Thursday, October 16, 2014

Guilt around parenting - what the experts say



Mother of two, Kelli, feels guilty that she works such long hours. Belinda feels guilty that she’s a single parent to her two daughters. And Rosie, a mother of three, feels bad that she doesn’t feel the guilt her parenting peers do.

Mother guilt — It seems to affect most mothers in varying degrees and yet it is something rarely identified in pre-natal preparations. For many it’s the tiny regrets we feel throughout the day: I wish I’d spent more time playing with my kids, I wish I’d had time to prepare a better meal for the family, I wish I didn’t have to leave little tommy at daycare.

But at its extreme, experts claim it can lead to anxiety and depression.

Reality check needed


Clinical psychologist Jennifer Ericksen says mother guilt is a modern day phenomenon brought on by women who feel the need to be a ‘super mum’ or strive for perfection in every facet of their busy lives.

“Think about the modern day women who goes from just looking after herself and working at her job, to all of a sudden having the responsibility of another human being and still often expected to return to the workforce, motherhood is a major transition,” says Ms Ericksen of the Parent Infant Research Institute (PIRI) at Austin Health in Victoria. “The feelings of guilt come from wanting to be perfect and that’s one of the greatest myths of motherhood, that we can be perfect at everything.

'There is a leak of psychological preparation for parenthood.'

“Mothers need to take a step back and really think about their priorities and the kind of mothers they want to be and deal with realistic expectations.”

Ms Ericksen adds mother guilt may seem like a harmless emotion, but can lead to depression if left unchecked. At PIRI, they are working towards making the emotional transition to parenthood easier and reduce the risk of guilt and anxiety.

“There is a lack of psychological preparation for parenthood,” she says. “Motherhood can be an overwhelming responsibility and we try to help parents before they hit rock bottom.”

"The feelings of guilt come from wanting to be perfect and that's one of the greatest myths of motherhood"


Shared guilt syndrome


While we commonly refer to it as ‘mother guilt,’ it is not a feeling reserved solely for women. Dr Richard Fletcher, a senior lecturer at Newcastle University’s Faculty of Health, says he constantly hears from dads who feel guilty they are not there enough for their children, are missing out on their children growing up and reaching milestones and fear their children are building meaningful relationships with their mothers but not them.

“The simple fact we see so many men coming along to prenatal classes shows they want a connection with their child that dads in previous generations didn’t commonly seek or admit to,” says Dr Fletcher. “Fathers have always loved their children, but now they’re prepared to admit it and this leaves them open to guilt in the same way mothers are.

One of the biggest guilt trips mums feel is when they return to work.

“As a society we are really being unfair to dads. We tell them two things: firstly that they ought to be right in there, connected and responsible for the rearing of their children. Then we tell them mums will get 18 weeks maternity leave and dads will only get two weeks paternity leave. In the area of depression too, mothers have access to a national program that means they are screened pre and post the arrival of the baby, but fathers get nothing.

“At a policy and service level, we could certainly be doing more for dads transitioning into parenthood. They have the same emotions and suffer the same guilt trips mothers do.”

Returning to work


One of the biggest guilt trips both mums and dads feel is when they return to work. A 2013 annual child care survey conducted by careforkids.com.au claimed 32 per cent of mums felt guilt was the hardest emotion to deal with when returning to the workforce. The report, which surveyed around 2500 Australian mums, also found 22 per cent of working mothers felt they were being judged by non-working mums for leaving their children to work. And 20 per cent of stay-at-home mums also admitted to feeling stigmatised by other mothers for not working.

Margie Warrell, author, internationally-renowned women’s leadership coach and mother-of-four, says there are ways to lessen the guilt factor.
  • Know your ‘why’ — why is it that you do what you do, eg work or stay at home?
  • Ensure your kids understand they are your priority but that you have other commitments too.
  • Accept that trade-offs are inevitable and allow flexibility in your life.
  • Accept that children are allowed to miss things and instead, work out what works for your family.
  • It’s OK to lower the bar and acknowledge that good enough is sometimes OK.
  • It’s OK to invest in yourself in order to be a better person and a better role model.
  • Make sure the time you spend with your family is quality time.

If you need to speak with someone about the pressures of parenthood, call the Post and Antenatal Depression Association national helpline on 1300 726 306.

Case in point: Paige is searching for a better way


SYDNEY mother of two Paige Smith has experienced both sides of the working mother debate. And as far as she’s concerned, mother guilt exists not matter what. Now, the former salesperson is hoping to establish a home-based career in order to spend more time with her daughters, Savannah, nine and Piper, three and husband, Paul.

