Top 3 Most Googled Questions From Working Mums in 2012, and the answers!

One of the best features of a WordPress blog is that it has an excellent feature to help you work out how people found you.

google

I love going through the list of search terms regularly and I often wonder if some of these readers found what they came for.  Some of it is a bit odd, (like ’50 shades of grey bogan version’), others make a lot of sense (‘how do I get family tax benefit’) while other search terms are a bit of a worry (‘road rage outside daycare centre’).

Today, we’re working through the list and answering some the questions readers most often ‘googled’ to find us.

We don’t pretend to have all the answers, (does any mum?) so feel free to correct and clarify.   But in the interests of sharing any working mum knowledge there is, here’s our answers to the Top 3 Most Googled Questions from Working Mums in 2012.

1. Can I claim school uniforms on my taxes?

This is officially our Most Googled Question.  The question probably comes from the Education Tax Refund which made school uniforms a legitimate tax deduction for a couple of years there, but it has now been replaced by the SchoolKids Bonus, which is a similar payment to the same families who were previously eligible but with with a bit less paperwork.  Find out moreabout who is eligible and how to get it here.

2. How to be a good working mum?

First, you already are. It makes me sad that so many of us wonder about this – so much that we’re googling the damn question!  If you love your kids, and want to do a good job, you are being a good mum,  so our first suggestion is to relax, and give yourself a little credit.

More practically we’d also suggest the most important thing is to build yourself in wriggle room.  Organise your days, hours, childcare and transport as though things are going to go wrong sometimes. Kids will get sick, work will be unreasonable and the trains won’t always ever run on time.

If you use up all of the time your parents are able help out on a weekly basis, what will you do during school holidays?  Would you be better off putting kids in daycare or after school care and having grandparents help out when things fall apart?  Do any of your daycare centre workers do babysitting out of hours?  Find out ahead of time in case you get caught.

There will be times when you need a backup plan for your backup plan, so when you’re working out how many days to work, make sure you consider the things that can go wrong and not just how it will go when all is running smoothly.

If you’re not yet back at work and think I’m being pessimistic, remember your plans to learn French/lose all of your baby weight/organise the kitchen renovation while on maternity leave.  Yes, working has its practical realities too.

It’s also perfectly reasonable to work out how you’re going to do whatever’s important to your sanity.  Coffee with girlfriends?  Exercise?  Regular access to white wine? Escaping the house without any small people clinging onto your person and wiping their leftovers on your white shirt? It’s all a fair enough ask – and possible even though you’re managing the needs of employer/colleagues/partners and children 24 hours a day.  If you’re not yet convinced, check out this piece what a great Role Model  you are when you take a little something for yourself.

3. Who gets carbon tax compensation?

Interest in this one has died off a little towards the end of the year, probably because the tax came in and THE WORLD DID NOT END.  Amazing really.

We still get asked occasionally though so here’s the short version of the answer.

  • Family Tax Benefit Part A recipients received up to $110 for each child.
  • Family Tax Benefit Part B recipients received up to $69 per family.
  • Single pensioners received up to $250.
  • Pensioner couples received up to $190 per eligible member.

Most of it’s already been paid though, so hope you noticed it!

You can find out more about carbon tax compensation in this post.

What’s your No 1 question as a working mum?  Email me at kirstenandrews(at)bigpond(dot)com

The Schoolkids Bonus – paid this week into the bank accounts of eligible families

This January, parents of the 1.3million school aged children who meet income test requirements will receive half of a new payment designed to help families with school costs.

From 9 to 22 January eligible families will receive, directly into their bank accounts:

– $205 for each primary student (with another $205 paid in July) and
– $410 for each secondary student (with another $410 paid in July).

The Schoolkids Bonus replaces the old Education Tax Refund but there’s no need to collect receipts or claim it through your tax.

Handy if you’re buying school shoes, uniforms or getting kids haircuts this week.  Judging by the chaos at my local store, pretty much everyone in Australia is doing exactly that right now..

You need to be receiving an eligible payment, which for most people means Family Tax Benefit A.  If you’re not receiving Family Tax Benefit Part A, you can find out if you’re eligible here.

Note that if you receive your Family Tax Benefit as a lump sum at the end of the year, you will receive your payment then, so don’t panic if it’s not there now.

While you’re at it, there is also quite a good online estimator to help you work out eligibility for any other family payments here.

The good news is that if you think you’re eligible but haven’t applied yet, you won’t get the money this week but you can still register your children and receive the payment here.

Note that while it’s *technically* possible to do this all online, we find the website very clunky and difficult to use, as opposed to collecting an paper copy of the form from your local DHS Service centre or Medicare office.

