Why I felt the pain of Nicola Roxon's decision to step away from her career

When I first heard that attorney-general Nicola Roxon had decided to depart Cabinet I immediately thought the worst of her intentions. But when I read in The Age on the weekend that she has called it quits to spend more time with her seven-year-old daughter it all made perfect sense to me.

When parliament is sitting the hours demanded of an MP can be grueling. For a Cabinet Minister the intensity probably never ends.

I also reached my breaking point when my oldest son was seven. To compound the situation I had a second son who was about to turn four. I was editor-in-chief of Pacific Magazines, with responsibility for the entire portfolio of around 20 titles. The days were long and stressful as we published the challenger brand in virtually every market. I loved my job and the magazines were performing well. But I missed my children.

One night for no apparent reason I cried myself to sleep. The strain of wanting to be in two places at once smacked me in the face. The next day I resigned from my fabulous job that I had worked so hard to achieve. It probably didn't help that I was working for a CEO who had no understanding of the pressure of my circumstance. But I can't blame him for wanting me to be there all the time when he needed me.

I needed to get off the barbed wire fence. The euphoria I felt when I finally resigned is indescribable. I hope Nicola Roxon felt the same when she finally chose to call time on her one-sided juggle.

All I needed was six months to reconnect deeply with my sons. My youngest was due to start school the following year and I needed time with him. My seven-year-old was starting to develop a strong character that I worried I had little influence in shaping. But most of all I became worn down by my children asking me why I couldn't spend more time with them as I was rarely home for dinner in those days. Just thinking about it now is still painful.

I actually didn't walk away completely. The same day I resigned I was offered consulting work with another publisher. The structure of the projects enabled me to be at home with my youngest son three days per week. On those days I could also collect my older son from school. It was perfect for all of us.

We are committed to discussing strategies for career-focused mums to remain in the workforce because it's clear that it's part of the answer to developing a pipeline for female leadership. However, there are some jobs that will remain a challenge for working mothers and undoubtedly Cabinet Minister is one of them.

We should wish Nicola Roxon well as she departs to embrace her young child's life and leave the door open for her to return when she is ready. The skills she has developed will still be valuable in years to come. Spending time with a focus on motherhood won't erase that.

Have you had to call time on your full-time career to spend more time with your children?

Marina Go

Marina Go is Chair of the Wests Tigers NRL Club, a non-executive director of Autosports Group and author of the business book for women, Break Through: 20 Success Strategies for Female Leaders. She was previously GM of Hearst Australia at Bauer Media. Boss magazine named her as one of 20 True Leaders of 2016.  Marina has over 25 years of leadership experience in the media industry, having started her career as a journalist. She was appointed Editor of Dolly magazine at the age of 23, before spending the next decade editing a number of leading women's magazines. She has held senior leadership roles at Fairfax, Pacific, Emap, Bauer and Private Media, where she was CEO and founder of the career website Women’s Agenda.  

She is a director of digital startup Daily Siren, and also a member of the Advisory Boards of the Walkley Foundation, The Australian Republican Movement and Women’s Agenda. She is a former director of Netball Australia, Odyssey House,  Sydney Symphony Vanguard and The Apparel Group. She lectures on digital media at the University of Technology, Sydney, is a Mentor with the Women In Media and NRL Women programs and a UNSW Alumni Leader and Ambassador. She has an MBA from The Australian Graduate School of Management, a BA (Mass Communications) from Macquarie University and is a member of the AICD. She is a mother of two young men and passionate about diversity and equality. 

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