Category Archives: working mums

Is having a Present Box insane?

presents

Over the weekend I replenished my ‘Present Box’. I remember hearing about Present Boxes before I became a mum and thinking such people were completely bonkers.

And now I’m one of them.

I like to think of myself as a thoughtful shopper. I love the idea of spending hours thinking about presents for the special people in my life; their habits and personal style or something they might really need at the moment.

Given that consumer goods are so cheap these days, many more people simply buy what they want when they recognise a need, hence the popularity of ‘experience presents’ and vouchers for services like a massage. (I always think such vouchers need to come in pairs; here’s a voucher and here’s some time in your diary to have it!).

Over the last year, I have come a convert to online shopping . And now I have a Present Box.

Friends will be pleased to hear that it’s not as thoughtless as it sounds. Rather than (as I had imagined) a set of generic ‘adult female’ type presents, if I see something you might like now, I buy it immediately and have it ready for your birthday. Last Christmas was my easiest Christmas ever.

There are some more generic style presents in my Present Box, like things for newborns and new mamas, as as well as presents for Four Year Old Girls. Simply because those invitations to parties from day care can sometimes stay in the bottom of the bag until the day before!

I also really hate trying to rush in shopping malls. In fact I hate entering a shopping mall and the Present Box has helped.

Here’s my system for how it has simplified my online shopping.

1. Create a ‘shopping’ folder on your favourites on your browser. Then if you find a good site you can start browsing on sites you’ve already enjoyed previously.

2. Once you’ve found a few sites and browsed them a little, set yourself up for a session with credit card and calendar handy.  While most Australian sites I’ve used deliver within a week, I like to prepare a couple of months ahead.

3. Working through birthdays and other celebrations I simply shop online as I would in a mall, working through my priorities, leaving a tab open if I am unsure about something and moving onto my next choice.  This is a good thing to do if you’re considering several purchases from the same store.  It not only saves on delivery costs but makes receipt of packages a lot easier too.

4. I also keep all of those annoying emails that you get when you join any kind of loyalty program in one email folder.  I then scan it for ideas when I am looking for something in particular; reminded of brands and stores I have frequented in real life.

5. Once I’m finished, I then check my stocks of wrapping paper and cards to check that they cover the same time period I’ve just shopped for. Nothing like realizing you’ve left out something important at the last minute.  You could do the fancy personalized photo card if you’re really keen, but I find most people are happy with something drawn by the kids or one of those cheaper ones from places like Big W.

6. For my recent Present Box replenishment, I used My Favourite.  I’ve found on previous occasions that their delivery is very quick and the products are made of high quality materials. (Not sponsored, I just like them)

7. I’ve also started to keep a Christmas List around this time of year, mostly to keep track of what I have bought and who is left.  Last year I was pleasantly surprised to discover most people had been covered off through ‘incidental shopping’ through the year.

Do you have a Present Box?  Do you think people who keep them are thoughtless – or a little bit mad?

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Would working from home make your life easier?

My friend Lindy Edwards has a terrific piece in The Age discussing the importance of working from home for making all of our lives easier.  She writes:

Once upon a time men did the paid work and women did society’s unpaid work.  When women entered the paid workforce our consumption expectations increased  and so did our mortgages. Now, for many families, the response to increasing  financial pressures is for mum to work more hours.

But the problem of unpaid work remains, and is growing as people are caught  looking after both elderly parents and young children.  The crunch is hitting  women the hardest. It is putting them under enormous strain, and the whole  family is feeling  the pressure

She says working from home would solve a lot of these problems for many families.

These days a lot of unpaid work is also time-critical rather than  time-intensive.  It is about being there at the right time for the school  pick-up, the medical appointment, when the plumber is coming, or to put on the  washing.

I couldn’t agree with her more.  I’m very lucky to work from home one day a week.  Avoiding a commute automatically gives me an extra hour in the  morning, which I spent exercising and an extra hour in the evening, which I get to spend with Miss Nearly 4.

