Mums driven back to work early

A survey in The Daily Telegraph today says that mums are going back to work early due to financial pressure.

According to the paper, official figures show the average period of leave is 32.4 weeks (between 7  and 8 months) but their survey showed only a third of mums now take 12 months or more leave.

The article by Lisa Power also said:

Most said they resumed work out of financial necessity once paid leave ended, although 62 per cent were not ready to return due to breastfeeding, difficulty sourcing childcare and exhaustion from night-time feeds. More than 80 per cent would have stayed home with their newborn longer if finances allowed, the survey found.

Even though the figures used by the paper and the official figures don’t exactly compare – so both could be right – it is possible mums are taking less leave because of economic pressure.

Most mums I know start thinking about going back at around six months, but it does depend on their workplace, availability of care and the health of the child.  Many of us use lots of holiday leave and any long service leave with our first baby and if you go back part time, there isn’t much of either left for subsequent babies.  So back to work we go.

How old were your babies when you returned to work?

Kirsten

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Is having a Present Box insane?

presents

Over the weekend I replenished my ‘Present Box’. I remember hearing about Present Boxes before I became a mum and thinking such people were completely bonkers.

And now I’m one of them.

I like to think of myself as a thoughtful shopper. I love the idea of spending hours thinking about presents for the special people in my life; their habits and personal style or something they might really need at the moment.

Given that consumer goods are so cheap these days, many more people simply buy what they want when they recognise a need, hence the popularity of ‘experience presents’ and vouchers for services like a massage. (I always think such vouchers need to come in pairs; here’s a voucher and here’s some time in your diary to have it!).

Over the last year, I have come a convert to online shopping . And now I have a Present Box.

Friends will be pleased to hear that it’s not as thoughtless as it sounds. Rather than (as I had imagined) a set of generic ‘adult female’ type presents, if I see something you might like now, I buy it immediately and have it ready for your birthday. Last Christmas was my easiest Christmas ever.

There are some more generic style presents in my Present Box, like things for newborns and new mamas, as as well as presents for Four Year Old Girls. Simply because those invitations to parties from day care can sometimes stay in the bottom of the bag until the day before!

I also really hate trying to rush in shopping malls. In fact I hate entering a shopping mall and the Present Box has helped.

Here’s my system for how it has simplified my online shopping.

1. Create a ‘shopping’ folder on your favourites on your browser. Then if you find a good site you can start browsing on sites you’ve already enjoyed previously.

2. Once you’ve found a few sites and browsed them a little, set yourself up for a session with credit card and calendar handy.  While most Australian sites I’ve used deliver within a week, I like to prepare a couple of months ahead.

3. Working through birthdays and other celebrations I simply shop online as I would in a mall, working through my priorities, leaving a tab open if I am unsure about something and moving onto my next choice.  This is a good thing to do if you’re considering several purchases from the same store.  It not only saves on delivery costs but makes receipt of packages a lot easier too.

4. I also keep all of those annoying emails that you get when you join any kind of loyalty program in one email folder.  I then scan it for ideas when I am looking for something in particular; reminded of brands and stores I have frequented in real life.

5. Once I’m finished, I then check my stocks of wrapping paper and cards to check that they cover the same time period I’ve just shopped for. Nothing like realizing you’ve left out something important at the last minute.  You could do the fancy personalized photo card if you’re really keen, but I find most people are happy with something drawn by the kids or one of those cheaper ones from places like Big W.

6. For my recent Present Box replenishment, I used My Favourite.  I’ve found on previous occasions that their delivery is very quick and the products are made of high quality materials. (Not sponsored, I just like them)

7. I’ve also started to keep a Christmas List around this time of year, mostly to keep track of what I have bought and who is left.  Last year I was pleasantly surprised to discover most people had been covered off through ‘incidental shopping’ through the year.

Do you have a Present Box?  Do you think people who keep them are thoughtless – or a little bit mad?

Would working from home make your life easier?

My friend Lindy Edwards has a terrific piece in The Age discussing the importance of working from home for making all of our lives easier.  She writes:

Once upon a time men did the paid work and women did society’s unpaid work.  When women entered the paid workforce our consumption expectations increased  and so did our mortgages. Now, for many families, the response to increasing  financial pressures is for mum to work more hours.

But the problem of unpaid work remains, and is growing as people are caught  looking after both elderly parents and young children.  The crunch is hitting  women the hardest. It is putting them under enormous strain, and the whole  family is feeling  the pressure

She says working from home would solve a lot of these problems for many families.

These days a lot of unpaid work is also time-critical rather than  time-intensive.  It is about being there at the right time for the school  pick-up, the medical appointment, when the plumber is coming, or to put on the  washing.

I couldn’t agree with her more.  I’m very lucky to work from home one day a week.  Avoiding a commute automatically gives me an extra hour in the  morning, which I spent exercising and an extra hour in the evening, which I get to spend with Miss Nearly 4.

It also takes the ‘pressure valve’ off our daily lives on a regular basis.  When it rains at the weekand there’s a load of washing we didn’t get through, I hang it out on Tuesdays.  I can collect something at our local post office, and get a haircut during my lunch break.  None of this detracts from my work – and in fact having a day at home to read or write longer documents can make me enormously productive.

It doesn’t work for every job – and there have been weeks when fitting in the meetings in my in-the-office days have been tricky.  I had to come into the office yesterday for a meeting with an interstate visitor, but on the whole it works brilliantly and makes our two working parents scenario much smoother.

You can read the rest of Lindy’s ideas here.

Do you work from home?  Do you wish you could?

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