Jacinda Ardern is no stranger to firsts: At 37, she has become one of the youngest world leaders as the prime minister of New Zealand. Yesterday, she’s added another impressive first after giving birth to a baby girl while still in office.
Ardern announced the felicitous news of her 21st June delivery on social media, where she posted a sweet family picture of her partner Clarke Grayson and their baby girl (they have yet to release her name) with the caption “Welcome to the village wee one,” followed by assurances the new family was doing well.
Today marks the beginning of her six-week maternity leave, making her the first world leader to do so. While she is away, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters will serve as the acting prime minister. But Ardem made it clear that she’s still at the helm of country: Even with Peters covering for her, she expressed her commitment to oversee any major policy decisions.
While six-weeks of maternity leave may be unprecedented for a world leader, Ardem’s leave will be quite short by New Zealand standards. Recently, New Zealand has taken the next steps in passing a bill that would extend paid maternity leave from 22 weeks to 26.
“I’m not a trailblazer,” she said in an interview with The Guardian. “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 will be many women who will have done this well before I have.”
Ardern has risen as an inspirational symbol to working mothers across the world by demonstrating gender parity in action. She has been outspoken on the matter: From posting a photo on Instagram of her growing belly in a smart red sweater alongside former President Barack Obama, to advocating for gender equality in the workplace.
“That is unacceptable in 2017,” she said in a January interview with a New Zealand talk show, The AM Show. “It is a woman’s decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities….Would you ask a man whether or not he planned to have children?”
Ardern’s partner, Clarke Gayford, will also be a stay-at-home dad. Gayford and Ardern discussed at length who will carry the brunt of the child rearing duties and both came to the conclusion it would make more sense for her partner, who is the host of a fishing documentary show called Fish of the Day, to remain at home. He told The AM Show of his enthusiasm on embarking in this new role and said he looks forward to joining “dad groups”. While he carries the title of New Zealand’s First Man, he will now also carry the unofficial title of woke bae.
The first female leader of a nation to give birth while in office occurred 28 years ago: In 1990, the former Prime Minster of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, gave birth to a baby girl. She did not make her pregnancy public, nor did she go on maternity leave afterwards. She had a Cesarean birth and quickly returned to work after, earning her the praise of being a woman that could handle maternity while in office. Contrasting Bhutto’s vastly different experience with Ardern’s demonstrates how far the world has come in viewing motherhood, particularly for women in power.