Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford have demanding careers but they try to make sure one of them is home to put 2-year-old daughter Neve to bed every night.
In an interview published in this month’s edition of the magazine Thrive, Ardern opens up about summer holidays, parenting, cooking and Covid.
Being the Prime Minister may be a 24/7 job, but Ardern says any relaxation time she gets is spent with Neve.
Neve’s favourite thing is meeting new people, she tells Thrive editor Wendyl Nissen.
“Sometimes we’ll be at the airport or waiting to go somewhere and she’ll say: ‘I’m just going to go and talk to that lady’. I’ll try to explain that the lady might be just enjoying some time to herself but she can’t understand that. Why wouldn’t she want to talk to Neve?”
She shares other heart-melting Neve moments like the time she asked “Are your ouchies better, Mummy?” when Ardern resorted to using her plasters and laughs about the time Neve took off in the airport and left her running after her holding her briefcase and a massive stuffed penguin – much to the amusement of other passengers.
She’s also grilled about how she takes care of herself and admits her mum and sister worry more about if she’s getting enough rest or eating well than she does.
“I’m one of those people who can’t relax if there’s other things I should be doing… So part of me feeling good about myself and the work I’m doing is feeling that I’m on top of things as much as I can be.”
Ardern admits to “living” on cups of tea and “blimmin’ bliss balls” saying her mum made so many during the election campaign that she was being “powered by dates”.
She tells Thrive she has to make a conscious effort to eat well because she loses her appetite when she’s stressed and credits those she works with for helping by regularly leaving food on her desk.
“When you’re going to give a speech to a few hundred people there is a bit of stress and I just don’t want to eat. But I do a lot of speeches all the time, so I really have to push myself to make sure I eat throughout the course of the day.”
Gayford gets a lot of the credit for looking after Ardern and Neve.
“I don’t think I’ve talked about this before but he has consistently been the night and morning person for our daughter because sometimes I’ll be working long hours or I’ll be gone in the morning or he just wants me to get one more hour’s sleep. And consistently he will always bring me a cup of tea every morning without fail,” she says.
He also makes breakfast when she’s in a rush, checks she’s eaten before she heads out the door and sends a “nice little text” when he knows she has to tackle something she finds hard.
One thing she looks forward to every year is her little break over summer, which she often spends in the Coromandel.
Ardern says she’s not a huge swimmer, but she enjoys the “lightness of people’s mood” at the beach and loves being warm.
And although the job might not leave much time for cooking, she enjoys getting in the kitchen while on holiday.
“[Clarke] describes it as some form of Ready Steady Cook. If there’s a can of beans in the cupboard and there’s some week-old vegetables I’ll try to make a meal out of it. It’s always edible but I think it comes from being a student and having to be so thrifty, and I hate waste.”
As for Covid-19, she said she was looking forward to seeing the first people vaccinated and admits that her maternal instinct shapes how she does her job.
“I feel like it’s my job to look after people,” she says.
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