Two women standing in a doorway

What it is really like to be a mum running for election

Mumming it in politics

We know that men outnumber women in politics, but it is improving – 2018 has been the centenary of (partial) suffrage in light of the ‘record high’ of female MPs coming through in the 2017 election. But where are the mothers?

Considering there are almost 5 million mothers of dependent children in the UK, how many women who fit that description do you see represented in Parliament? Other than Jo Swinson there are few that spring to my mind, and even then all I can think of is how she was cheated whilst on maternity leave when Brandon Lewis backed out of their ‘pairing’ agreement.

As a mum of two small kids with political ambitions, I want to give you the lowdown on what it’s really like.

Dispel the myths

Firstly, I need to dispel the myths and get the tough bits out of the way first – it’s hard work, it’s unpaid and it opens you to public scrutiny.

Why do you think our political elite are made up of the rich and connected? Because you aren’t paid until you get elected. Some of my friends were shocked to see me spending days on end canvassing, speaking at events, debating in hustings and appearing on TV and radio. It takes up time and most people aren’t willing or able to give up so much of theirs for free.

Being part of the Women’s Equality Party was great for me, as they ensured that my childcare costs were covered so that I could stand for election. They also provide a stipend for candidates on low incomes. Yet outside of election time it’s a very busy volunteer role to be engaged in party politics.

The perfect job for mums of young children

I do think that the timing is why politics can be a perfect role for mums. When else have you ever felt so involved in your community? I don’t think I’d ever spent so much time in my hometown until I became a mum. Whether it’s at the school gates, in the library, in the village shop; there is always time to meet and talk to local people.

It was how my role model, Dame Rosemary Butler, got into politics. She spent days on end in the park with her children, leaning against pillar or post as there were no benches in the park. Rallying other mums together, Rosemary petitioned her local council for a bench… and once she realised the impact she had, it led to a career all the way to the top of Welsh politics as Presiding Officer of the Welsh Government.

Getting your call

We all need something to give us that push towards getting truly involved in something. Mine was maternity discrimination. I was pushed out of my job whilst on maternity leave, left reeling that this can happen to women in modern society. Then at the same time a brand new party for women was being talked about, and so I signed up as a founding member of the Women’s Equality Party.

Less than a year later I took a chance and sent off my application to be the first Women’s Equality Party candidate in the Welsh Assembly elections. I was selected, and voted by members to take the lead position. All I wanted to do was get involved in something to ensure my daughter would never endure the discrimination I experienced… so be careful what you wish for!

Highs and lows of everyday politics

In the midst of election canvassing, I got overwhelmed. It was truly difficult to balance my role as business owner, mother, wife, and politician. Other candidates have shared this view, and suggested ways to help that I hadn’t expected – like someone bringing over a home-cooked meal so you can feel healthy without the time available to cook or eat with your family.

After a few days reality kicked in, the cogs started working again and I realised I wasn’t overwhelmed, I was pregnant! After 18 months of trying and failing, an election had truly taken my mind off the situation and my precious son was born later that year.

He joined me on many canvassing sessions in his baby sling during the 2017 general election, although this wasn’t a decision taken lightly in light of the death threats our party received. I wanted to be a part of change for my children’s future but would never put them at risk in order to achieve it. We live in an era where social media has made abuse an everyday occurrence and must stand together to stop this.

To the future

I strongly believe that for a government to be truly representative and make the best decisions for the nation, it must be representative of all of its people. I want to see more women MPs; diverse women, women with disabilities, women who are simply brilliant from all backgrounds, with kids and without.

One of my closest friends is someone I met just a few years ago during that election. Life throws up curveballs and meeting her has been one of my turning points. She is a true sister with whom I can discuss anything in the world without judgement. I knew I would meet likeminded people with the same values when I joined a political party, but never thought I would get to find a lifelong friend.

Star struck

I have been fortunate enough to meet the brilliant Julia Gillard, ex Australian PM, when she revisited her birthplace in Wales. I asked her what one piece of advice she would give to aspiring female politicians and will pass that on to you. She pulled a scruffy piece of paper from her pocket and said written on it were the reasons she does what she does. How else can you stand up to the misogyny and abuse if you didn’t have a daily reminder of why you are there?

I know that I want to hand the baton over to the next generation so they don’t have to continue our fight. The fight to use our wombs without prejudice, to stop our sons contemplating suicide because boys don’t cry. And sometimes you do get to win – in Wales we lobbied our government to allow home use of the second ‘abortion pill’. Our Health Minister, Vaughan Gething listened, enabling women to have more choice and control over their own reproductive health and well-being.

Yes there are barriers to overcome to be a mummy in politics, but the solidarity and the successes are truly worth it. So it’s over to you mummies… #pregnantthenelected #askhertostand

Find out more about Pregnant Then Elected.


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