Parentpreneurs: How having children changed our careers and our home-lives

Parenthood saw these people move from finance to midwifery, farm sales to SNA

Noel Kelly with his daughters Elena (7) and Lauren (9) at their home in Tuam, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Noel Kelly with his daughters Elena (7) and Lauren (9) at their home in Tuam, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Parenthood is a life-altering experience. It’s demanding, frustrating, rewarding, overwhelming and emotionally-charged all at the same time and it can completely change our perspective on life - right down to the way we work.

For some, there’s great comfort in the familiar - the job that’s still the same, when home-life has changed beyond recognition. But for others, parenthood propels changes that might otherwise never have been considered, meaning parenthood isn’t just about taking care of their family, it has influenced how they make a living too.

Deborah Hadley is now a midwife having previously worked in corporate finance.
Deborah Hadley is now a midwife having previously worked in corporate finance.

Corporate finance to midwifery

Mother of three Deborah Hadley decided – following a very positive homebirth with her youngest child – that midwifery, and not the world of corporate finance, was the career for her. “My two hospital births were lovely,” Hadley says, “but I was just a number to them.”

“With my own midwife, from the early days it was a different story - truly compassionate care that left me with a feeling of being listened to and understood. I felt it was the type of care all women should have, regardless of their choice of birth.”

Retraining “wasn’t always easy”, Hadley explains. “The commuting was the hardest part and neither hospital nor university give any consideration to the difficulty faced there, which can be frustrating and difficult. Good support is definitely required as you work around shifts.

“My husband was a godsend and we had some great childcare along the way.”

Being a mother “helps” Hadley says, especially “being able to reassure women based on your own experiences. It certainly doesn’t make one a better midwife, but there is a shared experience factor with new mums, that can help bridge some gaps when you’ve just met a woman.”

“I am beyond happy [with the career change]. Even on tough days I drive home and think ‘wow, what a privilege and honour I have’. Women are amazing. The things they face and come through with strength and grace is unbelievable and they never cease to wow me.

“I don’t miss the corporate world, though the pay cut is a bit of a bummer. I don’t understand how I got paid four times as much for pushing paper as doing the important work I do now. It makes no sense why midwives and nurses are paid so poorly considering the responsibilities and daily toils. I certainly didn’t get into it for the money.”

Noel Kelly with his daughters Elena (7) and Lauren (9) at their home in Tuam, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
Noel Kelly with his daughters Elena (7) and Lauren (9) at their home in Tuam, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Farm supplies salesman to special needs assistant (SNA)

Noel Kelly, father to Laura (9) and Elena (6), never envisaged himself working as a special needs assistant. He was working as a farm supplies salesman when his second child was born, but an unexpected diagnosis changed his life and career path entirely.

“Elena was born on April 18th, 2013 and we were told on April 19th that there was a problem,” Kelly explains. “It came from totally out of the blue, there was no lead up. It was like one minute she hadn’t Down’s syndrome and the next minute she had.”

Kelly says he originally handled the news “poorly” as he struggled to get his head around the unexpected. “When the dust settled and I got my head around it, and only someone with a special needs child can understand that, my wife said to me ‘would you do a special needs course?’. I said I’d do anything to get more familiar with what’ll happen in the future.

“I’d no intention whatsoever with getting a job out of it. It was done with the intention of getting a bit of information for Elena.” But when the course was finished, Kelly’s wife, Ursula, suggested applying for a job.

“I put out a few CVs, not expecting much back,” he says. However, a job became available in St Jarlath’s, a school Kelly himself had attended as a child.

“I found I could do all the courses I want, but until you’re in the classroom environment and you’re sitting beside a special needs student – that one day beside a special needs student was more beneficial than any course I did.”

Kelly says his new role has helped him to understand and prepare for some of the challenges Elena may face in the future. He’s extremely happy, adding, “it has changed my life completely”.

Laura Steerman, Quaintbaby Ultrasound Art. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Laura Steerman, Quaintbaby Ultrasound Art. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Solicitor to ultrasound artist

Laura Steerman is a mother of three, and was a solicitor specialising in energy regulation for over a decade.

“I had major mum-guilt working long hours as a solicitor away from my kids,” Steerman explains. “In 2018, after having our third baby, I handed in my notice. It was the right time for me to leave law and ‘look outside of the career box’, focus on my family and pursue my passion building QuaintBaby Ultrasound Art (quaintbabyart.com) into the small international art business it now is.

