Vikki Campion with her sons Thomas (left) and Sebastian. Picture: Simon Scott
Vikki Campion with her sons Thomas (left) and Sebastian. Picture: Simon Scott

Mother of all battles: Juggling work with being a mum

My first baby placed us all front and centre of an international maelstrom and I genuinely wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy.

Two and a half years later, life has moved on to a cottage on a dirt road in a beautiful valley.

It's 7.30am and the toddler at the centre of the storm is "shaving", and my just fed, bathed and dressed one-year-old is shoving both fists into a tub of peanut butter.

Their father, blind to the bloody face and peanut butter arms, repeatedly asks of the bin liner of dirty nappies: "Is this the bin?"

Earlier, they wake me, screaming "TOAS", and throwing a tub of butter at my head. Their father lays unharmed in slumber, avoiding the crack of dawn demands by the toddler army.

By 8.55am, my delightful little cherubs have won. Juice is in puddles over the bench, at least one egg is smashed, shoes in the fireplace, and the clean laundry unfolded and jumped on.

Vikki Campion with her sons Thomas (left) and Sebastian. Picture: Simon Scott
Vikki Campion with her sons Thomas (left) and Sebastian. Picture: Simon Scott

Motherhood redefines you. You go from an accountant or a journalist or a hairdresser to another full time job, a mother - mostly a cleaner, a snack bitch and welfare officer.

While redefining your role, it redefines your body. Welcome one boob bigger than the other. Welcome grey hair. Good morning, dark circles, leave your bags here.

Walks take longer than they should because Sebastian needs to inspect the "good rocks". And Thomas will power along beside him then inexplicably stop, turn and power 20 metres in the opposite direction while his brother runs up the hill and the geriatric old working dog barks at me to deal with them both.

So it was with bitter disappointment that I had to call in absent on my first day of work as a staffer to federal deputy speaker, Llew O'Brien because Thomas was sick.

It was a thing of yearning, to spend a day clean of paint and mud, to go to the toilet alone, to have a conversation with an adult.

Vikki Campion is juggling motherhood with her job as a staffer to the federal deputy speaker. Picture: Simon Scott
Vikki Campion is juggling motherhood with her job as a staffer to the federal deputy speaker. Picture: Simon Scott

COVID killed my dream by delaying the job that was supposed to start in March, and then here we were in Canberra, the childcare booked, and Thomas can't breathe or sleep or breastfeed and by 3am I knew it was over.

A friend complained recently of mothers' absenteeism to stay at home with sick children, and the resulting office frustration.

Childcare is like a plane ticket: if you book it, you pay for it.

There is no choice in caring for your sick child - and it's not champagne and strawberries.

It's breastfeeding from only his favourite boob while you sit dry-mouthed, dehydrated and desperate to pee but terrified to move. It's feeding your other child a meal you can cook with one hand while you comfort the other. It's desperate phone calls to your doctor and your mum, as the busy baby who loves to clap and play peekaboo and sing twinkle twinkle lies listless, fever-struck.

Everything else fades in relevance to the importance of this little life.

The problem, my friend said, was those women had a responsibility to do their job. From pregnancy as a mother you understand responsibility. Your most important role is to protect your baby from harm. Everything else comes second.

Vikki Campion says a working mother pulls her weight in the workforce and at home. Picture: Simon Scott
Vikki Campion says a working mother pulls her weight in the workforce and at home. Picture: Simon Scott

There are not many mothers of very young children working as either Parliamentarians or advisers. That work force is largely your bar crowd - predominantly male, women whose children have grown, or women who have not had children at all.

One half of the populace is not represented in our democracy. The flame of politics attracts a very certain moth, one hardly seen around playdough and dirty nappies.

The hours are brutal with the Senate sometimes running until the early hours of the morning and most childcare centres close at 6pm.

Mothers have all different political views but politics is supposed to reflect society and if Australian women aren't breeding then you need to start importing babies with large scale immigration just to pay for life in the manner you've become accustomed to.

We want to work, we love being mothers, we hate using it as a crutch for special treatment and we don't mean to burden you. But virtually all of you reading this had a mother who has done this job, sorry two jobs.

Make no mistake - the working mother pulls her weight, and in the past carried yours as well.

Originally published as Mother of all battles: Juggling work with being a mum



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