“I always say ‘nobody died’ and then try and get on with it. Women are natural multi-taskers so we tend to think we can ‘do-it-all’. In my experience, something has gotta give”
Lorraine Keane, well-known Irish broadcaster, is this week’s interviewee in the Office Mum interview series.
In her capacity as Microsoft Ambassador, she is chatting about family life and how Microsoft helps her to get things done, so I took the opportunity to ask her questions about being a mother, balancing career with family life, and yes, of course, the mammy-guilt.
When I asked Lorraine about juggling work and home, she replied:
“I am fascinated with the theory of the 50/50 balance … Generally where two parents work, the woman/mother tends to do much more of the childcare and domestic chores than the father, regardless of the demands of their career. I am as much to blame in this regard as I admittedly have difficulty handing over the responsibility to my husband.”
Nice to know the same struggle to balance exists in every household!
Thank you Lorraine for taking part in this interview for Office Mum – so let’s start with the basics – could you tell me how many children you have and their ages?
I have two daughters aged 6 and 9 years old.
And now could you tell me a little about your job – what do you do and for how long have you been working at this?
I am a broadcast journalist/television presenter. I have worked in radio and television in Ireland for 20 years, 17 of which were full-time and almost 4 years part-time.
What kind of hours do you work?
Before I had children I worked a five day week followed by a seven day week and so on… As Entertainment Correspondent with TV3 I worked a five day week. After having my second child that increased to 6 days a week which included evenings and some weekends.
For the last 3 to 4 years I generally work a 3/4 day week with most school holidays free.
What kind of childcare do you use?
When I worked full-time I had a full-time nanny at home Monday to Friday and relied on husband and family at the weekend.
Are your children in school and has that made balancing career and family easier or more difficult?
Now the children are in school until 3:30pm it has given me more time to re-focus on my career and have more time for other personal projects.
On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?
It’s not easy… some days I get it right, some days I get it wrong but I am learning to not beat myself up over it. The key is not to stress the small stuff (like an untidy house, an unhealthy but ‘convenient’ dinner, a missed appointment) which can be easier said than done.
I always say ‘nobody died’ and then try and get on with it. Women are natural multi-taskers so we tend to think we can ‘do-it-all’. In my experience ‘something has gotta give’…. So I make the children and our little family my priority.
I am fascinated with the theory of the 50/50 balance – where working parents share domestic chores, childcare and work equally. Generally where two parents work, the woman/mother tends to do much more of the childcare and domestic chores than the father, regardless of the demands of their career.
I am as much to blame in this regard as I admittedly have difficulty handing over the responsibility to my husband. For one, (stupidly on my part) I think he can’t do it as well/good enough. And secondly, as mothers we are born to nurture. Being a mum is my favourite thing to do/be. My husband is very willing and just as capable of getting up during the night to a sick child but I want to. I will never turn over and go back asleep regardless of what my work demands from me the next day. I wonder is that 50/50 balance achievable? Even 60/40 would be nice….!
And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
All mothers suffer from guilt… MOST of the time, whether you work outside the home or you are a stay-at-home mum. I know from experience as I have worked full-time, part-time and even given up work outside the home for a period and I still went to bed at night feeling I hadn’t done enough, could have done better etc…. Mothers are just very tough on themselves when really we should pat ourselves on the back for achieving as much as we do. I am getting better at feeling less-guilty now.
Do you think there’s a glass ceiling for women, or is it a perception based on the fact that mothers often look for flexibility or part-time hours, which in turn limits their opportunities?
Well the reality is men and women want children…not all men or women obviously, but for those who do, then someone has to take care of them. Women are usually the ones that this role falls on, whether they are working full time or not. Women are also usually the ones that want to do more of the childcare. I didn’t have children for someone else to rear and enjoy, but my financial situation meant I had to work. Also I didn’t have a family member to look after my children or help with the childcare so I had to afford a fulltime nanny. There are lots of factors to consider and everyone’s situation is different so families just have to do what suits them best.
The juggle is a struggle…I remember when I was returning from maternity leave after my first child a friend of mine – another working mum – warned me about discrimination in the workplace. She said, in her experience, whenever she had a sick child she always pretended she the one who was sick, as taking a day off because of childcare problems was frowned upon by male colleagues and bosses and could be detrimental to any career aspirations. Thank goodness this was never the case for me.
Do you have any tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
Have a good support network – you will get the call in the middle of the day to say a child needs you –
NB: Make sure they have your husband’s number too!
And try not to feel guilty. There is not one mother out there that thinks she is doing everything right all of the time.
Lorraine, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions – I found it particularly interesting that you have experienced “the guilt” while being a mum working outside the home and while being a stay-at-home-mum. Mothers always feel guilty about something, and as you put it so succinctly yourself, the juggle is a struggle!
As a Microsoft ambassador, Lorraine’s passion for her family and education has been enriched through the apps, devices and services she has discovered; like ‘Babel’ to help learn French and ‘OneNote’ to keep track of her busy lifestyle. Lorraine is also a big fan of the family safety features on Windows which allow her to choose what websites to block or allow, which games her kids can play, which apps they can use, and even limit the amount of time they can spend on the device. Sending her a weekly email report detailing all the apps and websites that the kids have visited during the previous week and how long they spent online. This is complimented by ‘The Kids Corner’ feature in the Nokia 820 which allows her to decide how and when her children can use her device, giving them access to the games, apps, music and videos that she has chosen, without giving them access to the rest of the contents on her phone. As someone who spends a lot of her time travelling back and forth between Ireland and France, Lorraine has loved the way she can travel easily with her Surface and access everything she needs on the go.