Opinion: Why it's okay to ask Jacinda Ardern the baby question

OPINION: As a sleep deprived, mummy-brained mother of a toddler and a six-month-old, the first question that sprang to mind when I heard Jacinda was taking over the Labour Party leadership was, "but hang on - doesn't she want babies?"

She'd previously listed motherhood as one of the reasons the leadership gig didn't appeal – so I admit I was somewhat surprised when she agreed to take on the hardest job in politics.

When The Project team – somewhat apologetically – put it to her, I turned up the volume, because I really wanted to hear her answer.

If she hadn't spoken about the issue previously, it wouldn't have been a relevant question.

But she had - in a Next magazine interview in June.

As it happened, she didn't appear to have a problem with being asked, but others sure did. Apparently it was "sexist". Why don't we ask male leaders the same question?

I'd like to think we would, if they had recently spoken of their desire to do something that would likely require them to spend lengthy periods away from the job – and even more so, if they'd specifically cited that something as a reason to avoid the job in the first place.

I find being a full-time mother incredibly tough, so I can't help but wonder the obvious: How would Jacinda deal with the pressures of being Prime Minister, while also coping with the physical and psychological pressures that childbearing brings?

Most new mothers take time off, which in itself would be an issue when you're in such a prominent role. How would she balance the job with meeting the needs of a child?

If I'm wondering all this, you can bet others – voters – are too.

I'm not saying for a second that it's impossible to do both – but in my opinion, this is one of those rare situations where it IS okay to put the question to her.

Surely the responsibility of looking after the future direction, prosperity and security of an entire nation does - with massive respect to the thousands of other working mums - trump the responsibilities of running a single household.  

And for that reason alone, we're allowed to ask.

Heather McCarron is a freelance journalist and mother of two.