Jackie Kelly was the first woman to have a baby while serving as a minister in Australia's federal parliament. She was the minister for sport and tourism from 2001–2004 in former prime minister John Howard's government.
During her time in office, Jackie became concerned she was spending too much time away from her family. She relinquished her ministerial role and moved to the backbenches.
In 2007, Kelly announced she would retire from politics altogether. Her departure was surrounded by controversy, when her husband became involved in a political scandal. Jackie Kelly discusses what it was like combining motherhood with a political career. She also shares her thoughts about motherhood and life after politics.
At one stage, Jackie Kelly and her husband, Gary Clark, employed two nannies to help look after their two children. They had one nanny during the day and another in the evenings. "The second nanny would come in to relieve the first nanny at 5pm and she would stay until midnight if she had to…" admits Kelly. .
As a member of parliament, Kelly was often required to attend functions in the evenings. She was also required in Canberra when parliament was sitting. Her husband Gary Clark is an orthodontist with a busy dental practice. He would start work at 8am and arrive home about 7pm.
Life was so hectic for Kelly and her husband that she says they didn't know what was going on in their children's lives at school. "There's just no feedback there, so you rely completely on school report cards."
Kelly would go to parent-teacher nights armed with lots of questions. "You're there sitting in front of the teacher going, 'Can you tell me about my kid?'" Kelly laughs. "What's been happening in class? Oh, Tuesday's flute day, is it? Should I be making her practise that, should I?"
She would feel guilty about being away in Canberra all week. She believed having two nannies took the pressure off their marriage.
"I thought the more help we brought in, the better we got on. Our time together started to be a lot more meaningful, rather than just always about chores."
She took maternity leave and returned to her political career when her first child was 10 weeks old. It didn't matter if federal parliament was sitting or not, life as a minister with a baby was challenging.
"It was chaos," recalls Kelly. In the beginning, she and her husband only employed one full-time nanny, to help her while she was at work. The nanny would look after the baby while Kelly was at her Sydney office or when she was at Parliament House in Canberra.
One of the most challenging issues Kelly faced was how to continue breastfeeding her baby, while also fulfilling her work commitments.
When her daughter was 2½ months old, she needed to be fed every three hours. When parliament was sitting, she managed to breastfeed Dominique at 6am, 9am and midday, but the 3pm feed was impossible, due to the fact that Kelly was required in the House of Representatives for question time.
Instead, the nanny would feed baby Dominique a bottle of milk that Kelly had expressed the day before. "When you got out (of question time) at 3.30pm, 4.pm, whenever, you would then express [milk] for the following day's question time," she recalls.
Kelly continued to breastfeed Dominique until she was about four months old, but work commitments meant she had to quickly wean her daughter. Kelly was required, as tourism minister, to attend an APEC meeting in Korea.
"I just realised, we couldn't afford to send the nanny with us." Kelly managed to have the baby taking a bottle by the time she left for Seoul. "It was all, I suppose, very traumatic and work dictated when things occurred."
Kelly was away for eight days attending the meeting in Korea and visiting Japan, one of Australia's biggest markets in terms of tourism.
"We were losing market share there, so it was time for a minister to make a visit." While the trip was important, Kelly missed Dominique terribly and phone calls home to her baby didn't help.
"You can't talk. That's the worst thing."
Kelly says her priority had always been to have a career. "I never wanted to have children."
However, that changed when she and Clark decided to marry. "I met Gary, fell in love and the condition of the marriage was having children."
In 2000, at the age of 34, she had Dominique. Even though Kelly had not been maternal, her attitude to having children completely changed after her daughter was born.
She loved being a mother. "I'm just glad I had kids. If Gary hadn't forced the issue, I wouldn't have had children."
She adds, "Suddenly, your job doesn't define you."
That same year, Kelly was the minister for sport and tourism while Sydney was hosting the Olympic Games. How was it working on the Olympics and having an eight-month-old daughter at home? She replies, "Look, you manage, don't you? You manage all these things."
In 2001, Kelly was pregnant with her second child.
"That was the earliest I could get my courage up to go again." In September that year, Ansett Airlines collapsed.
"As tourism minister, I was running around five months' pregnant."
Kelly was pregnant when the Liberal Party went to the polls, in November 2001. The party was returned to office, but Kelly decided to give up her role as the minister for sport and tourism. She wanted to spend more time with her family.
Even though she was cutting back on work commitments, Kelly took on the role of being a parliamentary secretary for then-prime minister, John Howard. "Mainly because John was keen that I keep a foot in the door."
Kelly thought it would be a way of keeping her options open, if she wanted to return to the ministry.
