Tanya Plibersek with her husband Michael, daughter Anna and son Joe.

Tanya Plibersek with her husband Michael, daughter Anna and son Joe.

Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Federal Minister for Housing
Federal Minister for the Status of Women

After being elected to Federal Parliament as the Member for Sydney in 1998 Tanya became a shadow minister in 2004 where she was responsible for a wide variety of issues including childcare, work and family, community, women, youth, human services and housing.

I’ve always accepted that most things that are worth doing have some difficulties attached.  

Following the election of the Rudd Government in 2007, Tanya Plibersek was appointed the Minister for Housing and the Minister for the Status of Women.

Tanya grew up in the southern suburbs of Sydney, the youngest of three children after her parents emigrated from Slovenia in the 1950s. She spoke to Essential Baby about managing a high profile and demanding role alongside the demands of family life.

Tanya, how many children do you have? What age and sex are they?
I have a daughter Anna, who is 8 and a son Joseph who is 4.

What has surprised you the most about becoming a mother?
How much I enjoy it! It surprises me that I enjoy doing all the simple stuff as much as I do.

Lying in bed having a cuddle this morning, I was struck by the fact that there was no place I would rather be.

Do you miss anything about your life prior to having children?
Impulsiveness!

How has your relationship with your partner changed since becoming parents?
It's deeper and stronger. He's a great father, and it makes me love him more to see the way he cares for our children.

How do you organise 'the juggle' on daily basis - do you have help?
I have heaps of help.

I have a husband who does well and truly his fair share and obviously we have formal childcare - we'e had the same carer since my son was 4 months old. My parents also help a lot.

What do you think about 'me time'? Is it possible - and do you practice it regularly?
I don't really want much 'me' time. I am away from home a lot for work, and I use that time to work hard but also to exercise, read, talk to friends and so on.

When I'm in Sydney I want to spend every single minute I'm not working with my kids. If I exercise, it's with them; if I go to the supermarket, we go together.

What do you find 'drops through the cracks'?
Exercise and grooming. I should do better at both.

Most mothers are given plenty of 'helpful tips'. What has been your favourite 'well meaning' piece of advice?
Every time there is a health scare - like whooping cough for example - my Dad rings to check the kids have been immunised. He's worried about all sorts of exotic diseases. He reminds me to worry about things I would never have thought to worry about myself.

You have an incredibly busy and high profile role within Federal Government. How do you manage running the demands and hours of your work commitments as well as being a mother?
I just muddle through like every one else. Perhaps I plan ahead a little more strictly and nothing happens if it's not in the diary.

You work in a high pressure environment. How conducive is the political world to motherhood?
Balancing my work and motherhood hasn't always been easy, but it's been worth it.

I've always accepted that most things that are worth doing have some difficulties attached.

If ever I feel momentarily sorry for myself because I'm away from home, I think of armed service personnel who have to leave their kids for weeks or even months at a time.

As a mother, where do you find your influences?
Like most mothers, my own mum is my greatest influence.

My mum had a difficult childhood: she lost her mum when she was only 4; she had a fairytale wicked step mother and she got kicked out of home in her early teens.

Despite all that, she is loving and gentle, great fun and very imaginative, so all kids love her - especially mine.

Have there been times when you've considered giving up your work to become a full time mum?
Usually when I have to leave home on a Sunday night to travel interstate for a Monday morning meeting.

What milestones are happening with your children this year?
Anna is learning piano and loving it; Joe has been invited to his first pre-school friend's birthday party!

What things do you most enjoy in your work?
The Australian Government is making significant inroads into homelessness, housing some of the most vulnerable people in Australia through our work on the Homelessness White Paper and our $6.4 billion investment in social housing.

I love hearing about people who were homeless whose lives are turning around because they've got the help they need.

What kind of Australia do you hope for in regards to the future of your children?
I want them to live in a country that's safe; where they won't ever experience violence; where they'll get a helping hand if they need it and will be able to help others if they can.

I want a country that has protected its beautiful environment and maintained its easy-going ethos.

What is one thing you want to pass onto your children?
Optimism!

Tanya, finally a question all mums must face - what are you feeding your children for dinner tonight?
Their Dad is feeding them tonight. I'm stuck in Canberra on a Friday night because the Senate won't pass our Industrial Relations bills...