Jacinda Ardern children question sexist, insensitive

But with parental leave, it's not unacceptable to have children while Opposition Leader, or Prime Minister, if Jacinda ...
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

But with parental leave, it's not unacceptable to have children while Opposition Leader, or Prime Minister, if Jacinda Ardern chooses.

OPINION: Why didn't Mark Richardson go the whole hog and ask Jacinda Ardern if she was giving up sex now she's Leader of the Opposition?

After all, we all know sex leads to babies, and the shock-jock was just doing his job, he says, getting information we need to know.

Or was he channelling those voters wondering how this young woman will cope with babies and run the country? As some have pointed out, Bill English manages with six children, and his wife, Mary, works full time as a doctor.

Why didn't Mark Richardson go the whole hog and ask Jacinda Ardern if she was giving up sex now she's Leader of the ...
HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES

Why didn't Mark Richardson go the whole hog and ask Jacinda Ardern if she was giving up sex now she's Leader of the Opposition, Deborah Coddington asks.

Neither has been accused of abandoning their family.

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

Possibly no man in Parliament is asked that question, let alone those of Ardern's age-group like David Seymour, Todd Barclay.

So why Ardern? She's not the first.

When Prime Minister Helen Clark supported revising S53 of the Crimes Act - the so-called anti-smacking legislation - the atmosphere was nasty.

Those opposed took umbrage a "barren" leader could dare tell parents how to 'discipline' kids.

Clark brushed off the ugly insults, pointing out she was a loving aunt to nephews and nieces.

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Aside from the blatant sexism, it's deeply insensitive to taunt the childless.

For various reasons some people have difficulty conceiving; often they give up.

I imagine this emptiness would be heart-breaking enough without some rude oaf demanding to know when and if I'm going to reproduce.

As Ardern spat back, "It's totally unacceptable." But with parental leave, it's not unacceptable to have children while Opposition Leader, or Prime Minister, if she chooses.

There's always a first for everything.

Difficult, yes, because of nine months pregnancy then juggling feeding.

But Ruth Richardson and Katherine Rich triumphed over their obstacles, and Holly Walker succeeded despite post-natal depression and insufficient support.

MPs take leave for various reasons.

As an Act MP I studied Dutch and Swedish choice in education for three months at Cambridge University on a Wolfson Press Fellowship, supported by my party.

I easily kept up with Parliamentary work, with a proxy vote.

Others – Simon Upton, Paula Bennett - have done similar.

We need MPs who are more diverse, experienced, and I can think of no greater learning curve (more like rocky cliff climb without crampons) than caring for one's firstborn.

There'd be male MPs who'd like to take parental leave so their (non-MP) partners could continue working, so why don't they?

Well, first they'd have to run the gauntlet of certain media questioning why their wives aren't staying home with the children.

* Deborah Coddington is a journalist and former ACT MP.

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