Achieving the perfect work / life balance is always a hot topic here at MummyPages HQ, and we always like to hear of new juggling and balancing acts that will help us mums along the way. Recently, we had the opportunity to talk to Deirdre O'Brien, Director of Sales & Marketing at Carton House, one of Ireland's leading luxury hotel and golf resorts, to find out her take on it, and how she makes it work.
Describe a typical working day for you?
I have two children so the mornings begin early and can be quite hectic, getting everyone ready and out to school but I think we have it down to a fine art at this stage. I usually arrive at Carton House by 8.30am and really enjoy the drive through the grounds, which really are breathtaking. Once at my desk, I prep for the day, a big part of my job is meeting clients and media so I tend to have several meetings penciled in on any given day. I usually try to leave the office at 6pm, when I don’t have an evening work event and then it is home to dinner and homework. Carton House has produced a wonderful cookbook that I rely on heavily for inspiration at home. Once the kids are in bed I try to catch a half an hour of TV, catch up with my husband and have a look over the newspapers before turning in for the night
What is the best advice you could give to other working mums?
Always make time for yourself, it is important to try and strike a balance between work and homelife. If you can’t take care of yourself both mentally and physically you won’t be able to take care of your family and give 100% in work. Working in a busy resort like Carton House can be quite hectic but I try to have brisk walk around the grounds when I can to clear my head and most importantly I keep a very detailed diary so nothing is forgotten from meetings to rugby to dance classes.
To you, what are the advantages of being a working mum?
I really enjoy my work and in turn I appreciate even more the quality time that I spend with my family. Working full-time gives me an outlet to express myself, utilise my talents and maintain my independence while still enjoying the pleasure of being a mum. It also teaches my children the importance of having a strong work ethic and how a career can be fun
How do you balance work and home life?
I think being organised is essential to maintain a balance between work and home life. I have many evening and weekend events to attend for work so I try to plan ‘family time’ and make sure there is plenty of time where I leave work at the front door and concentrate on something simple like colouring with the kids. Quality time, even If it is just a family dinner or a day out at the zoo, gives the whole family something to look forward to and ensures we spend quality time together.
Do you have a specific morning routine that helps get everybody out the door on time?
I try to do as much prep as I can the night before like making lunches and getting uniforms ready. As my job involves meeting guests and clients on a daily basis I have to pay particular attention to my appearance so I try to plan my work outfits in advance so it is not a mad dash in the morning and I can spend some quality time with the kids before school. I am also very lucky to be able to drop my youngest to school each morning unless I have an early morning meeting, which is a lovely start to the day for both of us.
How do you handle childcare?
Trust is so important and I have had my children with the same wonderful Scottish woman for the last couple of years. It’s like a home away from home for the kids and we both respect each other’s time. She understands my job and that sometimes the unexpected can happen during the day. As long as I give her some notice!!
Do you suffer from working mums guilt, and if so, how do you handle it?
I did find it difficult when they were very young but most working mums suffer some guilt. I have worked since the children were born so they are used to it and they now love to hear stories of my travels and of course they love the gifts they get on my return. I am working hard to set an example for my children; I want to teach them that you have to work hard in life to achieve success
Do you feel that as a working mum, you ever have to make compromises or miss out on important events in your child’s life?
I decided from the beginning that, where at all possible, I wasn’t going to miss the milestones in my children’s lives. I make sure I am around for anything that is important to them from Christmas nativity plays to parent teacher meetings to rugby matches or dance recitals.
How do you make the most of evenings and weekends at home together?
I don’t have many strict rules in our house but I make sure that we sit down and have dinner as a family in the evenings. This time allows us to get away from the hustle and bustle of our hectic schedules and enjoy ‘family time’ with the children
How do you manage if your child is sick and has to stay at home?
I work remotely at home at least once a week to clear down emails and general administration so am lucky to have a great office set up at home that I can utilise very easily if one of the children is sick. I also have a strong focused team who are empowered to make decisions and are used to the occasions when I’m not in the office. Technology nowadays really means you can work from anywhere.
How do you manage to find time for some ‘me time’?
Balancing my working life and family schedule can sometimes leave little or no time for me. Now and again I try to book myself in for an Aveda spa treatment at Carton House, the therapists are excellent and take a real interest in guests health and well-being. The deep tissue massage and soothing bodywrap helps to bring some balance back into my life!
How did you decide to continue working after your children were born
When I had my first child I felt that I still had lots more to give in my career and was excited at the prospect of maintaining my career while raising a family so while it was not an easy decision, it was the right one for me.
Do you put aside time to spend together as a family and what do you like to do together?
Absolutely, it is so important. Family holidays are a key occasion and we all sit down together and plan every aspect each year. This year it was Italy and we came back eating and cooking like Italians. Our time together is very special and we try to create unique memories to keep us going throughout the year. We also take huge pleasure in our Sunday walks, which can be anything from a walk around Castletown or Carton House or a simple stroll in Donadea Woods, a fabulous local forest that the kids love.
Who is your greatest support?
My husband, without a doubt. He also works in hospitality so we have a real understanding of each other’s work and what it entails and support each other as much as possible.
Who or what inspires you?
Miriam O’Callaghan is a super inspiration as a working mother; she always seems to juggle life as a mother and working woman so effortlessly and still manages to look so glamorous.
What lessons would you like your children to take from your career choices? Do you think the message is different for girls versus boys?
I would like to think that my children can see that you can have both a successful career and a good home life and that it is important to work hard but have a good balance between work and leisure. I hope that this lesson doesn’t differ for girls and boys.