This week I wrote to the residents in my federal seat of Adelaide to inform them of my decision not to stand as a candidate at the next election.
This was a really big decision for me because I absolutely love my job. Representing the Adelaide community is one of the most humbling, inspiring and rewarding privileges that I could imagine. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for the faith that the community has placed in me. I know that it is both rare and fortunate to get a chance to work for so many years in a job I am truly passionate about. It was not an easy decision, but it was a decision that I made for one reason.
Though I absolutely love my job, I just don’t want to spend half of the year on the other side of the country from my family indefinitely. While my son, Sam, could travel with me as a baby, during the next term of parliament he will start school and need to stay in Adelaide.
The simple truth is that I just cannot bear the thought of spending over 20 weeks of every year in Canberra away from him. When I think about having to regularly miss things like Sam’s first day at school, his presentations at school assembly , a first sporting match or even just being there for him when he is sick and wants his mum, I know that it would make me absolutely miserable.
I have made a decision based on how I feel, on my circumstances and on those of my family.
Some have interpreted this decision as evidence of a greater conflict between women and successful political careers. I just don’t think this is right. And I think it is really important to set the record straight and encourage more women into our parliaments.
This shouldn’t be categorised as a “women’s issue” . As someone who has had a baby while working fulltime as a member of federal Parliament, I can attest to the fact that it can be done. As a member of parliament, I have been in a very privileged position and I have had the kind of flexibility I know most working mums could only dream of. I am not going to complain for a moment about the struggles of having a baby and doing my job, because it would be an absolute slap in the face to the women who are doing it really tough – the shift workers, the single mothers, those living on the poverty line. Not the politicians . But this is an issue about parents.
Every working parent has to make decisions about how they balance work and family, including MPs. This is true for both mums and for dads. Ultimately I made the decision that this job wouldn’t work for me anymore. But it does work for many. When I look around the parliament there are countless examples of hard working, successful MPs who are also great parents – including Bill Shorten . And there is room for many more.
We should have more women in the parliament, and I don’t want my story to discourage any from putting up their hand. I will be lucky enough to spend almost 15 years in our federal parliament and I can tell you that I wouldn’t take back a single second.
We need to keep debating how we better help Australians balance work and family. That is true for all of us and for both mothers and fathers.
For me, this isn’t a retirement from working life. This is a career change to match my change in family life. I’m thankful for the opportunities I have had in federal parliament – but I’m extremely excited for what lies ahead, from the school gate drop off and beyond.