On paper, RTÉ’s Jennifer Zamparelli may seem like one of those women who make having a high-profile media career while caring for a young family seem effortless .
ut she revealed how she learned the hard way to pull back from doing too much, and how during her 20s she was “running on empty”.
When the 42-year-old Dancing with the Stars presenter first found fame on UK show The Apprentice at the age of 27, she grabbed every opportunity that came along.
“I was just doing everything. I was running around and going everywhere. Things suffered, which I’m not willing to let happen again. Missing big family events or stuff like that, I would never let that happen now,” she said.
“I suppose your priorities change as well. And it’s impossible to do everything, you just can’t. You’ve just got to choose. And you get more comfortable saying ‘no’ to things. And that’s not just work things; it’s going out with friends or whatever. It’s about just making space and time for things are going to bring you joy, as corny as that sounds.”
Much like the proverbial swan, she exudes a cool, calm exterior while paddling furiously to keep things afloat at home as she parents children Florence (7) and Enzo (4) with her stunt-performer husband Lau.
He is away a lot with his work and is currently working on a Netflix project with actress Charlize Theron. He also worked on the monster hit series Stranger Things.
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When he is home, he is “very hands on” and minds the children until she gets home in the afternoon.
As well as her mid-morning radio show on 2fm, Jennifer fronts a family quiz-show on RTÉ One called Home Advantage; its final episode airs tomorrow night.
“I don’t know how single parents do it. I take my hat off. I’ve so much help and it is full on,” she said.
“It’s only if something happens, if I’m on air and I get that dreaded creche call that someone has developed a temperature. That’s when it gets tricky.
“We try to have as much balance as we can. And try not to say ‘yes’ to too many things, because it’s easy in this job. You have your radio, you have your TV (work) and all of these other things come along with it. ‘Do you want to host this event, do you want to go to this and that?’
“It’s very easy to go, ‘Ooh that sounds like fun,’ or, ‘That would be a great bit of pocket money or money for the holiday.’ But time is precious, that’s what I feel now, my time is precious and I’m very reluctant to give that up.”
Fellow RTÉ presenters like Mairead Ronan and Claire Byrne have alluded before to the pressures of sustaining a high-profile career while trying to parent young children at the same time.
Jennifer, a former Republic of Telly star, said she has gradually learned to be more relaxed about her place in the media world.
“You feel like, especially when you get going and it gets busy, you’re afraid you’re going to get forgotten about or if you’re not at that do, someone else is going to take your place. But what I’ve learned is, there’s a space for everyone – especially women,” she said.
“Some women get pretty hung up on there being so few jobs or competition. There’s a space for everyone and everyone’s so different. So I don’t worry about that anymore and it’s nice to take a step to the side.
“And this country is so small anyway, people get bored of looking at you, so it’s nice. I don’t feel pressured to try and fit everything in. I just do what I want, which is great.”
She’s also lucky to have never experienced any gender pay gap issues during her busy career, and she credits honesty from her male colleagues as a key factor in that.
“There’s still that discrepancy, I suppose. I’ve been very fortunate in my career to work with people who’ve been quite honest to make sure that doesn’t happen and it’s equal, but I’ve never had that myself,” she said.
So does that mean her DWTS co-presenter Nicky Byrne isn’t being paid a million quid more than her?
“He better not be, the fecker!”
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