Friday, October 28, 2011

Motherhood, shift work and sanity – Yes, you can make it work!

Holly Bicknell wrangles two small children, works part-time and studies part-time. She also writes what she calls an 'inappropriate blog' about motherhood called Good Golly Miss Holly. But mostly she juggles. And with her partner also working shifts, it's quite the juggle.
In my household, we have two preschoolers, a cat, a dog, a Mama and a Papa. Suffice to say, our house is bursting at the seams with toys, laughter and chaos!

Earlier this year, I traded in stay at home motherhood for part time study at university and part time work, doing night shifts at a local pub. My partner, Ryan also works 40+ hour weeks on a seven day rotating roster. Yes you read right, we are both shift workers! We never planned it this way but with a mortgage, car repayments and a never-ending stack of bills, like most families, we needed a way to manage it all without adding an enormous weekly childcare bill to the budget.

Shift work, particularly with two preschoolers, is hard work. Sleep is but a distant memory, our body clocks are out of whack and on weekends, my partner and I are basically two ships passing in the night with me getting home at 3:30am and Ryan getting up at 5am. It is not uncommon for us to see maybe 20 minutes of each other between bedtime on Thursday night and dinnertime on Monday evenings.

People are often amazed when I tell them about our home life and ‘Supermum’ is a word that is quite often thrown about too. “All Mums are Supermums,” I tell people “I’m just organised and extremely tired!” This is not to say that I do not struggle. Some days are just horrid and I find myself a wee bit overwhelmed, choking out “I give up!” in between sobs. Such is life, right? That said, there are a few things that help me to keep juggling those balls without losing (too much) of my sanity!

1. Do the happy housewife thing and meal plan: Some days it is an absolute blessing to be able to know what you need to cook so you can just slip into autopilot mode! Meal planning also helps us on the money side of things too because I only buy what we need and I don’t load the trolley up with impulse buys or 10 packs of Tim Tams because they’re on special!

2. Freeze a few meals. It definitely comes in handy for those nights where all you can think about is hitting the hay!

3. Invest in a day planner or diary: Motherhood and sleep deprivation have jumbled my memory something shocking! If I want to remember something, I need to write it down and that way, I don’t forget an appointment or feel the wrath of my four year old daughter when I send her to school in shorts and a t-shirt when it’s pyjama day!

4. Be prepared for the next day: My kids go to preschool on Mondays so on Sunday nights, they help me pick out their clothes and we pack their bags. Doing this makes getting out the door on mad Mondays mornings that little bit calmer!

5. Remember, the housework will still be there later! This isn’t the part where I tell you to just forget about the housework because seriously, who are we trying to kid here? I am a sucker for a clean house but there are times where I need to remind myself that going to bed and getting a decent sleep is more important than attacking the ever expanding Mt. Washmore in the laundry.

6. Schedule in Mama and Papa time: This is a really important one for us! It is so much easier to find something to argue over when you’re exhausted and Ryan and I often find ourselves snipping at one another. Whether we are able go out on a actual date or just steal thirty minutes together on the lounge, abit of couple time does our relationship wonders!

7. Bring on the family fun: Time is tight so we make sure as much of the spare time we have goes on family fun. Sometimes we might only be able to squeeze in half an hour at the park or watching “Hoodwinked” for the fiftieth time before bed but the kids still go to sleep happy and we know we’ve done our jobs well!

and perhaps most importantly,

8. Don’t forget to look after yourself! Sneak in abit of sleep where possible, eat well, make time for the simple pleasures you love and treat yourself when you can. You deserve it!

Pretty simple points too, aren’t they?

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s preschool day and uni holidays so I might just go steal an hours worth of uninterrupted sleep!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Please keep your germs to yourself

MultipleMum blogs about frugality, green living, parenting, and other musings at And then there were four ( She has four children, aged 6 and younger, including a set of boy/girl twins (Dew Drop and The Minx), and works outside of the home 3 days a week. There is never a dull moment in her busy and contented life.Link
Don't get me wrong. I get how hard it is to be a working Mum. I struggle into the office three times a week.

My kids trip the light fantastic with their long day care teachers.