It may not cover a round of school shoes and uniforms for everyone, but every little bit helps!

Christmas shortcuts for working mums – five tips for managing December diaries

It’s a manic time.  Some of it is fun.  Lots of it is high pressure.  And sometimes you just creep through to Christmas completely exhausted and in need of drying out and a meal at home.

I once realised on December 19 that I’d attended so many Christmas functions that I hadn’t eaten a meal with a knife and fork for about three weeks.  I’d survived entirely on meals consisting of hors d’ouevres and champagne.

Those were the days.

Today, planning during December is a precision event.  When’s your work do?  And the larger team function?  Oh yes and the one you’ve been invited to at your old work?  And then there’s the mothers group Christmas, a family function or two, and December is gone.  Without even mentioning your kid’s social commitments and school graduation ceremonies.

For working mums, you can feel particularly stretched because the Christmas function may not be held on your work day, and you want to do the things stay at home mums do too.  If Santa visits your day care centre, is it on a day your child usually attends?  It’s a lot to organise.

Here are some tips to help you survive the silly season.

1. Book some babysitting now.  If you haven’t already, stop reading and call your babysitter.  And your back up babysitter.  The last Friday in December is in high demand.  Call today.  You will use that free night for something,  I promise.

2. Work out between you and your partner/hubby/babysitter which events are REALLY important.  Do you mind if you miss your Christmas function?  Some people don’t, and getting sleep and proper meals is more important.  It’s ok to admit this but if you do love a night out with your colleagues, schedule it in.

3.  Schedule in all the other crazy stuff too.  Like a night at home online to complete your gift purchases.  That time doesn’t happen automatically.  If you send Christmas cards, or a Christmas email, schedule it in too.  Do you need your eyebrows waxed?  Make an appointment now.  If it’s booked up with Christmas parties for you and your kids, it won’t happen – or it will happen at midnight on some evening in mid-December.  Stressful for everyone.

4.  Remember all the stuff that makes your life work every other month of the year.  Exercise.  Meal planning.  Catching up on Glee. It’s all still a good idea.

5.  Notwithstanding point 4, give yourself a break.  Sometimes doing everything just isn’t possible. Can’t prepare something from scratch for the mother’s group Christmas party?  Stop in at your local bakery instead.  Shortcuts are ok  and an essential way of protecting your mental health – as important this month as ever.

Your December calendar might look a bit crazy.  My husband and I send appointment requests to each other’s work diaries when we need to book a night out.  Clashes get discussed in the evenings to sort our priorities.  Apologies for the nights we just can’t get babysitting are made as early as we can admit we just won’t make it.

It’s never a perfect system, but it helps us manage the insanity just a little bit!

How do you manage your time commitments during December?

Breaking news – legislation to provide secure future for people with disabilities introduced to Parliament

Some good news today from SBS news

Legislation to establish a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been introduced to federal parliament.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has taken the first legislative step towards establishing a National Disability Insurance Scheme on parliament’s final sitting day for the year.

Ms Gillard described the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012 as complex legislation with a simple moral insight at its heart.

“This bill will inscribe in our laws a substantial and enduring reform that will fundamentally change the nature of disability care and support in this nation,” she told parliament on Thursday.

“It will bring an end to the tragedy of services denied or delayed.”

The insurance scheme was ambitious but needed to be, to help more than 400,000 people living with significant and permanent disabilities.

“The nation is being robbed of the human and economic potential of people living with disability and the contribution they can make to our shared future,” Ms Gillard said.

The government intends to send the bill to a Senate committee for detailed consideration.

There will be public consultation on regulations accompanying the scheme.

Regular readers of Working Mums Australia will know I am a strong supporter of this scheme.  I think everyone is better off, and our community much stronger, when we protect those in our community who need a little help.  I organised a morning tea with my mother’s group to show our support.

So today, if you agree with me, will you please call your MP to tell them you support it too?

It’s really important.  Your voice matters.

Thanks so much.

Kirsten

 

Christmas shortcuts for working mums (Part One – gifts)

If you’re a working mum, there is every chance you scanned over this headline thinking, “Surely I don’t have to panic about Christmas yet?”

If you made it this far, congratulations, because today we start our series on shortcuts that will save you time, hassle and stress.

Some mums live for Christmas.  They carefully wrap their decorations in tissue paper in early January and store it carefully in a regular place.  Others of us chuck the tree in a box mid-January and drag it out to the shed, and then wonder how it got so dusty eleven months later.

Fortunately in 2012, the Internet is our friend.  We’ve moved beyond having to race out to Toys R Us at midnight on December 23, and can leisurely peruse presents from home if we wish.

