New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has announced that she’s pregnant. In her statement, she wrote that the news was unexpected, but exciting.
She’ll be back at work in no time after taking six weeks maternity leave. Her husband will be a stay-at-home parent, bringing the baby to her office as often as he can. The Guardian reports that she “intended to be ‘fully contactable’ during her period of maternity leave.” And that “at the end of her leave she intended to resume all prime ministerial duties”.
- Also read: Can single moms have balance?
Whatever your take on going back to work straight after giving birth, the fact is, the world is a better place for allowing women the choice to do as they please when they become parents, just like men. The stay-at-home dad is slowly becoming more prevalent. With any luck, alongside this trend, we can finally be shot of the implied sexism in questions posed only to women about whether they will be going back to work after becoming a parent.
Ardern is only the second woman in world politics since 1990 to be pregnant in office. Then Pakistan Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, was pregnant during elections and gave birth to a second child soon after she took office. In her autobiography, Bhutto wrote that the birth of her daughter was “a defining moment, especially for young women, proving a woman could work and have a baby in the highest and most challenging leadership positions.”
Not the first mom to multitask
Ardern acknowledges that she won’t be the first mom in a position of leadership to multitask. There are multiple examples of women in power who have accomplished complex tasks while parenting at the same time.
Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli made the news in 2010 when she brought her 7-week-old baby daughter, Vittoria, to work. She said at the time that her decision to do so was out of necessity, because she was breastfeeding. Vittoria has since accompanied her mom to many of her parliamentary sessions and the pair have become a heartening example of multitasking as a parent and of just how family-friendly and accommodating the working environment can be.
Similarly, Australian MP Larissa Waters became the first woman last year to take advantage of new family-friendly rules when she breastfed her 14-week-old daughter, Alia, while addressing Parliament. While she faced a backlash from some who argued that it was grandstanding and exhibitionism, many of her Twitter followers supported her actions. Also encouraging was the news that at the time, her partner had agreed to take some time off work to care for Alia while Waters went to work.
The times are changing (for the better)
Here in South Africa, employers are moving towards providing a more supportive environment for pregnant and new moms, allowing flexible working hours and on-site child care. The law protects pregnant working women against discrimination, and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act allows a new mom to take two 30-minute breaks per working day to breastfeed or express milk.
And just last year, a bill was passed that ensured South African dads will get 10 days paid parental leave, a welcome change to the 3 days family responsibility leave per leave cycle.
I love reading about the accomplishments of multitasking moms like Ardern. She’ll be running a country, while my greatest achievement a few weeks after giving birth was changing out of my pajamas by lunchtime.
But stories like hers show us the world is changing for the better. More power to her and to other moms who choose to have it all.
Are you a working mom? How do you cope with balancing parenting and working? Tell us your story by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish it.
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