When I first heard that attorney-general Nicola Roxon had decided to depart Cabinet I immediately thought the worst of her intentions. But when I read in The Age on the weekend that she has called it quits to spend more time with her seven-year-old daughter it all made perfect sense to me.
When parliament is sitting the hours demanded of an MP can be grueling. For a Cabinet Minister the intensity probably never ends.
I also reached my breaking point when my oldest son was seven. To compound the situation I had a second son who was about to turn four. I was editor-in-chief of Pacific Magazines, with responsibility for the entire portfolio of around 20 titles. The days were long and stressful as we published the challenger brand in virtually every market. I loved my job and the magazines were performing well. But I missed my children.
One night for no apparent reason I cried myself to sleep. The strain of wanting to be in two places at once smacked me in the face. The next day I resigned from my fabulous job that I had worked so hard to achieve. It probably didn’t help that I was working for a CEO who had no understanding of the pressure of my circumstance. But I can’t blame him for wanting me to be there all the time when he needed me.
I needed to get off the barbed wire fence. The euphoria I felt when I finally resigned is indescribable. I hope Nicola Roxon felt the same when she finally chose to call time on her one-sided juggle.
All I needed was six months to reconnect deeply with my sons. My youngest was due to start school the following year and I needed time with him. My seven-year-old was starting to develop a strong character that I worried I had little influence in shaping. But most of all I became worn down by my children asking me why I couldn’t spend more time with them as I was rarely home for dinner in those days. Just thinking about it now is still painful.
I actually didn’t walk away completely. The same day I resigned I was offered consulting work with another publisher. The structure of the projects enabled me to be at home with my youngest son three days per week. On those days I could also collect my older son from school. It was perfect for all of us.
We are committed to discussing strategies for career-focused mums to remain in the workforce because it’s clear that it’s part of the answer to developing a pipeline for female leadership. However, there are some jobs that will remain a challenge for working mothers and undoubtedly Cabinet Minister is one of them.
We should wish Nicola Roxon well as she departs to embrace her young child’s life and leave the door open for her to return when she is ready. The skills she has developed will still be valuable in years to come. Spending time with a focus on motherhood won’t erase that.
Have you had to call time on your full-time career to spend more time with your children?