After the first wave of excitement and the first wave of knee-jerk negative responses come the more considered negative responses about the Prime Ministerial baby. Sure, great for her, she’s got the support – but how does this help the single parents struggling to keep their homes warm in winter? And, like, yeah I get that, but also, shut up. This is a couple having a baby, they get to be excited! This is an exceptional pregnancy for women in politics, we get to be excited about that too!
I’ve been very critical in the past of the Lean In type stuff exhorting women to put their careers first, outsource everything possible, and leave the kids with the dads – because it’s doesn’t extrapolate out to the ordinary people who need two incomes to afford a decent home for their kids, but who don’t want their jobs to take up their whole lives; or the people who would love to have the problems of making work fit in with family, but can’t find suitable work at all. For 99.99% of people, if they said they were planning to take six weeks of maternity leave then go back to paid work, I’d ask, is your job really so important? Is there really no-one else who can do the work you’re doing? But this is the Prime Minister. A new Prime Minister, who has demonstrated her effectiveness by winning an election that looked unwinnable until she became the leader of the party. Her job really is that important! So it’s time to draw on those discussion about how to make it work if you’re not willing to make career compromises – and a stay at home partner is a crucial aspect of that, and it is a HUGE milestone that this is dad-to-be Clarke Gayford, who has a high profile of his own, and that he’s said he’s excited about it and looking forward to it.
And, Jacinda Ardern is the Prime Minister, not someone writing a book about women in the workplace. This is someone living her own life, not someone trying to give people advice on theirs. It’s someone who, before she was even leader of the party, already framed her political career around making the country better for children. She has already made statements that indicate she’s very aware of how privileged they are, calling sole parents the real heroes, focusing on the Government’s programme to make New Zealand the best place in the world to raise kids. Besides which, let’s remember the circumstances in which she became the Prime Minister. Having previously ruled herself out of the job because she wanted a family, she stepped up when someone else stepped down because everyone was looking to her to lead. And having thought they’d need fertility assistance, she kept her cool when questioned about future pregnancy plans (which must have been a tough line of questioning in the circumstances), she negotiated a coalition deal while coming to terms with the unexpected news of the pregnancy, and now she’s got a plan to stay on as Prime Minister and deliver on the new Government’s election commitments which include making things better for other families. Let her have her damn moment people, what more does she need to do?!