Sunday, 10 May 2009

Balancing Politics and a Family Life

Since I was first selected as a candidate in the European Elections I have been asked one question more than any other - its not about my views on healthcare, education, the economy (or EU budgets) but very quietly from county town to tiny village I have been taken aside by a concerned voter to ask how I would balance this job whilst also being a mother.

Perhaps the past few day's diary will give you a snapshot. On Friday morning I dropped the kids at school. Then I went to Watford (Hertfordshire), met our Westminster Candidate and many volunteers to collect signatures in the High Street demanding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The children were collected from school by a friend, went swimming and then back home to dad. In the meantime I spent a couple hours in Loughton (Essex) with Eleanor Laing MP. It was incredibly impressive to see Eleanor meeting many friends amongst her constituents, handing out leaflets, taking notes of local problems to help with later. Her constituents know that on Friday evenings she is usually outside the tube station and one constituent even came off the tube with a bundle of papers on an issue she wanted to share with her MP. I then went on to Southend to a public meeting - returning late.


My 11 year old daughter has been pestering me for a shopping trip. So yesterday, Saturday we went to Sudbury (Suffolk.) Whilst I joined Conservatives campaigning in the High Street and market square while my daughter enjoyed the tweenie paradise of "New Look" and picked up some presents for school friends. I handed out leaflets and combined doing some food shopping with discussing business with local market traders and politics with shoppers.

We raced back home for my final rehearsal - I sing in a choir. Last night's concert was a mixture of Gershwin, Bernstein and then lots of ABBA. My husband peeled himself and my boys off the cricket pitch just a bit late for the first half.... everyone was a bit late to bed still singing Mamma Mia.

Today, Sunday - day off - cricket training with the children in Saffron Walden, lunch in a cafe in the market square. Then Hannah Montana movie with my daughter in the afternoon (Hannah has 200 million viewers every week - we grown-ups should take note) ending up in a family supper with local lamb and some of the English Asparagus I bought yesterday. Yummy.... and a bit of emergency ironing!

I have no doubt that if elected on June 4th I will miss my family hugely for the 3 nights a week I will often spend away. But this is no different to the life of friends who are midwifes, doctors or casualty nurses who also work hours away from their family. Like them, I will be doing a job that I believe can make a difference, and like every working mum in the country I will need to concentrate on devoting time to both work and family.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are your fellow tory male candidates going to do a blog story like this??

Why should you pander to the outrageous assumption that just because you are a woman, the issue over child care is your concern.

Why not get your hubby to put up a post about how he is going to balance childcare and doctoring while his wife swans off to brussels and strasborg?

Is it any wonder that these attitudes persist when people like you insist on perpetuating it.

As much as I dont have a lot of time for Thatcher, I was interested in the Angela Riseborough starring Long Walk to Finchley where she struggles with the same issues you do. The point is, its relevant to her because of the tory dinosaurs. It hasnt changed a bit and your party and members is supposed to have changed to a more modern outlook.

I have not yet seen Linda Jack blog on a similar topic. Don't see why you should.

Next time you get asked that, tell the questioner to say the same thing to a male candidate.

Vicky Ford said...

Thank you Anonymous for your comment- though I disagree with your conclusion. Interestingly it is the fathers in frontline politics who often discuss their work/family life balance with me.

They don't consider the issue of child care to be primarily a mothers issue and nor do I.

Jonathan Morgan said...

Vicky – I think it may have been our conversation, which took place moments before our photo was taken in Sudbury, that may have triggered this blog entry, so I thought it would be fair to comment.

I mentioned to you, that as a father of a young son, I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of being apart from him if elected to the European Parliament. We then discussed the fact that we had both been working out similar strategies of how to deal with it, and how to make sure that our children weren’t affected, but that we still did the best possible job for our constituents, and that there were many MEPs and fellow candidates that had also worked out solutions similar to the ones we discussed.

It’s not a women only issue – far from it – it affects all parents with young families, regardless of the parent’s gender. I could have written almost the same blog entry as you had, and having read yours, I think I will – it will appear at www.morgan4eastern.com

Hugo Ford said...

As Vicky's husband I normally avoid commenting on her or other political blogs, but as this touches on me, and in response to the first comment (Anonymous@17.57) I am going to break this rule.

