Category Archives: Work life balance

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?

Breaking news: nearly half of Australian mums back at work before their youngest turns one

A report in The Australian today says that almost half of all mums in two-parent families are back at work before their youngest child turns one.

Is this true for you?

Is this why it is impossible to find a child care place for kids aged 0-2?

The story, written by George Megalogenis and Sophie Gosper, also says almost all the mothers who went back to work in this period took part-time jobs with fewer than 25 working hours a week.

You can read the full piece here but you need a subscription to The Australian to read it in full, so here are the key points:

  • The trend for mothers returning to work has accelerated in line with higher rates of female education and rising property prices.
  • This generation of women have jobs worth going back to and the typical mortgage requires two incomes to service.
  • In the mid 1980s, the majority of mothers in two-parent families waited until their youngest child was three before returning to work.
  • In the mid 1990s, the benchmark had fallen to two years.
  • About two-thirds of mothers with jobs are employed part-time while their children are in preschool.
  • By age three, though, more than half the working mothers are in full-time work. Sole parents are the exception to this pattern.
  • Most are still at home when the youngest child is aged 4-5.

Do these figures represent your family, and your choices?

If your family part of an Australian trend?

If you are new to Working Mums Australia and interested in more about part-time work, you may be interested in the personal stories of Juliet, Tamara and Kellie, who featured in our series on part time work a while ago.

They shared their stories, choices and influences to help us all work out a way to muddle through this challenging set of decisions  🙂

Local Council candidate ridiculed for asking about childcare support

Is childcare a right or a privilege?  What about for local councillors?

My friend Aisha Amjad is a candidate for her local council next weekend.  She’s a mum and activist, and I think she’ll be a great advocate for her community if she’s elected.

But this week in The Hill Shire Times, she and her other female candidates were  ridiculed by another councillor – a woman– for querying whether childcare was available for meetings.

You can read all about what happened here.

I asked Aisha to write for us about what happened.  Tell us what you think.

I’m a candidate for the Hills Shire Council (North Ward). Our ward is the only one consisting of all female candidates, two of whom (including me) have young kids under the age of five. A question was put to the Council, whether it would consider on-site childcare if any of the young mothers were to be elected.

The reaction, from a Liberal Councillor, Robyn Preston, who is a mother herself, was unbelievable. She scoffed at the suggestion but declared that “it’s the choice you make” and that the “cost of childcare by council would be better spent on footpaths.”

Yes, being a mother is the choice that I have made, and if it came down to money spent by Council on childcare or footpaths for my community, then I would obviously go for footpaths, but I wonder whether it is possible to do both, to ensure that mothers are encouraged to run for Council knowing that the support will be there if they are successful.

If I was elected, I may have to attend Council meetings for up to six hours. Yes, I would be sacrificing time with my son. Yes, it is the choice that I make, but only because I think I would be doing something important by making our community a better place to live.

If I was elected, I don’t need to rely on Council childcare, but it would be great to be able to count on them for support. So far, with all my busy campaigning, I have relied on the goodwill of my family to look after my son. I may not be a perfect mother, but I’m sure when he grows up he will understand that you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.

Yes I am trying to have it all, and often with heart-warming, sometimes heart-wrenching but also humorous results. Where I can, I try and take my son as child care can be expensive. However, I have also found it is hard to juggle being a mother and an MC at some events.

Last Saturday, I had to speak at a function with 600 guests. My son was close by, being looked after by his ‘digital nanny’ (the iPad). He casually strolled onto the stage, pulled my clothes and declared, “Mama I need to pee”.

Now that I can handle, but if I had to drag my son to a council meeting for six hours that would be unfair on him and even the iPad wouldn’t last that long!

Many other women, especially mothers, are trying to have and do it all, but sadly often it is other women which cut them down. The former U.S Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright was famous for saying: “I think there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

Now that is quite harsh, but I’m sure most women in the workforce have encountered women who have been more of a hindrance than a help.

I for one, am extremely excited, inspired and motivated whenever I meet a ‘succexcellent’ woman (that is, successful and excellent!). I think successful woman are great role models, not only for other women, but society in general.

I’d love to be elected to Council, because I think I could make the Hills Shire a better place to live and work. But if not me, then I’d at least love to see some mums get elected to Councils to help improve the footpaths, playgrounds and services for the benefit of all residents.

