Estonian education minister criticized for taking baby to work

Estonia's Education Minister, Mailis Reps, has six small children -- the youngest is one year old -- and she has never taken maternity leave. In Estonia this is unprecedented, and she often gets criticized for it.

Marian Männi
Marian Männi Eesti Ekspress, Estonia
Source: Eesti Ekspress
Estonian education minister criticized for taking baby to work - NewsMavens
Mailis Reps and Charlotte 2017, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Minister Mailis Reps has never taken maternity leave. Estonia has an exceptional maternity leave package, and usually women in Estonia prefer to take advantage of the year-and-a-half leave with full salary. Employers are also obliged to keep new mothers employed for up to three years, so they can do so without risking endangering their position.

But Reps chose to go back to work on the fourth day of her sixth baby's life. The child goes everywhere with her, just like her other children before.

Reps says she wanted to give up her position as a minister and go back to being a member of the parliament after her youngest was born, but the Prime Minister Jüri Ratas wanted her to stay.

People are extremely critical of her choice, Reps says.

"I know I'm seen as a careerist, who lives and works at the expense of her children," she adds. "People think that if you're not home with your children, then children suffer." But had she chosen to use all of her maternity leave, Reps would have stayed home for nine years -- quite a blow to one's political career.

Details from the story:

  • Reps has never taken maternity leave, but has brought her youngest to work with her. She doesn't want to leave her baby home because she's in favor of breastfeeding. 
  • Reps' husband is a Latvian lawyer who comes home for the weekends. Reps has a babysitter to help out at home.
  • During foreign visits she either hires a babysitter or her advisor watches her baby. The baby brings excitement to the dull atmosphere of politics, Reps says.
  • Reps is not the only public official to bring her young child to work either out of neccessity or as a gesture of protest. 
  • In Spain in 2016, Podemos parliamentary deputy Carolina Bascansa was criticized by both conservatives and feminists after she brought her five-month-old son to work.
  • In Argentina in 2016, parliamentary deputy Victoria Donda brought her baby to Congress and received strong criticism when she breastfed the child during the session.
  • Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli brought her one-month old baby to a session of the European Parliament in 2010 during a debate about women's rights and opportunities. Ronzuili stated she brought her baby along to illustrate the difficulties women face when trying to juggle jobs and child care. She has often brought her daughter to official sessions since then.
  • Swedish MEP Jytte Guteland brought her son to a Parliament session in 2017 in a call for more “child-friendly” work spaces for women. 
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