Today I’m doing what working mums do best, I’m multi-tasking! I’m in Bentleigh, finally seeing one of my longest friend’s, Naomi Waters (Nay’s) fabulous new home. Having out grown their beloved East Melbourne apartment and inner-city lifestyle, Nay and her family moved to the suburbs in January and couldn’t be happier. Sitting at her kitchen bench, drinking coffee we talk all things babies, second time around pregnancies, toddlers and the return to work juggle!
Juggling is exactly what we are both doing. It is Nay’s half day that she works from home. My baby boy Jack is with me and he is unsettled. I had envisaged that he would play happily whilst I learnt more about Nay’s return to work journey. I should know better, that things never quite go to plan when it comes to children! With my boy in her arms, Nay rocks him to sleep whilst she answers my questions and I type away.
Nay describes herself as an over planner and organiser. Despite being ready to go back to work and having the logistics of her return finely tuned she was still overwhelmed by the experience. Here is her story…
Tell me about your family
I’m married to my darling husband, Jai. We have a little boy Mitch who is 18 months and another one on the way, due at the end of October.
Your lifestyle and career before becoming a Mum looked like
It was very indulgent! We enjoyed going out for breakfast and for dinner. We loved going for spontaneous walks and to the movies. In hindsight, it included lots of sleep!
In regards to my career, I spent ten years working as a Property Valuer for a boutique valuation firm. To support my long-term baby plan, I wanted to join an organisation that offered maternity leave and encouraged flexible working arrangements. I had my eyes set on transitioning from the private sector to working for the Government. I have now been employed by the Victorian Government for three years. I work in Property Management and look after the whole of the government’s office accommodation portfolio.
Your help and support during this time was invaluable. Having not written a resume for ten years, nor attended a job interview I didn’t know where to begin. Especially how to market myself to change industries from the private to the public sector. Together, we developed a tailored application that was recognised instantly, enabled me to get a job interview and resulted in securing my current position that I love.
If you need help to design and build your resume, do get in touch. I would love to help you to achieve your career goals.
Tell me about your job and what you do
I am responsible for sourcing, obtaining and managing office accommodation for all of the Government Departments and Agencies. I have clients’ (the Departments) who cannot enter into leases in their own right. They therefore come to me, tell me what they are looking for and I make it happen.
Did you return to the same workplace? If yes, have you returned to the same position or a new role?
Yes, I returned to the same workplace and the same role but in a part-time capacity, three days per week. The employee who was care taking my role has also stayed on to assist with the work load.
Did you feel ready to return to work?
I took 12 months maternity leave. Towards the end of this time, I was ready to return to work. I was craving something for myself that was bigger than the day to day planning and logistics of motherhood. I found that I was all over my husband when he walked in the door. I wanted to immerse myself in his day and his work. I knew that I needed something more for me.
Was your employer accommodating and understanding to your new situation?
My employer was unbelievable! She was thrilled that I was coming back and was happy for me to come back on whatever terms I wanted. This included the number of days I wanted to work, the flexibility that I needed to support my situation and the option of working from home. She was extremely accommodating and favourable of flexible working arrangements.
I specified that I wanted to work three days per week Monday, Wednesdays and Thursdays. However, I found the work load to be so great that I took on an extra half day. I work the half day from home, flexibly.
Your biggest concerns and worries about going back to work were…..
That my brain had gone to mush after not being active in that sense for the last 12 months. That I therefore, wasn’t going to be able to perform at the level that I needed to, due to fatigue and just being out of practice. In reality, after two days I was back into the swing of things and it was as if I had never left.
Did you go back to work when you were still breast feeding?
Yes, I was still feeding Mitch once a day. This was his night time feed before bed. I started the weening process about two months before I went back to work. I looked forward to coming home and having this time together.
How do you juggle work and motherhood?
By finding a routine that works for you and your family at the time and being aware that the routine can change given life’s circumstances.
At the moment, I get up very early and leave for work by 6:30am. My husband does the breakfast shift and I leave work at 4pm and do the night time routine.
What time management secrets do you have up your sleave?
I never work more than two days in a row. I have Tuesdays off which means that on a Tuesday I can prepare dinner for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On a Sunday, I prepare Monday night’s meal, knowing that I have to work the following day.
I do my make-up on the train which saves me about 20 mins. I have absolutely no shame in doing so. 20 mins more sleep is much worthier!
What support structures do you have in place to help you throughout your week?
We have a very defined, regular routine and know who is playing the primary carer. My husband and I work together as a team. Jai looks after Mitch on a Monday, whilst working from home. I look after Mitch on Tuesdays. We go to my mum’s so I can go for a run and do errands. On my remaining work days (Wednesday’s and Thursday’s) Jai does the morning shift and I do the evenings. On Friday’s Mitch is in care. I now work from home for half of the day and also use the time to catch up on jobs.
Jai’s dad is around the corner. If we need something, he is only a phone call away. More often than not, he comes over on Monday’s and helps Jai. They have a boys’ day! Every now and again we get to have a date night too. My mum is super supportive also and she looks after Mitch regularly, both with and without me present, often so that I can go to the football.
What childcare arrangements do you have in place?
Since we moved to Bentleigh, Mitch goes to two different centres. Which is not ideal but a temporary arrangement until we can get the three days that we need at our preferred centre.
Mitch is currently doing two days at our favoured centre. It’s fabulous! They have lunch outside under the trees. They encourage lots of outside play and learning. We’re hoping that we will be able to secure our other day really soon.
At the moment, Mitch is going through a phase where he hates being dropped off in the morning but after 5 minutes he is fine and loves his day at childcare. He isn’t a good sleeper at home but at childcare he’ll sleep for 2-3 hours! I wish I was a fly on the wall!
What do you do if your child is sick on one of your work days?
