Rodney Hide on the fascination with Jacinda’s pregnancy

Rodney Hide makes some good points on the fascination with a late 30s woman getting pregnant:

Following the news Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expecting her first child, former prime minister Helen Clark tweeted, “Every #woman should have the choice of combining family & career.”

The trouble with this drumbeat is that it implies that somehow a woman can have both without trade-off. Sadly that’s not so for any man or women. Tough trade-offs are a fact of life.

There is a set number of hours in a day. No one can be in two places at once.

Prime ministers have a tough and demanding job. So too do mothers of young babies. Jacinda Ardern is about to combine both roles.

That’s not going to prove easy. The outpouring and posturing following news of her pregnancy have not acknowledged how tough it’s going to be.

And as I alluded to, and know only too well from my own children, things can go dramatically wrong with the whole process. To categorically state you are going to have six weeks off when you have no idea what could go wrong just paints her into a corner she won’t be able to get out of easily. Life rarely goes as planned, especially when having children. They don’t read all the books or the columnists articles…they are babies.

Indeed, to suggest the tough trade-offs involved is to risk being dismissed as a sexist dinosaur. Such dismissal does not do away with the minute-by-minute tough choices to be made. Trade-offs aren’t a neoliberal or patriarchal plot: They’re a fact.

Jacinda Ardern has gone through life being told she is perfect, she is wonderful and she can do anything. The fact she’s spent some time in the hospital tells me that she knows that isn’t at all true, same with her self-acknowledged issue with anxiety. I can empathise with that…people are constantly telling me how wonderful I am, and my little self-doubting gene sits there saying to my mind…”Gee, I hope they don’t find out I’m fallible”.

And there is another uncomfortable fact: Childbirth is different for men and women.

Men don’t get morning sickness. Men don’t physically have the baby. Men don’t risk the potential complications. Men don’t breastfeed. There are physiological and, indeed, psychological differences between fathers and mothers.

To suggest otherwise is heartless and uncaring.

Yep, standing at the business end holding a leg or giving there-there’s isn’t the same as actually giving birth…and even if you do have some morbid curiosity of how a caesarian is performed and look over the little net they put up to stop you looking it is still not the same as having a child “untimely ripped” from your own stomach.

And here’s the problem: The prime minister’s pregnancy has been seized upon as an exemplar for all women and all men. The expectation is she will be glamorous and on top of her game as prime minister solving the country’s housing problems, fixing climate change, curing poverty, etc, all while having a baby with just a six-week break. She will be super mum. To do less would be to undermine the cause.

That’s a huge pressure riding on her on top of combining the two toughest of roles. Commentators have declared, “Of course she can do both roles” but what if she can’t? Or doesn’t want to?

The key word in Helen Clark’s tweet should be choice.

Excuse me, but what the hell would Helen Clark know about childbirth, child rearing or anything to do with children. She made her choices…and now she is finger-wagging and being the constant busybody she was when Prime Minister, hectoring us into toeing her particular line. If anyone ever said anything about this towards Clark they were howled down, they were told she is a nice Aunty and a whole lot of meaningless twaddle. Helen Clark knows nothing about the subject. Even less than blokes who have been at the business end of birthing. She should shut up.

It wouldn’t bother me in the least if the prime minister took a year off or, indeed, resigned. The government would carry on and she would still be an amazing woman for snatching victory in the face of defeat. Indeed, she would be all the more amazing for having made a tough decision for herself and the country.

Wouldn’t bother me either. In fact, I have a gut feeling she will do one or other of those things. There is only one consideration that Jacinda Ardern should take into account,  and that is the health and well-being of her baby. Everything else can go fly a kite. In the same position, I wouldn’t care a toss what other people think.

I doubt the sisterhood would be so laidback. I fear it would feel let down. It may all go extremely well and the commentators can declare a great victory for women’s rights but it may not. What then?

And what of Jacinda Ardern’s right to choose? Or must she combine motherhood with a career without question to prove someone else’s political point?

That last line is what I have been saying about Jacinda Ardern for years. She has rarely done anything for herself…she has always done things for other people. She became an MP because Helen Clark insisted on it. She became the leader because Labour begged her to do it. She needs to start doing things for herself and not other people who really don’t care for her.

 

-NBR


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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