Monday, November 2, 2015

How to Be a Career-Loving Parent: Know Your Work-Life Options

The first installment of this series introduced the idea that "working parent" is a phrase of resignation. With that choice of words, we give up the idea that we can be passionate about both work and family. We resign ourselves to a life in which we can only really be good at one thing. Instead, if we choose to think of ourselves as "career-loving parents," we open up whole new worlds of possibilities for our families, for our careers, and for ourselves. In this installment, we'll look at the many work-life options available to today's career-loving parents.

Before we jump into work options, let's have a quick review of what it takes to be a career-loving parent -- a term I stole from Sheryl Sandberg, who stole it from Caroline O'Connor. While simply changing the words we use makes a big difference in the possibilities we perceive, it also helps to take some concrete steps to integrate our lives as parents with our lives as workers. Here are those steps:
  • Know your work-life style. Do you like to integrate work with the rest of your life, separate work from the rest of your life, or do you like to switch focus back and forth as needed? We covered this in the second article, so jump over to that one if you haven't read it yet.
  • Know your work-life options. In today's world of work, there are more choices than just working outside the home or staying home with the family.
  • Get smart. Regardless of your work-life style and your particular work arrangement, you can make the most of your circumstances with a few simple tricks.

Know your options for when, where, and how you work

Today's world of work is filled with more options than ever before. Thanks to evolving technology, shifting expectations, and research that proves great work can be done in a host of times, places, and styles, anyone with reliable access to a computer, the internet, and a strong work ethic (don't forget that one) can design a career to fit his life -- and a life to fit his career.

Of course, each option has its advantages and disadvantages. You might trade stability of income for flexibility of schedule, or time with family for benefits that take care of them. Whichever option you choose, make it consciously. Consult with both your family and your coworkers. Weigh the tradeoffs mindfully. If you're having trouble figuring out which option is best, though, see if you can arrange some controlled experiments.

If you're having trouble figuring out which option is best, though, see if you can arrange some controlled experiments. Maybe your current full-time, out-of-the-house job is willing to try one work-from-home day weekly. Or maybe you can try working on your home-based business from a co-working space while the kids are at school. Don't fall into the trap of believing that these are your only options -- or that you can only choose one. Instead, think of the table below as a palette from which you can choose one, two, or many colors for your portrait of the ideal career-loving parent.
Huffington Post Image

Are there more options than you thought? Are you already thinking of ways you can creatively combine or experiment with these options to design a meaningful, fun, and fulfilling life? Share your story of being -- or aspiring to be -- a career-loving parent in the comments below. Other readers would love to hear from you!

Oh, and come on back next week when we'll dive into the "get smart" step of becoming a career-loving parent, in which we refine what we've learned from the first two steps for the difference that makes a difference.

Dig new ideas about how to integrate your work into a meaningful, fun, and fulfilling life? Trying to keep your head and your heart while keeping your job? You might enjoy my weekly updates.

By: Eryc Eyl

Thursday, October 1, 2015

When to return to work? This might help you decide - The cost comparison of childcare and schooling

It's a question every new mum faces: Do I return to paid work and, if so, when? There are so many factors at play (childcare availability, personal desire to work, child's health, work opportunities etc) but perhaps one of the most considered and impactful factors is whether it is a financially viable option to (or not to) work. This simple to digest article about Australian childcare costs gives you an idea of what you need to plan for, in terms of childcare costs, when returning to work as well as when your child starts primary school. It's a learned read!

Child care accounts for 20% overall education costs and is the steepest annual riser

Parents pay the equivalent of, or more than, private school fees for their children's child care, accounting for around a fifth of their child's total education expenses. Even if you're not even contemplating private schooling for your child, you're likely to have paid the equivalent of a few year's private school fees before they even reach the local Kindergarten.

And while independent private school fees are slowly increasing, child care outstrips their increases by far, rising by 8.1 per cent each year over the past five years. Private school fees have risen between 3-5%, still greater than inflation (2.3%).

As an example, a well-known independent private school for girls in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs charges between $20,940 (day school) fees for Kindergarten, up to $30,720 for Year 12, and between $14,000, and $18,800 for their Early Learning Centre (pre-school and child care facility).

A child care centre down the road, run by the local council, costs between $90-100 per day (depending on the child's age), an average of $475 for a 5-day week, the equivalent of $24,700 per year! It's also just as exclusive and harder to get into!

However, most families in Australia are eligible to receive the child care rebate (at 50% up to $7500 per year), even if they do not receive child care benefit, so this cost would decrease to around $17,000 pa, which still falls within the parameters of private primary school fees and depending on how many years your child goes to child care, this could be around 5 years of school fees before your child even starts school, even if you choose to go to the public system for their actual schooling! A scary thought.

Child care services are generally open from 8-6, a lot longer than your average junior school day and so by the hour, they are probably less expensive to a degree, but it's still a massive expense you need to plan in to your finances, even if you've no intention of going private for their "schooling".

A recent article by Alexandra Cain in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) published some research and interviews on the growing costs of educating our children, which confirms that the cost of child care is rising at a substantially faster rate than the cost of primary, secondary or tertiary education.

The article said that AMP and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling figures indicate a 48 per cent rise in the cost of early childhood education over the past five years.

Reported in the AFR article, AMP financial adviser Andrew Heaven said the cost of educating older children is five times as expensive as the cost to educate younger kids.

"The cost to educate children between zero and four makes up 20 per cent of the overall cost of educating a child," he explains.

"But when you look at the bigger picture, it's actually most expensive to send kids to university, assuming they will be financially dependent on the parents over that time. This also takes into account that kids are now financially dependent on their parents for longer than they were in the past."

AMP's 2012 Cost of Raising Children in Australia report, produced two years ago by University of Canberra in conjunction with AMP, looked into the cost of educating our children. Ben Phillips, the lead researcher on the project said that one of the reasons the cost of education increases as a child develops is because some parents send their children to a public primary school and then go private in high school.

Of course there are also all sorts of "extras" when you get to school that increase in cost as they get older - things like school day trips, away weeks at activity centres, music tuition, overseas trips for history or language purposes, more expensive books and extra tuition.

In fact, according to the report, families with an income of $1160 per week spend $86 on babies and toddlers but almost $500 per week on offspring over 18 years.

Then University cost of living as well as fees - assuming of course they don't pay for this themselves by (horror of horrors) getting a job!

Yes, with or without the private school fees, if you want to and need to work, it's an expensive thing having a child, and probably why over the last five years there has been a 13.54 per cent national rise in one-child families!

To get the average cost of child care in your area click here

Source: Care for Kids

Monday, September 14, 2015

10 Tips for Managing Expectations Before Going on Parental Leave

Before going on maternity or extended parental leave, it’s important to establish realistic expectations with your clients (if you deal directly with them), your manager, and your team. This is particularly important if you plan on returning to the same role when you come back to work.

Consider how you would like to ‘stay connected’ whilst you are on parental leave. Communicate your intentions both verbally and in a written format (for example, via email) to all relevant parties to ensure they are informed.

10 Tips for Managing Client and Team Expectations

The following tips will ensure your transition to parental leave is as smooth as possible.
  1. Determine what work will be performed differently or undertaken by others during your pregnancy or leave, and discuss this with your manager.
  2. Decide when you will commence your parental leave and how much leave you would like to take.
  3. Communicate any changes to your normal role and/or responsibilities to your colleagues, clients and any direct reports. 
  4. Work with your manager to ascertain if your position will need to be performed by another person(s) during your parental leave and plan to allow for a sufficient hand-over period.
  5. Document the key aspects of your role, including processes, contacts, relationship management details and histories. Ensure this documentation is easily accessible for relevant colleagues in your absence.
  6. Prepare for and conduct a thorough hand-over session with the relevant people handling your workload during your parental leave. 
  7. Provide your ‘on leave’ contact details (if appropriate) and indicate how frequently you will be checking emails and voicemail.
  8. Contact your key clients prior to going on leave to explain when you plan to go on leave. Assure them of the plans that are in place to ensure continued delivery of service. Provide them with new contact details.
  9. If someone is looking after your role while you are on leave, consider having them as your key contact. 
  10. Update your ‘Out of Office’ message (or similar) with the agreed contact details and timeframe of your absence.
You could add to this list any company / job role / team specific tasks you also need to complete.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Working from home – the pros and cons

Working from home is becoming ever more popular and far easier to do for a range of workers.

Thanks to rapidly growing advances in high speed internet availability, wireless technology, easy teleconferencing software like Go to Webinar, Skype for Business and Microsoft Lync, and the falling cost of office hardware such as personal computers, printers and phones, many people can now make a business case for working from home.

They can show their employer that the organisation will not be financially disadvantaged by having them work from home.

In fact, an employer might make a cost saving, by spending less on things like heating, cooling, lighting, phones, printing, office space and travel-related expenses.

Working from home is an arrangement that suits many working carers. By giving them more autonomy about how they work their core hours, it enables them to effectively juggle their work and caring duties. This in turn may reduce their stress and potentially give them back several ‘lost’ hours each day – time that is usually wasted in getting ready for work, and travelling to and from work, whether on public transport or by personal car.

It also means that they may have the flexibility to do some work in the evening, when their caring duties are less, as their loved one has been settled for the night. That also buys back those precious hours and more evenly spreads their workload over a longer time period each day, but with less intensity.

All of these factors may add up to a considerable cost saving for the employee, as their public transport costs, or petrol costs and car running costs, will be reduced. Other savings can be made by there being less pressure to buy new work clothes, the ability to make low cost and more nutritious meals at home, the ability to have the time to shop smart and take advantage of specials, and having more at-home daylight hours in which to do domestic chores instead of having to pay for extra help.

Working from home may also benefit the health and wellbeing of both the person being cared for, and the worker themselves.

For example there can be more control and timely intervention when medical needs arise – medications can be given correctly and on time; dressings can be changed regularly; visits to the doctor can be more easily arranged; accidents can be avoided as there is better supervision; mental health might be improved as there is less stress generated by not having strangers coming into the house to help with care duties.

The carer, too, may potentially enjoy better health as they may have far less stress, be able to get out into the fresh air and sunshine more frequently, and feel happier and calmer as they have more control over their life.

That is not to say working from home benefits every working carer. Each situation is unique and needs to be assessed on its individual merits and the personality and needs of all involved.

Some working carers thrive on getting away from the house and having a separate life outside their caring role – they feel it is a break away from their caring duties. For them, working from home might be their worst nightmare.

On the ‘con’ side of working from home, working carers may feel that their time is never their own; that they can’t get any separation between their work and home life; that the caring becomes a relentless burden; or that they lose their social support and connection with colleagues. They may also feel that their employer does not see them as committed to their role and that they may be overlooked for special projects and promotions.

Taking genuine sick days may feel awkward, too, as the perception may be that they are already ‘at home’ so they should be able to continue to work. All of these may be very valid reasons for not working from home.

There is no right or wrong answer. A working carer who is considering working from home should consider a three-month trial to see if working from home is practical and delivers the benefits they are expecting.

Even a mix of working say two days at home and three in the office might be a good start for both the employee and the employer, to smooth out any issues in the transition and to still have the flexibility to go back to office-based work if the need arises.

Source: Working Carers Gateway

Monday, August 3, 2015

The truth about when your kids need you the most

I have a confession. I never loved staying at home when my children were young. Sleepless nights were followed by the drudge of never ending laundry, steaming and mashing food, breast feeding (painful, it never got easier) interspersed with the occasional joy of giggles and cuddles. Every day seemed to me like ground hog day and there was no appreciation by them for all the hard slog that was done. To the contrary, it all had to be done over and over again.

