'Phenomenal' Ardern: NZ mothers-to-be on the birth of a new kind of prime minister (2023)

In mid-June Jacinda Ardern will become the second serving prime minister in history to give birth while in office. Ardern will take six weeks’ leave after giving birth and when she returns to work her partner, Clarke Gayford, will become a stay-at-home-dad.

Here, New Zealand women with babies due in the same month discuss what it means to have a pregnant prime minister, and how they will balance parenthood, work and a severe lack of sleep.

‘She is phenomenal’

Jaime Faulkner, 36, lives in the rural town of Kawakawa in the Bay of Islands. Married for 12 years to Nathan, a dairy farmer, Faulkner is expecting her fourth child – a girl – on 1 June. Together, the couple have five children. Nathan will not take any leave.

“When I heard the news, I wondered if Jacinda and I were due around the same time. My initial response was ‘wow, I wonder if we went to the same party.’

I was so happy for her, she is a phenomenal woman and to do what she does – she runs the country. All I do is run a little tribe. I am excited for her to be a mum and to experience that. I mean it does my head in every now and then, and you wish you could just have that one day to just be you, but you’d never change what you have once you’ve got it.

I have three jobs. I am a relief teacher at the local high school, waitress at a hotel and also a bartender at a local RSA [Returned and Services’ Association]. I work about 60-plus hours a week.

At home, my eldest is about to turn 16, then 15, then 13, then 12, then 7. I usually get home at midnight, then have a bit of a break and get to bed. Then it’s rinse, lather and repeat really.

[Our baby] was a complete surprise. Our last two pregnancies were surprises, too, because I was on contraceptive for both. And it was an absolute shock. It did change a lot of plans that we had, but it is a blessing in disguise, and probably what I need to slow me down a bit in terms of work and employment.

Once we found out, it was a matter of making it work. Basically with my mindset it is as easy or as hard as you make it.

'Phenomenal' Ardern: NZ mothers-to-be on the birth of a new kind of prime minister (1)

[Our baby] will be delivered by two women I went to high school with, and I trust them completely. We will have some traditional Māori practices when baby is born.

(Video) New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern On Normalising Motherhood In Politics | Lorraine

Her umbilical cord will be tied using plaited natural fibre from a flax bush. And her umbilical cord will be put with a piece of pounamu, a greenstone. And a karakia [Māori prayer].

I didn’t do this with the other children, it wasn’t really an option. The midwives I have now, they are offering it more these days. It is becoming more of a common practice.

Women have been doing it [juggling] for years and years and years. But they’ve never been in a position where they’ve been made an example of before.

I was talking to a young girl in town, and she said how can you work three jobs and be eight months pregnant and look after all your kids?

Jacinda’s pregnancy will encourage people and say to them ‘give it a go, it’s not as hard as you think it is’.”

'Phenomenal' Ardern: NZ mothers-to-be on the birth of a new kind of prime minister (2)

‘I get two days paid leave’

Rosie Whitley-Harford, 27, and husband Adam Harford,31, own their own home in the provincial east coast town of Gisborne, in the North Island. Adam is a school teacher and Rosie is a qualified early childhood educator. They are expecting their first child on 10 June.

Rosie: “We found out I was pregnant the day after I resigned. So that made it quite difficult. I was quite unwell for the first trimester, too, and then it dwindled off. It definitely wasn’t easy at the start. Adam would have to get up in the morning and do me Marmite on toast before I would even get out of bed.”

Adam: “Yeah had to, because even if she put her feet on the ground before she got toast in her she’d have a bad day.”

Rosie: “We know how important it is to have that one person at home. The first three years are so important. So we have decided to have me stay home, and maybe in a year’s time we can talk about me going back to work, or maybe I won’t want to.”

Adam: “Yeah, we have kind of set ourselves up to function off my sole income. So if Rosie needs to stay home, if we want her to stay home, then she can. We know we’re not going to get to go out to dinner every weekend, but that’s the life we’ve set up because that’s more important to us.”

Rosie: “Lots of people say after that paid parental leave stops, that’s when you realise how tight things can be.”

(Video) PM Jacinda Ardern holds Post-Cabinet press conference | nzherald.co.nz

'Phenomenal' Ardern: NZ mothers-to-be on the birth of a new kind of prime minister (3)

Adam: “We are learning to live within our means. Our type of car is not exactly luxurious. We eat plain meals. We don’t get the best cuts of steak. We live pretty Kiwi I suppose.”

Rosie: “Yeah, we’re pretty modest.”

