'The babymother angle is not a bother to me'

Krystal Tomlinson speaks about motherhood, marriage and politics

Observer staff reporter

Friday, September 14, 2018

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SINCE she announced her pregnancy recently, the feedback has been a mixture of criticism and congratulations, but for 28-year-old Krystal Tomlinson, one of her main goals at this point is balancing her political life with motherhood.

During an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Tomlinson — the People's National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO) president — said her pregnancy is not the right timing politically, but she is at a state of readiness to bear the risk of parenthood.

“Anybody who has a political career would agree that it is not the right timing; being two years out from an election nobody wants to be doing canvassing work when pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking care of a toddler. But personally, what I've always insisted in family planning is that I would not have a child unless I'm financially stable to support the child regardless of who that partner is. Anything can happen and if you can't stand alone as a parent psychologically, emotionally, financially, it might not be the best move regardless of support you may have from friends and family,” she said.

For the criticism that she has joined the line of 'baby mothers' for dancehall entertainer Moses “Beenie Man” Davis, Tomlinson had one question for the naysayers.

“Which of his children should not have been born to make it appropriate that I have a child with Moses? I want them to answer which child should not have been born and we can get to a serious discussion. What they're saying is that too many children are on this earth with him as their father and that is a very unfair characterisation of his role as a father to his children. None of his children suffer any form of discrimination, have been prejudiced in any way because he is not in a relationship with their mothers, and it's very unfair to speak of people's children as if one or more don't have a right to be here and I think that's my biggest concern,” she said.

She added: “The babymother angle is not a bother to me; it's when his children see those types of articles, when they take up the newspapers or go online and see these types of conversations, what are we saying about their right to exist as human beings? They're all old enough to read that. For those who ask that, I must ask you back, which of his children should not have been born for me to feel comfortable having a child with him? Every single one of them has a right to be here and every single one is excited to meet their sibling.”

Tomlinson also pointed out that marriage has been discussed with her spouse, and it is now a matter of timing when both are comfortable.

“It is a serious decision that requires a financial and legal shift. None of us consider it a prerequisite for childrearing but it's a plan. We've just chosen a different order, an order that many Jamaicans practise,” she said.

Moreover, Tomlinson, a fresh face on the political scene, said her feedback thus far has been largely positive and she looks forward to greater youth engagement.

“I have to segment the response from persons who have a neutral perspective, persons who are already pro PNP and those who are already pro JLP. There will be biases from those who have chosen either end of the spectrum. But I look forward for the engagement from youth who have never voted, probably don't have a voter's ID, and have a general sense of apathy towards the process. How they engage me tells me how well I am doing,” she said.

“[It's] those looking to see if there is anything of value in politics or if participating in the process could really make a difference for nation building. Those are the ones with the question marks and ellipses that I use to grade it.”

Further, Tomlinson said young professionals and teens exiting high school are seeking a different type of imagery for politics and she hopes to give them that.

“We like to see more successful women with independent brands and careers outside of politics. The character is timely and appropriate for what young people are looking for. Are politicians all old men? No. Do politicians do anything apart from ask you to vote for them? Absolutely! My résumé answers those questions and the work I do can answer those questions in a way that encourages youth,” she said.

But how does she intend to reach the youth?

“The best approach is to just deliver the results. There is a saying in the business place, 'build it and they will come'. I think it is the same approach we must take to youth activism in politics. Build it and youth will come. It's not that you won't have to pursue them to come, but if they look and see an institution built on democratic principles that builds itself on matters of social justice and delivering the most good for the most people, is respectful in the engagement between opposing forces, and gives very modern and critical thought to problem-solving, they will come. The problem is from where they stand none of the two major options seem to offer that at this point. So the PNPYO has a mandate to build it so youth from any side of the political spectrum can look at us as a standard, should they ever decide to enter politics and a reference once they have made that decision,” she said.

She added: “Youth are looking for clarity — what are we doing as a nation and where we intend to go as a nation. We have very broad buzzwords that we want people to buy into. But I don't think young people in masses are very clear about what the future of Jamaica is supposed to look like and how politics feeds that future. Youth are looking for honesty; there is the underlying belief that politics by nature is vitriolic and dishonest. So we are going to be angry all the time with each other, and when I'm not being blamed I just make it look like I am the best thing and the other person is the worst thing. We don't speak honestly about what kind of development we need and what it will take to get there. The kind of maturity we see in an American system where Democrats and Republicans routinely reach across the floor to get certain bills and legislations passed is what we would like to see in Jamaica. There is perpetual antagonism just because that's how the game is played, is played out, and the more we get to see how politics works outside of Jamaica it's the higher the expectations of people that we are going to mature out of the 'he said she said, me never do it so bad' versus this is what we need to do now and here's how we're going to get it done,” Tomlinson said.

In addition, the PNPYO president said her organisation needs to be clear about its mission.

“Our mission is not to change the mother party into a younger version of itself. Our mission is to make sure as we plan these development policies as a party; young people have a voice and a stake in the process and that is largely missing. One of the biggest issues I have when we talk about youth participation is that we expect the young person to come to the table and tell you what all young people want. That's not why we are there. We are there because our perspective is different and while the 70-year-old or the 60-year-old is planning for their retirement we are planning for our future. The kind of vigour and perspective that we bring to policy discussion is different. When you burden young people with the thought of coming with the voice of the youth you homogenise the process and that's why when I talk I don't speak for all. I give you a perspective based on the number of years I am living on this earth; the tools I use to run a business and the conversations I am having within my various groups and places of interest,” she said.

Also, Tomlinson wants youth in the political process to cease promising other young people influence, power, status, jobs and money if they support a political party.

“That feeds into the corrupt beast. The primary goal of the youth, once you get to the political table when you're surrounded by MPs and the listening ear of a minister, is to see how you can multiply some opportunities and pass it down to people who will never be in that room, youth who will never ever join your organisation but need your influence to open a door,” she said.

Moreso, with a baby on board, Tomlinson said she feels a sense of urgency in ensuring she makes a good contribution to politics.

“I'm about to bring another Jamaican into the country. What kind of life will they live? What kind of opportunities will they have? What kind of opportunities will their friends have? How will they plan for their future? Are we giving them something to plan for or am I going to have a child that comes into this world, despises the country and has a single goal of migrating as soon as they get an opportunity? It has raised the level of urgency for me and modified the reason I entered in the first place. At first it was really to give service to the country by way of youth. Now there is a second layer in making sure the country is in a good state for generations to come. Now we look at broadening youth and how a Jamaican is going to live and die if they choose to stay in this country.“

Tomlinson recently launched her first book Kill Fear: The Art of Courageous Living, which examines the top three fears that prohibit human excellence and provide the solutions to conquering them.

“These are failure, criticism and loneliness. The book looks at the root causes of fear, the science behind how the fear works, identifying the fear you have and tools to beat that fear in a corner. We're also saying to people who read it, don't go half-way or lukewarm into any activity. Go full force. You have one shot at life, you don't get to do it over and if it burns in your belly as something you should do, don't go half way on it. Commit to the process, fail if you have to fail and try again,” she said.

Tomlinson also shared that a lot of the success she now enjoys is because of how she used failures as steps for massive success.

“Embrace the potholes and rainy days, knowing the sunshine is going to come,” she said.

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