At 35, Fiona Meaton is part of an emerging generation of mothers who, thanks to technology, are holding down big corporate jobs from home.
- Fiona Meaton juggles two children and working three days a week as a corporate lawyer for PricewaterhouseCoopers
- One week out of four she works in PwC’s Perth office
- Thanks to technology she can work the rest of the time from her farm in Tambellup, WA
She is grateful for the opportunity but does not remotely pretend the juggle is easy.
“I’ve always been someone that’s got my finger in a lot of different things and I like having a breadth to the things I do,” she says.
“Some people don’t like that, they like their life to fall within this neat box and if you’re that way inclined this model probably won’t work.
“But if you’re happy with [a] slight level of chaos …” she trails off, laughing.
Fiona lives on a farm in Tambellup, 300 kilometres south-east of Perth, with her 36-year-old husband Neil Letter.
The couple has two sons, four-year-old Monte and one-year-old Gino.
How Fiona and Neil met is a truly West Australian story.
“Throughout university, I worked for [WA grain handler] CBH as a sampler on the grain bins,” she says.
“One year I had Tambellup, and met my husband driving the truck in.
Neil adds there may have been “one or two bin parties” that sealed the deal.
The couple dated long-distance while Fiona finished uni and became a corporate lawyer at Minter Ellison and then Squire Patton Boggs.
Making it work
Neil describes Fiona as “very intelligent and very determined” and concedes early on he feared she may have been too accomplished to want to live on a farm.
“We did talk about that and thought we’d just work through it and see what came,” he says.
Ten years and lots of driving later, they married in 2015 and since then Fiona has lived at the farm.
Before she had children, Fiona would work Monday and Friday from the farm, and on the days in between she would work from the office in Perth.
Once Monte came along, she started what sounds like a precariously balanced high-wire act, working three days a week, one week from the city and one from the farm.
“He would go to the Brookfield Place Buggles daycare, which is awesome because it was right in the centre of the city,” she says.
“He’d catch the bus into work with me and I’d drop him there.
“I was still breastfeeding and pumping and running milk back at lunchtime to him across St George’s Terrace.
“I’d feed him in the car park under work … and some of the partners are coming down to get in their cars and here I am feeding my toddler and pinning him down in his car seat in his jarmies,” she laughs.
“Oh and I would do a click and collect grocery shop on the way home and then pick that up in Cockburn … and then get home about 11 o’clock at night and tip him into bed.”
More time on the farm
In 2019 Fiona took a job as a lawyer with the professional services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Not long after that she gave birth to her second son, Gino and took eight months of maternity leave.
On her return she cut her “Perth weeks” back to one, meaning three weeks out of four, she works from Tambellup.
But with Monte starting pre-primary in 2022, her boss, PwC partner Clare Pope wants Fiona to work mostly from the farm.
“Which might involve coming up just for one day or two days, on a more regular basis and we just work together to find out what will work best for her and for her family and for her professional life,” Clare said.
“She’s one of the busiest lawyers in the firm … she’s a great lawyer, she’s shown all of those attributes to me and so I’m happy to be as flexible as I need to be to allow her to continue in her role as a lawyer within my team.”
Fiona says COVID-19 has made her transition to working from the farm easier.
“It became mandatory, essentially, that any meetings had a remote connection for them.”
“We join by Microsoft Teams or Google Meet and that’s always on every calendar appointment for meetings.”
“We just want to get the job done and deliver a good product to our clients and how that happens is up to you and your team.”
Originally from the nearby town of Kojonup, Fiona is glad she’s been able to return to the regions.
“If it’s in you, you like it,” she says.
While Neil thinks Fiona’s happier living on the farm than she would have been if she wasn’t able to “get her corporate life fix” as he calls it.
“I was never so silly as to think that he might move to the city for me,” Fiona says.
“Farms can’t move, no, but thankfully, it turns out corporate jobs can.”