No, we don't need to know about Jacinda Ardern's baby plans. Ever.

Jacinda Ardern is 37 and has a partner and she has openly talked about wanting kids.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Jacinda Ardern is 37 and has a partner and she has openly talked about wanting kids.

OPINION: When I was in my 20s, I worked for a charity in London – no names, but it was a pretty old-school institution and some of its senior staff had some pretty old-school ideas. 

One of them, a former military man whom I adored, despite many of his opinions having the slightly salty whiff of a 1945 officer's mess about them, insisted that when he was interviewing a woman for a role it was his duty to ask when she planned on having a baby. 

I weaned him off such inappropriately invasive questions such as if she had a boyfriend or planned on getting married. But on the question of babies, he was adamant – the employer deserves to know. 

Jacinda Ardern: "It is a woman's decision about when they choose to have children". Mark Richardson: "I think this is a ...

Jacinda Ardern: "It is a woman's decision about when they choose to have children". Mark Richardson: "I think this is a legitimate question for New Zealand, because she could be the Prime Minister running this country".

I haven't thought about him in years (and if you're picturing a kind of stiff upper-lipped Colonel Mustard, you'd be close). But I remembered his kind-yet-sternly paternalistic face this morning as I watched Mark Richardson get indignant with Jacinda Ardern over that baby question on The AM Show

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"I think this is a legitimate question for New Zealand," opined Richardson. "She could be the Prime Minister of this country. If you're an employer of a company you need to know that kind of thing from the women you're hiring, because legally you have to give them maternity leave. So the question is, is it OK for a PM to take maternity leave while she's in office?"

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It's worth noting that Richardson's preggo-PM panic was balanced by his co-hosts Duncan Garner and Amanda Gillies, who both argued that it was none of our damned business what a woman plans or doesn't plan to do with her uterus. 

But that doesn't negate the fact Ardern has been in the job five minutes and someone's already worried she's going to get knocked up and expect the Kiwi taxpayer to foot the bill. 

I mean, I clearly recall the time Bill English was asked how he was going to balance the national books and his hectic home life ... oh wait, no I don't, because it never happened. 

Newly appointed Labour leader Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a presss conference at Parliament.
HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES

Newly appointed Labour leader Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a presss conference at Parliament.

Bill English literally has six kids, and no one cares. 

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Even Duncan Garner agreed, stating he'd never asked a male politician about his kids or plans for kids in 20 years of verbal duels with them. 

Yes, Jacinda Arden has a uterus... probably, I don't know because I don't care and besides, it's none of my ruddy business. But guess what, we don't get to ask her what she plans on doing with it. Why would we? It's an organ of her body. Might as well ask her what her plans for her spleen are. (Guess what the answer to that is: It's "none of your business".)

We want to hear about your experiences of navigating pregnancy and family while building a career.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

We want to hear about your experiences of navigating pregnancy and family while building a career.

That this is what she's dealing with, straight out of the gate, is almost too stupidly cliche to be believed. And yes, OK,  Ardern herself says she's open to the question because she brought it up in the past. 

But no one ever asks blokes about babies at any stage.

Even though New Zealand's parental leave laws are gender neutral. Even though more and more men are choosing to be the primary carer when they start a family. Even though same sex couples with children are rolling their eyes at this right now, giving one another meaningful looks and saying, "straight people. Seriously".

Why are we asking Jacinda Ardern this patently silly question when we're not even interested in addressing why it's always women who get landed with it?

When the burden falls to mum so often because there's no pay-equality. She's usually earning less than her partner, so it makes financial sense for her to take the career break.

When paternity leave is still a weird concept for some, and people still joke about dad "babysitting" his own kids. 

When a man choosing to stay home with his children means he's either a magical unicorn superhero, or a weirdo loser – rather than just a bloke making a choice that works for him and his family. 

We can pretend these attitudes don't exist, just like Mark Richardson can pretend employers ask male prospects about babies as often as they ask – and judge – female prospects. 

But it's not true. Women are damned if we do, damned if we don't, damned if we're not 100 per cent sure, damned if we have them and want to go back to work, damned if we have them and then decide we don't want to go back to work. We're just damned, up and down. 

And the proof? It's 2017 and the most exciting thing to happen to New Zealand politics in 15 years just got asked twice, on national TV,  if she's going to have a baby. 

Look, society does not function if we don't have babies coming in to keep it ticking over. Therefore babies are everyone's responsibility. Not just mum's. And especially not just someone who isn't even having a baby right now. 

If you're an employer and you're not already planning for some of your workforce to take parental leave, then you're probably not the best employer ever. I know I wouldn't want to work for you. 

If you're an employer who is planning ahead for parental leave then you're probably pretty OK.

I hope your business thrives. I hope it's buoyed along by low staff turnover and the mutual respect you share with your employees. No matter their gender.

 

 - Stuff

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