On Friday morning New Zealand time, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her pregnancy.
Ms Ardern’s pregnancy will be good news for everyone in New Zealand. It is a statement from the highest office in the land that motherhood whilst holding high office is quite okay. Indeed Ms Ardern is not the first in Government to have children – former Prime Minister Bill English has six children to his wife Mary; former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley and former cabinet Minister Ruth Richardson were both parents to young children during their time in office. And today’s Parliament has a bracket of child rearing Members of Parliament.
So, what is the fuss all about then?
Whilst all the above is true, it is also true that none of them GAVE birth whilst holding office.
Ms Ardern will hand the Prime Ministership over to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in June whilst she gives birth. She will be absent for six weeks, but will be contactable in the event of something unforeseen or an emergency.
When Ms Ardern was elected a number of right-leaning commentators including Mark Richardson asked whether Ms Ardern will be able to cope having a baby. The response was as decisive and firm. Mr Richardson was notably quiet when the news was announced on Friday.
So, how has the world received it? The response to date has been overwhelmingly positive. From Kiwi’s and non-Kiwi’s alike there has been praise. Political opponents and friends alike have praised Ms Ardern. So too, have foreign leaders including Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull.
But there have been detractors on social media, though the most high profile right wing commentators have been rather silent. For all the praise there are people around who still believe that because Ms Ardern is going to need 6 weeks maternity leave, she will not be able to do her job. There are people who think that somehow New Zealand will have a disaster in the six weeks that Mr Peters is Acting Prime Minister – they appear unable, and/or willing, to acknowledge that there is a plan in place. Nor do they wish to acknowledge that Mr Peters has been Acting Prime Minister in the past.
But for now, let us enjoy the fact that another glass barrier in front of parents was smashed today and that it was done by the highest elected office holder in the land.