Wow, so the conversation about Jacinda Ardern pretty quickly moved from "is she the saviour of Labour" to "is she going to pop out a baby while PM".

That Jacinda was even asked the question has been met with howls of indignation that it's sexist.

And fundamentally - it is. Bill English has six kids - SIX - and I cannot recall him ever being asked if he can do the job and have a family.

National party leader and Prime Minister Bill English is not asked about how he balances career and family. Photo / File
National party leader and Prime Minister Bill English is not asked about how he balances career and family. Photo / File

I'm firmly of the mind that what a woman wants to do with her body is her business and no one else's and should not impact her career prospects.


But you know what? I wondered about Ardern's family plans too. Not because I think a woman can't have a career and a family, but because she has explicitly said before, "I don't want to be leader because I want to have a family, and I don't think you could achieve that as leader or Prime Minister".

In that context, and a sudden about-face on not wanting to be leader, Jesse Mulligan's question was not so outrageous.

I can't say the same of Mark Richardson's comments, in which he asserted it was every employers' right to know, so they could plan for it. Which is basically code for "so they won't employ that woman". Which is like, illegal.

This saga indicates we do in fact need to be asking some questions, it's just that none of them involve delving into Ardern's baby plans. Instead, I want to know, are we really satisfied that our society offers equal rights and opportunities, or is that just a veneer?

Are we no longer a trailblazer for women's rights? Do we do enough to support mothers who work, or do we want the message to our girls to be that you can you only be Prime Minister if you decide not to have children, or if your children are no longer little kids?

MPs like Holly Walker have been very open about the lack of support within Parliament for women to do both. Having a child put an end to her parliamentary career and she's very open about the fact that it is beyond hard. Why Parliament isn't better set up in that regard speaks to the fact it's still primarily a place for men, and older MPs.

I was asked to stand for Parliament this year and I thought to myself - I'm 31, if I wanted to do this, how would commuting to Wellington work if I decide to have a baby? It was kind of a moot point because I don't want to be a politician, but the answer, incidentally, is, not very well. That question was never asked of me, I asked it of myself - because I still see many barriers for mothers in the workplace.

I sincerely hope no one goes to the ballot box worrying about the implications of a pregnant prime minister. I mean, we've had drunk prime ministers, I'm pretty sure we could handle one procreating.

It's such a shame this question has taken the focus away from "wow a new leader with charisma" to "wow a new leader with a womb that hasn't produced a child yet".

But I think the other questions it raises about how we value women and how we support mothers to give them choices, are well worth answering.