Tag Archives: work life balance

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?

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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?

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  🙂

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 .

Good news. Healthy mums mean healthy kids.

A new study today has found that if mums are healthy, kids are too.

Not exactly rocket science but the key findings, reported here in the Daily Telegraph, are:

For each hour mum increases her physical activity, their child’s play time increases by 16 minutes a day.

But if mum adds an hour of screen time, their child’s sedentary viewing expands by eight minutes, the study found.

..Mum’s screen time was “the only factor significantly associated with their child’s screen time”.

So now we have no excuse for not getting out for that walk!

When I had to do a lot of physiotherapy after a second painful  knee operation last year, I learned that, despite being busy like all working mums, it actually was possible to find time for exercise.   I had additional motivation because I was facing a permanent limp unless I actually did my thirty minutes every single day, but it was a great lesson to learn.

I’ve slipped back a bit since then but I found new ways of exercising I hadn’t considered before.  The best one was to do lunges and push ups on playground equipment.  You need to manage it so you can see enough to race over and stop your kids from waving that stick around or jumping off something and breaking a leg, and it feels a little silly at first, but it does actually allow you to do two things at the same time.  I also try and catch up with friends for a walk and coffee at the end, rather than just a coffee, or to meet with children at the beach or playground with a ball so I can get a little incidental exercise.  Chasing a three year old on soft sand gets your heart rate up!

Does this study make sense to you?  Do you have time to exercise, and do you think it influences your children?

Kirsten

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.