John Armstrong: There are moments in a country’s history which transcend the ordinary

There are moments in a country’s history which transcend the ordinary; moments when the stars are in alignment with one another to produce the truly extraordinary.

The birth of the Prime Minister’s first child has been such a moment.

Source: 1 NEWS

Everyone knew it was going to happen. Everyone was aware of when it was likely to happen. 

Yet, if anything, the outpouring of goodwill towards Jacinda Ardern, Clarke Gayford and their daughter has been exponentially greater than that which greeted the announcement of her surprise pregnancy back in January.

Ardern is the very embodiment of how a modern society seeks to unshackle women in order to harvest their potential contribution to the greater good to the maximum possible.

The former PM spoke on TVNZ1’s Breakfast about the birth of Jacinda Ardern’s baby girl. Source: Breakfast

It is impossible to measure Ardern’s influence as a role model. But it will already have been vast.

Yet, she is incurably modest about it all. And she does not seek to exploit her success and the consequent high regard in which she is held to ram a message about gender equality down people’s throats.

Her success speaks for itself.

New Zealanders have reciprocated by displaying a pride in their prime minister not witnessed since the 1980s when David Lange refused to buckle to bullying by the Americans to get Labour to drop its anti-nuclear policy.

The prevalent mood yesterday in the hours between Ardern’s early morning dash to Auckland Hospital and her announcement of the birth was summed by the man who will hold the reins of state in her absence from the political stage for the next six weeks.

Mr Peters is stepping up to the top job for six weeks while Jacinda Ardern grapples with motherhood. Source: 1 NEWS

Winston Peters said it all without saying very much. It was a happy day, declared the Acting Prime Minister.

Right on, Winston. Spot on, Winston.

1 NEWS reporter Paul Hobbs is at Auckland Hospital where Jacinda Ardern spent the night after giving birth. Source: Breakfast

That was as succinct a statement as you are likely to hear from a politician, but it was apt in its brevity. 

D-Day - as in Delivery Day - was Ardern’s and Gayford’s day. A happy day for them - and a happy day for a country which could do with more happy days.

There is no question there is much awry with the land once called God’s Own country.

But the country was yesterday wearing a collective smile as broad as the brim on a Texas ten-gallon hat. And nothing is going to wipe away that grin for quite a few days to come.

The contentment was not quite akin to that which would have been felt by Hillary's ascent of Everest and New Zealand grabbing the America's Cup all rolled into one. But it was not far off.

The Finance Minister says the pair “are going to be the most wonderful parents”. Source: 1 NEWS

No matter one’s political leanings, it was near impossible not to succumb to the euphoria.

The symptoms of Babymania were easy to spot. As the afternoon dragged on with no news, there was the ever more frequent clicking on news organisations’ websites in the desperate hunt for even the tiniest bit of info, while at the same time listening intently to reporters camped outside Auckland Hospital express embarrassment at having nothing to report.

Meanwhile, some news outlets seriously afflicted by the syndrome were already crowning the child as “First Baby” in order to fill the news vacuum despite that title long having been claimed by the current occupant of the White House in Washington who is 72 years the senior of Ardern’s child.

Not even Donald Trump would have been capable of puncturing that mood of contentment enveloping New Zealand - a contentment intensified by the copious amounts of international media coverage of the birth.

New Zealanders are suckers for recognition on the world stage - even if it means being mercilessly lampooned as the international community’s version of the village idiot.

That was the treatment meted out to Sir Bill English by the accomplished satirist and American TV show host John Oliver in the wake of the former prime minister’s admission of his creating the gastronomic atrocity which is his spaghetti pizza.

The reversal of traditional roles in the Ardern-Gayford household paints New Zealand as close to being the epitome of a modern and progressive society - a veritable Scandinavia of the South Seas. 

The spaghetti pizza would seem to be about as far away as you could get from things Scandinavian.

That might not be quite so, however. It may be a culinary abomination, but the spaghetti pizza is the product of the busy English household comprised of two parents holding down what have been very much more than full-time jobs plus their six children.

The National Party leader and former PM stepped down today after entering Parliament in 1990. Source: 1 NEWS

Ardern most definitely will not be taking culinary advice from Dipton’s answer to Domino’s. She could do a lot worse, however, than take some inspiration from someone who for many years managed to juggle the responsibilities of fatherhood with the responsibilities of Finance Minister and ultimately Prime Minister - and who managed to survive the experience seemingly pretty much intact in body and mind.

Such an easy-to-make meal as spaghetti pizza is the kind of compromise which Mt Albert’s newest set of parents are going to have to make in order to preserve their own good humour and even their sanity.

There is no escaping that. Perfection in parenthood are words that are easy to say. But from the day a child enters this world, obstacles are thrown in the way which confines the existence of perfect parents solely to the unreal world of advertising where guilt over parental failure is ruthlessly exploited to make a buck.

Ardern combining two of the hardest jobs going - namely mother of the nation and mother of child - has more than a few people fearing that regardless of the help she can get with basic parenting tasks, she is taking on too much.

Associated with that concern is the worry that she will set a standard for being the perfect mother which is too high to meet. 

She can count on one thing. Everyone is an expert when it comes to raising children. One slip or misstep and more than a few tonnes of bricks will come crashing down upon her.

She will already not have been short of advice from all and sundry as she travelled the country in recent months. 

The dominant theme of that advice, however, has been for her to ignore advice and work out her own way of doing things.

As only the second prime minister to have a child born while in office, she has no other choice but to do just that.