New Zealand Prime Minister Brings Baby Daughter to UN


Jacinda Ardern is the current Prime Minister of New Zealand who gave birth to her daughter, Neve Te Aroha, about 3 months ago. This makes Arden the second ever elected world leader to give birth while in office. The first one was Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, in 1990.

Ardern recently returned to office after taking a six-week absence after giving birth to her daughter. When she was elected last year, Ardern was the youngest leader of her party and the youngest leader of New Zealand in over 150 years.

What makes Ardern’s motherhood even more historic is the fact that she brought her three-month-old daughter to the United Nations’ Mandela Peace Summit this past week. There she was, on the floor with all of the other leaders, but holding her baby, as well. This was a big step in demonstrating the presence of mothers in public office. Ardern’s husband, Clarke Gayford, was also at the UN assembly and was traveling with his wife and daughter mainly to care for the baby. Though he is the main caretaker of the child, the couple has decided that they still want to be together as a family when Ardern is traveling on official business.

Having a child while in office is a difficult task, especially with the need for travel. This is where Ardern’s husband came into play. There are no typical roles for elected officials who have children in office and for their spouses, so the two of them are playing it by ear. Since Arden has to participate in the assembly, there is a balance that Gayford has to find between caring for the daughter and attending the assembly himself, as many spouses of world leaders do. This is the typical work-family balance that most parents go through, just on a larger scale.

Clarke Gayford recalled that a member of the Japanese delegation had quite the surprised look when walking in on Gayford changing the diaper of the baby daughter in a meeting room. It is situations like these that demonstrate that having children in office is not a normal concept, which needs to change, and Prime Minister Ardern is a large part of that movement.

Neve Te Aroha even had her own UN diplomatic photo ID which called her “New Zealand first baby,” just to further assert her presence at the assembly. Ardern predicts that in the future, having children while in office will become more normal. She hopes that eventually, seeing children around during official business assemblies will becomes less of a strange concept and more of a reality. Ardern hopes she is a pioneer in this movement, as she has shown by the presence of her daughter.

Ardern gave a statement to the UN, praising Mandela’s “ability to lead and inspire against all odds.” This applies to her situation very well, as she is able to lead her country and speak at this UN meeting -- all while caring for a newborn. This difficult task is most definitely against the odds, and she coincidentally lives out Mandela’s message very well.

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