Dr Liz Gordon: Babies


I have been reflecting on the Russell McVeagh scandal, the sexism, racism and classism of New Zealand workplaces and the massive problems in making change. Some workplaces I am involved with are working very hard at the moment to address their historical sex and race bias, but there is plenty of backlash from stakeholders.

I have started several blogs on this and they always become very talkie and perhaps a little preachy.  I have decided not to go there at present.

I did just want to make a comment about babies and the workplace. For most women, having babies causes huge struggles – to cope financially with only paid parental leave for a period, to have partners often having to work longer hours to make ends meet, to face losing seniority when returning to the workforce, or losing out on promotions etc. There is still a tension between babies and workplaces in New Zealand.  These do not abate as the babies grow older – they get worse.

Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and Prime Ministers who have babies on the job face many barriers but also significant blessings.

For a start, they keep their salaries through the whole process. While they take leave, this is entirely paid leave. Jacinda has said she will donate part of her salary to Plunket, which is kind, but the point is that the experience of our women politicians is far different to the ordinary working women getting a paid parental allowance for a short period of time.

In addition to having a nice salary which means the other partner can stay home and help with the baby, MPs who have babies are often treated with adulation by the public for combining these roles.  Only the second PM in the world to have a baby on the job! Make world headlines! (The fact that the first one had experienced imprisonment, scandals of many kinds, exile and then assassination means she Is not exactly a role model).  This is kind of the opposite to how working women are normally treated when they have babies.

I am not saying things should be worse for MPs having babies.  I love it that Parliament is packed full of feisty women living their lives and standing for what they believe in.  I do not resent them their salaries. But while treating them as heroes, spare a thought for the underpaid workers holding one or two jobs who may or may not qualify for paid leave, and are giving their babies a lesser start in life due to financial exigencies.  

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These women are heroes too, and they bear the brunt of bringing up the next generation at huge economic, social and working life cost to themselves and their families. Let’s raise the boat further for all women through equal pay, the elimination of sexism in the workplace, the valuing of motherhood and the elimination of poverty.  Just saying.



Dr Liz Gordon began her working life as a university lecturer at Massey and the Canterbury universities. She spent six years as an Alliance MP, before starting her own research company, Pukeko Research.  Her work is in the fields of justice, law, education and sociology (poverty and inequality). She is the president of Pillars, a charity that works for the children of prisoners, a prison volunteer, and is on the board of several other organisations. Her mission is to see New Zealand freed from the shackles of neo-liberalism before she dies (hopefully well before!).


  1. It used to be that one income ; any regular job, provided sufficient revenue to allow one partner to be a full time carer and homemaker. And the family could still expect to have a car and a home of their own . What happened exactly? Has any-one really tried to analyse it?
    D J S

    • What happened over the past 30years? Every time some one speaks about it it’s like I believe in column A and you believe in column B. And I’d have these conversations where people are like why do you have to be right all the time and I’m like, I don’t have to be right all the time but if you make a claim you’ll have to defend your argument and I’ll defend mine. Ultimately I don’t care if I’m wrong, care about working towards having a better understanding than I had.

      By being wrong and making mistakes and I use venture capitalists as an example because the best venture capitalists only find one successful start up company out of 10. So you have to be wrong 9 times out of 10 to find the one Dimond in the ruff. You can’t get to the point where you can say this is how you set it up. None of this stuff happens until you make mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake.

      There’s nothing wrong with sitting back a bit and study abit and navigate the landscape abit but at the end of the day you just got to go because paralysis through analysis isn’t going to help either.

    • Yep DJS;

      I came from this era when I brought home to Napier, my new wife in 1976 to begin a family.

      We got a loan for $12.000 to prop up our half deposit to buy a $23.500 dollar home.

      Inside four years we were both working full time until a baby came along, and I worked from the home as an electrician and took care of the baby along with family members while my wife went back to work, (her choice) and all went so well.

      The morage was quickly being paid off and we were debt free by 1984.

      I am so sad that our kids both did not have the same chance as we had, and it is the sheer “speculation” that has now ramped up the house costs we believe now.

  2. It is time to get real about having children, pay people not to have kids. And the hero business of breeding is ridiculous!

