Ruth Davidson gave birth to a baby boy, and it’s a bigger deal than you think
I was really happy to hear the news that Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson recently gave birth to a baby boy. Not because news about new babies is generally happy news (although it is), and not because I’m a big Ruth Davidson fan (she is a Tory, after all). I was happy because I live in a country where a gay conservative politician can have a baby while serving as party leader, and that’s something worth celebrating.
When I heard the news, I immediately thought of America, especially in light of the upcoming midterm elections and the record number of women running for office. Would it be possible, I wondered, for a female Republican leader to announce that she was going to take time out from politics to have a baby with her female partner? It seems absurd. This is, after all, a party with little respect for women in a country that has no federally mandated maternity leave. Yet in Scotland, it’s no big deal.
Except it is, because of how rare it is for ANY sitting politician to give birth while in office.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto became the first modern head of government to give birth while in office in 1990 – and then it didn’t happen again for another 27 years, when Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Arden announced that she was pregnant. Oh, and that her unmarried male partner was going to be a stay-at-home dad. Because, you know, she’s Prime Minister, and he’s not.
On the other side of the world, Tammy Duckworth recently made history by becoming the first US senator to give birth while in office, and even brought her infant daughter to Congress the day after it overturned a longstanding baby ban. She’s one of only 10 female US lawmakers to have given birth while serving in Congress (she had her first child while serving in the House of Representatives in 2014), yet she found it ridiculous that people kept talking about how ‘historic’ her pregnancy was.
“The whole being the first sitting senator to give birth I think is ridiculous. It’s 2018, we need more female senators, there are only 22 of us. But I’ve been a little overwhelmed by how landmark it is when it shouldn’t be – it’s the 21st century,” she said.
Umm, yeah. Good point. She also noted that because of the lack of female senators, there was no maternity leave policy in the Senate, so she was just going to have to wing it.
Ruth Davidson, on the other hand, has announced that she doesn’t plan to return to the Scottish Parliament until spring of next year, giving her a good six months to come to grips with parenthood. As for juggling her new role as a mother and her career as a politician, Ruth is confident that it’s possible.
“I don’t think that we should limit a woman’s choices by whether she had children or not. Her ability to do her job shouldn’t be impacted,” she said.
“It does require organisation to do both, you can’t have all of the time in all of the world, but you can have a family and combine that with a career, and I don’t think we should ever send a message to women that they can’t have both.”
Amen, sister. Here’s to Ruth, her new son Finn, and the idea that being a mother and being a politician aren’t mutually exclusive. The best way to get our governments to pass policies that support women, our families and our careers is to have more mothers representing us.
So what are you waiting for? Go out there and get yourself elected, mama.
Top image © The Scottish Parliament (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C74IKPNPhM) [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons