Tag Archives: working mums

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?

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: 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  🙂

Five ways working mums can take better care of their mental health

Guest post from Leilah Nelson.

Following the birth of my first child my greatest fear was suffering from depression. And being a psychologist I was always quick to self- diagnose!

My family and friends were my lifeline and since then I have never taken my mental health for granted and neither should you.  Yet statistics show that many of us might be ignoring the symptoms.

Of the two most common mental illnesses – depression and anxiety, women will experience them both in higher rates than men.

One in five women will experience depression while one in three will experience anxiety.

While genetics plays a part is determining your risk, others contributors include chronic health conditions, personality factors and stressful life events. Life events that can create major stressors are pregnancy, motherhood, menopause, and caring for elderly or unwell family members.

Women are at increased risk of experiencing depression during pregnancy and post child birth for up to a year. Nearly 10% of pregnant women will experience antenatal depression (during pregnancy) increasing to 16% experiencing postnatal depression in the 3 months post birth.

Working mums, while busy caring for others,  must be careful not to dismiss the signs and ignore the symptoms of mental health problems.

My tips for maintaining good emotional health while working and caring for your family:

  1. Cut your TO DO LIST in half. By reducing the daily tasks we expect ourselves to complete we can reduce our stress. Stress is a symptom of anxiety and depression. It can also be a catalyst for many physical related health problems. Remember your brain is an organ too and deserves care and attention.
  2. Maintain your SOCIAL NETWORKS, especially mothers group and playgroup. Consider the girls night out as sacred. Women, generally speaking, enjoy social communication, be it chatting with girlfriends or going to the movies or theatre. These exchanges allow us time to express our worries and fears and to reach out for support from the group.  Statistics show that you are less likely to suffer from depression if you have a strong social network to rely on.
  3. Prioritise YOUR TIME to do things that MAKE YOU HAPPY. Basically give yourself the permission and the freedom to do things you enjoy, FOR YOURSELF. Working mums are quick to prioritise the needs of their children, their partners, the housework, etc.  and often leave little or no time for themselves . Include regular EXERCISE into your routine. Maintaining exercise has been proven in reducing the affects of mental health.
  4. Take SHORTCUTS and don’t feel GUILTY about it. Often Mums feel pressure to be wife, chef, housemaid, cleaner, nanny, teacher, in short order. We can’t be all things but we can find more efficient ways of doing things (for me that involves employing a cleaner once a fortnight!) Finding a Work/Life BALANCE can help reduce our risk for mental illness.
  5. Don’t be AFRAID to SEEK HELP. GPs are becoming better trained at diagnosing mental health problems and quicker at referring to counselling services. Medicare will rebate up to 10 sessions with a counsellor if referred by your GP under the banner of mental health. Some employers have an employee assistance program (EAP) with free access to telephone or face-to-face counselling. A lot can be done to improve your mental health through life style changes but for some the answer is medical intervention. Simplified, anti-depressants assist with bringing a chemical balance back to the brain which then allows for counselling to be affective.

For further information on mental health, I have found the following sources useful:

-beyondblue 1300 224 636 (beyondblue.org.au)

-Lifeline  13 11 14 (lifeline.org.au)

-SANE 1800 187 263 (sane.org.au)

-Australian Psychological Society Referral line 1800 333 497 (psychology.org.au/findapsychologist)

Leilah Nelson

Thanks to Beyond Blue for references

Seven things mums can do to save the world (that won’t take extra time or money!)

Today’s guest post is from Anna Minns, who runs the Daily Lime.  You can find out more about her amazing efforts to protect our environment, and sign up to her easy to follow tips here.

As a mum of 2 small boys I often wonder (and worry) about what kind of natural environment they will inherit. I wanted to know more about the kind of things I could and should do to be kinder to the environment.

At first I was totally overwhelmed with information about global warming and climate change, which was sobering and depressing – I started to think that perhaps ignorance was bliss.

I found this was the experience of a lot of my friends. When I started to talk about the environment I noticed their eyes would glaze over, and they would shrug their shoulders and say “what can I do about it anyway”. So, I decided to do some research and I discovered there are hundreds of things we can all do everyday to tread a bit more lightly on the planet.

In order to be “green” there is a perception that you must have cold showers, a diet of tofu and quinoa, wear hessian clothes and live in a house made of recycled tyres.

So I set about putting together a list of ‘tips’ of all the things that anyone can do to have a greener lifestyle, without sacrificing the things that they love. I wanted to create a simple guide for (mums especially) who are busy with work, family and just living, to make small incremental changes that are easy, money-saving and fun!

The tips are about reducing energy and waste, reusing, recycling and all things green. I hope you are inspired to subscribe and give some of them a go!

1. Get Swapping: kids clothes

Don’t you hate it when your discover an adorable jumpsuit in the bottom drawer that you’d forgotten about and now it’s too late, because your little one is now not so little! Do the sustainable thing – and get swapping! You can keep your children’s wardrobes fresh and funky as your babies grow by trading your quality pre-loved clothes online – or you can purchase designer label gear at a fraction of the retail cost.

2. Join a toy library

Sometimes, when you’ve got little kids, it seems like you might drown under a sea of brightly-coloured plastic toys. And despite the best of intentions, those plastic toys appear to breed. But there is a way to reduce the amount of fluro-plastic in your life, save money, and save on landfill, too!

3. Buy a quality winter coat

It is estimated that 30 to 40kg of clothing per person is sent to landfill each year because of so called ‘fast fashion’. We all need a comfy coat to get us through the winter months. Selecting quality over quantity is the way to go to take a load off the earth. If you invest in a well-made coat now it will last you for years to come, so you will be saving money in the long run.

4. Too many toys? Get swapping

The average household in Australia with kids has over 100 toys. Do you suffer from regular toy invasions? An annual toy swap can be great fun, reduce the use of resources, and free up your hard-earned cash and storage space!

5. Sharing your stuff on Open Shed

The average power drill is used for 12-13 minutes in its lifetime! Stuff. It’s everywhere. Filling up our cupboards, our garages, under our beds, even in our roof spaces. And most of it is hardly ever used. The best way to enjoy all the latest must-have gadgets, toys and tools and get the most value out of our own stuff is to get sharing through openshed.com.au

6. Recycling mattresses

It’s hard to know what to do with our old mattresses, so most of us throw them out – they are the most common item put out at local council collections. But mattresses contain lots of valuable materials, like steel, timber and foam – which is all recyclable!

7. Replace your air freshener with a house plant

Many air ‘fresheners’ are actually air pollutants. Most contain nasty chemicals like phthalates and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). If you want to clean out the pollutants and toxins in the air and deodorise your home, get some house plants! Don’t just take my word for it – NASA found that they are great at filtering the air!

Anna Minns

More about Anna’s project and signup to the Daily Lime is here.

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