Real Life

MP Mums family secrets

Four politicians open up about juggling work and motherhood

Carmel Spuloni (34)LabouroP since: 2008oum to: Bailey (13)

What’s the secret to balancing being a mum with your work?Support! I’m a single mum, but fortunately I no longer have to face the challenges that many other mothers do because my retired father now lives with us – he’s Bailey’s number-one caregiver.

What’s the hardest part of juggling both?Bailey probably resents my work because it means I’m not always there for him. There’s definitely guilt attached to leaving your baby at home sick with someone else because you have to work, even when that baby is 13!

Does your son understand what your job involves?He does and he’s incredibly forgiving considering how much time I spend away from home. Like any teenage boy, I’m sure he’s embarrassed at times. He really can’t stand it when I’m called up to dance at Pacific functions – I’m a terrible dancer! And he’s not keen on my name and face currently being plastered all over my car.

Does spending a lot of time away from him worry you?one or two days are fine but by the third I miss him – we’re very close. But I never worry about him because I know he’s always in good hands.

Does being a mum affect the way you do your job? Definitely! Being a mother and a former teacher, education is my top priority. I’m particularly interested in the challenges faced by solo parents and young mothers, given I’ve been one.

Any advice for other busy working mums?oy plan is to keep giving my son lots of hugs and kisses while he still lets me, to laugh with him as much as possible and discuss what’s happening with my work so he knows what I’m up to and understands the importance of it.

Katrina Shanks (42)NationaloP since: 2007oum to: Sam (14), Annabelle (12) and Lachlan (10)

What’s the secret to balancing being a mum with your job?Good time management. The other thing is a supportive family. I couldn’t do this without my very supportive husband, mother and parents-in-law.

What’s the hardest thing about trying to do both?Running out of time when things don’t go according to plan. I run at full capacity all of the time, so if something goes wrong or something unexpected happens, like the kids are sick, I can’t simply find the extra time from nowhere to deal with things.

What hours do you work?It varies from week to week. I don’t work Sundays any more. I used to, but decided it was important to have at least one day off every week. The rest of the week I would do between 60 and 80 hours.

Do your children understand what your job involves?Sam does. The younger two are less aware of what I do – they’re more concerned that my face is on the side of our car.

Does spending a lot of time away from them worry you?Definitely. It’s a very rewarding job, but being an oP does come at a cost and that’s time spent with family. It’s hard when you go to events and prize-givings at other schools as part of your job but you can’t go to your own kids’ events because you’re busy.

Does being a mum affect the way your do your job?It makes a difference to the way I look at policy. I want all kids to get the best start in life they can. I was pleased I got to be involved in the oaternity Action Plan, which looked at things like longer stays in hospital for mums.

Any advice for other busy working mums?Remember to stop and breathe! Life is very fast-paced, but it’s important to stop sometimes.

Heather Roy (47)ACToP since: 2002 (retiring soon)Mother to: John (23), Barbara (21), Penny (19), Finn (17) and Jack (15)

What’s the secret to balancing being a mum with your work?I can juggle several balls at once – as well as being in parliament and being a mother I’m also in the territorial Army. It’s important to prioritise and support is vital – I couldn’t do this without my husband Duncan.

What’s the hardest part of juggling both?oissing out on important events in my children’s lives. I always try to work out the things I need to be there for, such as birthdays and family occasions, but sometimes things come up and you simply can’t get there. Luckily my children have always been pretty understanding.

What hours do you work?I’m too scared to count! As an oP it’s around 60 to 70 hours a week, but when I was a minister it was 70 to 80. When the children were smaller I tried to have Sunday off every week, but I didn’t always manage it.

Do your children understand what your job involves?They do, especially now that they’re older. There’s always been a lot of political talk at home and they take an interest in what I’m working on. They don’t like to see any negative publicity about me, but they cope with it.

Does spending a lot of time away from them worry you?Sometimes, but I try to be there for important events and my husband is always there for them too. Now they’re older and doing their own things it’s easier.

Does being a mum affect the way you do your job? oPs have to balance party values with what they think personally, but when it comes to making decisions, being a mother does bring a different perspective to the way you view things. And it makes me very interested in social policies, health and education.

Any advice for other busy working mums?Woman can do anything, but that doesn’t mean we can and should do absolutely everything. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about trying to be supermums. our children will always do the best when they have positive and confident role models in their lives and at home.

oetiria Turei (41)Green Party co-leaderoP since: 2002oum to: Piupiu (18)

What’s the secret to balancing being a mum with your work?Being able to distribute your time as evenly as you can. You have to be organised and accept you can’t always do everything.

What’s the hardest part of juggling both? The moments I’ve missed – prize-givings, plays etc. There have been occasions in Piu’s life that I simply haven’t been able to get to.

What hours do you work?We do up to 38 hours in three days when Parliament is sitting and with other work, including being co-leader, it adds up to 60 or 70 hours a week. I’m happy to work long hours because this is a rewarding job, but if my family said they needed me to stop, I would.

Does your daughter understand what your job involves?She does now but I don’t think she really realised until she was in her teens. That can be quite a good thing! Politics can be a hard business and there have been times when she’s got upset about things people have said about me.

Does spending a lot of time away from her worry you?Yes, but I’ve made sure that if I’m not around, there are people she can talk to, such as my mother and sister, so she always has someone she can go to.

Does being a mum affect the way you do your job? It’s useful when you’re a leader because you’re used to managing bad behaviour! Because of my own background as a young mum on the DPB I’m very conscious of the needs of young mums and issues of child welfare.

Any advice for other busy working mums?Let go of the guilt. You may not be there for your kids as much as you like, but you’re showing them – girls especially – that you can give them the love and affection they need and still be a strong, independent adult with a life of your own.

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