Careers

New Zealand’s Prime Minister is pregnant and will take 6 weeks of maternity leave

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford are expecting their first child in June 2018. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters will take on Prime Ministerial duties for six weeks after the baby is born.
Hannah Peters | Getty Images
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford are expecting their first child in June 2018. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters will take on Prime Ministerial duties for six weeks after the baby is born.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is not the first world leader to be pregnant while in office — Benazir Bhutto gave birth while she was the Prime Minister of Pakistan — but she is one of few.

Today, Prime Minister Ardern announced that she and her partner Clarke Gayford are expecting their first child. "We're excited and we know together that we are going to make this work and New Zealand is going to help us raise our first child," she told reporters.

In an Instagram post, Ardern says that Gayford, who hosts a television show about fishing, "will be 'first man of fishing' and stay at home dad."

In 2017, New Zealand Parliment voted to extend paid parental leave entitlement from 18 weeks to 22 weeks. Ardern will take only six.

"I am by no means the first woman to multitask," she said. "And in terms of being a woman in politics, there are plenty of women who carved a path and incrementally have led the way to be able to make it possible for people to look upon my time in leadership and think, 'Yes, I can do the job and be a mother.'"

Ardern is New Zealand's third female Prime Minister, following Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark. She told reporters that she realized she was pregnant just six days before she became Prime Minister on October, 26th 2017.

Previously that year, when Ardern was serving as the leader of New Zealand's Labour Party, she repeatedly faced questions about her plans to have children.

On the radio program "The AM Show," former cricket player Mark Richardson said that it was a "legitimate question" saying that employers should have the right to know if an employee plans to have children.

"The question is, is it OK for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?" Richardson asked.

Ardern said she was personally open to answering questions about her plans but said that it was inappropriate to suggest that other women should be forced to do the same.

"For other women, it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace," Ardern said to Richardson. "It is a women's decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job."

On the show, Arden said, "I think a lot of women face this dilemma in the workplace no matter what their profession or job might be."

And today, Prime Minister Arden also reiterated that many women before her have done what she plans to do. "I'm not the first woman to work and have a baby," she said. "I know these are special circumstances but they'll be many women who will have done this well before I have. I acknowledge those women."

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