New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had a run in with nappy cream early on Wednesday and that’s just not a sentence that could be conceived as applicable for too many world leaders, is it?
Taking to Instagram Ardern shared the proof of errant flicks of thick white cream on her dark fuchsia blazer, while saying she’d spare us all the exact details.
Personally I’ve now been working from home for so long (at least 300 years?) that wearing clothes without flecks of something – toast crumbs, texta smudges, spilt coffee, flour dust – is more conspicuous than unblemished clothes. But I do remember the days of old.
I can recall those days where work was a place I actually went which involved, generally, getting dressed and making myself presentable. Naturally whenever that process involved close proximity with a small person, particularly of the baby and toddler variety, attempting to stay clean was an obstacle course of sorts.
When I returned to work after my firstborn my strategy to eliminate visual evidence of the inevitable mess from my actual person was to wake before she did, get myself fully dressed and the moment I heard her stir I’d wrap a ginormous dressing gown over the top. I’d only take the gown off as we stepped out the door. There were still errors, of course, but largely it worked.
Having a baby and a toddler made that approach harder, mostly because there wasn’t sufficient (any) distinction between night and morning so the idea of ‘waking’ ‘before’ the small people was obsolete. During that period of time my approach became to get both the girls fed, dressed and practically out the door before, at the absolute last moment, popping my work clothes on.
Even that wasn’t foolproof though. And, like Jacinda, (oh the joy of having anything in common with NZ’s wonder-PM), it was inevitably only when I was far from home that I’d notice the handprint mark of crusted weetbix or porridge on my trousers. Or jacket. Or hair. Cereal more than nappy cream was my consistent nemesis. (Which is to say if Jacinda was open to sharing the exact details, I’d be all ears.)
Notwithstanding the virtues of maintaining a semblance of professionalism I knew, then as now, that visual proof of my children ought not undermine or erode my (or any parent’s) credibility in a work capacity. And yet? We’ve hardly been inundated with images of power and authority enmeshed with the practical reality of parenting have we?
We’ve all been quietly indoctrinated for so long that work and children exist in totally separate universes and that the two shall rarely meet. It’s why when they do it seems shocking.
Part of the reason that infamous BBC interview in which the two small children of the South Korean expert came hurtling into the study and into shot was so funny was because it’s just not what we’re accustomed to in a serious professional context. Despite the fact it’s exactly what most parents are accustomed to at home: that their children can and will appear off-script at every moment.
All of which is to say it’s not just a little bit delightful to see Jacinda Ardern share proof of her family life colliding with her work. It’s also powerful because it normalises the co-existence of parenting and working.