Maternity, Motherhood and Politics

This post in inspired by the recent news of MP Stella Creasy bringing her baby with her for a debate. Being a mother is hard, being a working mother is harder. The struggle between wanting to continue your job and still being a present parent is a dilemma most mothers feel. Many jobs offer paid and covered maternity leave so the mother can take that initial time to bond with her baby and usually hire someone else to cover the workload during that time. But what if you do not have the employment rights for that maternity leave? Unfortunately for Labour MP Stella Creasy, she has had to bring her baby to work due to lack of employment rights.  

woman, blonde hair, baby, hat, sling
Stella in parliament with her son @itv.com


Politics 


On Tuesday, the MP had brought her three-month-old son with her to a debate in Westminster. Without adequate maternity cover Stella has been trying to balance working after giving birth, to continue representing her constituents who she says, 'still have a right to be heard.’ MPs are entitled to six months paid leave and a proxy vote, but how can she physically represent the views of her constituents in debates within the House if she is at home on maternity leave? Who will be paying to fund for additional staff to cover constituency duties? This is the issue. Most other employers will hire temporary staff to cover the maternity leave but MPs do not have this automatically. MPs have said that they struggle to find the funds for additional staff during maternity leave (Ferguson, Francis-Devine, and Rhodes, 2021). 

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has asked for an investigation and says that it was important for parents to participate fully in the work of the House, which is why it has a nursery. However, what this does not take into consideration is that many parents feel uncomfortable leaving such a young baby in a nursery setting. This is even more difficult if the mother is breastfeeding.  

People would suggest that a breastfeeding mother should pump if she wishes to return to work and still provide her baby with breast milk. Workplaces should now provide an adequate private space to pump. However, some people may not realize how exhausting the first three months are, the night waking's, two-hour feedings and then pumping for work on top of that.  
 
woman, wearing white, baby, wearing white
mother and baby 


Attachment 


If the baby is settled and quiet surely it would be better for baby and mother to be able to stay together without it affecting the mother's career. Much research has been developed on attachment theory and how secure attachments to a primary caregiver (which usually ends up being the mother) is best for the baby. However, this is not to say that children in nurseries from early ages are lacking in secure attachments, as Bowlby, 1944 cited in Gjersoe, 2016 suggests that any constant caregiver can be the secure base, the nursery workers could become a secure base for the child.  

Working 


There is however an underlying concept that seems to suggest that once a woman enters maternity leave she is incapable of continuing to work alongside caring for a new baby. Some feel that a woman’s place should be at home caring for the new baby but not every woman wants this. Of course, they love their baby but not every mother wishes to stay at home. Research into post-natal depression shows that there is a lot of pressure for women to fit into motherly ideals. Leading on from this, many mothers end their entitled maternity leave early as they feel taking longer could affect future promotions, they could be viewed as less of a team player. This can also be noted in the gender pay gap, where women are more likely than men to take time out or revert to part-time hours to suit childcare arrangements, (Burt, 2018).  

Returning to work after maternity should be as flexible as possible. Until maternity rights change then MP's and other parents, there should be alternative childcare arrangements allowed. There should be no reason that instead of putting their child into a nursery setting, a mother could return to work, but remotely. The recent pandemic has shown us that some jobs can be done from home while caring for children as well.  
 

I see no issue with what Stella has done, continued to care for her child while working. Until maternity rights for MP's change, she should continue to be able to care for her baby and work simultaneously. Having her baby with her does not affect her ability to use her voice on behalf of her constituents. No matter what party you vote for, I think all parties can agree that everyone deserves adequate maternity rights.  
 

Stella is currently campaigning to get more mothers into politics www.thismumvotes.org.uk 


Burt, E. (2018) Fewer than one in five women feel confident returning to work after maternity leave. Available at: https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/fewer-than-one-in-five-women-confident-return-maternity-leave#gref (Accessed: 24 November 2021)

Gjersoe, N. (2016) 'What is 'child psychology'?’ in Farrington-Flint, L and Montgomery, H. (eds) (2016) An introduction to childhood studies and child psychology. The Open University, pp. 41-42

Ferguson, D, Francis-Devine, B and Rhodes, C (2021) Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill 2019-2021 in Hous of Commons Library. Available at: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9133/ (Accessed: 25 November 2021)

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