herald

Saturday 21 April 2018

Why mum-to-be Lucinda must sacrifice her baby time for Dail time

Politics isn't a normal job. It's 24/7. There are constant dilemmas

LUCINDA Creighton has branded those who question her future in politics because of her pregnancy as "neanderthals".

She's right. Her childcare arrangements are her own business.

She says she will manage as a working TD when her baby arrives. I'm sure she will.

But that's not the issue. The issue is whether she will want to.

Unlike the working mothers she describes as being in "more difficult circumstances", she has choices. Which makes the decision to continue to work full-time harder. Politics isn't a normal job. It's 24/7.

So Lucinda will constantly find herself with terrible dilemmas. Do I go out and talk to that constituent or help my child with his homework? Do I go to the school play or go to that meeting?

No one ever prepares you for the line: "Please don't go to work, Mammy." You don't find out about it until you have a baby. Maybe not even until the baby has turned into a questioning little child.

"Thank you for the park, Mammy." I remember my two-year-old saying when I was on maternity leave with his younger brothers. The words bore a hole in my heart when I returned to work.

Going back to work isn't hard to manage if you have a hands-on partner or cash, or both. Lucinda has both. It's the pain of leaving your child which can be impossible to manage.

What happens when her child runs past her to his minder when he has cut his knee? What happens when he looks to Dad for comfort before her?

If you're really 'managing' you'll think that's fine. If you're not managing you may start to resent it. Like my friend, who has just asked her boss to employ her husband in her place at work. They have the same trade. And after a decade in the workplace full-time, she wants to spend the last few days of her son's childhood at home.

We were never told about any of this when we were growing up to be mistresses of the universe. We were told only slackers wanted to stay home with their babies.

That's not surprising considering our historical blindness to the emotion between mothers and babies. Unmarried mothers were having their babies taken away for adoption right into the 1980s. We need to start being absolutely clear about the loss to a Mam if she works full-time. Not so we can keep women at home. But so women have as much knowledge as possible before they make such a difficult choice.

It's clear that a generation of young women politicians will have to give up on their babies' childhoods if we are to change the level of female representation in the Dail.

That's what Lucinda's former Fine Gael colleague Olwyn Enright refused to do. When she exited politics she said she wasn't prepared to sacrifice her time with her children to break the mould.

She said she didn't want to explain her absence to her child in later life by telling her that it was just a time when it was very important for women to be in politics.

That was a brave and honest position.

When it comes to Lucinda Creighton I disagree with her on nearly everything, but I think she is one fantastic politician.

We may disagree on the substance but I was sure as hell glad that when a vote about women's wombs was taken in the Dail at least one TD casting their ballot had a functioning womb herself.

So for all our sakes I hope Lucinda takes the hit on time with her baby and stays in the Dail to help change Irish politics.

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