Thursday, November 24, 2011

Trial and Error

Sometimes it takes a few tries to find exactly what you need as a working mum, as guest blogger Kristyn from Mummy K discovered…

As a journalist and having done freelance work before, I was pretty optimistic about being able to work from home or negotiate with my employer after my maternity leave finished two years ago.

I knew the ins and outs of the magazine and have figured out various ways to make the job work for both me and the company without compromising quality. But I was quite disappointed when I was told that they required someone to be in the office the “entire time”. It wasn’t negotiable and I didn’t really know how to push it. Personally, I didn’t think there was any big advantage to working from the office all the time in that specific role. But they’ve already decided.

So there I was, scrambling for freelance work because the one I was banking on fell through. I knew we couldn’t survive long on one income. But I couldn’t go back to work full time too. I’m one of those mothers – the non-clingy one at the start who ends up realising I couldn’t survive without seeing my child for hours. Obviously, full time work wasn’t an option for me.

So I pushed for freelance work every now and then, contacting everyone I knew from the industry and putting my name out there as a freelance journalist/sub editor/photographer and writer (anything I could do, I put it in my CV). For a while, I was able to scrounge up some work here and there, but finances were tight and I needed something more regular.

The thought of full time work and full time pay became appealing. When a fashion magazine contacted me to do around two months of full time work, I said yes. I’ve never done full time after having my daughter. I’ve never been out all day everyday before. I’ve never placed her on daycare everyday before. I’ve never juggled motherhood and full time work before. There were a lot of fears, uncertainties, and doubts – add to that the usual insecurities about whether or not I’d remember how to do my job. But money was an issue so I had to give it a go. I thought briefly that maybe I could be one of those mothers too – the one who could do it all.

Two weeks into the new life and I was ready to give up my full time employee hat. I realised I so wasn’t one of those women – you know, the one who can work full time and be a full time mother too. Hubby was commuting two hours each way to work so I couldn’t ask him to do a lot of stuff like pick up/drop off our daughter to and from daycare. Basically, I was doing it all on my own. Working, preparing my daughter’s daycare things, making dinner, getting her ready for bed, feeding myself, doing chores and so on. And I felt I was missing out on my daughter’s milestones. She’d come home one day and use a big word properly and I would just be gob-smacked.

After the full time period ran out, I felt a huge thorn come off my chest. In a way I was lucky that I could dip my toe into the full time world before deciding. I also know I’m lucky to have finally found a regular freelance work that I can do from home. Although the woes of working from home are also present, it is something I can handle far easier than when I’m working full time. It took a while, several trials and errors, but I’m happy I was able to find that balance – and the family is happy too.

Kristyn aka MummyK is a freelance journalist/photographer/editor and a first time children’s book author. She is mum to one little girl and two little dogs, and wife to her IT consultant/musician husband. She blogs at and tweets as @themummyk.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Etiquette vs Manners

By Omania Terry, Effectiveness Specialist

In today's world of speed, technology, everyone wanting everything now, we often forget about the small things that matter. The small things that can help you when returning to the workforce. The whole corporate minefield can be a scary place when you have been out of the whole working game. And yes, it is a game.

When you take it back to basics, it isn’t that difficult and lot of these tips will help you in both your personal and professional life.

  • Use peoples name – it is the magic password. Not only at work, but why not at the supermarket. I love using the person’s name with I see a name tag. It really makes their day.

  • Be interested in others – but don’t’ fake it. People know when you are not sincere.

  • Say hello – saying hello makes everyone feel better, including yourself. The CEO is a person too so say hello if you cross their path.

  • Say thank you – it works wonders. How simple is this statement, however you will be surprised how people have forgotten to say it.

  • Be gracious – let others take the credit, pass through the door first. They’ll love you for it.

  • Make a fuss in a nice way – praise someone when they have accomplished something special to them. It may not be important to you, but could be a major achievement for them.

  • Put others in the spotlight – ask about them, their lives, but remember to be interested. Everyone needs a little spotlight to shine.

  • Listen, listen, listen – this is one of the hardest things for people to do. If you keep hearing your voice, close your mouth! To know if you are listening, repeat some of what the other person has said back to them.

  • Never make someone feel like they are a bore – even if they are. Usually these people don’t realise they are a bore, but they may be lonely and really need someone to talk to.

  • Be compassionate.

  • Avoid sarcasm – people notice, really, they do.

  • Be generous – shout lunch or coffee, even if it is your boss. This speaks mountains about your character.

  • Be big – apologise when you have done something wrong, get it over and done with and move on. You will gain more respect. We are not perfect you know.

  • Be observant – notice the small things that people have done ie new haircut, new dress.

  • Let things go – know what battles are worth fighting. At the end of the day, is it worth the grief.

By taking it back to basic manners will make the transition of going back to work that little bit easier. It will give you the confidence to get back into the swing of things. Good luck.


