This is not going to be a popular one. New MP Julie Zahra brought her four-year-old daughter with her to do her homework (or whatever it is that passes for homework in the curriculum of a 4-year-old) in the Parliamentary chamber. She munched on a packed lunch as she scanned the chamber with her big curious eyes. Her mum’s colleagues joked with her and though she probably didn’t know it she was caught on Parliament’s TV cameras and her picture is now all over the place.

Very cute. I have children too and am not above unbounded affection for children, to the point of awkwardness.

I still don’t think this is appropriate.

Look, I’m all for Parliament having child care facilities so that young fathers and young mothers can do their job as MPs and combine the same with their parental duties. I find it abhorrent that we are only really talking about this seriously because there are more women in Parliament. It seems to reflect the accepted and unacceptable assumption that mothers can only do their job if they can bring their children along while fathers never need to bother with that.

So if Parliamentarians agree to clear out some poorly used space in the Parliament building (say the Speaker’s office) to turn it into a nursery for their kids, they have my vote.

In the absence of child care facilities, I can understand father and mother MPs bringing their children and sitting them in the common areas with their colleagues, or in the stranger’s gallery from where they can see daddy or mummy or even on the press benches or the administrator’s benches.

But can we leave the actual Parliamentary seats the decorum of being reserved for Parliamentarians? It’s not about the persons occupying the seat, it’s about the institution. Someone may perhaps find children chewing food on a green bench of the House of Commons or behind a desk on the Senate floor in Washington. But I doubt it.

Someone may find a photo of me from 1993 speaking from a back bench in the old Parliamentary chamber in the Palace. I was speaking in a student debating competition and no one would tell my 16-year-old self that would be the first and only time I sat in Parliament. But that’s how it turned out. I’m not 16 anymore and I no longer think it is appropriate for the Parliamentary chamber to be hired out as a conference venue. But that’s just me.

I don’t want to make more of the Julie Zahra and daughter incident than it is. It’s not some profound outrage to the democratic process. But please, if we can obviate the need for these public displays of parental affection with appropriate child care facilities let’s do that.

Also, incidentally, the fact that Parliament meets between 4pm and 7pm is, as this case indicates, not child friendly in the least. Children are home from school at the time and as Ms Zahra showed the country this week they’re busy with their homework and would be grateful to have their parents sat next to them at that time rather than making laws in Parliament which, from their point of view, is clearly less important.

If Parliament wanted to be serious about being family friendly to allow young parents (not just the mothers, please!) to work as MPs without abandoning their children, they should meet in the mornings while children are at school.

Seems to me that the Parliamentary schedule is more lawyer-friendly than family-friendly.