Some people are criticising Jacinda Ardern, for wanting to minimize time away from her infant on taxpayers’ money. The New Zealand Prime Minister has to attend Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru, but her infant daughter Neve is too young to have the immunisations required to visit Nauru. As per an article in The Guardian, Ardern has asked that an air force Boeing 757 to fly back from the Pacific Islands Forum to pick her up, one day after her deputy departed for the three-day meeting on that very plane.

Ardern says she has weighed all the options carefully and both the Forum and her daughter need her presence. Which is why she is taking this decision. But some are criticising this extra trip, as it will allegedly cost between NZ$50,000 to NZ$100,000 (£25,000 to £50,000) to taxpayers. New Zealand’s finance minister, Grant Robertson, has made it clear that the government allocated the money for such trips each year. “So actually, there is no additional money at all being spent there, it’s simply making use of that 757.”

Since Neve is just 11 weeks old and Ardern is still breastfeeding her, it must have been a very tough call for her to even leave her for one day

Only a mother can understand how painful and mentally taxing even one-day trips away from your infant can be. Yet, Ardern cannot get away from criticism, because being a female politician, a new mother no less, is quite prone to such scrutiny.

Why do people hold working new moms to such tough scrutiny?

It is very brave of Ardern to make this call so professionally. But instead of appreciating her for not putting her duties towards her country second, people are busy criticising her for costing them money, which in the first place isn’t how it works, as Robertson has made clear. It makes one wonder, why do working new mothers face such an intense scrutiny? Why is it that their every action must be thoroughly reviewed and criticised, no matter what course they take?

SOME TAKEAWAYS-

  • New Zealand Prime Minister has to attend Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru, but her infant daughter Neve is too young to accompany her.
  • Hence she has asked that an air force Boeing 757 to fly back from the Pacific Islands Forum to pick her up, one day after her deputy departed for the three-day meeting on that very plane.
  • But some people are busy criticising her as this allegedly will at the cost of tax payers’ money.
  • Is Ardern being scrutinised so harshly for being a new mother and a working Prime Minister?

There is no way Ardern could have gotten out of this situation without being criticised, because world isn’t very kind to women anyways.

Had she chosen to cancel this trip, a group of people would have called her an incompetent Prime Minister. “This is why women shouldn’t be in power,” they would have said. “New mothers shouldn’t work and just sit at home and bring up their children right, because that is their first duty and motherhood makes them incompetent anyways.”

But motherhood doesn’t make them incompetent. Not when they have cooperative partners and workplaces. What Ardern needs is a pat on her back for not neglecting any of her duties. For taking a tough call like this and making sure neither her child nor her country got neglected. Her partner does deserve some credit for being so supportive, so does her staff, ministers etc who are making it as smooth as possible for new mom Ardern.

But there is no pleasing some people. They will always find a way to criticise a working new mother. Their critique probably stems from a disbelief that a new mother can juggle all balls she has in the air successfully. They still doubt that new moms make for good working women or vice-versa. This unnecessary criticism is so demoralising. It makes women doubt their own capabilities.

No matter what choices working new moms make, shame and criticism accompany each one, which makes life a bigger struggle than it already is

Ardern and her government must have taken this decision after a lot of introspection and calculations. But what is preventing people from accepting it are their tinted glasses. It is not as if Ardern is off to a holiday on taxpayers’ money. We have seen politicians do much worse things. If people have no empathy for her just because she is a woman and their country’s Prime Minister, then it is their mentality which needs assessment, and not Ardern’s decision.

Picture Credit: REUTERS/Charlotte Greenfield

Also Read: Postpartum Struggles: Why Every Mother Is A Warrior

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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