The prime minister has her hands full

Screenshot: Whaleoil

A new mother is expected to enter into motherhood with sublime ignorance because it is new territory to her. This is probably a good thing otherwise we’d have a huge population decline. Motherhood is the most exciting journey for any woman but at first, it is a strange new territory.

Our prime minister is to be congratulated on giving Neve an excellent start in life by breastfeeding. However, my own experience of around the clock breastfeeding a newborn every one to two hours makes me question how on earth she is coping. Fingers crossed Neve is a good sleeper and not a hungry baby.

I also hope the prime minister is cognisant enough, on limited sleep, to make the adjustments necessary in her daily regime to look after herself. Personally, I fail to see how she can and believe the risk of her collapsing under the demands of family and job is very real.

No one else has held a high-profile position and been a breastfeeding new mum for a very good reason.

Back in my childbearing days, which were the 90’s, daily jazzercize was the buzz on mid-morning local television. Even if I didn’t get to finish an aerobic class in front of the television, at least I got a daily 20 minutes of “me” time. Not only did the exercise improve my fitness and mental capacity, but the baby weight fell off and my confidence and sense of wellbeing got a well-needed boost.

When I re-joined the workforce as a working mum it was to part-time work and a baby at home with the nanny.  Sure, I loved the money and the buzz of being back at work, but that quickly wore off and eventually, my family became my priority again. This change happened at the point I became frustrated with being spread too thin and work was compromising my family responsibilities. We made changes and I hope Jacinda is brave enough to do the same when she recognises the need to.

Feminism has been the catch-cry of women since the 60’s when freely available contraception gave women the choice of a family or a career or both, with many women choosing both.

But feminism does women a great disservice when it tells us we are the same as men and encourages us back into the workforce to emulate them.

We are not men, we are equal but different, and when we try to copy them we compromise our femininity.

We have completely different motivations to men. We nurture and care for our families and those around us. Yes, I know some men carry out domestic duties but look at any home with a man and a woman and ask which of them really takes care of running the home and caring for the kids?

The woman is the inspiration for her family and often the community around her. She notices when the elderly neighbour is unwell and needs someone else to put out the wheelie bin and she just goes and does it.

We women love to create an environment that is orderly as well as beautiful. Aesthetics are important to us. Men do not understand this at all.

How many men are happy about heaving numerous pillows off a beautifully dressed bed every night before they can jump into it?  Men generally do not care about creating ambience by a decorating and dressing a room. If you watch The Block you will notice that it is the women who best decorate a room and the all-male team that struggles. Give a man a beer and a television and they are happy little campers even when the washing is piled up and the house is a wreck.

We, women, want our family to be well cared for and to feel loved and we get our inspiration from a calm beautiful environment. I would say it is in our DNA. Men do not operate at this level, their satisfaction comes from achieving things like making money, mowing the lawns and building stuff.

What do you call a woman who is superior to a man?  Well, she is not a feminist because feminists believe women to be equal to men. Women who hold down jobs equal or better than men can pat themselves on the back, if they care to, but they are not superior to men they are only equal.

The place where a woman constantly outperforms a man is in the home where she usually raises the children and runs the household while her partner is in the workforce, and often she works outside the home as well.

She may be forced into employment on top of her already full-time commitments as a mother, caregiver and homemaker simply because the family needs the money. When her children are grown and gone she may continue her unpaid work by caring for an elderly relative or carrying out voluntary work in the community.

A woman’s role as an unpaid carer and homemaker should be applauded, but it seldom is. A marriage breakup will usually mean the woman will have to adopt two fulltime roles simultaneously, which are caring for her children and holding down a job outside the home.

There is little concession given to mums in the workplace, although this is changing.  One Auckland corporate has trialled a “work four days a week, get paid for five”.  Other employers offer school hour jobs or job share to accommodate mums, an on-site creche or extra time off during school holidays.

When the woman goes to work outside the home she doesn’t give up her domestic duties, she carries out the equivalent of a fulltime job at home on top of her 40 hour working week outside the home.

Jacinda has taken on the role of motherhood, on top of her role as prime minister. We will measure the strength of Jacinda Ardern in how well she carries out her role as prime minister.

Neve will eventually measure her mother’s success in how well Jacinda adjusts to motherhood and values her family, but only Jacinda can decide how to handle the compromises required to retain her own femininity alongside her role as prime minister.


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The subject evoked in the collage is the debating of political issues with friends in a public place

Pablo Picasso
Glass and bottle of Suze (after 18 November 1912)
pasted paper, gouache and charcoal

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