Would Alex Salmond have been first minister if he’d had children?

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and Depute First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, at the launch of Choosing Scotland's Future - a White Paper on a possible independence referendum.

Asked no one, ever.

And yet this sort of question has been asked about Nicola Sturgeon many times, and she addressed it recently when she spoke about how she had a miscarriage six years ago at the age of 40.

She said:

“If the miscarriage hadn’t happened, would I be sitting here as first minister right now? It’s an unanswerable question. I just don’t know. I’ve thought about it, but I don’t know the answer. I’d like to think yes, because I could have shown that having a child wasn’t a barrier to all of this, but in truth I don’t know.”

It’s great that Sturgeon is being open about her miscarriage, but let’s put that aside for a second. Let’s focus on the fact that it’s 2016 and people are still asking if motherhood and powerful career-womanhood are compatible.

Isn’t it time we stopped asking women these kinds of questions?

Yes, having a baby changes your life. A lot. As a mother, you may choose to sacrifice your career for your family by cutting back your hours, choosing a job that pays less but has more flexibility, or giving up work all together.

But if you don’t want to compromise your career, it’s not like you have to be stuck at home with a small child until you can ship them off to school in a little tie and sturdy black shoes. There are, after all, nurseries. And nannies. And grannies. And, lest we forget, FATHERS.

Fathers are just as capable of doing baby stuff as mums (minus the boobin’, but that’s where breast pumps and formula come in). They can change nappies and read board books. They can clean up sick and push a pram. They can it in a circle in Bounce and Rhyme and sing “The Wheels on the Bus” awkwardly with a bunch of other uncomfortable parents. Let’s not sell fathers short. They can do it all.

Given that dads are perfectly competent baby-raisers, if we’re going to question whether mothers can have high-powered careers, we should be questioning dads too.

“You’re planning to work even after your wife has a baby?” we should say. “Are you sure you can manage it? Won’t you miss your baby if you have to work long hours? Come on – do you really think it’s possible for fathers to have it all?”

Or maybe we should just recognise that balancing a career and a family can be hard regardless of your gender. Childcare is flippin’ expensive, which can mean that it’s actually cheaper for one parent to give up work than to put their child in nursery. Employers are often reluctant to offer flexible working. Professional part-time jobs are few and far in-between.

“There is still so much to do, through better childcare, more progressive working practices and more enlightened attitudes, to make sure we don’t feel we have to choose,” Sturgeon said.

She’s right. Mothers shouldn’t have to choose between a career and a family.

And neither should fathers.

18 Replies to “Would Alex Salmond have been first minister if he’d had children?”

  1. Hear hear! Absolutely love this and agree with everything you’ve said. Alex Salmond has, to my knowledge, never been pictured on a magazine cover gazing wistfully at an empty crib, so why do we do this to our female politicians? #tribe

  2. Love this. I can’t believe people still ask this stuff!! It’s awful. I’m sure I read ages ago that people were implying Hillary Clinton shouldn’t run for President as she would be a grandmother and would miss out on time with her grandkids!!! I mean, really?!

  3. Oh god that times piece the other day that had a picture of a number of ‘childless politicians’ all female of course. It’s so tedious. But goes to show that raising children is still considered a female occupation, and also that a woman’s occupation should be raising children, and if she’s not doing that what has she been doing ?? Great post #stayclassymama

  4. I totally agree with this. Its hard in the professional world to get part time work. I’m lucky that my lovely mum is looking after baby girl when I go back to work next month full time. I don’t want to go back full time but needs must. xx
    #triballove

  5. Completely agree with everything you say. I think that it is Norway where the men have to take three months paternity leave as well. I think that’s right. We seem so far behind in the UK when it comes to the rights of mums and dads.

  6. Agree completely! Careers shouldn’t end or become monumentally difficult once motherhood starts. Where do companies think their customers come from anyway?!
    #StayClassyMama

  7. As soon as i saw the title in the #StayClassyMama linky…i KNEW i had to read it. I have literally just written a post about this exact same thing. It’s absolutely NUTS that in 2016 we are even interested in whether a woman in power, or anywhere else for that matter wanted/wants or has kids. NUTS! Love this!

  8. Oh I can’t tell you how much I love this post. Brilliantly put!!

  9. Good post. It’s just expected dad’s will work and mums will do all the baby shizz. I’m bored of people judgmentally asking if I’m going back to work. Yes I am as I’d go mad otherwise! #effitfriday

  10. Hell yeah! Dave and I have pretty much had this conversation today. He misses out being the Dad and wants to take part in the care more. We’re putting wheels in motion to put this in place somehow at home. Wish us luck! #ablogginggoodtime

  11. Totally agree! The problem is that whilst the questions are sexist, they are pointing to an underlying problem. In the majority of families it’s the woman that takes on childcare not the bloke. The gender pay gap for instance kicks in after women have children.

    If we want to get to a place where these questions seem stupid, or we expect them to be asked of men leaders, than dads need to be seen as equally responsible for raising the kids.
    #Fortheloveofblog

  12. Isn’t it incredible in this day and age that women are still questioned this way? Fathers are never asked these question and why? Because they are men and there role is in the office. What an archaic attitude we still suffer. When will it change? Will it ever change? #fortheloveofblog

  13. Excellent post! Your opening sentence really made me smile but you’re so right. This issue has been raised time and time again and still the media jump on it – and for that sheer fact it is still newsworthy. So have you asked Mr Popple the question? I’ve got some very close friends who are directors in the city and their husbands are at home and they’ve kindly organised experience days for my girls and their peers – wonderful for them to see women working at this level even though they’ve got families at home. Really enjoyed this post #DreamTeam

  14. Yes, yes, yes. All day long. I wrote a similar article recently as I was really annoyed by what’s been in the press recently around women who don’t have children. It’s such a stupid and offensive debate. #dreamteam

  15. I LOVE THIS. Seriously. What a great post. You are SO right, such a great way to put it, would they have asked him if he could handle life after his wife had a baby? Lol it’s laughable but also quite a serious matter. I have wrote before that it’s very hard “having it all” but my boyfriend ALSO thinks it’s hard having it all. It’s just hard in general having kids whether your a mum or dad. It shouldn’t matter if they are a mum, like you said, dads are not asked whether they can have kids and be successful? WTF. This shouldn’t even be an issue that’s discussed. Thanks for sharing this amazing post with #StayClassyMama!

  16. You should follow @manwhohasitall, a brilliant Twitter account that flips all those hoary cliches to men to highlight the double standards and ridiculous demands e.g.

    “Saturday is dad’s pampering day! Pamper yourself by catching up on what’s wrong with the way you look, breathe, speak & eat.”

    #StayClassyMama

  17. very well said hun. I hate the ridiculously biased questions that they ask women but I am glad to see you sticking up for the dads too. Hubby would love me to go back full-time and him be the stay at home dad. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

  18. I agree that this isn’t a question that should asked really. It should be down to the family what they choose and it’s a personal choice. If work was more flexible, there would be no reason to choose between anything in the first place. Thank you for linking up to the #DreamTeam

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