Category Archives: Work

44% of mums want to work 3 days a week – poll results

Today we publish the results of our poll on part time work, with the news that 44% of mums believe three days a week is the perfect number of days to work as a mum.

Many of you said that three days provided the right balance between your work and family commitments.  We wrote when we launched the poll that we believed there was no perfect number and for most families, it depends on such a complex set of circumstances, not all within their control.  Our needs change from time to time as well.

There were no votes for extremes.  No one voted for one day a week as the perfect option but only 3% of you voted for five days a week as your ideal.

Our guest posts on part time work from Juliet, Tamara and Kellie inspired you all, with feedback that it was helpful to know how others mums went about making their decisions and how they negotiated arrangements with employers, families, carers and children along the way.

So how many of you aren’t working your ideal number?

Kirsten

How are the Olympics going to make life easier for working mums?

Did you see the news that there has been a 50% increase in the number of people working flexibly and an increase of 30% in those who are working from home during the Olympics to avoid travel issues?

According to the research, millions of workers will work from home for the first time this month.

Apparently, eight in ten employees say they will work flexibly at some points during the festivities, varying their hours to travel later or earlier than usual.  Four million people will work from home at some stage over the Olympics and a similar number will work flexibly on specific days during that time – with around 1.5 million working from home on any given day.

It is estimated that one in eight companies across London is encouraging or has arranged working from home or flexible working practices for its employees.

As one of the researchers says;

This week we’ve truly become a nation of mobile workers. For huge numbers of people, where they work doesn’t matter if they are productive – and employers have embraced that philosophy. The technology now means that people can be in touch with the office, each other and their clients whenever and wherever they’re located. That trend has really come into its own during the past couple of days and it will last for the next couple of weeks – as the traffic shifts from the transport network to the country’s mobile and broadband networks.

I have just one question.

If Londoners can do this to ensure business runs smoothly during the Olympics, why can’t we all do it to ensure all workers can balance their family responsibilities all of the time?

Here’s hoping business and government’s realise that flexible work is indeed possible and that productivity gets even better when you allow people to work in a way that helps them meet their other responsibilities! There’s no need for this trend to last just the ‘couple of weeks’ that the researchers have predicted.

Kirsten

Stop press. Kids in child care are just fine. Good news for working mums

New research has today confirmed what most working mums already knew – that kids in childcare are just fine.

The research, reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, confirms that childcare use in the first year of life has no discernible bad effects.

The research is Australian based and tracked children through to eight or nine.  It found that among two and three year olds in childcare centres, there were no differences in behaviour or adjustment between those who started as babies  and those we started later.  The researchers looked at the evaluations of teachers as well as parents, so isn’t based on parents justifying their own choices.

Making decisions about when to go back to work and what’s best for your own kids is hard, and finding the right centre and feeling comfortable about your choices is even harder.

There’s no way of  getting rid of that nagging feeling that your own choices may not be the right one forever, but you can now know there is conclusive evidence that if you decide to return to work a little earlier than you planned – your kids will be ok.

Feel better?  We hope so.

More information on the study is available here

More on what we’ve had to say about the importance of quality childcare is here.

Earn less than $80,000? Did you know about your pay rise?

Do you earn less than $80,000? Congratulations. You’re about to get a pay rise.

There’s been a lot of debate about the carbon tax, but did you know that under the changes to the tax system, anyone earning less than $80,000 is going to get a tax cut?

Sweet.

Under the changes, the tax-free threshold increases from $6,000 to $18,200.

So if you earn less than $18,200 per year you do not need to pay income tax and probably won’t have to lodge a tax return.

If you earn more then $18,200 per year you will only pay income tax on earnings over $18,200.

There are new rates of tax for anyone earning up to $80,000. If you have a taxable income below $80,000, you will receive a tax cut (around $300 a year).

You can get info about how much tax you will pay under the new system here.

** Important note. See your accountant or payroll officer to check your eligibility before heading off to the toy sales with your newfound cash!

Guilt, motherhood and a return to work. Guest post from Leilah Nelson

The word motherhood, for a great many mothers with infant children, is synonymous with the word guilt. Two weeks ago I returned to work part time following the birth of my second child. I’m no stranger to returning to the work environment as this was, after all, my third return to work in the space of nine years with my employer.

I felt no more prepared than the last stint two years before that.  My first return to work had followed a year’s leave without pay to travel the globe. I remember it was difficult to return to the drudgery of the nine-to-five grind but my Mediterranean tan and Spanish moccasins were a reminder of the possibility of further travel!

So returning to work was a means to an end.  Little did I anticipate that subsequent leave would still be unpaid and the return to work infinitely much more painful.

