Category Archives: Work life balance

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

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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?

Childcare benefit – creating a society ‘dependent’ on handouts. Apparently.

Today in the Financial Review, Liberal MP Jamie Briggs has claimed that childcare support from the government creates a cycle of dependency.

Is he kidding? Let’s hope so.

The article isn’t online so I can’t provide a link but here are some choice quotes.

What comes with these big spending Labor Governments is a society that is more and more dependent on government handouts. Take, for example, childcare.

This cycle of dependency is reinforced by policies that make it harder and harder to get off the government teat.

Mr Briggs goes on to express concern about the changes the government is making to childcare and the potential increase in costs as a result of improvements in staff qualifications and staff to child ratios.

Strangely, the thing that irks me most is that he refers to quality childcare in inverted commas.

“Quality” child care

Umm, it’s not a joke, or a made up thing. It’s something most mums (and dads) want for their kids.

I can think of a few other areas of govenrment expenditure that might also create dependency.  Like a certain politician’s salary? It’s all about which government spending is worth it. Mmm

 Childcare support helps mums get back into the workforce – contributing to family income and rebuilding their careers.  Quality childcare (not “quality” childcare) helps kids learn and play well while their mums (and/or dads) are at work.

There are mixed views about the government’s changes to childcare. I’ve penned a view of mine below. Share your views here.   Or you can let Jamie know on Twitter (@BriggsJamie)

UPDATE 5pm: The full article still isn’t available on the newspaper’s website but it is on Mr Briggs’ webpage at jamiebriggs.com.au

Five things all working mums need to know about changes to childcare

Last week when dropping Miss Nearly 3 at childcare, I spotted a mysterious sealed envelope marked “For Families” next to the sign in sheet. I looked around furtively and slipped it into my handbag, secretly hoping it was cash.

No, it was a letter from the government. After reading it, I was none the wiser as to what it was about. But after reading the leaflets and a bit of help from Google, it turns it was about money – money the government could be giving me – or indeed, you. So, if you never saw the envelope or received it, but had no idea what it was about, here are the key points.

1. Lots of Australian families aren’t claiming enough child care benefit because they don’t know about it or don’t realize their family could qualify. Child care benefit can be paid for families with incomes up to $161,581 in some cases!

2. Long Day care, family day care and outside school hours care and occasional care all qualify but any informal care (grandparents, nannies or babysitters) doesn’t.

3. Child care tax rebate is different from the child care benefit and is not income tested. (Yep, you read that correctly – NOT INCOME TESTED). You have to be working, studying or training to qualify but you can get up to $7500 per child per year.

4. You can claim these benefits up to two years in arrears. Talk to your child’s centre about getting those old receipts now!

5. You can get most of these benefits fortnightly, quarterly or annually direct into your bank account.

Important note. None of these changes mean your child will come home any less overtired. They will still smell as though they’ve been with other small children all day. I call it Eau de Day Care.

The Government also investing more money in childcare. This will mean things like:

• A better staff to child ratio

• Childcare workers will be better qualified

• An increase in fees in most centres

There are different views about these changes in the media. Some outlets have reported that costs would soar while others argue that the changes are worth paying for.

My fees haven’t gone up yet, but that could be because the standards were introduced earlier in NSW and we may have already absorbed them.

These are important issues. I wish the letter had said some of these things. Talk to your local centre and find out how it will affect you. Mine is a bit worried about losing some good staff but none of them have left yet.

Did you know about these changes? What do you think? More information about the child care rebate and child care rebate is available your local Family Assistance Office (they are located in Medicare offices) or by calling them on 13 61 50.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s lessons for working mums – no thanks

I have a love/hate relationship with Gwyneth.  I love most of her movies, but her lack of self awareness, or the world most of us live in, is quite odd.

Last week in an interview with Harpers Bazaar, Gynweth  said what made her marriage work  was being at home when her husband returned home from work.

What??  Nothing like a bit more pressure and guilt from a high profile and wealthy mum to make the rest of us feel bad.

I don’t really care about what works for Gwyneth because her life is so unlike mine  –  although I am interested in how some of the amazing mums I know manage to hold it all together despite challenges like commuting, managing finances and imperfect child care arrangements.

Fortunately Michelle Beckett at the Huffington Post UK has managed to sum up my concerns about this.  She writes:

I’d love to stay at home in the day with my three daughters, baking organic recipes from your twee lifestyle website and getting my nose hairs detoxed with sea purslane or whatever.

Waiting sweetly in a pretty dress for my husband (if I had one) to return from work, so I can rub his shoulders and fetch him his pipe and slippers as his organic butternut squash and quinoa supper cooks….

Let me tell you about MY life. I know enough about your perfect one, thanks…

I’m a single self-employed full time working mum of three girls aged 15, 11 and nearly three. I won’t moan, I consider myself very privileged. I juggle my successful business with organising myself, the girls, the logistics of two ex husbands, the housework, the cooking, the… holy crap, please no one drop in and notice my kitchen floor…

My life is a whirl of missing school letters, frantic washing of school tights at 11pm when we’ve run out, trying not to shout at kids for missing homework left to the last minute, painting walls, potty training, nursery pick ups…

Mixed with… (deep breath) preparation of PowerPoints and booking trains so I can go speak on stage to business audiences, as I try to look immaculate, professional and as if I have it all together behind the scenes, perfectly, like Gwyneth does.

Check out the full version of Michelle’s piece here.

What do you think of Gwyneth?  Am I being unfair in resenting her lessons to working mums?  Or is she simply answering questions about her life and if any of us feel guilty is it our problem?

The Smartie Sandwich – evil or genius?

Is this what I will put in Miss Nearly Three's lunchbox? Probably not

The Daily Telegraph has reported today that there are calls for an overhaul of school lunchboxes in the UK because one kid went to school with a smartie sandwich.

Clearly this is not ideal.  Except maybe for the child involved.  However, I am pretty sure that Miss Nearly Three isn’t ever going to get the ‘herb crusted chicken wraps’ I see as healthy lunchbox ideas advertised in women’s magazines.

Here’s what I think could be done to make it easier for mums to provide healthier lunches. 

1. Stop judging parents who go with the quickest option that their kid is happy to eat. 

2. Provide flexible working hours so mums who have to commute and start at 9am every day aren’t under so much pressure to find quick and easy options.

3. Teach kids to make their own damned lunches as soon as possible.  I’m working on Miss Nearly Three.  Without success I might add.  Although she rather enjoys licking the margarine from her (plastic) knife and sticking it back in the tub.   Delightful.

As an aside,  I’m pretty sure there are dads out there who make school lunches.  My dad used to make mine a long time ago.  Is there a secret movement of dads making school lunches across the land?  I hope so.