Babies on Parliament Hill

Yesterday I read an article in the Globe and Mail: “Bring your baby to work – but only if all else fails, Speaker tells MPs.”  Of course I clicked on it immediately; what mother with a baby wouldn’t?!  It was interesting, about a Member of Parliament who took her three-month-old son to the House because her childcare plans fell through, but was then asked to leave when the child started creating a disturbance.  In the ensuing drama (the woman went to the media because she felt offended by being asked to leave), the Speaker of the House clarified that children may be brought to the House only if absolutely necessary – if there’s an emergency vote or childcare plans fall apart completely.  He even checked to make sure there are enough change tables in the House!

My reaction: “That’s awesome!” Finally, a realistic person who understands that working women are also mothers, and is willing to accommodate them when absolutely necessary.

Then I started reading through the comments and was shocked at the hostility that readers showed toward the Speaker’s decision and the MP’s actions.  People are furious about it!  They believe it’s totally unfair for her to be allowed to take her child to work when there are so many other professions that do not allow it.  Bank tellers, bus drivers, teachers, etc. can’t do it, so why should this MP?  One person even wrote, “It diminishes the House.”  When a person believes that babies diminish the representation of our nation, there’s something fundamentally wrong.

The message I got from these comments was that they are simply jealous.  Because they can’t take kids to work, no one should.  But why not look at this as a step in the right direction?  Obviously having screaming babies in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill is not realistic, and in that case the mother should quickly and discreetly remove the child, but what about a peaceful, sleeping infant in a car seat who is fully contented, or at least nurses quietly when he is not?  We’re not talking about toddlers here!

Babies are a fact of life, and too often in our society they are shunned as mere nuisances.  A crying baby is glared at, complained about, yet we’ve all been one at some point in our lives.  Where are the friendly smiles, the helping hands, the encouraging words, I’d like to know?  I too have a three-month-old and I carry him everywhere in a front-carrier or a sling.  Without navigating an awkward stroller, I’m able to maintain my “adult” access to the world, which puts others at ease.  Close to my chest, he exists in a blissful, mostly silent state!

I think mothers and others need to work together here.  If you’ve got a new baby, don’t envelop yourself in a baby bubble, arming yourself with all available paraphernalia and defining yourself by it; rather, continue to be an adult who happens to have a baby!  Likewise, for all you other non-moms out there, please don’t define us by our infants.  We’re adults, too, who are struggling to balance a previous existence with a totally new and foreign one.

So that’s why I think the Speaker’s decision is great.  He’s showing unusual understanding for the woman, who was brave in the first place to take her kid to work.  It sounds like they’re doing what everyone else talks about: encouraging real-life diversity in our society.

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2 thoughts on “Babies on Parliament Hill

  1. Hi Katherine, Thanks for your piece on babies in our world. I love babies and their presence in our midst. I get them often in my fair trade store and I love to offer to hold them while their parent shops! At Christmas time I heard from a couple of people who were at a Christmas concert in town and where there was a fussy baby present. The woman who told me about it was so upset that the mother did not take the baby out. It almost ruined the concert for her. I think that the mother should have taken her baby out. It was not fair to the public. I once took my baby to a concert in a large church in Buffalo NY. My baby discreetly nursed and slept the whole way through. I was a bit on pins and needles myself but it worked! We as mothers of babies have to be sensitive to when it does not work.

  2. If you do not like how Canadians treat mothers with babies and kids, you should come to the UK. I was told 5 times in a month that I am not good mother! That is in the bus, in a job center, in the museums simply because my son was upset. People here are talking about family-friendly restaurants as they would say animal-friendly places.
    In the developed countries, babies, kids, and mothers are expected to be separated from the rest of the people. There are lots of places that are forbidden for them such as restaurants, concerts, even weddings. In the developing countries though I have experience a peaceful coexistence where everyone supports and respects mothers and kids and most of all do not exclude them from the social events. Adults and babies/kids parting together, eat together, go shopping together and toddlers walk, they do not just sit in the stroller.
    When kids and babies are participating in adult life regularly, they eventually learn how to behave in such occasions and most of the times no problems arise.
    I think that even if you are disturbed five minutes from a concert due to a baby crying, still this could be the beginning of a lengthy discussion with the mother and maybe a birth of a friendship. I think we go to a concert not only to listen to the music but also to socialize.

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