She's just 3 months old but little Neve Ardern Gayford —the first baby of New Zealand—made history this week when she met her mom, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly.
This history-making moment will surely inspire the mothers of New Zealand, but it matters for mothers around the world. Neve's presence at the UN proves that mothers have a place there, and in every other level of government and business.
As Samantha Power, the former US Ambassador to the UN wrote on Twitter: "I cannot stress how much the @UN - and the governments that comprise it - need this."
Ardern agrees. "I want to normalize it," she told CNN's Christiane Amanpour. "If we want to make workplaces more open, we need to acknowledge logistical challenges... by being more open it might create a path for other women."
Ardern's partner, TV host Clarke Gayford, is Neve's primary caregiver, but he's not quite a stay-at-home dad to Neve. Father and daughter often accompany Ardern to work, as she's breastfeeding. When Ardern was speaking at the UN this week, she knew her partner and her baby were in the building, but she was surprised to see her daughter on the floor of the assembly.
"Actually I was speaking and I came down from the podium, to find that she was there on the General Assembly floor - and there's actually an image that captures the moment when I see her there... It was just delightful to see her there," the PM told CNN.
Ardern says it's important to note that she and Gayford do have help with childcare, and that balancing Gayford's (now part-time) career with her incredibly demanding job would be impossible without it. When a leader of a nation can so intimately relate with the struggles working parents face, it's natural that policy will reflect that, as it is in New Zealand.
"My appreciation of parents, mothers and solo mothers particularly, parents who do it on their own, my appreciation for that has increased tenfold. I already had that appreciation but it's gone another level. Our focus on family-friendly policies - we'd already implemented for instance 26 weeks paid parental leave in New Zealand - so now I just had that extra strength of feeling behind that being the right thing to do," Ardern recently told the TODAY show, adding that being a mom has changed her in ways she expected after watching her sister welcome two children.
"I'm very close to her and I've watched her go through that journey. so I had a sense of it. You don't know until you're there. It's met my expectations. My joy, though, has far surpassed my expectations," she told TODAY.
Far too often, working mothers have to change their career expectations, or put aside that part of their life and almost pretend they are not a parent when it comes to work. Ardern proves that mothers don't have to compartmentalize their lives. Working parents are stronger when their working environments allow them to be whole people.
Sometimes, that means a baby is coming to a meeting. Even if it's at the UN.
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