The Work/Life Balance Myth

One of the greatest myths that the modern working world has, that experts and businesses alike would like you to believe is real, would be the work/life balance. You will see it mentioned every where. It is the latest Corporate buzz word, and everyone is talking about ways you can go about achieving it. The sad reality is most of us (I am prepared to admit there are a minor few who seem to achieve this mythological balance) will never reach it.

The fact is very few workplaces are really flexible. Most workplaces think working part-time  and giving parental leave is being flexible enough. Some workplaces will even let you work from home if you are at the executive level or maybe even a web designer but only really if your child is sick or you are sick. While this is a good start it is not really meeting the ongoing needs of working parents and the work life parent.

Even if your work place has part-time work arrangement policies the actual staff may be resentful of you using it.I remember when I returned to work part-time after my maternity leave having immense pressure put on me to be there when they wanted me to be there and to do the same level of work as a full-time worker because resources and staff was stretched.

But what happens if you don’t have a choice for working part-time? what if you are a single parent, or you have debt (like a home loan), or perhaps you are the main wage earner in your family and going part-time simply is not an option. What do you do then?

You hear of rare stories where some work places are introducing innovative ideas to help their staff get back to work. Some companies have either a child care centre on site for their workers children or they an arrangement with a nearby child care for their workers. Some work places have breast-feeding room for their working mothers and even allow them to take time out from work to express breast milk with out it coming out of their lunch break time (but if your work has a breast-feeding room please check what your HR policy is and your bosses expectation is of you taking time out to express. For example I worked previously in an office that an allocated breast-feeding room yet if I were to use it then it was considered my own personal time and I would have to make up any time spent in there).

Ita Buttrose was recently slammed by feminists for suggesting women can have included in salary packages cleaning or nanny services. Personally I think it is a great idea. There is nothing more disheartening coming home from a full day of work to a messy house and knowing you then have to spend at least 3 hours cooking and cleaning for the family. Then its bed time routine and whammy there goes your day and any chance of real time with your family. So a cleaner in my house cleaning yes please I will take it!

What about working remotely as well? I hear from plenty of friends that they could easily do their jobs from home. My job for example is 90% computer based. It is working in databases and processing information on a shared network. I do not physically need to be in an office other than for meetings and maybe to do filing. However the idea of someone for a big company working most of the time from home is crazy talk, businesses and people are still very resistant to the idea especially if you are “only” at a lower level. For some reason people still seem to think if you work for a big company you really need to have a presence in the office.

Family friendly can be more than just the obvious. It can be as simple as giving their staff some flexibility in the workplace. Like working perhaps 7am-3pm. Or having a cafe or cafeteria on site with healthy menus that are free for staff to use and save the worker time and money. A friend of mine worked in a place in europe where the office had a games room, yes a games room, so staff could take time out have a game of pool or a round of Mario Kart. And you know what they were not in there for hours, they would pop in for 10 minutes (or their lunch breaks) and relax then go back to their desks. Maybe we can do what the Spanish do and have 20 minute siesta during the day.

I heard the Facebook office has a staff pick up service where a bus collects its staff and drives them to work. Giving staff time to access emails and complete small tasks before they even get to work and thus starting the day in a bit of a better mood (and it saves them on transportation costs).

We have all seen the photographs of Google’s offices where are designed to almost be a home away from home with fun break out areas, indoor gardens, and even encourage working away from your desk.

All those little things would make your working life just a little easier and might leave you in a better frame of mind for when you got home. Because in this day an age of limited resources, and limited staff in the work place the pressures on individual worker is greater and greater. I wouldn’t even want to contemplate trying to find workplace/home life balance if I was a single parent, or a carer of a family member with a disability or illness.

As a culture both working and society we need to have a serious rethink of how we work and how we can stop intruding into personal lives. We need to stop looking at work practices that are out dated and out of touch, and change the working culture and perception to support these changes. Because ultimately you can have the most innovative practices, policies, and office in the world, but if your managers and staff do not support it then it will fail.

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100 Purple Flowers

Today we have a special guest blogger. Her name is Cherise and she is a wife, mum to three adorable little girls (twins who are 4 and the youngest 17 months), and a stay at home mum. Currently she is working to turn her passion into a business, and this is her story.

We all know how hard it is to get stuff done around the house with little people in tow……..now imagine trying to make 100 purple flowers out of icing. Yes 100 purple flowers out of fondant icing with 3 little people! Am I mad? My husband thinks so! Now let me ask how many of you would work for $5 an hour or less? No takers?? Well that’s what this resident work from home mum gets paid to make cakes. Sometimes I just do it for the love and cover my expenses. My husband tells me he wouldn’t scratch his balls for $5 an hour and he loves doing that lol

I really love baking and creating, so at the moment while I’m starting out it will do. This month has been stressful though. A going away cake, a baptism cake and a wedding cake with 100 purple flowers.