About Omania: Originally from New Zealand, I have lived in Australia for 15 years and I love it here. I have had a diverse professional career that has taken me to various parts of the world. I have been a fashion designer and had my own clothing manufacturing company; I was a professional model and had a grooming and deportment school; as a woolclasser I travelled the world working for various shearing contractors; I have worked for some incredible companies including a gold mine, an engineering firm, a recruitment agency, telecommunications company, farming consultant, accountant and opened a weightloss centre. My life has never been dull and I really don’t think that will ever change. So what can I take from these experiences? It has given me the knowledge and experience to look at a business, assess what is going on and see what it needs. Whether it is structuring the office management, professional development for the team or putting an event together. I enjoy working with others to make things happen and to pass on the knowledge that I have gained over my personal and professional life. Visit

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Please don’t send in the clowns.

Blogger Sarah Wayland from That Space In Between ( thinks that working mums overuse the word 'juggle'. She's come up with another word she prefers. Do you agree with her?

I was meandering through the online world the other day reading bits of this and bits of that and I noticed something - articles relating to mums tend to overuse the world juggling.

Mums use it when talking about themselves and writers use it when describing the simple act of parenting, working or about mum’s just finding a moment to be.

I was never one to enjoy the circus as a kid. I hated the way the animals were treated, I was anxious about the trapeze artists and clowns…don’t get me started on clowns (jeez I must have been a fun kid to be around!)

When I read the word juggling two things come to mind – things flying through the air all at once and a stupid clown with make-up in all the wrong places. Some days I might be known for a random smear of the mascara wand but in the art of managing all those balls through the air juggling suggests to me that we might drop something. So I’ve decided to replace the word juggle with thrive.

Thrive suggests resilience, its suggests a strength rather than a deficit and it suggests a little bit of mastery – because that’s what we’re all doing, we’re the ring masters of our lives.

I’m not a person that likes to be idle, I work part time as a project manager (yay flexible employers), I study for my post-grad qualifications externally, I do some freelance writing, I blog and I mop up vomit for 2 small people and sometimes for 2 bigger stepkids…I’m no SJP (and yes, I really don’t think we should ask how she does it) but juggling just might be one of those words we insert for parenting. I asked some mums on my online uni forum about the use of the word juggling and needless to say 91 comments later I think it might be something we all have thoughts on it seemed that most thought that doing lots of things is just par for the course. One of the uni mums said to me..

I am proud of being a working, studying, performing, directing, mummy and my family is proud of me! I don't juggle! A slightly less present mummy is better for my family than a sad bitter mummy who is there all the time.

In saying we can have it all doesn’t necessarily define what all is…. we can have what we want and we can thrive in all of those things if we make the choice to, its all about options, its about making the most of your day and its about doing what you love. I do often doubt that I can do it all but the words of one of the mums rang through my head when I was pondering this…

Juggling implies that you are actually keeping the balls up in the air…. I would say it is more like a colourful ball pit, lots of fun, but you have to keep yourself from going under

So go forth mums…work, study, play and be who you want to be but don’t just say that you’re juggling because in thriving we don’t have to drop something, we might just pop it down for a while.

What do you think of the word juggling – does it irk you as much as it does me?

Sarah Wayland has been working as a Social Worker in the missing persons field for the last 10 years. She is currently a part-time stay-at-home mum, part-time public servant and part-time postgraduate student in the field of hope and loss at the University of New England. She blogs at

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting your wardrobe ready for work

By Nikki Parkinson,

Getting dressed for work used to be easy. If you weren’t issued with a uniform then most offices seemed to have an unwritten “uniform” of tailored pants or skirt with a shirt.

Such a “uniform” made getting dressed each day less stressful but it was boring. With a capital B.

The only problem with taking the boring out of corporate is that it becomes a bit of a fashion minefield. One that’s a bit trickier to navigate.
Key corporate wardrobe tips:
1. If starting from scratch, you need to form a basic capsule work wardrobe: tailored pants, tailored skirt, two tops, tailored dress, jacket, shoes.
2. Gone are the days when a two-piece suit has to match. A lighter jacket with a feminine top and dark pants is a more interesting work look.
3. Embrace the dress – I love the combination of a patterned dress with tailored jacket.
4. Add at least one accessory to give the outfit a lift

If you thought getting dressed for a corporate office took a degree in fashion merchandising, then spare a thought for the work-from-homes.

I now fall into this next “generation” of working mums: women who previously dressed for the office but who now run a business or work freelance from a home office. Or in my case, a corner of the lounge room.

Now, while staying in your pyjamas might seem like an easy solution for this one, your pyjamas (no matter how fancy) will not cut it for a client meeting.

You need to find that fine balance between comfort and style so that you’re prepared for a diverse day that could involve everything from school drop-offs to a coffee shop meeting or networking function.