“I began by painting my own daughter’s scans after several reduced movement scares during the pregnancy,” she continues. “Finding out all was ok at each scan (though her growth was restricted) was a huge relief and I felt the blurry black and white printed images didn’t do her precious-self justice. So I took out my paints at my kitchen table and began painting her scan. Friends started to ask for paintings and then their friends did. My hobby took off and turned into a small art business after I posted some of my paintings on social media.”

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Steerman’s clients request ultrasound paintings for a variety of reasons, including pregnancy by surrogacy, twin/triplet pregnancies, rainbow babies (babies who follow a previous loss, stillbirth or miscarriage) difficult pregnancies and pregnancies against the odds. She also paints commemorative ultrasounds of “babies who died before or shortly after birth. Often the ultrasound photo is all the parents are left with after losing or burying their baby,” she says.

“It’s so fulfilling. My clients always enjoy seeing their vision for their baby come to life on canvas. A scan painting is much more than just an ultrasound - it’s storytelling and capturing memories, emotions, personalities, pregnancy and parenthood in a painting.”

Benji Bennett, author of the Adams Cloud series who moved from marketing to children’s books.
Benji Bennett, author of the Adams Cloud series who moved from marketing to children’s books.

Marketing to children’s author

Benji Bennett lives in Dublin with his wife Jackie, sons Harry and Robbie and daughter Molly. Following the death of his son Adam, Benji became a children’s author, writing the award winning Adam’s Cloud series (adamscloud.com).

“I worked in Vodafone as a pricing manager,” Bennett says. “I was just finished my two weeks holidays with my family in Brittas Bay when Adam got sick. He simply complained about having a headache and after a trip to the doctor and still severe headaches I took him to A&E. He was admitted immediately and soon after had a short seizure and collapsed into a coma. After a few hours a scan revealed he had a massive tumour that we knew nothing about. It got so big it caused a massive bleed, and Adam was gone.”

“I guess the decision was made for me to leave,” Bennett says referring to his job. “I could not imagine still working in the corporate environment.”

“The moment Adam died I made him a promise that the whole world would know about him and how special and kind he was. During my eulogy at Adam’s funeral I subconsciously delivered what I now refer to as ‘Adam’s Message’. A message filled with love, hugs, kisses and kindness , that encourages parents to try and put family first, spend time with their children, bring them for a walk, read to them and tell them you love them.”

Bennett’s plans haven’t stopped with the books. “Currently I am in the very early stages of getting a cartoon series up off the ground. It’s something I will make happen one way or the other. I’ve kind of already promised Adam I’ll do it, so I’ll figure it out somehow.”

Elaine Platt at work at her therapy table at the back of her house. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Elaine Platt at work at her therapy table at the back of her house. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Financial advisor to amatsu therapist

Mother of two Elaine Platt realised after the birth of her first child that the demands of life as a financial advisor combined with her new role as a parent were making her unhappy.

“After the birth of Wesley, I returned to work and with the long hours and cost of childcare I realised I wasn’t happy in my job, and it didn’t fit into our timetable, as my husband worked in London, Monday to Friday. The responsibilities of the drop-off and pickups fell on my shoulders,” she says. “I just was running all the time and felt like I was getting nowhere.”

Platt had discovered Amatsu 10 years earlier following an accident during a game of tag-rugby which resulted in a broken coccyx.

When I had my children, I had no understanding of how the body works and recovers

“Amatsu is a whole body treatment that works on the muscles, ligaments and tendons. It helps the body release the pattern of pain in the body.” Platt began training to become an amatsu therapist (elaineplatt.com) when her youngest child was just eight weeks old.

Both of her babies were delivered by c-section and she struggled with the recovery, particularly after an emergency c-section, which left her traumatised. “I really enjoy being able to help women recover post-pregnancy and explain why they feel like they do,” she says.

“Your idea of motherhood and the reality is very different. When I had my children, I had no understanding of how the body works and recovers. I feel I went through these experiences to be able to understand and relate to my clients.”

Platt says she’s very happy with her change of carer but misses “the social aspect, the pay and the security of the corporate world”. However, she adds that in spite of the longer hours, “the rewards are worth it”.

