The Italian MEP who brings her daughter to work is highlighting the stark choice facing many women: career or motherhood?

When Ronzulli took her child to work, she did it not to be political but to be maternal

Share

The photograph of the week comes courtesy of Licia Ronzulli. The Italian MEP was seen hard at work in a voting session in Strasbourg, with her toddler daughter Vittoria on her knee. When she voted, so did Vittoria, and so did her Teletubby, Po.

At three years old, Vittoria is already a veteran of the European Parliament, though to judge from her jeans and bright red coat she has not had the memo about the Eurocrats’ sombre dress code. Ronzulli, 38, and a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s party, has been taking her daughter to work since Vittoria was six weeks old. On her first appearance the baby slept in a sling and was fed between votes. Then came the snoozy bobble hat phase, the boisterous terrible twos phase and the pink teddy bear phase. There may yet be a sulky, grounded tween who is not allowed out of her mother’s sight phase, too.

The pictures are wonderful. Not just because they are charming, but because they show how surreal it can be to be a working mother. When Ronzulli first parcelled her daughter up in a sling and marched into parliament, she did it not to be political but to be maternal, she said. She was still breastfeeding and had to come into work to vote, to do her job and earn a crust. As her daughter has grown, she has become a powerful symbol. “I have been bringing her along because I want to show the difficulties faced by a woman who works and is also a mother,” said Ronzulli.

The conundrum of having it all cannot be simply solved by having it all in the same place, at the same time. Ronzulli’s solution is not practical for most mothers. Whether surgeons, firefighters or secretaries, most women will not be able to take their children into their workplaces. Many of them probably would not want to. Their colleagues would likely protest; their children would likely be bored rigid.

Ronzulli is using her profile to shed light on the issues that affect working mothers. It is still an unusual novelty for men and women to split maternity/paternity leave equally. There are still not nearly enough workplace crèches or childcare options to ease women back into work. Flexible working hours are still viewed with suspicion in many businesses. I have friends with newborns who are torn between being a good mother and preserving the career they have spent the past decade building up. Like millions of mothers before them, they worry about being seen as inflexible or unprofessional when they leave on time to pick up from nursery. There is a pressure to carry on at work as if nothing has changed, when everything has changed.

Successfully having it all really means keeping it all separate – a perfect mother at home and a perfect employee at work, with neither role impinging on the other. Rather than pretending her child does not exist when she is at the office, Ronzulli is making visible the challenges of combining two roles. How brilliant it would be if by the time Vittoria is old enough to vote for real, she didn’t have to worry about those challenges at all.

Education is the new luxury

Wanted: a tutor. Must like travel, socialising, rowing and cash. A Swiss student at Cambridge University has advertised for a private tutor to help him to pass his first-year resits in natural sciences. The candidate will be paid £48,000 for 16 weeks’ work and will have to mentor the student in exam technique, essay writing and less academic pursuits, like fitting in.

As with the Arab businessman earlier this month who offered a £122,000 to anyone who could mould him into the ideal Oxford candidate, it is an extreme case. As tuition fees creep up, though, the idea of an education as a commodity to be traded or, worse, a luxury accessory for the super-rich, could become the norm.

Twitter: @alicevjones

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia  

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Oliver Poole
Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup