To use the House of Commons as a crèche is unacceptable - Christa Ackroyd

There is so much childish behaviour in Parliament that you might think one more baby won’t make a scrap of difference.

Labour MP Stella Creasy caused a stir when she brought her three-month old son into the Commons chamber this week. (PA).

You might also think, as an ardent supporter of women, I would be right behind the MP who is furious that she was ticked off for bringing her baby into the chamber to lead an important debate. I am not.

Women in Parliament have come a long way since Nancy Astor took her seat in the Commons just over a century ago and made history. And I would be the first to say that for our electoral system to truly reflect the nation, it is absolutely essential that MPs represent all of us, which means 50 per cent of the nation who just happen to be female. And that includes mothers.

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But – and it is a big but – the furore over Stella Creasy being reprimanded after leading a debate on “buy now pay later” consumer credit schemes while carrying her three-month-old son in a sling, does nothing to dismiss the claim that MPs know nothing about what happens in the real world.

Yes, as a working mother, she should be encouraged and supported and her life made easier. Yes, her son at such a tender age needs care and attention. But her outrage does nothing to change the lives of working mothers or the better, because for the vast majority they have no option but to try and juggle both – and that is what she should be focusing on.

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She is a prime example of how impossible it often is. And how trying to do both often leads to criticism.

There are millions of working mothers balancing their role as a mother and their role at work. As a result, there are still too many women who fall by the wayside when that task becomes too great.

There are still too many companies who lose out on talented and dedicated employees because they are reluctant to make the change necessary to ensure good women, brilliant at their jobs, are not forced to choose.

But Stella Creasy’s indignation does nothing for them for one simple reason. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of women cannot ever take their babies into work. Unless of course you happen to own the company and then you can do what you like.

And to suggest MPs should be different is simply another example of their oft entitled behaviour. Nor is the workplace the right place for a child. No matter how well behaved.

Female MPs in the House of Commons have been granted the right to attend debates if they are breast feeding. And to a point I agree. If there is urgent house business, if there are votes to be cast, emerging crises to be debated then as every working mother will know to ignore a hungry baby is wrong.

But to use the debating chamber as a permanent crèche is equally as unacceptable.

Which brings me round to the sort of reforms and recognition of the difficult role for working mothers which need to happen both in our seat of power and in many other organisations.

Firstly, it is totally wrong that women are made to choose between being valued for their work and valued as mothers. And both Parliament and businesses in general can do more.

Small wonder that women either can’t or don’t enter politics if they also want a family. Or don’t achieve their potential in the workplace.

Women MPs who have just given birth and are on leave are not allowed a proxy vote. That must change. There is a nursery at the Houses of Parliament where they can pay for day-care. But why not a crèche for the ad hoc, but necessary, times when it is vital MPs are in attendance?

And what if the debate which affects your constituents happens at silly o’clock. Oh, it’s alright for the blokes who have handed over childcare to their partners to slump around the chamber in the evening. Which is why the House of Commons is often so blokey.

But no, it’s the woman who is forced to choose between serving her family or serving her community. And that means we all lose out. On that I agree with Ms Creasy, it is wrong.

But it is a dilemma facing working women everywhere. And the answer does not lie in picking up the baby and pretending he or she is not there. Nor is the House of Commons with its often raucous and ridiculous behaviour conducive to a calm environment for a sleeping child. Though let’s be honest, there are many MPs who have managed to sleep like babies through matters of state.

Thirty-odd years later, I still remember the guilt of going back to work and leaving my child in someone else’s care. My mother was horrified and did all she could, but to rely on grandparents is not the answer either.

In this day and age companies must look at the bottom line when it comes to supporting women in their quest for both a family and career. Let’s face it, we have the brain power to do both. By that I mean it is a well-documented fact that a company made up of a truly representative workforce is the best.

Not to mention the most successful. And that must include our seat of power too. Flexible working, job sharing, in-house child care as well as working from home should all play their part. But when you consider the cost of training, nurturing and developing female talent, it is simply an outdated cliché to suggest there is nothing more to be done to encourage women to stay.

Child care in the House of Commons, as in many workplaces, needs to be reconsidered. To do otherwise is simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater and benefits no one.

But, equally, strapping a baby to your chest and hoping he or she doesn’t wake up is not the solution either.