Squadron Leader Renee Burke has four reasons to smile this Mother’s Day.
Patrick, Millie, Kate and Joseph will serve up breakfast in bed for her at their home in Hawaii, with handmade cards from the youngsters - aged 9 and below - to accompany the breakfast spread.
Squadron Leader Burke is a long way from her home in Mount Barker in South Australia. She’s 16 years into a career as a personal capability officer and currently working remotely from Hawaii. She is there alongside her husband, Andrew, who is posted to the American state as a logistics officer.
In common with other career mums, she juggles the competing demands of home and work life.
“Mum guilt is a real thing. I think we should understand what our own capacities are and try not to compare ourselves to other mums,” she said.
“That’s very hard to do, especially when social media normally only contains posts by super mums. We should only focus on what works best for us, our family and our career.”
Squadron Leader Burke is proof positive that a Defence career is open to working mums. She’s been deployed to the Middle East region along with six weeks away from home on Exercise Rimpac and three weeks away on Exercise Bushido Guardian.
“It was a challenge being away from my family, especially with young kids who don’t really understand why I go away. But having modern technology helps, to be able to talk and see my children whilst I am away helps them immensely,” she said.
“My husband and I are an excellent team and are able to parent solo when we need to.”
Her career highlight came in 2010 working as the Aide-de-Camp to the Governor General of Australia, Dame Quentin Bryce.
“I was exposed to a completely different world during this time and had to pinch myself on a number of occasions because I couldn’t believe it was my job,” she said.
Squadron Leader Burke is no stranger to service life. Her father was in the Army so she knows what it takes to contribute to the defence of our country and at the same time take on the role of a parent.
“I believe it is possible to be a wonderful mum and a very capable RAAF member, but there may be times when I need to compromise one for the other in order to stay sane,” she said.
“When I am able to, I spend time with my family and try to be present in their lives.”
This Mother’s Day, after the debris of a breakfast is cleared, Squadron Leader Burke will enjoy what she loves most, a day with her family.