Mum in Profile
C4K: You have a very busy life juggling parenthood and work as a journalist, author and TV presenter with odd working hours. What’s your daily schedule and how do you manage it?
JT: At the moment I am on maternity leave with my four week old baby boy, Otis, so my days are a heady whirlwind of feeding, cuddling and entertaining two little ones, as well as trying to keep the house in some sort of order. I normally work three days a week (as a News Presenter at Sky News) so on those days I am in the studio by 10:30am and on air at noon where I present six hours of live TV news. The minute I knock off work I rush home to see Jasper, and bath him and read him a story before bed. My days off are spent with Jasper so I tend to write when he sleeps, and it’s also when I squeeze in my daily meditation. It’s amazing how much more time efficient I have become since becoming a mother. I can only hope that continues with two little ones.
C4K: When did you go back to work after Jasper was born? Did you have a set maternity leave or did you just wing it?
JT: I returned to work (three days a week) when Jasper was seven months old. I had asked for six months but when the time came I realised I wasn’t quite ready (I became teary at the thought of leaving my baby) so I requested another month. I am on maternity leave now with Otis and I’m scheduled to take seven months off (like last time) but I will reassess that as it gets closer.
C4K: What were the main motivations to return to work?
JT: I would have loved to have taken a year off work (the legal requirement employers to keep your job open) but seven months was a necessary compromise both financially and also to not leave my employer in the lurch for too long. We also thought it would be good for Jasper to start socialising with other babies and be looked after by someone other than me (he started one day a week at childcare at eight months).
C4K: What were the main hurdles or what did you find most difficult about going back to work?
JT: The hardest part was the gut-wrenching lurch of longing which is why I had to put off my return for another month, because I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from my baby. When I did finally go back to work (three days a week) I was still pretty teary and cried often on my way to work, but it also meant I was much more focused in the time I was there and counting down the minutes until I could get home again.
My work hours required some negotiation. Originally my boss wanted me to return to work in the evenings (until 12:30am), which would not have been ideal because I was still breastfeeding and getting up early with the baby. So I managed to negotiate to do three day shifts.
For the first time in my career it wasn’t about what suited me best anymore, and I had to put my foot down.
It was also a difficult decision what to do about childcare. When is too young for the baby to be in childcare? Would he be better off with a nanny? Or family daycare? I was overwhelmed by all the options and wanted to make sure I made the ‘right’ decision for our baby. When I first returned to work we settled on a nanny one day and one day in childcare. After a few months, we realised he seemed far happier in childcare (and I found the nanny playing on her iPhone while Jasper was crying), so we upped it to two days at childcare where at least I know what goes on and that he is in good hands. The third day I work is a Saturday so that’s a combination between his dad minding him and a casual nanny.
C4K: What are your current child care arrangements when you’re working and did you find it difficult to find childcare?
JT: We now have Jasper in childcare two days a week. We are very fortunate that his childcare centre is at his Dad’s workplace so his daddy brings him home each day and can also visit during the day. I don’t need to leave for work until about 10am so I get the mornings with Jasper. We often use a casual nanny on Saturdays because I work and Liam has sporting commitments.
After a few trials and errors we found an exceptional nanny. Joy is wonderful with Jasper who is so happy when he is with her and she also has a great work ethic helping a lot around the house which makes it so much easier on us, and it allows us to spend more time with Jasper when the washing is done. But Joy has just informed us she is moving back home to Thailand so we’ll have to start the search again. I am nervous we don’t find anyone quite like her.
C4K: Do you find the juggle of child care and work difficult?
JT: After some negotiation, the ‘juggle’ has worked out really well for us (so far). We are blessed to have Jasper in such a wonderful childcare centre with beautiful, enthusiastic carers and located at his Daddy’s office so I feel quite happy knowing he is spending the day there. I’ve only cried a couple of times when dropping him off! I had expected I might feel ‘guilty’ having him in care but I realised early on it is actually good for him and he seems to thrive on it. It provides a level of stimulation and education that I can’t offer at home and he gets to play with children his own age. The mad rush to get to childcare before it closes is tough (when I am picking him up I can’t leave work until 6pm when I come off air), especially when our little boy is the last one there looking forlorn in that huge empty space, but aside from that it is all running quite smoothly.
Because we don’t have a regular nanny or babysitter, it is always a juggle when random things come up. The childcare centre will often let us do a casual half day or day at short notice if there is availability. When I do spots on Sunrise, my partner will try to go to work a bit later to mind Jasper (childcare doesn’t open until 7:30am) but if that’s not possible, it is a mad scramble. I often have to decline things because I don’t have child minding options but I take it all in its stride because motherhood is my main priority. And the greater joy.
C4K: What are the five things you couldn’t live without as a working mum?
JT: My Mum! She works full time so isn’t often available to help out (except at night or weekends) but she is always on the end of the phone with sound advice and support. As a mum of six and grandmother to eleven, she is a wealth of knowledge. With the birth of both my babies Mum took a week off work and came to help out with home cooked meals and handy motherhood tips. I couldn’t have done it without her.
Meditation: I learnt to meditate when I was pregnant with our first baby and it was the best investment I ever made. I am certain it is what keeps me calm and ‘in the moment’ – even when chaos reigns – and also helps with the sleep deprivation. My instruction is to do 20 minutes twice a day but at the moment (with a four week old) I am going for once a day. Even that makes an enormous difference. I have no doubt I would have had a very different reaction to motherhood without meditation (timbrownmeditation.com).
My pressure cooker (inspired by Juanita Phillip’s book, A Pressure Cooker Saved My Life) and our newly acquired slow cooker. Both serve their purpose depending on which end of the day is more manic.
An endless supply of small plastic containers: I used to wonder what mums needed those things for but now I know: sultanas and cut up apples for the car, freezing dinner portions for nights when there’s no time to cook (ie most nights), sandwich squares at the park…
Weekly blow dries. Washing and drying my hair takes at least a couple of hours – time I don’t have – so a $40 weekly blowdry is money well spent.