The Human Rights Warrior

Jennifer Prestholdt

Jennifer Prestholdt
Minneapolis, Minnesota,
February 25
Human rights lawyer, wife, and mother of three. (Not necessarily in that order.) I write about my experiences in fighting for human rights and how I am trying to bring those lessons home to my kids. Join our journey at, Humanrightswarrior on facebook and @JPrestholdt on Twitter. All material on this blog is © Jennifer Prestholdt, 2011, 2012


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FEBRUARY 22, 2012 1:45PM

Why American Moms Love Licia Ronzulli

Rate: 2 Flag

Photos of European Parliament Member Licia Ronzulli with her daughter keep popping up on my Facebook news feed and Pintrest.  My friends are mostly moms, so I speculate that they had an emotional reaction when they first saw this photo of MEP Ronzulli with her baby.  I know I did.


Image Source: Reuters

 I cheered and teared up a little, almost simultaneously.   Then I stopped and asked myself, "Why?"

The photo of Ms. Ronzulli with her sleeping infant is not a new - it was taken in September 2010.   While this photo caused a splash in Europe in 2010, it took  a while for it to catch on here.  That's about right - as a country, the United States is generally well behind Europe in terms of policies that support mothers.

Although she doesn't bring her daughter to the European Parliament regularly, there are other photos of Ms. Ronzulli and the  now-toddler  Vittoria.  During a vote on the Eurozone debt crisis on February 15, 2012, reporters snapped several photos of Vittoria with her mom at the European Parliament.
The media coverage I have seen has focused on the cutesy ("awwwwwww") or "hilarious" aspects of the photo.  That's a shame.  I think the media missed the opportunity to talk about WHY American moms like me are cheering for Ms. Ronzulli.  
Here are a few reasons:

1)  Ms. Ronzulli's employer, the European Parliament, has rules that allow women to take their baby with them to work.  Most American women do not have that option.

2)  The photos perfectly symbolizes the work-family balance that all of us working moms struggle with every day.   The fact that, according to media reports, the photo of Ms. Ronzulli with her infant was taken during a vote on proposals to improve women's employment rights makes it all the more poignant.

3)  Ms. Ronzulli is showing the world that childbirth does not automatically flip the offswitch on our female brains.  Women all over the world continue to be good employees even after they become mothers. The Daily Mail, which ran the February 2012 photo in an article titled "Does my vote count, mummy?",  describes the 36-year old Ronzulli as seeming "in complete control in spite of having her baby on her lap throughout."  Why is this such a surprise?  I know that I, for one, have become better at multitasking and more efficient at doing my work since I had my first child. 

4)  In the 2010 photo, it appears that Ms. Ronzulli is choosing to keep her 7 week old infant with her as much as possible.  In my experience, that's important for babies who are still so little.  Yet 6 weeks is the typical maternity leave in the U.S.  That doesn't mean that it is paid leave, however. The U.S. is also one of only a handful of countries with no national law mandating paid time off for new parents.

5)  Ms. Ronzulli was entitled to a parenting leave, but chose to take only 1 month of it.  She makes the point that it is about personal choice.  She told The Guardian in 2010, "It's a very personal choice. A woman should be free to choose to come back after 48 hours. But if she wants to stay at home for six months, or a year, we should create the conditions to make that possible," she said.   Amen, sister!

6)  She looks GOOD!  I know I never looked that good 7 weeks after labor and delivery, but many of my friends very quickly looked like their pre-baby selves.  I certainly didn't look my best when I was the sleep-deprived parent of a toddler, but the world didn't end and it got better.  Moms like a little reminder now and then that having a baby doesn't slam the door on our ability to look and feel good.  Sometimes it sure feels like that, but really it's just a temporary setback.

7)  Ms. Ronzulli probably didn't have to nurse baby Vittoria sitting on a toilet in the ladies room.  That's something I had to do at some point or other with all three of my babies here in America.

So thank you, Licia Ronzulli, for giving us American moms something to cheer for today and a reminder of what we need to continue to work towards tomorrow!

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Excellent post, Jennifer, thank you! My heart smiles when I read such pieces on one hand, and feels heavy when I see by comparison the dark ages in which US still lives.
Thanks Fusun! Yes, we still have a ways to go in the US. But the reaction I'm seeing from other moms makes me think that change is gonna come.
Great post and seriously endearing photos. Don't you wish we could catch up with Europe? Excellent post, Jennifer. R
Thank you so much, Thoth! I do indeed love the photos - shared and pinned them myself.
I didn't know about Ronzulli - I love that my introduction to her was through your eloquent and inspiring post! Thank you!
Thanks, Alysa! I have to say that I don't know much about Ronzulli, other than she that she is an MEP from Italy and friends with Berlusconi (something that is hard for me to fathom, in general). I don't even know if the babysitter fell through or it is all a publicity stunt. What interests me more is actually the starkly different reactions that the media and my mom friends have had to the photos.
My daughter, who enjoys coming to work with me on occasion, didn't see any big deal about the photos. She just wanted to know where she could get Vittoria's little lavender outfit in size 6x.
For better or worse until the Industrial revolution, education, family life and work were for the most part integrated into the fabric of culture. This is still true in much of rural Asia, Africa and Latin America. With any luck our kids will be able to work and live their lives free from the arbitrary efficiencies of corporate BS.

When occasionally my wife and I both worked on a Saturday, one or the other of us took her son with us to the office, and every summer from the age of twelve to fifteen, he worked as a paid intern in her office. We're making progress and if our kids demand that work and family become more integrated in their lives, we might find the right balance.

I'm pretty thankful for technology. I almost never have to bring my kids to work with me anymore. But then, I'm not a Member of the European Parliament. Thanks for your comment OMoM.