We juggle the drop offs and pick ups and the crazy scheduling.

We deal with the tantrums that result from looooong days out of the house. And dinner at 6.30pm. And the hurried race to the bath. And the rush through the stories and homework and everything else that needs doing before we can tuck our precious bundles into bed.

And it is because of this that I am so annoyed. I am pissed with parents who only think of their own needs. I am referring to parents who send their children to daycare when they are sick.

I am not talking about a cold (would any of us get out of the house in winter?), I am talking about fevers. Chesty coughs. Conjunctivitis. Hand, foot and mouth and the plethora of other viruses my kids have contracted from going to daycare.

If your child is sick, keep them home. It is as simple as that.

I know it sucks being unreliable at work. I know how hard it is to shuffle meetings and appointments and priorities. I know what it is like to be on a deadline and not be able to meet it. It is embarrassing and frustrating. I know. I have to have days off to attend to my sick children.

But I can't help but think that if more parents put their children's needs ahead of their own and kept their kids at home when they are sick, that fewer others would be impacted. If parents followed the rules.

It is not good enough to say "They had a vomit this morning but they seem fine now". Sorry parent. Leave it 24 hours. It is not good enough to mask the effect of a fever by dosing your child with paracetamol. They could be infectious. Please leave them at home for 24 hours.

The Minx and Dew Drop have been seriously ill for the past two weeks with a virus that I suspect they got from daycare. To the person who thought it was a good idea to 'share the love', I want to throttle you. If only you knew the pain you have caused. If only.

Please keep your germs to yourself.

Is your daycare strict on infection control? What are your thoughts on people who don't play by the rules?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Career Girl Me (updated....)

By Lucy Mulvany

Lucy is a mum of three primary aged children. She lives in Adelaide, with her lovely husband. In her life before children Lucy was a successful marketing project manager. She currently works part time from home on various freelance projects and has a blog called Diminishing Lucy. She is also studying for her third career, as well as being committed to exercise and healthy living, whilst still trying to lose the final kilos!

I first published this post a year ago. So I am posting again - with an update...

Someone asked me the other day, about what my life was like before children...

Before I had children, I was a career girl. I worked for a leading telco, from the mid 1990's, as a sales manager, as a marketing manager and as a project manager. In Sydney, Adelaide and Darwin. I worked full time. Full full full time. It was where I met my lovely husband. And good job I did - I was working so hard, I had little time for much else!

I was never the clicky clacky heals corporate suit flicky hair type of career girl. I was not a glamour of the Sydney business world. But I did get recognised for objectives really well executed. And dare I say it, I was promoted more quickly that my better dressed, more beautiful counterparts...

I loved my work. I was lucky to work with the best talent that the telco industry had at the time. Without a doubt, I was paid extraordinarily well for campaigns well done. I thrived. I worked really long hours and was on schedule and on budget every time. I was lucky that I found a knack of getting the best out of other people, and I repeatedly was lucky enough to experience the thrill of making things happen, seeing things evolve, through the hard work of some phenomenal teams of people.

I was lucky that I had some amazing mentors through my whole career. Men and women that saw flickers of potential in me that I could not see in myself. I always knew I could and would work hard. Other people saw the occasional flashes of "brilliance". I put that in inverted commas because I always doubted myself. Lucky for me, they didn't.

I worked, and played, to win.

At the peak of my career, I finally fell pregnant. And whilst riding that high, I lost my baby. It was a late, late loss and the most heartbreaking thing I have ever had to deal with.

We, the lovely husband and I, we chose to retreat for a while, to the Northern Territory.

For his career, this time; and so that I could lick some wounds and heal: we left Adelaide for the Darwin adventure.

Again, I scored. And landed an amazing role working on a huge construction and IT project. With the best in the business across government and private enterprise, I blossomed again. Crackled with the energy and vibrancy of success. And felt some peace in my heart and mind, up there, in that amazing tropical land.

And I fell pregnant again, this time with my beautiful eldest daughter.

I got huge. I got hot. I got happy. I got my project, me and my pregnant belly, in my hard hat and steel capped boots.

I finally waddled away at eight months pregnant.

