Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Balancing a full-time job and responsibilities as a parent
is a hard thing to do, but it becomes even more difficult when your job is
physically demanding and requires long hours. Modern conveniences have made
strides towards making it easier to be both a mother and a professional with
the array of choices of formula, breast pumps, and child care; however, if a
mother chooses to take the more traditional route, none of those choices,
except perhaps a breast pump, truly do anything to make it easier to maintain
Jockey Kayla Stra
welcomed her son Brys into the world this past November and has since returned
to work. In order to accommodate her role as both a mother and a rider, she has
brought both her son and her son’s nanny with her to the track every day. In
between rides, Kayla would breastfeed her son and assist in other child care duties
such as diaper changing in the female jock’s room.
Recently, a misunderstanding between Stra and the Hollywood Park stewards exploded out of
control. According to Stra, she believed that the stewards were banning her
from breastfeeding her son and stated that Kim Sawyer, the only female steward,
had told her agent that she needed to choose between being a mother and being a
jockey. Steward Scott Chaney indicated that this was simply not the case.
According to him, the issue arose when another female jockey, who had not been
scheduled to ride that day, was in the jockey’s room and changed Brys’ diaper.
Chaney said that the Hollywood stewards had provided a
separate room for Stra to tend to her baby’s needs and felt that the matter was
settled. However, when California Horse Racing Board chairman David Israel
caught wind of the situation, he was quick to rectify the situation. He told the
Hollywood stewards that discrimination of any kind would not be allowed; that
Kayla, her son, and her son’s nanny could all be in the jock’s room and do
anything they needed to do; and that they [the stewards] needed to reach out to
Stra and apologize for the incident. Even without David Israel’s ruling on the
matter, Kayla Stra had the law on her side. In the state of California, work
place law states that a woman can breastfeed their babies and have them at work
As a woman and a mother, I commend Kayla Stra for making the
decision to breastfeed her baby. Aside from all the added benefits of doing so,
breastfeeding is perfect for mother-baby bonding time. Times have changed.
Women are no longer simply homemakers. Women have jobs and careers. Men are not
forced to choose between work and family, and neither should women. Bravo for David Israel’s open-mindedness on the
situation, and bravo for Kayla Stra for not backing down in the face of
Israel's positive stance on the matter is certainly once less thing to worry about. Had he favored the Hollywood stewards in this matter, public outcry would have further besmirched the industry's reputation. We can certainly ill afford another black mark against us, but whether or not this factored into Israel's stance is unknown. Regardless of the motive, it was the right call.
Kayla will be riding at Del Mar, and Craig Dado, vice
president of marketing for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has already reached
out to the jockey and mother and told her that Del Mar will do whatever it has
to in order to make her feel comfortable. Stra won on opening day at Del Mar
last year and has stated that she is looking forward to this year’s meet. Her
focus this year will be on quality not quantity, and she says that she has some
very nice horses ready to go there.