Tag Archive | Employment

Work or Stay at Home An Old and Ugly Debate

The age-old debate of whether to work or stay at home has reared its ugly head again thanks to American politics. Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, commented that Anne Romney, wife of a  GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney,  was not in a position to give her husband economic advice on the plight of women because she had “never worked a day in her life” as a stay-at-home-mum raising their five boys. It happened last week and there has been a bucket load of interviews, opinion pieces, talkback, twitter conversation. Rosen has apologised and rephrased the point she was trying to make.

Leaving aside the politics, and the debate over privilege versus poverty, the issue obviously remains a highly emotional one for many mothers.

I have been a SAHM, a WAHM, a full-time employee and a part-time employee and I’m here to tell you EVERY option is TOUGH.

As a SAHM I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and at times very lonely. I remember walking outside my house in Brisbane to a deathly quiet suburban street where the rest of the world was obviously at work and wondering if the world had ended and I didn’t know because it hadn’t been announced on Playschool. There were many times when I resented the working mums who got a break from their children.

As a WAHM I was exhausted, overwhelmed and worried I wasn’t doing either “job” effectively. My children will tell you I was often distracted, always on the phone or computer. Yet they will also tell you funny stories of things we did – and I was always careful to get photographic evidence of the finger painting, mud pie making, play dough activities just to prove to them in later life that sometimes I did put work aside and create fun times. There were many times when I resented SAHMs who had enough income they didn’t need to generate more, there were times I resented working mums who got their pay cheques each week regardless of the amount of effort they put in.

As a full-time employee I was exhausted, overwhelmed and juggling like crazy.  My daughters saw me come home in tears as I tried to readjust to life in the workforce. They also saw me get through that period and figure out a way to make it work. There were times I resented SAHMs who didn’t have to ask permission from the boss to go to their kid’s athletics carnival.

As a part-time employee I am exhausted, overwhelmed and guilt-ridden a lot of the time. I feel guilty that I’m not as involved in my youngest daughter’s activities as I was in her sister. I feel guilty that I don’t work full-time to relieve a bit of the financial pressure. I feel guilty … well you get the picture. I have given up resenting others because there is just no point and what little energy I’ve got left is better directed elsewhere.

Women everywhere go through the process of trying to make it all work. Some options prove manageable, others crash and burn.  There is no stock standard right option that will work for everyone.

I know the times when I felt I was closest to getting the balance right felt good. However those moments were fleeting.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight I think I would do some things differently.

As a SAHM

I would just relax and enjoy it more. I would make more of an effort to connect with other mums. I would accept life is a series of chapters and this is just one in a series of stages of my life.

As a WAHM

I would set strict business hours and uninterrupted family time.  I would focus more on the money. Time manage and priority set to be more clearly focused on income-producing activities.

As a full-time employee

I would negotiate more, get more flexibility, ensure I had time off for the important events.

As a part-time employee

I will ditch the guilt and use my day off for activities that benefit both myself and my family.

One day my idealistic self imagines this issue becoming not a “women’s problem” but one which everybody has a stake. Dad’s benefiting from time out with their kids. Flexible work arrangements that allow for everyone to better manage their life – childless employees allowed shorter weeks to pursue hobbies or care for elderly relatives – mums and dads sharing the caring responsibilities by each working four days a week.

However, we won’t get there until we stop judging each other. At the end of the day the kids are all right. Whatever option you go for children who know they are loved and cared for will thrive. While we as human beings are valuable in a variety of guises, and that value is not necessarily measured just in the monetary value of paid employment.

What’s been your experience? Do you feel you have the balance right?

Dads at Home

It seems we’ve come a long way in a single generation. Dads now play a much bigger role in their children’s day-to-day lives than they did a few decades ago. Yet it is still unusual for men to accept the role of fulltime stay-at-home parent. Research carried out in 2010 by the Australian Institute of Family Studies identified only 7 per cent of families operated with the female as sole breadwinner.

Deborah Wilmore from the University of Western Sydney is conducting a study into the role of stay-at-home dads. Her preliminary research indicates the greatest critics to the idea of a man becoming the primary caregiver to his children is his own father – who often can’t understand why his son would want to take on the role.

Wilmore’s research also shows there is still a stigma attached to men who opt out of the workforce to care for their children and they often feel isolated without the traditional support of playgroups, mothers groups etc.

