Love and fam­ily

At home with Jacinda

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - Woman's Day This Week -

Amother’s in­tu­ition works in pow­er­ful ways. Two weeks ago, Lau­rell Ardern was at home in Niue when she had a sud­den feel­ing her youngest daugh­ter – Labour leader Jacinda – needed her.

She wasn’t due to fly to New Zealand un­til just be­fore the Septem­ber 23 elec­tion,

but when she asked Jacinda whether she could use some ex­tra sup­port, the of­fer was met with a re­sound­ing “yes please”!

“So I quickly changed my flights, and I’ve been wash­ing, iron­ing and cook­ing ever since!” laughs Lau­rell as she serves her politi­cian daugh­ter a bowl of de­li­cious home­made pump­kin soup.

Jacinda, 37, has barely had time to process her as­ton­ish­ing rise to the top since be­com­ing Labour leader af­ter Andrew Lit­tle’s shock res­ig­na­tion on Au­gust 1. Her sched­ule is mind-bog­gling. The night be­fore our Woman’s

Day photo shoot, she didn’t get to bed un­til af­ter mid­night fol­low­ing a TV lead­ers’ de­bate. To­day she was up at 4.30am and by the time we meet at mid­day, she’s al­ready had five TV and ra­dio in­ter­views and a team meet­ing.

We have a two-hour win­dow be­fore Jacinda heads to Te Puea Marae in South Auck­land for a pol­icy an­nounce­ment, fol­lowed by a Face­book Live chat and a drive to Hamil­ton for more cam­paign­ing. It’s bru­tal, but she claims she’s cop­ing with the pace just fine.

“I’m ac­tu­ally OK,” in­sists Jacinda. “I’m prob­a­bly run­ning on five weeks’ worth of adren­a­line. But the main thing is, I’m get­ting great joy from do­ing this job. You don’t get weary from things that give you joy. I gen­uinely love meet­ing peo­ple and spend­ing time with peo­ple, which is good be­cause now the only time I’m by my­self is when I’m in a toi­let cu­bi­cle!”

Wel­com­ing Woman’s Day into the mod­est Auck­land

home she shares with part­ner Clarke Gay­ford, Jacinda says her mum’s ar­rival from Niue, where dad Ross is the high com­mis­sioner, couldn’t have come at a bet­ter time. Clarke, 40, is away film­ing his TV show FishoftheDay and the pair have barely seen each other since Jacinda was made leader.

“He’s earn­ing a lot of de­merit points – he’s into the neg­a­tives,” laughs the charis­matic leader, who re­veals he’s just texted her to say he wres­tled a dog­tooth tuna from a shark.

It’s been a few weeks since Jacinda saw Clarke, who’s been stay­ing with Ross in Niue, but they are set to re­unite briefly in Christchurch, be­fore Jacinda con­tin­ues the cam­paign and Clarke takes off over­seas again. The dis­tance hasn’t been easy, says Jacinda, but they’re mak­ing it work.

“At the mo­ment, we ac­cept we’re not going to see each other much. Luck­ily, we’re such a solid cou­ple, it makes it eas­ier.”

Clarke does his best to be sup­port­ive from afar and when they do re­unite, he takes on the lion’s share of chores. He’s an ex­pert at sep­a­rat­ing the laun­dry – whites, darks and reds.

“It’s be­cause he has so many pairs of Peter Blake red socks!” laughs Jacinda, who tells us that af­ter they met up for a cou­ple of hours in Wellington re­cently, she re­turned to the flat she keeps in the cap­i­tal to find he’d made her a touch­ing “sur­vival kit”.

“We’d only had time to share a sand­wich around a ta­ble with four Labour staff mem­bers, but when I got home, there was Panadol, Be­rocca, muesli bars, cups of noo­dles and he’d ti­died the flat. It was re­ally sweet.”

Lau­rell, 61, re­calls the first time she met Clarke, on the elec­tion-cam­paign trail three years ago, and he’s now firmly part of the Ardern fam­ily.

“He’s lovely,” she tells. “I think they’re a very good match. And the main thing is, he makes Jacinda happy. He’s a won­der­ful sup­port for her.”

She’s still in a state of shock over her daugh­ter’s big year – “It’s all hap­pened so fast!” – but she tells us that ever since Jacinda was lit­tle, it was clear she was spe­cial and des­tined for great things.

“I could have had a dozen Jacin­das,” says Lau­rell, who’s also mum to Lon­don-based & Louise, 38. “She was dif­fer­ent to other chil­dren. She was ma­ture be­yond her years and had in­cred­i­ble com­mon sense. I don’t re­ally re­mem­ber her ever get­ting into mis­chief be­cause she was so sen­si­ble.

“She even helped me with my other daugh­ter! Louise would walk out wear­ing some­thing and I’d think, ‘You can’t wear that!’ But it was Jacinda who would say it. I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘This is good – I’m not the bossy one!’”

Jacinda also al­ways had a spe­cial abil­ity to care for and com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers. An ex­pe­ri­ence a few years ago stands out for her mum – Jacinda dropped ev­ery­thing to be with Lau­rell’s dy­ing friend.