We come up with a plan. We don’t have a set back up option. We take it in turns to work from home when we need too. We’re fortunate in that Jai’s job allows him to work anywhere and my work is very accommodating. We haven’t yet had a situation that we haven’t been able to find a suitable solution for.
How do you cope with sleepless nights when you have work the following day?
Coffee!! Once you become a mum, the concept of what is a sleepless night is different than before you have children. You just make do with what you have and tap into the next gear!
The biggest challenge of being a working Mum is…..
It’s probably keeping the household running. When I say it out loud it doesn’t sound that important compared to work and looking after my child but it is crucial to keep to our routine. This includes what I call life maintenance – all of the house things, shopping, cleaning, bills, gardening, birthday presents etc….The other challenge would be finding time for self-maintenance. That’s is, time for exercise, getting a haircut, attending any appointments or just enjoying the things that you did pre-baby.
In general, what aspects of being a Mum do you find challenging?
I found it very difficult going from one world to another. From being 100% focussed on the big wide world of work to being solely focussed on my baby. Work provided such intensity and scope in comparison to the repetitiveness of being at home. I felt like I lost control. I went from being a manager to being managed by someone that is half a metre long. I think going back to work has provided me with the balance that I needed and has made me a better mum.
What skills or behaviours has motherhood taught you that you have been able to utilise back in the workforce?
The art of distraction! That good enough can be good enough. Everything doesn’t need to be perfect. You just need to have tried and completed everything that is necessary and if it isn’t perfect, it is ok.
If you look back at your working self before you became a Mum and compare yourself to the person you are today, do you think you have changed? If so, how and why?
I think now that I’m part-time, I’m more efficient. I get in, work hard, get the job done and leave. I work faster and maximise every opportunity. I work on the train, I have breakfast at my desk and I work through my lunch break. When I was working full time, I allowed myself to engage in office banter, to socialise and to have some down time. I was able to stay back or come in early if I needed to. Now, I don’t have that flexibility. I’m on restricted time. I have set hours that I can be at work.
What do you enjoy most about being a working Mum?
Picking up Mitch from childcare. Watching him walk towards with a beaming smiling and then giving me a big hug. I look forward to our time together. I find now, that I make better use of our time together.
How long did it take you to get into the “groove”?
I over plan and organise. I had spent two months preparing for my return to work. I had everything that was in my control, mapped out. I had settled Mitch into childcare, practiced the timings around his drop offs and pick-ups, including the walk to and from work. Mitch new exactly what his days were going to look like. Logistically, I had everything under control.
Despite my organisation, my few days back at work were completely overwhelming! I came home with a massive headache each night. My head was spinning with the intensity of the work environment and what I had to do, to come back up to speed. However, within a week or two it was business as usual and I was feeling comfortable.
How do you feel emotionally when you are work?
I think about Mitch a lot when I am at work. I find myself telling stories or showing photos of him to my colleagues. No matter what mood we left the house in or the night we had, I have nothing but beautiful thoughts about my boy throughout the day and I am desperate for pick up time to come around.
Night time in your household looks like…….
On my work days, we’re home at 5pm. I pick Mitch up at 4:45pm. Two situations can then either transpire. 1) We are reheating and serving the dinner that I have prepared or 2) if it is undesired I cook him another (toddlers!). We always eat together and Jai eats later when he gets home.
We then play or go for a walk so mummy can get some chocolate! Then it is bottle and bed by 7pm so I can watch Home & Away! Baths can be morning or night, every second (or third!) day.
Jai gets home anywhere between 6pm and 8:30pm. He packs Mitch’s childcare bag in the morning. I don’t lay out my work clothes the night before. I chose them in the morning despite getting dressed in the dark. There has been more than one occasion that I have gone to work with my shirt inside out!
Mornings in your household look like…….
50% of the week, I’m up first. I shower, dress and I’m out the door before anyone else has stirred. On my work days, Jai is responsible for organising Mitch’s breakfast and getting him ready for childcare. The other half of the week, we are both up early. I make breakfast for Mitch and I so it is ready to go for when he wakes up. On my days off, we read books and have quality time together. If we have had a bad night, we might go back to bed to catch up on some rest.
The best advice you have been given about motherhood is……..
Just do what you have to do. Do what helps you get through the day, the week, the year.. Don’t try and be the best, near enough is good enough!
What did your own mother teach you about life and motherhood?
I now realise that my own mother was a machine! She had three girls, under four. She didn’t have any real local family support to call upon. She had a husband that didn’t do nappies or many of the household chores. She has taught me that there isn’t anything that you can’t do. You just need to be confident in your own ability!
How do you treat yourself, if you have some “Nay time”?
During footy season, I go to the football every weekend. It’s in the diary and it is a non-negotiable. I go for a run when I can and I do indulge in TV every night, it’s my down time!
What approach do you take to your own health and wellbeing…?
At the moment, I would have to say that I have a bit of lax approach. I eat on the run, which means I select from what is available. With my view being, it’s good enough for now. I am however, very good at putting myself down for a nap. Even more so now that I am pregnant!
Mitch has taught you…….
To feel a love like no other.
Life as a working mother is…….
Rewarding and fast paced.
What do you think being a working Mum teaches your children?
That it is important to have a variety of things in your life you care about and are interested in to fill up your cup.
What advice would you give to Mums who are about to start the return to work journey?
Establish a routine that works for your family. A routine can make everything a lot easier for mum, dad and bubs. Structure enables everyone to know what is going to come next and what role they are going to play. For example, mum, worker or a blend of both.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t need to be employee of the month when you go back to work. Near enough can be good enough.
To make the most of the time that you do have with your child/ren. If possible, try not to use this valuable time for household chores. Spend it with bubs, one on one reading books, making mess and just doing your favourite things together. They grow up too fast!