I started my own media business when I was 27 years old, the first of its type in western Victoria. I was by accident, fate, good luck – I am not sure how to describe it really. I was at the top of my game in my journalism career, working in a newspaper newsroom I loved. I thrived on the high pressure in a regional tri-weekly paper with a shrinking workforce and punched out my goal of ten stories a day, often more.
I got married, pregnant, and had my future all mapped out.
I wasn’t going to take the 12 months maternity leave, I was only taking six weeks off. The year was 1999. Our newsroom had one computer with an email address and invested in a laptop – it was cutting edge technology of its time. The plan was for me to keep working from home and send in my 10 stories a day, given that I would have all this spare time.
When I started to find it too hard to sit at my desk in the newsroom all day with my puffed up feet, aching back and oversized belly, and the 50-minute drive each way to work found me almost falling asleep at the wheel on the way home, I tested the working from home scenario.
The flexibility of being able to write at 4am when I couldn’t sleep, or have a rest in the early afternoon when my body protested the most, then work through until 9pm was perfect. Without the travel at the start and end of each day, I could keep up with the washing, the house was clean and tidy. Work-life balance was in perfect harmony.
Along came a baby. I’d read about the effects of sleep deprivation but I don’t think you fully understand until you’re amongst it. My sharp brain that loved a deadline became sluggish and when I sat down at the computer to write, the words wouldn’t come.
It was in the days when the funeral director would give us the contact details of family members of people who had died and we would write their obituaries. I would dissolve into tears and be a blubbering mess during these interviews, now that I had brought a new life into the world and feared death in a way I’d never feared it before.
When one of my work colleagues, who was in the front office and answered the phone and grilled me for baby news as she approached her wedding date, died in a car accident on her way to work, I decided I couldn’t go back. I hated the way the newsroom reported her accident. They offered no counselling to our photographer who turned up on scene after hearing about it on the police scanner, not realising who it was until he recognised her car.
Although it was exactly the same way we all wrote, and exactly the same way we all dealt our daily trauma in the 1990s, I couldn’t be part of that news cycle any more.
So I accepted an opportunity I had initially refused, to become a media consultant for a government organisation. I got to write stories about planting trees, surveying and preserving habitat native animals like platypus and malleefowl, doing river and wetland restoration work and organising community events that brought people together to talk about nature and the environment we lived in.
Looking back I can’t believe I initially said no. I could work half the hours for the same money. I could work when I wanted, where I wanted. I had stepped into a whole new world and I loved it. When word got around what I was doing, I never had any shortage of work and I registered my business name mp|media solutions.
Twenty-two years later I’m still working for that same client. I have many other clients too, and two more children, and moved my business from inland Australia to my dream location on the coast.
I have created my own mini-newsroom where I get to write, tell and produce stories about the things I love. The environment, the circular economy, small business, farming, innovation and my favourite topic of all – people and the fascinating lives they live.
Have I found the perfect work-life balance? Some days yes, many days no. But that’s a story for another day!
*Image of the glamour of life as a career Mum, where as many hours are spent at the sink as on the computer.