Thursday, December 11, 2014

The risk of sniper attacks in the 'mummy wars'

Have you been ever been injured by a sniper attack in the 'mummy wars'? It could have come in the form of a random comment from a passer-by. A loaded suggestion from your great aunt. An email from a colleague. A voice of 'concern' from another parent while dropping off the kids at school. Or even a sweeping generalised statement from a male opinion writer.

However the bullet arrived, the chances are that it hurt.

Or perhaps you fired the gun yourself.

The 'mummy wars' is that perceived battle that exists between mothers who chose (or are forced into) one way of living over another, particularly working over not working.

But it's not just 'mummies' who get involved in such wars but plenty of daddies and anyone who's ever had a kid, or has spent more than an hour with a kid, and believes they're qualified to comment on the lifestyle and parenting ways of mothers.

As with any need to address the habits of another group of people who are different to the tribe you believe you're in, the reason the 'mummy wars' exist at all largely stems from guilt and fear: the guilt that the choice you believe you're making may not actually be the best one; and the fear of somebody doing something different to the way you have been taught it should be done.

The problem is that those with such fears and guilt can swiftly launch an attack on a mother that can have serious consequences. Such wars can force women into decisions they wouldn't have otherwise made. Being on guard for sniper attacks can destroy the confidence of mothers, it can lead some to try and "do it all", sacrificing much-needed sleep in the process.

Indeed, the 'mummy wars' can seriously hurt the mental wellbeing of mothers. And those who are often at most risk of attack happen to also be the ones who are at risk of dropping out of the workforce altogether.

Currently, we have some decent support services for new mothers -- although recent tragic cases involving abandoned babies in Sydney would suggest the system is still catastrophically failing some women and children.

The problem is that much of this system of support starts to break down as a child moves from newborn to toddler. Community health services are frequented less, and some nurses may even raise eyebrows if a mother keeps visiting. Doctors stop asking questions about how mothers are coping. The, 'isn't she adorable' comments from random members of the public stop as tantrums, food-throwing and a desire to climb everything in sight become the norm. Mothers groups start to meet sporadically, instead of every week.

On top of this, it's during the toddler stage that many mothers will return to work, or transition from part-time work back to full-time. They'll be navigating the childcare system, dealing with difficult drop-offs and the relentless cycle of seeing their little person's immune system tested with seemingly every virus and stomach bug imaginable. They'll probably have even less time for socialising, friendships, exercise and hobbies.

It's especially at this point that mothers feel the expectation to do everything. To work, manage the caring responsibilities and the household duties. While it's perfectly acceptable to walk around in your pyjamas when dealing with a newborn, social expectations on one's appearance start to increase just as the baby's getting more mobile. No wonder it becomes a prime time for voicing that guilt and fear through the so-called 'mummy wars'.

So, not only do support structures break down for mothers as their babies transition to small children, but they increasingly find themselves at risk of 'mummy war' sniper attacks.

Feminism was supposed to give women choice. And yet all these choices made us afraid. The 'mummy wars' have become a cultural habit that will be very, very difficult to break.

However, there a things we can individually do to reduce the risk of sniper attacks against the mothers we know.

A good start involves taking a self assessment. What is it about the choices of others that makes us so afraid? How do our personal notions of guilt affect our respond to the actions of others?

This self-assessment needs to be undertaken by women and men. Parents and non-parents. Bloggers and newspaper comments. Parents who work and parents who don't.

If we really care about mothers, then we should at least respect them enough to ask -- what is it about them that makes us so afraid?

By: Angela Priestley
Source: Women's Agenda

Monday, December 1, 2014

The second shift: The post-bedtime ritual of successful working parents

Almost half of high-earning working parents regularly burn the midnight oil to get to a full-time week. Is it sustainable?

I am writing this essay at 9 p.m. That’s not unusual for me. I write and edit a lot of things at odd hours. I started working this way when my first kid was born seven and a half years ago, and now as I’m expecting my fourth, it’s become the rhythm of my life. Working a "split shift"—some during the day, and some at night—lets me work long hours and still do family dinners and play with my kids. As I talk to other working parents, I’ve become increasingly convinced that this modern version of a second shift is far from crazy. Indeed, it’s often the key to that alleged impossibility: having it all.

