Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tips for single working mums

Single parent families are now the single fastest growing family type in Australia. It has been predicted that over the next 20 years, the numbers of one-parent families will soar by up to 70%. Single parents face different (not necessarily more) challenges to coupled parents. Their needs are unique. One of our working parents recently asked for some support in this area.

Here are some resources and tools offered by one of the single parents on our team…

Talk to other solo parents

These conversations can be a treasure trove for what works and what doesn’t but mostly it offers some solace when we feel overwhelmed or like we’re not managing well. This Australian website for single mothers has a community forum you can interact with other mums on Single Mum. This list of solo parent bloggers may also offer some support.

Employ help

How much help you seek will be dependant on your financial situation however you can make this work whatever your budget. For example, I get a cleaner in once a month. My place needs cleaning more often than that but I really need to only do a top up/wipe over every week rather than a full on scrub and glisten. You could also get a baby sister for a couple of hours every so often or once a week to hold the fort while you run around and get errands done (say on a Saturday morning if you work full time). That way you don’t have to drag the kids around and it will probably take 1/4 of the time which leaves more quality time with your kids.

Reduce extra-curricular and social activities

With 3 children - if each of them are doing an activity outside of school/childcare it’s going to be a full time job in itself. If the kids are upset about reducing their activities you could talk through some alternatives with them - would they be willing to go with a friend’s parents? Would they be open to taking turns i.e. one child does ballet one term, the other does soccer the next? This can be a tricky one to negotiate but ultimately remember your stress levels are a priority and will effect their wellbeing as well. If we are fully present and stress-free your kids will reap the benefits of that - more than any sport or activity could provide.

Utilise your network

Exchange pick-up and drop of responsibilities with another parent or ask for favours from friends. It has surprised me how open and willing child-less friends have been to this. Obviously not everyone is up for the challenge (I have had a no… but this was because they didn’t feel confident in their abilities to care for a small child) however generally my experience is that most relish in the idea that you entrust them with your offspring. I like to remind myself that it takes a village to raise a child - which isn’t relinquishing responsibility - our kids really do learn from each adult they spend time with. Allowing this support has helped me see the real value in in this.

Prepare your manager

Prepare your manager for how life is going to change for you so he/she has some insight and understanding when issues arise.

Discuss flexible work options with them also. These could be anything from starting later and finishing earlier, working from home for some of the day (perhaps in the evening when the kids are in bed). Let yourself imagine the best possible work-life balance scenario – it may just be possible but you won’t know unless you ask. As they say, shy bears get no sweets. Have a few ideas up your sleeve about how you will manage emergency situations i.e. supports you can call in or a ‘making up time’ arrangement with your manager.

Simplify your routine

The small things like prepping and freezing meals on weekends ready for the week ahead, getting the kids to lay out their clothes and packing school bags the night before etc all help. With any challenge you face ask yourself: what is the simplest way to do this? (as apposed to easiest or best as these imply there is a right way to do things when really we’re after what feels most supportive).

Be consistent and open with your child/ren

Your kids may push you at times (not always consciously) especially when the other parent is absent. If what they are presenting doesn’t feel good to you stand your ground but keep it consistent and keep communication open. Explain to them the real reason why or why not you made that decision. Yes, a tantrum or argument may ensue still but if we discuss it afterwards there’s a foundation of understanding for the next round the disagreement or reaction comes up. The outcome can be significantly different.

Accept the To-Do list will never be done

And some days the house doesn’t look and feel as harmonious as you’d like. Letting go of being it all and doing it all can give you the space to really enjoy this time as a sole parent. You and the kids have a great opportunity to work (and play) together which - amongst any sacrifice or chaos - can lead to a time of great growth for you all.

Make self care a priority

This should really be at the top because if we don’t look after ourselves how can we truly look after another. How do you find the time with 3 kids and a job? It’s a combination of utilising the above points, making the small moments count (like when you’re applying make up - really being present with yourself) and scheduling in some me-time. Me-time gives you a chance to steady yourself amongst the busyness of life. Even 5 minutes can do wonders if it is solely focused on reconnecting to yourself. The Unimed Living website is excellent for self care tips. Here is a link to ten free 5-15 minute meditations you can do before bed.