Caoimhe Whelan (left) lactation consultant, with a client. Photograph: Peter Houlihan
Caoimhe Whelan (left) lactation consultant, with a client. Photograph: Peter Houlihan

Engineer to lactation consultant

“Electrical engineering seemed an obvious choice,” mother-of-three Caoimhe Whelan says, having studied honours maths and all the science subjects for her Leaving Cert. “At that time there was a big push at the all-girls school I attended, to encourage girls to do STEM courses,” she explains.

“I missed doing English, which had been my favourite subject at school, and I suppose I missed having any connection to the culture and the arts.

“But despite not enjoying the course and knowing in my heart that I was a completely rubbish engineer, I got a job in a big engineering firm when I qualified.”

Following a move to tech and then yoga, Whelan says she finally found her true calling after the birth of her second child, when she trained as a voluntary Cuidiu breastfeeding counsellor. She went on to become a lactation consultant (latch.ie).

“I decided to pursue IBCLC [International Board Certified Lactation Consultant] accreditation because I was so passionate about breastfeeding and supporting mothers, and because I felt that working in private practice as a lactation consultant was something that would work for me as a mother,” she explains.

“It’s a privilege to hold space for a woman in the early postpartum period, and hugely rewarding to help her feel more confident in herself and her ability to feed her baby. The work itself can be quite emotionally gruelling, so I have to be careful to not take on too much work,” she adds.

“I don’t miss anything about working in engineering and tech, but I am grateful for those experiences. Working as a lactation consultant is the most empowering thing I have ever done.”

Social care worker to sustainability educator

Lorna McCormack enjoyed her work as a social care worker, but juggling the long hours involved, proved more difficult as her family grew to include four children.

“When my fourth was born I was faced with health problems,” McCormack explains. “I discovered I had melanoma skin cancer and on top of that I was suffering from postnatal depression. It was time to focus on myself, my family and get better.

“Wool in School (woolinschool.com) was born from a desire to educate children about the benefits and why wool is important in the fight for climate change.

“Today’s children are closely involved in the conversation in how we can stop climate change,”McCormack says. “I feel it’s important to share my knowledge and insight into the uses of wool for the next generation. Showing them the exciting uses wool will have in their future is vital as we move to a sustainable and eco-friendly environment.”

“Wool in School, with the support of various Irish mills and businesses across Ireland, are bringing this natural resource to the forefront of the conversation. Showing children the benefits of wool through interactive, informative workshops and our Wool in School trollies, we are linking the past, present and future of wool.”

McCormack believes being a mother herself has been a huge asset to her business. “My children were my first clients. I ran everything past them first, and still do. Understanding different age groups is important for developing school workshops. I think also as a mother you have an empathy towards children and can recognise if a child is shy, nervous or if there is a special need that needs to be considered.”

She says she is “definitely happy” with her decision, “especially as it involves two things I love, children and wool, I can’t go wrong.”

Tracey Ferry is now a buggy fitness instructor.
Tracey Ferry is now a buggy fitness instructor.

Tax advisor to buggy fitness instructor

Tracey Ferry always loved keeping fit, something she continued right through her two pregnancies. But when her first child, Eabha, was born she found it difficult to get opportunities to go to the gym.

“We were living in the US. All our family were living in Ireland and my husband had to travel a lot with work,” Ferry explains. “While I was fortunate to be able to be at home with my baby, a full day with only baby can be tough going, and very lonely.”

Ferry found a women’s fitness group nearby “which had stroller (buggy) fitness classes”.

“I absolutely loved this class,” she says. “I got to work out with my baby, not having to worry about getting a babysitter. It was a comfortable environment so even if she screamed the house down, had a blow out, or needed to be fed, this was never a problem in class.

“I also got to meet women at similar stages of motherhood to me. We would hang out together after class and this gave me a chance to connect with new people and chat all things baby.”

When Ferry returned to Ireland after the birth of her second child, Saorla, she noticed a gap in the market and so during her maternity leave set up Optimum Fitness (optimumfitness.ie). “Our tag line is ‘come for the workout, stay for the friends!’ and this is very much our ethos,” Ferry says.

“On Saturday mornings my girls come with me to StrollerFit and it is honestly one of the highlights of their week, and I love that they are learning, from an early age, that exercise is fun.”

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