‘It’s What Ladies Do’—New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Downplays Working While Pregnant

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday that she and partner Clarke Gayford are expecting their first child in June.

Ardern, 37, will temporarily hand over the reins to Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters for six weeks at that time. Apart from that, she said in a Friday press conference, Ardern will remain “fully contactable” during her maternity leave and will resume “all prime ministerial duties afterwards.”

“I am not the first woman to multitask. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby. I know these are special circumstances but there will be many women who will have done this well before I have. I acknowledge those women. I am about to sympathize with them a lot, as I sympathize with all women who suffered morning sickness,” the Labour Party leader said.

The prime minister discovered she was pregnant days before she won last year’s grueling campaign for New Zealand’s premiership—a battle in which she faced many questions over the balance between her political and maternal ambitions.

“I elected to talk about it, it was my choice … but for other women it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say a woman should have to answer that question in the workplace. It is a woman’s decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether they should have a job or be given job opportunities,” Ardern retorted on one occasion.

On Friday, Ardern said her morning sickness “fully kicked in” on the day she was sworn in. “I didn’t know what it was like to be prime minister without being nauseous,” she said.

When a reporter asked how she balanced morning sickness with the formation of a government, Ardern replied: “It’s what ladies do.”

Ardern will not be the first prime minister to give birth while in office. Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto did that in 1990, just a few months after taking power. But no one has done so in the intervening decades.

The leaders of other parties have congratulated Ardern and Gayford on their news.

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