Andrea Jenkyns on working mothers: Sleep deprivation left me lost for words on live TV

by pregnancy journalist

For most families, the first few months as new parents can be a bit of a fog. Night feeds, early starts – you’re being pulled in all directions as you adjust to looking after a tiny person who doesn’t understand the benefit of a lie-in.

As the months pass, it usually gets better as the baby magically starts to “sleep through”, but for some parents whose child won’t settle or is teething, it can be a difficult combination as they return to work.

It’s a situation Andrea Jenkyns, Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood, knows well. Her son Clifford is three and a half, but wakes up three or four times a night. 

Such broken nights would be a struggle for most parents going to work the next day, but when you’re a high-profile MP it can be particularly difficult, as the eyes of the world are poring over your every word. For Jenkyns, there was one particular media interview that illustrated how hard it can be to function when you’re exhausted.   

 “I’ve done a few media performances and I remember one political show I went on, I forgot the word ‘economy’ It went out of my head,” she told the Telegraph’s podcast The Juggling Act., which you can listen to on the audio player above.

It’s a moment that most parents know, when you can’t recall a name or word because you’ve been up all night with a screaming baby.  But for Jenkyns, it was particularly difficult because she has a pre-existing health condition that sometimes causes her thoughts to be ‘fuzzy’. 

“When I do media I get terribly nervous,” she told the podcast. “I worry I’m going to trip over my words, forget words and with my health condition I get brain fog anyway.

“So that was hard.  I felt a bit stupid at times and you know what social media is like if you have not the greatest performance on TV. They can be quite cruel really.”

It’s an experience that crosses the political divide. Labour MP Stella Creasy told The Juggling Act how “every time I get up in Parliament, of course there’s that little voice – that I think lots of women have – that says, ‘well you’ll probably mess this up’,” she said.

Creasy said that she thought that social media was used like the “burn book” in the film Mean Girls where unpleasant comments are shared and then copied to the subject.

She said it was important for the public to remember that MPs are “human” and “have emotions”, as well as “good days, bad days, [as well as being] absolutely knackered because they’ve been up three times in the night with a crying baby”.

“I’m not going to pretend to you that it’s water off a duck’s back, because –  I mean – I don’t know anybody who is like that,” she said.

This week the Chancellor was accused of sexism after he told MPs that “mums everywhere” are owed a debt of thanks for “juggling childcare and work” during lockdown.

Rishi Sunak was responding to a question in the Commons about mothers who are working while dealing with childcare and home schooling responsibilities, but his focus on women raised eyebrows as some Parliamentarians and campaigners asked where all the fathers had gone.

This content was originally published here.

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