The news that Jacinda Ardern has resigned has shocked the world and despite not being a staunch follower of NZ politics I admit that my eyebrows rose this morning when I scrolled through my news feed. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/19/jacinda-ardern-resigns-as-prime-minister-of-new-zealand
It struck me as surprising as what I had previously read suggested that she was committed to politics, over and above everything else in her life.
When I read on, the narrative was clear and satisfactory,”she had nothing left in the tank”, and I gave a small laugh;
Of course she hasn’t.. because you will become spent emotionally if you take on the world – which Jacinda did literally , just like millions of us do everyday.
We juggle running houses and kids and jobs -we run around making a life for our little ‘hell beasts’ in addition to trying to keep some of that life that we had, before they arrived. And it’s bloody hard. As Jacinda said we are all human- we can only do so much , for so long.
Like many I can relate to her words; I too am spent emotionally – at least I was until I made the decision to step back just before Christmas – to let someone else do the job that I have been doing for over 17 years now. At the point I made the decision , there were only dregs left in a tank that once had been full for teaching. I had gone back part-time after leaving a full time role after lockdown. The whole decision-making process was documented in New Beginnings.
So this is Part 2 I suppose ; (Perhaps its even what I wanted to do in Part 1) of how I left teaching which started, way back in 2016.
In New Zealand in 2016 Jacinda Ahern became Prime Minister.
She rose to the challenge, championed woman and for an end to poverty for children. She was strong in the face of her opposition and exuded energy and hopefulness.
I too had become a leader… not quite on the same level but I had become a course leader at an F.E College.
She was in charge of a country and Ministers and I was in charge of 68 NEET kids and a few not neat staff.
She championed womans rights , I championed the rights of the kids to an education, even if they weren’t really keen on having one.
She prevented 1000s of deaths from covid, I stopped tens of exclusions through being a bit more patient than I probably should have been.
She led courageously and with sincerity through terror incidents; I led with a certain amount of sincerity but mainly with humour as I managed facebook rows, broken lifts, kids on drugs and trips to the local fields to retrieve drunk teenagers.
She had a baby in the first year and I too had a baby- but thats where the similarities (ahem) end….
I went on maternity leave and decided not to go back to the role; but to do something I believed would be less taxing; teaching permanently excluded Looked After Children in the community. I was a little bit wrong and spent the next two years in a constant state of anxiety. Despite really enjoying the relationship building and the small successes, working with children who are traumatised, is hard work and as the adult, you carry all their scary feelings for them. All the time….especially when you chase them around a council estate because they don’t want to do fractions today. (For the record I didn’t want to do fractions either, so that actually worked out quite well for both of us)
Then came lockdown which Jacinda managed marvellously.
I didn’t and decided I wasn’t going back. Ever .
Until I had no money and couldn’t find something that I felt I could do other than teach- so I chose the same role albeit in a smaller guise. Plus, doing the job that you have always done is comforting particularly when you can do it fairly well.
Fundamentally I suppose I am good at it. I work well with the children and I understand them but …..
I looked around me at other teachers and was suddenly reminded of the energy that I once had, the energy that you need to do the job well to give those young people the absolute best chance in life. I am no longer consistent in that respect and that is why I had to step back. I don’t believe that I am devoid of energy, just devoid of energy for that role- for now.
So when Jacinda says that she spent the summer hoping to find the energy again – I get that.
I also searched myself during the summer months and I did find it , for a while. Until the circumstances of life outside of work trotted in. And they do that, circumstances; they pop by to remind you that there is stuff that exists outside your career that you need to attend to and I was stopped in my tracks.
I’ve been reading the commentary feeds on her departure and they are quite mixed in response. I was surprised at the negative statements- but I guess when you have a government like ours it’s only possible to see the positive in everyone else’s. I wasn’t surprised to see the other angle creep in – that there is some reason behind it all that we will be a party to at some point in the future. People grappling around for a slant on a reason that is quite straight forward in its origin.
Anticipating this suspicion, Jacinda has already stated that there is no other reason, other than to say she is ‘done’.
Now I am a trainee therapist. Believe me if there is an angle- I will find it- in everything
Analysis is second nature to me.
I just can’t see anything beyond what she has said today.
For me and maybe for Jacinda Ardern, the greatest moment in all this is realising that YOU know when it’s time to go. It’s not a decision that has been made by someone else but one that you have made by yourself because of your self-knowledge
there has already been a trickle of speculation of whats next for her. Again, her words made clear that of immediate importance to her was her family ,being with a child she has not experienced in her entirety and marrying her long term partner.
A friend said to me earlier that they were just taking one day at a time and if I may speculate about Jacindas immediate future that is probably what she is doing. Taking one day at a time
Not thinking too far ahead and certainly not seeing everything as a ‘forever’ choice or a
if we are weighing things up, considering where to put our energy then , perhaps like Jacinda, it is best invested in the thing that will be with us forever.
And the only thing which falls into that category is our decision to have and raise a child.
Sometimes life really is that simple.