Inspired by one woman’s decision to take her baby to work this week, Frances Ashton (@FKAEnglish) reflects on owning your power as a mother.
Yesterday, Australian senator Larissa Waters stood in front of congress and rose to explain her motion. She was calm, capable and well briefed. She was also breastfeeding her 14 week old baby.
In that moment, she was a manifestation of a working mother. Papers in one hand, baby cradled in the other. Literally balancing ‘Work’ and ‘Life.’
And the pictures taken of that moment are incredibly powerful.
I’ve written before about the erosion of professional identity that can follow the decision to procreate. The perception that a litany of vomit stains will replace well-chosen jewellery and that handbags would now be filled with odd socks instead of well laid plans encased in ambitious moleskin. As if mother and leader were warring roles, the latter soon to beat a hasty and inevitable retreat.
Many people look at the image of Larissa Waters and wonder how on earth she is doing it.
But it doesn’t surprise me at all. Because I didn’t know what I was capable of until I became a mother. Feats of patience and superhuman strength. All because the little human you have created demands that you step up. Every hour of every day. Relentless CPD.
The miles I’ve walked.
The sleep I’ve lost.
The balancing acts I’ve performed.
I’m surrounded by people who stand up to adversity, stare down challenge and face personal fears every day in their roles as parents.
Of course, it could have gone differently. Babies aren’t robots and aren’t immune to making a scene. Which is why the image of Larissa’s male colleague carrying the baby as she engaged in her work is such a powerful example of a flexible and empowering working environment.
Rich lives create richer leaders. Parenthood is certainly something which garners beauty and diversity in life, alongside a skills set you may not be able to quantify on a CV, but is no less valuable.
And Larissa Water’s statement after the event, underlines this message: that motherhood is powerful, however you decide to negotiate it.
‘Women have always worked and reared children, whether that work was paid in the workplace or unpaid in the home. I hope it helps to normalise breastfeeding and remove any vestige of stigma against breastfeeding a baby when they are hungry. I hope it sends a message to young women and mothers that they belong in places of power like the parliament.’