This is really a matter of work/life math. While we could all be more productive during the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday, when you add small people and a household into your life, these 40 hours are rarely a true 40 hours. In the past few weeks, I’ve had a doctor’s appointment and so have my kids. I had to get new tires on my car. I went to a Halloween parade. My 7-year-old had a morning off from school when we didn’t have a sitter. I transported another kid to a post-school playdate. We had a new dishwasher delivered and installed during an 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. window. My husband and I split many duties, but even if I kept my nose to the grindstone during every non-interrupted minute, it would be hard to work more than 30-35 hours during the classic workweek 40. Indeed, according to the Bureau of Labor StatisticsAmerican Time Use Survey, the average married mother with kids under age 6 and a full-time job logs just 33.88 hours of work and work-related activities per week. That doesn’t even meet the technical definition of full-time, which is more than 35 hours a week).

It would be nice if some productivity trick could let you do as much in 34 hours as you could in, say, 45, but in the long run, that’s unlikely. In any case, working 45 hours is more likely to lead to the kind of paycheck that can support a family. Warren Farrell, author of Why Men Earn More, has calculated from census data that people working 45 hours per week earn more than twice as much as those who work 34 hours per week.

To meet my income and career-advancement goals, I generally need to work 45-50 hours per week. If I can only log 35 hours by working until 5:30 p.m. most days, I have a few choices. I could keep working every night until 8:30 p.m. and not see my kids. Or I could stop work at 5:30 p.m., hang out with my family until 8:30 p.m., and then get back to work.

So that’s what I do. I’m far from the only one. I recently completed a time diary study of 1001 days in the lives of professional women and their families while researching a book. All these women earned six figures and had kids at home. They worked, on average, 44 hours per week, despite the presence of dentist appointments, preschool volunteer shifts, and the like. About 45% made this work by doing a split shift like mine. In some extreme cases, I saw women leaving work around 3:30 p.m. to get their kids at school, and then scheduling conference calls (often with people in other time zones) from 8-10:30 p.m. They weren’t just catching up on email. They had literally moved the latter chunk of their workdays to the night.

Of course, if I saw this strategy in 45% of time logs, that means that 55% of high-earning moms didn’t do it. Some kinds of work don’t lend itself to this; if you’re doing procedures on patients, you’re probably not going to schedule one for 9 p.m. A split shift requires doing work that can be moved around on dimensions of time and place.

Some people were also just philosophically opposed, which I understand. There’s a certain simplicity when work is work and home is home, and never the twain shall meet. Split shifts cut into leisure time and, if you’re not careful, sleep. Since I usually work from 8:30-10:30 p.m., and I rarely watch TV. I’m fine with that tradeoff, but not everyone is. Since I write for a living, I have an adequate creative outlet. But if I had an office job, I might want to knit or scrapbook at night. My husband generally does a split shift too, but if he worked fewer hours, he might reasonably expect me to spend a bigger chunk of my late nights with him.

There are ways around these problems, though. I’ve started arranging our childcare so I can work through the evening at least one night per week. If I work until 7:30 p.m., then I can often relax that night instead of going back to work. As my kids get older, they sometimes sleep in on weekends. That means I can get up early on those days and use that time (at least until the baby arrives). Two hours on Saturday morning is one split shift I don’t have to work on a weeknight.

But overall, this schedule is a great tool in the work/life toolbox. Sending emails at 9:30 p.m. gets a bad rep, but next time you get such a missive, don’t assume you have a workaholic on your hands. You’re probably just working with someone who’s found a way to get it all done.

By Laura Vanderkam
Source: Fast Company

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Working Mum's guide to getting organised for Christmas

Christmas is nearly upon us. If you are anything like me you'll wonder where all those months between this December and last have gone! Tis a busy life as a working mum. May this list of tips and resources make this festive season a little less stress and a whole lot more rest for you, our hardworking mums...

