“How can she conduct herself properly if she has a hungry infant in tow. [sic] Stop acting like a bimbo and grow up!”
This was the way in which anonymous Twitter user “richard” referred to the UK’s Social Democratic and Labour Party’s deputy leader, Nichola Mallon, after she took her seven-month old baby along with her to a meeting. This fantastically unconventional move sparked an entire barrage of attacks against Mallon, claiming that a baby has no place in a serious meeting with Northern Ireland’s secretary of state. She was slammed for abusing of an opportunity which most working mothers couldn’t dream of.
In spite of this, Mallon nonetheless received unwavering support from politicians and other Twitter users. Most argued in her favour due to the lack of maternity leave availability of politicians. Mallon contended that her choices were either to abandon her constituents or to keep serving them whilst not being with her child during his stages of early development. Another UK politician, Carla Lockhart (DUP) has also braved the tide and carried her own baby along with her to meetings, whilst also basing her choice on the lack of maternity leave.
Roughly around a year ago, a monumental move at the Nelson Mandela peace summit at the UN General Assembly saw New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden bring her 3-month old baby along with her.
Can these moves be harbouring a shift towards widened tolerance of babies and infants at the workplace for mothers (especially ones who choose to breastfeed) who cannot opt for maternity leave for some reason or other?
Various factors must be taken into account. The safety of the place of work must primarily be assessed – one cannot equate a regular office space with a construction site, for example. Furthermore, who would be responsible for the child; the parent, the employer, or both?
Nonetheless, employers should still consider that it may be more beneficial for them to have mothers return to the workplace, rather than have them be out on parental leave for long whilst still being obliged to secure their place of employment upon their return.
In the case that employers would opt to allow for this to happen, well-thought-out policies must necessarily be put into place, to avoid abuses and inconsistencies which may pose serious burdens.
This is a game of scales and measures, depending on the scale of your business, its nature, location, and mostly whether the benefits of having mothers away from work for less time outweigh the addition of an infant in the office – are you ready for the challenge?