Cleveland, situated 30km south-east of Brisbane, is a leafy area – like a little country town, with its big Poinciana trees and well-maintained gardens.
If you walk down Middle Street you will find one of Cleveland’s first restaurants – Fish On Fire. With its fresh local seafood and funky décor, it’s no surprise it’s also one of Cleveland’s busiest restaurants. And in the midst of the bustle of this popular spot is Ann Irving, a long-term Redlands local who first started working for Fish On Fire nine years ago.
“You have to laugh about it now, those early years, trying to juggle work and family. So many busy, precious times!”
Ann’s children are in their early and mid twenties now. The days when she couldn’t even have a five-minute shower in peace have long passed.
“You have to laugh about those early years. Remembering those times when, thinking you’d be able to get a few minutes to yourself, and your child starts hosing the lounge room.”
“I remember having the kids two years apart was a bit difficult… with Marcus in the bouncer and Kirsty outside in the garden, I raced in to go have a shower. When I came back outside, Kirsty had brought the hose inside. She’d hosed the entire lounge room – the TV, the lounge, the walls…and there was Marcus, too, surrounded by the hose! It’s incredible how quickly things change when you’re trying to get a few minutes to yourself. Kirsty – she was just ‘helping’.”
“I wouldn’t take away one precious day!”
Now, Ann finds that spending time with family – her daughter and son-in-law and two granddaughters – as well as her son and his girlfriend is all about quality time. There’s a family dinner once, or sometimes twice a week.
She feels very blessed to have a beautiful family, who she’s endeavoured to teach that life is about having fun – and that it’s important to laugh a lot.
When Ann is at work, it’s full of laughter, too.
“It’s a super friendly, welcoming place. I’m there during the day and we have lot of young girls - some full timers and others who study.
“Being that little bit older, and a bit of an open book myself, I find that people approach me for personal help and advice. And even though they’re not my own kids, I try to look after them at work. Whether they’re straight out of school in part-time work, going to university, or have built careers of their own…it’s so rewarding helping them.”
“As a parent, you want to encourage healthy living for your children and I want good health for my staff, too. Working with kids one-on-one during the day, when I’m giving advice – whether they take it onboard or they don’t – I try to point out the steps people can take. I’ve always just loved being there.”
About: 'Those who mum' series
Meet 40 women across Australia, from as far as Cairns in North Queensland to Baldivis in Western Australia, as part of a 40-part editorial and portrait series that celebrates the faces of women and mums from across Australia.