VIP mum Lisa Wilkinson

Lisa Wilkinson entered the public domain on a grand scale at just 21 years of age when she became the youngest editor of a national female magazine, teen bible Dolly. Over the years Lisa has become one of the country's most respected female journalists helping steer publications such as Cleo and Australian Woman's Weekly to success. She was also a long-time sparring partner for the late Stan Zemanek as a pannelist on Beauty And The Beast before making the move to the small screen hot slot, breakfast television. She was a familiar face on Seven's Sunrise before being appointed co-host of the popular Weekend Sunrise.

In May 2007 she famously defected to Network Nine where she now co-hosts the Today Show alongside Karl Stefanovic.

Lisa lives in Sydney with her husband, former Wallaby, broadcaster and author Peter FitzSimons and their three children Jake, 14, Louis, 12 and Billi, 10.

You are a great example of a mother balancing her career with raising a family. How well do you juggle your work/life balance?

I'm like most mums who are either in full time or part time work or are full time mothers, you have your good times and your bad. I just manage the keep the balls in the air about half the time and as a mum that's not a bad strike rate. When you are a single woman, or a woman without kids, you get to a certain point in your career and feel you have achieved a decent amount and are in some kind of control. Then you have kids and it's all thrown up in the air.

You started with the Today Show in May 2007. How are you coping with the early hours?

There's no getting around the fact that a 3am alarm clock feels just like a 3am alarm clock - very ordinary. But that is the only downside of my job. Working on the Today Show is all I could have wished for in my career. I'm loving the fact I'm on a huge learning curve and surrounded by amazingly talented people. But having said that, there are a lot of parents out there who do shift work, but because I have a public profile, it's highlighted. There's a lot of mums and dads setting the alarm clock at 3am out there too. There is also a great plus side to waking early, and that's being home in the afternoons with the kids. If I had to choose a time to be with them it would be the afternoons. In the mornings everything is more mechanical and chaotic. It's "have you got your lunchbox? Who let the dog out? Get in the car, quick, quick, quick!" But in the afternoons I can be there to help with their homework and take them to after school activities.

Peter recently gave up breakfast radio, how has working different hours changed your household dynamics?

When I started with the Today Show we thought it would be great because our body clocks would be more aligned as we were both getting up early. We thought we could balance it and essentially we thought we were making it work. But six months later we were both so tired at the end of the day so Pete gave up breakfast radio and only a few weeks into our new routine, it's working really well.

Being a career mum, you must find it necessary to hold up your hand and ask for help at times. Do you find it easy to ask for practical support from family and friends?

I find that girlfirends who are also balancing work and family are extraordinarily supportive, even if it is to get together for a whinge with someone who understands. While I have asked for help with the kids over the years I still suffer from that typical female guilt. I'm also really lucky to have a wonderfully supportive mother close by who is always willing to help. However I don't like to take advantage of it. I often wonder where many of us would be without that great grey army out there.

There must be times you have to spend away from your children for work, how do you manage this time away and do you think they would prefer you spent more time with them?

The Today Show is based in Sydney so there's not much call for me to be away. Occasionally we film from interstate but it's not too often. However, everything I have read about kids and what they want out of life and from their relationships with their parents is that they want more time with mum and dad. And that's the ultimate goal. Their childhoods are so precious, it's gone in the blink of an eye.

Life with children can be fairly chaotic, how do you and Peter keep the romance alive?

We don't do anything as structured as date nights or anything. I have to say I have been lucky enough to meet the right man and just spending time together and laughing together is great and we grab those opportunities as often as we can. There are never enough of those moments though, they're precious few.

What is it that you love most about being a mum?

Children are a fabulous reality check and in many ways you get to relive your childhood through your kids. Having kids can make you grow up a lot but the nice thing is you get to grow together.

How often do you take time out for yourself?

During 2007 it has was just about never, it was such a rollercoaster of a year and a massive learning curve for me both at home and at work. 2008 will be the year of getting some of those priorities re-aligned though. I have spoke with lots of other women who do breakfast radio and television and they have given me some advice. They have said the first six months you'll feel like a superwoman getting everything done and in bed by 10.30pm. After six months you have to learn to make peace with yourself and realise you can't do it all and you'll be in bed by 7.30pm! I'm at that stage now and I'm learning that I don't have to be in control of all the little details, that I can let other people take some of the slack.

You must be approached by a lot of charities who want your support. Why did you agree to become an ambassador for Barnardos?

Barnardos approached me about five years ago and two minutes into the conversation and hearing about all the extraordinary work they do with children I was hooked. They didn't have to sell it to me at all, I was in. I love that they reach out to one group in our community who need our help the most - children.

What's your top tip?

Be relaxed, the more relaxed you can be the better parent you will be. Also, get on the floor with them and be a bit of a kid yourself. This doesn't need to mean they lose respect for you, but you need to be able to laugh with your kids and really enjoy them.

Can you tell us about the last time you had a big belly laugh with Jake, Louis and Billi?

Yesterday we were taking photos of our dog, a boxer named Scout. We put them on the computer and were distorting them. There was a lot of giggles.

If you had just one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st century parent, what would that be?

A future free of global warming. We can't leave behind this legacy for our children and their children to deal with.
 
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