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Ardern today announced she is pregnant with her first child, prompting an outpouring of support from women's rights groups and labour activists as she declared: "I'll be a Prime Minister and a mum".
She said she planned to work until the end of her pregnancy in June and then take six-weeks of leave, during which time Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters would run the country.
Speaking to reporters outside her Auckland home, Ardern said her partner Clarke Gayford would care for the "surprise" addition full-time and that the whole family would travel together when necessary.
"I am not the first woman to work and have a baby. I know these are special circumstances but there are many women who have done it well before I have," she said.
The popular 37-year-old politician's pregnancy is one of the very few examples of an elected leader holding office while pregnant and the first in New Zealand's history. Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto gave birth while she was prime minister in 1990.
Ardern, who came to power through a coalition deal after a closely fought election last year, has experienced a meteoric rise to power as New Zealand's youngest prime minister in more than a century, and its third female leader.
Ardern acknowledged that she was "lucky" that her partner, a well-known TV fishing show presenter, could take time off to travel with her while he cared for the baby full-time.
She had no plans to stop work until June and would fly to London in April to attend a Commonwealth leader's meeting.
'SHE'LL BE A GREAT MUM'
Advocacy groups and politicians from across the political spectrum were quick to offer support.
A “totally delighted” Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Jackie Blue, believed Ardern would be able to do both roles confidently and easily and the couple would be fantastic role models for working mums and stay at home dads around New Zealand.
Blue hoped the sharing of childcare and work responsibilities became the norm for Kiwi families as this would help gender equality and smash the pay gap.
“More men have to take on childcare responsibilities. And millennial men want to do it anyway. When men take on more responsibility it means women won’t lost ground with their career.”
Ultimately, after 26 weeks of paid parental leave came into force, Blue wanted to see men get paid parental leave in their own right, to help them stay at home and bond with their baby.
She said having a baby would add another dimension to Ardern as becoming a mum makes you look at the world “through a different lens”.
“I’m so delighted. I hope everyone is wishing her well. That’s what she needs, more support… She’s going to be a wonderful mum.
“I bet at some stage when she has the baby she’ll say the Prime Minister role is the easier job. These little people bring you to your knees. It’s just very grounding.”
Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff told Reuters the news was "really inspiring... having our prime minister lead by example is a great sign of how far we've come in women's industrial rights in New Zealand".
New Zealand has long held a progressive reputation, having been the first country to give women the right to vote in 1893.
"It's amazing timing...125 years later we have a prime minister who's going to give birth in office," said Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter.
Ardern revealed today that she had unexpectedly found out she was pregnant on October 13, just six days before she was propelled into the country's top job when NZ First Party leader Winston Peters announced he was siding with Labour in post-election negotiations.
When asked by a reporter how she had managed putting together a government while suffering from morning sickness, Ardern replied, "it's just what ladies do".
- Reuters and NZME