couples

Mum vs Life: My husband is the centre of my village

Welcome to the latest installment of our brand new series Mum vs Life. Each week we’ll feature a prominent Aussie mum and take you through her day.

This week we talk to Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and mother of two girls.

Sophie with Katerina (left) and Alexandra (right)

Sophie Mirabella

WAKE UP: “The kids come in and jump on the bed…”

I am more of a night owl and have trouble getting to bed at a reasonable hour, even when my schedule allows.  Mornings usually starts before 6am, sometimes before 5am if I’m traveling that day.

My occasional sleep-in days let me sleep until the kids come in and jump on the bed around 7am.  The first thing I usually do on waking is check the phone for emails and messages, followed by a scan of the day’s newspapers on the iPad.

BREAKFAST: “I always have breakfast…”

I always have breakfast if I can, usually some oat bran and milk, and maybe, time permitting, a scrambled egg with a bit of salami and feta, and a coffee. Depending on the timing of work commitments, weekends are often no different.

Most days start with a good brisk walk for at least half an hour, but with the travel I’m doing I’m finding it increasingly challenging to do this. This is one thing I would love to change, because I always feel better if I walk in the morning.

BATH vs SHOWER: “The kids rarely interrupt me…”

I am a shower person, always in the morning and often in the evening as well. I might spoil myself with a longer shower on a Sunday. The kids rarely interrupt me, mainly because I’m on the road so much.

I have a teenager in the house who does tend to use a lot of hot water, but it’s rarely a problem for me in the morning.  My husband often showers in the evening, and he’s the one who misses out if all the hot water is gone!

GETTING DRESSED: “I always check the forecast the night before…”

Appearance is critical in my job.

The first concern on any day is weather: I always check the forecast the night before for the place (or places) I’ll be in.  Often I have to give thought to a hat if I’m going to be outside.  The next consideration is whether I am likely to do any TV media, and have appropriate colours/patterns that don’t jar on camera.

Because I have been living out of a small suitcase for more than 10 years, I am usually pretty good at having a good mix of tops and jackets and a few bits of jewellery to create a good number of outfits.   I would prefer to have a better system at home for storing clothes, but when I’m at home I want to spend time with family rather than meticulously organising and colour and weather coding everything.  I don’t buy clothes often, usually at the sales, and then tend to buy several outfits.  I try and buy quality garments with classic styles, so that I can often get years out of them. I tend to steer away from obvious “trend” clothing.

ADVERTISEMENT

At home I am happiest in comfy track pants and windcheater, however I don’t venture out dressed like that unless I’m going for a walk around the farm.

WORK: “My day starts at 6.00 when I scan the daily media…”

There is no one typical day.  There are typical types of day: in Canberra, at home, and on the road.

In Canberra, my parliamentary week usually starts on a Sunday afternoon, when I have to leave home to get to Canberra via a car journey to Melbourne – because I can’t get a direct flight on Monday morning – or more often than not, drive with a staff member to Canberra from Wangaratta on a Sunday afternoon.

My day starts at about 6.00 when I scan the daily media on the iPad, and leave at about 6:45 and (preferably) walk to my office at Parliament House. I’m usually on the phone constantly from the time I set out walking.  I will be in the House pretty much all day until about 10-11pm, moving between the chamber, committee rooms, and my office.  I try and talk to or Skype the kids at about 7pm.  I leave the house by car and am in bed by about 11.30pm-12am.  When Parliament rises on a Thursday evening, I often fly straight off to Sydney or Melbourne. If I get to go home, I share the drive again with a staff member.

When Parliament is not sitting, I am required to travel around much of the country doing portfolio work: visiting businesses and other stakeholders in my portfolio (scientists, engineers, manufacturers) attending and speaking at conferences and other events.  In my electorate of Indi I am constantly travelling across the electorate, visiting businesses and community groups, and attending civic functions.

Wherever I am, I always have to be ready early in the morning, during the day and even late into the evening to respond to media enquiries and be prepared to give media interviews, at the very least over the phone.

I always try and get home by Friday night, but often it’s Saturday, and often I only get to be at home from Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon, when my travel cycle begins again.

CAREER MANTRA: “I became involved in politics to be able to contribute to the law of the country…”

ADVERTISEMENT

I enjoy much of my work.  My least favourite times are parliamentary sitting periods, but they are an occupational necessity and essential for the running of the nation.  The best times are when I’m out and about in the community

I became involved in politics to be able to contribute to the law of the country in which I live and never planned on officially entering parliament. I entered politics to make a difference and give a voice to the mainstream, silent majority.  I left a career as a barrister and, in doing so, voluntarily gave up a private life, income and a passion. But I am honoured to be where I am, and get a lot of satisfaction out of what I do. For me it’s a vocation rather than a job.

Politics is a grueling business, and physically exhausting. I am where I am because I have always believed in nailing your colours to the mast, arguing your case, bringing with people with you and working hard. To make a real difference for the better in politics, it often takes a lifetime.

FOOD AT WORK: “It’s very hard if not impossible in my job to have much routine about eating…”

I almost never cook for myself but I wish I had more time as it’s a great way for me to switch off.

