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Hard Day at the Office

Hard Day at the Office

I’m sitting with a pile of resumes and job applications in front of me and things are beginning to blur. Not just because there are so many to read but because everyone is  so ‘talented’, or can ‘demonstrate a creative approach to problem solving’ or is ‘commited to the industry’,  is ‘passionate’ and has a ‘desire to succeed’ and has a gazillion years of experience etc etc etc. All great qualities, trouble is, I’m losing sight of the person as my head is being filled with ‘qualities’. It is almost impossible to remember who is who. Time for a break.

Weary cynicism aside, I am actually impressed. Most of these people, 95% of whom are women, are on the path of a successful career. Most of them are mothers and many of them have studied, or are in the process of studying,- full time, part time, mornings, afternoons, evenings, late at night when they should be sleeping, catching moments whenever they can and getting fabulous grades.  It shows how much can be achieved when we pack in a can-do attitude and just get on with it.

But how do we do it? My friend, who is in a ‘transition’ period of her marriage,  has been offered a new job. She wants it. She’s itching to use her other than mother skills.  She’ll have more money, more independence. Trouble is, if she takes the morning shift, not all of her children are happy that mum won’t be at home for breakfast and getting to school. If she takes the evening shift, hubby’s not too thrilled. She has a hard decision ahead of her. In fact she recently posed the question on her facebook page, ‘How do mums have a career and a family?’ Perhaps she was feeling a little overwhelmed by things on that particular day but I hope that somewhere in the avalanche of responses, she managed to find some answers.

But it made me stop and think too. What motivates these women to apply for a part time job? What are the advantages for them? their families? Is it to ease financial pressure or to get out of the house and have some adult time or to add to their sense of self worth? perhaps it’s to upskill, maintain skills, or ease into or out of full time work. What sacrifices are they going to make in order to work a few more hours per week?  how will husbands, partners and kids accommodate mum not being there for a few hours? will it even matter? And just as importantly, how do our workplaces  assist women to deal with the worklife/family balance?

I have spent the best (best? is that the right word?) part of the last 8 years either being a single mum or being in a single mum type situation, ie, in a relationship but with someone who works unsociable hours so is not here at important times like …morning, noon and night. I’ve had to work since the children were born and I’ve made plenty of sacrifices. Frequent overseas holidays are a thing of the past and my leisurely weekends are now usually spent on the sidelines of a soccer field. I’ve had to put aside the job that was giving me greatest satisfaction because it involved overseas travel and the childcare costs were prohibitive, (but I know that I can go back to that one day). However I’ve also had plenty of opportunity to set up strategies to help us survive.

The biggie is organisation and time management- never leave anything to the last minute. It’s not worth the stress. And teach the kids to be independent from a young age. I involve mine in the running of the household from the cooking and cleaning to the planning and the budgeting. By default, my kids are also involved in everything I do. They’re familiar faces at my workplace. They’ve sat through meetings, classes and presentations. Fortunately I have an extremely accommodating manager who has understood my need to have to do this. I have learned from that and I will always be grateful for it. I’ve been able to leave at short notice, change the days I work and cancel meetings or classes because something has happened to one of the children. And you know what, the place hasn’t fallen down. Changes can be made. You just need the right attitude.

So for all the fabulous women who are juggling family and paid work, I understand your struggles, I really do and I’m hoping that in some small way, I can contribute to creating a work environment that acknowledges what could be the two most important things in your life, your work and your family.

PS, Happy Mother’s Day – have fun, kick up your heels!!