Maura Derrane believes in trusting your gut. It’s six months since thepresenter reduced her working week to three days, and life, she says, is unrecognisable.
“It has changed our lives so much for the better,” she tells me while making the weekly journey from Dublin to Cork, where she will stay for two nights before returning home. “Having two shows less a week is a huge deal. It is giving me a kind of a balance in my life that I was lacking before.”
Derrane bases life decisions around family, and her dedication to those she loves. It has served her well, she has a very happy marriage to former Fine Gael TD John Deasy, and is mother to Cal, who will be seven in May. Growing up in a family of girls on Inis Mor, young Derrane had no idea where she was going in life, but she knew that if she followed her intuition, it would not set her wrong.
“I think sometimes you have to take a leap of faith,” she says. “If you want to do something you must do it, you can’t talk about it and not do it because it will eat you up inside. Once you make the decision, you must carry it out no matter what the consequences were.”
In 1998, she left a job presenting Ireland AM to move to Dungarvan, Co Waterford, with her husband, and the decision would be indicative of how she would focus her life in the years that followed. “I have always put family and lifestyle first. I was presenting Ireland AM for two years and I left a good job that I really enjoyed and a wonderful co-presenter in Mark Cagney. I got married, John was a TD in Dungarvan and was predominately there. You have to make decisions for your life.”
When Maura made the decision for her life six months’ ago, she was not fully aware of what she was getting herself into. Homeschool and lockdown life were a new concept to her, having spent the entire pandemic working full time.
“I didn’t think the first lockdown was a problem,” she says. “And looking back, of course, I didn’t think it was a problem. John was homeschooling Cal every single day while I was working full time!” Becoming chief educator in their Dublin home has been a rude awakening for the presenter, and she has nothing but praise for teachers, having experienced a taste of their working day.
She is delighted to see the children returning to school. “I think the gloss has gone off everything, especially for the kids. Last year there weren’t really any Zooms, this year I feel like there is one every five seconds.” She believes that the children were beginning to exhibit signs of Zoom fatigue, and for such a young child, it was worrisome.
“I certainly feel from Cal’s perspective that he was suffering from it. it’s not the same as being in school and I think that it’s harder for a young child to have the level of concentration to wait their turn while teachers are going through all the individual kids, giving them the attention that they need.”
If there is one thing that Maura has learnt in the last year, it’s the importance of incorporating balance into your life. “It’s essential that as a mother and as a woman to try to get the balance right if you can. A lot of people aren’t in a position where they can take a step back as I did, but I would urge all women to try and do something to get that balance.”
The pandemic, she suggests, has been a great leveller for families, and for workplaces, and if we play our cards right then we could make lasting positive change.
“I think that we see more of the reality that women experienced as a result of the pandemic. I think that companies need to be mindful of the fact that women may need career breaks or tailor work around their lives rather than what we have at the moment, which is women tailoring their lives around work.”
As women, the great career divide is most evident once we have children, and this is the part that we need to redress, suggests the television presenter.
“It is impossible if you are trying to be at home full time taking care of your kids and still maintaining a career, something has to give.
During this last year, she says that men have been privy to the invisible side of parenting, the part that nobody thanks you for. “It’s things like doing the laundry, getting the socks in the drawer. Getting the child washed. All of this takes so much of your time. And these are the things that we need help with.”
Before her husband John stepped away from politics, he was spending a large amount of time travelling, leaving the bulk of parenting on Maura’s shoulders.
“We were still in Dungarvan and I was driving to Cork every day, doing the show, driving home and doing 80% of the parenting,” she says. “Of course, I had great childcare but yet I ran home, to do bed, school drop and then driving to work like a crazy person. Maybe John didn’t realise all the work that I was doing until he had to do it.”
Now, there is an equal balance of parenting and parenting styles in the Derrane-Deasy household.
“I will come back and Cal will be in mismatched clothes and he will be grubby like a little street urchin,” she laughs. “But do you know what? He’s fed and healthy and happy. He’s not like I’d have him, which is washed and perfect and in matching clothes. It’s a mother thing. I think nobody can do it as well as me. That’s the reality.”