New Zealand’s prime minister is back at work after being the first world leader to take maternity leave

Jacinda Ardern in October 2017.

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Jacinda Ardern in October 2017.
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Hagen Hopkins/Getty

  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern returned to work on Thursday after a six-week maternity leave.
  • She gave birth to her first child, Neve, on June 21.
  • Her partner, the presenter of a fishing TV show, will care for Neve full-time.
  • Ardern also plans to bring her baby to parliamentary debates and to the United Nations.
  • Her acting prime minister courted controversy during her six-week absence.

Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, has returned to work after being the first world leader to take maternity leave.

Ardern, 38, went back to work on Thursday after spending six weeks on maternity leave. She gave birth to her first child, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford, on June 21.

She told Sky News Australia on Thursday that Baby Neve “is doing really well,” and described her partner Clarke Gayford as a “very hands-on parent.” Gayford, a fishing TV show presenter, will care for Neve full-time.

On Saturday she posted a video on Facebook outlining her plans in parliament on her first week back – including increased focus on mental health, environment, trade, and employment – adding that she and her new family had “absolutely no routine to speak of.”

She added: “First week back, I’m going to be focused on getting straight back into it,” she said.

Ardern also told New Zealand news site Stuff.co.nz she would breastfeed her baby during parliamentary debates “if I had to, absolutely, in the same way that other women have.”

She also told the news site she would bring Neve to the United Nations General Assembly in September, where she is scheduled to speak. It would be Neve’s first foreign trip.

During her six-week absence, New Zealand’s coalition government was run by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters.

Despite being acting prime minister for six short weeks, 72-year-old Peters courted various controversies including accusing Australia of copying New Zealand’s national flag and demanding that it change its design, saying on radio didn’t like seeing a “multitude of cultures” in New Zealand, and fat-shaming a colleague during a parliamentary debate.

Peters can be heard saying “throw fatty out” around the 4-second mark in the video below, which was taken on his last day as prime minister before Ardern’s return.

Ardern, who was elected as prime minister in October, is the first Western leader to be pregnant in office, and the second worldwide. The first sitting political leader to give birth in office was former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who had a daughter in 1990.

Ardern said she found out about the pregnancy in mid-October last year – six days before she was confirmed as Prime Minister after last year’s elections.