It is now over seven years since I worked on my career. I have always managed to work part time, usually from home, around the kids. As a method of keeping my marketing skills and my brain ticking over. But such part time work has been secondary to my main "job" as Mummy to my three kids.

I miss the passion, and the cut and thrust of being really good at something, something external to my personal world.

I miss the thrill of the negotiations, the thrill of the wins. The completions. I miss the life cycles of projects. I miss that secret internal feeling I get: "They think I can't do that,but I know I can and will, and I cannot wait to prove it."

Lexie starts at school in term four of 2011.

Time to start investigating what to do next...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Making time for friends

Our guest blogger this week is Nicole Avery (aka Planning With Kids ). With five children aged 12, 10, 7 (only girl!), 5 and two, Nicole has managed to turn her blog into her job, thanks to phenomenal organisation skills. Fortunately for the rest of us, she shares her secrets in her book Planning With Kids, showing working parents how to become more organised - and leave more time for parenting. (Check it out here.) Today, Nicole talks about how to make more time for friends.

During July 2011, 671 women across Australia aged between 25-49 took part in a survey conducted by Ipsos Marketing. It looked at how women were spending their time and how they felt about their division of time. The survey was commissioned by Baileys and the report has some interesting findings: Only 5% of an Australian woman's week is spent with friends; 59% of women would go to the female friends for support; 70% of women would like to spend more time with their friends.

Of late I haven’t spent as much time as I would like with some of my closest friends. It isn’t because I don’t think my family can’t cope without me, but because I haven’t prioritised very well. Something a couple of friends and I have done recently to make sure we see each other more regularly is to book in a regular morning each month. Blocking it out in the calendar makes sure it will happen.

Every time I catch up with my girlfriends I feel recharged, connected and calmer. I have known them for so many years (one since when I was in kinder!) and they make me feel grounded no matter how crazy everything might be at the time. Love them lots – just need to see them more!

I did a quick calculation to work out what percentage of time I spend on my own interests. If you don’t include blogging, then it is about 7%, but I love blogging and spend some of my “work” time reading blogs etc so it is hard to determine if that is not part of personal interest too??? But in our house I think Mr A would only spend about the same amount of time on his personal interests as well. That is when he is not training for a really ridiculously long bike race, of course!

I know many women who feel this stress, but I have always had the support of my husband to make sure I take time out for myself. This time for me is at the gym and it has been the best way for me to manage the stress – because I do get stressed when I have looming deadlines, sick kids, personal commitments all happening at the same time.

Do you have the balance in your life that allows you to spend enough time with your friends?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Discount clothes shopping - Does it really save you money??

Joanne is a Personal Stylist and consultant Brand Manager for small business, based in Sydney with over 20 years experience in the fashion industry, Contact Joanne for more info on

With the global financial situation still very precarious, our position in Australia is at the least nervous, as a result. Retail is taking a huge hit in response to this belt tightening, and most particularly Apparel. Not surprisingly children’s clothes are still selling well. With our children often being the only ones in the family really having any money spent on them when things get tough. This together with the fact that our kids never stop growing, so this elevates buying their clothes from the level of want to need!

The retail industry is now all about discounting incase you haven’t noticed? Every shopping center and mall is awash with discount offers, most notably the Department Stores. Some large retailers have changed their entire Brand proposition to be about price and being the lowest in the market. Clearly this is a smart business move and it allows customers to side step all the smoke and mirrors of confusing offers, and know that if they are shopping based on getting the lowest price alone, then that would certainly be the place to go. For things like children’s clothes that are grown out of this is perfect, but is this really the way to save money in the long run for you personally??

I am a firm believer in buying quality investment pieces, particularly for work. Over time these quality basics can be added to and expanded on with some on trend pieces thrown in to feel current and fashionable. These type of pieces don’t need to last and can be purchased from chain stores where it is all about disposable fashion. Your working wardrobe needs to work for you, it needs to breath and not crush and not shine after too many wears. This is only achieved when good quality natural fibres are used and garments are cut and made beautifully. In my opinion the temptation to skimp and buy cheaper clothes is a false economy as they won’t last nearly as well and will simply need to be replaced.

