Tag Archives: family

Online shopping tips for working mums from Natalie

As a single working mum of Madison (6) and Angus (4), I find online grocery shopping a lifesaver.

Wrangling a trolley around the supermarket isn’t my idea of fun at the best of times, but add tired, hungry kids at the end the day and frankly, I’d rather poke my eye out with a sharp stick.

I’ve been buying my groceries online  for about 6 years now. My provider of choice is Woolies Homeshop, because they were operating in my area when I started and a few friends had recommended them. I’ve never had any major problems and no reason to change.

COST

Online shopping is more expensive. But for me, the sheer convenience makes it a no brainer. It’s totally worth the extra money. Having said that, I don’t think it’s very much more expensive  – and in some ways online shopping saves me time and money too.

A lot of the specials you will find in-store are now available online and are often easier to find than in a regular shop. There’s a Specials section and Homeshop currently has a ‘Half Price’ and a Buy More, Save More page with multi-buy deals. You can also save money by buying things in bulk like toilet paper and washing powder without having to think twice about the logistics of lugging them home, because they will be delivered to your door.

I also think I sometimes spend more during a ‘regular’ shop because of impulse buys, whereas with an online shop, I’m much more likely to stick to a list.

TIME

Then there’s the time saved. I keep a shopping list on the fridge and add to it as we run out of things. Before going online, I have a quick think about meals and lunches for the coming week and add the things I need to the list.

When you log on, you can go to your saved lists and select all the items that you regularly buy. They keep a list of your ‘favourites’ which keeps everything you have ordered on it, or you can make and save your own lists. This is super convenient and means that you then only need to use the search or browse functions to look for new things or specials.

There’s a nifty new Reminder that suggests a few items that you regularly purchase that you may have forgotten just before you check out and whilst I would usually frown on this sort of suggestive selling, it actually has helped me to remember something that I had left off my list on more than one occasion.

The beauty of online shopping is that you can place your order anytime, anywhere. I regularly place my orders using the iPad now. I often do it in front of the tv after the kids are in bed. Once I placed an order whilst having a pedicure (that’s multi-tasking for you!).

An online shop takes me 15-20 minutes if I’m fully concentrating or half an hour if I’m multi-tasking!

DELIVERY 

Obviously one of the costs of online shopping is delivery. Homeshop has a sliding scale from $13.00 for a small shop (less than $100 value) through to free if you spend more than $300.00. For me, delivery usually costs $5-$7 but for the convenience of having the groceries delivered to my kitchen – that’s money I’m prepared to pay.Woolies has recently changed their delivery windows though to 3 hour windows which I find less flexible than the old delivery options. In the old system you could pay a slightly higher delivery fee for a shorter delivery window.  This was very convenient because the hardest thing can be trying to coordinate your availability to be home.

If I want an after work delivery window, it now means booking in a 6pm-9pm delivery window to make sure I can be home in time. Usually this works out but I have had one delivery after 8.30pm which isn’t ideal. It can also be hard to commit to be home for a 3 hour window on a Saturday with sport and parties and all the things busy families have to do on weekends.

I always include fruit and veg in my order and have generally been pretty happy with the quality. Only once was the fruit quality poor and in that case (it was mangoes which were very ripe), they didn’t charge me for them and sent me double the quantity I had ordered, so I blitzed the pulp up and froze it in portions – mango smoothie anyone?

TIPS AND WARNINGS 

One thing you do need to watch is how you set up your substitution options. As a general rule, I select no substitutes. I order the brand, size, flavour of a product I want because that’s the one I want and if it’s out of stock, it’s out of stock. My sister recently received a men’s moisturiser as a substitute for the out of stock men’s deodorant they had ordered?!? Sometimes, I will allow substitution for essentials like bread or milk, especially if it’s a night delivery and I know I need the product the next day.

My kids always eagerly await the arrival of ‘the Woolies man’ and they help me pack away the groceries and check the items off the list as we go. For me, online grocery shopping is a time and sanity saver that takes some pressure off and gives me more quality time with the kids and as such, I highly recommend it.

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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.

 

Things It’s Hard To Find Time For

Alarm clock Polski: Budzik

Alarm clock Polski: Budzik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Children’s haircuts.  I missed the note telling me when it was photo day at day care last year, so Miss 3 looked like a character from Oliver Twist in her class photo.  Oops.

2. Manicures and pedicures.  Always difficult to find a half an hour, now almost impossible.

3. Catch ups with girlfriends without children.  There’s the odd special night out, but the casual catch ups over dinner are few and far between these days.  Social events have to include a babysitter in the budget so they end up a lot more expensive.

4. Boozy Friday drinks.  Technically still possible, but everyone knows the best Friday nights are the ones that aren’t planned.  These days there’s nothing in my life that isn’t planned!

5. Clothes shopping. By the time I get the clothes I already own washed and folded and some fresh food in the house each weekend, the thought of walking into a Westfields and thinking about this season’s colours is no longer my idea of a good time.

6. Tax returns.  Ugh.  This one may not be related to having children.

7. Car servicing.  See 7 above.  Difficult and unpleasant tasks but it’s very difficult to find a day to be a little late because you’re catching the courtesy bus when you’re already *that* mum who skates out the door exactly at 5pm.

8. My own haircut.  Once upon a time sitting and having foils done, a cut and a blow dry on a lazy Saturday afternoon was a wonderful thing to do.  Now my hair appointment starts with a conversation about, “What’s absolutely neccesary this month?”

9. The dentist.  When it is ok to take a long lunch break when you can never arrive early or stay late?

10. Buying panty hose.  This one is clearly ridiculous.  But I like to buy certain brands and they are not always available in my supermarket shop.  Making an extra job out of it makes it a lunchtime task when lunchtimes don’t always happen.  I need to stock up once a year!

