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Libby Middlebrook: giving family a fair go

Journalist Libby Middlebrook makes the switch for her daughters' sake.

Watching Fair Go reporter Libby Middlebrook sitting in the back garden of her Auckland bungalow playing with her daughters, it would be easy to envy what looks like a perfect life.

Her husband, entertainment writer Scott Kara, is nearby, redirecting their youngest daughter Katie (14 months) when she wanders too far from him. Mia (4) engages her mother in an animated conversation about the garden’s plants and the neighbour’s cat, before heading to the jungle gym to show off her skills on the monkey bars.

But 35-year-old Libby is quick to set straight any idea that balancing a busy family life with a rewarding career is easy. “We’re not perfect by any means,” she says. “We all have those moments when it’s late at night, you’re all tired, and the last thing you want to be doing is loading the dishwasher.”

Her young family is one of the reasons Libby made the switch from working the daily news grind to the relative simplicity of Fair Go. “Working as a six o’clock reporter in breaking news is a very unpredictable job. It’s wonderful, fast-paced and very exciting, but you don’t know where you will be or what you will be doing.

“I’ve always loved Fair Go and what it stands for, so I jumped at the chance to get to work on the show. It also meant that I’d be able to be home for dinner at the end of the day.”

Libby points out that there are mothers who juggle daily news reporting with family life and manage wonderfully, but for her – after a career working for newspapers, the TV news bulletin and Campbell Live – it was important to find a role that allowed some stability and the chance to plan ahead. She loves that she is able to come home and read a bedtime story to the girls, or know she will be in the same city as them at the end of the day.

Although she went back to work part time after Mia was born, Libby says she quickly knew it was time for something different in her life besides the daily news grind. “I’d been doing it for a long time and was ready for a change of pace.”

The Fair Go opportunity came up and she jumped for it. She has now worked for the show for two years, with a year off to have Katie. A nanny looks after the girls during the day and Libby tries to leave work at 5pm as often as she can.

Having other parents on the Fair Go team helps too. Almost all of the presenters, journalists and crew have young families. “I’ll be heading out with the cameraman who’s got kids the same age and we’ll be comparing stories. “The wonderful thing about the show is that so many of us have young children so we are all in the same boat together.”

But while she gets a buzz out of standing up for the little guy on the iconic TV programme, coming home for family time together in the evening is at the top of her list of favourite things to do. The girls love the routine of eating a meal and reading together before bed time – and if that means picking work up again after the kids are in bed, it’s worth it. “If that’s what we need to do to protect the time with the kids, we’ll do it,” says Libby.

Although she had a year’s maternity leave with each daughter, Libby says having one parent at home full time wasn’t really an option. “We can’t manage on one income, especially with the reality of wanting to own our own home in Auckland.”

Having children has changed the way she and Scott live completely. When they get time off, they give it all to the girls. “Our weekends are very much focused on them. We don’t do any activities that will take us away from the kids. We are conscious of the fact we are working parents,” she says.

She describes the move into motherhood as one door closing and another one opening for her. Although she and Scott have been together for 16 years, married for eight, they waited until Libby was 31 to have children. “People say there’s never a right time to have kids, but it was something we knew we wanted to do eventually and our friends were doing it. We’ve been able to move through it as a group.”

She says one of the things that has surprised her most about her young family is how much fun she’s having. “After a hard day, you walk in the door and it all melts away. When Katie races down the hall with her silly hands in the air, they just make you laugh.”

Libby says despite the changes having children has brought, she would not wish for anything different in her life. “I’ve got two beautiful kids, a supportive, fantastic husband and a great job. I’m really genuinely content.”

Susan Edmunds

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