Op-ed: It’s a huge deal to have babies in Parliament. Not talking serves no one

On 2 August 2017 I wrote this opinion piece for Stuff in response to Jacinda Ardern’s election as Labour Party leader and the questions she subsequently faced about whether she planned to have children.

When I was a Green MP and pregnant with my first child, former National MP Katherine Rich stood in my office and told me that she would do anything she could to help make the experience I was about to have easier.

She would even, she said, come and hold the baby for me while I worked.

I was taken aback by this generous offer, because I didn’t know her very well.

It seemed like the kind of thing you might offer to your family or close friends, not an acquaintance from a very different political background.

I see now that it was her way of telling me just how hard having a baby while an MP, was going to be. It was very, very hard.

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“Having it all” – my speech at the launch of The Whole Intimate Mess

On 22 June 2017 my publishers at Bridget Williams Books put on a delightful launch event for my book The Whole Intimate Mess at Vic Books Pipitea. The incomparable Emily Writes was the guest speaker. Emily spoke beautifully – you can see what she said here. And below is a rough approximation of what I said. It was wonderful to be so supported by family, friends, colleagues and readers. Thank you to everyone who came, and all those who bought a copy.

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Photo: Dave Crampton

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Press coverage of The Whole Intimate Mess

My book The Whole Intimate Mess: Motherhood, Politics, and Women’s Writing was published by Bridget Williams Books in June 2017. You can find out more and order it here.

I’ve been fortunate to have had wide and generous press coverage of the book, and I’ve collected some of that here. I’m pleased that it has prompted some interesting conversations about women, work, parenthood and mental health.

The Whole Intimate Mess – Holly Walker‘, Up Again with James Dann, Interview on RDU FM, 28 July 2017.

Unacceptable Choices‘, Review by Alison McCulloch, Scoop Review of Books, 14 July 2017.

I am ok, and thanks for asking!‘, Interview with Susan Strongman, The Wireless, 6 July 2017.

Torn in two: Former Green MP Holly Walker discusses trading Parliament for motherhood‘, Michelle Duff, Sunday magazine, 2 July 2017.

A Private Face‘, Sunday TVNZ, 25 June 2017.

Holly Walker: The Whole Intimate Mess‘, Simon Sweetman, Off the Tracks, 21 June 2017.

Holly Walker – The Whole Intimate Mess‘, Interview with Kim Hill on RNZ, 17 June 2017.

Holly Walker – The Whole Intimate Mess‘, Interview with Ryan Bradley on Radio Live, 17 June 2017.

You can’t always get everything you want: Deborah Coddington reviews Holly Walker‘, Deborah Coddingham, The Spinoff, 15 June 2017.

A brief history of feminist literature in New Zealand: Tessa Duder on her classic novel Alex‘, Tessa Duder, The Spinoff, 14 June 2017.

Holly Walker and the books her kid is reading‘, The Sapling, 14 June 2017.

‘I really admire that you have been open about mental health as a candidate’: Chlöe Swarbrick in conversation with Holly Walker‘, Chlöe Swarbrick and Holly Walker, The Spinoff, 13 June 2017.

‘There is nothing normal about crawling up the hallway, screaming and hitting yourself in the head’: former Green MP Holly Walker shares her story‘, Holly Walker, The Spinoff, 12 June 2017.

Featured

The Whole Intimate Mess

In June 2017 I published a short memoir about my experience in Parliament, becoming a mother, and then stepping down when it became too hard to combine my care responsibilities with my career. After leaving Parliament, I set myself a challenge to only read books by women for a year (which turned into two), and this was the starting point for this book.

I’m really excited to share it, thanks to the lovely team at Bridget Williams Books who encouraged me to write it and released it as part of their Texts series of short books by New Zealand writers. You can find out more and order it here.

Dear Mamas Episode 9 Transcript: Anxiety

In February 2016, Emily Writes and I started a parenting podcast called Dear Mamas. Our manifesto is no bullshit, no judgement, and we hope to build friendship, support and community. As of this episode, we are very excited to be part of The Spinoff family of podcasts, and we have a sponsor – Little Big Crate, delivering gorgeous threads for your little big person, right to your front door. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher, or listen on The Spinoff Parents. I’ll be posting transcripts of each episode here for anyone who’s unable to listen. Huge thanks to Mary Cronin for this transcript.

In this episode we discuss our experiences with anxiety, plus Emily has a best-selling book and a whole lot of speaking engagements, and Holly has some big news.