“The sales industry is a full time, full on career with little allowance for part time or flexible work,” she says. “I constantly felt guilty working these long hours as my time with the family was shortened. So, my plan is to search for a better way, something that can bring in the money but still allow me to spend time with my family.”

Paige knows staying home with her children doesn’t lessen the guilt. When her youngest daughter was born three years ago, Paige took time out to be a stay-at-home mum.

“When I was a stay-at-home mum the guilt was huge as I felt I was not pulling my weight and bringing home money for the family,” she says. “I really feel that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It’s a real Catch-22 situation, and not a good one. But it’s one that so many modern families face, sadly we are not unique.”

These days Paige is re-educating herself in social media to see if an online business works better for her and is dabbling in lifestyle coaching, a passion she was forced to give up when her full-time job became too hectic.

“We have less money these days, but we are the happiest we’ve been in years, so that’s a plus,” she says. “I still feel guilty about leaving my job behind but I make up for it by spending more time with my girls and contributing more to our home. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to acknowledge you were on the wrong path.

“I’m determined to keep searching for a better way.”

By: Mercedes Maguire
First published: 10th October 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Body Image Movement: Taryn Brumfitt



We read this article on Connect2Mums recently and found it worthy of passing on as we are sure so many of you can relate to Taryn's message. The photo above is a link to her website and a trailer for her planned documentary. If the movie is anything like the promotional video it will be a very touching piece. For now, here's the interview with Taryn - Body Image Movement founder and inspiration for women across the globe.  

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I recently had a chat with body love advocate Taryn Brumfitt of the Body Image Movement about why we should love our bodies no matter what stage of life we are at and how to love ourselves more.

Taryn, tell us how your journey to begin the Body Image movement began…


The Body Image Movement began because I wanted to share with other women the strategies I implemented to overcome my body image issues.

Loathing your body is very consuming, I felt like I was in a big hole and everything I did, including the relationships I had with people around me was affected by the mental theatre in my head. It was no way to live, so once I had transformed (eek that word!) from a body hater to a body lover I wanted other women to feel the goodness that I felt.

We love your Before and After photos can you explain the message behind these images?


Oh the before and after photo! What a stir this photo created! I remember distinctly the moment I posted this photo on facebook, it was Sunday night 9.18pm and I was ‘fluffing’ as I call it around on the computer. Within minutes of posting it had hundreds of likes. I knew immediately it was going to get a good response but never did I anticipate what would happen next. Over 3.5 million views, over 50,000 likes 18,000 shares, thousands of comments and an invite on to the TODAY show to discuss the reaction on live TV – woah baby!

The message behind the photos is very simple, you can love your body no matter what it looks like. Women have been brainwashed into thinking that you can only love your body when it is in “perfect” condition. My message and the message behind the photos is that it doesn’t matter what your body looks like you are capable of loving your body in any condition, overweight, underweight, tall, slim, with or without surgery, hey it doesn’t matter if your pink with purple polka dots – LOVE YOUR BODY at every stage at every age.

You’re all about being healthy as opposed to being ‘perfect’ can you explain what that means in real terms?


I think too often the emphasis of being perfect and looking a certain way is valued more than our health. My focus is to be the best I can be with what I have got. I treat and respect my body as a vehicle and not an ornament. I truly don’t give a rats (BEEP) about my wrinkles, cellulite or stretch marks. What I do care about is being here for a long time, and giving my body the best opportunity to do just that comes in the form of prioritising health over beauty. As for perfection, well pfft there is no such thing!

How do you achieve being healthy amongst all of the other demands of your busy family life?


Well it’s not always easy and I don’t always do it well but I do try and make it a priority in my life. Firstly let me say that I think women can be incredibly hard on themselves. We do such an amazing job at juggling one million things at the same time I don’t think we need to give ourselves a hard time about not getting it right 100% of the time. (speaking of juggling, I am currently typing these words out on my laptop, driving on the I15 freeway to Las Vegas whilst directing my husband to take the next exit and telling the 3 kids in the back to stop fighting. The little ones have become accustomed to a DVD player in the back of the car and trips are usually silent and peaceful but this hire car has no DVD player, so it’s on like donkey kong back there) Anyway, where was I? Rant over! Oh that’s right, us women are freaking fabulous!

