'I Am Not the First Woman to Work and Have a Baby': Global Praise for New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Drawing global applause, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Friday that she is expecting her first child, and that she plans to work through her pregnancy and retain her political post, telling reporters outside her home: “I am not the first woman to multitask. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby.”

“I know these are special circumstances, but there are many women who would have done this well before I have,” she added.

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Ardern said she will take a six-week maternity leave, deferring to Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters during that time. After that, “we’ll be joining the many parents out there who wear two hats,” Ardern wrote in a Facebook post announcing her pregnancy. “I’ll be Prime Minister AND a mum, and Clarke will be ‘first man of fishing’ and stay at home dad.”

The news of Ardern’s pregnancy was met with an outpouring of support as well as commentary about the importance of empowering women to pursue both motherhood and their careers.


Her short time off “contrasts with her party’s parental leave policies, with the Labour-led coalition expanding paid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks in one of its first legislative changes,” Reuters notes. “That is set to rise again to 26 weeks in 2020.”

“One of the things that I have always talked about, regardless of our circumstances, has been how great it would be for us all to have the pride of knowing that we are one of the best countries to be a child,” Ardern said in an interview with NZ Herald Focus.

“I’ve always been motived by that, and I would be had I not been in these circumstances, and so that remains a goal, and that’s what our families package was about,” she added, pointing to Labour’s ongoing goals related to health, wellbeing, and poverty.

Ardern—who, at 37, is New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in recent memory—was sworn in last October, after an intense election season. She and her partner, television presenter Clarke Gayford, found out she was expecting while in the middle of forming the national government.

Ardern will join a short list of women to serve as a nation’s elected leader while pregnant; in 1990, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gave birth while in office.

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