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Georgie Gardner is “having it all

Georgie Gardner upset a bunch of people this week by announcing that she’s quitting the Today show — and not just because we’ll miss watching her smiling face deliver the news.

Georgie Gardner

Photo credit: Don Arnold/WireImage/Getty Images

Apparently, when Gardner announced that she was leaving her post as newsreader for Today, she didn’t realise she was the poster girl for “having it all”.

You see, Gardner has decided to flick her 3:30 a.m. starts and long working hours in order to tweak her work/life balance.

“The early hours are punishing and, after seven years, it’s time for me to catch up on some sleep,” she said.

“After unwavering support from Tim and my kids I want to give back to them. I figure I have limited time of Bronte and Angus wanting and needing their mother around, so I want to maximise and cherish these precious years.”

A working mum

To be clear, Gardner’s not quitting the industry altogether. She’s not even leaving the network. She’s still working on the 6 p.m. news, contributing to 60 Minutes and she’ll co-host Mornings with David Campbell when Sonia Kruger heads to Queensland to film Big Brother later this year.

In other words — she’s still a busy working mum with lots of balls in the air.

I’m a big fan of Gardner and I’ll miss watching her as part of the mix on the morning show. But leaving a job to get a bit of balance back in your life? That’s a concept I can wholeheartedly get on board with.

Not everyone agrees. Columnist Holly Wainwright writes, “Every time a high-profile mother leaves her high-profile job citing family reasons, I think this: damn. I thought she could do it. I thought she had it sorted. I thought she was managing to pull off what all us working mothers are struggling with. But you’re not. And that makes me scared, because maybe, just maybe, no-one is.”

Look, I can see Wainwright’s point. But honestly? I think we’re in danger of over-thinking this.

There is always a cost

I was lucky enough to work with an incredibly talented woman, Shannah Kennedy, a few years ago, and she simplified the whole concept of the “work/life” balance for me.

In a nutshell, Kennedy says, there is always a cost:

  • If you’re a working mum, that cost could be time with your family.
  • If you’re a stay-at-home mum, the cost could literally be income.
  • If you decide to get takeaways on the way home instead of cooking, the cost is a bit of cash and perhaps a less healthy meal than you would have made yourself.
  • If you spend an hour on Facebook instead of reading a book, washing the car, getting to bed early or playing with the kids, well, you’ve paid a price as well.

All of us are constantly making lots of tiny decisions, along with some whopping great big ones, and they all come with attached costs and potential benefits.

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“Balance is about a feeling of freedom that I choose today,” Kennedy says. “I book it all in, no-one else. So I need to ensure I enjoy it.”

This is exactly what Gardner has done. Good on her!

Because, really, one woman stepping back from her demanding job so she can get a bit more shut-eye and make her kids breakfast in the morning doesn’t mean much of anything for the women of Australia. It just doesn’t.

We can have this tendency to be very hard on women in the public eye, by holding them up to our ideals, our opinions and our view of how we perceive their decisions will impact our collective experiences as women.

But I’m worried we’re in danger of painting the picture to girls and young women that life is going to be an “either/or” dilemma.

Sacrifices and priorities

When we’re balancing the many roles of mum, wife, friend, sister, employee, employer, etc., there will always be times when you have to make sacrifices.

Because the truth is, no-one has the balance perfectly right. It is simply impossible and unattainable to expect that we’ll ever have the perfect balance of time, patience, money, strength, energy and passion to adequately address all of our needs and wants, and those of our loved ones.

The best we can hope for is that we get it mostly right, most of the time. And for the most part, I reckon we do.

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