For the 85th interview in the series (!) I have something a little bit different – Teresa Hanley is a 52-year-old mother and grandmother who has just packed up her permanent, secure job and moved from Ireland to Australia. This is her story:
Thank you Teresa for taking part in the interview series! So let’s start with the basics – could you tell me how many children you have?
One son -David – he’s 26 now.
I worked for the health services in Ireland for over 27 years. While it was the same employer, obviously I had moved up in the ranks since David was small. In the early days, it was an entry-level administration job, though I was doing a degree by night as well. The last 16 years were spent working as a facilitator in a fairly senior position. I delivered training in managing conflict, communications, customer care, teamwork, or I designed programmes specifically to support staff after major events. I also provided coaching and mediation services to people. Otherwise, any time there was a department or people not getting on, it was “call in Dr Teresa to try to fix!”
What kind of hours did you work when your son was young – were you working full-time?
Yes, it was full-time but I had flexi-time so could go in any time before around half nine and leave between four and six as long as I did the required number of hours in the week. I could also work up a day a month to take off which was a great help as David had a few trips to the GP with high temperatures and ended up in hospital with whooping-cough shortly after getting his first vaccine. I was also lucky that my husband was on shift work so between us it worked ok.
What kind of childcare did you use, and did you find it difficult to balance work and home back then?
For the first year my sister looked after him and then he was put into a crèche so he could learn to mix. When we did that, we had to get two cars because the crèche only opened at 8 and closed at 6 and needless to say the public buses were not frequent. We didn’t find it difficult to balance, but that was due to having flexi-time in work and my husband’s hours. As David got bigger, he could run into school which was next door to our house, and I would go to work. My husband would be home in time for him finishing school so it worked well. In the school holidays my mother in law would have him so it worked well. I was blessed with the support.
Did you ever want to be a stay-at-home mother?
For me I never wanted to stay at home, I believed it worked better with me working as he gained a strong work ethic. I was lucky with the support and childcare and the fact that he wasn’t in crèche for very long days as well. I think it is a personal choice but I would say to any working mum do not feel guilty about working, you are not the sole carer for the child – men don’t feel guilty, so why should we?
If you could have done any other job, what would it have been?
I wanted to be a journalist when I left school but there were very few opportunities. So that is what I would choose – either in a newspaper or working on TV as a political analyst.
Can you tell me about the big move you’ve just made?
My son, his partner and my granddaughter are living in Australia and I felt I was missing out. I was unhappy in my job, we had a couple of bereavements of family and friends who were young and my husband had a health scare so I felt that life is too short to waste time not really living.
I wanted to be here to support David and of course help out with my granddaughter. I was lucky – I got redundancy to fund the move. Though it will be tight, and I could come back to Ireland in two years with nothing.
I was too old for a skilled working visa so I applied for a student visa. I’m studying a Masters of Writing, Editing and Publishing at the University of Queensland, so it is a bit of a dream really, though I am feeling a bit overwhelmed as it has been twenty years since I graduated!
I can work part-time as well, though I am taking a bit of time to organise myself first. My husband hopes to follow me over in September, he has applied for a career break from his job and my dog is coming in April! The first couple of weeks have been busy trying to set up house, furnish it – most of Australian rentals are unfurnished – and get a car. I was blessed to get a house where there is an on-site manager who will feed or walk your dogs which is amazing.
Do you have any regular “me-time” or do you have something that you for yourself?
Writing. At the moment even though I have all day to myself I have so much stuff to prepare for college, I don’t have time to write. But I will be writing bits in college and it will be okay once I have organised and got into the groove.
I have minded my granddaughter a couple of times, bringing her to the playground and I treated myself to my first pedicure!
I have also just started a blog about my journey called irishgrannystudyinginoz.wordpress.com
Do you have any advice or thoughts you’d like to pass on to women reading this who still have small children, who have not come out the other side like you have? Is there anything you’d have done differently?
Don’t let it overwhelm you as things will come good in the end. If you can’t do something now you can do it later. Here I am age 52 studying a Masters in my dream area in a new country. Nobody believed me when I said I was going to do it – not even my husband – hence the delay in him coming over! But I believed and I did it. Funnily enough I think my son had a lot more faith that I would do it and he is delighted I am here.
Any other comments?
I always like to finish things with a funny story. I was in an information session for international students and we had to introduce ourselves to someone next to us. She was a young Chinese girl studying computers or something. So once we had exchanged names and told each other what we were doing she asked me for a selfie and said I was her idol, she wanted to be just like me when she was older! I didn’t know how to take it but I suppose in China older people probably don’t study. But I don’t see myself as old anyway and it gave me a laugh.
Teresa, as I’ve said to you already, I’m completely in awe of you. So many of us say we’re going to do things and then never get around to doing them, but you really did it!
I think for anyone who feels stuck in a career rut or that between crèche runs and work, there’s no room to breathe, your story will be a welcome breath of fresh air. A reminder that it’s never too late to make a change, and that just because things are one way now, doesn’t mean it will be like this forever. Kids get older, crèche becomes school, jobs change, hours change, bosses change, priorities change. And women, in particular, are brilliant at making changes happen – at seeing beyond linear career paths.
I can’t wait to see how you get on at university in Australia, and I’m delighted for you that you made your dream come true. Very best wishes for your adventure in Oz, and thank you for sharing your story.