Kate Ellis MP: On the campaign trail with a baby under her arm.

Politicians. They’re just like us.

I know, I know. As we hurtle into three months of wall-to-wall election noise, any empathy we hold for our elected representatives is already dangling by a very fine thread.

But it’s true. They are people. Some of them are even women. Not enough of them, obviously, but some.

What’s it like being a pollie about to face your biggest job interview with a one-year-old along for the ride? Let Kate Ellis MP tell you, on the latest episode of I Don’t Know How She Does It. Right here:

Kate Ellis, for example. She was the youngest woman ever elected to the House Of Representatives, aged 26 in 2004. In 2010, the Labor member for Adelaide became Minister for Employment Participation and Early Childhood and continued to hold high office throughout the tumultuous political era that followed.

In April last year, she and her husband, journalist David Penberthy, had a baby, Samuel. His wasn’t a peaceful arrival, but it was a joyful one.

The MP put this picture of Samuel on her Facebook page with the words: "Thanks for the best wishes on the birth of my beautiful boy. Samuel Christopher Ellis Penberthy is a little champion. Can't thank the amazing staff at Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital enough."

And now, the Shadow Minister for Education and Early Childhood is in full campaign mode with baby Sam under her arm. As she splits life between Adelaide and Canberra, he goes everywhere with her.

And in this very frank interview, Kate paints a much friendlier picture of parents in Parliament than you may have heard before. One where babies kick about on office floors and political foes come together to coo over prams. Rather than bemoaning the long hours of life of a politician, she says she is blessed to be able to do what she loves, with her baby in tow. She knows that not every - hardly any, in fact - working mothers get to be so lucky.


Kate married journalist David Penberthy in Adealiade in February, 2013. 

So how IS she just like us?

She's honest about birthing babies:

"I was genuinely shocked by childbirth and just how horrendous it really is. For me personally, it was more painful than I imagined anyone could ever feel... I just thought it wouldn't be that bad."

She thinks she ought to be meditating to combat stress, but in reality...

"If I'm being really honest with you... sometimes I just need to sit down and drink a glass of wine."

Kate at work.  during the Australian Youth Olympics Team Assembly and Departure at the Sydney Olmpic Park Novatel/Sydney International Airport on August 12, 2010 in Sydney, Australia.

She knows the TV is a convenient babysitter:

"I've read the studies about screen time... I was like 'I will never sit my child in front of the television.' And sure enough [Samuel] has his favourite shows that he loves and make him laugh and make him sit quietly for a while and I would be lying to you if I said I didn't take full advantage of that."

And she bores her colleagues to bits with baby photos:

"I've been surprising by just how much joy a small human being can bring you... I know that all of my colleagues, when we're sitting in parliament waiting for a vote... have had to sit there and deal with the hundreds of photographs I have on my phone."

Listen to the podcast for more.

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