I realised this pretty early on and once regular sleep ensued I went back to work, albeit part time. The relief of stepping out the door leaving baby responsibilities to someone else so I could attend to adult work was palpable. I cared not a whit that my entire salary was devoted to paying for someone to care for my child. I looked upon it as a fair exchange: I was paying someone to complete tasks I loathed leaving me the opportunity to complete tasks that I enjoyed. My husband supported my decision. I was happier and more fulfilled combining work and motherhood.

This fair exchange continued for a number of years. I had three children, took a few months maternity leave for each and then continued to work part-time firstly as a political adviser and then as a lawyer. I found a niche area in law in which to practice and worked for a firm that was flexible and fair. The children went to crèche for a few days, and then school and I arranged for some home help too.

And then things changed. The balance shifted and the demands of the children became greater. Sound counter-intuitive? Not really when you think about it. As they grew older the children were no longer satisfied with a nanny or their grandmother picking them up from school and spending the rest of the afternoon with them. They wanted a parent to decompress with and not at a time convenient to me. If something important happened at school they wanted to discuss it immediately.

They wanted a parent who was switched on to their needs instantly. I was coming home tired, wanting a hot shower, some dinner, a quick chat with them and then some me time. Long, involved discussions about friendship groups, kids behaving badly and how to handle it or helping with homework were not tasks or conversations I wanted delve into at the end of a day in court or a protracted negotiation. By the time I had recovered (probably on the weekend) and was prepared to assist with an English essay or ready for a conversation about annoying peers, the opportunity had passed, the work was already done and the discussion had moved on.

My children were turning into young adults with complex emotions and I was missing out. The juggle of work and home responsibilities was not one I was comfortable with any longer. So after considerable reflection I quit. I didn't know what I was going to do next in my working capacity but a stressful career in the law (even a part time one) was no longer fitting the bill.

I spoke to many people about what to do next. I was unemployed for two weeks. And they were two weeks filled with relief of leaving behind my stressful job combined with uncertainty veering on panic as to what I would do next. My identity was wrapped up in my working life and not knowing what lay ahead was challenging and disconcerting.

In the end I fell into my subsequent job. A chance interaction with a woman I vaguely knew at gym led me to taking over her job as a program manager at one of my children's schools. I'm not practicing as a lawyer any longer so I'm remunerated at about 25% of what I was used to being paid. I work a similar number of hours but it's generally stress free. I got rid of the home help and now pick up my children from school each day. They now battle each other who can get in first with the details of their day. And I'm switched on, ready to embrace the intricacies of friendships and research projects.

Am I as challenged in my day job? Mostly not. Have I taken a considerable pay cut? Definitely. Am I more content with the balance? Without doubt. I've learnt priorities change as circumstances change. And once my children finish school, no doubt my priorities will change once more. I've retained my practicing certificate although a return to the law seems daunting and not particularly inviting. I also offer my time to organisations whose work I find meaningful. But it's the space I've found for my children that offers me the most meaning of all.

By: Liora Miller

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

7 things you need to know about returning to work after children

Jumping back into work can be a daunting prospect when you've had a substantial break, but there is little to fear.

There is absolutely no reason why you can't have a fulfilling career and a family. Things just might take a little more tweaking than before.

With a little bit of preparation and a few tips, you'll be free to drink a cup of tea or coffee whilst it's still hot in no time.

Here's a few ideas to help you make the leap:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Two careers, a family and a marriage: How to make it all work

Imagine it is Christmas or Easter or some family event which has entailed a fair amount of preparation. You have various family members staying so you have made beds and tidied the house accordingly. There were groceries to be bought and meals planned to feed a small tribe for a few days. Presents were arranged for the various children. Tables have been set. Schedules were managed to meet the interests of as many family members as possible. You have done all that leg work single-handedly and it is now time to start cooking for the main event.

Now imagine your husband walking into the kitchen and opening the fridge. Thank god, you think to yourself. He’s getting the turkey out to start basting. Except he’s not. He grabs a beer and says he’s about to watch the football.

That exact scene played out in US journalist Brigid Schulte’s home on Thanksgiving a few years ago.