Jewel is an award-winning journalist who recently moved her family to Indonesia so she could take up the role of Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax Media. Jewel conceived her son Ted through IVF and, at 39, she welcomed him into the world and has never looked back. In fact, her career has taken off and she is enjoying motherhood more than she imagined she would. Her story is full of success, love and living a life with purpose.
Tell us about your career journey.
I’ve been a journalist for almost 20 years. I started as a cadet with the Adelaide Advertiser before working at a chain of suburban newspapers in South Australia. I then moved to Melbourne, where I was employed by the Melbourne Times and AAP before joining The Age in 2004. I have worked at The Age in a variety of roles including in the Press Gallery in Canberra and as education editor. In 2015 I became Indonesia correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
Did your career change after you became a mother?
It changed in a dramatic way because a couple of months after returning to work I was appointed Indonesia correspondent.
Did it make you more or less ambitious?
Motherhood hasn’t changed my ambition. I have always been happiest in the field, rather than aspiring to climb the corporate ladder. So while I had always coveted a foreign posting because the work is so fascinating, I am not especially ambitious in terms of desiring seniority or a huge pay packet.
What are some career highlights?
My biggest career highlight was learning I had been accepted as an advanced trainee at The Age, which had seemed an impossible dream. More recently, being posted to Indonesia and winning a Walkley and Lowy Institute Media Award.
How do you juggle career and motherhood?
When I returned to work Ted was nine months old and I was still breastfeeding. I chose a child care centre about 200 metres from my office so I could breastfeed him at lunch time. The beauty of this childcare centre was not only its proximity to work but also its operating hours—7AM to 7PM. Journalism has very unpredictable deadlines that do not conform to 5PM pick ups. Although Ted was never in childcare for 12 hours, the flexibility was a godsend if I had a breakfast meeting or had to work late. I had seen so many colleagues become frantic as 4.30PM neared and they had to rush out of the office. I was always grateful not to have this added layer of stress. I also have a very supportive husband who shares the household chores (he would say he does the lion share of them) and the Ted wrangling. Since moving to Indonesia we have had household help which is an incredible luxury.
Describe yourself in three words.
Tenacious, reasonably stoic, a bit of a worrier.
What do you love most about being a working mum?
I feel I have the best of both worlds. I feel stimulated by my job but also have a gorgeous son. When I have the opportunity to do things like school drop-offs and playground outings, they feel like an adventure rather than drudgery because I don’t do them day in and day out. Confession: I still get bored playing airports. (My son is a plane spotter.)
I handle tough days in the office by …
I wish I could say by going for a run but in reality it is by having a stiff drink (or two) at the end of the day.
When I left work to start parental leave I felt …
Excited. Ted was a much longed for IVF baby and I was 39 when I had him. Aside from looking forward to being a mother, I was also eagerly anticipating six months (it ended up being nine months) of not working. I had given my heart and soul to journalism for twenty years, with a month’s annual leave the longest break I had taken. Obviously maternity leave is not a holiday but it is a different pace of life that felt like a novelty. I was also looking forward to meeting new tribes of friends through mothers’ groups and kindergartens etc. In this I lucked out, with the most extraordinary group of women in my neighborhood mothers’ group.
When I returned to work after parental leave I felt …
Slightly apprehensive about how I was going to juggle full-time work with a nine-month-old baby.
My top three tips for managing your career through parental leave are:
- Continuing to check work emails so I was aware of jobs being advertised and workplace change (I realise this is a contentious recommendation as many people resent that intrusion into maternity leave.)
- Applying for a place at the child care centre I wanted while still pregnant.
- Using spare time to read books related to the job I applied for just before I returned so I would sound knowledgeable in the interviews.
How do you start the day?
I get up every day at 5AM before the rest of the family stirs. Jakarta is three to four hours behind Australia (depending on daylight savings) so I respond to urgent emails and then read the news.
Is motherhood better or worse than you thought it would be?
For someone who had tried to conceive for six years, I had a remarkable lack of imagination when it came to how I anticipated it would be. I guess because I was a geriatric mother, as they cheerfully dubbed me in the hospital, I didn’t feel I was missing out on life in the way I might have had I been younger. One thing that surprised me was how people warmed to me more after I had a child, including in my work as a journalist. I guess you tap into a universal experience. I also enjoyed identifying as a mother more than I thought I would. I know some women feel they lose their identity after giving birth but curiously I relished the new alter ego as Ted’s mum.
When do you find time to read?
Your guilty pleasures?
Facebook and Instagram
- Favourite time of the day is … the post-deadline adrenaline rush
- Instagram sites that inspire you … those that find the magic in the mundane
- I’m happiest when … I’ve just thought of an elegant solution to a problem with which I’ve been grappling. The Eureka moment. (It might be something as banal as thinking of a solution to clashing time tables.)
- I’m addicted to … social media
- Favourite wardrobe staple for work … dresses
- Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend … beige pants
- My role models are … single parents
- Heels or flats? … both
Jewel works for Fairfax and is mother to Ted (4 years old)