The going away cake was easy, the baptism cake led to a semi breakdown and these 100 flowers are going to take me ALL week. Many thanks to the three little people who really want to help mummy make playdoh flowers. Ahhhh thanks but no thanks. So for now I am working nights. After the monkeys go to bed mummy stays up to make flowers. 17 down only 83 to go. Another late night for this mummy tonight ☺ Fingers crossed 100 purple flowers doesn’t send me screaming to the nutthouse.

I Survived the First Week of Daycare

My Mouse began attending daycare  this week.  I was able to stay home with her for several weeks, and once I went back to work, her father took time off to be with her.  We both would have liked to have spent more time with her but financially it just wasn’t possible.

Early on in my pregnancy, we found a daycare provider for Mouse.  We researched homes, interviewed caretakers and completed background checks.  We settled on a daycare close to my workplace–one that had received glowing reviews from a coworker and friend who had been using the daycare for about five years.  I felt confident about our choice.

And I still do.  Miss C. has been wonderful.  The first day she called me throughout the day to give me updates.  She has since sent me photos and text messages on a regular basis, reassuring me that Mouse is doing well.  She once was in my shoes and knows how difficult it can be for a mother entering back into the work force, leaving her baby for the first time.

That first day I cried.  Heck, I cried the entire weekend before (off and on).  I saved my crying for private, weeping in the car after I left her after lunch.  My husband drops her off in the mornings, saving me that agony.  But in the afternoons, when I go to nurse her, saying goodbye is so hard.  I cried again the second day.  The third day I cried a little less.  And the fourth day when I began to cry, I bought myself a Dairy Queen Blizzard.  I probably should have just bought a book.

I don’t have family nearby who can care for her, and, honestly, I like the idea of her having other children to interact with, something she wouldn’t get if Grandma was watching her.  Her daycare provider is big on play and development so I know Mouse is being stimulated.  She actually is doing quite well.  She has a fairly good temperament and seems to be adjusting without any difficulty.  It’s only mommy and daddy who are having a hard time of it.

The first time I saw Mouse smile and squeal for Miss C. I felt jealous.  That smile and squeal are meant only for me!  I reminded myself I should be glad Mouse is bonding with her daycare provider.  This is the woman who is helping me raise my child.  I want Mouse to feel safe and secure with her.  As this first week comes to a close I feel even more confident in my husband’s and my choice.

I know there will be other moments when I feel those pangs of jealousy–it’s inevitable–but as long as my little girl is happy and getting the care she needs, I can get past it.  After all, she has only one mommy–and that’s me.

Be sure and read about Caspette & her son’s first day experience at daycare here.

Working from home

I’ve been working from home. It’s new for me, I’ve never done it before and I’ll admit upfront I had a lot of expectations and preconceived notions about it.

Some days I felt as though because I was working from home my working hours were not as valuable as my husbands. For example – If he was working from home, I’d be doing everything for the kids, keeping them quiet while he’s working, and entertaining them. When I’m working from home, I still do almost everything. I get the kids their drinks, I make the bottles and feed the baby, organize snacks etc.

Of course, I’m not superwoman, but stuff starts to slide after a little while. And sure enough, stuff did.

The laundry pile that is normally always done, folded and put away has been multiplying on our bedroom floor. I have no clothes left in my dresser – nor do the children. Every thing we need, we have to hunt for. The dishes get washed, but rarely get put away. The dishwasher is loaded, but never emptied. I used to vacuum twice a week, currently once a fortnight is a triumph.

Parenting and working is HARD. I was happy to work from home, It meant I could be there with my kids but what I hadn’t expected was how much more work I would do outside the general “9 – 5”.  I hadn’t anticipated the hours I’d be putting in after the kids were in bed, during the time that I’m used to relaxing. After the kids go to bed, it used to be the case of a quick tidy up, wash the dishes, maybe do a load of washing then veg with my husband. Lately though, The kids go to bed, The dishes and the laundry get done but then I have a million other things I’m trying to do as well. I lost most, if not all of my “me” time. I lost a fair whack of time with my kids, too.

I enjoyed what I was doing, but it was only ever short-term. Maybe if it was a longer thing and I’d had more time to get into a routine with the work, and the kids and the house I could see it as a long-term option. But I didn’t, and I don’t.

The truth is, when I’m home, I want to be home. I want to be able to play with my kids, watch a movie with Lucy and eat popcorn. I want to have the time to just be with them. When I’m at work, I want to be able to work, I want to be able to concentrate. I want to set myself goals and achieve those goals.

