Natasha Stott Despoja: ‘My office was asked for my breast-feeding schedule.’

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Natasha Stott Despoja is an icon to the women of Generation X.

By the age of 26 she was representing South Australia in the Senate for the Democrats. The youngest woman in Australian history to do so.

All while wearing Doc Martins. Of course. It was the 90s.

Two years later, at 28, she was appointed Deputy of the party. By 2001, she was leading it.

She spent over 15 years working in Parliament. But after the birth of her first child Conrad, she realised that things were a little different.

Now the Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha sat down with Mia Freedman to talk about life after politics, her kids and the idea of having it all.

“I think I realised very early on (after becoming a mum) that the combination of travel, as well as long hours, was going to make it difficult. There was no childcare facilities on site… When I saw that [new] childcare centre at Parliament House… I shed a little tear. Because it would have changed my life.”

“I remember when I first came back to Parliament after having Conrad… and at one point someone said to me ‘look we were wondering if we could have a copy of the Senator’s breastfeeding schedule?”

Listen to Natasha talk about that incident here:

Yes, you really did just read that.

“And I was like, ah, it doesn’t really work like that.”

“20 years ago…politics was so rigidly defined. Middle-aged men in suits who debated in the parliament.” Natasha told Mia.

The idea that Natasha could do her job while her son was in the same room seemed unthinkable at the time.

The Australian did this glorious picture of me with my son in the office, and it was a proud moment – you know I’m back at work. And the columnists and the letters – some women wrote in saying…’Well if she cared for her child she wouldn’t be in politics all together.'”

Natasha with Conrad. Image via Twitter.

"And I just thought - why do we judge? The idea that Conrad was sitting in my in-tray during the day - he wasn't."

In 2006, Natasha decided to resign from politics.

"I felt ready to have a career change and a lifestyle break and be there for some of my kids' formative years."

"Some people viewed it through this prism of 'yet another woman showing that they can't do it'."

Like a failure of feminism.

"To my knowledge, I don't know if anyone can have it all at the same time. And I often wonder how we dare ask that of women. When we'd never even contemplate men sitting around going 'Can we have it all?' Why do we ask that of each other? It's ridiculous. Of course we have to prioritise - there are different aspects of life. Different life stages. And to see it viewed as a failure or either a personal failure...that somehow women with children couldn't be in politics was the last thing I wanted."

Listen to the full episode here:

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