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Forget celebs, every mother is a supermum

JOOLS Oliver was pictured last week taking her four children on the school run and if accompanying headlines are to be believed, she's nothing short of a superhero. But surely she is no different to the rest of us?

Women are renowned for multitasking and their uncanny ability to know exactly what is going on in every aspect of their lives at any given time. But for years a debate has been raging over whether mothers who go out to work or mothers who stay at home have a more stressful time.

So we spoke with four women with different daily demands and discovered that no matter how their day is divided up, there is no such thing as a non-working mother.

Anne Brady (42) is married to Eamonn and they have a four-year-old daughter, Celeste. She lives in Dublin and works full-time as the MD and creative director of a busy design studio called Vermillion. Together with her husband, she also runs a publishing house called Associated Editions.

I wear four hats, the first being design and I work on a wide variety of projects, from exhibition design to book design and digital media. The second is to oversee the work of my staff to ensure we have consistent quality in everything we create. The third hat is finance, negotiating contracts, ensuring we are paid and that we in turn are paying everyone we have agreed to pay. The final hat is sales and marketing to ensure we have a good flow of new work.

My average working day is 10 hours. When I'm not travelling for work, we all wake up around 7.30am. Either Eamonn or myself will walk Celeste to her Montessori school then head to the studio around 9am.

Weekends

She finishes between 5pm and 6pm and on Thursdays I do a short day so I can take her to tennis -- on Fridays Eamonn takes her swimming.

Being self-employed and working full-time is fairly full on. I employ a team of five and because Eamonn and I work together, we get to see quite a lot of each other throughout the day. But I hugely enjoy the weekends when the three of us get to spend time together.

Eamonn's parents are wonderful and really help us with Celeste. Twice a month they take her for an overnight stay.

We also have two local babysitters who give us a hand and once a week we have a lady who comes in to help with the ironing, vacuuming and cleaning.

Women are excellent multitaskers, but because we are so good at it, we tend to take on too much, sometimes without even noticing we are doing it. We tend to put ourselves last so it's good to have at least three hours every week exclusively for ourselves -- going for a run or a walk, getting hair or nails done, having a massage. I try to do something once a week for me. It doesn't always happen but it's important to remember we need to look after ourselves too.

www.vermilliondesign.ie

Alison Murphy (42) lives in Wicklow. She is married to John (40) and they have two daughters, Aisling (7) and Niamh (4) and two dogs. She works part time as a transcriptionist and spends a lot of time with Chance -- a charity devoted to saving dogs in shelter from being destroyed.

My day begins at 6.30am when I organise breakfast, packed lunches and as much housework as I can fit in before the school run. After dropping the kids to school I come home and spend the morning typing. I usually finish about 1pm, have some lunch before picking up Niamh at 1.40pm. Aisling finishes an hour later then it's time for homework, after-school activities, a bit of a tidy-up before dinner and then the bedtime routine starts. As soon as the girls are in bed I'm back at my computer. I try not to do transcription work in the evenings and usually dedicate this time to working on my favourite thing -- helping dogs through our local charity called Chance.

Working from home makes it easier to multitask as you can glide from one task to the other without too much hassle or upheaval. I try work in the mornings; spend the afternoons with the girls and keep the evenings for myself and John.

I also try to keep weekends for the family but sometimes I have to work in the evening while John puts the girls to bed, or I have to organise the day to fit around Chance.

At the end of the day, women multitask all the time, even in our minds.

Like many of my friends, I'm not much good at asking for help but it's important to decide which roles matter the most. I love my time with my kids, but I love being with John and also working with Chance. Time out is important too -- because even the most organised multitasker needs a break.

www.facebook.com/chance.wicklow

Majella Brohan (41), from Wicklow, has been married to Michael (43) for 17 years. They have three children: Jack (14), Colleen (11) and Niall, (9). She is a stay-at-home mother, but says she is always on the go.

Some of my friends tease me by saying I don't work, but as well as being a mother of three, I am also an alarm clock, chef, baker, housekeeper, waitress, doctor, nanny, nurse, guardian, photographer, consultant, chauffeur, entertainer, personal assistant, party organiser and most of all, a cash machine. My mornings start at 7.30am. And while the children are having breakfast I get the lunchboxes ready and ensure all their books are in their bags.

I am quite lucky because the children are old enough to get ready themselves -- although they do need some guidance; despite me saying 'have you cleaned your teeth, packed your bag and got your PE gear', there is always something they forget (which means another trip back to the school for me later on).

My eldest is gone about 8.30am and then I have a school run at 9am and another at 9.20am. Then it's back to the house for the usual chores and my own breakfast. But I don't get to eat until the pets are fed -- that's the dog, hamster and three goldfish. I try to visit my mum every day for a chat and a cup of tea as it helps to break the day for her. Then I have to pick up my youngest at 2.35pm, my daughter at 3pm and my eldest at 3.20pm or 4pm.

Homework

When we get home, I give the kids a quick snack before homework. And while I am supervising that, I will make and serve dinner and then take them to after-school activities. Every day, one or other of them will be doing something -- it could be soccer, boxing, hurling, martial arts or dancing.

It doesn't even stop at weekends as one of them will always be playing a match -- or sometimes all three will -- which can be a bit of a juggle, to say the least.

Recently, I have started up a support group (Dyspraxia Wicklow -- which is on Facebook) for parents and carers of children with dyspraxia. It is time-consuming, but at the same time is very rewarding.

I am very lucky to have a husband who does his fair share and in our house, family is very important -- believe it or not, in 17 years, Michael and I have never gone away without the children.

But although it is in our nature to multitask, we women also need to take some time off for ourselves.

My mother always said a clean house isn't necessarily a happy house, as you need to make time for your family and that is very true.

Taking time out to walk the dog, go skating or just bake some cakes is just as important as everything else.


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