This week one of my favourite television presenters, Georgie Gardner, announced she was leaving The Today Show.
Having met her a few times and being as in love with her off screen as I am with her on screen, I was a little sad, because I am going to miss her. I love her elegance and intelligence, and alongside Lisa Wilkinson, they are two mums with kids of varying ages that I can both aspire to be more like and relate to.
(On a side note, that would make my husband very happy. Lisa Wilkinson is his celebrity crush, which makes me love him all the more. It’s good to have things in common with your life partner, even if it’s a crush on the same woman.)
I especially liked watching them host the show together when Karl was working on 60 Minutes, or nursing a Logies hangover. It’s so very rare to see two women host anything together. It was refreshing and admirable and I wish it happened more often but at the same time I couldn’t help but sit and watch and wonder — how did they do it?
How did they hold it together? What was going on at home to ensure they could hold down a very high profile and demanding career?
Being at work, knowing your kids are waking up and wanting morning cuddles, breakfast cooked your special way and a big, smiling wave goodbye from their mum at the school gates really sucks.
By Georgie’s own admission, she gave up one of TV’s most coveted gigs because of family.
“After unwavering support from Tim and my kids I want to give back to them,” her farewell statement read. “I figure I have limited time of Bronte and Angus wanting and needing their mother around, so I want to maximise and cherish these precious years. It’s been the most amazing career highlight but I feel it’s time for Tim and the kids to have Present Mummy as opposed to Grumpy Mummy.”
Gosh, that last sentence hit home for me. Grumpy Mummy. Getting up at a similar time as Georgie to do a breakfast radio show, I’m a Grumpy Mummy too. Bugger bitchy shows like The Real Housewives of Melbourne. The real bitch factor is my house at 5pm when Grumpy Mummy rears her weary head and no one seems to care except the bottle of wine that is fearing for its life.
However after thinking about the reasons Georgie gave for leaving I realised that when I watched and wondered how she, Lisa and others like them ‘did it’, the question I was really asking myself was: How do they deal with the Mummy Guilt of being away from the kids? And I think that might be the real seething underbelly of the question, “how do you do it”. Because in truth, I know HOW they physically do it, because I do it. I want to know how they mentally do it.
With a breakfast radio show, a column twice a week and weekends hosting weddings, I physically manage it all because I have an awesome, helpful husband; two Grandmothers ready to swoop at any time; child care a few days a week and a live in au pair.
There. I admit it. I don’t actually do it. We do. I get help. A whole lot of help. So the real question I’m being asked when I make a rare mothers meeting, or join in a conversation at a kids birthday party, is: ‘How can you live with the guilt of leaving your child all the time?’
I physically do it because I love my job. I do it because I have bills to pay and I do it because I want to set Millie the example that women can achieve everything they dream. Living by example is one of the best ways to teach her. But I don’t mentally do it without guilt. Especially now when her little lip drops and she says, ‘Don’t go to work, Mummy,’ every time I brush my hair or put on something other than my pyjamas. Or when I sit at the computer and she chirps, ‘No working, Mama,’ grips my leg with her little hand and tries to drag me to the trampoline.
So can women have and do it all? Only if they have all the physical help, and can live with all the mental guilt all the time. Because no matter how much love, help and support our children get and no matter how happy they are with Nana or Daddy or Hot German Nanny, and no matter how happy work makes me, every time I sneak out of the house at 4am a little old piece of guilt comes right along with me.
So, Georgie, good luck to you. One day I’m sure I will be making the same decision for the same reasons and your gracious and truthful exit makes it ok for all of us to say we couldn’t mentally do it any more. There was too much to miss. I hope when your alarm goes off at the same time as your kids you wake gloriously guilt free.