Author Archives: Eleanor Rylance

It’s probably not the budgie

Katie (not her real name) put out a desperate plea on her community Facebook page, the battle cry of a mother at the end of her tether. A tenant of one of the region’s largest housing associations, she was living on the ground floor of a newly built block of flats in the ward I had represented for just a few weeks.

It was 2017 and Katie had lived for 3 years in the two-bedroom ground floor flat with her partner and their two tiny children, one 3 years old and the other a fragile 3 month old newborn who’d been born prematurely. The baby had had multiple trips to hospital with bronchitis in his very short life, and multiple courses of antibiotics.

Katie was convinced that the source of her baby’s health issues was the mould and damp in their flat. Shoes and toys left overnight on the floor went mouldy. The soft furnishings had had to be replaced twice in three years because they were rotting into the damp carpet. Katie spent every day cleaning, bleaching, and washing, and overnight the mould would return to anything left on the ground. Walking across the carpet in socks led to wet socks.

Katie’s mental health was suffering badly. She was cleaning all day, wiping down surfaces obsessively, but still failing to keep her children safe and healthy. She could get nobody who ought to have cared to take any interest. She felt judged at every turn. She feared being kicked out by the housing association for complaining too much. She felt as though she had no rights.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 13 Comments

I’m delighted it’s Jo, even though I voted for Ed

I spoke at party conference in the Spring and said, amongst other things, that I had no idea why I hadn’t started sooner in politics. The truth is I knew full well.

Back in the early 1990s, when I had my first child at the age of 25, and a couple more in a short space of time, only one of us *had* to take time off straight after the birth. Maternity segued into parental leave after the second child. My husband and I have a pretty egalitarian household but it would have been financial suicide for us to use paid childcare that early in our lives- we would have ended up paying over not only my entire salary, but also some of my husband’s- it simply wasn’t financially viable.

After the first child, I went back to work, but it seemed that everywhere I turned I was on the “mummy track”, not expected to be ambitious, expected in fact to focus my entire world around my children. Which of course every new parent does. Paternity leave did not exist, even in my husband’s forward-thinking workplace. Society at large expected care of the children to be the mother’s, not the father’s, concern. The entirety of society was built around that premise- for example, my children’s school finished at 2:50pm- there was no after-school care because the headteacher thought children should be at home after that time. There was great judgement cast on mothers who worked when their children were small.

I started to be politically active 3 years ago. I’ve passed the age now where I care what people think about my parenting. Alongside my three now very accomplished 20-somethings, I also have a 9 year old and in 2019, no-one in the Liberal Democrats seems to think that puts me out of the running for anything. I’m older, and I live in a beautiful bubble of determination and bullheaded refusal to take any hints about how I *should* parent my fourth child. Society has also moved on slightly.

Every time I see Jo Swinson in passing, I mention to her how lovely it is to see her making speeches with baby Gabriel strapped to her front, how much of an inspiration it is to see her forging ahead babies and all. I I forget that I’m living in a bubble hewn from my own experiences.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments
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