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Asia Minute: New Zealand Prime Minister Ends Maternity Leave

Governor - General of New Zealand
CC BY 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

It happens every day, all over the world. Women return to the workplace following maternity leave. It can be a difficult transition, and it can be a bit more complicated if your other full-time job is running a country.

Jacinda Ardern is back on the job full-time as Prime Minister of New Zealand; returning to the national capital of Wellington this week.

She took a six-week leave of absence when she became a first-time mother.

Soon after her daughter Neve was born on June 21st, she told reporters “I’m not the first woman to give birth.” But she is the second woman in modern times to do so while leading a country — Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had her second child while in office back in 1990.

While Ardern was on maternity leave, her deputy Winston Peters stepped in as acting prime minister, managing to stir the diplomatic pot a bit. Among other items, he said Australia should change its flag — claiming the country had copied New Zealand’s. He also suggested the Australians adopt a kangaroo motif on their flag, and change their national anthem to “Waltzing Matilda.”

There was also a nationwide nurses’ strike, and other developments.

Credit Governor-General of New Zealand / gg.govt.nz
Winston Peters (left), Dame Patsy Reddy (center), Jacinda Ardern (right)

Ardern says she and her partner Clarke Gayford are still adjusting to their new roles as parents — saying they’ll “figure things out as we go, just like everyone else does.”

Gayford will be a stay at home dad and the primary care-giver.

As for baby Neve, she will be making her first overseas journey next month — when her mom goes on a business trip to the United Nations.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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