Here are my top 3 tips on how to maintain good health amongst the chaos of a busy family life.



Preparation is key. One skill that I learnt from my short stint in body building was preparation and organisation is the key to success when it comes to healthy eating. I usually spend a large chunk of one day in the week, chopping, cutting and preparing food for the following week. As I drink a green smoothie every day I like to have all the spinach washed, cut and bagged (snap locked in individual bags) in the freezer. I also make large batches of sandwiches for the kids and freeze them, I pull them out each day as required. I also cut up fruit and leave it in the fridge for a couple of days and use as required. ( snacks, school/kindy lunch boxes)

Prioritise your needs first. You know when you’re on a plane and told to in an emergency to put your mask on before you help infants, well same applies for you in your everyday life. Women and mothers in particular need to start putting themselves first, without any guilt. Think about a time when you’ve been sick and the impact that it has had on your family, huge – right? Imagine if you became very sick ( a nasty disease or illness) imagine how your family would cope without you. We need to be very accountable to our health, our roles are so vital. To do this, we need to prioritise time for ourselves, time to engage in physical activity, time to spend in the kitchen making nutritious meals and snacks and time to breathe, meditate or whatever activity you do to relax.

Get out of bed just a teeny bit earlier and start your day off on a good note by eating a healthy balanced breakfast. Breakfast is KEY to good health and I don’t just mean grabbing a bowl of sugar laden boxed cereal. At least 3 mornings a week I scramble some eggs and enjoy with a slice of toast and avocado. Other mornings it might be oat and chia pancakes and when I am really pushed for time I grab a bowl of homemade muesli. People often say to me “ I don’t have time to make myself eggs for breakfast” , my response to that is this “ It takes no more than 5 minutes, I know this because I have timed it myself, you pop a piece of toast in the toaster, you slice some avocado, and you scramble a couple of eggs like a mad women on a mission, throw it in the pan, cook and eat. If you can’t invest 5 minutes in your own health to start the day positively then you need to look at your priorities.” Harsh but true.

You recently travelled with your kids to Disneyland did you find being ‘healthy’ challenging while travelling, how did you address this?


Yes at times I found it challenging because when we stayed in Anaheim we didn’t have a car which meant that we were a little stranded. I had really good intentions to hit the “Wholefoods” supermarket the day that we arrived in L.A so I could be prepared with lots of fresh and healthy snacks, but it didn’t happen. Instead I had to grab goodness wherever and however I found it. For example the corner 711 supermarket sold bags of raw nuts, I found some green barley grass powder at the supermarket, Disneyland had (overpriced) but delicious fruit and most of the diners that we ate in were very accommodating for our specific dietary needs. ( my sisters daughter has Coeliac Disease)
One of the great aspects of eating in America ( as a result of their tipping system) is that you can almost ask for anything on the menu but prepared the way you want it. As an example, for breakfast I would mix and match about 5 different menu items to make up my perfect breakfast. On many occasions I ordered scrambled egg whites with spring onions and avocado, a side of mushrooms strawberries and blueberries. The servers might look at you in a certain way but trust me they don’t care if you ordered pickles and ice-cream, for as long as you tip them well!

I think the key to healthy eating is being organised so that you are always armed with healthy options. One thing we did do each day was pack a little backpack of healthy foods (fruit, nuts and muesli bars) and lots of water. At least then we weren’t always at the mercy of the sugar filled, colourful and quite often scary treats that were on offer – EVERYWHERE we looked! ( or so it seemed!)

What tips do you have for Mums wanting to start living a more healthy lifestyle?


The first thing I want Mums to know is that you have the power to change your life. If there is an aspect of your life that you are not happy about, then you CAN do something about it. (and by golly I don’t want to alarm you but NOW is the time to do it, life is tick tick ticking away!)
Here is an activity that you can do with yourself. (you might feel a little loopy doing it at first but trust me, it can be a very powerful tool to tap into).

So find some quiet time and a cuppa and have a conversation with yourself. If you are not where you want to be in terms of your wellness, lifestyle and health, ask yourself why and what it is that’s missing. (for example, it might be exercise, or time to yourself) From there you need to “road map” the steps you need to take to get to your goal. Don’t overcomplicate it, keep it really simple. On the subject of goal setting and achieving outcomes, as important as it is to have a detailed step by step plan it is as crucial to know where and how you might become unstuck along the way. Work out your pressure points, explore parts of the plan that are a little weak and ensure there is always good support and a back up strategy.

