I’m sorry, but why isn’t Miriam Dalli’s husband taking the baby to work?

Published: October 17, 2016 at 11:25am

Miriam Dalli, a Maltese member of the European Parliament in the Socialist Group, has uploaded a photograph on her Facebook page showing her holding her baby, with a pushchair beside her, during a committee meeting of the European Parliament.

As somebody who has long been committed to gender equality and equality of parenthood, I really can’t bear this sort of thing. It is the very opposite of what it purports to be, and rather than helping the image of women with children, it undermines it by shoring up and bringing forth the old prejudices which women have struggled against for generations. It reinforces the notion that babies and children are entirely the mother’s responsibility, and that women, unlike men, can’t cope with both parenthood and work and must drag their infants around with them wherever they go, even to the workplace.

I’m quite certain that the European Parliament is packed to the gills with men who have babies and toddlers, but do we see them taking their babies and toddlers in to work with them, and cradling them alongside a pushchair during committee meetings? Do we see them uploading photographs on Facebook of this particular gender achievement?

No, we don’t. It is particularly offensive because the European Parliament has full creche services for infants. This means that any member of the European Parliament, whether mother or father, can leave infants there. So why is the Dalli infant being taken to committee meetings?

When a woman like Miriam Dalli, who is in a prominent position, takes her baby – complete with pushchair – in to work with her, and not to the workplace nursery but actually in to work with her, then publicises this fact, what she is doing is not striking a blow for gender equality or women’s rights, but it’s very opposite.

She is consolidating the popular prejudice that childcare is 100% the mother’s responsibility, so much so that the mother has got to take the baby to work while the father goes off blithely unencumbered by nappies, pushchairs and mid-morning feeds. Dalli is not a single mother. Not only is the baby’s father in the picture, but she is also married to him. So what we need now is a Facebook photograph of her husband, John Vella, at work with baby Kane in his arms.

Which brings up another question. Mr Vella, whose father is the European Commissioner and former Labour government minister Karmenu Vella, moved to Brussels along with his wife, children and parents. Is he working there, or is he a househusband? If he is a househusband, then he should be looking after the children. And if he is working, then given the Maltese-government-linked status of both his father and his wife, perhaps we should be told what Brussels job he has and how he got it.

But the bottom line remains this: 1. women who are not single mothers should not behave as though they are; and 2. women should do nothing to undermine themselves and other women by decorating themselves with babies, bottles, nappies and pushchairs in the office or the equivalent. Taking the baby to the office nursery is one thing. Putting the baby on your lap during a committee meeting is another thing altogether. It’s totally unprofessional, inconsiderate to others, and presumes that you have special privileges. If everybody has a baby and takes it to committee meetings jiggling it around on his or her lap, committee meetings would be like parent-and-baby groups.

Read more about it here.