  • Childcare centres often close at Christmas so talk to family and friends who may be able to help out if you need still work. Ask with plenty of lead time as they're more likely to be accommodating - last minute asking can be a bit like last minute shopping - people are more likely to feel put out, impatient, uncooperative. 
  • Schedule in some me time - once you start writing all those lists of things to do, people to organise etc it can get a bit overwhelming which is no surprise given mums do still take the load in the organising and preparation element of the festivities. 
  • Outsource where possible - don't be afraid to delegate jobs to partner, kids, guests or a paid service. We know things need to get done but they don't need to be perfect - it's the quality of energy you do it in that makes all the difference to your experience. And this is what inspires your loved ones (it's not the perfect spread, the ironed tablecloth or the glossy presents!) 
  • Use one of these 7 Christmas planning apps - we love the free Ink Card app which will print and deliver your personalised christmas cards directly from your phone to anywhere in the world.
  • Free Christmas gift planner from Working Mums Collective to help you plan your prezzie buying. WMC says "make sure you have enough wrapping paper for your gifts. Start wrapping early so you don’t have to do it all in one go. Or take your gifts to a charity gift-wrapping service in a local shopping centre. Not only will you be helping a good cause but also it takes the stress out of it for you."
  • Buy on the Internet where possible - it's often cheaper, it saves you time and entering the crazy, racy world that is shopping centres at Christmas time.

Here's a few more tips from Sarah from the Working mums Collective...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

PND Awareness Week - Two leaders in perinatal excellence open their doors to new mums

In order to return to work after having a baby mums need to feel they have access to the resources and support that enable them to successfully make the transition to being a working parent. Easy said than done right? Well, yes and no. There will always be challenges during the transitional stage but just how difficult will depend on a number of factors including mental and physical state, financial situation, partner and family support, employer support and career support.

With 1 in 7 women experiencing anxiety and/or depression during pregnancy or within the first year of baby's life sometimes a specialist perinatal health professional is also needed. Post Natal Depression Awareness week highlights just how common it is for mums to be in need of extra support.

Two organisations Mums@Work endorse are The Gidget Foundation and COPE (The Centre Of Perinatal Excellence).

The Gidget Foundation launched Gidget House in February 2014. Gidget House provides integrated care and support services to public and private patients. It provides specialised psychological services for mothers who have a diagnosis of, or who are at risk of developing, a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, and are pregnant or have a baby up to 12 months of age. Partners are also able to access specialised services.

This month COPE  (The Centre Of Perinatal Excellence) was launched spearheaded by Dr. Nicole Highet (former Deputy CEO of beyond blue). COPE is a not-for-profit organisation devoted to reducing the impacts of emotional and mental health problems in the pre and postnatal periods. COPE addresses the identified issues that we know are currently preventing people from accessing timely and effective, information and care via a number of national programs including:
  • Aboriginal Mapping Project
  • Research on Understanding the Emotional Journey of Having a Baby
  • Report on economic analysis of costs incurred for not treating perinatal depression and anxiety
  • Deploying the latest digital technology to make screening more efficient, effective and importantly, obtain valuable outcome data to inform service provision, policy and practice.
  • Creating a National Perinatal Workplace Program

Post Natal Depression Awareness Week - What's on?

Bun in the Oven

The Gidget Foundation has launched a clever fundraising initiative to raise awareness and much needed funds for perinatal anxiety and depression through their 'Bun in the Oven' event campaign. 'Bun in the Oven' fundraising events will run from November through to December with a emphasis on hosting an event during Postnatal Depression Awareness Week 16-22 November 2014.

'We are asking all our wonderful Gidget supporters to host a casual brunch, morning tea, or perhaps a 5 o'clock wine with friends, family or workmates during Postnatal Depression Awareness Week or before the end of December. Guests will hopefully make a small donation to the Gidget Foundation, which will help us continue with our work in education, awareness raising and advocacy around postnatal depression as well as support our programs to assist families.

It’s about baking not baby making! It's designed to be fun and easy for anyone to put a bun in the oven!', says Stephanie Hughes, General Manager at the Gidget Foundation.

