Last week, while listening to a radio podcast, I heard the presenter – a well known South African figure – lambasting the new Zealand Prime Minister for not only A) announcing her pregnancy as an unmarried woman (gasp) but B) doing it so in front of her home in her ‘casual wear’ (the horrors) and C) daring to admit that she would be taking a 6 week break for maternity leave. The host spent a good 10 minutes accusing Jacinda Arden (the PM) of neglecting her country duties while she basically took a 6 week holiday.
My blood boiled, and the milk I was expressing curdled. I was pissed. Perhaps he caught me at a bad time – having recently birthed a baby of my own – but I just had to send him an email to speak up on behalf women, and men everywhere, who take ma or pa-ternity leave.
Here is my response:
I listened with interest to your commentary on the Prime Minister of New Zealands pregnancy announcement, and your thoughts around her 6 weeks of maternity ‘leave’.
I have a 2 month old baby. Which means I have been on leave for 2 weeks longer than Jacinda Arden will. Let me tell you, 6 weeks, when taking into consideration the average lifespan of a human (71.6 years in the case of a New Zealander) means that she will get to spend a precious 0.16% of her life with her newborn, before real life takes over. Of that measly 0.16% about 3/4 of that will be spent (if she had a C section) recovering from a traumatic surgery, feeding, expressing, cleaning, de-vomiting, nappy changing, crying, trying to fit into clothes that aren’t spandex and cooking and cleaning (because shame, these poor new Zealanders do not have the luxury of hired help like we do), all whilst trying to keep a tiny human infant alive. She will, I am almost certain also still be doing her job (vice PM or not, one does not just forget how to rule a country because they’ve shoved a watermelon out of their vagina). So whilst I agree that she sounds like she ate all her vowels for breakfast, I disagree wholeheartedly that you think 6 weeks is too long. Au contraire, 6 weeks is but a drop in the ocean. Even we have better labour laws than that. The poor woman is going to need 6 weeks just to shrink her uterus back to size.
I know all of this, because whilst I may not be a Prime Minister, I am a new mom of my second child. I took 29 days off of work before going back to my second job (photography) and shooting a 11 hour wedding. In 2 months time I will return to my corporate job as a Marketing Manager. I shoot 5-7 jobs a week, edit most nights past midnight, wake up at 1 and 4 am to feed, don’t actually sleep in between feeds because I’m too busy hating my husbands worthless nipples and wondering about important issues like ‘how do they get the toothpaste in the tube to come out in different coloured stripes’. I get up at 6 am to get my son ready for school and then head to the gym and in-between still try to run a house, look after my toddler and be a decent functioning human being. Hell, I type this while hanging like a fruit bat from a girls dinner that involved way too much red wine and tequila. Oh, and I’ve also just baked and iced a 4 tier birthday cake for my toddlers 3rd party tomorrow, taken 36 cupcakes out of the oven and glue gunned party hats onto plastic dinosaurs. All while my left boob leaked because I’d forgotten to shove a breast pad in my overly-sexy maternity bra.
I absolutely realise how martyr’ish this sounds, but I just had to put it out there and challenge you on your anti child anti maternity leave stance. Having a baby, and yes even when by choice, is the hardest ad most wonderful thing I have ever done. And whilst some women may use it as an excuse to let their pubic hair grow to Rapunzel lengths and shop in Checkers in their stokies, many of us, like myself, take it in their stride and adopt it as one more role to add to their already fat CV.