If you’ve been to a recent Moorestown Township Council meeting, you may have noticed a small addition – 7 pounds, 9 ounces to be exact. Only a few weeks after having given birth, Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano returned to council with her daughter Reagan Noelle in tow.
Napolitano gave birth to Reagan on Thursday, March 21. She missed only one official action meeting that following Monday before returning to council. While she’s on maternity leave from her day job until June, Napolitano has not missed a council meeting since.
“I hope that serves as an example that young women can step up to take leadership positions and be involved in things like this, and they don’t have to do it before or after their child-bearing years,” Napolitano said. “There’s no reason why we should have to sit that out.”
In 2017, Napolitano was the first woman to give birth while in elected office in Moorestown. After having her first daughter, Elliot Eliza, Napolitano’s husband, Vinny, would bring Elliot to meetings and sit with her in the audience. Napolitano said now that Elliot’s 2, it’s difficult to bring her to meetings. So, Napolitano decided she would bring Reagan to the meetings while Vinny stays home with Elliot.
The decision came mostly out of necessity. With Reagan still nursing, she knew she needed to be nearby.
Napolitano said while there are coworkers who can fill in for her at her day job, the same can’t be said of her role as councilwoman. She said there’s no one who can vote in her place, and with important issues like affordable housing and the budget currently in discussion, she felt like she needed to be there.
She didn’t tell anyone she was bringing Reagan. She arrived with the baby strapped snuggly to a carrier on her chest, and while her fellow council members may have been surprised by her quick return, they’ve been nothing short of receptive and complimentary, Napolitano said.
Napolitano said she understands that some mothers may feel embarrassed to bring their babies to public places. She said if they make a noise or need to be breastfeed in public, it can be uncomfortable for some, but she’s been glad to see that anywhere she’s taken Reagan, people have been tolerant of a cry or two. She said she sees that as a positive sign of society’s view toward “motherhood in public.”
“I’ve brought Reagan with me for practical reasons, but I also do think it shows that pregnancy and motherhood are not a handicap, and there’s no reason you can’t keep going with your life and participating in your community after you have kids,” Napolitano said.
Mayor Lisa Petriello commended Napolitano saying that finding a work/life balance is difficult for any person or family today, but having the freedom to make meaningful personal choices as you navigate that balance is what’s most important.
“I think it’s great that Victoria has the opportunity to do this and to make that choice,” Petriello said. “That’s really what it’s all about. Many have fought for a long time to make choices like this possible, but they’re still not a possibility for far too many.”
Napolitano admits there are – inevitably – difficult days where she’d rather be home with her daughters than with council. She said she remembers the work she’s doing is for them.
“For me, being on council was always about planning for the future of our town, so I hope that the work I’m doing is leaving a better town for these kids to grow up in,” Napolitano said.