I didn’t hate working from home. Some days, it really suited me. Admittedly, most of those days were the days where I only had one of the children home with me. The baby is easy to occupy – He just rolls around the floor, and occasionally wants a fresh nappy, a bottle, or a nap. The 4-year-old is slightly more demanding though totally self-sufficient in getting snacks, drinks and toys – but wants me to play with her. Other days, the kids were hectic, the house was trashed and the last thing I really wanted to do was to sit down and work.

It’s about priorities, and organisation.

I enjoyed it. I really did. But I learnt a lot about me, and about what I want from an employment opportunity.

I think that for me, working from home was harder than if I had needed to get everyone organized and dropped off so as I could go into the office.  I’m happy to keep home and work totally separate. Originally I liked the idea of having the kids at home with me. But really, what’s the point in working from home if you’re too busy to play with your kids anyway? I like the idea of sending them to childcare while I ‘go’ to work much better. At least there they are being stimulated, and played with and cared for. I started feeling as though I was neglecting them a little.

It’s a hard balance.

What do you think? Work from home, or ‘go’ to work? Have you tried it? What worked for you?

Working Mum’s How Do You Do It?

On my online mothers group there was a comment recently about how the working mum’s “did it”. “It” being getting up during the night to tend to bub and then still making it to and through work. It got me thinking, being a full-time worker again, how do I do it?

So how do I do it? Well caffeine by thy name. Seriously caffeine – best invention ever. I was never a coffee drinker or coke drinker, just the occasional diet coke with a meal. But since being at work I have been hitting the diet coke like there is no tomorrow. I should just have it intravenously set up into my bloodstream. Hubby suggested reducing our diet coke intake and I swear I got the shakes on the spot!

Sugar is also a life line. Nothing beats a sugar buzz at 8:30am to keep you going till caffeine break time at 10amish.  I usually have a choc iced muffin for morning tea, followed by a hot chocolate, then finish off the arvo with a chocolate something something. Anything really I am not picky. If there is chocolate I am there. Oh sure I’m sure there are healthy alternatives, and I eat them too. Apples keep me going through the afternoons I am sure. But the instant rush from sugar is more often than not needed.

Forget about being on time to work. I used to be pedantic about being at work on time. 8am on the dot, it was a matter of pride. Now if I stroll in around 8:15 I consider that a good morning, and 8am is a freaking miracle. Luckily my manager is very understanding. But seriously my morning goes a little like this; I set my alarm, I turn it off and usually fall asleep. Wake up a half hour later (if I’m lucky). Leap out of bed with agility that would make an Olympic gymnast envious. Make breakfast, kick hubby out of bed, eat breakfast,  kick hubby out of bed again, get ready, get baby up and ready, pack bags, pack morning tea’s, and walk out the door. Now this is all when it goes according to plan. Normally one, or more, or all go horribly wrong on an epic scale. I try I really try, but I am always foiled and it doesn’t matter how much time I allocate, it is never enough. I have since learned to let go of my being on time analness. It was that or burst a blood vessel.

Think before you speak. So they say. But you really have to learn this mantra, because you will be as short-tempered as an ally cat whose fish was just stolen from it. I am not normally a confrontational person, I am pretty placid. But since having a baby and returning to work almost the first thing out of my mouth when some one is being a rude cow is “Oh hell no”. I used to just let people go when they were being rude and condescending but again now I will pull them up in no time flat. I refuse to allow myself to be walked over any more. While in some regards this is good I have to be more conscious than ever of “think before you speak”. Which is extremely hard when your very tired, on a sugar rush, and some little snot of a co-worker makes and extraordinarily dumb or bitchy comment, in fact it takes all my will power to not smack them upside the head and loose it at them.

Then you get home. Does up on caffeine or sugar and get started on your “home” work. Preparation of dinner, wash dishes, take garbage out, do other odd jobs, maybe watch a show or at least half a show, get baby ready for bed. Once baby is asleep you are then usually flying around doing last-minute things like showering, changing kitty litter, feeding cats, surf the net (checking emails etc), fall into bed exhausted and sleep. Forget sex. Seriously, just forget all notions of it, you will not be in the mood EVER. Tell your partner it wont happen till at least the weekend if he is lucky. Sleep will become the most important thing to you and getting to bed early will beat sex any time. Ask any new mum not just a working mum. Sorry fella’s your out of luck. Just deal with it.

But most of all you just adjust. You really get used to it. It slowly becomes all you ever know and you don’t think twice about it. Then eventually you don’t notice until someone says “I don’t know how you do it” and you think “actually I don’t know either?”.

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