An MP is taking paternity leave and voting by proxy – welcome to our world of judgement and sacrifices

A former in-law of mine was horrified at my insistence of pursuing my career dreams after I'd had a child. 'Being a mother,' he informed me, 'is the most important job in my book.' Where would we be without men from the Jurassic period telling us what motherhood is about

MP Bim Afolami to become first father in British parliamentary history to vote by proxy while on paternity leave

Conservative MP Bim Afolami has made history as the first male MP to take paternity leave and vote by proxy. It was only last month that the rules were changed following Labour MP Harriet Harman's long campaign for nursing mothers and sleep deprived dads to not have to haul themselves into parliament when they should be lying in a tea tree bath (new mothers) and making Pot Noodles and endless cups of tea that no one has time to drink (new fathers).

Tulip Siddiq was the first woman MP to be able to vote by proxy. Parental leave is physically crucial for mothers (obviously some adopt or have surrogates...but crucial nonetheless). Paternity leave is still not seen as essential but it is. Not taking paternity leave deprives fathers of that glorious skin-on-skin bonding with the cub and sharing that delicious baby bubble time that none of us ever get back.

Afolami took the decision to talk publicly about his paternity leave because otherwise he would “feed the myth that to be a real man in the workplace you don't take baby leave, you keep your head down”.

It's a sad truth that working mums are generally not seen as ambitious in our jobs because we also care for children.

Mums have the added joy of being judged for wishing to return to work. A former in-law of mine was horrified at my insistence of pursuing my career dreams after I'd had a child. “Being a mother," he informed me, as though it was something he himself had been several times, “is the most important job in my book." Really? Looking after a human that you would fight a gang of tigers for? Important, you say? Well, I never. Where would we be without men from the Jurassic period telling us what motherhood is about!

No parent needs telling of the importance of our job, but we still have to eat and fulfil our dreams. I can't lie and say I work just to put food on the table; though that, of course, is a relief to be able to do.

I love my job. I need my job. I'm a standup comedian. I'm obsessive about it. If a week goes by without my doing standup, I get very friendly at bus stops.

Maternity leave would have been nice though. I didn't have it with either of my children. Taking six months out of work was unthinkable with my first because I was not yet established as a comic or writer and had work opportunities which, if I hadn't grabbed, I'd have lost perhaps forever. So my baby travelled with me on tour, he hung out with my mum in hotel rooms while I entertained the good folk of Great Britain in medium-sized art centres around the country.

With my second child, six years later, I was up on stage at the Latitude festival when she was five weeks old and I was still recovering from a cesarean. I could not turn down work because an expensive divorce and new home had cleaned out my bank balance. My baby girl's biological father had a different interpretation of “paternity leave” and was long gone before she was even born. Maternity leave was not an option.

All kids, given a choice, want you home all the time but part of the year, I have to go on tour (which, by the way, I am right now with my new show Skittish Warrior, Confessions of A Club Comic. You can book tickets here: shappi.co.uk. What? I can't promote my tour in my own column now??? What are you? A COMMUNIST???)

This half term, because of work, the only outing my children had with their mum was a trip to the bank. I could feel bad about this, or I could get on with it as millions of other mums do every day. (Besides, the bank staff gave them a free lolly each. Take THAT Disneyland Paris!)

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They miss me when I'm away for work but I take them with me as much as I can. They've travelled all over the world with me (if their school asks, yes, it was a particular nasty cold virus around in west London around the time the Melbourne Comedy Festival was on).

Ahead of this year's tour, I bought them a puppy, a golden retriever we named Taylor. The hound was secured in the hope that she would be a comfort and distraction to the kids on nights that I'm away. But, this week, my five-year-old daughter sat in the dog basket, cuddling the pup as I was leaving for my first tour show in Leicester, and tearfully said, “Your plan didn't work. Now there is THREE of us who miss you.”

So, this weekend, I'm packing the car up with the kids AND the puppy and continuing my tour in Lincoln and Nottingham because, when you're a working mum, you just have to roll with it. I salute those who feel the chaos and do it anyway.

If you're coming to the shows, bring chocolate. And poo bags.

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