All of Kelly's salary went on childcare. While it was expensive, Kelly believes employing a nanny full-time is the "Rolls-Royce option" of childcare. She says it is like "buying your kid a Clayton's mum".
Even though her children received excellent care, Kelly thinks she missed out on doing a lot with her children when she was in politics. "The bottom line is, if you are working, it is time that is not spent with your children."
She says, "Your carers are having your fun with your children and [they] know more about your children's friends than you do."
Kelly thought, "If I don't enjoy this time now, it's gone." She laughs, "When you start getting jealous of the nanny, you've got issues."
As a member of parliament, Jackie Kelly had to fulfil a number of obligations to the Liberal Party, including fundraising obligations.
"There's a fundraiser for some backbench person you need to help out in some marginal seat somewhere," says Kelly. Australia is a vast country. "I was spending more time in airport lounges; sitting around Sydney airport yet again and thinking, 'I am seeing more of this terminal than the kids.' After a while you just think, 'No, it's not worth it.'"
In 2004, Jackie Kelly accidentally crashed her car into a tree. Her two children were in the vehicle.
"I was extremely tired; just doing too much." Everyone was all right, but that made Kelly rethink her career. She contested the next election and again won her seat. However, Kelly resigned from her role as a parliamentary secretary and she moved to the backbench.
"I thought something had to give. Somehow, I've got to offload work and getting onto a backbench was one way of doing it."
People are not in politics for power or notoriety, according to Jackie Kelly.
"They are passionate about what they do. It's like a calling: 'I've just got to do this.'" However, once that passion goes, Kelly says, "It's just such a rigorous lifestyle. It is very hard to stay in it, I found, anyway."
Was the passion for the job replaced with passion for your children? "I think that's a natural fact of motherhood … When you have that infant in your arms, things change. It isn't as black and white any more."
In 2007, Jackie Kelly announced she would not stand at the election that year. The Liberal Party found another candidate, Karen Chijoff, to run in Kelly's seat of Lindsay.
In 2007, the Liberal Party and John Howard's 11 years in office came to an end. The Liberal Party lost 23 seats; one of those to go to Labor was the seat of Lindsay.
Kelly left politics and instead manages the family's finances and helps in her husband's business. She believes the time she is spending at home is having a good effect on her children's behaviour. "I think now we have a lot greater simpatico."
As well as enjoying more time with her children, she also has time to discipline her children. "You don't feel as guilty making them do what you want them to do, because there's lots of time in the day for them to do what they want to do."
Now that you are at home, are you finding that you are spending more time doing the housework? "Definitely. I do do a lot more."
However, there are huge financial savings for the family by not having a cleaner and the round-the-clock help. Does the running of the house take you away from the children? "I wouldn't allow it to take me away from the children, but I didn't quit work to do housework."
She is teaching Dominique and Lockie to help with the clothes washing and other chores. "You make it fun with kids. I think that's good training for males particularly."
A modern woman doesn't want a '60s-style male, according to Kelly. "So, you've really got to prepare your sons to be really good housemates that share the load."
She adds, "When you're working, it's too easy to just say, 'Out of my way. Go and watch TV while Mum does it.' I think that's a big mistake."
Kelly has also become more involved with her children's school. "I'm doing reading groups, art classes and the school fete."
She believes most women move in and out of the paid workforce. "Most women will stay at home for a time, recharge their batteries, organise their household, get things settled, know their children's peer groups."
She says women may then re-enter the paid workforce. "That might be too onerous. They'll come back to part-time work."
Kelly doesn't miss politics, but she would like to find a paid job in another field. Having represented her constituents in federal parliament from 1996 to 2007, working as the minister for sport and tourism for three of those years, does Jackie Kelly think it is possible to have a career in politics and raise a family?
"It is possible to do it. You would want the right partner, you want the right financial circumstances, you want the right family support." By family support, Kelly means childcare.
"I paid a fortune in childcare. I wasn't near anybody who was free. So every time I worked, it cost me money."
Is there anything you would have done differently, in terms of combining motherhood and a career?
"I think I would have planned it better," says Kelly. She believes it would have been better to be in parliament in her forties, rather than in her thirties, when she was having her children.
"You really have to make sure you get elected when it suits your life plan to do that…" In fact, Kelly says if she had her time again, she would have had her children in her twenties.
"I would have got them out of the way by the time I was 25, so by the time you get into politics at 30, 35, you're good to go."
Reflecting on the choices she made about her career and the timing of her children, she says, "Having newborns in a ministry, mmm…!"
This is an extract from Working It Out: Career, Family and You, by Jayne Anderson, published by Hay House, is available from booktopia..