Sarah Bradley would be forgiven if she fell into a deep depression this Christmas after being dropped from her "dream job" as 'Good Morning' presenter.
But, instead of becoming bitter and twisted, the bubbly mother-of-one is determined to stay positive and make the best of her new-found freedom by searching out opportunities and ways to reinvent her career.
Although Sarah and her Good Morning co-host Brendon Pongia were warned by TVNZ executives that the popular three-hour show was relocating from Wellington's Avalon Studios to Auckland, it came as a surprise she would no longer be at the helm. The programme will now be fronted by Jeanette Thomas and Rod Cheeseman.
"The funny thing is that Stokes Valley Pool was my place to be negotiating my job or losing it," Sarah says. "I was sitting on the side of the pool at 4pm watching my daughter Melinda at her swimming class, when I got the phone call that I wasn't part of the new line-up.
"Naturally, I was shocked and disappointed. It was not unexpected, but I was still sad."
The 45-year-old isn't hurt she wasn't told in person that her contract would not be renewed in 2012 - despite signalling to bosses she'd move back to Auckland - because the person usually tasked with face-to-face meetings was out of town.
Despite Sarah's apprehension about heading into the silly season jobless, she has nothing but fond memories of her time on the show.
"I'm looking at this as a positive experience," she says.
"I'm really proud of the work I've done on Good Morning. In a nutshell, it's the best job I've ever had.
"The show has turned around, with all due modesty. I know both Rod and Jeanette. They're lovely and great broadcasters, and I really wish them success. This is something we have built up. I want it to be successful."
The gutsy go-getter, who has had only two days off work in six years, burst on to our screens after 10 years in New York, where she had high hopes of becoming a movie star. While there, Sarah worked at news organisations CNN and ABC, gaining skills that proved an asset to New Zealand journalism when she returned to work as a TV3 business editor. But, in 2006, when the inquisitive reporter was offered the role of co-presenting Good Morning, Sarah knew she had found her calling.
"It was a daunting task," she remembers of her move to Wellington to front the show.
"Melinda was not even two when I started. I had to find a flat, another car. All my friends were in Auckland. I'd never worked with anyone at Good Morning before, including Brendon. I'm a journalist first and foremost, but I'm also a performer. I ended up getting the best of both worlds."
So, with great expectations, Sarah ploughed on and became a household name. But it wasn't smooth sailing for the TV doyenne.
Her relationship with Melinda's father, Peter Stokes, broke down."In addition to having a very young child, it was completely stressful wanting to make the show successful and trying to
work it all out," Sarah admits.
"The first couple of years were really challenging. I remember when I started I was criticised for being quite uptight and anxious. It took us a while to figure out what was working."
The popular personality and her share broker ex, Peter, tried to keep their split amicable and have remained good friends.
"We're very lucky," Sarah says.
"Peter is an easygoing, devoted dad. He flies to Wellington every second week or Melinda flies up."We spend the whole of summer in Auckland with him. Peter just turned 50 and I hosted his party. We all go on holiday
together. Some people think it's really odd.
"No one would ever want to be separated and raising a child, it's not ideal at all, but we make it work. I think we're so in agreement about how to bring her up. We're both conservative, traditional parents and because of that, it works."
On a day-to-day basis, Melinda, seven, gets up at 6am and is taken to close family friends who ready her for school.Without fail, Sarah is at the school gates every afternoon to collect her for after-school activities such as swimming,
karate and piano. Every night, Peter skypes his daughter to help with spelling and maths homework."The bad thing about my job has been that I start so early in the morning. But, conversely, I pick Melinda up at 3.15pm
every day, so I could spend all those lovely afternoons and evenings with her."Sarah clearly adores her daughter and loves spending time with her in the 1920s house, in Wellington's seaside Petone
suburb, that she bought and renovated two years ago.
"It's amazing watching Melinda develop," Sarah says. "She's very close to her dad and me. She's very affectionate and always writing cards about how much she loves us. She's just a lovely little girl, but she's full-on and cheeky. She's quite a drama queen, which is what I'm like. And she looks so much like her dad."
Sarah is coy about discussing her personal relationships.
"At the moment I'm just focusing on Melinda and what I'm going to do next," Sarah says.
"Honestly, I think it's harder as one gets older. I'm so used to my own company and space. I enjoy being with Melinda. I'm a bit of a loner in some ways. I'm social when I go out but I love my own space at home."
But the accomplished jazz singer has had many admirers over the years.
"I've had a marriage proposal by a 27-year-old man! We talk about real issues on Good Morning chat, like the pressure for women to stay young, and that's when I got asked via a letter. On several occasions people have written in to ask me out, which has been great for my ego."This holiday season, the down-to-earth brunette has plenty of time to contemplate the future. She will spend Christmas,
as always, with Melinda at Peter's Parnell, Auckland, home.
"Of course it's scary," Sarah says of her new journey. "It is frightening because I've always had a job for a long time. I've got a lot of avenues I can go down. I need to take some time to think about what it is I want to do and look at opportunities I might have.
"I'm an experienced presenter and reporter. I've done my Masters [in international relations]. My dream would be to work for the New Zealand Embassy in Paris in some kind of diplomatic or trade role or there might be another fabulous TV or radio show."Emotions ran high last Friday when the Good Morning team said their final farewells. Sadly, for some it was the last time
they would work together."I want to finish this year on a high note, because it's a fantastic show," Sarah says. "I've had so many opportunities, and think about the skills I've gained... have you seen my Zumba? I've got to be thankful for having had this job."