In anticipating returning to work for the third time, I weaned my eleven month old baby and instigated the process of settling him into childcare. His cries of distress could be heard from as far as the childcare car park. The feeling of guilt at leaving him in the care of people that I did not know was so overpowering, at times it left me immobile, paralysed and unable to process what actions I had to take to get on with the day.  Sometimes it was hard to tell if it was his cries that echoed through the grey pillars of the underground car park, or mine. His runny nose and tear-stained wet cheeks when I picked him up at the end of a day is gut- wrenching.

Guilt is also manifesting itself in my work. It is no longer possible to put in the long hours I once did, and as such the quality of my work is in direct correlation to the hours of sleep I get the night before. My enthusiasm has diminished as I realise that there is very little career advancement for those working part-time. Not to mention that maternity leave is still viewed by some employers as a career dead end, and is met with varying degrees of intolerance when providing reduced or flexible working conditions for mothers.

The freedom to make myself a cup of hot tea, gossip around the water cooler and to take numerous toilet breaks is far out weighed by the pressure of the morning routine which often takes three hours before I even arrive at work. I’ve barely cleared my inbox and it time to rush back to do the afternoon pick up and cook dinner.  I work twice as hard to achieve half as much. Lack of sleep and energy means less work efficiency and accuracy which equals, you guessed it, guilt!

Returning to work has resulted in greater number of takeout meals for the family. The guilt of not providing healthy meals for the kids has led me to spend more time in food planning and preparation, namely the loss of my Sundays to cooking a few extra dishes for the week. Guilt equals loss of free time.

Last Sunday while in the kitchen my three year old said to me, “Put on your happy face Mummy”. Maybe she should have said, “go to your happy place mummy”. Then the thought crosses my mind that I have failed to give her quality time and to be the positive role model she needs. Guilt equals less free time which equals more home cooked meals which equals less quality time which equals MORE GUILT! It’s a vicious cycle.

My marital relationship is another source of guilt. While it is widely accepted that post-children, most couple’s sexual lives take a battering, loss of sleep, lack of time, loss of libido and stress/tension all play a role. It’s the dent in our emotional relationship that has me feeling guilty. What I perceive as an over burden workload has lead me to be less kind and generous, less affectionate, and less willing to communicate in a caring and respectful manner.  A recent study found that martial longevity was not related to sexual equality but rather to altruistic acts and genuine generosity couples show each other. Interestingly, Society has had to rephrase the “seven-year itch” to the “three-year-itch” as couples don’t seem to be making the seven year milestone. Great! Lack of attentiveness equals increased chance of divorce equals GUILT!

It leads me to ask the question does guilt equal failure? My parents, both teachers, believed in encouraging their girls to obtain an education, become professionals and never stop challenging female stereotypes.  My sister is an accomplished architect and I am a psychologist.  We have travelled, achieved professional milestones in print or publication and somehow found time to fall in love.  We have both married and in my case produced beautiful offspring.  Yet, all in all we are not so different from our mother.

She migrated from India at the age of 30, got a full time job while looking after two children under the age of five with no support such as mothers group, and maintained a household. She worked, cooked and cleaned. How is it that not much has changed in 30 years? Did all that my parents encouraged me to achieve still bring me back to the same point in history- primary carer, part-time worker, full time cook, un-paid cleaner, lover, friend and daughter?

Statistics show that women still perform a majority of the household chores, maintain the family calendar of social events and ensure that basic needs of the family (from buying shoes to making paper mashie school projects) are met. So much for beating the stereotypes!

I question, why we are so afraid to fail? While on maternity leave, I read a lot of articles about motherhood written by women. Simply put, I needed affirmation. Guilt and motherhood, as it turns out, is universal. The stress of organising Dora the Explorer parties, attending weekend work conferences on the same day as your child’s first little league game, loss of libido, lack of adult time and the list goes on, is broadly felt by mothers at one time or another.

One article stood out from the others and believe it or not it was written by a male. He hypothesised that women are more stressed than men because we strive to do everything, and to do it all perfectly. He stated that a man would prioritise his day and would feel accomplished if he completed only one task well on that list.  A woman however would take that list, attempt to complete several tasks well and then feel like a failure if she only finished two or three. His suggestion for reducing stress in women was to learn how to prioritise only one thing and to do that well or to do several tasks meeting only the minimum requirement to complete the task.

My biggest fear is failing as a parent. I asked my father what makes a good parent? “Time”, he replied. Following my look of surprise he explained that the longer we spend with our children and, as time goes by, they grow and learn, and therefore we grow and learn as parents.

Mistakes happen in the beginning because no one gives you a handbook, but the more time you spend being a parent the better you become at it. His theory goes a long way to explaining the amazing relationship most children have with their grandparents.

