Susan Robinson-Derus commun-ications and PR manager, Zespri International

Susan Robinson-Derus describes her family as “three individuals working together for each other”. “We have never taken the attitude that one life is more important than another. Sophie (15) has frenetic life – drama, netball, badminton, and there is no reason why she should miss out on any of it.” The only way this is possible is through faultless organisation and strong support at home and in the office – “There are lot of lists and I write lots of letters.” There is no room, she adds, for tantrums or the temperamental.
Susan has been travelling since Sophie was quite young. In those first years, with her husband Hamin at home, it was much easier. “We work as team and Hamin is such good cook. We’ve never put traditional roles on each other.” But since business now takes him to Kuala Lumpur for months at time, and with no family close, she relies on network of trusted friends. Last year she had five or six overseas trips. She tries to keep them short: “I was back for netball every Saturday.” She cooks and freezes Sophie’s favourite food in advance and makes sure there is plenty of soup, bread and fruit. If it is particularly long trip, Sophie goes to stay with family friends and someone comes in to sit the house and cats. She always leaves note for Sophie to get the first night she is away and rings as soon as practicable after flight “because they fret”. Hamin always calls three times day and she arranges for friends to call if Sophie has something special on. (She travels with Sophie’s schedule as well as leaving her own at home.) She tries to touch base at least once day, more if she’s travelling in New Zealand; and knows that Sophie or Hamin can and will call the staff in her office: “Natalie is my right and left hand.” Adds her daughter: “She knows us so well.” Sophie always has fresh flowers in Susan’s bedroom on her return.
“The most stress is coming home. I try and leave on late night flight, arrive very early, race in and make breakfast, take Sophie to school and then have to shop. Or, if I get in later, I pick her up from school. You talk to men in our business, people travelling constantly, and I know for man it’s no different. We all miss our families. I always ask about them. The only difference is they don’t run the household. And in some ways I might have much more balance than them. I’ll come home with bags full of work and cook meal – the house fills with the smell of spices, the fire’s going, the cats are fed, the child’s talking to you, the phone’s ringing. It’s normal. It makes you feel good.”
Travel is off limits round Sophie’s drama productions and Susan tries to avoid business trips during exam time.

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