May 8, 2016 10:28 am

The challenges of work-life balance for moms on Parliament Hill

Conservative MP Lisa Raitt and NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau join Vassy Kapelos on this Mother's Day for a discussion about work-life balance as parents working on Parliament Hill.

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Just about every parent has to engage in a juggling act to keep up with the demands of work and raising a family, and it’s no different for members of Parliament with kids at home.

On this Mother’s Day, two House of Commons moms joined Vassy Kapelos to talk about how they manage to represent their constituents and still make it home in time to watch a rugby practice or go over homework.

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“Every parent works hard,” said Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, who has two boys aged 11 and 14. “Everyone juggles. We just do it in public.”

NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who is a single mother of a 15-year-old son, agreed that balance is possible. In her case, the support of extended family has been crucial.

“My parents help out a lot to make sure that when he gets home from school he has somebody to help him do his homework, make sure he eats and that’s he’s up to some good stuff,” she said. “I’m really lucky to have the support of my family.”

Changes on the Hill, including more flexibility in work schedules and a private room for parents of young children to have time to themselves are helping, she added.

NDP MP Christine Moore has blazed a trail for new mothers by bringing her infant daughter, Daphnee, into the House of Commons itself.

NDP MP Christine Moore holds her daughter Daphnee.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

“It’s getting better, not just for moms but also for dads too,” said Brosseau. “We can’t forget it takes two to tango.”

For women who aren’t moms yet thinking about politics, said Raitt, “my advice would be you can do it all, and you should. If you have a desire to have kids, you should have kids. And it should not be an impediment to anything you want to do in life. And it can be tough and you can work it out, but life isn’t easy.”

Neither Brosseau or Raitt are supportive of a move to reduce the number of sitting days in the House to four each week, extending hours during the sitting days to compensate. The MPs said that balance is already made possible by coordinating with party whips, and reducing the work-week would not necessarily help them.

“Making a decision to run for elected office knowing that it’s in Ottawa, when you have kids, it’s a decision you don’t take lightly,” Raitt explained. “It is a team sport.”

Watch the full discussion above.

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