Peter Williams: Jacinda Ardern baby question was fair - but politics and motherhood not mutually exclusive

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Jacinda Ardern was installed in her new job before lunch on Tuesday.

The first questions about the C (for children) word were being aired on talkback radio within 90 minutes.

A leadership expert says the new Labour leader should be celebrated for her achievements.
Source: Breakfast

The subject was raised again on prime time TV less than eight hours after she became leader of the Labour Party. It then appeared to be front and centre of discussions on breakfast TV the morning after.

The mere fact that the questions were asked, and by male broadcasters, produced the predictable female outrage and backlash.

ONE News Presenter and columnist Peter Williams.

Source: 1 NEWS

"Why aren't men asked about their plans to have children?" seemed to be a common theme among the hysteria.

On the surface, that's a fair question. But any parent knows the practicalities and the challenges facing a working mother are very different from those facing a working father.

Even with the best childcare facilities in the world, nature has just decreed that is the way it is.

Mike thinks Andrew Little should not have quit and Jacinda will struggle as the new leader after making little ground as deputy.
Source: Seven Sharp

Ask the former Green MP Holly Walker who has written extensively about the subject since she left Parliament, a career she essentially had to abandon when she became a mother.

To her credit Jacinda Ardern regards questions about her family plans as fair - because she has raised the subject herself on numerous occasions in the past.

But being a politician and giving birth during a parliamentary career are not mutually exclusive.

In fact, it happened as far back as 1970 when the MP for Southern Maori (nowadays Te Tai Tonga) Whetu Tirakatene-Sullivan became the first sitting New Zealand MP to give birth. She was back at work two weeks later and became a cabinet minister during the 1972-75 Labour government.

Childcare facilities were virtually unheard of in those days.

It's her first day in the leadership role and Jacinda Ardern is already in talks with the Green Party co-leaders.
Source: 1 NEWS

Ruth Richardson gave birth during a parliamentary recess in 1983 but when the House of Representatives was recalled earlier than scheduled, she brought her baby back to work and a special room was set aside near the debating chamber for her to breastfeed.

As western society has become more enlightened, giving birth while a sitting politician has become quite commonplace.

Jane Swift became Governor of Massachusetts in 2001. She had been the Lieutenant or Deputy Governor until her boss was appointed to a US Ambassador's job by President George Bush.

But she took over the state governorship while eight months pregnant, gave birth to twins a month into the job and continued to exercise her executive authority while on maternity leave by leading a meeting of the Governor's Council by teleconference.

Incredibly, the opposition Democrats objected to her continuing in the job while on leave!

In France, the Justice Minister Rachida Dati gave birth in 2009 and was back at work five days later.

Labour's General Secretary says $250,000 dollars has flooded in overnight.
Source: 1 NEWS

A member of Alberta's Legislative Assembly in Canada, Stephanie McLean gave birth last year, and only three months ago, there was history in Australian politics when Greens Senator Larissa Waters breast fed her baby in the Senate Chamber, while actually speaking to a parliamentary motion.

(Ms Waters has subsequently had to resign from the Senate because she was born in Canada and had fallen foul of the dual citizenship regulations.)

All of which shows, there are plenty of precedents for serving politicians to give birth and raise children while maintaining their career.

We have absolutely no knowledge of Jacinda Ardern's plans beyond her work, and it is, of course, nobody's business except hers and her partners.

If she wants to have children while having a career that is her choice and one which everyone should support. After all, having children is the most important thing anybody can do in their life.

New Labour leader Jacinda Ardern talks to Mike Hosking about taking on the "toughest job" in politics.
Source: Seven Sharp

By her comments so far, she seems well aware of the challenges of combining parenthood with politics. But she’s far from alone in that. There are thousands of New Zealand women facing the same decisions every day.

We don’t need to know about her future family decisions, but seeing how she'd raised the subject of having children previously , it is a fair question to ask.

Having it asked of her within the first hours of her party leadership just seemed like indecent haste.

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