As a working mum, juggling motherhood with work responsibilities is definitely a balancing act. Being a mother is a full-time job in itself, and adding an extra element to the mix can be difficult. For many mums, it may not be an easy decision to go back to work, but it is important to have the support around you to make it easier.
Thanks to society normalizing mums going back to work, we are surrounded by many public figures and celebrities who have done just that. There was one mother in particular that gave me the confidence to take that step and go back to work. Journalist, media personality, television presenter, radio identity and mum of three, Jo Casamento makes being a working mum a walk in the park. Raising three children extremely close in age, (12-year-old twins Maximus and Matisse and 11-year-old Allegra) it is evident that Casamento’s schedule has been extremely busy. However, this has never stopped her reaching career goals and being the best mum she can possibly be.
Casamento takes the time out of her demanding schedule to speak to Mummy Plus One about all things motherhood and her amazing career. Not only does she give us an insight in her life, she provides great advice to other mums along with spilling the beans on her meeting with Robbie Williams!
What is the best thing about motherhood?
Ohhh. The best thing? How do you define the cuddles, the protection you have towards and the never ending love and intoxicating way you feel about these little beings? Celebrating their successes, nursing them through heartache, well it’s the purest joy you will ever experience. Watching them grow, seeing the wonder of the world through their eyes and teaching them important lessons. But amazingly, I think it’s probably the things they teach me that are the BEST things about motherhood! I thought parenthood would be about me sharing my wisdom with them! But it’s actually the other way round. My oldest girl has taught me to appreciate the crazy things in life and to see the world differently, my youngest constantly surprises me with her giant heart and enormous spirit, and my son? Well he teaches me patience!
Is it easier as your children get older or is motherhood more demanding?
Ahhh. Good question. I think it’s definitely easier in many respects as they get older in terms of the day to day operation of running things. I had three under 18 months at one stage (twins and then ally came along 15 months later) so for me that first five years were a real blur and not particularly enjoyable. I was really at ground zero. I don’t think I could even manage to put earrings on in the first few years, the extra task in a day was just too much to handle! Nothing compares to that sleep deprivation. I have always felt every step of independence for them – from walking, to brushing their teeth, to making their own sandwiches – is a step of independence I get back. But there are other things now, which on a deeper level are a lot harder the older they get. Moulding three minds and hearts is a big responsibility and letting them stand on their own two feet is a challenge for me. Finding the balance between allowing them to fail and build resilience, but being there is harder than you think. And taking care and balancing three delicate, hormonal, almost teenager souls is tricky as well. I’m constantly worrying I will stuff it up!
As a busy working mum, how do you juggle motherhood and work?
To be completely honest, it is with great difficulty! Being organised, I guess, is the key. But with my job each day IS different and there is no set routine as I cover different events and freelance as well. My weeks are never the same. So I cannot be relied upon in many instances to 100 per cent be there to take them to netball, or drama or football or whatever as I may be called in to work. On those days, it can all fall in a heap! As a result, my kids have learned to be incredibly resilient. They are very good at navigating their way on public transport and have been from a young age. And they have amazing grandparents plus I have a wonderful relationship with their dad. It has got easier as the kids have gotten older. I used to feel so much guilt. And now I still do. But the basics of it they understand now: If mummy doesn’t work, the bills don’t get paid!
What is your secret of success balancing family life and work life?
I don’t know there is a secret. I guess you just try your best, do everything in that moment to the best of your ability and hope it comes off! I left my job with the Sydney Morning Herald because working full time in an office as well as covering social events was too much of a stress on the family. I was running all over town like a lunatic, collecting parking tickets everywhere, and I didn’t t feel I was performing to the best of my ability as a mum or an employee. So, I began freelancing, which financially has different stresses, but for a family unit is much better. Some weeks I ask a lot of my kids and some weeks I get the balance right! I try to live in the moment. When I am with my kids. I am totally with my kids. Phone off (if possible) and being with them. But that’s not always possible, so, if it’s not work I prioritise them in every way. There’s not really any “me” time in there, unless in a fluke they are all invited somewhere at the same time! I think the most important things are to have some regular family activities scheduled together every week, where you can debrief. I try to eat dinner as a family when we can. Something as simple as Friday night pizza. It might be taking the dog for a walk. Or a Sunday afternoon roast at my parents. It’s hard to get them away from their screens/laptops/ipads but I force it. That way there is always a moment in the week I know I can look forward to if work has been hectic where we will reconnect.
Do you find that things can get overwhelming? If so, how do you deal with what life throws at you?
Yes, all the time! I just put one foot in front of the other, my head down and my bum up. Like I said above, it comes down to focusing on the task ahead. If I have a thousand things to do in one day, starting at 5am making lunches, a tv appearance, an assembly, covering books, an important interview, school pickups, a column on deadline, a film to review and spaghettini bolognese to whip up before heading out the door to cover an event – all in my heels – than I would fall apart if I actually thought about what I had to achieve in one moment when I woke up! Those days the washing and extra bits in life fall by the wayside and I try not to beat myself up about that. Instead I work in 20 minute slots. What do I have to do now in the next 20 minutes? and can I do it? Unfortunately I usually only get a quarter of the way through my to do list. It’s been ongoing for about a decade now! Slowly things get ticked off. But never as many as the things that are added! I call it a work in progress!
With the amazing job you have, you have been lucky enough to interview some of the world’s most famous. Who is your favourite/favourites and why?
OH definitely my top two are Robbie Williams and Cathy Freeman. For two very different reasons. Robbie stripped down for me to his tiger knickers and sang Let Me Entertain You in a private session. It was very entertaining that’s for sure! But Cathy was mind blowing. The internal strength that woman has amazing. To have felt the weight of the nation on her shoulders like she did in the moment at the 2000 Olympics takes a special, out of this world, kind of strength and innate confidence. But the most amazing thing she said to me was nothing – not even that moment – was as tough as motherhood! Can you believe that? Even Cathy The Great, found motherhood challenging! That really says it all…
What advice can you give to mothers wanting to go back in the workforce?
Do it. Please don’t leave it too long. Even if it’s one day a week if you can. I left it five years (as I had the three and financially it was not feasible to put them in child care) and I regret that now. It’s very hard to return and make up the lost ground and I think I would be better positioned now if I hadn’t dipped out for so long. In terms of superannuation as well it’s important for women to hang in there, as difficult as it is. I wish I knew now that my children would have survived if I hadn’t stayed home and looked after them full time before they started school! My role modelling was a fantastic stay at home mum, but it has taken me years to truly believe working outside the home is actually really beneficial for children.
Images courtesy of: @jo.casamento