Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

We put family before career just like Cameron Diaz


As Cameron Diaz (45) gives up acting to spend more time with her husband, Benji Madden (39), Stephanie Bell talks to two Northern Ireland women who have made major changes to their careers to spend more time with their families.

‘The children are young for such a short time’

Voted the seventh most beautiful woman in the 2015 Miss World contest when she was just 19, Lucy Evangelista gave up a modelling career to launch her own business, Grace James, making handmade baby garments and accessories from home. The 32-year-old is married to former Ireland and Ulster rugby player Matt McCullough (36), and they live in  Belfast with their children, Leila (5) and Luke (3). She says:

My sister entered me for Miss Northern Ireland when I was 17, and I never thought in a million years I would win it, never mind get to the semi-final of Miss World in China.

I had wanted careers in random things like social work and the police, but after Miss NI I found myself doing modelling work. I went to Australia, where I worked on some mini TV series, having bit parts, and after six months came home for my sister's wedding. Then I met Matt and never went back.

Matt and I have been together 11 years, and for a few years we lived in London. I signed up with an agency but, because I am not 5ft 10ins tall and not your typical model, most of the work was for acting in commercials.

I did a lot of work with John Frieda, Nokia and Diet Coke, and when I was pregnant I did maternity stuff for New Look and Mothercare in Germany.

Matt's grandmother had given me all her sewing stuff and it had just sat in a box for years. One night Leila wanted to make a felt doll, but it was near her bedtime, so I told her I would make it while she was sleeping.

She was so pleased with it she wanted another one the next day, and the next. I posted them on Facebook and people started saying I should make them and sell them. I thought they were just being kind. I've always been obsessed with handmade items, especially cushions, and always wanted to make them.

I bought a sewing machine and it just sat for months on my dining room table. I was scared of it because I had no idea how to use it. My cousin came down and showed me how to thread it and I was hooked. Three weeks later, I got my first order through Facebook for a little felt doll.

I taught myself how to sew from videos on YouTube. It grew pretty quickly. Working from home means I get to spend time with the kids. I'm there for them when they are sick or just need a mummy day.

Luke does go to nursery for two-and-a-half days to socialise with other children - it's important that he has the confidence to be away from me. I sew when he is at nursery and also after the children go to bed. I could be working on orders from about 8pm until around midnight. My aim is always to make sure I cover the nursery fees with Grace James.

I get the best of both worlds, being at home and being independent and making a little money from something I love doing. It's funny because my closest friends are the ones I have met through sewing. Just having something in common with others has been great, plus it gets the children involved.

Leila understands that I need to make and sell items to get money for those little treats that she loves.

I make bibs, little quilted Liberty blankets and hand-embroidered Irish linen accessories such as bloomers and bibs for special occasions.

I also do cushions. Anything anyone asks for, I will usually give it a go.

I haven't completely given the modelling up. I am still with my agency in London, but now I can decide what I want to go for. I certainly won't be flying backwards and forwards to London for work.

It would have to be something that really suits and works in with home life. The kids are young for such a short time, and I want to spend as much of that time as I can with them.

Matt works really hard in corporate finance, and I feel it is important that one of us is there for the children and that they have a routine.

As for what Cameron Diaz has done, good on her. All marriages need time and work.

Clearly, financially she doesn't need to be out working, and if I was in the same position as Cameron Diaz, I would love to spend more time with my husband and kids.

After all, I think most of us aim for the same goal - work to pay the bills and to eventually and hopefully get to spend time with your loved ones and enjoy moments that money can't buy."

'My husband and I wouldn't have as much quality time together if I hadn't left my job'

Donna Hosking (53) from Newtownards runs her own events company, Hosking Events. She has been married to Paul (61) for 30 years and they have two grown-up sons, Paul (28) and Robert (25). She says:

I was working as a commercial director and sales manager for two local companies for 14 years and had to travel to meetings and conferences all over the UK. All the travel seems very nice to begin with but after a while it gets very intense.

When I was travelling I would have had to get up at 3.30am for my flight and Paul and I had to organise quality time when we could as my hours were also very long.

I decided in 2013 to change my career path and start my own business so that I could work from home and spend more time with my husband.

Paul has always been there for me, through thick and thin, and for our boys.

When they were growing up Paul left his job to be a house husband, which is a lovely thing to do. It really did make such a big difference to the boys' lives and they are very settled and secure in themselves.

They both went to university in Scotland and are now in the Police Service of Scotland.

Paul is very much of the opinion that we don't live to work and his attitude is that we should work to live. He now works part-time in Tesco and as far as he is concerned he just wants to spend the maximum time with his wife rather than earn massive amounts of money.

Leaving my job was a big step but it has given me the freedom to work from home as a freelance events manager and Paul and I get to spend more time together.

It hasn't been an easy thing to do. Working for yourself you have good days and bad days and you just have to keep working hard at it.

I was fortunate to manage the annual awards ceremony for Peninsula Care Services last year and I am also organising the inaugural Peninsula Care conference for care home professionals and nursing staff in The Marine Court in Bangor next month.

Paul has to get up at 5.30am to go to work but is home at lunchtime. I work until about 4 or 5pm and then we pour a glass of wine and spend the evening sitting and talking.

We wouldn't have so much quality time together if I had not had taken this step and it is lovely, it has given us a lot more freedom and I don't regret it for a minute.

I totally admire Cameron Diaz for what she has done. She was very successful in her career and while she luckily has got a good nest egg of money, to be able to do it is still a massive step."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph