Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her pregnancy will not stop her from serving New Zealand, pointing out that she is “not the first woman to multitask”.
Ardern has confirmed she will take six weeks’ leave after the birth of the baby in June, leaving Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters in charge of the country.
She first shared the news that she and partner Clarke Gayford were expecting a child in a post on social media networks, exclaiming, “And we thought 2017 was a big year!”
“Clarke and I are really excited that in June our team will expand from two to three, and that we’ll be joining the many parents out there who wear two hats.
“I’ll be Prime Minister AND a mum, and Clarke will be ‘first man of fishing’ and stay at home dad.”
In a media statement, Ardern said the couple first knew of her pregnancy on October 13 - days before Peters announced his party would go into government with Labour - “but as many couples do in the early stages, we kept it to ourselves”.
“We consider ourselves lucky for another reason. Clarke and I have always been clear we wanted to be parents but had been told we would need help for that to happen. That’s made this news a fantastic surprise.”
Ardern said she had met with Peters on Thursday to inform him of the news, and ask him to take on the role of Acting Prime Minister for six weeks after the baby was born.
“Mr Peters and I have a great relationship, and I know that together we’ll make this period work.”
She would arrange for ministers to cover her other portfolios while away, and would resume all prime ministerial duties at the end of her leave.
“I am not the first woman to multitask, I’m not the first woman to work and have a baby."
Speaking to media outside the couple’s Auckland home, Ardern confirmed the news had weighed on her mind as she sought to wrap up a deal with New Zealand First and the Greens.
“I’m a human, whose mind wouldn’t it play on? Absolutely. But we kept that to ourselves, we didn’t share it with anyone around that negotiating table because, of course, in those early stages you just don’t know.”
She had told Gayford about the news via Facebook - using the video function as it was particularly important.
Ardern said she and Gayford planned to remain in Auckland, as it was where their friends and family lived.
She did not anticipate the need for changes to Cabinet and government processes, and would travel internationally until the baby was due. After the birth, Gayford would travel with her where possible.
“I am not the first woman to multitask, I’m not the first woman to work and have a baby. I know these are special circumstances but there will be many women who have done this well before I have. I acknowledge those women.”
Asked about her plans to return to work after only six weeks’ leave, said she heard stories from others who faced “that sort of dilemma at various stages, regardless of when they go back”.
“I have to acknowledge though my job is different, my job is demanding, people have placed faith in me and given me a mandate so I have to make sure I’m juggling both that new role but fulfilling my duties to NZ at the same time.”
Shortly after becoming Labour leader in August, Ardern clashed with AM Show sports presenter Mark Richardson over whether it was acceptable to ask women in the workplace about their pregnancy plans.
While Ardern said it was appropriate for her to be asked about her own plans, given she had spoken about the issue in the past, for other women it was “totally unacceptable in 2017
to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace”.
“That is unacceptable in 2017. It is the woman's decision about when they choose to have children," she said.