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Successful women who know mum is not word for them

When Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom said being a mother made her better qualified to be the next Prime Minister than childless opponent Theresa May, her leadership bid collapsed. Three women tell Karen Ireland why not having children doesn’t make them second class citizens

Controversial comments by Andrea Leadsom in the recent Conservative Party leadership contest when she suggested being a mum meant she had a 'greater stake' in the future than her childless political rival Theresa May sparked outrage among many people.

Senior Conservatives comdemned Leadsom's outspoken opinion as 'vile' and 'insulting' while women who aren't mums felt her stinging comments were a judgment too far. After the furore, Leadsom, who is a mother of three, stepped aside with new Prime Minister May taking up residence in 10 Downing Street this week.

We talk to three women who reveal how they feel about not being a parent.

Pamela Ballantine (57) is one of UTV's most recognisable faces. She has her own chat show UTV Life as well as working on UTV continuity and presenting on U105. She lives on her own in Belfast. She says:

This week I am covering for Frank Mitchell's show on U105, doing the weather on UTV and working on continuity at the weekend.

How and when would I ever fit children into that pattern? I am out socialising or working most nights, so I can't even have a cat or a dog with my lifestyle - never mind children.

Joking aside, I never wanted children. Even when I was married years ago it was never on my radar.

While I don't have a maternal bone in my body I have never felt as though I was missing out because I'm not a mum.

I don't think being a parent or not being a parent makes you any better at a particular job.

It is the person you are which determines how well you do your job. And I like to give 100% to everything I do.

Had I become a mother I probably would have had to make some sacrifices in terms of my TV career. I work long hours and have put a lot of time and effort into my job.

Some people in this industry who are parents do struggle as they have to work hard to achieve the right balance between career and family life. I can barely take care of myself never mind a small person.

That said, I have nieces and nephews who I adore and love spend timing with when my schedule permits it.

One of my biggest bug bears is when someone is being interviewed on TV or radio and they say - 'as a parent I understand' - as if they are somehow superior and have more knowledge and understanding than those of us who don't have kids.

When I began my broadcasting career in the Seventies, it was a male-dominated industry and there weren't the same opportunities for women with young families as there are now.

The one thing about not being a mum in this job is you can be sure you will get to cover holidays like Christmas Day and Boxing Day and, like this week, the Twelfth holidays. As those with children tend to take time off and I get called in.

Of course, I have a mum and dad, nephews and nieces who I would like to see and spend time with on Christmas Day, too. Also, the fact I work on a freelance basis means I have to take the work when it is there.

That said, I do enjoy my summer holidays and with my shifts I can take lots of long weekends off. I am just back from four days in Spain and, as the weather is so bad here, I have booked another week away soon.

If I had children I wouldn't be able to just take off and travel like that.

My idea of hell is trying to lie by the pool relaxing while worrying about young people in the water, near hot BBQs, glasses everywhere and lots of people to get lost among.

I couldn't cope with that. Not being a mum has made me incredibly selfish. I just please myself. I go where I want when I want and I don't have to consider anyone else.

I do believe that everyone makes their own lot in life, so if you have children you work around it. Not being a mum means I don't have to contend with juggling."

Pamela's show UTV Life will be back on our screens from August 5.

Former BBC journalist Natasha Sayee (37) is a communications manager. She lives in Belfast with husband, Brian McCann (40), an IT manager. She says: 

I have been married to Brian for seven years and having a child isn’t part of our plans. Most of my friends are the same situation. We all work hard in high-pressure jobs and are career driven.

Some are barristers, some are doctors and others are in the media.

I was very upset by what Andrea Leadsom said, as I think it was a very poor choice of words.

How dare anyone say that just because I’m not a mother, I don’t have a stake in the future.

I have a beautiful young nephew, whose future I care deeply about. And issues such as the environment, animal welfare and the conditions we create in the world, are hugely important to me.

I care about what type of planet future generations will inherit.

Women in the workplace face difficulties, such as sexism, already without being pitted against one another just because we do or don’t have children.

As a couple, maybe one day we will decide to have a family — I don’t know, but I doubt it.

We love the independence and freedom we enjoy without children. To be a mother, you have to take your foot off the gas at work for a certain amount of time at least. My younger sister, who is a doctor, has just had a beautiful son. I believe she will find juggling her career and motherhood tough when the time comes.

Brian and I value our time together — it is precious.

We can go out at night for dinner on a whim and have a few drinks with friends without having any responsibilities to children.

We also enjoy long lazy lie-ins and peaceful brunches at the weekends.

After work, we like to come home, chill-out and spend time with each other and walk the dogs.

I am 37, so although we could change our minds and decide to have a family, my age may be a problem, so I really don’t see it happening.”

Emma Fitzpatrick (38) is a Cool FM afternoon presenter. She is single and lives in Belfast. She says: 

While I don’t have any children, it isn’t something I’ve ever really thought about. Being a mum isn’t something that is in my plans.

I am definitely not one of those women who feel their biological clock ticking and think I must meet someone and settle down and have a family.

Right now, I am enjoying life. I think the opposite of what Andrea Leadsom said is true — if I was a mother, I wouldn’t have the career I have now.

Motherhood means having to make sacrifices and I have always worked long days, late nights and anti-social hours to get to the level I’m now at.

My job at Cool FM is brilliant, but it has taken years of hard work to get there, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had a baby to think about.

Yet many women, including my sister, who has four children and works full-time, do manage career and family very successfully — so I guess it can be done.

However, I don’t believe my career would have worked out as well if I was a mother.

My life is very full and I don’t feel I am missing out on anything because I don’t have kids.

At school, I was shy and hid behind my writing, which is why I had my heart set on becoming a journalist.

When I was studying media at Belfast Institute, I worked for UTV, followed by the Kelly show, which was great training.

Before landing a job at Citybeat, I was the entertainment correspondent at the then-new radio station Seven FM in Ballymena. After covering entertainment, which I loved, I moved into news and presenting.

Two years ago, I joined Cool FM.

I love my job, but it involves being out at night and going to concerts and events, which would be difficult with a family.

If I did meet someone and decide to have children, I am sure my family would be supportive, but right now, work and friends are what I’m about.”

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