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'I went back to work eight days after I had my daughter Megan'

Aisling Holly and her partner Paul Garrett have two children, Kailen (8) and Megan (2). Paul is a retail manager, while Aisling is managing director of cosmetic surgery and weight management clinic The Hospital Group. Kailen is at school and goes to aftercare three days per week, while Megan attends a creche.

"Paul and I met 10 years ago, and when I had my son Kailen, I was working in Brown Thomas and already on the managerial ladder. Many mothers will say that having children had an adverse effect on their career, but I suppose I'd say the opposite. I've flourished in my career since I became a mother. Within the space of five years, I had gone to a general manager position and then jumped to MD of The Hospital Group, while all the time being a very hands-on mother.

"Megan is at the Westwood creche, and Kailen is in school and goes to Westwood for aftercare three days per week. My mother takes him the other two afternoons, as that's when he does his extra-curricular activities – music and horse-riding.

"I checked out 15 creches before I chose Westwood as I had very specific requirements. It has a 50m pool and an adventure area and is a very safe environment. Megan goes off every day and has a day filled with activities and she loves it. I know of mothers who stay at home and their children are in front of the TV all day. Knowing that mine are in a very safe environment gives me the confidence to go out and give my career 100pc.

"I have to admit that the Prime Time programme on creches rocked me a little, as it did many other parents, but there are some really good facilities and, for me, it's down to parents ensuring that their children are in the right environment. I have a great relationship with Kailen and Megan and when I come home in the evening, they get the best out of me because I'm not crabby from being with them 24/7. They are my number one priority.

"I work 60 hours per week, which includes travelling to our clinics in Cork, Belfast and Galway. I went back to work eight days after I had my daughter Megan, and I got a lot of negative reactions from people over that.


"The thing was that the country was in recession, so I felt I was needed in work to lead the team. I hired a family member to look after the baby for the first few months and it was difficult, but I quickly got myself into a routine. Some people might think it was very callous, but my relationship and bond with Megan isn't any different to the one I have with Kailen. I stayed at home for three months with him.

"Paul is fantastic and I always say that being a full-time mum only works if you have very good support and where the responsibility for the children is split 50/50. I love what I do and I'm on a good salary, but I'm not motivated purely by money.

"The children benefit because I'm able to give them the finer things in life for their personal development. I want to give them the best education and opportunities to bring out their inner skills. If I was at home every day, I wouldn't be able to afford all of that.

"The children's social skills are great and they are very self-sufficient and independent.

"Once Friday evening kicks in, I'm all theirs and am happy to do what they want to do. I don't have a lot of 'me' time, but I don't mind.

"I'm 39 and plan to move upwards. I'd never be a slave to a pay cheque, but I want to make a difference. I think society needs to adopt the attitude that it's acceptable to be a good mother and have a career. My kids benefit from me being a working mother."

> Andrea Smith