Balancing motherhood, family and work
In the lead-up to Mothers Day, we spoke to Michelle Finnane, mother of Noah – one of our young Creativity Inc customers – about how she juggles family life and her career running a law firm.
It’s late morning on a weekday and Michelle is on her way to work. She’s running behind, but isn’t worried. Since she opened her own family law practice in 2016, Michelle has found the balance and flexibility she needs to properly care for her family, support a child with disabilities, and nurture a career she has loved for 25 years.
“I come in after I’ve got Noah to school and put the house back together after the carnage of the morning. I put a load of washing on the line, clean the kitchen, set out dinner and then go to work,” she explains.
Noah is Michelle’s 13-year-old son. He was born with benign intracranial hypertension, a very rare brain condition which was diagnosed when he was nine months old. At seven years old, Noah was diagnosed with autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and separation anxiety. Michelle’s family also includes her husband, Eddie, their eldest son, Riley, and an energetic 11-month-old puppy called Poppy.
“I haven’t had the natural career progression I probably would have foreseen or wanted before having Noah because I didn’t fit into the mould,” Michelle says. “But, as it turns out, I decided to go out on my own, and now, three years later, I employ two solicitors and have a proper little law firm!”
Since Noah was born, Michelle has taken two career breaks to support him and the rest of the family through different stages of Noah’s development. The first break came shortly after returning from maternity leave, when Noah was in and out of hospital undergoing tests which eventually led to brain surgery.
“At that time, it was a revelation to me to take time off. I’d just come back to work. I was used to being a working mum and I didn’t want to lose my job. But I needed to focus on our family. I was a stay-at-home mum for about three years. It wasn’t easy but I just couldn’t do it all,” she recalls.
Michelle went back to work when Noah was about four years old, but took another break a few years later to support him to transition to a new primary school.
Reflecting on her professional life these days, running her own family law firm, Michelle says: “I now work exactly as I need to. I have all the flexibility I need. I would be a terrible family lawyer if I didn’t put my own family first. If they are safe and well, that gives me the head space to help my clients and their families through tough times.”
Michelle says the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been a godsend for her family. Noah accesses In-Home and Community Supports as well as Allied Health services to build his independence. Support Workers from Creativity Inc have become part of the Finnane family, supporting Noah before and after school.
“We’re still there and I’m still mum because there are some things only mums and dads can do. The Support Workers are there to support Noah and foster him as he gets older and more independent,” she adds.
Michelle says the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new set of challenges to their household, in addition to managing normal teenage behaviour from both her sons. Her eldest son Riley is completing his Higher School Certificate (HSC) this year, while Noah is learning to adjust to a new routine.
When asked what she has learnt as a mum of a child with disability, Michelle pauses, then says: “I’ve learnt you have to go with your gut instinct sometimes and make hard decisions. It really is like family law. I’ve also learnt to say yes to help … and that you need to change direction very quickly and plan in advance.”
Even though it’s Mothers Day, Michelle doesn’t want take all the limelight and finishes the conversation talking about her husband Eddie, whose birthday this year falls on Mothers Day.
“I couldn’t be a great mum without having my husband, who is a great dad. He is really coming into his own as our sons become teenagers. In our family, he’s the quiet, strong one. If we fall apart, he puts us back together.”
Happy Mothers Day Michelle and all the mums of our customers!
Motherhood and disability – one mother’s perspective.
Northcott acquired Creativity Inc in January 2020 – read about it here.