Aisha Amjad is an ex-lawyer but is currently studying for her Masters in International Law and International Relations. She has lived in the Hills Shire all her life and is a mum to her 5 year old son Miraan.

You can email her on aisha.amjad.govt@gmail.com or Aisha AK on Facebook (aisha.ak.16@facebook.com).

In New South Wales, it is compulsory to vote this Saturday, September 8. The fine for not voting is $55.

You can find out more about your local candidates and where you can vote here .

Social media for working mums

You probably have a Facebook account, and may have even set up a Twitter account at some stage, but between checking emails (work and home), paying bills, being a mum, exercising and cooking meals, it’s all become a bit much.  Apparently Pinterest is a thing now, and everyone at work seems to be on LinkedIn.

How are we supposed to cope?

I confess I have a little social media fatigue whenever a new medium starts to creep into conversation or the media.  I like Facebook because it’s a nice way of keeping up with important news from friends I don’t see that often and Twitter is a good way of keeping up with news, but I do find both my Twitter and Facebook feeds fill with clutter occasionally – I have been known to do a regular cull to stop too much appearing in my newsfeeds.

To help me ensure I get the really important things done (like turn up for work in matching shoes and cuddle my daughter in the morning), I tend to block out certain times for social media.  This changes a bit, but we recently went away for a weekend and I didn’t check my accounts at all, which I think really added to how refreshed I felt afterwards.  I also try not to check anything after 9pm or first thing in the morning.

If you’ve avoided setting up new accounts on something like Pinterest because you’re not sure which one works for you or whether it will take up too much time, Working Mother magazine now has an excellent guide, including information on how much time they take and what each social medium is best used for.  It also gives recommendations on how often you should check in on each one to get the best out of them – once a week for LinkedIn if you’re actively looking for a job, two or three times a day for Twitter.

It’s excellent, and you can check it out here.  I love the description of Pinterest as for competitive homemakers!

I use Hootsuite to collate my social media accounts which allows me to check my work, personal and blog accounts at the same time.  It functions slightly differently than the standard social media pages but it’s a great quick check in when I only have ten minutes to spare.   I also prefer the Ipad version to the web because I find the web version has been a bit slow and crashed a few times, but I’ve stuck with it on the Ipad for the evening check in in front of the TV without any problems.

Used properly, social media helps us get the information we need and want quickly and efficiently, keep in touch with friends and improve our home and work lives.  Used poorly, it can waste your time, leave you feeling overloaded with meaningless information and take time  away from more important things.

With an occasional review and edit of how you use social media, you can really enjoy any spare time you have 🙂

Kirsten

Working mums think dads get a raw deal

According to a survey of 365 working parents in the UK, almost two thirds of working mums think men are discriminated against with regard to flexible working arrangements.

According to a Workingmums.co.uk survey for International Women’s Day,  65% felt men were not given a fair hearing over flexible working.

The survey also found that;

  • 43% felt they did over 75% of the domestic chores and childcare.
  • Around 40% of working mums had taken a step back in their career since having children.
  • Only 29% had progressed in their career.
  • The rest had stayed at the same level

Women were concerned about the lack of flexible new jobs. A third felt trapped in the job they went on maternity leave from because they could not find a new job which gave them the work life balance they needed. A massive 89% had considered working for themselves to get a better work life balance, although 43% said they couldn’t afford to.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the union movement is currently conducting an independent inquiry into insecure work in Australia.

The inquiry website tells us that;

The last two decades in Australia has seen a dramatic decline in permanent work, and corresponding growth of insecure forms of employment, such as casual, contract work and labour hire.

The full extend and impact of this shift on workers, their families and the Australian community has never been formally investigated.

The inquiry will report its findings to the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress in 2012, along with recommendations on measures that can be taken to address any problems that are identified.

Do you think dads miss out due to inflexible working arrangements?

Has having children affected your career?

What would you like to see the inquiry recommend?

You can read submissions to the inquiry and see what others are suggesting here.

Great Australian based website Careermums has great information on how to have the ‘flexibility conversation’ with a new employer here.

