We are fed the narrative that moms can do it all — and we probably can, and we sure do a whole lot. But should we? New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the new face of setting healthy limits, as she said in her recent news conference that she would be resigning, effective February 7, or earlier. 

“The decision was my own,” Ardern said. “Leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also the most challenging. You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges.”

It makes total sense why she doesn’t have enough energy left, and wants to have that reserve. She was the first woman in 30 years to give birth while leading a country, when her daughter Neve Te Aroha was born in 2018. She took six weeks of maternity leave from running New Zealand. Since then, she navigated two 2019 mosque attacks that killed 51 people, worked to reform gun laws, closed borders in response to the pandemic, navigated national lockdowns, and even took a pay cut to mitigate the pandemic’s impact. In her second term, she even canceled her own wedding as Covid cases rose across the country. 

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“I no longer have enough in the tank to do the job justice,” she added.

At 37, she was one of the youngest world leaders, and helped the world see that politicians are people too, who have both feelings and bandwidths that must be honored, as she’s honoring her own limits. 

“We give all that we can for as long as we can, and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time,” she said.

Ardern is removing herself, the role model of healthy self-preservation, before experiencing what 2 in 3 working parents are enduring, according to a July 2022 study — working parent burnout. The study showed that burnt out working parents have issues with both work and parenting, along with increased mental health condition symptoms, not feeling like they can really succeed in either realm of their lives. 

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Burnt-out parents in the study, who presumably have no more energy left in the tank, as Ardern comments, might not have enough patience left for calm parenting. They were found to be more likely to scream, insult, and spank children, in their exhausted state. 

Many people all over the world expressed their surprise and sadness to see Ardern leave office after all she’s accomplished.

Her parting words are impactful for us all:

“I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader—one who knows when it’s time to go.”