Sitting back at The Footy Show desk six weeks after the birth of her daughter Eliza, Erin Molan was feeling overwhelmed.
Still recovering from an emergency C-section and suffering from the anxiety of being separated from her newborn, she was also counting down the minutes to the commercial break.
"I have memories of going out during those breaks to breast pump because I was actually leaking through my clothes," she chuckles in remembrance of those early days of motherhood.
"It was bloody hard. But the reality of our situation is that we need to pay our mortgage. It wasn't an, 'I am woman, hear me roar, I must go back to work' thing. It really was just for our family and our situation."
The word "family" will come up multiple times today as Eliza, now 15 months old and the apple of her mother's eye, and Erin, 36, celebrate their special bond with The Weekly.
Family means everything to Erin. The Nine Network sports presenter calls her mum, Anne, and dad, former major-general and former Liberal senator, Jim Molan, "three or four times a day," she bashfully admits.
Her older sibling Sarah, who went through the unimaginable pain of giving birth to a stillborn daughter before winning a battle with bowel cancer, inspired Erin's passionate ambassadorships for charities including Bowel Cancer Australia and stillbirth support ride Sydney2CAMberra.
Younger sister, Felicity, recently "overshadowed poor Eliza's first birthday" by giving birth to her own first child on June 6, Erin recounts delightedly, adding that the youngest Molan, airline pilot Mick, is "the most incredible, divine thing in the whole world". And then there's her fiancé and Eliza's dad, Sean Ogilvy.
The pair met at Sydney's Coogee Bay Pavilion, arguably not the most salubrious of venues, while Erin was out with friends for Christmas drinks.
Sean caught her eye straight away. "I thought, he's a good looking rooster," she recalls.
The next morning she called to ask him out. Four weeks later he moved in and a year after that he proposed which was, she says, "a lovely feeling to know that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me".
"When you know, you know," she shrugs of her instant romance with the 45-year-old policeman.
"I love that he's not in the industry, I love that he wouldn't be seen dead on a red carpet with me. It's not his world and I love that about him because it doesn't appeal to me either."
"I love my job but I wouldn't go to an event unless I had to for work. I'm a bit of a loner and I like to be at home, we're similar like that."
Sean has given her stability, she says, musing that it's something she no doubt has been seeking in a relationship, having grown up moving around the world as an army brat.
"I went to 16 different schools and we moved around every few years," she says. "So stability for me has never been a place. It's never been bricks and mortar or a home because we had so many – it's always been people."
"When I say I call my mum and dad several times a day, that's because that's always been my stability. Because we have always changed friends, moved all around, moved schools, I probably do crave stability a bit more than normal and crave reassurance."
Life very much revolved around her father's career in the Australian Army in Erin's formative years, which saw the family spend time in multiple overseas postings, including a long stint in Indonesia.
Her mother, Anne, had accrued "multiple university degrees – she's one of the smartest women you'll ever meet – but she gave that up to travel around with dad."
With three kids under three – Mick would arrive four years after his sisters – Anne was there to do much of the heavy lifting, while Jim built his army career, often spending 10 months of the year away from the family home.
"So many of my memories are of Dad leaving for work, coming home from work, always working and being really successful at what he was doing – his work ethic is incredible," Erin recounts.
"He was an incredible soldier, an incredible officer and achieved incredible things. He's definitely where I get my own work ethic from. He inspires me."
That notorious Molan work ethic – which today sees Erin a regular fixture on Nine's news and sporting coverage as well as on the radio airwaves on Sydney's 2GB – was one she started displaying at an early age.
A keen gymnast in her younger years, at 13 she worked after hours as a paid gymnastics coach at the Jakarta International School.
But while many of her schoolmates were ferried from luxury home to school and back again, Erin's parents were keen for her not to ignore the realities for the multitude of locals living in poverty.
"Every posting we went to, Mum and Dad were adamant that we immersed ourselves in the real culture and developed a healthy sense of perspective on how blessed we were to be from a country like Australia where we have clean water and food."
Erin is also grateful – albeit with the benefit of hindsight – for the strict rules her parents insisted upon. Going through a self-proclaimed "naughty phase" in her late teens, Erin says she was mortified by the tough love dished up to keep her in line.
