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.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

New Harvard research: Children benefit from having a working mum

Here’s some heartening news for working mothers worried about the future of their children.

Women whose mothers worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time, according to a new study. Men raised by working mothers are more likely to contribute to household chores and spend more time caring for family members.

The findings are stark, and they hold true across 24 countries.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Part-time power: Can you be part-time at the top?

It's a familiar stereotype. The part-time worker (usually a woman) who has compromised on career and salary to bring up children.

Not for her the world of her full-time counterpart (usually a man) in a high-powered job, with not enough hours in the day, let alone days in the week, to respond to the e-mails, phone calls and meeting requests coming at him from all corners of the globe.

But a decade and a half into the 21st Century there are signs of a work pattern emerging that fits neither stereotype. And it isn't only for the benefit of frustrated working mothers.

It's being forged by men and women who, for whatever reason - whether it's children, elderly parents, or the pursuit of that elusive thing called work-life balance, don't want to work full-time, but are determined to do more than just "keep their hand in".

"I still feel ambitious. I want to have influence. There's an assumption that when you ask for part-time work, all those other things that made you professionally have gone out of the window, and that's just not true," says Karen Mattison, the co-founder of Timewise, which promotes flexible working.

"You're the same person inside, that's why the stigma around part-time work matters, it's the lens you might be looked at through."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Working from home - How to adapt to make it work with children

Lifestyle magazines and business pages seem to be full of the success stories of "Mumpreneurs" - highly successful women who have had babies and turned their home office or spare room into a money spinning success story of a business, while juggling babies and apparently having it all.

But is working from home all it's cracked up to be? The truth is, no, it isn't. Don't think that by working from home you'll be able to get work and chores done effortlessly while your small child plays happily and quietly nearby.

Working from home is hard. It requires discipline, patience, dedication, organisation and more often than not, child care.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tips for time poor working mums

When I read that Madonna supposedly has 15-minute appointment blocks in her schedule for one-on-one time with each child for singing, homework, cooking, it sounded crazy to me. But how many parents have mobiles grafted to their ears, even navigating vehicles, slipping out of meetings with clients ... getting through the day managing their offspring?

Maybe Madonna's strategy is wise? We recommend to managers they have lots of short, set one-on-one times with staff. At least 15 minutes dedicated listening without interruption is one of the best gifts you can give to anyone, let alone your children. Is this really so hard to achieve?

Technology has multiplied our output, no question, and the demands placed on us have accordingly increased. You probably feel like one of those mice on a wheel, scurrying endlessly as the wheel whizzes around. You'll have noticed by now that when you mention your hyperactivity to others, they feel the urge to "top" this by claiming they are even busier. Most of us are now experiencing workplace Olympics, and while some thrive, others are drained. And what is happening to our kids? Do they simply not see us enough or see us too drained to be a wonderful interactive parent?