It’s true that you make time in life for the important things.

Although I find it hard to find time for all of these above, I wouldn’t swap any of them for the 2o minutes I spend reading stories at the end of the day.

What do you find it hard to fit into your life?

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.

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?

Lucy Howes tells how she became a convert to tutoring

English: School children doing exams inside a ...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s no zealot like a convert, which is why I’ve been singing the praises of my son’s new tutoring school all day.

I used to be dead against coaching colleges, which drill kids in things like the Opportunity Class and Selective Schools exams. I used to think bright children would get there themselves, and that it was deeply unfair to ‘train’ a child how to study to a test in order to get into an elite school.

And then I had a son enter primary school, and I watched as he spent the vast amount of school time trying to stay out of trouble. I watched as his class sizes swelled from a perfectly manageable 16 in kindergarten, to 30 by year four. And I wondered how my child could score highly in the year 3 Naplan test, but bring home a report card so woeful six months later that you would not think it was describing the same child.

And I realized that with two other kids (one a baby), and a career, a cat, a household to run, and a husband, I could not help him enough at home. I was allowing him to do badly in class, based on my own ideological beliefs.

When I went back to work after my third baby last year, I started juggling the dreaded triple pick-up.

My kids – two in primary school, and one in daycare – are in three different locations after 4pm. So even though I leave work at a very reasonable hour, by the time we get home it’s nudging 6pm, and there’s dinner to cook, and baths to supervise, and pajamas to find, and bags to unpack, and squashed pears to throw out, and lunchboxes to decontaminate.

But homework, especially for an older primary school child, requires parental input. I’ve heard this at five consecutive school information nights for five consecutive years. But how do you provide sufficient homework input when you’re trying to put the baby to bed and it’s already 8pm, and your son is wailing that ‘none of this makes any sense!’ and frankly, all you want is a glass of wine and to watch some mindless television?

The truth is, I am a terrible teacher, so it’s just as well I am a passable lawyer. I can’t remember anything from primary school. I’m hard pressed spotting a collective noun in a word-web, and by now, my son’s maths homework greatly exceeds my own mathematical ability. My ability to explain the proper use of past particles is also severely limited, and my claim that “I know them when I see it” is apparently both annoying and unhelpful.

The answer, I have discovered, is to find the best coaching school you can, and get your tiger mother on. The idea of Saturday school – almost five hours of it – was so utterly repugnant to my son that he sulked for a week. I had to practically drag him into the classroom.

But by the time my husband picked him up, he bounced out like the Energizer Bunny. He’d loved it. He’d made a friend. He’d learnt about the NSW parliament, and scored 24 out of 24 for a comprehension test, and gotten a sticker, which he assured me was “pretty dorky”, but I could tell he was secretly thrilled.

And then today, when we sat down to do his revision, he flew through the work. He didn’t need my help. He told me that for the first time, he understood it. The teacher, who only had four other kids to teach, had ‘properly’ explained it to him what a homonym was, and he’d gotten it (which was lucky, because I had to look it up on my Iphone, pretending to check an email).

And I couldn’t be more thrilled. To see my son excited by schoolwork, and engaged in his learning, feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. The cost, although not cheap, is no more than any other extra-curricula activity, and the school was full of kids just like mine.

In the Year of the Tiger, embracing my inner Tiger Mother has been the best decision I’ve made yet. And, in the end, it was one of the easiest. Not least of all, I’m very hopeful it may buy me a little more wine-drinking and television-watching time.

Do you worry about whether you should get you children a tutor?

Does homework put pressure on your day?

How do you manage school work in your family?

Lucy Howes is a working mum of three children aged ten, six and twenty months, who also somehow manages a career as a lawyer.

Kidspot has a lot of information on what to look for in a tutor and how to make a decision about whether your child needs a tutor here

Working from home

I’m lucky enough to work from home one day a week.

It really takes the pressure off when I need a handyman to stop by the house, collecting something from our local post office or doing a load of washing in my lunch hour.  I also use what is normally my travel time to make it to the gym.  This all makes me terribly productive while Miss Nearly Three plays in the sandpit at day care down the road and without an afternoon commute, we have an extra hour in the evenings together.

On the odd occasion when I’ve tried to work from home with Miss Nearly Three in the house, it has been an unmitigated disaster. I can’t speak on the phone without a demanding toddler interrupting me. I feel unprofessional and am constantly apologising to colleagues for the background noise.  I know I am less efficient and feel guilty that I am using work time so unproductively.  I then try and rectify this by working into the evening, and through lunchtimes to make up the time, but it is a vicious, unhappy cycle.

If I focus on the work and bribe Miss Nearly Three with extra episodes of Peppa Pig just to be quiet, then my ‘Mummy self’ feels awful because I’ve just plonked her in front of TV and turned her into a zombie.   It often seems like a no win situation.

This is partly the reason I love my days in the office. They allow me to wear nice clothes, have adult conversation and get the more engaging part of my work done.  Unfortunately, not every job can be done from home and even when they can, not every boss is supportive.

Workingmother.com has listed 15 surprising work from home jobs.  It even claims a chef and a CEO can work from home.  I’m a bit skeptical about the practicality of this and think maybe they are giving us false hope.  I also think ‘face time’ is important in lots of jobs as it helps build team work and shared understanding of what needs to be done, I think it makes me understand my organization better and learn more about the work of others.  Even if I am not working directly with many of my colleagues, the casual chats in the kitchen help me get better at promoting our work, which is a handy benefit in PR!

Do you work from home?  What do you think works about it?  What doesn’t work? Do you think employers get ripped off?  Any suggestions to help me be more productive?