To register for a ‘Bun in the Oven’ event download the active pdf registration form

If you would like more information on either The Gidget Foundation or COPE please tap the following links.
The Gidget Foundation

Every mum needs a little support at some point in their work and parenting career. Reach out today. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

We need a male equivalent to the term 'working mother' - An interview with Annabel Crabb

Could there be anyone more perfect than Annabel Crabb – astute political commentator, social satirist, TV-presenter, scribbler, baker, author and mother of three – to write about the work-life balance? We spoke to Crabb about her new book The Wife Drought: Why Women Need Wives and Men Need Lives and in the process pondered many other whys: like why we need a male equivalent to the term working mother, why we need to start asking men how they balance family and work and why apathy is the solution to the gendered division of house-work.

Women and politics

Daily Life: What made you write this book, given that you’ve said you don’t like being on record about political issues? Is this issue bigger than politics?

Annabel: It’s not really a political view; it’s more of an observation. I have young children and I have noticed is that there are a lot of women in my situation who are racing around doing this kind of work-family juggle. It seems to be a very female arena and the work-life balance is seen as a female thing.

I started thinking about it through the political framework about a year ago when Tony Abbott swore in his new cabinet. There was a lot of public debate about how there was only one woman in that cabinet, and he said that he wanted to speak for people who were forgotten about, like women struggling to balance work and family. I wrote a slightly terse column around that time, where I said ‘look, frankly there would be more women in federal politics if they got the same sort of spouses as the men get. When you’re doing a job where you have to travel 18 weeks of the year at least then you really need a very particular sort of spouse.’ I wrote the column and was pummeled by correspondence. And a lot of women said, ‘it’s not just politics, that’s everywhere.’

Then I started looking at the stats. I was looking for a breakdown of the comparative rates of wife-having between men and women and it just wasn’t anywhere to be found. We do so much research into women’s fortunes in work, why not look at what else she’s doing with her time?


DL: You say that we don’t often talk about these issues, but surely we’ve been having this conversation for a while now. What’s new here?

Annabel: I don’t think we always talk about it. The studies that we do of women’s fortunes at work are often just restricted to those workplaces or focus on quotas or mentoring. I’m a supporter of quotas and of mentoring, but a woman is not forging ahead because she has another 40 hours a week to do at home then having drinks and nibbles at 7pm with other women in the industry isn’t the way to fix that.

I think that you’ve got to stop only talking about women.

The great galvanizing force of feminism has totally worked for women in the last fifty years, but men haven’t really changed. Certainly fathers haven’t changed the way that they work. Twenty years ago 87 per cent of father worked and now it’s 90 percent. For women the big tectonic shift has been from stay-at-home mums into part time work but they haven’t really dropped the housework and this has given rise to a generation of mad jugglers.

We need to look at men and ask how they could have the same flexibility that a lot of women enjoy in the workplace. There is substantial evidence that there are more men and fathers who would like to work flexibly and spend time with their families than are currently taking up that option. As long as there are significant barriers, both structural and cultural, against men working flexibly in line with their family commitments then I think you can’t solve the woman problem either.

DL: Is that a problem with the fact that Australian men have such a narrow range of acceptable models of masculinity? I mean, Norwegian men don’t feel like gender deviants when they look after children.

Annabel: Norwegian men! People always say ‘well but Norway’! The Norwegians, apart from cleverly investing all their money in a sovereign wealth fund, also introduced a form of paid parental leave that radically encouraged men to take it up. Their policy was to say that there is a sizeable chunk of paid parental leave that is only available to your family if the Dad takes it. And that really changed the proportion of men taking parental leave, which has changed the division of household labour, and it’s changed the participation of women in the workforce.

Daily Life: Is that also to do with them having free, universal childcare?

Annabel: Yes, and there’s no doubt that that would change things quite significantly. But there are other things that I think exert an impact on the long-during nature of this breadwinner model. There’s the gender pay-gap of course, which in the lower pay-segment of the workforce is only about 8% but up in the higher echelons it’s about 28%. The decision about who is going to go part time when a couple has a baby is explicitly skewed by the likelihood that the guy on average is going to be earning more than the woman. People don’t make decisions that financially disadvantage themselves. And the other thing that makes a difference in Australia is that we have a higher rate of part time work and that’s largely undertaken by women. You have this situation now where 45% of mothers work part time but only 5% of fathers.

Social Change

DL: So what do we do practically do you go about changing that?