It is a fact of life that children need care – be it from a parent or in a formalised childcare arrangement – you simply can’t have a child and revert back to your old life. The notion of which parent takes on the majority of the caring responsibilities is a complex, emotional and difficult one.

Staying at home with my daughters was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Disassociated from the workforce I felt my sense of identity and self-worth wither. There where long stretches where I had absolutely no idea who I was or what I was trying to achieve in life. However, the process of being forced to forge a new identity and rediscover what was important to me proved to be a rewarding one. There is no doubt the process saw me develop new skills, adaptive abilities and gave me a confidence that paid work did not define me.

Giving dads the opportunity to spend more one-on-one time with their children could only be a good thing. If more dads took time out of work to raise children we may see the workforce adapting more to the idea that a break does not mean the end of working life. It could also see a more flexible framework to employment that would benefit everyone, even those without children. However, I can imagine it may not be so easy for women to hand over the child raising responsibilities, we do like to be in control.

What are your thoughts on stay-at-home dads?

Open Letter to High Achieving Women

Quentin Bryce, Governor General.

Dear Women Who Have Done It All

I’ve just got one question, how? How do you combine high profile, hardworking, careers with raising children? Seriously ladies I want some answers and I want them now.

In my life achievement now boils down to whether we can see the kitchen bench and everyone has left the house wearing clean undies – I struggle to see how you lead countries, run big corporations, work ungodly hours in high stress jobs while there are kids at home demanding time and attention.

Does it come down to money? Earning the big bucks gives you more options? I desperately want a Nanny, not for the children they are long past that stage, for ME. Someone who cooks my dinner, ensures I’ve got clean clothes to put on in the morning, brings me cool drinks and Panadol when I’m ill, someone whose only priority in life is making sure I’m OK.

Does a Nanny make the difference in terms of doing it all?

Looking at some of the high achievers in Australia it’s not like you went the no children policy, in fact some of you were high achievers in that regard as well, Governor General Quentin Bryce you had five children, Gail Kelly, CEO of Westpac you stopped at four, but that included a set of TRIPLETS.

I look at you all on paper and it all sounds so calm, ordered, successful. Your bios read like a step-by-step case study in focus, drive and determination but please tell me there were days when the wheels fell off.

My goals aren’t as lofty as yours, I don’t need to be the 32nd most powerful woman in the world (Gail, just in case you didn’t have time to notice that’s you according to Wikipedia via the Forbes list but you have dropped a bit you were 8th in 2010 – might want to work on that).

All I want is to write a 300 word blog each day. I don’t even have to leave the house to do it, but buggered if I can figure out how you find the time to think creatively, write interestingly and correct spelling and grammar mistakes while arguing with children, debiting the pros and cons of buying a new car with my husband, cooking meals, washing clothes and ignoring the housework to the point you can’t find the youngest child under the rubble.

I know you were busy doing really important stuff, but what I want to know is, did you have sleepless nights worrying about missing school concerts? Or did you manage to make it to the school events on top of everything else?

At the end of the day, as far as I’m aware, your kids grew up to be OK. But do they ever harp on about what you missed out on?

Most importantly of all, any regrets? Note I’m not expecting that you will say God Yes, if I had it to do again, I’d be happy in suburbia  running the most successful P&C in the country.

As a mother who did the Gen X thing of opting out of the career race – what advice can I give my daughters of what it’s really like out there in the big bad world?

Please note high achievers – and I’m not just talking Quentin and Gail here – give it to us straight, without the PR spin of girls can grow up to be anything, do anything, have it all – how was it REALLY?

Signed Tired, Frazzled, Doing the Best She Can Mother.

I Don’t Meet Your Selection Criteria Because I’ve Been Busy Having A Life

Returning to the workforce after a ten year absence was an eye-opener. Technology had moved above and beyond anything a mere mortal could have imagined back in 1997.  The internet was in constant use in every office in the country, “I’ll google it” a common refrain. How did we ever create radio programs without the instant research tool at our fingertips?  Somehow we did.

Networking used to be drinks at the pub after work, now it was Twitter and Facebook – not on-line get with it!

Blogging – was that even a word in 1997? Media, marketing, public relations jobs all demanded to know how I would “blog” their brand to the demographic?

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