Do babies have a place in Parliament? According to a ruling in Denmark this week, the answer is no.
Danish politician Mette Abildgaard was told her five-month-old daughter was “not welcome” in Parliament by speaker Pia Kjaersgaard. Abildgaard, 30, wrote in a post on Facebook that she had not brought her daughter to work before, but a vote required her to be in the chamber early.
Her husband was not able to look after their daughter, she wrote, so she decided to bring the child with her.
Abildgaard said her baby had been in a good mood and “had a pacifier in her mouth” while she was in the chamber. The new mom also said she advised her secretary to take the child out of the room if she started making noise.
Still, 72-year-old Kjaersgaard asked for the baby to be removed, and later defended her move on Twitter, writing that it’s “not good” to bring infants into the chamber.
The event caused a heated debate over whether or not parents should be allowed to care for their kids at work, and if preventing mothers from bringing their babies to the workplace is setting back women’s rights.
Should babies be allowed in the workplace?
“I think children should be welcome as long as the work can continue the way it should be continuing,” Kathy Lynn, a parenting expert and author, told Global News.
“We shouldn’t be putting parents — particularly mothers — in a situation where they end up not taking a job or running for office simply because they have a child.”
Lynn says being suddenly called for a work-related duty, as in the case of politician Abildgaard, often means not having enough time to find childcare. Workplaces should be understanding of this, she says.
“Thinking that you can always organize your life so that you have childcare on no notice, is ridiculous. It doesn’t happen,” Lynn said.
There are also instances when a mother needs to be with her child, like when they’re breastfeeding, Lynn says. In June, Canadian Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould openly breastfed her son in the House of Commons on camera.
“We know that that relationship between mom and baby is very, very important when they’re newborns, and quite often what happens, particularly for politicians, can’t afford to take the whole year off, but they really do need to be close to their baby,” Lynn said.
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Lynn says as long as arrangements are made for the child to be moved out of a shared space if they are crying or making a fuss, there’s no reason why a baby shouldn’t be allowed in a workplace — even Parliament.
Plus, Lynn says it’s important for workplaces to remember that when someone has a child, they’re going to need accommodations from time to time, regardless of whether or not the child is on the job with them.
“We can’t think that you just have a baby and the next day, you don’t think about that job ,” she said. “The reality is there has to be a situation where the child can be accommodated.”
When kids should not be allowed in the workplace
Lynn says if a child is being disruptive and preventing others from doing their work, it’s not a good idea for them to stay in the office. When kids are old enough to be mobile, that’s when they should be in daycare, Lynn says.
Plus, not all workplaces allow employees to bring their kids to work, and many jobs are not safe environments for children, either. Jobs in the service industry, for example, are not baby-friendly, nor are retail or factory jobs.
This means that many parents have to rely on childcare — which is often incredibly expensive.
Affordable childcare is a problem
In Canada, affordable childcare is an issue many families face.
A recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives think tank found that daycare costs were the highest in Toronto and the surrounding area, where fees for children under 18 months average $1,685, and $1,150 a month for older preschoolers.
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Cities in Quebec had the lowest fees for full-time, regulated spaces across the country, followed by Winnipeg and Charlottetown — in the three provinces that have had fixed fees for years.
Lynn says workplaces should work towards being more child-friendly, and understand that not being able to take care of your kid causes stress.
“If you can’t bring with you and have to leave them somewhere you don’t feel comfortable with, you’re going to be distracted,” Lynn said.
With files from the Canadian Press
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