Research shows that men are better than women at asking for everything from pay to better conditions, but the thing that they’re really crap at asking for is less work. How do we change that? Well, legislation doesn’t change that. What could change that would be reasonable people having a think about the assumptions that they make: why do we have names for working mothers and not for working fathers, why do we not ever ask working fathers who they manage?

That’s why I wrote the book. It’s worth thinking about this stuff. I have spoken to a lot of men about their experiences and I used the stories of the ones who had given it a shot, met mild resistance, ploughed on and got there in the end. We are going through this sort of work-place evolution in terms of flexible working, I just think that we need to give it a little nudge to communicate that it’s not just for women. It’s one thing for a CEO to release a document and say that they’re so proud of their flexible work policy, it’s another to be spotted leaving the office at 4pm to pick up their kid from sport. That sends a really powerful message.


DL: Is it time to start looking at other relationship models? How do we get a village to raise a child? Should we start thinking more about community?

Annabel: Sounds terrific doesn’t it! I think that the notion of community is changing really rapidly and it’s about communication. It used to be so dependent on geography and the new notion of community is something that is much more about becoming intimate with people you’ve never met, either through Facebook or you may be part of an online collective, or business models that are actually based on old-fashioned concepts which ultimately built on trust, like Airbnb.

DL: So can we do that with kids? Can we pool that labour more communally?

Annabel: I don’t know. Logic would tell you that the old fashioned idea of it taking a village to raise a child must resurface at some point. George Megalogenis the other night was talking about how when he was a kid migrant women always worked and they would have communities that would look after the kids while mum was at work. So you would have these women who would be in charge of a troop of 7 kids. So do we, in this era of high child-care costs and high stress and centres that don’t cater for people’s flexible need is there room for an entrepreneurial genius to cater for people’s shared child minding needs?

You’d have to say that one of the barriers to that would be that standards of parenting have intensified. Stats from the United States show that a working mother today spends more hands-on childcare time with her child than her mother did, who didn’t work at all. So the barrier these days to our dream of village childcare is in the public liability issues…

DL: Beliefs in attachment parenting would probably also be a pretty big barrier to collective models of parenting…

Annabel: Oh totally! Human procreation patterns are just such an interesting thing. I spend half my time feeling guilty that my kids haven’t grown up on a farm, like I did. It’s just such a fraught business…you’re haunted by the ghosts of your own childhood in a good or bad way and you feel this incredible obligation towards your own children.

Failing as a parent is just a quantifiably different thing to failing at work. I think that guilt is such a factor in so many women’s experiences. They mention it so early in the conversation. One of the reasons why women find it really hard to let go, in terms of the gendered division of labour, is because they’re not entirely confident that their spouse will do as good a job as they do. And it’s hard to admit because it makes women out to be complete nutbars but it happens for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that the assumption is that you will be the primary caregiver that you will be better at that than anyone else and to relinquish that is hard, as hard as it is for men to relinquish the idea that they’re the primary breadwinner. And I think the other thing is about external approbation as well. Because of those assumptions, a woman whose kid goes to school with odd socks on will often feel in some degree as if she’ll be blamed by others when they see that and not her husband.

The workplace is more straightforward in many ways. One of my interviewees in the book said, ‘with parenting you have no idea if you’ve done a good job, give it twenty years and see how they turn out.’ If you’re used to a structured workplace where you get all this feedback and rewards and bonuses and whatever then parenting can be pretty confronting. Those moments where you’ve done your absolute level best and you’re so tired that you want to sob and your kid tells you that you’re a terrible mum or comments on some aspect of your parenting, and that can really hurt!


DL: And then when you add domestic labour on top of that… Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique has such a lovely description of the endlessness of housework, how invisible it is and how utterly unrewarded…

Annabel: Yes, there is a strange detail about housework. It’s such a source of stress in households because it’s not just a finite and mutually agreed group of tasks that can be divided up. It’s a fluid amount of work because in any normal relationship two people will have different ideas about what constitutes cleanliness. Two people who live in the same house may look at that house and one may say that it’s a pigsty and the other will say, it’s pretty tidy isn’t it? Often it’s just about realizing what is making you grumpy and working out whether you’re working from the same assumptions or not.