It also takes the ‘pressure valve’ off our daily lives on a regular basis.  When it rains at the weekand there’s a load of washing we didn’t get through, I hang it out on Tuesdays.  I can collect something at our local post office, and get a haircut during my lunch break.  None of this detracts from my work – and in fact having a day at home to read or write longer documents can make me enormously productive.

It doesn’t work for every job – and there have been weeks when fitting in the meetings in my in-the-office days have been tricky.  I had to come into the office yesterday for a meeting with an interstate visitor, but on the whole it works brilliantly and makes our two working parents scenario much smoother.

You can read the rest of Lindy’s ideas here.

Do you work from home?  Do you wish you could?

Top 3 Most Googled Questions From Working Mums in 2012, and the answers!

One of the best features of a WordPress blog is that it has an excellent feature to help you work out how people found you.

google

I love going through the list of search terms regularly and I often wonder if some of these readers found what they came for.  Some of it is a bit odd, (like ’50 shades of grey bogan version’), others make a lot of sense (‘how do I get family tax benefit’) while other search terms are a bit of a worry (‘road rage outside daycare centre’).

Today, we’re working through the list and answering some the questions readers most often ‘googled’ to find us.

We don’t pretend to have all the answers, (does any mum?) so feel free to correct and clarify.   But in the interests of sharing any working mum knowledge there is, here’s our answers to the Top 3 Most Googled Questions from Working Mums in 2012.

1. Can I claim school uniforms on my taxes?

This is officially our Most Googled Question.  The question probably comes from the Education Tax Refund which made school uniforms a legitimate tax deduction for a couple of years there, but it has now been replaced by the SchoolKids Bonus, which is a similar payment to the same families who were previously eligible but with with a bit less paperwork.  Find out moreabout who is eligible and how to get it here.

2. How to be a good working mum?

First, you already are. It makes me sad that so many of us wonder about this – so much that we’re googling the damn question!  If you love your kids, and want to do a good job, you are being a good mum,  so our first suggestion is to relax, and give yourself a little credit.

More practically we’d also suggest the most important thing is to build yourself in wriggle room.  Organise your days, hours, childcare and transport as though things are going to go wrong sometimes. Kids will get sick, work will be unreasonable and the trains won’t always ever run on time.

If you use up all of the time your parents are able help out on a weekly basis, what will you do during school holidays?  Would you be better off putting kids in daycare or after school care and having grandparents help out when things fall apart?  Do any of your daycare centre workers do babysitting out of hours?  Find out ahead of time in case you get caught.

There will be times when you need a backup plan for your backup plan, so when you’re working out how many days to work, make sure you consider the things that can go wrong and not just how it will go when all is running smoothly.

If you’re not yet back at work and think I’m being pessimistic, remember your plans to learn French/lose all of your baby weight/organise the kitchen renovation while on maternity leave.  Yes, working has its practical realities too.

It’s also perfectly reasonable to work out how you’re going to do whatever’s important to your sanity.  Coffee with girlfriends?  Exercise?  Regular access to white wine? Escaping the house without any small people clinging onto your person and wiping their leftovers on your white shirt? It’s all a fair enough ask – and possible even though you’re managing the needs of employer/colleagues/partners and children 24 hours a day.  If you’re not yet convinced, check out this piece what a great Role Model  you are when you take a little something for yourself.

3. Who gets carbon tax compensation?

Interest in this one has died off a little towards the end of the year, probably because the tax came in and THE WORLD DID NOT END.  Amazing really.

We still get asked occasionally though so here’s the short version of the answer.

  • Family Tax Benefit Part A recipients received up to $110 for each child.
  • Family Tax Benefit Part B recipients received up to $69 per family.
  • Single pensioners received up to $250.
  • Pensioner couples received up to $190 per eligible member.

Most of it’s already been paid though, so hope you noticed it!

You can find out more about carbon tax compensation in this post.

What’s your No 1 question as a working mum?  Email me at kirstenandrews(at)bigpond(dot)com

Do you go home on time?

Are you one of the 2.2million Australians who left for work this morning with no idea what time you will leave tonight?

