'If I haven't seen him late at night I creep into his room just to look at him'- UTV's Claire Brock on her son Pearse
News anchor Claire Brock tells Claire O'Mahony she feels that she has turned a corner having gone back to work six months after giving birth
Certain factors can impact upon people's timing when it comes to returning to work after maternity leave. For UTV news anchor Claire Brock, the impetus was the election in February, that saw her back on screen on Ireland Live at 10, six months after she gave birth to Pearse, her son with husband, former Leinster rugby player, Trevor Hogan.
The time, she said, was right. "In terms of the whole transition with the minder and all of that, it was fine. I was a bit nervous as to how Pearse would adapt, how we'd adapt. There are a lot of things going on at six months as well, Pearse was switching over to solids and I'd stopped feeding him myself but once that all bedded in, it's worked out really well."
The 35-year-old broadcaster is a familiar face on TV screens. She was with TV3 for seven years, where her roles included researcher, reporter and news anchor before she joined fledgling station UTV Ireland in 2014. "We are a young channel in its second year on air, and it's nice to be part of starting with a new team - and I'm enjoying all that goes with that," she says of the move. But arguably the most significant change in her life recently has been the arrival of Pearse, now nine months old and who she says is "flying".
"He's getting to that phase now where he's full of smiles, and he's a really good natured baby so we're really lucky in that way. We're getting a lot of fun out of him at the moment," she says.
Claire and Trevor, who met when they were both studying journalism in DCU, dated for 10 years before getting married in Wicklow in 2013. Trevor completes his postgraduate masters in education (formerly known as the HDip) this month and will be a qualified secondary school teacher. When it came to Claire's return to UTV Ireland, and the balancing of that with family life, the couple sat down and figured out what was going to work best for them. Her schedule means that on Mondays to Thursdays, she's unlikely to be home until around 11.30pm.
"I work in a newsroom where we have the main news show going out at 10pm so I knew I was going back to nights, and I did think it was going to be hard for us but Trevor is doing a brilliant job and we're really pulling together," she says. "I think a lot is made about how mums juggle it all, but really it's how we work together as a family and so far, so good. I know that men generally don't get asked that question but we are working it out together.
"I'm lucky enough in that I have day parental leave as well so that gives us a nice long weekend and plenty of time together, and I suppose that the fact that I'm working late hours - and that might seem like tough going - gives me more time with Pearse in the mornings, so I really enjoy that."
The couple both sing off the same hymn sheet when it comes to parenting - almost always. "I think that initially, you know, little things I had in my head - I won't rock him to sleep, I'll get him straight down while he's still awake and all that, and something somehow gets missed in the communication. I'll spot Trevor has been ages in that room and he says: 'I was just winding him down to sleep' and I'm like: 'In your arms? What? Put him down immediately! How long has this been going on for?' But generally we are [in agreement]."
In many ways, working nights suits both mum's and baby's schedules. "Because of the nature of the gig, I'm a bit wired when I get home anyway so I might be up until 1am or 1.30am so if he wakes at all during that time, that's no problem at all, I'm all in favour of that," she explains. She also thinks it's possibly evened out the division of labour in their household.
"In the early days, it's full on and you're exhausted and it's tough, and it's tough on partners - they're trying to do as much as they can as well but it is you getting up at 2, 3, 4am," she says. "But I have found that having turned that corner in me going back to work, and going back to the hours I'm doing, then bedtimes are falling to Trev and drop-offs on occasional mornings are falling to him as well so it's been really good for us. If we weren't forced into our working hours, maybe our evening would have rolled on from what we had, and I'd be putting the baby down to bed in the evenings, not through anyone's fault but just because that's the way it was. I feel it's provided great balance there."
She admits to overthinking things, especially in a work environment but tries to take a more relaxed approach when it comes to her son.
"I see that he's doing alright, and that's grand, but I don't really become over consumed with it. But it's funny, when I get home from work, if I haven't seen him late at night, I'm just creeping into his room, to look at him in his cot…"
From the outset, she'd intended to be a mother who 'goes with the flow' but of course, life can get in the way of that. "You underestimate how completely overwhelming it is and people don't maybe tell you how all-consuming and crazy it is in the early days or if they do, you don't really get it until you're there in that moment, just trying to keep everything together," she says.
"We also don't talk about the physical toll, post-birth, and all of that is pretty major - you need to look after you, and you need to take all the help you can get and don't assume you can do everything. Luckily, in that I thought I'd be relaxed, I didn't go in with hard and fast rules as how I wanted to do things, and I'm really glad I didn't because I think that would have given me more stress."
She's very familiar with the potential dangers of Googling when you're anxious about your baby. "I read so many articles, probably at 4am dream feeds, and what was that, where did that information come from? But then you fall into your own thing and it is true, maybe it's a cliché, but whatever works for you. But you do fall into what works best and what keeps everyone sane."
Her mum, who lives close by in Glenageary, Co Dublin, is a great source of support for her, as is her brother and sister-in-law, whose son Hugo is three months older than Pearse. She also joined a breastfeeding group at her local health centre. "I tentatively went in and thought 'Look, what harm' and there was actually a group of us and all our babies were born around the same time, and since then, we've moved on to meeting for coffees on a Monday morning and it's been really nice. They're a great bunch of women and it's just generally reassuring to know that there is somebody else who has already been through it," she says.
News journalism's loss could have been graphic design or advertising's gain, both careers that attracted her in her early days. Or she might even have indulged her thespian inclinations. "I was into acting when I was younger so I guess I carry on the performance element of it to a small degree - although it is in a news journalism capacity. I think working on TV, you need to be able to switch on. I'm really happy where I am," she says. "It's that interesting kind of work arrangement where you're working up to your busiest time at the very end of the day so you're conserving your energy from 10 in the morning when you get up with the baby, to ten o'clock at night when you really have to be switched on. That is a challenge but it's working out."