More of us are working, but most still part time

The Herald Sun has reported today that nearly two-thirds of women aged between 20 and 74 are working, compared with 60.3 per cent a decade ago

An overwhelming number of women remain part time – 45.1 per cent of women, compared with 43.8 percent in 2002.

Only 15.8 per cent of men work part time.

While this research is always interesting, it’s disappointing to see the focus once again on women in ‘high flying, highly paid’ positions such as CEOs and Prime Ministers, when the research really seems to tell us that more of of us are working in small business and the retail sector.

In fact the retail sector provides the best chance of equal pay with women earning, with women earning 93.2 per cent of average male earnings.

So if you want to be paid the same as blokes, work in retail?  Perhaps.  Maybe it’s thet retail workers simply aren’t paid very much.

What do you think? Do you work part time?  Would you rather work more or fewer hours?

Me time

Did you see this story in the Sunday papers reporting that mums only get 40 minutes of “me time” a day?

Forty minutes a day – or 4.6 hours a week – sounds like a lot to me.

According to the paper, the pressure to do both jobs well, plus the growing number of extra-curricular activities children do, are stripping time from the busy mother’s schedule.

Sound familiar?

What the heck is “me time”?    Good question, and it’s probably one that most working mums ask.  It’s certainly not as though they have it in spades.

According to The Lipstick Economy, 90% of mums go online for me time.  This is a US figure, so it may not be relevant for Australian mums, but it makes sense to me.

I used the Internet for social contact a lot when I was on maternity leave.  At least, when I wasn’t breastfeeding, washing my daughter’s clothes, washing my clothes she’d thrown up on (reflux baby!) or trying to stop her crying.

I spent a lot of time doing all of those things, so checking Facebook and email was one way of keeping in touch when leaving the house was impossible.

These days me time doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer, although I am a notorious ‘two screener’.  I text or get out the laptop while watching TV. In fact, I’m doing that right now.

I define me time as going for a morning walk, seeing a friend for coffee or getting my nails done. But I don’t get four hours a week!

Time online is still important to me.  Some weeks I spend more time with Facebook friends than my real friends.

What do mums do online?   According to The Lipstick Economy, we engage with social media and spend money. Going online fills our need for social interaction, self-sufficiency and bargain hunting.  Apparently 36% of us are getting bored with what their friends had for dinner last night (yep, that’s me) and are looking for more fulfilling news and content.

Sixty-three percent of mums read articles posted by others, 35% share what they are reading, and 35% post content that others share.

What do you do for me time? How much do you get a day?

Victoria Beckham – not miserable, just a tired working mum

Most working mums probably don’t think they have much in common with Victoria Beckham, but over the weekend she was called upon to explain her fatigued appearance at Fashion Week

I’ve never really wanted to look like Victoria, but I do wish I looked like this when I was fatigued:

* With thanks to xposurephotos.com

As the Posh one herself explains:

I’m not going to lie about it, I’m tired. I’m really tired but I’m also very happy with my life.

In another interview she said:

“Being a working mum is hard – I think women can relate to me when I say it’s like juggling glass balls.

Sound familiar?

You can read more about what Posh is up to and why the latest Spice Girls reunion rumours are wrong at The Daily Mail

Some weeks need a health warning

By Friday, I’m usually exhausted.  This week, I may have set a new record.  Things that have made me tired this week include:

Miss Nearly Three learning new ways to ‘push the boundaries’.  

Yes, I realise this is developmental.  I get that she’s learning how to be a person. I *know* that three year olds can be even worse than two year olds and four year olds are a Whole Other Story.  I understand she’s testing me and it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it.

But, please, can her latest methods *not* involve unspeakable acts with poo??

Mums will know the kind of thing I’m talking about. Those who are not will already think I’ve overshared.

Being a single mum for three nights.                                                         I have several single mum friends and they are all awesome.  After three nights without my husband to tell me that it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it and “Woah, exactly how much medicinal chocolate do you really *need* there??”, I conclude my single mum friends are even more awesome than I had originally thought.