    It is amazing not to take into account the future your kids will inherit with climate catastrophe, civilization collapse…

    People who have kids need to be pulling down the system which is destroying life on earth for every being on the planet. If parents don’t honestly believe the shit thats hitting the fan then they are ignorant self centred idiots. Dragging kids into the sixth mass extinction is cruelty.

    The western bubble will pop and this death cult culture will die which is what it deserves. Anyone having kids now is crazy, and not a hero!

  3. While I do not disagree and fully understand your sentiments @Kate there is this very real thing called “nature”. It is natural to reproduce, it is natural to want to do so, it is natural for a functioning society to prepare for and protect it’s young. We are primates after all. It is our political and economic systems that have corrupted this natural instinct. Children are marketing targets and fodder for an exploitative education system etc etc etc. We have become so greedy we exploit our offspring. Yes the future is grim. My own children have with one exception decided not to breed. Very rational and very sad. Easy to say ,do not breed, gives one an empty life though. And I don’t need a lecture about being child-free. the child- free are rarely( there are wonderful exceptions of course)well rounded or switched on because they have not experienced the real reason for life.

  4. You don’t need children to have a full life! How can anyone be empty living amongst all this beautiful life, whoops forgot our culture is destroying it all. By over population and mindless consumption.

    Nature doesn’t negotiate. We need a habitat to survive which is fast being totally wiped out.

    Good luck.

    • I didn’t say or imply empty@Kate . Don’t be so defensive or is it that like all the child free you just don’t get it till you’ve done it !It’s not about you .

  5. Current Human Population of Earth: 7.6 billion (est)

    Projected Human Population of Earth by 2050: 9 billion.

    Along with 9 billion mouths to feed will be demand for water, food, resources, disposable consumer goods, more plastic, more CO2/methane emissions, more rainforests clear-felled, more pollution, further fishing resources depleted, and war. Expect more wars as nations compete with each other for scarcer and scarcer resources.

    Expect National to be re-elected on their oft-stated promise to over-turn the Coalition’s ban on new off-shore drilling permits, as the price of oil escalates and the “lure of wealth” is dangled in front of our propertied Middle Class. (You know the suckers will fall for it.)

    And expect us to be involved in super-power conflict as we try futilely to stop Antarctica’s mineral wealth to be seized and exploited by the US or China.

    Yes, humans have a right to breed.

    But like every other freedom there are consequences. Consequences that have been spelled out for us very clearly. And which some choose to ignore at the expense of our planet; our civilisation; our species.

    Because, y’know, we have a fucken right to consume and breed and pollute until it kills us all. (Which it will, eventually.)

    May that fictional god help us all.

    • PS: This was not having a ‘go’ at Ms Ardern and her partner and child.

      Probably wasn’t the best place to post this. If anyone objects, Scarletmod can delete my comment.

      • I find it ‘interesting’ that the comment I made a while ago, pointing out the abject failure of Jacinda to protect her progeny’s future, was rejected. Hence, I stopped commenting on TBD.

        Clearly there will be no ‘Human Population of Earth by 2050: 9 billion’. Indeed, with the global extraction of oil (now necessary for the production and distribution of most of the world’s food) having peaked, the only possible scenario is massive human population die-off commencing in the 2020s.

        Whether any humans will be alive in 2050 is highly debatable, since the rate at which humans are destabilising the geochemical systems that make life-as-we-know-it possible far exceeds the rate in all previous Mass Extinction Events. Those previous CO2-induced Mass Extinction Events occurred over thousands or hundreds of thousands of years; the current CO2-induced Mass Extinction Event is occurring in a matter of a few hundred years.

        By 2050 the destabilisation of the ice in the Arctic currently underway will be have been long-completed (ice-free) and numerous positive feedbacks releasing massive amounts of CO2 and CH4 from permafrost will have been triggered; runaway greenhouse will almost certainly have been triggered.

        Of much more immediate concern is the global food supply. We cannot predict the rate at which industrial agriculture will collapse; if could well be within a few years in some parts of the world if current trends continue:


        However, we can predict that governments around the world will continue to ignore ALL the fundamental factors that needed to be addressed long ago (when the first warnings were given), and will continue to operate as agents and facilitators for the global banking cartels that control most of the world.

        The hope that stems from gross ignorance of the facts, and a blind belief in the benevolence of the system that the vast majority of the population seem to have, along with the dysfunctional economic system are what keep us on the path to global catastrophe.

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