In Parliament, I will shop on Sunday night and have a few snacks – soups, tinned tuna, bread and some fruit. When I’m at home my husband cooks, and when I’m not home I almost always eat out or buy takeaway.  Lunch is often just a sandwich or a salad.  It’s very hard if not impossible in my job to have much routine about eating.  This is a part of my routine which I would fix if I could.  I attend a lot of dinners and afternoon teas, and it’s hard not to eat too much.  T

he best meals I ever have are when my husband cooks specially for me when I come home after a week away.  He will call me that day and ask me what I would like for dinner.  I like coffee – real coffee, and will normally order a skinny flat white, but I will normally only have one or two per day.

EXERCISE: “I used to walk a lot…”

I have never been a sporty person, and exercise is not something which comes naturally or easily to me.  I used to walk a lot, but in recent years I don’t do nearly enough of it. Last year I had an ACL reconstruction, which has slowed me down.  My problem is more timing than time itself.

As a professional women in the parliament, the only workable time is early in the morning, because the demands of hair and clothing and so on mean that I can’t really exercise at lunchtime (it’s much easier for the guys to grab a quick shower after lunchtime exercise).  My husband is trying to get me on a bicycle, but again, opportunity is limited.

ADVERTISEMENT

CHILDREN AND WORK: “She is just starting to get the idea that mummy is a public figure…”

My older daughter (5) has no real issues with my absences, and when I am around, she loves to accompany me to public events in the electorate.  She is just starting to get the idea that mummy is a public figure.  My husband tells me our youngest daughter (3) is apparently not too fussed when I am absent, but does get agitated when I depart.

In regard to their own careers, I have no preconceptions or particular wishes, other than they get as good an education as they can and find a career that gives them a good balance between financial security and enjoyment.

EVENINGS: “We try and make the evening meal a family event…”

When I am away from home my evenings are almost entirely work related.  When at home I like to stay in, and we try and make the evening meal a family event. When at home heading for my own bed, my most favourite thing is to watch something on TV with my husband – usually an online catch-up of something like a comedy or period drama.  In the winter at home I am lucky enough to be able to curl up in front of a real fire, and am known to stay there all night.

The perfect end to the day would be a relaxing massage just before bed!

HELP: “Without him, I would not be where I am and my children would not be what they are…”

The person who is almost a village unto himself is my husband.  He looks after our farm, he is renovating our house and he is the person who takes the primary responsibility of raising our children.  He has previously raised children, and knows more about kids than a lot of mums.  Without him, and knowing what I know now, I would not be where I am and my children would not be what they are.

I also have a live-in teenage step daughter who is a terrific big-sister for the little ones (she is also the best disciplinarian)  She helps out with baths and bed time and doing hair in the morning.

Our little ones attend child care and kinder, respectively, two days per week.

For the last two and a half years we have employed a series of au pairs (young backpackers-to-be from Germany).  The au pair enables my husband to work and still be a full-time parent, and my husband has come to believe that the au pair provides a very valuable extra adult presence in the household, which prevents issues which can arise in when children have no secondary “avenues of appeal” in disciplinary or behavioural matters.  I have no guilty feelings, for the vast bulk of human history women have had to work.  But we will most likely move away from au pairs when the kids start school.

ADVERTISEMENT

TIME MANAGEMENT: “When I’m home I do set out their clothes and pack their bags…”

Time-saving tips for kids are really my husband’s domain!

When I’m home I do set out their clothes and pack their bags the night before kinder/childcare (they attend two days a week).  My biggest time-saving issues relate to my own hectic life.  I regularly have to organise my clothes the night before so that I don’t wake my husband when I am leaving early, but he’s usually pretty good at getting up and making me coffee for the road (we stock take-away coffee cups and lids in our kitchen).

Make-up is generally done in transit and my car has a fridge, and my husband keeps it stocked with drinks and sometimes food, so that I can be self-reliant when travelling my 28,500 km² electorate.

Sophie Mirabella works hard to represent all the communities of Indi – a large and diverse electorate of some 28,000 square kilometres. She is also a long standing advocate of Australia’s way of life and constitutional arrangements. She was a leading spokesperson against the push for an Australian republic as an elected delegate to the Australian Constitutional Convention in February 1998. Sophie has a keen interest in positive employment schemes and prior to her election she served on the National Selection Panel for Work for the Dole Awards.

Sophie married Greg Mirabella in June 2006, and the couple welcomed their daughter Alexandra Mary in July 2008. The family, including Sophie’s Mum who helps look after baby Alexandra and her two step daughters, live on a small farm at Wangaratta East. Another bouncing baby girl, Katerina joined the family group on the 3rd of June 2010

Keep reading our Mum vs Life series here:

Sally Obermeder: “It’s a tough balancing act as a parent”

Meshel Laurie “My children are just starting to resent my work

Jackie O “My daughter loves to pretend that she works too”

Amanda Kellar “I have help and I choose not to feel guilty”

Mrs Woog: “I live my life in chaos

Lindy Klim “Two of my kids are fantastic eaters but my son is shocking”

Rebecca Judd “Gone are the days when I wear heels”

Lisa Williams “How I teach my son not to be afraid”

Miki Field “When Anthony is home, it is a little more chaotic”

Tags:
00:00 / ???