Category Archives: working mums

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

Medicare to abolish cash payments. Should we be concerned?

Medicare is about to abolish cash payments from next month.

Don’t panic.  This doesn’t mean payments won’t be immediate because refunds will be paid via credit EFTPOS – where a customer swipes their debit card and allows the funds to be transferred immediately.

I was in at our local Medicare office yesterday (collecting my form to receive Childcare Tax Rebate, more on why we should all do that here) and the staff there seemed to think the changes would make little difference to most people.

However, the changes also mean that each person listed on a Medicare card and over the age of 14 needs to sign a form giving consent for payments to go directly into the account of a parent.

This won’t affect me, as we have a few years to go before we  have a 14 year old in our family. (Thank goodness!)   I did wonder whether it would be difficult for some families, and there has been some concern about it in the media, which you can read about here.

Personally,  I love having the money go direct into my account, as I tend to collect a few receipts and process them all at once.  We’ve had lots of health complications in the last couple of years so lots of costs have made this more efficient for us.  I find the money is always there the next day which makes it pretty good in my view, and one of the most accessible government services I use.

But I appreciate that some families can’t afford to do that and need their claims processed asap.  Should we be concerned about this?  Or is direct into your account just as good as cash?

Kirsten

Do women want it all, or do they just want better child care?

Many of you may have seen Anne-Maree Slaughter’s piece in July edition of The Atlantic magazine about women trying to have it all, and the subsequent internet debate about it.

If you haven’t, you can read it here.  You can also read pieces responding to it, here, here and here. It caused a bit of a fuss, largely because it allowed lots of journalists to get excited about whether feminism had got something wrong.

Most of this debate misses the point entirely.  Many women in Australia grow up thinking we can have it all, and then the reality of having children and raising a family hits us.  For some, it is the first time they experience any sort of discrimination, or realise the world isn’t fair.  In Anne-Marie’s Slaughter’s case, she realised it was impossible to commute across the country and still see her children.  I’m not sure what she expected or why that was news to her, but we’re all learning I suppose.

In my experience, many women are perfectly fine with taking a backwards step in their career to spend more time with their children, especially while they’re young.  We know that this means less superannuation, a slower career path to seniority and less involvement in major work decisons that might happen when we’re not there.  It’s frustrating, and when we know we’re capable of doing our bosses job it can drive us crazy, but we can cope.

The problem arises when we are willing to work, and know our kids will be fine if we worked at all/more days/different days, and we can’t find the childcare or the employer who will help us manage these responsibilities.

To that end, I am pleased to see that Childcare Minister Kate Ellis put removing restrictions on childcare centres being open after 6pm onto the agenda.  For many families, this would reduce our burden considerably.  As would more reliable public transport.

Another option could be to allow some centres to open on Saturday in areas where there is local demand among miners and shift workers.  No-one wants to have children in 24 hour care, and so this would need to be regulated, but having some help available for families at odd hours would surely help the many shift workers we have in our economy, as well as those of us (like me) who battle Sydney traffic in the evening to avoid a fine by getting there after 6pm.

Would more flexible child care make a difference to you? What else do you need for your version of ‘having it all’?

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

This working mum co-sleeps. Do you agree?

You may have seen this piece last weekend on why the Victorian Coroner has recommended against parents co-sleeping with their children.  Yet millions of mums continue to do so.  Why?  Today, working mum Angela Humphries shares her story…

To us, co-sleeping is a natural choice. We just did what seemed right, and it is an easy solution for time-poor parents. Our three year old daughter has slept with us since she was born, in the early days on a built up pillow next to us and thesedays she has her own pillow and a well-worn groove in the mattress.

I adore sleeping with my child. She is physically next to me, hand in hand or she snoozes in the crook of my arm. Often in the middle of the night, I open my eyes to stare at her perfect chin or feel her warm breath on my face. Of course there are issues; which we can easily resolve with a warm hug, a reassuring pat on the back or some soothing words. Sometimes these are even for our daughter when she wakes mid sleep. We don’t have tear infested nightly rituals with her, it seems to be a treat for her to go to the ‘big bed’ and one that she enjoys so much that bedtime is a special time for her. Not a drama every night with cold threats or as one friend refers to as ‘her daily worst nightmare time’… really… maybe try changing something around? Who wants to cry and feel fearful every 24 hours? Isn’t life too short to have your bubba being upset as their final memory at the end of a long day?

