Cassandra O'Leary

Children: 2

Industry: Writing - fiction and business writing

How would you best describe yourself?

I'm an award-winning writer, having published two romantic comedy novels and shorter fiction. In addition, I'm an experienced business writer and communications specialist. I had a big career change post having kids, chucking the corporate communications day job to write. I'm married with two boys aged 9 and 7, living in the bayside region of Melbourne.

How has becoming a parent changed your perception of work and career and what surprised you the most?

I always assumed I'd want to work my way up the ladder and become a communications manager, but once I decided to have kids I think I realised a high stress, time-consuming day job wasn't ideal. I went back to my job part-time after having kids and taking maternity leave, but there was a persistent voice telling me to take a chance on fiction writing. A couple of years later, my romantic comedy manuscript won an international competition and that novel was published by HarperCollins UK. Now I'm moving forward in my author career, while still doing some freelance and contract business writing. I have more time with my kids and it's a better balance for me, also having some health issues.

What advice would you give your younger self about starting a family?

I would maybe plan a bit more, knowing how time consuming and tiring new parenthood can be! I didn't really want to go back to work when my oldest was 11 months. I didn't want kids in my 20s though, so I probably wouldn't change my mind about being an 'older' mum.

What has been your biggest challenge so far across the stages of pregnancy / leave / returning to work?  How have you overcome this?

Health issues from autoimmune diseases plus sleep deprivation! This is still an issue now my kids are older, which I didn't expect. They still get me up early and I'm not an early bird. Now working from home, I can choose not to work some days when I'm feeling unwell, or just do a little at a time. I don't have to commute anymore and that's a big advantage.

What strategies / initiatives do you use to help you manage the juggle of being a Working Mumma and family?

I completely re-organised my life! I can block out time at home to write on my own projects, allocate time to paid clients and still do things like volunteer at my kids' school.