New Zealand's Prime Minister gives birth while in office: What this means for mothers everywhere

It's a challenging task undertaken only once before, but New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is up for it. She's become a mother while simultaneously running a country and is proving to the world that motherhood absolutely should not disqualify women from leadership positions.

She's got this. And the world is taking note.

Ardern's baby girl arrived June 21, and the PM posted a beautiful family portrait to Instagram, letting her country, and the world, see that she and her partner Clarke Gayford are proud new parents.

"Welcome to our village wee one," reads the statement posted on her Instagram account. "Feeling very lucky to have a healthy baby girl that arrived at 4.45pm weighing 3.31kg (7.3lb) Thank you so much for your best wishes and your kindness. We're all doing really well thanks to the wonderful team at Auckland City Hospital."


Ardern is the first world leader to give birth while in office since the late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who had a son while she was campaigning in 1988, and a daughter while in office in 1990. "When she was pregnant with my sister, Bakhtawar, her prime ministership was challenged for that fact. There were calls for her dismissal, the setting up of a caretaker government because a pregnant woman had no right to be prime minister. It's not like the constitution allowed for maternity leave," Bhutto's son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, writes for The Guardian. "My mother, being who she was, took this all in her stride with a smile on her face, had her baby in secret and was back at work the next day."

Thankfully, Ardern's experience 30 years later is quite different. The new mom was able to share her joy with her country and the world, and will be taking a six-week maternity leave, after working right up until the day before the birth, as Gayford documented on Twitter.

Ardern's precedent-setting pregnancy may open doors for other mothers in New Zealand and elsewhere, and could help reduce the so-called "motherhood penalty" that so many working women face.

While working moms like Arden often see themselves as being committed to their careers, others typically take a different view of working mothers, judging them less favorably after they've welcomed a baby, according to a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Sociology. The study's authors found working mothers are penalized in the form of "lower perceived competence and commitment, higher professional expectations, lower likelihood of hiring and promotion, and lower recommended salaries."

Ardern is proving that women can absolutely be mothers and leaders at the same time, but during a recent television interview she acknowledged that she's not superhuman, stating that she has enormous privilege and support that many working moms don't (and a partner who is now a stay-at-home dad). "I wouldn't want to be held up as some kind of exemplar because it's not easy, and I'm lucky," she shares.

It's not easy, but it is possible, and Ardern proves that when mothers have the support of a village, they can do anything. Even run a country.


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