Appreciate all that you are

Take moments regularly to appreciate all that you are able to do to support yourself and your family. Despite what you think at time it's highly likely you are doing an amazing job… you’re not perfect and things aren’t always smooth sailing but you’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got most of the time. The power in appreciating yourself can, in itself, alleviate a lot of stress, guilt and worry.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Working Smarter in 2016

Almost everything in society is telling us to work harder, be better and strive for more. What if this actually creates the opposite effect of what we truly want – to feel great about ourselves and to feel purpose in our lives? If we feel good it makes sense that our work will reflect that – whatever job we do. But what if we don’t feel vital and alive most of the time? How does that affect our work and which comes first the chicken or the egg - work hard, feel bad or feel bad, work hard?

Consider this: “77% of workers have a chronic health condition: depression, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and heart attack, that is costing business $84 billion in lost productivity.” Gallup, 2013. And this: “There is a significant cost of work-related stress, depression and anxiety which is over 13 million days a year.” Annual surveys of sickness absence CBI (CIPD/AXA 2012)

Working hard is clearly taking its toll on us but it needn’t be.

Being busy and working hard aren’t the same as being effective yet most of us subscribe to these notions. But, why? And what works if ‘hard’ and ‘busy’ don’t?

Monday, March 7, 2016

How To Decide How Connected You Want To Be On Maternity Leave

You might want to check in, or maybe you're looking forward to completely unplugging, but you'll probably end up somewhere in the middle.

The two ends of the spectrum on maternity leave are what I like to call "full blackout" (whereby you’re completely offline and unreachable except in case of true, dire emergency) and staying 100% online (plugged in to your office via the various devices you rely on).

As for the plugged-in approach: One woman told me matter-of-factly that she worked during her entire maternity leave(s), albeit remotely. "I wanted to stay on top of the projects I cared about," she said. She was also reluctant to completely turn over her work to junior team members because she wanted to be able to seamlessly ramp up again—even though her company and managers would have been fine with her disengaging for a few months. She never even put up an out-of-office message.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Going on Parental Leave? 6 Tips To Make It a Success for You—and Your Boss

Parental leave is one of the hottest topics of late among certain cutting-edge employers racing to offer more and more weeks of fully paid leave. But time and pay aren’t the only factors at play when it comes to a successful maternity leave.

Here are six key issues employees and their employers should consider when creating a successful parental paid leave policy.

Hire a freelancer to fill in while you’re away. With replacement help (if you and/or your company can swing it), your colleagues will be less likely (even subconsciously) to resent your leave and more likely to celebrate your expanding family. Too often, a new parent’s job responsibilities are divvied up among colleagues, resulting in multiple points of contact for your turnover and return. This can make the transition period disjointed.

Monday, January 4, 2016

3 Resolutions You're Going to Break—and What You Should Resolve to Do Instead

The first day of the new year is always the same. You start off strong, a long list of resolutions planned, ready to conquer your career goals. And you do—for a week, maybe two, or even a few months if you’re on a roll.

Then, something throws you off track. The culprit may just be a seemingly insignificant workplace annoyance, but it has the power to affect your motivation in a big way.

It’s easy to become discouraged and frustrated when resolutions don’t go as planned. If, for example, you made it a goal to organize your desk every morning, but are called into an unscheduled, impromptu meeting first thing one day, it’s natural to think, “Well, I missed today,” letting yourself off the hook. The problem is you forget the next day and for weeks after that. Soon enough, you abandon your goal to get more organized altogether. And such begins the cycle of self-doubt and frustration that ultimately leads to you dropping your resolutions completely.

There are a few basic reasons these ambitious goals flop, including overcommitting and attempting to change too much too quickly. Bad habits are hard to break, but it’s even harder to establish new ones. Trying to undo behaviors that have become second-nature is like trying to rewire your brain.

In order to help you avoid the usual pitfalls and see your goals to fruition this year, here are three career-related new year’s resolutions you should avoid—and three better goals to aim for instead.