Or are you the working mum who sneaks out the door on time because you have to race to day care before they start fining you for not getting there before 6pm, while resentful colleagues note that you are ‘leaving early’?

Being in either of these groups isn’t much fun.

Working late – and being expected to – isn’t fun or reasonable for anybody.

Even when we think we’ll leave on time, more than one million of us get it wrong and stay an extra half an hour, and a further 1.2 million report staying more than one hour, according to new research from The Australia Institute, which runs Go Home On Time Day

The Australia Institute’s Executive Director Dr Richard Denniss said over the past twenty years we have heard a lot about workplace ‘flexibility’, but the problem for many workers is that child care, train timetables and life’s other commitments aren’t that flexible.

According to Dr Denniss:

This new data shows why so many Australians find it difficult to juggle their work life and the rest of their life. Working long, or very unpredictable, hours can place a lot of strain on people’s relationships as well as their physical and mental health.

The survey found that around 3.2 million Australians experience stress or anxiety as a result of their working arrangements, with 2.9 million experiencing a loss of sleep and 2.2 million reporting adverse impacts on their ability to meet family commitments.

Check out this great infographic.

If symptoms persist, take a dose of Go Home on Time Day. Love it.

Managing working time is one of our Five Ways Working Mums Can Take Better Care Of Their Mental Health which you can read all about here.

Do you go home on time?

If you do, are you often first out the door at your workplace?

Kirsten

 

 

 

Is a skim cappucino a mummy drink? What’s your caffeinated beverage of choice?

Is a skim cappucino a mummy drink?

Recently, for health reasons, my caffeinated beverage of choice has moved from a skim cappucino to a long black.

I seem to have noticed, and it may just be my perception, that the baristas of Sydney are treating me with a little more respect.  A little eye contact, a cursory nod as they hand over my morning cup of energy.

I wonder what my change means to them?

It made me think – is a skim cappuccino the drink of mums?  Have I been communicating – through no other mechanism than my breakfast order – that I am a mum?

All this time I thought my work clothes, heels and makeup allowed me to shrug off my suburban mum ways and appear, even just during daylight hours, to be a part of the inner city trendiness that is my work community.

Perhaps not.

Have I been uncool all this time?

Have I become more cool by giving up dairy?

What’s your caffeinated beverage of choice?

Kirsten

What does it take to be a good mum?

Do you know what it takes to be a good mum?

If you do, can you tell me?

Seriously, the University of Western Sydney is researching the pressure placed on mums and they’d like our help.

The study look looks at how we judge good mothering.

Dr Kate Huppatz, from the School of Social Sciences and Psychology at the University of Western Sydney, says that;

Whether a woman is judged to be a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ mum is often based on a range of factors – from how much independence and discipline they give their children, to their own physical appearance in the playground

If you have a view, and would like to help out, please email Dr Huppatz on k.huppatz@uws.edu.au

More information on the study is available here.

I think a good mum is one who ensures her child’s physical needs are met, does her utmost to keep them from physical and emotional harm and makes sure they know they are loved – by her and others around them.

Note there is no mention of organic food, breastfeeding, co-sleeping or music lessons.  I think all of that is simply extraneous and you can be a great mum regardless of your options and choices in these areas.

That description also covers most of the mums I know.

What do you think a good mum does?

Kirsten

Which is tougher – pregnancy or motherhood?

Mums to be expect to enjoy a glowing pregnancy but the reality is fatigue, information overload and a sagging sex life, according to this report from Lisa Power  in the Daily Telegraph today

Ladies, wait til that kid gets born!

According to the report, 60% said fatigure was the hardest to deal with.

I can’t imagine what the other 40% said.

My theory is that pregnancy fatigue is nature’s way of getting you ready for months, perhaps years, of sleep deprivation.  I suspect if you went straight from your pre-baby life into the reality of life with a newborn, there would be even more post-natal depression around than there is now.

Did pregnancy meet your expectations?

Which was harder for you – pregnancy or being a mum?

Kirsten