“There’s only one flight out of Niue a week, so when I heard my el­derly neigh­bour from Mor­rinsville was dy­ing, I knew I wasn’t going to make it in time. I was very up­set she was on her own, so I men­tioned it to Jacinda and she went straight to her bed­side at Waikato Hos­pi­tal and sat with her through the night. She talked to her, brushed her hair and never left her side. It meant the world to me.”

And when Lau­rell was di­ag­nosed with breast cancer in 2014, Jacinda was there.

Lau­rell, who has since re­cov­ered, re­calls, “Jacinda was a huge sup­port. My hus­band strug­gled with it more than me, so she spent a lot of time talk­ing to him and re­as­sur­ing him.”

Love&sac­ri­fice

Jacinda says it’s her parents who taught her the value of kind­ness. She’ll be for­ever grate­ful to Lau­rell for the sac­ri­fices she made – namely giv­ing up her ca­reer in of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tion so she could raise Jacinda and Louise while Ross worked as a po­lice of­fi­cer.

“Mum is gen­er­ous to a fault. She’s very car­ing and very kind. She made lots of life choices that were all based on me and my sis­ter.”

But Lau­rell has no re­grets. “I wanted to bring them up and put all my time and ef­fort into do­ing things for them be­cause I knew if I did that, they would be good adults.”

Jacinda says there’s no doubt that the val­ues in­stilled in her dur­ing her child­hood play a big part in her pol­i­tics.

“Mum’s al­ways been kind to peo­ple who needed it. At Christ­mas, we’d make all these minia­ture cakes and give them to peo­ple in the neigh­bour­hood who we knew didn’t have any­one around.”

In a re­cent lead­ers’ de­bate, Jacinda stated that her pri­mary rea­son for be­ing in pol­i­tics is to try to erad­i­cate child poverty. Her pas­sion was sparked while liv­ing in the small town of Mu­ru­para in the Bay of Plenty.

She ex­plains, “I re­mem­ber see­ing kids at school with­out shoes. I was trou­bled by it, even though I was only five. It’s stuck with me since then.”

Jacinda was raised a Mor­mon, and she and Lau­rell agree that her de­ci­sion to leave the church in her 20s was tough on both of them. The Labour leader has ex­plained in the past that it was the church’s stance on ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity that led her to walk away.

Says Lau­rell, “I ac­tu­ally felt sorry for her be­cause she was hav­ing to work all that out. It

was very hard. But I’ve al­ways said to her that it’s her choice. Ev­ery­one has choice.”

Jacinda adds that she’s grate­ful she could be hon­est with her parents about the chal­lenges she was hav­ing.

“Mum knew I was strug­gling and my de­ci­sion cer­tainly didn’t just hap­pen overnight. I did feel torn, but I was lucky be­cause I knew my parents would ac­cept what­ever de­ci­sion I made. I knew it wouldn’t af­fect my fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with my fam­ily. Not ev­ery­one is so lucky.”

On Au­gust 1, Lau­rell was en­joy­ing a morn­ing gar­den­ing at home in Niue when a friend called her to ask if she’d heard the news her daugh­ter had taken over from Andrew Lit­tle.

“We’d only just got used to her be­ing the deputy leader! I’m still try­ing to get my head around it all. See­ing your daugh­ter up on the TV and on the news, it’s quite some­thing. We are ex­tremely proud. I can’t ex­press how proud we are.”

Lau­rell is mak­ing an ef­fort to “har­den up” when it comes to hear­ing crit­i­cism of her daugh­ter, but she found the ques­tion­ing around Jacinda’s plans for start­ing a fam­ily dif­fi­cult to take.

“It was a tough time, but she han­dled it re­ally well. She’s hon­est and up­front. I was very proud of her for that.”

With Jacinda-ma­nia show­ing no signs of slow­ing down, the politi­cian seems to be grow­ing in con­fi­dence ev­ery day. While she used to say she never wanted the top job, one look at the polls in­di­cates Ki­wis think she has what it takes.

“As soon as Andrew re­signed and the team sug­gested I be the one that step up, there was no ques­tion in my mind that I was going to do that,” she tells. “I felt hon­oured and I know we can do this. You can’t ask any­one else to be­lieve in you if you don’t be­lieve in your­self.” As she farewells the

Woman’sDay team and heads to her next en­gage­ment, she puts an ap­pre­cia­tive arm around Lau­rell.

“It def­i­nitely takes a vil­lage to raise an elec­tion cam­paign,” she says. “My brother-in-law mowed my lawns yes­ter­day, my sis­ter-in-law filled the freezer with food and Mum is shov­ing vi­ta­min C at me con­stantly so I don’t get sick. I am very lucky.”

Mum Lau­rell and Labour’s Jacinda both be­lieve in the power of kind­ness.

Lau­rell tells with pride how her daugh­ter sat with a dy­ing friend to the end and helped her beat breast cancer.

Mum adores Jacinda’s boyfriend Clarke. “They’re a very good match. He makes her happy.”

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