It is also a simple maths equation. We are given our precious children for such a short time. I doubt she will still want to co-sleep with us when she is 14. So I want to use every minute we have, and to choose to separate from her for up to twelve hours every single day seems absurd. That’s 300 hours a month! Over 3500 hours per year! I want that time. I demand it. I will never get it back with her. It is the ultimate in multi-tasking for busy families, I am gaining over 141 extra days with her per year! All while sleeping. No activities, no pressure – just time for us to be together in comfort and doing something that needs to happen anyway. Bonus.

I don’t think I need to justify my parenting decisions, but if you complain to me about the lack of time you have with your child try using the ten hours when you lock them away from you in their cell…..every night.

Angela Humphries is a mum to Sydney, aged three.  You can follow her on Twitter here.

Is your child care costing you more than it should?

Apologies for the hiatus, but our day care arrangements are changing and our house is in a state of chaos.

However, we break from this personal hiatus to share some important information all working mums need to know, and potentially do something about, before the 30th of June.  Yep, that’s in a few days ladies.

DID YOU KNOW ALL MUMS WHO WORK OR STUDY MORE THAN 15 HOURS A WEEK ARE ELIGIBLE FOR CHILD CARE SUPPORT?

Not just those who earn below a certain level of income.

Not just those who receive Family Tax Benefit.

All of us.

If this is new information to you, and you had kids in care in between July 2009 and June 2010, you have only a few days to get your forms into the Family Assistance Office because you can get the money retrospectively, but only for two years.

If your children started care more recently and you’re not claiming the rebate, you have a bit longer to get everything in order, but it’s still a good time to get your finances in order and claim all you can.

Here are the facts you need to know.

  • The Child Care Tax Rebate is not means tested. You have to be working, studying or training to qualify but you can get up to $7500 per child per year regardless of your income.  Verification of this from a government website is here.
  • The other form of support, the Child Care Benefit is designed as what the government calls an ‘equity measure’, in that it is designed to help people who need the financial help most.  This one is only available to families on incomes up to around $160,000.  You can read more about this one here.
  • For both forms of care, 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.
  • You can get the form for both forms of support from the Family Assistance Office (located in Medicare offices).

There is an online process, but you need to know things like your CRN number.   If you don’t know what a CRN is, or whether you have one, I’d suggest an in-person visit.  Personally I found the website incredibly clunky and unfriendly, and I like my local Medicare ladies, so I gave up and went into the office where all of my questions could be answered and my form received with confidence.

They even gave me a little receipt that is pasted on our fridge until they process my form.

The form itself is pretty straightforward and took about 15 minutes to fill out.  You need to know things like your Medicare numbe, bank account details and passport details if any of you have travelled overseas lately.

Working mums work really hard, and many of us are also responsible for managing the household finances and general administration as well as our paid job and the mum job, but the benefit of adding this one to your To Do list is that it has the potential to make you money.  And hopefully make paying that heating bill just a little bit easier 🙂

Kirsten

Join Working Mums Australia’s campaign to increase the minimum wage

Today Australian unions have launched a campaign to increase the minimum wage.

The ACTU, the peak body of unions, is  today lodging a submission to the umpire in these matters, Fair Work Australia, asking it to provide a $26 a week pay rise for Australia’s lowest paid workers in 2012.

The submission argues that our lowest paid workers, many of whom are women, have fallen well behind average income earners over the past decade.

They want the minimum wage to be $615.30 per week.  It’s currently just $589.30 per week.  The current median rent in Kogarah, an average suburb in Sydney’s south, is currently $240, which doesn’t leave a lot left for groceries, transport and clothing in any family.

Head of the ACTU, Jeff Lawrence, said in a statement;

Minimum wage workers are the backbone of the economy. They are the people who clean our schools and shopping centres, serve us in hotels, who take care of our elderly and our children. These are people we cannot live without, yet their value is not reflected in their pay packets. We must ensure they are not forgotten.

An awful lot of them are also working mums.

How do we know this?

We know that those people who are ‘award reliant’ (that is they are paid only what their employer is legally obliged and not a penny more) are mostly women, part-time or casual and in non-managerial positions.

We know these workers don’t have much bargaining power with their employer, so this is the only pay rise they are likely to receive.

Even if you’re not directly affected or ‘award reliant’, increasing the minimum wage is a good move because it means that those families are more likely to spend their any income on food, housing and clothing, keeping the economy going for us all.

Do you support the campaign?  

Please share this post, comment below or share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Tell us why you support the campaign and how it will help you, your family or people you know.

More information on the campaign is available from here.

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?