HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: Working mothers know the truth behind this photo.

A man brought his baby to work yesterday and made history.

Victorian Labor Senator Raff Ciccone took his 10-week-old son into the Australian Senate chamber and became the first-ever male politician on the job with an infant in arms.

It was, he says, a symbolic visit to encourage more fathers to be active parents, and more workplaces to be inclusive and family-focused.

And thank God for that.

Watch: Madeleine West gives tips for working mums. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Fathers elevating the status of active fathering - and by that I mean actual care-giving, not just kicking the footy about on a Saturday morning - is a crucial part of many women being able to actually have a fulfilling work and home life, and not just to be doing all of the jobs, all of the time.

"It's essential that all workplaces create a family friendly and respectful environment," Senator Ciccone told AAP. "Bringing your child to work should be encouraged by more workplaces wherever possible."

There's another reason why this was a great idea. Ciccone brought his son to work on the second anniversary of the Set The Standard report, which was full of recommendations for taking Australian Parliament's blokey, boozy, late-night culture and turning it into something resembling, you know, an actual workplace. Children being welcome in the corridors of power has been a step towards that, and the more depictions of the kinds of people who can and do work in our government are extraordinarily welcome.


So there’s a lot to love about Senator Ciccone's moment.

And it's also worth saying this:

Many working mothers know that the day you had to bring your baby to the office was the day when everything went wrong.

Childcare options one and two (and three) fell through, for a variety of inevitable s**t-fight reasons. There was literally no-one left to hold the baby, and it also happened to be a day you couldn't possibly miss. It might be the day you had to ask a sympathetic co-worker if they could rock the stroller for a moment while you do the thing you absolutely had to, all the while feeling like a harried failure, knowing that an urgent job isn't getting your full attention, and nor is your baby, who is possibly wondering why Sarah from accounts is suddenly trying to get them to take a dummy.

For many working mothers, doing their job while balancing a baby on their knee is an infrequent necessity, but rarely a planned one. Because caring for a baby is work. And your paid work is work. And the ideal scenario for many people is not doing both at once. Or at least not too often.

Of course there are myriad exceptions to this. Women have worked with babies strapped to their backs for millennia. Family businesses have run with preschoolers playing on the floor and the baby sleeping under the register for ever. Women founders have started mega-brands with the baby sleeping at their feet.

But for the majority of ordinary working women, we need our children to be safe and happy elsewhere for us to be free to do our work where we've agreed to do it.


The mark of a family-friendly workplace is not that they will tolerate the presence of your baby. It's how easy or difficult it is for you to do your job and be a parent at all. Ever.

Flexible work hours. Having some control over start and finish times.

The ability to sometimes work remotely, if possible.

Being open to you discussing what your return to work looks like after taking parental leave.

Not making all the career-advancing socialising opportunities after-hours, interstate or always revolving around drinking or sport.

Outside of the workplace, the thing that makes the difference for working parents of pre-school-age children is access to affordable, reliable, quality childcare. For many parents in many parts of Australia, that's still a pipedream.

More quality before and after school care programs.

Well-paid parental leave schemes, and more men taking them up.

All of these things make a real difference to whether it's possible to work and parent well, regardless of the lottery of whether grandparents are healthy, local and willing or whether you have the money to enlist bespoke childcare options.

It's a wonderful thing that an Australian Senator is being celebrated for bringing his beautiful baby boy to work.

But there's a whole lot more to building a family-friendly workplace than tolerating your baby for a few, squally hours.

Feature Image: Instagram @albomp.

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