This Prime Minister Is Pregnant — & Here's Why It Matters
Guess what? Jacinda Ardern is pregnant, y'all!
What's your reaction to this news? Is it a) "That sounds familiar. She's a reality TV star, right?" or b) "The New Zealand Prime Minister is pregnant? Fantastic!"
If you went with the latter, well done. But it's OK if you were in the first camp. After all, women world leaders are sadly still few and far between — and politics is pretty much reality TV these days. Except that politics is way more shocking.
But this breaking news out of New Zealand is big stuff, and here's why. For one thing, Ardern just became New Zealand's youngest prime minister in over a century back in October. And today, Ardern announced that she and her partner, Clarke Gayford, are expecting their first baby in June.
Though many are in an uproar over this plot twist — OMG, a pregnant lady leading a country — Ardern isn't having any of that nonsense. We completely adore her attitude. “I am not the first woman to multitask. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby,” Ardern said plainly during her Friday news conference. “We are going to make this work, and New Zealand is going to help us raise our first child.”
The pregnancy came as a shock to Ardern and Gayford, as they'd been told they "would need help for [conception] to happen." But she's taking it in happy stride.
In a recent tweet, Ardern reassured her country that she'll be “joining the many parents out there who wear two hats." She added, "I’ll be Prime Minister AND a mum, and Clarke will be ‘first man of fishing’ and 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!"
Interestingly, just hours after she was elected leader of New Zealand's Labour Party back in August, two TV hosts pressed Ardern on her family plans, going so far as to ask whether it was "acceptable" for a nation's leader to take maternity leave.
Ardern shot back, "It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. It is a woman’s decision about when they choose to have children, and it should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities.”
Boom. We hate that Ardern's happy news puts her squarely in the crossfire of archaic, misogynistic debates over what pregnant women and new moms can and cannot do — and perhaps worse, should and should not be doing. But she certainly has the confidence to navigate the debate and continue to lead without flinching — making her one incredible role model for women everywhere.
Ardern made it crystal clear she intends to keep her pregnancy the least interesting chapter of her time as prime minister. “I want us to be known for what we achieved for New Zealanders,” she said at the same news conference. “This will only be another addition to the history of this government.”
In fact, her plan is pretty run-of-the-mill and looks a lot like many (of the luckiest, that is) American women's maternity leaves. She'll be taking six weeks off after the baby is born, during which time New Zealand's deputy prime minister — Winston Peters — will cover her duties. After six weeks, though, she'll be back at work, with her partner serving as their baby's full-time caregiver.
But there's nothing run-of-the-mill about Ardern's place in history. According to The New York Times, Ardern is likely to become the only elected world leader to give birth in office in nearly 30 years. The only previous example is a tragic one: Pakistan's female PM Benazir Bhutto delivered a child in 1990 while in office; Bhutto was subsequently assassinated in 2007.
Ardern's surprise announcement — and commitment to continue working in her position of power — has sparked massive support from female leaders, women's rights groups and much of the internet in general.
Helen Clark, former New Zealand prime minister, tweeted, “Every #woman should have the choice of combining family & career."
Another bold statement came from Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland. “This is first and foremost a personal moment for her — but it also helps demonstrate to young women that holding leadership positions needn’t be a barrier to having children (if you want to)."
And said Esther Anatolitis, an Australian writer, on Twitter, “In fact I’m kind of speechless for what this will come to mean for women of all ages — but in particular, girls who will grow up seeing this as normal for working women in complex leadership roles."
Some of the tweets regarding Ardern's pregnancy reveal were downright delicious; we cannot tell a lie.
But Ardern's final word on the topic — her response to naysayers doubting her ability to serve as prime minister throughout a pregnancy — is our favorite: “None of them detected I had pretty bad morning sickness for three months of establishing the government," she said wryly.
Reporters asked how she pulled that off. Ardern shrugged and replied, "It's what ladies do." Indeed it is.