Category Archives: working mums

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  🙂

Dad and partner pay – will your family benefit?

Today the Australian Government announced applications are now open for Dad and Partner Pay.

Never heard of it?  Well, it’s an extension of the Paid Parental Leave scheme and means government support for dads and partners to get two weeks paid leave at the rate of the national minimum wage (currently about $606 per week before tax), if you have a baby or adopt after 1 January, 2013.

You could be eligible if you work full-time, part-time, casually, seasonally, on contract, or if you’re self-employed.

Here’s the fine print. You may be eligible if:

  • You are the biological dad, adopting parent or partner of the birth mother or adopting parent and;
  • You are an Australian resident who has worked for at least 10 of the 13 months before the date your Dad and Partner Pay period starts, and;
  • Your individual adjusted taxable income is $150 000 or less in the financial year either before the date of your claim.

Dads can be eligible for Dad and Partner Pay even if their partner is not receiving Paid Parental Leave and you can read all of the details here.

The Australian Government hopes this will support families in the first year of a chld’s life, and encourage more dads to take time off to spend with their kids.  Excellent stuff.

They say that the move is a particularly big win for self-employed people, contractors, casual workers and others who generally don’t have paternity leave entitlements from their employer.

You’re still likely to be better off with your employer’s parental leave scheme, if you’re lucky enough to be work for someone that has one.  But for everyone else, this is a good start.

I wonder how many dads will take it?  I suspect lots of dads would prefer to spend more time with their kids when they’re first born, but feel lots of pressure to continue providing for the family, especially when mum is recovering from childbirth. Hopefully this will make it a bit easier.

If you’re  already registered with the Department of  Human Services for online services, you can logon and apply from there, or you can register here.   You can apply in person at Centrelink or Medicare offices or call 136 150.

Kirsten

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

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