Ok so you can probably tell I am big fan of goal setting and it is something I LOVE to talk about in my presentations and workshops but I know you are after some real life practical ways to a healthier lifestyle, so in no particular order here is a bunch of my favourite tips:

  • Drink green smoothies ( check out my favourite recipe on the BIM website)
  • Eat protein for breakfast and throughout the day.
  • Make time for yourself, don’t be a martyr, you DESERVE it!
  • Have a good laugh – don’t take life too seriously, we are only here for such a short time, so let go and enjoy the ride.
  • Get 8 hours sleep a night. (Pfft yeah right! No I am serious, do try! I am constantly working on this one!)
  • Move that body – exercise regularly.
  • Eat Clean – ditch the processed foods.
  • Hydrate your body by drinking lots of water.
  • Be kind to yourself. You are what you are, you have what you have, now go and be the best version of yourself that you can be!

What tips do you have for other mums who are struggling with their self-image?


The first thing I want to say to Mums is that you are not alone and STOP being so hard on yourselves and START being kind to yourself. We live in a world that constantly tells us that we aren’t good enough, that we should look a certain way, that happiness comes from looking like a supermodel, that ageing is offensive and so on and so on. It comes as no surprise to me that so many women struggle with their body image given the pressures that society, media and advertising put us under.
On the Body Image Movement website I have prepared my top 10 tips for a positive body image, click here for more details http://bodyimagemovement.com.au/top-10-body-lovin-tips/

You’ve recently released an ebook on body image and self love, what can we expect from this guide?


Quite simply the Body Lovin’ Guide is a booked filled with helpful hints on learning to love your body from the inside out.
I put together the ebook because I wanted to provide a “quick and easy to read guide” for all the people that wrote to me, called me and messaged me saying “ I want to love my body but I don’t know how!” I wanted to attack the body image issue with a multi disciplinary approach, the mind and the body, so I invited Dr Emma Johnston – Clinical Psychologist and Sonia Osborne – Food and Nutrition Coach to contribute to the book.
The guide is 50 pages long, it’s easy to read, (it’s pretty with lots of photos) and it’s had an overwhelmingly positive response from the women that have purchased it. Some women have written to me and said the book was life changing. (That made my heart swell!)
With the purchase of the Body Lovin’ Guide (BLG) you are given access to a private Facebook group called the BLG community. This is a safe, friendly and supportive space where women can share their goals, discuss their issues, share recipes and best of all ( said with a cheeky smile) get support and advice from Emma, Sonia and myself.
I LOVE the community we are building and the positive stories that are shared amongst the group are inspiring. The women in the BLG community are from all over the world, which makes it’s all the more interesting.

Where can we find out more about you and your story? Website?


You can find out more about my story by visiting the Body Image Movement website and keep up to date with the movement through Facebook. On the website you can read about My Journey, from Bright Lights and Porno Shoes to Suppository’s and Sanitary Pads – there’s never a dull moment!
I ask and encourage all of you to help me in this movement because I can’t do it alone and god only knows a movement is what women of the world need right now. (and especially our daughters) Please LIKE the Facebook page, sign up to the movement on the website, purchase the Body Lovin’ Guide, be kind to yourselves and love your body…starting right….NOW!

By: Peace
First published: 18 December 2013
Source: Connect2Mums




Monday, October 6, 2014

Innovative grocery service delivers your groceries to your door (home or business) in as little as 90 minutes

We've just learnt about this great service that delivers your groceries in 90 minutes. If you are in QLD or VIC and need groceries quickly without leaving your home, read on...

JUMP ON BOARD THE GROCERY REVOLUTION!
GROCERIES DELIVERED IN 90-MINUTES!

(Available in QLD and VIC)



Don’t have the time or means to go to the supermarket? Car broken down?  Too busy taking care of the kids?  Or simply can’t be bothered? Grocery Butler is at your service!

Grocery Butler http://grocerybutler.com.au offers a convenient and fast, same-day grocery delivery service to households and businesses across Australia.

As seen on National Nine News (16/09), Grocery Butler is one of Australia’s largest online grocery shopping platforms and the first of its kind in the country.

This innovative service offers a speedy grocery delivery in as little as 90 minutes (minimum order $25; delivery fee $10). Best of all, its thousands of products are competitively priced and are the same brands found at your local supermarket.  

