Apr 21, 2015

We'll Get In, Get Out and Get The Job Done.

Today's post was inspired by an SMH article by Jessica Irvine on working mothers that some of my favourite people on twitter were discussing last night.  Irvine was writing in response to a study by Ernst & Young which found that women working part time are the most productive in the workforce only wasting 11.1% of their day at work versus 14.5% of the rest of the workforce.  It wasn't clear from the article whether all the women working part time were mothers but I'm assuming most were.

Irvine explored a number of reasons why she felt working mothers were more efficient at work with the bottom line being that they had to be and they also had someone (or more than one) waiting for them at day care or nanna's that's 'much more valuable to get home to'.  Motherhood or more specifically motheroftoddlerhood has also equipped us with the social skills to navigate office politics and to learn to not sweat the small stuff but rather to focus on the big picture of getting the job done.

I read Irvine's battle cry for the part time working mother in the context of recent articles outlining the sometimes harsh realities for women who opt out after their children are born.  That though money isn't the most important thing in the world, one's world often does change when you no longer have financial independence.  That the conviction of it being easy down the track to pick up a part time or casual role in something less demanding isn't actually that easy and also brings with it huge amounts of financial uncertainty and anxiety with regard to job security.  There is often a price to be paid for opting out of the workforce completely.  A price that just isn't financial but also takes its pound of flesh from self esteem, self identity and personal fulfilment.

Dressed and fed by Aldi after a safe return home through the wild rain and traffic in Sydney.

Which brings me to my two cents.  Hastily cobbled together over a cup of lukewarm tea and a couple of dark chocolate digestives soon to have most of their chocolate melted off at the hands of a toddler.

I didn't think too hard about getting back to work after maternity leave.  I always assumed I'd return and to be honest, the prospect of reconnecting with my 'old' life and 'old' me were a big part of why the initial emotional transition wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.  The physical transition to my return to work was almost seamless due to the luxury and privilege I had of extended family living with me.

It wasn't until Toddler SSG began daycare that the extreme multi tasking and hard core time management that Irvine mentions in her article became relevant to me.  With daycare came hard endpoints to the number of hours I could spend at work and the morning commute was no longer just a case of hugging Toddler SSG and waving goodbye as I walked to the car but rather a complex and highly unpredictable hour long routine for the 10 minute drive to daycare.  It had no longer become possible to do the time and a bit to clear the books for my days off that I had become accustomed to.

With the daycare timer going off in my head (and the persistent impending sense of doom that a pick up call was only minutes away), the desire to multi task, prioritise and the ability to live with a to do list never fully completed at the end of the day turned into a reality that I had to adapt to.  And I think I have over the last few months.  I accepted the changes I needed to make for my own sanity (cutting back hours and minimising my daily commute) and I made them.

In the transition, though, I think I was on my own worst enemy.  Everyone else at work seemed to understand that things happen with children in day care.  That people do have to drop everything and run when their child is sick.  The empathy and support that I've been shown came from both the childed and childless at my work.  It's been very humbling and it has, I hope, given me more empathy for the juniors I mentor.

It's not just your child who teaches you how to be a better worker.  It's also the people you work with when you have a child who teach you by their example.


  1. I totally agree, it's been a nightmare sometimes balancing with the commute, frantic work hours plus night calls sometimes stretching up to past midnight.

  2. Wonderfully written! :)

    I think the article you reference was interesting too. I agree with you that being able to return to work is something that we are lucky to have the opportunity to do. It certainly is nice getting that adult interaction and feeling like you've accomplished something for the day. As too often days at home with an unpredictable baby can leave you feeling a bit drained when you notice the housework fell by the wayside...but at the moment (only having been back a while myself) I find the 'there is something much more valuable to get home to' being the hardest bit. It's hard when you look at what you're doing in the workplace and compare it to what you could be doing at that moment at home with baby. It does drive you to get more done so the day flys by...but I'm hoping those moments of missing baby stop or at least reduce as time goes on, it's tricky getting a balance.


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