It’s been seven years since I welcomed a new baby, our third daughter, into the world. It was an unexpectedly blissful year and this column from December 2016 confirms it’s not just hindsight or nostalgia that’s colouring my memory of that chapter in rose. It truly was one of the most joyful times in my life.
Our third daughter was one of those mythical creatures I dared not speak of at the time lest I jinx it - she was a baby who fed and slept happily from the moment she arrived. I came home from four days in hospital after giving birth feeling rested. I kid you not.
Having had two babies already we were free to accept our infant’s delicious temperament and proclivity for sleep in those early weeks for what it was: a stroke of luck that we knew could change at any time. Yes, we were comfortable and more confident parents but also? She was an insanely contented baby. Our older daughters were 3 and 5 and while life was chaotic our family cup runneth over.
I didn’t work at all for the first seven months after she was born. That year where my energy and focus and efforts skewed easily - and happily - towards parenting was a delight. Which is why I’m quite beside myself about what’s coming next.
I’m calling it parental leave without a baby... an opportunity to just immerse myself in my family at a time that's needed. At the end of June I’m stepping away as CEO of The Parenthood for six months and I am handing the reins to the remarkable Jessica Rudd.
The context for the transition is this. My husband has been offered a fellowship in Canada for the second half of the year and it’s an opportunity we have decided to embrace as a family and relocate for six months. Initially I toyed with the idea of attempting to work remotely from North America while we’re away. I couldn’t be more delighted to say that, with the support of the board and our partners, sanity prevailed.
With the momentum around early childhood education and care and paid parental leave The Parenthood cannot afford not to have a strong presence here on the ground. And Jessica Rudd couldn’t be more perfect for that role and responsibility. She has worked as a lawyer, an author, a columnist, an entrepreneur, a board director and more. She has two children and we share a determination to improve policies and practices so that children and their parents can thrive.
As The Parenthood’s Chair and Patron, Wendy McCarthy, says in our media release: “We are delighted to have appointed Jessica Rudd to continue to advance The Parenthood’s effective and impactful advocacy at this critical point in time. Jessica’s skills and professional experience in law, communications, media and business make her eminently qualified to lead and thrive in this role.”
Being able to juggle work, family and life is no joke. Virtually every conversation Jess and I have had since this appointment was made has centred around the same theme: the insane game of tetris that is trying to align the full gamut of raising little people with the reality of work.
The policy changes we champion at The Parenthood are about making that game of tetris simpler. We don’t campaign for better access to quality early childhood education and care or extended paid parental leave or family-friendly workplace practices because we want mums and dads tethered to work at all times. To the contrary. The suite of policy reforms we advocate are designed to give parents greater flexibility and opportunity to be there for their children and be able to financially provide for their family.
I am incredibly grateful and excited that after three huge years leading The Parenthood, I am now able to take a breather and embrace my family. I’ve led an organisation that wants to normalise the reality of combining family life with work and it’s wonderful to have had the temporary change in my family life supported and accommodated. At The Parenthood we know it’s possible to do things differently: to be flexible and adaptable so that parents don’t have to make an either or choice about work and care.
The flexibility and support I’ve been offered will enable me to enjoy a unique experience with my family: setting up a temporary life in a foreign country, settling three children into new schools, and exploring a new city. It’s a six month adventure that our family will remember forever. The time will fly and with Jess at the helm so will The Parenthood.