The demand for online grocery shopping has been growing, but this growth has been hindered by hard-to-navigate websites, slow and inconvenient delivery times and expensive prices to boot. 
Grocery Butler aims to do away with all of these inconveniences. The company promises an easy-to-use online platform for customers who can’t fit grocery shopping in their busy schedule or who simply can’t leave the comfort of their homes.

Michael Parthenides, Grocery Butler’s Managing Director says, “Grocery Butler caters to time-poor mums and dads who find shopping with their kids difficult, and to everyone who prefers to do their shopping quickly and easily from the comfort of their own home. Our customers will love our 30 minute delivery windows. We don’t believe it’s convenient for our customers to be waiting around for three hours for their grocery delivery.”

To make the shopping experience even more convenient, the company is in the process of developing a free mobile app.

So, sit back and relax while Grocery Butler express delivers to you! Jump on board the grocery revolution today!


To find out more about Grocery Butler’s express grocery shopping service and locations, please visit http://grocerybutler.com.au now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Working Mother Magazine’s best companies and their common thread – the art of disconnecting



The Art of Disconnecting

Can you really ignore that late-night work email? At some Best Companies, the answer is an emphatic yes.


When employees at animal health products company Zoetis head home for the weekend, there’s one thing they don’t worry about: dealing with an email from the boss. CEO Juan Ramón Alaix has vowed not to send or respond to anything but an emergency message from Friday night through Sunday—and expects managers to follow his lead.

“It’s important to know how to make the most of technology without it intruding into your life,” says Roxanne Lagano, executive vice president and chief of human resources at the Florham Park, NJ–based company. She says Alaix’s declaration has had the desired effect of trickling down into every department of the company. “Unless it’s some sort of crisis, we really don’t email or make work calls over the weekend.” After all, she says, “we don’t want people to burn out.”

It’s hard to envision many CEOs of multibillion-dollar companies actively encouraging workers to shut off their laptops. But Zoetis, a newly named Working Mother 100 Best Company, is part of a growing movement to decrease electronic intrusions into evenings and weekends. For companies like this one, it’s more than a feel-good gesture, it’s a bottom-line necessity; as the volume of email rises and seeps into every hour of the day, the additional stress and loss of downtime can have a serious impact on worker productivity.

“The use of smartphones to stay connected to work 24/7 is so common that it’s now considered the new normal”. J.Deal.


Jennifer J. Deal, PhD, a research scientist authored a 2013 study on the subject for the Center for Creative Leadership in San Diego. That survey of 483 executives, managers and other professionals found that smartphone-toting workers actually log 72-hour workweeks when all the late-night and weekend emailing is factored in.

It’s little wonder, then, that “many professionals say they are worn out, feeling they are kept on an electronic leash by their organization,” says Dr. Deal. Another recent study, by software company neverfail, found that 83 percent of professional staffers report checking email during non-work hours, and 66 percent say they use their devices while on vacation.

Of course, the argument can cut both ways: The Web, texting and email have certainly made flexible work easier. Still, few anticipated the degree to which technology would take over our every waking minute—and experts say it will only get worse. By next year, we’ll be sending and receiving 22 percent more emails than we did just three years ago, according to the Radicati Group, a market research firm.

To rein in the trend, many best companies—including Merck, Deloitte, the Advisory Board Company and Janssen North America (a division of Johnson & Johnson)—are implementing policies or guidance on off-hours use of work-issued smartphones and laptops.

Janssen, for one, is tackling the topic as part of a new initiative to foster better work life balance, says Sharon Labbate, senior director of human resources for the pharmaceutical company. Janssen has a policy of email-free weekends, which means workers refrain from sending non-critical business messages from 8 p.m. Friday until 6 p.m. Sunday.

“We see that getting people away from their electronic devices and their computers is really providing them with the opportunity to recharge,” says Labbate. Setting firm boundaries over the weekend “allows them to have that recovery break and ultimately allows them to come back on Monday refreshed.”

The mum of Olivia, 10, Julia, 8, and Peter, 5, Labbate says she understands both sides of the issue: Employees may want to catch up on emails during weekends or at night once the kids are in bed. But rather than send messages on weekends, she says, she follows Janssen’s practice of using a delay-send mode so they go out the next business day. That way, staffers don’t feel pressured to prove they’re burning the midnight oil as well.

The Advisory Board Company, a technology, research and consulting firm based in Washington, DC, has an email-free weekend at least once a year— typically on Labor Day or the Fourth of July—in order to encourage staffers to think twice before blasting out electronic interruptions during off-hours.

