Jillian McGinley of Laing O’Rourke on post natal depression and making time for yourself


Jillian McGinley navigates her role at Laing O'Rourke while looking after her two identical twin girls with minimal family support. She shares her feelings of 'not being ok' in motherhood and the strategies that have supported her mental health and wellbeing as she balances her career and care.

Tell us a little about yourself and the work that you do.

My name is Jillian McGinley, I am 34 years old and hail from County Fermanagh, in beautiful Ireland. I’m a Commercial Manager for Laing O’Rourke, currently working on the Morley to Ellenbrook Line. I have a wonderful husband, Michael, who is also Irish and is an Architect. We got married back in Ireland in 2017 and have resided in Perth, Western Australia for the last 11 years. Needless to say, Perth stole our hearts, and we now considered this home. We have identical twin girls, named Aoife and Erin, who were born in September 2019 and are the complete apple of our eyes.

What’s one strategy that you’ve taken away or put into action after going through the GP platform?

I have learnt that I am a very resilient person however in order to be the best version of myself, I need to set aside time for myself. I have recently started going back to yoga twice a week which really helps with my stress levels and has made me a calmer person both at home and at work.

What hurdles did you come up against on your journey to balance both career and care? How did you tackle them?

I always struggled to give both work and my family 100 percent, which always made me feel extremely guilty. I was putting my health and my needs last. 

From suffering post-natal depression and receiving medical help I am always aware of the ‘telling signs’. I went back to see my therapist, who provided me with the tools to deal with the struggles and balancing act of a working mothers life. She provided me with the knowledge and tools required to deal with all the conflicting and stressful feelings. Giving myself some ‘time out’ to do yoga or just go for a walk made me feel a lot clearer, calmer and more productive. The hardest thing I have ever had to do is admit to myself that ‘I’m not ok and I need help to deal with this change’.

I have also struggled with my identity since having the girls and returning to work. I would have categorised myself as being confident and very sure of my decisions however since returning to work I almost felt fearful of my decision making. 

I think being a woman and having kids is a difficult transition, I even struggled with getting back to exercising and taking time out for myself as I felt that because I was working I needed to spend all my free time with my husband and kids. However following a number of sessions with my therapist, I realised that everyone benefits more from me having some time out.

What have you learned about yourself through the process?

I have learnt that I’m my own worst critic, I put way too much pressure on myself to have everything a certain way. I used to pride myself as being a perfectionist and have learnt that this isn’t always a good thing. With returning to work I have learnt that I must let some things go, I can’t always have the washing done or have the house spotless. My situation has changed and now that I’m a full-time working mum, I have had to learn to relax and not sweat the small things (like having a half basket of washing to do).

What would be your advice to any expectant or new working parent?

Be kind to yourself. Finding out I was pregnant with twins and having no family here to help and support me was scary but returning to work after 14 months of leave was easily one of the scariest things I have done to date. All the scary feelings of leaving the girls in the care of someone else, feeling guilty for even leaving them and going back to work and the growing thoughts of ‘will I remember what to do’, ‘will people remember me’, ‘are they just going to give me all the small tasks now because I’m a returning mum’….these are all normal thoughts so give yourself time to adjust and enjoy the journey.

What would be your advice to any manager/leader in terms of enabling their staff to balance both career and care?

Be supportive, be kind and mostly be open and honest. Sometime the strongest people on the outside are the softest people within.

What words do you live by

Be true to yourself. I always try to remind myself that everyone is fighting some sort of battle, so be kind.

What I’ve Learned is a series dedicated to sharing the collective wisdom of the Grace Papers’ community.