Vicky's family and mine have a strong sense of duty and public service. I have always supported her political career because I know that we need people of integrity and drive in politics who are motivated by that sense of duty (as, God knows, recent events emphasise). As a family (and we discuss this with our children) we all understand that this will involve some difficult times and sacrifice, and may make our lives less easy.

However this is nothing to the sacrifices made by those who have spouses in the armed forces, for example. And these problems are not substantially different for men and women in the modern world.

It is true that there are many Conservative party members who are old fashioned, and rightly so, for we are after all a Conservative party. But I believe it is entirely reasonable to ask of a man or a woman candidate how they propose to balance the demands of family life with a political career. It is important that they have thought things through. As a family we have, and although we do not underestimate the problems which may lie ahead, I am confident we will solve them as a family.

Anonymous said...

Oh can we please avoid bringing on " the family " reminds me of a certain Conservative who got his kid to eat burgers or a PM who came out of Downing Street with the " family " mug in his hand or even worse the Tory MP who got all the kids and wife on camera after being found out with another woman .
As for the mothering issue , young children need their parents near by , that simply cannot be done when you are away from them for half a week in Brussels.
Its deliberately selfish to decide that your ambitions at this stage in their lives are more important and please dont give us all the old wellie about doing your public service you could have stayed as a councillor after all that only amounted to a mere three years hardly a long stint was it.
Anyway I thought you wanted to be a Westminster MP ,the way things are now there could be empty seats to fill on both benches .

Anonymous said...

young children need their parents nearbySo what does that say to children of soldiers, sailors, airmen, diplomats, even some businessmen? All children need parents who love them and to say that you cannnot be a loving and effective parent while having a job which takes you away form your family for 2 or 3 nights a week is frankly bollocks!

It is people like the last anonymous (who are usually women themselves) who make it difficult for other women to go into politics and then complain about positive discrimination when others try to encourage participation.

Funnily enough they are usually the most ardent admirers of Margaret Thatcher, who had very young children when she was first elected. But then logic and consistency were never their strong points!

Hugo Ford said...

Ah silly me, I had forgotten why I shouldn't comment on Vicky's blog. I shall leave the sunny positive comments to all you anonymi and withdraw to spend more time with my family!

Anonymous said...

FAO Anon at 12/5/09 07:36. It is my understanding that as an A-Lister Vicky did reach the shortlist of a number of Selections for various constituencies, (Ive heard anywhere between 6 and 10) and strangely(?) never managed to persuade enough people to support her... *shrugs* shes clearly ambitious but maybe thats not enough...

Anonymous said...

As someone whos family have a fair smatering of medical and military personel I can vouch that the lives of their families is often strained and difficult because of the commitment this entails and for the children is doubly so as they fear that a parent is never going to come home.
It is disingeneous to try to relate their roles in life with that of someone who just wants to join the set up in Brussels.
I have no problem with anyone male or female having ambitions to succeed in politics but I believe that the general public will ( quite rightly ) consider that a young mother will not be best placed to give the job all it requires because of her other responsibilities( its the reason that employers are not keen to employ the same group )
Of course a women might turn out to be like Mrs T who love her or hate her was an extra ordinary politician but was a damned poor example of motherhood , just look at the two she produced to see how what happened.

Anonymous said...

Point I was making is that if you think mothers shouldn't work, well fair enough but I'm afraid you are out of touch with the world we live in. If you think parents can work but shouldn't travel away from home ditto.

Of course maybe you just don't like Vicky which of course is your privilege, but having met neither of you I can tell you which one I would rather have representing me in any elected forum-(in case you are in doubt, not the one who sounds like a bitter and unpleasant dinosaur without anything positive to say!)

Anonymous said...

As you dont appear to either read what others say or live in the real world ( where the general public by and large will not vote rightly or wrongly for women of childbearing age ) I can only say that Im glad your not a candidate in the forthcoming elections ( please tell me your not )
I believe that Vicky Ford is only in the first three on the list because of a ridiculous method of " positive discrimination " set up by Central office and that number 4 in the present list , a man ,actually got more support than her, its hardly democratic is it ?