How do women here juggle a careeer with children?

Shauna McCarney

As Sarah Jessica Parker’s new film about a woman struggling to juggle a career with children hits cinemas today Helen Carson and Laura McGarrity find out if it really is possible to have it all.

As shoe-loving Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, it would be easy to think all Sarah Jessica Parker worries about is where her next pair of Manolos is coming from.

But the actress, who is married to fellow actor Matthew Broderick, and mum to their three children, biological son James (8) and twin daughters born to a surrogate, Marion and Tabitha (2), admitted during the filming of SATC2 that she regretted not having more time with the twins during the first year of their lives. The film, shot in 2010, meant she was away on location, and, as well as playing Carrie, Parker was also the producer.

All of which means SJP must really identify with Kate Reddy, the character she plays in new movie I Don’t Know How She Does It, which is based on the bestselling book by Allison Pearson.

The comedy tells of the many stresses and strains faced by Reddy who is a finance executive and the breadwinner for her husband and two children. Her life is spent juggling everything from business deals to household bills, as well as a never-ending list of chores and demands from the family. She feels like she’s on a merry-goround that never seems to stop.

But you don’t have to go to Hollywood to find a woman like Kate Reddy, many local mums know all to well that leaving parental guilt at home as you try to climb the corporate ladder is a skill in itself.

We caught up with successful women from Northern Ireland who strive to have it all.

Mum-of-two and company owner

Shauna McCarney (31) is a single mum who lives near Fintona with her two children Joe (6) and Cara (7). She set up an organic baby food brand, Heavenly Tasty Organics, five years ago when Joe developed an egg allergy. She says:

I’m the managing director of the company so I mostly organise my time around Joe and Cara. Whether you’re a single parent or in a relationship, it is always hard work when you run your own business. I don’t know what I’d do without my Mum and I also use after-school clubs and a summer scheme during the holidays.

I was a full-time mum for four years before I started the business, then worked part-time for a while. I was very lucky to be able to do that and it meant I was with Joe and Cara all day during that time. Still, it was nice to get back into the world of work, if a little scary. You become so disconnected from the working environment when you’re a stay-at-home mum.

Yes, I do feel guilty about working.Working mums are on a constant guilt trip, especially if you have to go to work when they’re sick. Luckily, though, running my own business means I don’t have to ask the boss for a day off.

As for a social life, I’m not a great drinker but do like eating out, going to the cinema or having a night out with the girls, but it’s not very often. By the time the weekend comes I don’t have the energy for a night out.

Heavenly Tasty Organics babyfood is available at SuperValu provincewide. The brand will be at the Big Into Baby show, King’s Hall, September 10-11, www.heavenlytasty organics.com

Shauna’s typical day...

6.30pm: get up to make children lunches for school, then prepare breakfast. Schoolbags are packed the night before and uniforms laid out. Drop children at school at 9am, or if there’s a breakfast club, 8.20am. Then, 45-minute drive to food plant in Cookstown.

9am/9.45am: arrive at work where the production manager will have everything up and running for the day. I’m involved in everything, from working on the production line to dealing with store managers, accounts and cleaning.

6pm: straight home if mum has collected children from school. Dinner between 6-7pm, then homeworks.

8pm: Joe and Cara’s bedtime. Catch up on housework, emails, then read a book to help me relax before going to bed about 11pm.

Mum-of-three and milliner

Grainne Maher (37), director of Grainne Maher Millinery, lives in Belfast with husband Ciaran Reilly and |children Sorcha( 6), Cuan (4)|and Seadhna(2). She says:

Juggling motherhood with running my business is a sort of a one-woman show at the minute, but I plan to take on students for placement this month. I love my work and I love being a mum, so although I'm busy I'm very happy.

Making hats is a way to indulge my creativity, but a business is a business and I also work to make money.

We have an au pair and that's a massive help when it comes to staying sane. Clara is from Spain and is like a big sister to our kids. Not many people have au pairs in Northern Ireland but they should think about doing so — Clara is our third and we've always had positive experiences.

When Ciaran and I started to try for kids I’d three miscarriages, so started to think I wasn't going to be a mum. I knew I wanted to go into business so when I finally had Sorcha I started a course in business management and then studied millinery. My business has grown from there. |I work in our attic which is great because the kids and Clara know I am there if they need anything. The children love me working at home. My studio is like a dream for them, full of diamantes and sparkle, but I’ve a lock on my door so they can't just wander in.

Working at home means I can be flexible and prioritise my children. I don't feel guilty working, because I work around my kids. I've learnt that I can't promise my clients too much and deadlines must wait if my children get sick or something comes up.

Through my work I get invited to fashion shows and that's a great way to socialise. The events are also great for getting time alone with Ciarán.

Being a mum and having your own business can be exhausting, but I am a firm believer that you get back what you put into life.

www.grainnemahermillinery.com, email@grainnemahermillinery.com

Grainne’s typical day is ...

6-7am: Ciaran and I make the kids’ breakfasts, get lunches ready.

8am: Clara dresses children.

8.30am: Ciaran or I do the school and nursery run for Sorcha and Cuan.

9am: Start work, while Clara looks after Seadhna.

1.30pm: pick Cuan up from nursery, then make the two boys lunch before going back to work, leaving them with Clara.

5pm: switch back to mummy-mode and pick up Sorcha |from her afternoon club, start dinner.