The challenge with Internet shopping can be quality assurance and leaving a little time for postage.  Most good websites will tell you their last shipments before D-Day, but as a general rule for this year, aim to have everything done this year by Friday December 7th (when the good tellie has finished for the year anyway so if you spend this evening on the Internet you won’t miss anything good).

Ok, so where to go?  You could check out our Guide to Online Shopping published earlier this year which has some useful tips and lots of suggestions but our finalists for Christmas 2012 are:

1. www.myfavourite.com.au  has a wide range of options so you can shop for nearly everyone in the family.  You won’t end up buying golf balls or book vouchers. Next day delivery, an optional gift wrapping service as well as clever and thoughtful ideas. And no need to drag a three year old through a shopping centre 🙂   I’ve done one bulk purchase this year and found that everything arrived on time with the quality of each product as high as it appeared online.

2. Etsy.com is for those who like presents that look as though they picked them up in a local market where they became friendly with the artist. Who said shopping online had to be different? Etsy is billed as “unique handmade and vintage items directly from independent sellers around the world”.  I haven’t made my purchases this year but have had very strong recommendations on delivery and quality and there are some beautiful items.  There is also an App so you could do your thoughtful and personal shopping on the bus to work if your technology allows…  Convenient!

3. Your favourite supplier.  Who said everything had to change from last year?  Which shop gave you the best bang for your buck, range and service last year?  Check out their online presence.  You may be surprised to see that many Australian retailers are finally getting their act together with decent websites and online ordering. Companies like Napoleon Perdis offer an excellent range and good online systems despite having a significant retail presence.  They’ve finally worked out how we like to shop!  And one of these days ClickFrenzy will work.

If your favourite Australian retailer fails you, we can recommend stores like Disneystore for quality children’s products, easy to navigate websites and reliable, affordable delivery.

4. Finally, remember the best  advice working mums can give to each other  – forget the guilt and take a few more short cuts.

Teenagers love Itunes vouchers, most kids love plastic junk that breaks within a few weeks and adults love wine and chocolate.

It might be a cliche – but if you’d be happy to receive it, don’t be ashamed to give it!

Next in our series on Christmas, shortcuts for hosting Christmas Day.

Does another mum need your help? It’s not always black and white…

Before I became a mum, I didn’t think I knew anyone who’d suffered from postnatal depression.

Now I see lots of people (mums and dads) who, whether they’ve had a diagnosis or not, seem to have one or more of the symptoms.

We’ve probably all experienced at least one of them at some stage, including;

  • Sleep disturbance unrelated to baby’s sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Crying – feeling sad and crying without apparent reason OR feeling like you want to cry but can’t
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control, unable to cope
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Negative obsessive thoughts
  • Fear of being alone OR withdrawing from family and friends
  • Memory difficulties and loss of concentration
  • Feeling guilty and inadequate
  • Loss of confidence and self-esteem

It’s not my place to diagnose anyone, but I do think being a mum increases your awareness of how tough the job can be.

Isn’t it odd that one of the most joyful experiences in life can be so damn difficult? It really is one of life’s great mysteries.

It’s post-natal depression awareness week, and the experts want us to know that it’s not always black and white.  Given most of us have bad days, there is a grey area where it’s hard to know whether you, or someone around you, need help.

PANDA (the Post and Ante Natal Depression Association) is the only specialist national organisation that raises community awareness of depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after birth (perinatal period); and provides support services to families to assist in their recovery.

Since having Miss Three, I have often wondered about friends and acquaintances who may be experiencing symptoms of postnatal depression.

I believe that too often we discount what mums are experiencing because ‘being a new mum is hard’ and ‘sleep deprivation is normal’.  Of course these are true, but they also make detecting and addressing depression a lot harder if you think whatever’s happening to you is normal.  If you’re also given the impression that everyone else has the same experience as you but seems to ‘cope’ better than you do, that makes seeking help a lot harder.

It’s tempting to barge right in and ask mums who are having a tough time how they feel and whether they need specific help, but sometimes the person isn’t a close friend so I’ve adopted a more subtle approach.  I often ask them how much help they have around them, and how they think they are coping.  Usually they know that something is wrong but they aren’t sure what it is, or what can be done about it.

I’ve suggested they mention how tough they’re finding it to an expert – and asked how they feel about talking to their GP or baby clinic.

Twice now, these people have made contact with me later to tell me that they did indeed mention it to an expert, who has referred them to services and they now seem much better, happier and more rested and are  enjoying motherhood significantly more.

I am very relieved, and couldn’t be happier for them.

Have you – or someone you know – ever  needed help?

Did you say something, or were you too worried?