"I used to get so annoyed when I'd want to go to parties when I was 17 and Mum and Dad would say, 'We'll just ring the parents'," she says with a grin.
"Well, obviously the reason they are having the party is because the parents aren't home, you idiots! So they'd ring and find out and then I wouldn't be allowed to go."
"But thank God I had parents who were tough when they needed to be because I don't know what path I would have chosen to go down had I not had parents who were amazing."
Not that it stopped her from pushing the boundaries.
"I remember Dad having to come back from exercises in Brisbane because I'd taken the car – and I didn't have a license – and picked up another girl to go out nightclubbing under age," she recalls of one particularly well-punished crime.
"Still, they didn't kick me out on my arse so that's nice. Even though I was naughty from about 17 to 21, I knew I could always rely on them. They both just love and adore me unconditionally."
That love is now flowing down to Eliza and her cousins. Anne and Jim now have four grandchildren (eldest Sarah has gone on to have two more children) and are relishing the joys that grandparenting brings.
Despite living in Royalla, NSW – a good four-hour drive from Erin's Sydney base – Anne happily travels for babysitting duty, a godsend when, as happened recently, Sean was suddenly called away for work while Eliza was suffering from tonsillitis and Erin needed to fly to Brisbane for a game.
And, to her amusement, Jim has had a drastic change in stance when it comes to enforcing rules.
"He was a six-foot-six major-general in the army and seeing him with the kids now he's a total softie. God, if any of his soldiers had seen him in that light!" she laughs.
"I look at some of the stuff the kids do and they're like, 'Haha, so cute', and I'm like, 'I would have been sent to my room for six months!' But then I guess that's the same relationship I had with my grandparents – it's really lovely."
It's inevitable at this point that the conversation turns to the possibility of adding more to her brood. "She's not a baby anymore, she's a little girl," Erin says of Eliza, while admitting to feeling clucky when spotting newborns in prams. Still, it's not looking likely that Eliza will have a sibling anytime soon – if at all.
"I just don't know if we'll have another one. We talk about it and I get asked about it a fair bit. But at this stage we're just happy to enjoy her. She's so sweet natured. I would be blissfully happy if this was it. And I think at this stage it probably will be."
Also still on hold are those wedding plans. Recently, Erin was pictured without her engagement ring and at our shoot it's still off. But don't read too much into the missing bling.
"It's because it bloody knocks everything and every time I pick up Eliza it scratches her," Erin protests. "But a wedding is so far down on the priority list. The only thing is that I'm quite traditional and I'd love to take Sean's last name – I'd love to have the same name as my daughter.
"Originally we'd planned a big wedding on a boat and it was all set in stone but then I found out a month and a half before we were supposed to get married that I was pregnant. It was a late notice call off. Now, if we do get married, it will probably just be in Mum and Dad's backyard."
For now, the pair is happy to concentrate on raising a happy, healthy baby. Like her mum, Eliza loves books and the pair spend hours together reading. Sean, she says, is a "brilliant" hands-on dad and his daughter – who has recently found her voice and is happily testing it out on our set – adores him.
It's a juggle with two high pressure jobs but one, for the most part, she feels they're succeeding at. "I hope I raise someone who will be proud of what I've done and how hard I've worked," Erin says, admitting that recent public criticism over her early return to the workforce stung.
"But she'll also know firsthand that I was always there for her as well."
Her job is also continuing to bring plenty of joy, heightened by the recent increased success of women's sport.
It's been thrilling, Erin says, to watch men she works with who are "rusted on traditionalists who have only ever cared about men's sports and had an attitude about women's" talk animatedly about Ash Barty's success on the tennis court or Ellyse Perry's finesse on the rugby field.
As a female sports reporter, she's long fought for gender equality in sport on screen but admits that, "since having my daughter it's tenfold".
"Addressing the gender pay gap would be nice, sure, but first it needs to generate the same revenue as men's sports. That's going to be a process of TV rights and crowds. Once they start to grow and build – as they have been doing – then we'll see equality. And we're on the way, we're close."
Read more about Erin Molan's life and loves in the October issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, on sale now.
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