That sits well with Cara Weiman, a managing director and mum of Sylvie, 13, Lena, 11, and Theo, 9. She herself keeps co-workers apprised of when it’s okay to contact her and when she’ll be unreachable. Simple techniques like using the “out of office” message clearly stating when you’ll be able to respond to an email are invaluable, she says. Other strategies she likes: Don’t copy too many people on your emails, and use the office’s shared calendar to let colleagues know when you’re on duty.

Weiman, who works a part-time schedule at the Advisory Board Company, says it’s critical to get the support of top management in turning off the email spigot. “By creating things like the email-free weekend, our CEO, Robert Musslewhite, is focused on the fact that email was becoming a burden as much as a tool,” she says. “If you’re going to encourage people to take the time to recharge, the example has to be set from the top down.”

By: Barbara Peterson
Source: Working Mother 

Extras…


Mum’s from the Top 10 Best Companies tell their story


Technology creates a 24/7 connection to work, but mums at the Top 10 Best Companies say that making a conscious effort to disconnect is essential to becoming happier and healthier. See what mums at the top 10 have to say Top 10 Best Companies: Work Life Unplugged.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tips for freelance and work from home mums

Image via Flickr (photographer: GCSNJ)

Times have changed. Where in the past working parent meant one who went to an office for 8 hours a day away from home, now working parent can mean a myriad of things. From working different schedules, freelancing, working part time and working from home, working parent means more than "going to work" these days.

For our family, my husband goes to work all day and I work from home even though I primarily stay home with my kids. Yes, this means many days are a juggle. Especially in the summer. But I am so thankful to be able to write and consult from the comfort of my own home, on my own schedule and of my own accord.

Four of the five kids are in school now. All day every day I find that it's my 15 month old and I. And while there will still be days that I'm in a childcare bind to make it to a meeting or event, for the most part right now I'm feeling like I've got this. {It's day three.}

That said, a few weeks before school started I decided I needed to make some rules for myself so that I can truly enjoy this season. I find that without boundaries I am more stressed, less efficient and really never quite finished. If you, too, work from home in any capacity, I'm sure you can relate to the struggle to truly shut down, to not click on the mail icon on your phone and truly, truly have "off" time.

So here's what's my plan this fall to keep myself on track this school year:

Be on time


When I am late, I am stressed. Sadly, I tend to be late often. This year, I have to drive one of our kids to and from school each day. If I am not intentional with making sure we get out the door on time, it will be a slippery slope. So far, so good.

Shut off the computer at 2:20 and don't turn it back on until 8


My third grader's bus arrives about 2:30 and so many times last spring once he went back to school I would be trying to "quick finish an email" or things of that nature. I want to deliberately shut down a few minutes before he arrives so I can fully welcome him and enjoy time with just him {as most days my 15 month old will still be napping} to talk about his day, get started on homework etc.

Same rule for my phone


While I likely won't actually "shut off" my phone during those hours due to sports schedules for my two oldest and other life happenings, I want to mostly not use my phone. Most of my texts aren't urgent, any email can wait and I really don't need to browse social media, do I? I'm sure there will be exceptions to this, sometimes meetings or events pop up that I would attend during these hours or there might be something I'm contracted to do but for the most part, I'd like to really be unplugged those few hours with my kids.

Aside from a quick check of the email for any school notices/reminders in the morning, don't check email


For me it comes down to, it's just hard to draw the line here. I read a few on my phone, forget to reply because I already read them or simply become overwhelmed with the things I need to accomplish later. It's not fair to myself or the people I am working for when I am trying to split my time and mind that way. I also added a time frame to my email signature that says when I will reply to emails. 12-2 or after 8pm on weekdays works best for me.

No phone calls at drop off and pick up


We've all seen the mom or dad walking into their child's school on a phone call and we've all thought, "get off the phone and pick up your kid." Well, what's so different if that parent on the phone is in the carpool line and their excited kindergartener is about to get in the car? For me, not much. So I've decided no phone calls on the way to drop off and I want to finish any phone conversation before I arrive to pick up at 3:20 so I can talk with my five year old and discuss school on the drive home.

I'm a big believer in teaching kids that they are not the center of the universe and we have made sure that there are times here and there they have to accomodate our schedules and work situations but especially with them being at school all day, I really want to be intentional with the time that they are home and the time we have together as a family.

If you are a work from home parent or have a varied work set up, what sorts of rules and boundaries do you have in place so that you can balance parenting and working from home?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New maternity coaching study reveals five game changing benefits for mums in the workplace


Could maternity coaching modernise Australian workplaces and reduce those shocking 1 in 2 discrimination statistics?


