An open letter to Pru Goward

Essential Baby blogger Amity Dry
Essential Baby blogger Amity Dry 

Dear Pru Goward, (cc Annette Sharp)

Wow, if you wanted to alienate every mother in Australia, mission accomplished! Your statement comparing Jackie O bottle-feeding her baby while walking across the road to Michael Jackson HANGING HIS BABY OVER A BALCONY was so absurd it had me wondering if it was a belated April Fools Day joke. But no, apparently you were serious. But then, if making that statement wasn’t bad enough, accepting responsibility for the opinions of every mother in the country and suggesting we too would be appalled by Jackie’s actions? Well, Pru, here’s a hot tip for you. The only mother I’m appalled by here is you.

As if Jackie wasn’t having a bad enough week, with the open letter she copped from journalist Annette Sharp. Questioning why she went back to work so early after having a baby was offensive enough and why any mother should have to justify her choices, public profile or not, is beyond me. But your comments coming on top of that must have felt like such a vicious blow, at a time of such vulnerability, I can only imagine how Jackie is feeling right now.

I have met Jackie many times over the years and she is a really lovely girl. Back in 2003 when I was doing a ton of promo for The Block and The Lighthouse we saw each other quite often. I remember one charity event we both attended where I brought my baby nephew, who was visiting from interstate. We both oohed and aahed over him, taking turns for cuddles, while agreeing we couldn’t wait to be mums ourself. I haven’t seen Jackie for many years now, but I was really happy to read the news she was pregnant, after spending so long trying to conceive. Having experienced my own challenges in conceiving my second baby I knew how heartbreaking it was to long for a baby, so was thrilled she finally had her much longed for child.

Do you remember that feeling Pru? That excitement, nervousness, awe and trepidation of becoming a mum for the first time. Do you remember trying so hard to do everything right, in this life changing new experience, whilst feeling like your whole world had been turned upside down?

I do. So to hear Jackie’s anguished tears as she pleaded her case on her show the other day made me really angry. How horrible that this amazing time in her life should be hijacked, by judgemental and nasty comments from women who should know better. And why should she have to explain herself to anyone? Is her baby in danger, neglected, malnourished, abused? No. Although plenty of babies across the country are Pru, as you well know (considering your position as NSW families minister). Yet the actions of their parents aren’t held up to public criticism at all, because they are protected by laws that withhold their identities. Perhaps you could spend your time looking into that, instead of focusing on a clearly loving and competent mother, who happens to work in the spotlight. It astounds me, as mothers yourselves, that you would want to contribute in any way to the pressure and uncertainty that every new mum already feels, by publicly questioning the personal choices Jackie has made. 

And lets look at those choices for a moment. Returning to work after 8 weeks, in a studio set up in her home so that her baby is always with her. Um, wouldn’t this be considered an ideal, if not FANTASTIC arrangement for most new mums and their babies? Being able to continue to work without having to get out of your pjs and leave the house, or your baby, would seem like a best-case scenario for most working mums. But even if Jackie had returned to the office at 8 weeks, as some mothers have to do, or choose to do, isn’t that HER BUSINESS? 

So onto the second accusation, walking across the road whilst bottle-feeding her baby, which you suggested was ‘unnecessarily cavalier.’ Unnecessarily cavalier? Was she attempting to get her 3 month old to walk across the road herself? Was she dodging traffic while holding her baby in one arm and a bottle of gin in the other? That would be unnecessarily cavalier. But feeding her while walking? For gods sake.

I have to say, I have breastfed my baby in some pretty bizarre situations. In fact, the moments I’ve spent serenely focusing all my attention on her whilst breastfeeding in an upright feeding chair have been few and far between. Instead, I have balanced her on my lap whilst writing this blog, held my iphone over her head to check my emails and begged her to stop stuffing around and hurry up and finish because I had to get to rehearsal. Is this unnecessarily cavalier Pru? Does this picture not represent the ‘perfect’ image of devoted motherhood we are expected to fulfill, therefore making me a bad mother?

Because if that’s the case, we’re all bad mothers. Every single one of us who are just trying to get through the day, trying to fit it all in, trying to be everything to everybody and trying to do our best at a job that has no rules and never ends. So wouldn’t it make it a lot easier for all of us if we supported and embraced one other during this challenging new experience, instead of judging from the sidelines? Aren’t the demands of new motherhood enough without having to fend off public attacks from other women, who should get it themselves?

Pru, you have spoken for other mothers everywhere in your comments to Jackie, so I’m going to do the same. 

Jackie, on behalf of sane mothers across the country, we support you. We recognise you’re doing the best you can, just like we all are, and we wish you and your precious baby Kitty all the best in your new lives together. This should be one of the happiest (yet sleepiest) times of your life, so we hope you can put this ridiculous situation aside and get on with the joy of falling in love with each other.

Do you agree that Pru Goward overstepped the line? Comment on Amity's blog.

Amity Dry is a writer, composer, singer and mum of two. She blogs for Essential Baby and is the writer and composer of ‘Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life,’ a new musical that takes a raw and honest look at marriage and motherhood. Follow Amity on Twitter.

Aren’t the demands of new motherhood enough without having to fend off public attacks from other women, who should get it themselves?