Campaigning with babies
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This article was published 22/10/2018 (1446 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The unseasonably cold October evening doesn’t seem to bother Sophia Jacks. The two-month old is bundled head-to-toe and is happily cooing while her mom knocks on doors and hands out pamphlets on Garfield Street in the West End.
Yijie Chen is running for school trustee in Winnipeg School Division’s Ward 6 and has been bringing her new daughter on the campaign trail since she was two-weeks old.
The mother of two decided to run when she was pregnant with Sophia and says she’s had largely positive reactions at the doorstep.
“They think it’s amazing that I’m carrying my newborn to knock on doors,” she said. “It’s kind of inspired me to keep going.”
That’s not to say the journey has been easy. Chen has been dealing with unpredictable weather and the needs of a new baby while trying to connect with voters.
“Her health is the first priority,” she said. “I’m breastfeeding and I need to stop every one-and-a-half or two hours to feed her in the car and also change her diapers.”
She adds that support from family, and her children’s grandparents in particular, has been integral for her during her run for trustee.
Despite the logistical challenges of campaigning as a new mother, Chen wants to show other women that motherhood and politics don’t have to be mutually exclusive. She says she was inspired, in part, to run after hearing about Judy Wasylycia-Leis breastfeeding her son in the Manitoba Legislature as an MLA in the 80s.
“I want to be a role model for other young women who want to run for office,” she said. “It’s so important that we have diverse representation at all levels of government.”
Cindy Murdoch agrees that visibility is important and says she was similarly inspired by Australian member of parliament Larissa Waters breastfeeding her daughter while reading a bill last summer.
“It’s a huge difference from where we were shaming that in the decades previous,” said Murdoch, who is running for school trustee in WSD Ward 5 and gave birth to her first child a month ago.
Murdoch, who lives in the McMillan neighbourhood, says being pregnant gave her the motivation to run because she started thinking about what her son’s school experience might be like in the future. She was nine months along while doing the bulk of her campaigning and says it’s been more challenging than she expected with a newborn.
“I thought I would just put him in my sling… but it’s too cold to take him out with me and of course he needs to feed all the time,” Murdoch said.
Canvassing has turned into short-lived car trips to do a block of door-knocking at a time and candidate forums have become harder to attend without extra help from her family. While she hopes less time on the doorstep doesn’t hurt her at the polls, she says the experience has been worthwhile.
“I think it’s up to everyone to decide if they’re able to balance their family life with running, but I don’t think it should be a barrier,” Murdoch said. “I want my son to grow up seeing that you can do anything you want but you have to work hard for it.”