Can mums who work ’have it all’?

Arlene Harris asks five well-known women what being a mum means to them, how they juggle a career with a family and whether it is possible to ‘have it all’?

Sonya Lennon – stylist and TV presenter is mother to 10-year-old twins, Evie and Finn

“I grew up in an environment which was respectful and joyful but at the same time my mother always worked so I suppose this is why I chose a similar path.

"I had a wonderful childhood and, while I never felt a dramatic urge to have children of my own, I knew I always wanted them so was delighted when I discovered I was pregnant. Mind you, I didn’t find out I was having twins until I was 20 weeks and that was a bit of a shock.

“They are wonderful little people — so engaging and amazing company. Being a working mother is a balancing act and anyone who says otherwise is talking complete bull. There is no such thing as ‘having it all’ as something always has to give.

“Sometimes work will need more attention and other times, the family will. But when push comes to shove, if the kids ever need me, I will drop everything else – they always come first.

“The image portrayed by certain super women of the perfect work and family life, is just that, an image. Those who have the money will have a team of helpers behind the scenes so the outward appearance always seems effortless.

"Some women may say I have missed out on priceless moments while I was at work, but I believe I have brought my children up with an ethic of independence and hard work which will stand to them later in life.

“I’m not really a ‘Hallmark’ person so it’s not just Mother’s Day which is important as every day for the past 10 years I have relished being a mother.”

Rachel Allen – chef, TV presenter is mother to Josh (15), Lucca (12) and Scarlet (6)

“I went into motherhood completely blind as I had no expectations at all. And in some ways, I guess ignorance is bliss because if we knew about all the trials and tribulations beforehand, none of us would imagine that we would be able to cope. But we learn along the way and our confidence grows with our children.

“I have had so many fantastic moments with my three over the years and being a mother has taught me that there is such a thing as unconditional love.

“As a working mother it can be difficult at times and it’s most definitely a balancing act. I would liken it to juggling glass baubles – everything has to be kept up in the air at all times but occasionally you will lose control and something will crash.

"Keeping both work and family life going can be exhausting as there is always something to do, but while I really love my career, my children always take priority.

“My own mother is amazing and always has been. And it wasn’t really until I had my own children that I appreciated all the love and care I had been given while growing up and I hope my children will feel the same.

“But for all the love we mothers shower on our children, we receive it back from them a hundredfold.”

Mary Kennedy – broadcaster is mother to Eva (31), Tom (28), Eoin (25) and Lucy (23)

“When I was pregnant for the first time, I awaited my daughter’s arrival with a mixture of excitement and fear of the unknown. I was so ready for motherhood but I was also a bit anxious about how I would manage the job.

“Of course, I got on fine and learned along the way. But then when I was expecting my second child, I worried that I couldn’t possible love another baby as much as Eva. The arrival of Tom made me discover that I loved him and my subsequent children to the same degree – it’s funny how the heart keeps growing to include every child you have.

“My mother was a wonderful help to me when my children were growing up and I couldn’t have managed without her. It’s unfortunate that the busiest time in our lives often happens when our children are young and we are also trying to build a career.

“Anyone who appears to have it all and looks as if she is effortlessly balancing a career with family life must have someone behind the scenes helping them to keep things going as I don’t believe it is possible to do everything without some sort of help.

“If I could give advice to any new mothers out there, I would say to stop worrying about the little jobs around the house and take more time to simply be with your children. As my own mum said to me, ‘don’t worry about the housework until the children start writing their names in the dust’.”

Lucy Kennedy – TV presenter is mother to Jack (5) and Holly (almost 3)

“I always wanted to become a mother and for as long as I could remember I saw myself in that role. I actually expected it to be much harder. But I love it.

“Looking into the eyes of your newborn is probably the most beautiful feeling in the world.

“The first time your toddler says ‘mummy’ is amazing — the highlights are incredible. I am a natural carer, so I really enjoy having small people to protect and look after. I love looking at two people who are half me and half the person I love. I just adore them and they are nice, kind well rounded children. The difficult aspects of motherhood are around the sleep area — sleep deprivation can be agony at times, especially in the early stages.

“But I do think juggling a career and motherhood is do-able as I have done it. My hours have changed now with the Seven O’Clock Show (TV3) so my working day is 4pm until 8.30pm but I’m still a taxi, cleaner, doctor and chef before my evening job even begins. You just have to be a good planner and work a week ahead of yourself. I used to batch cook on Sunday’s for the week — so I would say organisation is key.

“I don’t know the situations of any so-called super women but I would imagine that if you’re at the school gates with your hair done, perfect makeup applied, looking relaxed, well rested, manicured and beautifully dressed, you might have ‘help’ at home.But I say each to their own — if their children are happy then that’s all that matters.”

Sybil Mulcahy – TV presenter is mother to Hugh (8), Genevieve (7) and Michael (2)

“I never thought about motherhood before I became pregnant other than knowing I wanted to have a baby. I am from a fairly large family, so it was natural that I would like one of my own but it happened much quicker than I expected.

“When my first child was born it was a complete shock as nothing could have prepared me for the reality of being totally and utterly responsible for another human being – it was quite overwhelming. The lack of sleep on top of that was another unexpected surprise – I don’t think anyone can really explain what the first few weeks of motherhood are like.

“Having said that though, there are so many highlights to being a mother and I never tire of the cuddles or the huge amount of love I have for my children and vice versa. This is what gets you through the hard times.

“Having it all is a total myth and juggling lots of different balls can only be done with a great deal of help. I can only go out to work because I have a child minder who comes to the house.

“I think women who pretend that it’s really easy, portraying an image of having a wonderful career while looking fabulous and being a great mother are being really unfair to the rest of us.

“We have to be honest with each other and admit that while it is undoubtedly the best job in the world, being mum is also hard work.”


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