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What Do You Do if You Are a Cabinet Minister and Have a Baby?

President Nicolas SarkozyI’m so jealous of the French. Their politicians are just so much more exciting than ours. I adore president-elect Barak Obama but I can’t imagine he’s going to be embroiled in any kind of scandal that seems to be a requirement of any French cabinet minister – or President. First there was President Nicolas Sarkozy and his new wife, glamorous model Carla Bruni, for whom he dumped his wife and the mother of his children. Pregnancy rumors have been buzzing around the couple since they were first seen together, but so far, France’s First Lady does not seem to be having France’s First Baby.

And now, France’s justice minister, Rachida Dati, gave birth on Friday to a baby girl, Zohra. Brushing aside regular mom concerns like resting while pregnant, and maternity leave, 43-year-old Rachida worked throughout her pregnancy and plans to take only a week of maternity leave. Incidentally, France has one of the world’s most generous maternity leave programs, giving moms up to three years of paid maternity leave, tax breaks and subsidized child care.  If I get pregnant, I’m booking tickets to Paris!!

Miss Dati is at the center of France’s second high government soap opera because she refuses to name her baby’s father. Possible candidates include a French millionaire casino owner, the former president of another European country, and the younger brother of president Sarkozy.

There’s also fuss and bother over an upcoming cabinet reshuffle this month, with rumors that Rashida will be loosing her position, and the obvious question: would it be because she had a baby?  She’s reportedly working from her hospital bed, and taking less than a week of maternity leave signals obvious devotion to her job.

Her position is much more influential and significant than mine, so even though I quit work for a year after my son was born, I respect her decision to get back to her desk as soon as possible.

In 2009, more women than ever hold positions of power in governments around the world. We almost had a mom-of-5 and grandmother of one for our vice president. But what do you think about women with such important jobs having babies? Should they not have children so they can concentrate on their work, or should they be entitled to a break and maternity leave, with no penalty, as most of us are legally entitled? Or is the right thing to do somewhere in the middle?

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