There’s a guy called Jonathan Chase, who wrote an article called ‘The Case of Filth’, and he talks about how sometimes the answer to these arguments about housework is to just do less of it. He says: The inequitable division of household labour is one of the only areas of inequality in the world that can be saved by genuine apathy.

First published: 18th October 2014
Source: Daily Life

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 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.  


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

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...


(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 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 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 


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,

[2] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Pregnant, and overlooked for promotion - women deserve better, viewed 12.9.14

[3] Australian Human Rights Commission, Pregnancy report reveals personal and financial cost of discrimination, viewed 8.9.14

[4] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Pregnant, and overlooked for promotion - women deserve better, viewed 12.9.14

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Six steps to flourish at work

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Eight-five percent of businesswomen describe themselves as just functioning at work over the past six months, with more than 15 % flat out languishing according to The Australian Pulse of Women In Leadership.

Perhaps it's no wonder when for so long women have been told to change who they inherently are in order to find their seat at the boardroom table. Step up, be more assertive, and, in recent times, lean in.

The message has invariably been about 'fixing the women'. Make women more like men so they can seamlessly fit into the existing organisational structures. Blend in, don't make a fuss, suppress your femininity, don't be too special or have different needs, and god forbid, don't let anyone actually notice that you are, you know, a woman!

Is it any wonder that women are opting out of corporate careers, sidelining themselves or starting their own businesses when they feel demoralised from trying to fit a model that doesn't serve them well? No.

But 75 % of business people surveyed acknowledge that business would better if there were more women in leadership roles.

So what do women need to be more successful in their careers?

Having more women in leadership roles is not just about offering child-care friendly workplaces, part time work, job sharing, or paid maternity schemes, although these things are certainly required and valuable. And it's not just about perceived ambition gaps, sitting at the table and getting the right mentor.

It's about what actually happens when you show up for work. How you show up, and how it feels to you when you do.

We know from decades of research that when people get to do what they do best everyday, they thrive, and as a result, the business thrives. Engagement goes up, collaboration improves, innovation flourishes, productivity lifts and so does the bottom-line.

A growing body of research suggests six steps women can take to help them flourish more at work – no matter what their job is or who they work for:

1. Understanding the value of feminine traits

There is a growing global trend that recognizes the bottom-line value of feminine traits – as identified by research – such as openness, empathy, collaboration, flexibility and patience in our organizations. As declining levels of engagement and productivity continue to plague our workplaces, we need to be aware of the unique value we're neurologically wired to deliver and stop worrying about being "too nice"

2. Challenge our mindsets

Studies are finding that more important than believing in our abilities (or our competence) is the belief we can improve upon our abilities (our confidence) when it comes to success. It's time to make peace with frustration, failure and criticism as natural parts of the learning and growth mindsets and stop measuring ourselves by our accomplishments rather than our efforts.

3. Boosting our confidence by discovering our strengths

It's time to stop hesitating, holding ourselves back and hedging our bets and time to turn our ideas into action. Stepping outside our comfort zone in ways that feel authentic can be easier by understanding what our top strengths are – those things we like doing and are good at – and using them each day at work.

4. Creating more meaning in our work

Having a sense of purpose, knowing 'for the sake of what' we're getting out of bed each morning helps women to worry less about what others think of them, focus their attention on shared goals and take up activities critical to our success.

5. Having a career management plan

Only a small percentage of women actually have a career plan in place, with more than 70% of women operating without one, and nearly 40% saying they are just 'winging it'. But how will we get from where we are to where we want to be without clear goals, a plan and mentors and sponsors to support us?

6. Investing in our wellbeing

Too often the first things we forgo when work and life gets busy is the sleep, movement and nourishment our bodies need to generate the energy, happiness and productivity we need to thrive at work. Sticking to a regular bedtime routine, moving from your seat every twenty minutes and avoiding fried, fatty or sugary foods are the wellbeing non-negotiables women should try to prioritize.

Women don't need to be fixed, molded or modified in order to fit into the ready-made cubicles in our workplaces. But they do need to be supported in order to flourish. And they need to support themselves.

Perhaps one of the most important changes that needs to be made, is for women to grant themselves a new permission to thrive on their own terms, and to embrace the practices they truly need to do so.

By: Michelle McQuaid and Megan Dalla-Camina
First published: 25th August 2014