Worrying about other people
I visited a friend in a cardio ward yesterday.  She’s the kind of friend who came to my house when I was having a single mum week with a tiny baby, cooked me roast beef, did the dishes and left really early so I could get a good night’s sleep.  Yesterday, I turned up with grapes. It didn’t really feel like enough.
Another friend lost his mum this week, and I’m off to the funeral this afternoon. Hugs are all I can think of.
Work is crazy
I realised this morning than when all my headspace is used up thinking of new strategies to overcome the latest it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it period, I forget all of the work stuff I need to do.  And comes back at 4am.*
The list gets intimidatingly long, and I start making lists of “If I don’t get these three things done the world will end, and everything else can wait til next week.”  At 4am.
Things that will help this weekend include:
1. Reading Mrs Woog.  She always makes me laugh and sometimes makes me cry.
2. Some sunshine and exercise – scheduled for tomorrow morning.
3. A nice bedtime story at 7:30 which will help me forget certain unspeakable acts and remember how great being a mum can be.
4. A glass of wine, scheduled for 7:45pm.
Have a great weekend!
Kirsten
*This post drafted at 4am as a work avoidance technique!

If you’re working, and a mum, where can exercise fit in?

My friend Julie Delvecchio had a New Year’s resolution to start exercising.  She works in a demanding job where her mobile rings at odd hours, and her toddler son is not always understanding.  I asked her how she managed to make it work, and whether she had any tips to share.  Here’s what she said, in our first guest post.

Everyone’s heard the saying “fake it until you make it”. When it comes to exercise, nothing could be truer.

I am bad at exercise. It hurts. I hate sweating. I look bad in shorts.

But on the past few mornings, robot-like, I am getting myself out of bed to exercise.

I won’t lie to you: when the alarm goes off, it is so dark and I am so tired I honestly wonder what I am thinking. I need more sleep and lots of it.

So how do I do it? I don’t know, I just do it. I don’t think about. No excuses. And I just keep on doing it until I can’t not do it.

I also pack everything by the door the night before, everything I need to make things run smoothly in the morning. I really mean everything – shoes and socks by the door, change of clothes.

I try for daily on weekdays and if I get there, that’s a bonus. I never do, but that’s the goal. Weekends aren’t possible, too much to organise, negotiate and I figure I can’t ask hubby to take on more given I can’t really take on more myself.

While I am faking it for now – ie hating it, wishing I was asleep, I know somehow I’m creating a habit.

What works for me is;

1.      Focus on the mornings

I do some lunchtime-exercise sessions on work days but mornings are better. This works for me because the streets are deserted. I feel like I have a little part of my neighbourhood in the palm of my hand. That I am the only one enjoying it, like a dirty little secret. Also, as a constant multitasker, I can catch up on news while riding on a stationary bike.

The mornings also mean I have backup if my plans fall apart –  lunch, or if that fails, after work. I also get this weird fresh feeling – like I’m starting the day having done something good. For myself, not for the million of other people demanding attention

Cancelling, well, in the morning I don’t give myself any excuse. Bad sleep? Yep, that’s just about every night. If I didn’t go on that account, I would never exercise. Anyways, it helps give me energy.

After wearing a t shirt I bought in 1998 that was so worn out, you could almost see through to the underwear, I lashed out on some lovely gym gear. It helps. Sure I may be the most puffed-out person but my goodness I look “for real” in my gear, very convincing! I try to buy myself a treat, ie gear  as a thank you to myself every 4 or 5 months. Doesn’t have to be expensive but keeps me locked in.

2.      Making a financial commitment

The gym works for me because I can spend about $26  week at a major fitness chain without a contract and with outlets everywhere so I can go from home, first thing or at lunchtime in the cbd. Everyone’s different but for me, some financial commitment means I’m less likely to squib it.

3.      Reducing the impact on family time

Mornings work best for me, mostly because my family DOESN’T really know I’m not there. The least amount of impact means valuable time NOT negotiating with husband on when I’m going and what extra stuff he needs to do or what I will owe him in return. We are both busy so I get that.

Also, I try to go when a family member stays over so if there is extra care needed ie if little guy wakes up, hubby doesn’t have to do more, but mum does. And she is much, much easier to negotiate with. I sneak out, leave the monitor by her bed and close the door, very, very , very (did I say very?) quietly. even if he wakes up, and he does, I JUST GO. And yes, I do pretend not to hear, evil, isn’t it?

Can you find time for exercise?  What works for you?