New Zealand’s leader says she’s ready to get back to the day-to-day business of running the country as her maternity leave comes to an end.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern returned to the office Thursday after a six-week absence, during which Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters acted as caretaker.
In an interview with the country’s TVNZ network, she said that she was “absolutely” ready to come back to work.
“I feel like I’ve been gifted… this time to be with Neve, but under the unique circumstances I’m very keen to get back to work,” she said, referring to her baby, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford.
Calling the maternity leave “the fastest six weeks of my life,” the young leader said that it would be challenging to balance being a new parent with running the nation of almost 5 million people.
“I always expected, given that she’s so young and so small, that there would be a tension there between making sure that I was meeting all of her needs and of course my responsibilities (as prime minister),” she told the network.
“I’ve always been aware of that. But I’m confident that with all the support that I’m lucky to have that we’ll absolutely make it work.”
She said that her temporary stand-in, Peters, had “done the job I absolutely expected he would,” and that she had balanced new motherhood with keeping abreast of the issues and news that affected her constituents.
“I think there’s been a real effort … to give me space, I’ve been at the ready, still receiving my briefcases of papers so I’ve still been watching everything but there was a real effort to give us that space and I’m really grateful for that but I never fully disconnected.”
Her partner, Clarke Gayford will take the main parenting duties while she is at work but as she is breastfeeding, her daughter will accompany her on official business, including a trip to the US later in the month.
She told TVNZ that she and Gayford will balance “stability” for their young daughter with “making sure that I’m doing the job” of Prime Minister.
“Together as a team we’ll make it work.”
Ardern, the first world leader in nearly 30 years to have a child while in office, said that she hoped that while she was at the vanguard of leaders having children while ruling, she predicts that “one day it will be normal.”
Before she gave birth she downplayed the dual role that she was taking on in an interview with Radio New Zealand.
“I am not the first woman to multitask. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby; there are many women who have done this before.”
Ardern became her party’s youngest leader almost a year to the day ago, and New Zealand’s youngest in 150 years after defeating former Prime Minister Bill English in last October’s election.
It marked the first victory for the Labour Party in nine years. She led the group for three months before being elected Prime Minister.