Key work-from-home wardrobe tips:

1. Build your capsule wardrobe from key “lifestyle” basics. By lifestyle, I mean garments that don’t require ironing or drycleaning but look amazing every time you pull them out of the cupboard. Think garments in jersey, viscose or modal.
2. In winter, make your “uniform” a smart casual slim pant or dress jean, worn with ballet flats, tee, blazer and scarf.
3. In summer, embrace the dress. It’s one garment and all you need to add to it each time you pull it from the wardrobe is at least one accessory. A statement necklace is easiest. For shoes, wear wedges or dressy flats.
4. Have at least one go-to black frock that can be pulled out time and time again to wear to a networking event, either on its own or with a jacket. You can change your look each time with different accessories.

Key tips for all working mums

1. Only buy garments that are easy care and wear – getting out the door in the morning for work is battle enough; let alone if something’s not ironed and ready.
2. To speed up the morning rush, have your clothes hanging and ready to go the night before.

Author’s note: I couldn’t do this blog post without mentioning the wonderful work that charity organisation, Dress for Success, does for women returning to the workforce around the world. In Australia, there are offices in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. You can help by donating new and good condition workwear to this organisation. They are always on the lookout for black work shoes and black handbags but check with your nearest location for what they might need right now.

Nikki has long spent a disproportionate amount of her income on clothes and beauty products. She blames her politically correct mother who never let her have a Barbie doll as a child. The former journalist “stumbled” into blogging in 2008 as a way to keep up her writing skills and market new styling business. Styling You offers fashion and beauty advice for busy women and this year was judged Best Australian Blog by the Sydney Writers'.

For more great tips for working mums and updates on the Career Mums book, join the Career Mums Facebook page

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Art of Conver-Hasten

Who has had a meaningful conversation recently? I mean a real conversation.

A conversation that doesn't include the words poo, wee or booga.

A conversation that does not include some sort of logistical plan around after-school activities and getting home from work.

Or a conversation that doesn't include a cartoon character, a piece of Disney/Pixar merchandise or a request to play:

a. Playstation
b. DS
c. X-Box
d. Your iPhone

Not me.

Are we too busy to have decent conversations now?

And how many of us talk fast?

And how many of us tap our feet impatiently when it takes someone FOR. EV. AH! to spit their words out?

Or do we finish someone else's sentence because we don't have time for them to do it?

I have been a little guilty of this.

I am moving so fast in all parts of my world that my conversations have turned into conver-hastens. (see what I did there ;-) ?

The faster the better.

Or is it?

My conver-hastens with WD include comments like:

"Can you be home by 6pm tomorrow night to take over from Mum? Am working in the city."
"Here is the quote for the new door. Shall we get 4 panel windows or 6?"
"Sorry. Have run out of Up'n'Go!"

Not to mention the conver-hastens that may be one-sided and under my breath and normally involve socks on floor, taking the bins out and only washing up one plate when there is a pile of dirty dishes underneath it in the sink.

My conver-hastens with my mum, who helps out a lot with the kids, hover around:

"The tuna mornay is on the top shelf of the fridge."
"WD will be home by 6pm."
"It's bath night tonight. Good luck!"

Usually these comments are shouted over my shoulder as I am running out the door dislocating my shoulder with the weight of my laptop bag.

And conversations with friends. I miss them. Now we have to make special time to have REAL girlie conversations. Twice a year I have a weekend away with my high school girlfriends. Every now and then I try and catch up with my other girlfriends over coffee, or at someone's house.

But what starts out as a meaningful conversation ends up being punctuated by:

"1YO! Don't sit on 4YO's head!"
"Don't climb up there."
"Don't swing off that!"
"Where's your pants??????"

1YO still hasn't grown out of the habit of pulling his pants down in public.

The only meaningful conversation I have had recently is with my kids and that involved an emotional debate about which Octonaut had which accent, which divided the camp indelibly.

We also had a very interesting conversation in the car yesterday about why Mario doesn't have a station wagon. And I just love talking about all things cars and mechanical......bleuurrrgh.

The other meaningful conversations I have are with my clients, and seeing I was delivering training in Advanced Financial Management for Events last week, discussing the GST, cash flow forecasting and contingencies aren't exactly up there with my idea of scintillating dialogue.

So, I will struggle along, booking in time here and there with WD, Mum, my wonderful girlfriends so we can have decent conversations that don't include references to bodily functions.

And hope that when my kids are a little older and I have (maybe) a little more time to myself, that I will still be able to string a sentence together.

Penny Webb loves being a mum. And working. It’s when she put the two together that she ran into trouble. When Penny had two children within two years and tried to keep her career and her sanity intact, she discovered it was one of the more difficult things she had ever tried to do. That’s when the Working Mums MASTERCLASS was born, followed closely by the Sshh Mummys on the Phone blog.