Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Is the First World Leader to Take Maternity Leave

The New Zealand PM announced the birth of her baby girl on Thursday.

Jacinda Ardern
(Image credit: Phil Walter)

On Thursday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern safely delivered a baby girl at Auckland City Hospital, she announced in an Instagram post. That makes her just the second world leader to give birth while in office, and the first in 30 years.

Ardern, who was elected in October of last year, has already set a few records. At 37, she’s also the younger prime minister New Zealand has had since 1856, and she’s the first world leader to take maternity leave. She’ll take six weeks at home while Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters takes over PM duties, though she’ll still be consulted on big issues and read cabinet papers while she’s away. When she returns to her seat, her partner, Clarke Gayford, will be a stay-at-home dad.

Ardern announced her pregnancy a few months after taking office, and has said the news was a very happy surprise for the couple. Earlier this year, she talked to Radio New Zealand about preparing for a pregnancy while also running a country, and especially how she would respond to sexist remarks that it couldn't be done:

“I definitely tried to look at it really dispassionately...To think: what would someone who doesn’t know me at all, who may have a slightly different view towards my leadership, how are they going to take this news? I really tried to think about it from that perspective. I think probably they’re looking for certainty. And the best way I can provide that is by providing a plan. And so that’s what I really thought through: how can I really demonstrate that, yes, amid all this happy news, I have a plan."

The only other world leader to have a child while in office was Benazir Bhutto, the prime minister of Pakistan, who gave birth to a girl in 1990. Bhutto’s daughter, Benwar, even tweeted out congratulations to Ardern.

This is a huge step in fighting the stigma that a person can’t give birth and be effective in her job—a pointedly misogynistic argument that gets thrown around as the downside of electing women to run countries. Ardern now has the change to shut down that argument for good.

Congratulations to her and Mr. Gayford!

Cady has been a writer and editor in Brooklyn for about 10 years. While her earlier career focused primarily on culture and music, her stories—both those she edited and those she wrote—over the last few years have tended to focus on environmentalism, reproductive rights, and feminist issues. She primarily contributes as a freelancer journalist on these subjects while pursuing her degrees. She held staff positions working in both print and online media, at Rolling Stone and Newsweek, and continued this work as a senior editor, first at Glamour until 2018, and then at Marie Claire magazine. She received her Master's in Environmental Conservation Education at New York University in 2021, and is now working toward her JF and Environmental Law Certificate at Elisabeth Haub School of Law in White Plains.