's bad because it's the time when your children are returned to your care from nursery, school, or their frazzled grandmother. I don't think it's in any way surprising that the majority of people who are active in local politics are either retired or male (or both).

Marianna with my mum
Marianna plotting what mischief to cause Nanny next...

A quote from Sarah Richardson highlights another aspect covered by the article: "I think it's the selection process rather than the campaigning process where the reaction is different. If a male candidate turns up with heavily pregnant wife, everyone thinks he's a family man. Whereas if a woman turns up heavily pregnant, there are questions about how she's going to cope." By no means is that attitude limited to politics, of course, but I do think it has traditionally been exacerbated by the sub-par maternity rights. Without official maternity leave your seemingly unjustified absence is just making the institution and your party look bad.

Because while politicians are making laws (or enacting them) on working rights, the idea that they are all - or perhaps all should be? - middle aged men of private means has meant that politicians themselves have often slipped through the gaps. It's all well and good that Sarah Richardson was back on the campaign trail within three weeks of giving birth, but what happens when nothing goes to plan? In my case three weeks in I still needed help to stand up half the time, and Marianna was still on SCBU (the special care baby unit). There has been change in recent years (e.g. Jo Swinson took six months leave, but still attended many votes - though that wasn't enough for Daily Mail readers, naturally), but I really hope MPs' parental rights get dragged into the modern age during the next parliament.

Jo Swinson and Duncan Hames MP with their baby son, Andrew
Jo Swinson MP and Duncan Hames MP with their baby son, Andrew. Comments in the press suggested if she couldn't cope with going back to work full time within weeks, she should step down - if a MP told any working mother they should quit their job if they weren't willing to be back at work within a month of giving birth there would be uproar!

Back to things which affect those involved in politics across the board, the BBC article talked about those who take their children out canvassing with them. It's lovely in theory, but in practice perhaps not so much. Don't get me wrong, I've taken Marianna out leafleting, to seminars and to advice surgery without any problems... but she's still a baby. Would I be as happy to do it when she's old enough to understand what's happening? I really don't know. People on the doorstep can be aggressive, abusive, and sometimes downright disgusting. From the man who effed and blinded and ranted, to the guy who told me the best thing for the children of socialists was to be culled at birth, they make you question why on earth you're bothering. Why on earth anyone else should.

At it's core it's this assumption that all politicians are scrounging scum, so their children, friends and spouses must also be guilty by association. But in a world where we routinely blame all women who leave their children exposed to public scrutiny - by whatever means - I fear it's going to take more than properly codified maternity leave to entice mothers into politics.




A Bit Of EverythingAnd then the fun began...Life with Baby Kicks

14 comments:

  1. I can't seem to get interested in politics no matter how hard everyone tries. LOL #abitofeverything

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hehe, I first got into politics through lolitics, which was a really light hearted look at it all. It made it a bit more palatable!

      Delete
  2. The more I learn from you about how the political system works - particularly if you are a young woman of childbearing age - the more shocked I am. Good grief there's no such thing as a feminist agenda on the horizon is there?!! You are pretty much waving the flag out there - good for you, you must be really passionate about it to carry on under those circumstances. X #thetruthabout

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's something I'd never really thought about going in, beyond knowing I was going to be the youngest person at pretty much everything. But it really shocked me to find out maternity leave was only brought in for councillors in 2012, and even then it's not across the board. I don't think people like to make a fuss about how archaic a lot of it is, because they worry how the public will see their complaining - but if it doesn't change you're not going to get a change in the kind of people who do the job either. x

      Delete
  3. There is an inherent double standard isn't there? We need more role models and voices like yours that will smash these stereotypes! Thank you for sharing with #abitofeverything

    ReplyDelete
  4. I touch on these double standards in my post too. It really is a massive issue and we'll never truly have equality until attitudes really change. #effitfriday

    ReplyDelete
  5. I touch on these double standards in my post too. It really is a massive issue and we'll never truly have equality until attitudes really change. #effitfriday

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so true - in your example of a child being ill, it's still almost always the mother they try to contact, and an expectation that it'll be mum who takes time off work to look after them. Even when my partner is just taking Marianna to her doctor's appointments and stuff there's this attitude of, oh, where's mum today then? x

      Delete
  6. I really respect the fact that you're a young mum in a job that, as you say, is populated mainly by older men. I would probably vote for you just for that. If we need a government-local or national-that is truly representative of this country then we need to hear as many different voices as possible. Hats off to you for managing to navigate the world of politics! #effitfriday

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thank you! I think it is something people want to see more of - at the count it was really noticeable how many people had only used two of their three votes, one for me and one for the only other woman on that ballot, one of the conservative candidates. Politically, we couldn't have been much further apart, but I suppose we both represented a change from the status quo! I'm really passionate about making politics more accessible, because unless people get involved, nothing changes. x

      Delete
  7. Interesting post and makes me sad reflecting on how many amazing women who happened to be mums (definitely my late mum and possibly me too) have not been enabled to contribute as they could have to politics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true - you just wonder how many times throughout history we've missed out on something amazing and progressive through simple things. x

      Delete
  8. Oh wow I didn't realise that they didn't get maternity leave. It is such a mans system and you're right on the double standards which is horrifying in this day and age!

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you, so please don't be shy!

newerPageTitle olderPageTitle Home