The Prime Minister and baby balancing act

Jacinda Ardern ‘returned to work’ in her role of Prime Minister yesterday. Sort of. She took over prime ministerial responsibilities from acting PM Winston Peters, but remained in Auckland (she will return to parliament next week).

Ardern released selected photos of her, Clarke Gaygord and baby Neve, and gave some media interviews that focussed a lot on the baby and how that would affect her work.

It may have been laid on a bit thick, and it was slammed by some (the types who would slam anything done by Ardern, but I think generally this was a reasonable way to start. There was always going to be a lot of attention given to the mother-baby stuff, so best to give the media something.

As long as it mostly stays at that. That is up to the media to be reasonable, and also up to Jacinda not to exploit it with orchestrated distractions – she pulled a stunt like that on Sunday which appeared to be a deliberate attempt to distract from Simon bridges at the National Party conference.

Ardern is extremely lucky to be able to integrate parenting with her work. Most parents are either not able to do that, or choose to devote work time to work and make arrangements for baby care. I’ve done that (quite a while ago), being responsible for night time feeds with expressed milk while the mother was away working.

Teachers, nurses, police, fire, ambulance, retail, hospitality, court, construction – most parents who work know that it simply isn’t feasible (or professional) to care for a baby during their work hours.

So highly paid prime ministers and MPs are a very privileged minority when it comes to this.

Ardern wants to change attitudes to mothers and work. It may change how mothers can work as politicians, but it is unlikely to change the practicalities and realities for most parents.

It will now be up to Ardern and the media to get the right balance of work versus parent coverage.

I’m fine with Ardern giving occasional stage managed coverage of her family – so long as she doesn’t exploit this for publicity and political purposes.

She still has a very important job to do, a job she volunteered to do and negotiated her way into. As a mother of a baby she should be cut a bit of slack, but she has a challenging balancing act ahead of her.

There is no way she can escape the spotlight. She may well shine as a working mother, but she risks a voter backlash if she abuses her family situation politically.

Leave a comment

15 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  August 3, 2018

    Life is a balancing act for everyone but carries more risk for some than others. Ardern’s baby is the least of the country’s concerns except as a distraction from them.

    Reply
    • It’s her baby and her responsibility. She’s paid to be PM, not to look after her own child at taxpayers’ expense. There’s too much at stake for her to use the position to show what a wonder she is.

      I wonder just how much of the $54,000 the charities will see.

      Reply
  2. David

     /  August 3, 2018

    After the 3 Stuff articles yesterday afternoon with photos and praise and wonderment I miss Winston which is a very sad place to be. She is just such a waffler.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  August 3, 2018

      Yes, words are a poor substitute for experience and expertise.

      Reply
      • Somewhere on YNZ Pete quoted four sentences of hers; four that followed on from each other. Three of the four contained the word ‘absolutely’.

        Reply
  3. Zedd

     /  August 3, 2018

    Im sure Jacinda knows what ‘multitasking’ is all about 🙂

    Reply
  4. Pink David

     /  August 4, 2018

    “I’m fine with Ardern giving occasional stage managed coverage of her family – so long as she doesn’t exploit this for publicity and political purposes.”

    Yeah right. She will milk it at every single opportunity.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  August 4, 2018

      Oh for God’s sake. I’m glad she had a cruisy time of having her first child & they’re both well and healthy by all accounts.

      But I am so OVER Jacinda & her baby! I don’t know them personally & I have no fucking interest in knowing every tiny detail of their movements & feeds.

      Reply

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