A recent study into the impact of maternity coaching revealed five key elements that positively impact on professional women and their maternity leave/return to work experience.

The interview-based research was lead by University of Wollongong student Jennifer North with a two-fold purpose. The first, to get a woman’s perspective on the benefits of maternity coaching; the second, to provide recommendations that employers can use to improve the ‘transformative experience’ and retention rates of women throughout their maternity leave and return to work transition.

To complete the study North interviewed experienced, professional women from various private sector organisations in order to represent various return-to-work experiences.

The results (expanded below) clearly highlighted why maternity coaching could modernise business culture in Australia. It showed that when women feel supported during one of the most challenging transitional periods of their career they feel valued, are more likely to stay with their employer and are more productive on their return.

If there was any doubt that this transitional period is challenging (and whether women really need extra support during the maternity leave transition) we need only turn to this year’s Australian Human Rights Commission nation-wide inquiry, titled Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review. It found that 1 in 2 Australian women experience discrimination during their pregnancy and/or return to work with “84% of mothers reporting significant negative impacts related to mental health, physical health, career and job opportunities, financial stability and their families”[1]. These sobering statistics support the growing evidence that maternity coaching is, for at least the women in this study, a crucial element to ensuring women avoid being victimised by tapping in to the support on offer – be that in the workplace, at home or a woman’s own reserves.

Maternity Coaching: why professional women want it


As the pace of business and life generally speeds up it makes juggling, negotiating and balancing a whole lot trickier. It’s no surprise that more professional women than ever are seeking out external support and letting go of the “I can do it all/just get on with it” mentality. Or worse - opting out altogether.

Maternity coaching is a good first port of call for such support as it establishes some perspective and sets up clear plans for managing steps to achieve short to long-term career goals. It also helps to address any practical or emotional issues related to the maternity/return to work transitional period (such as common forms of discrimination like a reduction in salary, missing out on training, professional development and promotional opportunities).

The 5 key elements of maternity coaching that the women in North’s study felt were most beneficial:
  1. Coachee-led but solution-focused. Maternity coaching adapted to a woman’s personal situation (i.e. requirement for flexible work requests) rather than following a prescribed one-size-fits-all programme.
  2. Support from the coach and feeling valued by their organisation. This encouraged loyalty by reinforcing the commitment of women to remain with their employer.
  3. Increased confidence and focus impacts productivity. Loss of confidence or uncertainty about returning to work is a common experience for women. A coach helps to restore confidence by working with women to develop solutions and a return-to-work action plan that eases the transition period and enables them to be more productive on their return.
  4. Independent third party support and confidentiality. A key theme noted in the study was that an independent third party, with no agenda, conducted the coaching. As a result they felt able to express any concerns in a safe and confidential environment. 
  5. Communication and timing of the coaching. Communicating the option to engage with a maternity coach and the timing of initiating contact is particularly important to each woman. Initially, some women did not think it was relevant for them, or the offer arrived after maternity leave had commenced and they had insufficient time to focus on it. Some women feel it would have been helpful to have the coaching while they were on maternity leave.

Why is Maternity Coaching crucial for women, businesses and the Australian economy?


The study points out that many women “do not return, or resign shortly after maternity leave due to transition issues, a trend which has financial and career implications for women and productivity and cost implications for organisations.”

When women leave the workforce for good the repercussions later in life can be extremely damaging particularly in the event of divorce, death of a spouse or old age when women are vulnerable to poverty.

But why are they leaving and how can a maternity coach turn things around?


Let’s look at the stats again. In Australia 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men experience pregnancy/return to work discrimination in the workplace. What’s more, the 2012 ABS Pregnancy and Employment Transitions report found that ‘1 in 5 women permanently left their job during pregnancy’.[2]

“Research and modelling shows that if businesses and other employers are able to retain women and men who are becoming new parents by eradicating pregnancy/ return to work discrimination, there will be a considerable economic dividend to both them and the wider economy.” Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick.[3]

In the Maternity Coaching study women who had the support of a coach and felt valued by their organisation were more committed and loyal to their employer. Higher retention rates means lower recruitment costs and organisations get to hold on to some of the most productive, talented workers available.

Maternity coaching also helps women realise their true value, which is particularly useful when negotiating pay, work arrangements (i.e. greater flexibility), employment conditions, career and development opportunities and entering into contracts. When women realise the value of their contribution to the workforce they stay in it.

