Mind & Body

In this season of giving, make sure you also give some time to yourself.

When life is busy, the easiest thing to give up is time for yourself. This holiday season, as you give gifts to others, also find the time to do something for yourself that you enjoy.

The arrival of a baby may change how a parent feels about the amount of time they want to spend at their paid job. Some parents continue to have a full-time paid job. Others change to part-time paid work and some people become full-time stay at home parents.

Despite the urgings of feminism, it is still mainly women who change how they work when they have children and it is usually women who become the primary caregivers. For me, once I had my baby in my arms, I still wanted to continue with my career as a television producer. However, I found it much harder to leave my daughter with someone else while I went to the office. What surprised me was the difference between how I thought I would feel about having a baby and working and how I actually felt when my daughter arrived in the world.

Having flexibility in my job helped me to make it all work. I could do both; spend time with my children and work full-time. Flexibility is a really important ingredient if you want to take part in your children’s lives. There are many different ways to work flexibly such as working school hours Monday to Friday or working from home one day a week.

I was able to work full-time and flexibly for more than six years when my first three children were born. (We have a fourth child, but she was born later.) However, when the television program I was working for was re-structured, I was given a different job which I liked more. Unfortunately, in my new role I didn’t have any flexibility or autonomy. I thought I was missing out on too much in my young children’s lives, so I decided to walk away from my TV career. After I left my job I wanted to find out how other women were combining motherhood and paid work. I went in search of answers. I spent the next eight years interviewing mainly women about combining motherhood and paid work and I documented this in the book. There are many different ways to successfully combine motherhood and paid work and the main conclusion I came to is you need to do what is right for your family. This will change as your family’s needs and career aspirations change. Here are some of the other insights I gleaned after interviewing women who have worked it out:

1. Ask for extra help at home where you can – nannies, friends, cleaners, family and anyone else who can ease the load.

Former Sport and Tourism Minister, Jackie Kelly, told me at one stage she and her husband employed two nannies to help look after their two children.

2.Get your partner involved in the home responsibilities.

Actor, Rachel Ward told me, “How I survived early motherhood was because of my husband.” (Actor, Bryan Brown.) Ward believes men have to do their part. “They have to take on half the load.” Bryan did more. Just remember when your partner does help around the house, don’t criticize the way he or she does things. Allow the difference. You may discover a better way of doing something.

3.Choose an employer who supports flexible working conditions.

Naomi Milgrom, CEO of the Sussan Group told me, “An environment that treats them, (employees) as respected individuals with lives to manage is much more likely to be attractive to them and bring out the best in them, than one that has rigid, uncompromising requirements.” I believe flexibility is good for both the employee and the company. When a boss agrees to let an employee work flexibly it allows them to manage their work and home lives better. I think the employee is usually extremely grateful. They are also more productive and keen to make sure their paid job is done.

Whether a mother has a paid job or has left the workforce to look after her children, I think all mothers are ‘working.’

When life is busy, the easiest thing to give up is time for yourself. This holiday season, as you give gifts to others, also find the time to do something for yourself that you enjoy. I think it is really important for mums or anyone in a care giving role, to take some time to look after themselves too. It may be on your own, with friends, with your partner or with family. Go for a walk or go to a yoga class, ask your partner to look after the children so you can sleep in one morning, ask someone you trust to look after the children so you and your partner can have a night out together or you can have an afternoon to yourself. It doesn’t matter what you do. By looking after yourself and regularly doing things that make you feel good, you should be better able to face the demands of each day and better able to look after the people in your care. Happy holidays!

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