Being a mum journo… at Parliament

So as you know I’m using this blog to discuss all things social contract related. Naturally the social contract involves government, and so naturally I’ll probably find myself in Parliament sooner or later. From watching debates in the main chamber to visiting the House of Commons or Westminster hall to conduct research, there’s a chance I’ll need to actually be there to really be able to talk about the state of our social contract.

As a mum with two under 3, childcare needs to be in place for me to visit these places. But as anyone with children knows, childcare isn’t always feasible or available when you most need it. This week, I have my two and a half year old sorted but it’s looking like I’ll need to have my smallest one with me as he isn’t doing well with taking the bottle, so at the moment only I can feed him.

I was hesitant in doing this and it has taken me three to four weeks and four confirmations (including two from my local MPs office)to finally go ahead with going to a debate. Eventually, I felt confident to visit because of the actions of Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson, back in September when she brought her 11-week old to a Parliamentary debate.

So yesterday was the day. We rock up to Cromwell Green – on time to boot, better still, my beautiful baby boy is fast asleep, which never happens as he’s a stickler for staying awake most of the time! As we approach the public entrance to Parliament, I’m filled with excitement about the debate I’m about to watch in the public gallery: Public Health model to reduce youth violence.

At the Cromwell Green entrance, I’m greeted by two members of staff, one of whom is basically like:

“Hiii. Ooh erm it’s a buggy. We’ve got a strict ‘no buggies allowed’ policy here. I mean, you can bring a buggy in but not up to the gallery. So erm, not sure how to say this but, no? *leans over* Cute baby though. Umm anyone else with you who can stay with baby while you watch the debate? No? Yeah, ok you can’t come in, sorry bye. *shouts* Maybe for a tour? But that’s only on the weekend. Thanks!!”


I was armed with emails confirming that I could come in but I felt so paralysed by this “strict policy” that it seemed futile to even fight it and the last thing I wanted to do was get into an argument. So after a few meek suggestions such as, “can I leave the buggy and sling my baby” (Jo Swinson style), “no, sorry, the thing is children under 5 aren’t allowed so as to avoid any possible disturbances such as a baby crying”.

Gutted. Utterly gutted to hear the word “disturbances” used for the innocent pleas of a baby. To be guilty of something you can’t control, felt so wrong that I could only squint and purse my lips in response to the woman who had just told me that in no uncertain terms was I going to have an opportunity to see the debate I’d trekked over 8 miles to see. Slowly, I nodded, thanked them both – the male attendee especially, for checking with the gallery staff via his talkie-talkie.

Not being allowed into Parliament with my baby for fear that he’d be a “disturbance” was disappointing but strangely, it made sense to me. It made sense because I’m used to not feeling welcome with a baby. By now, I’m basically a pro in apologising for my baby just being a baby. So yeah, it made sense to me but then as I told my husband, my mum, my brother, my local MPs assistant via email and a contact of mine in Parliament via Twitter, their reactions showed me that actually it didn’t make sense. My local MPs assistant apologised immediately and I’m sure felt nearly gutted because she had literally called a contact in Parliament TWICE to confirm!

Anyway. That’s the thing about inequality, it makes sense, until it doesn’t.

It doesn’t make sense. I’d love to fight this but I don’t think I’ll put myself and my baby through that again just to fight it. I just want to observe a debate so my little one will have to be stuck with a bottle with someone else for an hour or two, the next time I want to cover a debate.

For now, I’ll still forge ahead with being a mum journo, just not at the same time.

Here’s my little guy wide awake after our little adventure…

Author: jacquicourtenay

Mum. Wife. Writer. Poet. Curator. City Worker

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