Kirsten

If you are concerned that you are suffering from post natal depression, the  National Perinatal Depression Helpline 1300 726 306 which provides counseling and support to those living with depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby. Operates 9-7pm Monday to Friday (EST)

Disclosure: PANDA invited me to a very lovely dinner in Sydney to discuss and learn about post-natal depression awareness week.   Thanks to them and the other bloggers for a lovely night out and all the great work they all do helping new mums.

There’s a lot of other good stuff from the blogosphere around on this at the moment.  Some great links are below.

Good Golly Miss Holly

Life On The Hill

Random Ramblings of a Stay At Home Mum

Denise Whelan.  Life’s Stories 

Do you go home on time?

Are you one of the 2.2million Australians who left for work this morning with no idea what time you will leave tonight?

Or are you the working mum who sneaks out the door on time because you have to race to day care before they start fining you for not getting there before 6pm, while resentful colleagues note that you are ‘leaving early’?

Being in either of these groups isn’t much fun.

Working late – and being expected to – isn’t fun or reasonable for anybody.

Even when we think we’ll leave on time, more than one million of us get it wrong and stay an extra half an hour, and a further 1.2 million report staying more than one hour, according to new research from The Australia Institute, which runs Go Home On Time Day

The Australia Institute’s Executive Director Dr Richard Denniss said over the past twenty years we have heard a lot about workplace ‘flexibility’, but the problem for many workers is that child care, train timetables and life’s other commitments aren’t that flexible.

According to Dr Denniss:

This new data shows why so many Australians find it difficult to juggle their work life and the rest of their life. Working long, or very unpredictable, hours can place a lot of strain on people’s relationships as well as their physical and mental health.

The survey found that around 3.2 million Australians experience stress or anxiety as a result of their working arrangements, with 2.9 million experiencing a loss of sleep and 2.2 million reporting adverse impacts on their ability to meet family commitments.

Check out this great infographic.

If symptoms persist, take a dose of Go Home on Time Day. Love it.

Managing working time is one of our Five Ways Working Mums Can Take Better Care Of Their Mental Health which you can read all about here.

Do you go home on time?

If you do, are you often first out the door at your workplace?

Kirsten

 

 

 

Is a skim cappucino a mummy drink? What’s your caffeinated beverage of choice?

Is a skim cappucino a mummy drink?

Recently, for health reasons, my caffeinated beverage of choice has moved from a skim cappucino to a long black.

I seem to have noticed, and it may just be my perception, that the baristas of Sydney are treating me with a little more respect.  A little eye contact, a cursory nod as they hand over my morning cup of energy.

I wonder what my change means to them?

It made me think – is a skim cappuccino the drink of mums?  Have I been communicating – through no other mechanism than my breakfast order – that I am a mum?

All this time I thought my work clothes, heels and makeup allowed me to shrug off my suburban mum ways and appear, even just during daylight hours, to be a part of the inner city trendiness that is my work community.

Perhaps not.

Have I been uncool all this time?

Have I become more cool by giving up dairy?

What’s your caffeinated beverage of choice?

Kirsten

What does it take to be a good mum?

Do you know what it takes to be a good mum?

If you do, can you tell me?

Seriously, the University of Western Sydney is researching the pressure placed on mums and they’d like our help.

The study look looks at how we judge good mothering.

Dr Kate Huppatz, from the School of Social Sciences and Psychology at the University of Western Sydney, says that;

Whether a woman is judged to be a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ mum is often based on a range of factors – from how much independence and discipline they give their children, to their own physical appearance in the playground

If you have a view, and would like to help out, please email Dr Huppatz on k.huppatz@uws.edu.au

More information on the study is available here.

I think a good mum is one who ensures her child’s physical needs are met, does her utmost to keep them from physical and emotional harm and makes sure they know they are loved – by her and others around them.

Note there is no mention of organic food, breastfeeding, co-sleeping or music lessons.  I think all of that is simply extraneous and you can be a great mum regardless of your options and choices in these areas.

That description also covers most of the mums I know.

What do you think a good mum does?

Kirsten

Which is tougher – pregnancy or motherhood?

Mums to be expect to enjoy a glowing pregnancy but the reality is fatigue, information overload and a sagging sex life, according to this report from Lisa Power  in the Daily Telegraph today

Ladies, wait til that kid gets born!

According to the report, 60% said fatigure was the hardest to deal with.

I can’t imagine what the other 40% said.

My theory is that pregnancy fatigue is nature’s way of getting you ready for months, perhaps years, of sleep deprivation.  I suspect if you went straight from your pre-baby life into the reality of life with a newborn, there would be even more post-natal depression around than there is now.

Did pregnancy meet your expectations?

Which was harder for you – pregnancy or being a mum?

Kirsten