opinion

"Cassandra Thorburn absolutely deserves credit for Karl Stefanovic's success."

Reading Cassandra Thorburn’s post about her estranged husband Karl Stefanovic‘s career, an overwhelming sadness engulfed me.

Sadness for a woman who feels she has no choice but to force society to recognise the important but forgotten role she has played as a wife, a mother and constant support base.

Sadness for this woman – who was once also the star of her own professional life – who has experienced a misplaced sense of achievement for so many years, which she has only been able to enjoy on the sidelines in the form of congratulations for somebody else.

Sadness because so many women give up promising careers to raise children. Sadness, also, because this continues to be shamed by people who cannot understand the choice, nor the fact systems have failed to support new mums.

But more than anything, sadness because it reminded me so intensely of my own mother.

Karl Stefanovic absent from Today show
Karl and Cassandra at the 2011 Logies. Source: Getty Images.

Over the weekend it was announced that Channel Nine's Today Show had beaten Seven's Sunrise in the fierce breakfast TV ratings war.

After splitting from Karl Stefanovic, her husband of 21 years, Thorburn shared a Facebook post about her contribution and sacrifice which made the Today Show's victory possible.

“Apparently Today Show finally won a year. This took a huge toll on my family and I, and I’m congratulating myself today for all the effort that went into making that happen," she wrote.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The suggestions, the story ideas, the constant counselling of questions for years. I’m giving myself a pat on the back tonight, as I know many people will also know how much effort I put into it."

They are words I've heard from my own mother, who has fought for recognition for her part in my father's professional milestones for many years. Even after their separation back in 2011.

My mother left her job to raise her three children. For as long as I can remember, she has swelled with pride when my father's career came up in conversation.

In fact, she often draws on his achievements herself.

Mum and dad in happy, early days.

He has a high-pressure job involving long hours and a lot of travel.

Whenever he was home, she was his confidante and his advisor. They thrashed out ideas and discussed office politics.

Together, they were always eyeing my dad's next promotion and working out strategies to help keep him racing up the ladder. There were many celebrations.

But you know how this story ends. In the words of Thorburn, it took a "huge toll".

There was stress and there was loneliness. Things came to a crashing end. My parents ended their relationship after nearly 25 years of marriage.

Yet, still to this today, my mother gushes about my father's career highlights as though they are her own.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tragically, when their marriage broke down, she felt she had nothing to show for it, despite her enormous contribution.

My mother has three healthy, happy adult children. But all anybody ever sees now is a woman whose CV has been largely empty for almost 30 years.

What they don't see is all the hard work she put into supporting my father's career behind closed doors, forcing her to remind people of the teamwork at play before they broke up.

I have seen snide headlines implying Thorburn is greedily "demanding credit" for Stefanovic's success.

That is completely unfair.

The former journalist spent hours collaborating, brainstorming and counselling behind the scenes of one of the biggest rating television shows in Australia. Of course she deserves credit.

I'm not critical of my mother, of Thorburn nor of the many thousands of women who are without a career 20 years into a marriage. But I still feel a deep sorrow.

I wish so many women did not find themselves in this thorny, hurtful situation after a marriage ends, where they are compelled to both defend the decision they made long ago when they entered motherhood and to plead their case as to why they should be praised for their husbands' careers.

My mother is so strong and smart. I owe so much of who I am to her.

But for her own sake, I can't help but wish she had been able to slip back into the workforce, to be proud of something she had carved out for herself independently.

That is not what happened, but it doesn't mean she hasn't been the driving force behind a whole hoard of achievements that came out of our family.

So let's try this: Let's keep encouraging the new generation of mothers to return to work if they are able, backed by measures like flexible work arrangements and sufficient paid parental leave.

Let's also remember all the women who have quietly raised their children and toiled away, leaving their professional passions behind and supporting their husbands throughout the highs and lows of a career growth they can only feel proud of once removed.

And let's not downplay or make a mockery of the crucial roles these women have played in the lives of their loved ones. Instead, let's give them the credit they deserve.

Because, while their husbands are getting all the external praise, their children know full well there are two heroes in their household. And it's time that everybody else realised that too.

thousand girls project

Thank you - just by clicking on this and other content on Mamamia, you are helping to fund education for some of the world’s most disadvantaged girls.

Together with our commercial clients and charity partner Room to Read, Mamamia's goal is to be funding 1,000 girls in school each and every day, by June 2020.

Learn more here about our ongoing mission to make the world a better place for women and girls.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???