Babies in the House? Rookie MP Finds Parliament and Parenthood Don’t Mix

Photography courtesy of family

Politicians and babies go together like sippy cups and animal crackers, but one Canadian political mom ran into trouble this week when she brought her infant son to work. Was it anti-parent discrimination, or just a bad game of Telephone?

According to reports, Quebec NDP MP Sana Hassainia was asked to remove her 3-month-old son, Skander-Jack, from the House of Commons during a vote related to gun legislation.

The first-time parent and rookie MP (from the riding of Verchères-Les Patriotes) regularly brings her wee babe to work. Her husband handles parenting duties while she’s in the House, but stays nearby so she can breastfeed their son.

Earlier this week, Hassainia had been nursing Skander-Jak when MPs were recalled quickly to vote. She couldn’t find her husband before heading back into the chamber, so she brought her son along.

There are varied reports about what happened next, but Hassainia took exception to a message, relayed by a page from House Speaker Andrew Scheer, to bring order so the vote could proceed. Hassainia interpreted the message as an order to remove the baby, while a spokesperson for Scheer says that the message stated only that MPs should return to their seats.

Whatever happened, the incident highlights the conundrum faced by every parent as they make the difficult choice between work and home life.

“As a mother, I think it’s important that we be able to talk about how to balance the two,” Hassainia said in a press scrum just after the kerfuffle.

Hassainia notes that Parliament Hill isn’t the best place for new mothers: MPs receive no maternity leave, and she often has to duck into empty offices to find a quiet spot to breastfeed her son.

Many female MPs reacted to the incident, saying that it sends a strong message to aspiring female politicians—choose between babies and politics. Hassainia adds that Parliament needs to consider better accommodations for politicians with young infants so they can attend to their parliamentary obligations without sacrificing care for their children.

Hassainia isn’t the only political mother with a baby on the hip. Saskatoon city councillor Tiffany Paulsen returned to work after just one month’s maternity leave, and often brought daughter Eden along with her.

French Justice Minister (and single mom) Rachida Dati took the least amount of time off. To retain her grip on her government career, Dati went back to work just five days after daughter Zhota was delivered by Caesarian section.

Italian member of European Parliament Licia Ronzulli can often be spotted with daughter Victoria in her lap during voting sessions. Photos of Ronzulli and her infant daughter tucked into a sling made the rounds in 2010, but Victoria, now a toddler, continues to attend parliament with her mother.

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