The smartest way to take advantage of the retail situation at the moment is to find a couple of stores where you really love their clothes and sign up to their email lists. I know it can be annoying to get lot’s correspondence but remember you can unsubscribe anytime. You will be the first to know about their direct VIP activity such as a category promotion ( i.e 30% off pants ) or even a total store event such as 20% off all stock for 2 days. These events are happening more and more at the moment and you can pick and choose what works for you. If you simply wait for the end of season sales you will not have your choice of sizes and the stock will be very picked over.

So there are some important things to think about when you hit the shops; Do I want to be wearing this for while or am I happy to replace it next season? Do I feel comfortable and great in this? Am I portraying the right message for myself in the work place wearing this? I know that things are tough at the moment for most of us particularly once you have recently added a child to the mix. I’m not suggesting sending yourself bankrupt on clothes outside your budget, however sometimes we can waste money by buying more of the wrong things and less of the best options.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It’s about integration, not balance

I was never particularly co-ordinated, but I just know that if I tried to work on my ‘work / life balance’ I would fall off. ‘Balancing’ motherhood and work suggests two things to me. One, that there is a perfect alignment that is ultimately achievable if only we tried harder. Two, that working is one thing and life is another.

Both statements are ridiculous.

For me, the best way to make it work is to accept that both parts of my life are important to me. Work is important because it’s part of my livelihood and my demanding job means that it’s often more lively than I’d like. My job will never come first to me (sorry job – never) but realistically I have an obligation to give it my all and it’s really hard to manage sometimes. How can I give my job my all when at least 50% of my brain is permanently focused on my family? I found this particularly hard when I first became a ‘working mum’ almost seven years ago. Everyone seemed to want a piece of me and some days my head was screaming under the pressure of being asked to give my all to too many things. There was just not enough all to go around, especially when there was no way I was giving less than 100% to my family... you can see the problem I have with ‘balance’. Thinking back on my early attempts at working and mumming, I’m surprised I didn’t go postal.

Over time I learned that the more I blurred the lines between ‘home’ and ‘work’, the easier it became for me. Fast internet and my iPhone (and my employer!) have allowed me to do my work wherever I need to and the same is true for organising my home life. I just get the job done, whenever, wherever. These days I base my success at work on outcomes, rather than the hours I work or how far I’ve climbed on some made-up ladder. I don’t care about my job title anymore, I just want to have interesting conversations and have the flexibility to give my family the 100% of me that they deserve. This wasn’t just handed to me by my company, of course. I had to work out what I wanted, go and ask for it, trial it and prove that I could do what I said I would. I have never looked back. These days I work four days a week – three in the office and Fridays from home. I also arrive late on a Thursday as I do reading in my daughter’s classroom until 9.45am. My work supports me because they know that I will deliver to my job specifications without interruption, issue or problem. I work independently and I just get the job done.

There are important parametres, of course. Aside from a quick email here or there, I haven’t ever tried to mind my children while I’m on the job. I have childcare throughout my working week, even on Fridays when I work from home because I don’t think trying to do both jobs at the same time is fair on anyone. My advice to mums who do work from home and are stressed to the max is to question whether you really can be committed to two full-time jobs that require your attention at the same time. Look for loving childcare alternatives to help you make it work. Or ensure your work knows that you will be working from the hours of 7pm until 1am or whatever works for you. Otherwise, you're really not doing either your babies or your work a favour and it's not fair on anyone. Especially your little ones because if you're anything like me you really like the work you do and can get totally absorbed in it – such that a little voice saying "Mummy can I?" becomes like nails down a blackboard and it takes everything you've got not to snap bile at your little needy dearheart for interrupting your day... yikes, I am showing my true colours here, I know.

Which makes you realise why I believe in the maxim "you can have it all, just not all at the same time."

Maxabella Loves working and mumming and combining the two as artfully as possible. I love making stuff. I love that I'm really bad at baking and sewing but I do them anyway. I love moving things around at home and organising everything far more than is strictly necessary. I love writing and curiosity and adventures. I love sitting down. I used to love sleeping , but the Tsunamis (my three children) cured me of that.