What a load of Hogwash: Leilani Tamu on Deborah Coddington’s ‘point’

It’s 7.32pm. The kids are fed, washed and bathed and in bed. I’ve finished all of my ‘work’ for the day (both paid and unpaid), my husband will be home sometime in the early hours after he finishes his shift, I’ve said goodnight to both of my grandmothers (the one who lives with me – who’s 80) and the one who lives next door (87) and I am now ready to write what has been on my mind all day:

That as far as I am concerned – as a 34 year old mother of two children who has chosen to stand for parliament this year – the ‘point’ made by Deborah Coddington in her review of Holly Walker’s new book The Whole Intimate Mess, that “you actually can have everything, but maybe not at the same time” is wrong.

And how do I know? I know because only a few months ago: older, more ‘experienced’ women than me passed on exactly the same advice. These well-meaning women said it was ‘better to wait till the children were older’, and that by being in politics my children’s wellbeing would suffer. And you know what? I stupidly let those outdated societal messages get into my head and I wrote a piece that expressed all of my anguish, pain and self-doubt called “Fuck being mum (silent)”

And then the most amazing thing happened. After reading my piece parents, mums, dads, carers, people I’d never even met before who were actually currently struggling with the juggle that is trying to be great parents and make ends meet – contacted me, thanked me for my piece and started to rally around me. They said they were grateful for the fact that I had said what so many of them wanted to say – and that they needed me to keep going. To stand. To do it for my kids. To do it for them. To do it for all of us. Because it’s NOT US (carers / parents) that need to change. It’s our SOCIETY and POLITICS that needs to change.

And it’s not until that happens that pervasive, oppressive and outdated views that make us feel like WE HAVE TO CHOOSE between having a family vs. having a successful career are going to shift. And I AM DETERMINED TO SHIFT THE STATUS QUO. 

To all the women out there in the world tonight who have spent the last 24 hours PLUS working their butts off caring for little ones and doing a heap of unpaid and paid work on top of that: I get you! I appreciate you! and I want to create a society where you dont have to make an ‘either’ ‘or’ choice between the work of ‘care’ and the work that makes up your own personal dreams/visions/career goals.


And I recognise that in order to do that – it’s not us who need to change – WE NEED OUR SOCIETY TO CHANGE and in order to do that POLITICS needs to change. Why? because politics as it’s currently practiced in this country has an institutionalised culture that is patriarchal, individualist, combative and is largely informed by the imperial nature of colonialisation introduced to Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The way politics is currently practiced, is a key part of the problem! And as a candidate this year I am actively working with parents in my networks to shift the status quo of how politics is ‘done’ including by campaigning in ways that are genuinely inclusive and accessible to parents with young children (e.g. see my upcoming calling event next Tuesday 20th) and my next door knocking event next Saturday 24th).

And on top of that, we also need to stop ignoring – making invisible – the people out there who ARE doing the work of care AS WELL AS a heap of other work (unpaid and paid). And in the context of that we need to recognise that their wellbeing is also critically important and needs to be taken care of.

And on that note I have to say I am deeply disappointed at the way in which Deborah refers to the maternal mental health issues addressed in Holly’s book. As a woman who has suffered from PND myself the language used by Coddington (e.g. “I kept wondering why nobody offered an elixir when this woman was clearly in need of professional help”) simply reinforced the negative stereo-types and societal stigmatisation that are the very thing that so many of us are trying to address by speaking out.

So to Deborah: thanks but no thanks for your review of Holly’s book. I think you could have done a much better job, and made a much more meaningful – and up-to-date – ‘point’ in this instance. And yes from a personal perspective I do think the point that you’ve made – at least as far as I’m concerned and those that I am advocating for – is a load of hogwash. But I’ll certainly bear it in mind as I continue to fight against outdated views like this.

~ Leilani.t.

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