We mention Holly’s essay about anxiety, You Never Regret a Swim and our friend Leah McFall’s column in Sunday magazine. Emily has written often about mental health, most notably this post.

If you think you or someone else might be experiencing anxiety or depression, check out the resources at Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aotearoa, or take the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. And don’t be like us and wait to ask for help!

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Dear Mamas Episode 8 Transcript: Disability and Chronic Illness

In February 2016, Emily Writes and I started a parenting podcast called Dear Mamas. Our manifesto is no bullshit, no judgement, and we hope to build friendship, support and community. As of this episode, we are very excited to be part of The Spinoff family of podcasts, and we have a sponsor – Little Big Crate, delivering gorgeous threads for your little big person, right to your front door. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher, or listen on The Spinoff Parents. I’ll be posting transcripts of each episode here for anyone who’s unable to listen. Huge thanks to @ninamingya for this transcript.

In this episode we discuss parenting through disability and chronic illness – both when your child is unwell, and when one of the parents is. We are joined by Tessa Prebble of The One in a Million Baby blog and podcast who shares her story, and that of her daughter Eva. If you haven’t already, go and subscribe to her podcast right now.

This episode includes discussion of the loss of a child, so please take care when listening/reading if you need to.

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A whole good day: When parenting finally feels like you thought it would

This essay was originally published on The Spinoff on 29 November 2016.

On the day my daughter turned three, a man gave me a chopping board. It was a lovely chopping board, made from caramel-coloured blocks of recycled rimu that had been glued together and clamped in a vice. The man had made it himself. He brought it over to my house in the afternoon, along with a miniature Pinky bar for my daughter, Esther.

I met this man about five years ago, when I was first running for Parliament. He was the chair of the local peace group, and hosted a debate for the candidates. Later he became a dedicated campaign volunteer. He was kind and generous, and donated several of his chopping boards to fundraising auctions. After I left Parliament, earlier than I had planned, he asked if he could gift me one as a token of support and appreciation. It took me almost three years to follow up and accept his offer.

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Dear Mamas Episode 6 transcript: ECE

In February 2016, Emily Writes and I started a parenting podcast called Dear Mamas. Our manifesto is no bullshit, no judgement, and we hope to build friendship, support and community. As of this episode, we are very excited to be part of The Spinoff family of podcasts, and we have a sponsor – Little Big Crate, delivering gorgeous threads for your little big person, right to your front door. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher, or listen on The Spinoff Parents. I’ll be posting transcripts of each episode here for anyone who’s unable to listen. Huge thanks to @missashlynm for this transcript.

In this episode we explore the myriad of bewildering ECE options available for our children. Between us, we’ve just about tried them all, and we share our experiences good and bad. We’re joined by an experienced ECE teacher, Jo, who also shares her own experiences and answers all our questions and sets us at ease about our insecurities.

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Dear Mamas Episode 4 transcript: Sleep

In February 2016, Emily Writes and I started a monthly parenting podcast called Dear Mamas. Our manifesto is no bullshit, no judgement, and we hope to build friendship, support and community. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher, or listen on Emily’s blog. I’ll be posting transcripts of each episode here for anyone who’s unable to listen.

In this Mother’s Day special we tackle one of the classic parenting topics: sleep! We don’t have an expert guest, because we’re just not ready to hear any more sleep advice! Instead we talk frankly about our own experiences with kids who don’t sleep, and offer our own gentle suggestions (never advice!) about how to support mums who are in this situation.

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How podcasts saved my life, then nearly destroyed it

First published on The Spinoff on 2 May 2016.

I was having a rough time. My partner was sick and we had a small child. I was working full time, and doing most of the domestic work too. Our daughter was not a “good sleeper”, and the most reliable way to get her to nap during the day was to take her out for a long walk.

Between working, walking, and washing dishes, nappies and clothes, it was hard to catch a break. My days felt relentless, from the moment I woke until I collapsed into bed (too late) at night. While there was no question that I would do what I must to support my partner and daughter, I wasn’t particularly selfless about it. I missed my old self, the spontaneity and freedom I’d had when things were easier. It was easy to feel resentful, especially as I dragged myself up after finally putting our daughter to sleep each night, only to make a start on the dinner dishes that had piled up in the sink.

The first few times friends linked to season one of Serial, I ignored it. I tend to be a late adopter. But after a while it was unavoidable: people whose taste I trusted and admired were going nuts for this thing. I downloaded the first episode, plugged in my earphones as I set about loading the dishwasher, and was hooked.

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