On Tuesday we saw the announcement of the retirement of Bill English, who many people of all colours and callings respect immensely — while others blame him for everything they failed to achieve themselves.

But an interesting aspect of his announcement was Bill's heartfelt thanks for the role of his family in supporting his political career.

The father of six children and husband of a practising GP, Bill acknowledged the sacrifices the family had made while living in the spotlight, something I am not sure those who have never lived with a high level of public scrutiny will ever fully understand.

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What we have picked up from the recent election campaign, though, is that the family of Rt Hon Bill and Dr Mary English are close, high performing and successful. They are also nice people.


It has been similarly interesting to note the responses from many — especially a lot of women — to the news that our Prime Minister is pregnant. The pregnancy was made public by the soon-to-be mum and dad and so putting it out there makes the news public property — and the public have certainly expressed their views.

The refrain has often centred on speculation that a woman cannot possibly be Prime Minister and mother a newborn. It seems to me — as a Sensitive New Age Guy (SNAG) — that this is an incredibly sexist position to take. Nobody in the past day or so has opined that Bill and Mary should have not parented six children while she was a busy GP and he a busy politician.

And I don't recall people suggesting that the Queen had no right to have four children while she was a busy monarch.

You'd think that with Jacinda being fulltime PM and partner Clarke Gayford being fulltime stay-at-home dad, there is a high probability of success. Amazing to think, though, that so many people believe a new mum couldn't possibly juggle childbirth and early motherhood and consider intelligently and carefully the affairs of state.

Another fascination for me in hearing all this is that the most aggressive detractors of the combined role are mothers — and usually mothers who were stay-at-home mums while the kids were small. They were generally raised in an era when women were expected to be at home with their children and had been schooled to believe that this was a woman's full expectation.

Those who seem more supportive of Jacinda's plans to take six weeks' maternity leave and then hand over the reins to Clarke are those women who worked at higher levels within business and government and wanted or need to remain in the workforce either from a desire not to have their brain turn to mush or from financial necessity.

I have seen so many women not only manage but thrive in fulltime work and fulltime motherhood that I am convinced Jacinda and Clarke will manage admirably.

While it may not be everybody's choice to do it that way, it is certainly their decision to make. To put off motherhood until after politics could mean to rule it out, given a successful term as leader of the Labour Party of somewhere between three and nine years — and that would seem to undermine the high calling of being a mum.

Funnily enough those who criticised her in the campaign for not having had children now seem to criticise her decision to become a mother.

There is an old saying that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did ... but backwards and in high heels. A woman clever enough to become Prime Minister and determined to be a good mum will have no trouble given the support of those around her such as partner, parents, friends and work colleagues.

Gender is not a deciding factor in being a good or bad parent, Prime Minister or both.

Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government.