Why are you always working Mum?

I think sometimes it is difficult for the children of working parents. I have mostly worked throughout my parenting years to date, not always full-time, but at least 2 or 3 days a week. With 3 children now, the youngest of which is 10 months old, our family circumstances have recently changed. I am now working at home. This is quite a significant adjustment for the whole family. Although I am here at home, making breakfast, packing lunches, doing kinder drop-off’s, school drop-off’s, changing nappies and managing the school holidays – I am also working!

This is difficult for the children to understand. “Mum, can you play this game?”. “Sorry Casey, I have to finalise an email right now. A little later I will.” “Mum, do you like this drawing?”  “Yes, I love it Ava, I just have to concentrate for a few moments, I will come and watch you shortly”. I feel like I spend much of my day saying things like this. It is difficult for us all.

But it is also a good learning curve and it is our reality right now. To give the children credit, they are in fact remarkably understanding (mostly). We try to strike a good balance, working some of the time, but focussing on the children and fun activities at other times. It is a difficult balance to achieve but every day we try.

A Rare Breed – brilliant service providers

I have recently relaunched my website for Personalised Candles for Weddings, Christenings and Special Occasions. With a hugely challenging timeline, and plenty of reasonable reasons why it was not achievable within the timeframe, I set about trying to pull it all together. The fact that I have 3 children (the youngest being 9 months), and it being 5 weeks before Christmas, as well as the week before my husbands 40th birthday never really entered my mind.

I set about, trying to achieve the unachievable.

Needless to say, there were more than a few late nights, plenty of stress, much caffeine consumed and a few well earned glasses of wine.

None of what has been achieved however would have been possible without the complete commitment from high quality service providers. My fabulous photographer is a touch of class. He has a real eye for detail and creates beautiful images that really bring the products to life. Darren Pocock understood the criticality of the timeline, and was sensitive to my desire to achieve it.

And if it is a printing service above and beyond the call of duty you are after, then look no further than GPW. A late night phone call was all it took and my urgent print job was initiated. Home delivery was not a prerequisite, but provided none-the-less. The products were delivered so quickly and with high quality and competitive pricing.

After many years working in senior corporate roles domestically and internationally, I am not always easily impressed. And, after having recently started a new small business, I have been let down by suppliers more times than I care to count. But the stand out qualities of these two suppliers made me feel compelled to write about them.

You have both restored my faith that good service still exists.

New Years Challenge

Today I have decided that my physical challenge for the start of this year is to run the Puffing Billy Train Race. After my overindulgence through the Christmas/New Year period and insufficient physical activity I need to set my sights on something challenging.

I have heard that it is a great event to participate in, but I will have a lot of training to do to conquer the hills. I doubt I will actually be racing the train…..chasing the train more like it.

It is another thing to try to squeeze into what are already very busy days. With business ramping up, the baby on the move, one starting 4 year old kinder and another going into Grade 2, I am not sure whether I am excited about the New Year or terrified.

But, it is something for me and I think this balance is important. At least is is important for me.

Inspiring friends

Christmas is such a great time for catching up with friends. Often is is people I haven’t seen much of during the year – everyone is so busy. But when I do reconnect with those friends, it is always like I had seen them yesterday….but even better.

What I have come to realise as I have ‘matured’ (being 40 now – ha!), is what an incredible and diverse circle of friends I have. Over the course of my career, and outside of work, through sport and school, and my local neighbourhood, I am surrounded by a very inspiring group of people. They inspire me in different ways. It is not just what they are achieving in their careers, or what a wonderful job they are doing with their family and children, it is a hundred other reasons.

Sitting down with a long term friend over a glass of wine or a meal, and really catching up properly on what is happening in each others’ lives, is such a fulfilling and inspirational experience. I just wish I did it more often. That is one to add to my New Years Resolution list…..

The Balance – quality time with the kids and managing a business

What is your definition of quality time with your children? It means very different things to different people. Particularly at this time of year, when the children are on school holiday’s. Business goes on too.

I have a few of my own ideas about what quality time means to me. We are all driven by time constraints, I think quality time is more of an attitude or environment than anything else more quantifiable.

There are a few tangible activities in everyday life that contribute to my quality time with my children. I am not sure if they work for everyone, but here they are.

When my oldest daughter comes home from school, I always spend time to ask her open questions about her day. I consciously seek feedback on what has been important or exciting or sad, during her day.

I make a point of sometimes taking just one of the children with me (when it is feasible and my husband is home to watch the other two) when I do the shopping. The one-on-one time, even while doing the shopping gives me the opportunity to chat with my children about lots of different and interesting things. And it makes shopping bearable!

When I do the washing, I try to get the children involved (as boring as it may seem). From when they were babies, I used to sit them in the basket while I hung the washing out (to keep them from taking off towards the stairs). These days, I ask them to hold the washing while I hang it, or we pair the socks together.

I read with my children a lot. I find this to be the greatest quality time with my children. Even when my older daughter is reading to my 4 year old,  we often snuggle in together. I don’t need to be reading, but to be sitting together and listening is equally as enjoyable for all of us.

We have tried to create a real appreciation of food in our home. Sometimes I get the children involved in the food preparation, which they love. And, we try to eat together most nights – not all, but 4 or 5 nights a week is usually achievable.

We exercise together. We make a real effort to get out in the fresh air as a family and do some exercise. The kids love it. And we do too.

Working from home

I always wanted to work from home, and now that I have 3 small children, there couldn’t be a better time! But working from home isn’t necessarily a perfect job. Like my previous corporate office job, there are challenges – albeit different challenges, but challenges none-the-less.

There are definitely benefits to working from the comfort of your own home. Perhaps for some however it is in fact a little too comfy – tracksuit pants, TV temptation, family distractions. I have worked hard to conquer the challenges – many still exist, but some I feel I have overcome. There are a couple of rules and tips that I thought I would share that may or may not be of assistance if you are thinking of, or currently struggling with working from home.

Tip 1:

Make it clear to your family and friends that you are working from home. Many people still won’t understand this, they will assume that you still have plenty of time on your hands, and will happily swing by for a coffee, chat and catch up. This can be infuriating when you are maximising those precious moments when the baby is actually sleeping.

Tip 2:

In addition to telling the whole world that you are working, you could try letting the answering machine take your calls during the day and return all personal calls after business hours. When you return your calls, explain how difficult it is to talk during the day while you are working.

Protect your time. If you are anything like me, those quiet moments where you can be extremely productive are few and far between. If you need to, don’t answer the door! People will eventually understand.

Tip 3:

Have a structured routine, like you would if you were working in the office. It is so easy to be tempted by all the things that need to be done around the house. I could easily get busy doing chores, and although I have been busy all day, nothing has been achieved from a business perspective. So, establish a routine – and make it one that everyone understands – even the children.

Don’t leave all your household chores until the family have left for the day. Try to get as much done as possible (within reason) outside of your ‘working hours’ (that is your business hours….it is all work!).

I find it very difficult to get my business work done, when my home is a disaster. I just can not concentrate until there is some semblance of order. So, I try to get most of it done the night before, and in the hour following school drop off. That clears me then to concentrate on the business for a few hours during the day.

You should also establish a workspace for yourself.  Try to avoid having your work documents/products etc all over the house. If you have a space that you can return do daily, your home career may prove a little easier.

These are only a couple of ideas that I find useful, every one has a different work mode. Everyone is juggling different circumstances. I am interested in other ideas or suggestions that could make my life, and the life of those around me, even remotely easier.