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I’m a single mum with a thriving career and big dreams

Kylie single mum

Kylie is a single mum with a thriving career. She has big dreams and talks about how important career is, but not because she is career-driven. Kylie is strong, determined and a role model for her two children.

Can you tell us about your career journey?

I have had a great career and moved quite a bit which has really defined who I am today. I started off at ANZ in their graduate program and then have worked in roles across Victoria, London, Singapore and finally back to Australia where I had my first son. After maternity leave I worked for a small consulting firm and then for a manufacturing company as a communications adviser to their CEO and chairman—huge mistake for so many reasons, one being their completely misogynist view of women in the workplace. I then moved to Save the Children and KPMG, but was approached by NAB with an offer I could not refuse. I now lead their stakeholder management program in the corporate responsibility area and I love my job. It definitely has its challenges (like all roles), but it is mainly rewarding and I work with a fabulous team. The challenge for me is working out where I go next.

When I left work to start parental leave I felt …

The first time I left work to start parental leave I felt that I was forced into resigning. I worked for ANZ in Singapore and my primary stakeholder was supportive of me working from the Australian office, but I couldn’t get support from the broader business unit. I resigned and moved back to Australia at about 32 weeks pregnant. I was terrified and felt completely uncertain.

The second time was also terrifying for different reasons—I was doing it all by myself. I separated from my second husband at 20 weeks pregnant (long story, but right decision) and I had limited financial security. I went on parental leave feeling very uncertain and questioning my ability to juggle it all. Although knowing that I had a role to come back to was also somewhat comforting.

When I returned to work after parental leave I felt …

The first time it was absolutely invigorating! I worked three days a week for a very small consultancy firm (three like-minded women), but it felt good, once I got over the guilt. Leaving my son at childcare was upsetting and it took both of us a few weeks to adjust. Having said that, I enjoyed the freedom from the ongoing ‘doing’ of motherhood and the opportunity to interact with adults in a workplace on an intellectual level.

The second time was harder for me. My daughter was quite little when I started back at work and I was upset about having to leave her at her early learning centre, despite knowing a lot of the carers for years and having complete trust in them. I also felt guilty for putting my son into before and after care. There was constant mama guilt—juggling childcare, school, work, family court and managing the state of panic about being able to leave work on time and the feeling of guilt about my kids being in someone else’s care. I also found it challenging interacting with a lot of school mums who didn’t work and made comments about the “need” for young children to have their mother around them all of the time. It created so much guilt and made me question my own dedication to my children, something that I had not faced at childcare around like-minded families. I think the knowledge that I was setting a good example for my children pushed me through—i.e. that a career is important and that even through really tough times we can step up and do the right things for our family and ourselves.

Do you work flexibly?

Yep. I have flexible hours that allow me to leave by 4/4.30PM to collect my kids and work from home at least once a fortnight. Technically I don’t work on a Friday, although it’s the corporate world, so there are times when I am on the phone or responding to emails when my daughter has her nap.

How important is your career now?

Very, and not just because I am career-driven. It’s important for my mental wellbeing and to ensure that I’m setting an example to my children about the value of work, the ways to contribute to society and a means for looking after your own intellectual needs and the financial needs of your family. I’m highly motivated and progressing in my career and working through the steps to progress is important to me, even though it also presents me with challenges around extra care for my children and mentally how to cope with more pressure at home and in the workplace.

What do you still dream of doing?

  • Professionally I still dream of making my living and mark on the world by being on three to four ASX listed boards.
  • Personally, I dream of travelling the world on a motorbike, and owning a property in the country, or along the coast.

How do you stop the feeling of mama guilt?

Is there a solution for that?! I think that I bury it and then when it rears its head I have to remind myself that I’m setting a positive example for my kids, not only about the importance of work but the importance of financially supporting your family. I also stop it by being open with my friends about the struggles and seeking their advice and insights, and also sharing mine.

My top three tips for managing your career through parental leave are:

  1. Keep in touch with a few work friends—even just touching base once in a while to find out what’s happening at work can give you a sense of belonging.
  2. Try something new—if you’re bored on maternity leave then use it to learn about a field you’ve got an interest in, or build a home business.
  3. Reflect—think about what you liked and disliked about your job and ways that you can improve it when you return; perhaps even ways that you can improve the job with part-time hours.

What has being a working mama taught you?

  • Don’t try to be a superstar—work won’t fall apart if you don’t finish something on time and the house will still be standing if you don’t vacuum for a couple of weeks.
  • Have the ability to laugh at yourself when you turn up to work with a bit of snot, vomit, food stuck to your suit jacket. All the other parents have been there and will understand!
  • You aren’t alone—there are plenty of other mothers in the workplace to lean on who understand the challenges that you’re facing. Seek advice from them on how to juggle the complexities.

Lastly, at the end of a busy week, how do you positively reenergise?

Listening to good music while enjoying some wine and cheese with girlfriends. A run/jog when I can fit it in. A night on the couch watching a movie. Baking—cakes, cookies, slices—and cooking a big roast!


Favourite time of the day is … early morning, sunrise.

Instagram sites that inspire you … just to highlight what a dork I am, Time and The Economist.

I’m happiest when … I get five minutes to sit at my kitchen bench with a cup of tea (or glass of wine), watch my kids play together and reflect on how lucky I am to have two healthy kids.

I’m addicted to … dark chocolate. I eat it every night (in moderation)

Favourite wardrobe staple for work … most things black or blue with heels.

Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend … Converse (or boots in winter). White tee in summer or long-sleeved one in winter. And a snood for winter! (Leather jacket if I’m lucky enough to head out!)

My role model is … I have too many. One would be Gillian Triggs.

Heels or flats? … heels. No doubt.

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