Tag Archives: part-time work

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?

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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

 

 

 

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  🙂

44% of mums want to work 3 days a week – poll results

Today we publish the results of our poll on part time work, with the news that 44% of mums believe three days a week is the perfect number of days to work as a mum.

Many of you said that three days provided the right balance between your work and family commitments.  We wrote when we launched the poll that we believed there was no perfect number and for most families, it depends on such a complex set of circumstances, not all within their control.  Our needs change from time to time as well.

There were no votes for extremes.  No one voted for one day a week as the perfect option but only 3% of you voted for five days a week as your ideal.

Our guest posts on part time work from Juliet, Tamara and Kellie inspired you all, with feedback that it was helpful to know how others mums went about making their decisions and how they negotiated arrangements with employers, families, carers and children along the way.

So how many of you aren’t working your ideal number?

Kirsten

Earn less than $80,000? Did you know about your pay rise?

Do you earn less than $80,000? Congratulations. You’re about to get a pay rise.

There’s been a lot of debate about the carbon tax, but did you know that under the changes to the tax system, anyone earning less than $80,000 is going to get a tax cut?

Sweet.

Under the changes, the tax-free threshold increases from $6,000 to $18,200.

So if you earn less than $18,200 per year you do not need to pay income tax and probably won’t have to lodge a tax return.

If you earn more then $18,200 per year you will only pay income tax on earnings over $18,200.

There are new rates of tax for anyone earning up to $80,000. If you have a taxable income below $80,000, you will receive a tax cut (around $300 a year).

You can get info about how much tax you will pay under the new system here.

** Important note. See your accountant or payroll officer to check your eligibility before heading off to the toy sales with your newfound cash!

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.

 

Part time work. Tamara’s story

Tamara Kudiarskyj-Latham is a mum to Nikolai, 3 and Aleksandr, eight months

Tamara worked Saturdays when Nikolai was four months old to save for a holiday, but after six weeks decided it wasn’t worth it.  Her work on Saturdays was providing respite care for parents of an autistic child.  She returns to work today after the birth of her second son last year.

The real reason I started working Saturdays after Nikolai was born was that my husband Mark had been asked to be best man at one of our dearest friend’s wedding and the location was Bali.

How could we say no? But we had no money with a new baby. We had saved for being on maternity leave but not enough for a holiday. We made the decision quite selfishly.  We really wanted to go and this was the answer.  We didn’t feel that I would be losing time with Nikolai as I wasn’t working through the week and so, yes, the extra money was worth it.

The first few weeks were fine and it worked for us because each week we stayed focused on the fact that Mark was going to be spending quality time with Nikolai and developing a father son relationship with him, and I was helping families with children who had a disability and using my work brain again, but it did become hard work. Weekends were when we spent quality time as a whole family and what ended up happening was that I would work all day Saturday therefore Sunday would be  ‘chores day’ – shopping, cleaning washing.  I did start to feel extremely guilty being ‘the mum’ and it did bother us, so after about six weeks  I was able to find a replacement. Fortunately we did go to Bali and had a wonderful time as a family 🙂

We are in a trickier situation after having our second son Aleksandr. I was supposed to be returning to work three days per week (we had financially budgeted for this and it is what I worked on returning to work after Nikolai). However a month ago the Director of the Childcare Centre told me there was only a spot for two days and if I wanted it, I had to take the place four weeks before returning to work. This means a drop in pay and having to pay for the 2 boys to attend child care on only one wage. Hmmmm, the ruthlessness of child care!

So once again finances (unselfishly this time) have become an issue and the talk of working weekends has come round again. Yes, I have spent hours on the phone to Centrelink finding out what the maximum hours I can work before we start to lose benefits.  You have to, and I think it’s amazing we get what we do to support mums to return to work. Yes, we’ve talked about how difficult it would be for Mark after working all week and then having both the boys at the weekend, and yes, we’ve looked at it as a blessing in disguise as I will get to spend precious time with Aleksandr whilst Nikolai is at daycare for the extra day.

So here we are again. This time we are both unsure of how it will go with working a weekend but we may not have a choice.  Whatever we decide we will just do what we have to and make it work.

As for the perfect number of working days, I don’t think there is an answer with so many situations to take into consideration but I would love two days. With that combination, you still have the work balance of exercising your brain, talking about things other than your children and knowing after one day of work, only one more to go. The difficult situation especially in my job is can I get my work done in 2 days? Probably not.  And is it financially viable? Well we will see.