"The Senate does not allow for work-family reconciliation"

Catalan Socialist ordered a recess in order to breastfeed her baby daughter

Pineda wants senators to be able to cast their votes online.
Pineda wants senators to be able to cast their votes online.PERE DURÁN

When she was the mayor of Salt (Girona), Iolanda Pineda ordered a recess in a plenary session so she could breastfeed her baby daughter. She felt hurt later when some people accused her of "putting the child's interests ahead of those of the municipality."

More recently Pineda, now a senator for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), took her second child to a session to demand the right to vote online while she is home on maternity leave. This time, her initiative was better received she says. "He was everyone's toy for a while," she recalls.

The two-month-old Narcís lies asleep in his stroller while his mother, sitting at a table inside a Girona restaurant, criticizes the position of Senate Speaker Pío García-Escudero, of the Popular Party (PP), who said the matter of online voting would be analyzed "without any rush."

For one thing, the PP's majority in the Senate means it is irrelevant whether senators on leave are able to vote or not, the speaker noted.

But Pineda, 36, thinks that approving online voting - something that Congress has already done - should be a priority.

"The current situation does not allow for work-family reconciliation," she says. "I want to nurse my child until he is six months old."

Right now, senators on maternity leave cannot vote from home, nor can any senator on extended sick leave. "If I'd taken my entire leave, what would my group have done without my vote for four months?" she wonders.

Setting an example

Pineda says the issue goes beyond simply losing a few votes. "A politicians' job is to legislate for the citizens, but first we have to set an example. The only thing that's required is a computer and an internet connection!"

Of course, reconciling work and family life is not just up to her. Her husband, a consultant for the PSC, shares childrearing duties with Iolanda.

"When people talk about reconciling, it is generally understood that it's the woman who should do it. But men should get a real taste of paternity," she says.

The birth of her eldest child coincided with her period as mayor of a town where immigrants represent 40 percent of the population and clashes with the native population had feelings running high.

In that situation, her work left her little time for anything else.

"In my case, it was grandma and especially dad who did all the reconciling," she notes.

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