Adam: “According to my collective agreement I get two days paid leave. I think if things go smoothly, a safe birth, we are hoping just for a week off eh?”

Rosie: “Yeah. I think love is a really big thing. That is our biggest thing, to portray love and kindness, so that is nurtured in the child.”

locator map of couples

I was really happy for her [Jacinda]. I thought it was so amazing she could show women in this country that you can be a mum, and you can still do all the other things that make you happy.

And a lot of people were quick to judge it, but at the end of the day she still has to live her life. She’s not just the prime minister.”

Adam: “I wasn’t really concerned with any of the political nonsense or her being able to carry her role out, I was just happy for her as a person.

I’m jealous as [of Clarke]. In the last few years I have thought it would be pretty awesome to be a stay-at-home dad. There’s kind of two things that count me out, the earning factor, and also Rosie is kind of the child whisperer.

‘We are privileged to have a prime minister who is going to know what it’s like’

Autumn Falk, a medical herbalist, and Jenni Werth, a former occupational therapist, own a medicinal tea business and live in Katikati, Bay of Plenty. They have a tea bar in a caravan which they take to markets and festivals.

Autumn: “It has been a really long process. It was early on in our relationship that we decided we wanted to have children.”

(Video) Prime Minister of New Zealand,  Jacinda Ardern Speech to Congress 2019

Jenni: “About six years ago we met the father who is a really good friend of ours. And pretty much asked him straightaway and he was like ‘yeah, no problem’. Then, when it came down to it, I think it was a bit more serious thought involved.”

'Phenomenal' Ardern: NZ mothers-to-be on the birth of a new kind of prime minister (4)

Autumn: “He will be involved in kind of an uncle position. Obviously, the child will know this is their father, yeah. He will definitely have involvement and come and go I guess.”

Jenni: “He won’t have any decision-making rights around raising the baby, but he will definitely be involved.”

Jenni: “I will be full-time mothering for the first year, then we will see how it goes,

I have always wanted to parent, and Autumn is very content with going to work and providing. She is really happy doing that and I am happy being on the land and working in the gardens and being at home.”

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Autumn: “A lot of people speak to us and say ‘oh your baby is also due in June!’. Just like the prime minister’s one.”

Jenni: “We haven’t followed her pregnancy to the extreme. I am more intrigued with how much of a difference it might make in her understanding of what it’s like to be a working mum – and she’s obviously at one extreme of the spectrum.

I think we are really privileged in New Zealand to have a prime minister who is going to know what that’s like. Because a lot of the decisions that get made in this country are made by people who have no idea what it’s like to be in that situation, and to be outside of a situation and make decisions for a population … it’s a big ask.

Autumn: “I find this quite an extraordinary situation. She is a woman, there are not many countries with leading women in power, and she is young enough to be able to have a child. It is pretty impressive overall.”

(Video) New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern: 'I'm a mother, not a superwoman' - BBC News

Jenni: “I think this will give women a boost, of really believing anything is possible. I really hope for her sake she doesn’t get over-scrutinised with how she manages. But I think it is going to inspire a lot of women.”

Jenni: “I am worried about the lack of sleep.”

Autumn: “The question I am always asking myself is; is it [lack of sleep] really as bad as everyone says?”

Jenni: “It is probably way worse than everyone says.”

‘Lengthening paid parental leave would help’

Robin Burnell, 27, a franchise support worker for a cafe chain and her husband, Sam, 28, a plumber, live in Christchurch and are expecting their first child on 30 June.

Robin: “I grew up really wanting a family. It was really important for both of us. I am just very clucky, very keen on children, very keen on babies.

Change is always challenging, I think. And my normal becoming new is a little bit daunting. But I am really excited, too. A lot of people have talked about not realising how much love you could have for a baby until they are there.

'Phenomenal' Ardern: NZ mothers-to-be on the birth of a new kind of prime minister (5)

I plan to do six months off. And Sam would love a day at home with the baby as well.”

Sam: “I would love to stay home. But it is all money related. If I can stay home I really want to.”

Robin: “I have no idea how she [Jacinda] does what she does, and not look like she is struggling.

I don’t think she is setting the bar too high, because every pregnancy is different. I just think she is very brave and confident.

(Video) New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Gives Birth To Girl | TODAY

I think it would be awesome if the government reviewed how much paid parental leave is available to new parents. I know New Zealand is quite low down compared to other countries, which is hard when they don’t provide paid childcare until minimum two years old and most cases three years old.

It is quite a strain. I think we have a lot of good things in New Zealand, but lengthening paid parental leave would definitely help.”


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