Taking a [maternity] break

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

I started working when I was 12. My stepdad hadn’t had much luck with work since we’d moved from Sydney to Brisbane so to give him a job, my parents bought a takeaway shop in Victoria Point.

[Photo credit: Monique Louise Photography]

I worked there on Saturday’s and Sunday’s, taking orders and payments. I was speedy and good at arithmetic. I can still ring up a sale in my head quicker than any cash register. I got paid $50 for working, which when you consider I was working nearly 12 hours a day each day, was about $2 an hour. Of course this was the early 90s and it was literally child labour. But I loved it, it gave me purpose and independence.

Apart from a gap when my parents sold the shop (around the time I was turning 14) and when I got my next job at 15, I have been gainfully employed in one way or another for well over 25 years.

I love working. I love the money and the independence it gives me. I love the mental stimulation and the interaction with other people. I love having a purpose.

In my younger days, I worked in fashion sales, as a resort receptionist, as a waitress, in takeaway shops, in a factory (this lasted one night as the fumes and heat made me faint) and as a Cash Controller in a major Sydney tourist attraction.

The cash control job then led to a permanent role as an Accounts Assistant, which transitioned to Accounts Payable in my next few roles and which finally became a Finance Supervisor / Production Accountant role. This was my first foray into television, working at MTV Australia which became a stepping stone for what would later become my career as a Producer and PM.

Over all these years, I’ve only ever had a few weeks off at a time. Most of my breaks have been holidays or else they’ve been gaps in between jobs. There was one big gap between my first freelance gig wrapping up and my next one starting but I was out pounding the pavement for work so that doesn’t really count.

My recent (almost) 5 months off to have my daughter has been the longest career gap I’ve ever had.

And I’ve missed the work – the creativity, bouncing off people’s energy and ideas, the bustle of a busy production office, the breakneck pace on set, the hustle of trying to find the next gig. I’ve missed the financial independence having a job has always afforded me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been busy. This first time Mum business is hard work. Probably the hardest job I’ve ever done (and I’ve worked with children, animals and creatives).

It’s relentless. It’s disheartening at times. You’re constantly awake at night, running through your next days to do list in your head (so not that different from being in the midst of a big production really). There are more tears, screaming and tantrums than working with the most hot headed of Creatives. It certainly doesn’t pay (except in little person smiles and giggles which are worth more than all the money in the world).

It’s been an amazing experience spending this past 5 months getting to know my little girl but I’ve missed working and having something that’s just for me.

So I’m going back.

PJ has been accepted into a highly recommended daycare centre near our house and she’s going two days a week starting today. Hopefully we can up that to three days in the new year.

I’ve got my first shoot back this weekend – helping out on set. I’m not the Producer, I’m just helping to keep the day on track for the Producer who has multiple hats on the day. There’s little to no pre-prod for me so I can just show up. I’m excited!

I’m also looking forward to having a few weeks where I get at least two days per week to myself. I’ll contact a few production companies I’ve worked with in the past, chase down some new leads, finish a couple of edits that I’ve had on hold for months and start pre-production on a new project that I’m running through my other company Armier Productions.

If I don’t get any other work between now and Christmas, then so be it. I’ll have at least laid the foundations for a kick ass start to 2019.

Will it be a challenge, balancing work and motherhood? Of course. But I’m willing to give it a red hot crack. Not just so that we can continue to have the lifestyle we have built, but so I can have an identity that is mine outside of my identity as a wife and a mother. I’ve worked too long and too hard over the years to build a career and a portfolio of work I can be proud of, to let it go.

And I want to teach my daughter that she can do and be whatever she wants – as long as it gives her a sense of pride and makes her happy!