What Does Our Mother of Parliaments Need? Babies!

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 12, 2014 | Go to article overview

What Does Our Mother of Parliaments Need? Babies!


Byline: Rachel Johnson

KIRSTIE Allsopp left a scorch mark on my psyche when she said last week that she enjoyed ironing. Her remarks came as the Duke of Cambridge hightailed it to Cambridge University for his own bespoke course on Duchy management, leaving his own Duchess holding their baby.

At the same time, a survey from the Co-op revealed why men don't pitch in on the home front even though they can (one example: 700,000 babies are born a year but since 2011 a scant 1,600 men have availed themselves of extended paternity leave privileges).

A third of men admitted they had the easy option in life and had 'no idea' how their female partners managed.

Returning the favour, one third of women supportively said their partners would be 'useless' if they did swap roles.

When I was a teenager my beloved mother would pay me to iron my brothers' shirts (50p per shirt). Ever since, I have been violently antipathetic to the notion of man's work and woman's work, as I know a woman's work is lowgrade, grindingly domestic and never done. And also: that men will avoid doing it if they can.

Now, like Kirstie, I do 'enjoy' activities such as pegging out washing, hoovering, or making chunky soups, and find it 'immensely therapeutic' on occasion. This is because I assume that I have a sort of muscle memory when it comes to these tasks. Just as labradors immerse themselves in freezing rivers - or collies yearn to round up sheep on hillsides - we women must retain in our DNA an imprint of all the activities our mothers and grandmothers did for hundreds of years.

But the keywords here are 'on occasion'. If I had to do these things all the time and that is all I did, sullenly wiping surfaces and Toilet Ducking after other people, I would go mad, and then shoot myself.

In my ideal world, we would all share all tasks, as I believe this would make women happier, or at any rate less cross. I'd like all work to be more gender-neutral.

And, therefore, I am completely at one with Lib Dem Equality Minister Jo Swinson, a new mother who has said the House of Commons should become more baby-friendly - and that MPs should be able to bring infants into the voting lobbies. I doubt many MPs would bring Junior into the Chamber, but this is the sort of modernising marker Parliament needs, if legislators want to support the idea that Britain's women can combine work in the House with housework. …

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