6pm: general mayhem homeworks, baths and entertaining.

8pm: two youngest go to bed.

8.30pm: Ciaran or I put Sorcha to bed. Meeting with client for an hour.

10pm: wind down, laptop on my knee and one eye on the TV

12pm: bedtime.

Mum-of-two and a managing director

Bernadette Doyle, (41), is a single mum who lives in Belfast with her two sons’ Benan, (5) and JJ (3). She is managing director of her own business Client Magnets which helps small to medium-sized businesses improve their profits while making time for family life. She says:

I designed my business around my family commitments. I have a nanny, but I drop off and pick up the boys from school two days a week. I do what work I need to get done during school hours. I keep holidays and weekends free.

I’m a sole provider and have to make money. I’m passionate about my business and have grown it to the point where I’m quite financially comfortable. It’s about getting the message out there. People don’t seem to have the energy for family anymore. I want to be a good role model for my sons by following my career and being successful. I want them to grow up and think they can have it all.

Because I’m single I need support, but when I spend time with my children, it is quality time. Their nanny does things like get their uniforms ready, which is great practical help.

I do what I’m best at and focus on that. Anyone can wash or iron their clothes, but it’s their mum who should kiss them goodnight.

Bernadette Doyle will hold a three-day event at Dublin Airport’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, Jan 13-15, 2012. Visit www.clientmagnets.com/lifecontributionprofit/, Tel 048 9037 0371 or email info@clientmagnets.com

Bernadette’s typical day...

7.30am: breakfast with boys, take them to nursery/kids’ camp.

9.30am: gym for exercise class.

11am: go to hairdresser.

Noon: back home, house is spotless thanks to my cleaner Jennifer.

12.30pm: reply to emails and accountability reports from my VIP clients.

1pm: virtual bootcamp call, group teleconference Q&A.

2.15pm: VIP client call.

2.45pm: late lunch and prepare the boys’ tea.

3.15pm: super-focused working on marketing for campaign.

4.30pm: collect the boys, give them their supper, play with them, then bath and bedtime.

7.30pm: talk to boyfriend about his plans to take me to Paris.

8-10pm: long bath and bed.

Mum-of-three and artist

Christine Trueman (42) is an artist and lives in |Lisburn with her husband Gary (45) and sons Ross (16), Pearse, (15) and Lewis (10). She says:

I am a full-time artist and mum. I design for my husband's kitchen business and I’m also the chairperson of the board of governors for The Millennium Integrated Primary School in Ballynahinch.

The diversity of my job and being a mum, as well as working with the school, keeps me motivated. I never feel bogged down because all the things I do are so different. My painting and photography are my creative outlets as well as giving me financial independence, while my work with Millennium Integrated has given me the chance to broaden my horizons and work on my passion for integration in schools.

When the boys were younger I found it difficult to work at home and I ended up burning the candle at both ends. Now they are older they understand work/play boundaries and they tell me how proud they are of me. I have no parental guilt now because I always put my kids before my work.

I'm fortunate to work from home and fit work around my kids.

Since working full-time as an artist I have a whole new social scene involved around going to exhibitions and shows. I think it is difficult for mums to be there for their children, have a good marriage and to work. I have been so lucky and it's been a happy accident for me that it's worked out.

Email christinetrueman1@btinternet.com

Christine’s typical day is ...

8am: my husband is a morning person and I would be the night owl. He usually goes out in the morning to bring me a coffee.

8.40am: school run. I often call into the principal's office and have to catch up on paperwork.

9am-10am: check emails.

11am-2pm: work in my studio

3pm: I pick up Lewis.

5pm: start dinner. I’m also on taxi duty for my sons and their social lives.

10pm-12am: I paint in my studio, it can be poor light then but it is actually when I work best, with no distractions.

2am: usually my bed time.

... and just how does he do it?

Matthew McCreary, dad to Cara Rose, 22 months, knows it is a practical role — and loves every minute

It’s not exactly a big secret that being a parent is tiring and demanding, but perhaps I’m of the first generation of young men who have really accepted their role as a hands-on dad unquestioningly.

As if to demonstrate this point, the look on my father’s face at the prospect of changing his granddaughter’s nappy for the first time was a sight to behold — a mixture of horror and utter ‘where do I begin’ confusion.

For me, being a practical dad was a no-brainer.

I knew from even before my wife was expecting that I would be required — nay, expected — to do my bit when it came to the messy stuff.

From the very beginning I happily (if exhaustedly) took my turn at the night-time feeds, the snotty noses, the endless washing of boke-covered clothes as well as becoming an entertainer and shoulder to cry on (the latter often for my even more exhausted wife at times...).

Balancing this with a full-time job really doesn’t register on my radar.

My wife and I had our guilty doubts of course about putting our daughter into full time childcare, but for us there really was no alternative.

We both work full time in demanding jobs.

And as part of the ‘squeezed middle’ (not poor enough for benefits, not rich enough to not care about money), giving up work or even going part-time just isn’t an option.

Childcare has been a good experience for my daughter, as it has taught her how to mingle and mix — and that she can’t get her own way all of the time.

It does hit home occasionally that I am missing out on some magic moments by not being there 24/7, but who’s to say those would have happened had I been there all the time?

If I were to pass on any advice to anyone like me, it is to savour every moment you do have with your child — because they really do grow up very fast.

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