“It has been estimated that an increase in female workforce participation by 6% would increase Australia's annual GDP by around $25 Billion dollars.”

The Grattan Institute 2012 via WGEA website[4]

Further resources


Know your own value: online pay and contract negotiation checklist for women. This Security4Women resource equips you with the tools and checklists you may need to negotiate pay and flexible working arrangements with you employers.

Mums@Work Career Coaching. Personalised, one-to-one sessions with a qualified career coach as well as toolkits, group learning forums and other information resources to holistically support employees throughout their journey as a working parent.

Maternity Coaching study: North Jen - Summary of Research paper on Maternity coaching.







[1] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, The price of parenthood: discrimination at work, viewed 12.9.14, https://www.wgea.gov.au/wgea-newsroom/price-parenthood-discrimination-work

[2] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Pregnant, and overlooked for promotion - women deserve better, viewed 12.9.14 https://www.wgea.gov.au/content/pregnant-and-overlooked-promotion-women-deserve-better

[3] Australian Human Rights Commission, Pregnancy report reveals personal and financial cost of discrimination, viewed 8.9.14 http://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/stories/pregnancy-report-reveals-personal-and-financial-cost-discrimination-0

[4] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Pregnant, and overlooked for promotion - women deserve better, viewed 12.9.14 https://www.wgea.gov.au/content/pregnant-and-overlooked-promotion-women-deserve-better

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Five tips for silencing your inner critic

Whatever your work load, job role or family commitments - reading this article from a woman who has lived and breathed (and made friends with) her inner critic will give you some valuable tips on how to master yours too. Women in leadership and working mums in particular are prone to negative self-talk at some point - it's hard not to be in a world structured to crush all the amazing, inspiring work we do. So take a moment to reflect on these gems of lived experience and perhaps implement a few in your own life and see what happens.

You can’t hate yourself happy.
You can’t criticise yourself thin.
You can’t shame yourself worthy.
Real change begins with self-love & self-care.
Jessica Ortner

Five tips for silencing your inner critic


This week, I faced my demons.

Given the formidable task of presenting at the Women in Media and Communications Leadership Summit, I shared the stage with an impressive line-up of female leaders.

It forced me to face the demons within: those voices suggesting that I really wasn't good enough to be there.

And in doing so, I was struck again by how difficult women can make leadership for themselves.

Panic and preparation

Throughout my career, I have been plagued by a lack of self-belief.

I would never have believed in my ability to be a leader if it weren't for the male managers and mentors who identified my leadership potential – long before I saw the capability within myself.

And each time I present to large groups, I nurse my anxiety with hours of preparation and moments of panic.

Now that I work with, and coach, executives on leadership and communication, I'm often struck by how quickly female leaders turn the discussion to confidence issues.

During my presentation, I spoke about the work I've done throughout my career to convert my inner voice from foe to friend, and this seemed to resonate with the audience. Many women admitted to feeling that they had to 'fake it until they made it', and were comforted to know they weren't alone in facing the 'impostor syndrome'.


Character and competency


The theme of my presentation was 'building trusted relationships', as this has been the driving force behind my career. For me, nothing builds success as fast as the speed of trust.

Earning and giving trust is a factor of both character and competency. It is the key to building high performing teams and is paramount to winning executive support and fostering customer loyalty. The ability to form trusted relationships brings professional success as well as personal fulfillment.

However, the most critical trust relationship for long-term success is the one we have with ourselves.

Success and sanity


As business leaders, we have to be able to back ourselves. My tips for building confidence are simple to understand, but difficult to execute on an ongoing basis.

They are, nonetheless, essential to building your success while saving your sanity.

1. Manage your mind:

      a. Defeat negative self-talk with rational positive thinking
      b. Use visualisation techniques to create strong mental images of your success


2. Be yourself, and look after yourself


3. Truly commit to success: you need determination and stamina to reach the goals you've set yourself


4. Set small goals, achieve them and celebrate success


5. Don't take it personally: try your best, but detach yourself from the outcome


I was really pleased by the overwhelming support that the conference speakers and attendees gave to each other and the commitment this group, and many others, have to improving the alarmingly low female leadership numbers in Australia.

However, self-belief can only come from one place. If we are to assume our rightful places as co-leaders on this planet, we need to look after ourselves and we need to believe in ourselves.

By: Ava Lawler
First published: 2nd September 2014