New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that she was pregnant with her first child. When her due date arrives in June, Ardern will become the first national leader to give birth while in office since Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto did so in 1990, according to The New York Times. The prime minister made the announcement on Friday alongside her husband, Clarke Gayford, at a news conference.
Ardern became New Zealand’s third-ever female P.M. in October, capping a meteoric rise that began just six months ago when she became the leader of a struggling Labour party. A former DJ and lapsed Mormon, Ardern rapidly reinvigorated her party all while facing tough coverage from critics who made a repeated issue of her gender — as interviewers demanded to know whether she was a “show pony” chosen for her looks, or whether she would take parental leave if she ended up having a child while in office.
Questions about her looks aside, Ardern was initially open about her possible pregnancy plans, explaining that she considered her position no different from that of other working women who have to juggle multiple responsibilities. But after one particularly aggressive interview with radio host Mark Richardson, who insisted that she answer a question about whether she might take maternity leave, Ardern famously hit back, telling him that “it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace … It is the woman’s decision about when they choose to have children.”
Ardern, 37, said Friday that she would continue to work until the day she gives birth, and then take six weeks of parental leave. “I am not the first woman to multitask. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby,” Ardern told reporters. “We are going to make this work, and New Zealand is going to help us raise our first child.”
Upon returning to work, she will turn over the bulk of child caring responsibilities to Gayford, a TV host, who will take leave from his job to become a stay-at-home parent, an arrangement she mentioned in a tweet heralding the couple’s big news.
We thought 2017 was a big year! This year we’ll join the many parents who wear two hats. I’ll be PM & a mum while Clarke will be “first man of fishing” & stay at home dad. There will be lots of questions (I can assure you we have a plan all ready to go!) but for now bring on 2018 pic.twitter.com/nowAYOhAbF
— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) January 18, 2018
Deputy P.M. Winston Peters, Ardern said, would take on her duties while she was on leave, but that she would return to full duties immediately afterward — with Gayford and her child traveling with her whenever possible.
The country’s two prior women prime ministers, Helen Clark of the Labour Party and Jenny Shipley of the National Party, offered their congratulations to Ardern on Friday. Shipley said that she had no doubt that Ardern would prove both an excellent parent and P.M., while Clark added that every woman, leader of the country or otherwise, “should have the choice of combing family and career.”
Below, watch a clip from Ardern’s news conference.
Read the full story at The New York Times.