Search icon


27th Feb 2015

Mary Ann O’Brien, gourmet chocolatier talks work, family and work/life balance

Katie Mythen-Lynch


Mary Ann O’Brien is the founder and chairman of Lily O’Brien’s Chocolates and one half of the couple behind the Jack and Jill Foundation. She lives in Kildare with her husband Jonathan Irwin, daughters Lily (25) and Molly (15) and son Phonsie (20). 

My days starts at 6.30am. I do 10 minutes of yoga, drink a glass of water, grab a piece of fruit and I’m out the door.

I moisturise with Astral. My skincare routine is very basic, I just have a quick scrub with Benefit face wash.

My greatest weekly indulgence is red wine and time to myself at the weekends. I can’t live with out my Lily O’Briens Dark Chocolate Buttons.

Myself, Jonathan and our son Phonsie do the cooking. I finish work around 6pm. These days the children take care of themselves but when they were younger I always spent a great deal on childcare. I’ve been so fortunate to have amazing ladies who have assisted me in taking care of my children.

At the weekends we enjoy showjumping ponies and walking the dogs. Afterwards we’ll share a gorgeous supper.

My favourite holiday destination at home is Annestown in Co. Waterford. Abroad it would have to be Anna Maria Island in Florida

The last book I read was The Decline and Fall of the Dukes of Leinster 1872-1948. I have a huge interest in this story because I started Lily O’Brien’s in my flat in Carton House in Maynooth Co. Kildare in 1992 and the house and estate, as well as Leinster House, was built and owned by the Duke of Leinster.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realise they were actually the big things. I also believe you should take your job seriously but not yourself!

 In my experience, the best advice for a new mum is pace yourself, be loving but strict and accept ANY help anyone offers!