So, other than therapy, where to from here? Giving up my job is not a possibility and nor should it be. Motherhood is a juggling act, and while I realise not all of those balls have to be juggled by me, it seems that it is I who put them there in the first place. My resolution is to delegate and then let go. My aim is to pass some of the balls and the control to others and then to be more responsible for myself. It might result in a less perfect, less accomplished me, but, it should equal a happier and more content me. Guilt-free might be pushing it!

A final lesson learnt is that while I will encourage my daughter to believe she can do everything, I will ensure she understands she has the choice not to, and there is no guilt in that.

 

Poll on part time work – closing soon

Lots of mums have already voted, but this poll will close soon so please have your say.

Tell us what you need in terms of part time work and results will be published next week.  For the new readers of Working Mums Australia, welcome!

You may also enjoy the series on part time work where mums shared their experiences and preferences.  Links below.

Have a great weekend!

Kirsten

Part time work. Kellie’s story

Kellie is a teacher and mum to Kiara, nearly seven and Tia, four.  Today she’s continuing our series on part time work.

About 3 months after having Kiara, I returned to work as a teacher half time where I worked I worked 3 days one week and 2 the next. I felt out of the loop at work on two days week so increased to three days after about  a term.

I then changed schools so went back to full time- and was pregnant again by the end of that year. When Tia was born, I opted for three days a week again, having Mondays and Fridays off.

When I changed schools when Tia was two, I was asked to work four days a week and I was not ‘allowed’ to reduce my fraction of time until 1/2 way through Term 1. I worked four days a week for the next 25 school weeks. And have been working full time since.

Unfortunately my current school principal has grown children interstate and eats, sleeps, drinks, and breathes work and just doesn’t understand the way other principals I have worked with seemed to. I also get dinner time and late night or early morning calls about work. Aargh!!

My employer definitely got ‘free work out of me’ when I was being paid to work four days a week. I would take my Friday load home with me, only to return to post it notes all over my office door, computer, chair, pigeon hole and what seemed like everyone wanting to “just catch up with me for a minute”!! That usually turned out to be a minimum of 7 minutes.

My pay decreased but my load was the same. I was doing my full time job with less pay- which was partly when I made the decision to return to full-time.

In the past I changed my work time and patterns according to how I felt I was going! I think teaching is a perfect career for part-time work, especially when you can share a class with another mum. They understand and don’t mind swapping days when appointments have to be made on work days. It’s truly sharing the load. 🙂

I loved working three days a week. I loved the fact I could be a mum and a professional.

I could do my work at work, my mum and home stuff on my days off and weekends were time for all of us without the thought and stress of washing, ironing, cleaning etc.

Tia particularly loved my days off last year. She said only today, “We don’t have Fridays together anymore do we mum, cos you have to go to work now.”  She shook her head “All cos of those naughty kids!”

I often spent my Friday afternoon helping out in Kiara’s classroom. She loved that.

I am sure they will never thank me for going to work, earning money and buying them ‘things’. They have and still do, thank me for the time and things we do together. That is worth way more to me than any pay I have ever received. ❤

Luckily for us mum and dad live close by and are happy to help out with caring for our girls. This enabled me to return to work, knowing my babies were being loved and looked after.. I knew they would be cuddled if they were sad, upset, hurt, sick or just because any of them wanted to.  Now Mum and Dad drop Kiara at school and Tia at kindy. And I know the same 🙂

My day off last year did fit with Mum and Dad having a day to themselves, which they spent it volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

I understand why those that have family looking after their kids say they are not they would have gone back if I had to put my kids into childcare centre.  This is true for me but I didn’t have to think differently, so I’ll never know!

I have friends who say the same about leaving their kids with family rather than childcare!!

It’s never perfect. I beat myself up mentally for EVERY thing I think I miss- assembly, concert, sports day excursions… Or when they are sick and I can’t stay home. I do the same when Tia is having a ‘mum I just want you day’.

When work creates the pressure, I just  get to the work things when I can, prioritize! I am very organised at work, and work hard.  I leave home at 7:15am, drop the girls at mum and dad’s place, then drive 45 minutes to work. Sometimes when I get there ‘people’ want to give me a hard time about arriving at 8:30am, which is when I am officially supposed to start. I get the same sort of reaction if I leave at any time between 4:30 and 5:00pm – which is not very often! The Department of Education says we can leave from 4pm onwards except staff meeting night which is 5pm, so this is pretty unreasonable.

Three days a week with Monday and Friday off was ideal.  I loved the fact I could be a mum and a professional…. My perfect solution!

Do you think employers get lots of ‘free work’ from mums who work part time?

Have you voted in our poll on part time work yet?