If someone told you that being a stay at home mum was the easy choice, or that you should be back at work because staying at home was a lesser decision. How would you react?
Cassandra Thorburn (former wife of Karl Stefanovic) was told both of these doozies just days after her separation became public news and media-fodder. We were outraged. So we could only imagine how she felt. Mum Central sat down with her to get to the bottom of the lies, headlines and truth…
Meeting Cassandra Thorburn, it was clear right from the moment we said hello that she is a kind, gentle natured and a genuinely lovely woman. But above all of that, she’s just like you and me – she’s a mother who really loves her kids.
A recent opinion column suggested that she shouldn’t have given up her career to stay at home with the kids while her husband, Karl Stefanovic was allowed to build his successful media career. The reaction to this claim across the country was mixed. Cassandra’s reaction was shock.
“I was really offended by that [article] because I, like many women and many men, have been supportive of my partner’s career. The decision for me to take a step back from my career was our decision together and based on what was best for our family. I never thought that I was going to be a stay at home mum forever. I didn’t know when I would return to work, so the criticism that I stayed at home living off Karl because I could, was really hurtful and insulting.”
Cass is softly spoken but extremely articulate. The mum of three was a successful journalist in her own right, starting her journalistic career when she was merely 13 years old in community radio. However, while she loved her career, she made a decision to be at home with her children and to support her family as the primary parent in the household; a decision that many Australian mums can relate to.
Cassandra’s three children are her top priority and listening to her talk about them was a true pleasure. She is a caring mother who is dedicated to supporting them in every way she can. Cass volunteers in the uniform shop at her daughter’s school, and is still volunteering to do canteen duty on a weekly basis at the local public school even though her children have long since left.
“There’s a lot of schools out there who struggle to get the volunteers. Not every family can make the decision we made for me to be a full time mum, and I know that the parents who need to be in the workforce appreciate the support of the parents who can volunteer their time to help make the school a better place. Even though my kids are no longer there, I volunteer at the public school because I care.”
On all accounts, Cass sounds like a mum who adores her kids and has committed to putting them first. So why is the Australian media so interested in what this woman is doing with her time? Why are there photographers snapping pictures of her sending the kids off with family friends to go trick-or-treating? Why is she being subjected to the nasty comments and negative portrayal that she should be dealing with her marriage breakdown in a particular manner?
The truth is, Cassandra Thorburn isn’t a celebrity or even a public figure. She’s been married to one for 21 years and been a mother to his children for 17 years, but it’s now that Cassandra and Karl are separated that all eyes are on her. Judging her. Speculating.
“I really want to be seen as an individual. Even in a partnership, we’re still individuals, but now that we’re not together, I don’t think it’s fair that people are turning our private relationship matters into public fodder. I’m grieving the loss of my relationship. The loss of my best friend and life partner. I’m just like every other mother and wife who is going through a marriage break up, only I have the added anxiety of having the spotlight thrust in my face at a time when what myself and my children really need is privacy,” she said.
Cass explained that in the early days of the separation, she was experiencing heightened anxiety over leaving the house because she felt like all eyes were on her and everyone was judging her.
“I don’t want to be scared to go out, but there are days when I dread going to the supermarket. I was recently at the local corner store when the lady serving me pointed to a magazine and asked, ‘Is that you?’. I wanted to say no… that’s not me! The story inside was a total misrepresentation of who I am and yes, it is my face on the cover but is it me? Not at all,” she said.
In fact, there have been many untruths told about Cass in the fallout from her relationship breakdown. That she and Karl had a big fight at the Logies – Cassandra didn’t attend the Logies this year, instead staying home with the kids, one of whom had a major exam that they were preparing for. Or that she drank a whole bottle of wine while having a ‘rant’ on Facebook about Karl’s recent ratings success. But here is the real truth bomb. What Cassandra and Karl and their children are enduring is none of our business.
Cass is many things – a stay at home mum, a loving friend and a dedicated member of her local community. But she is also human and at the end of the day – nobody deserves to have their private life dissected and judged without any regard to how it will effect her and her children who are already dealing with the new reality they’re faced with.
“I’ve had the most incredible messages from people reaching out and people I don’t even know have offered their support. But if you do see me in the street, just some compassion would be nice.”
Cass talked about how important it has been for her to have a support network of female friends, and as women we need to remember to support each other, not pull each other down. Life can be hard enough without the added pressure of gossip circulating until the next hot topic arises. But for Cass, Karl and their three kids, all we as the Australian public really need to know is that they are hurting and there is nothing newsworthy about that.