Aligning Family and Work

Aligning Family and Work

If you don’t yet know who she is, Jacinda Arden is one of the greatest political leaders of our time. In the aftermath of the Christchurch Attack, as prime minister, she has navigated the community with empathy, love and political grace.  She has requested other world political leaders to focus on peace and empathy for their muslim communities, as she leads the way on how to do this in New Zealand. She is a powerful, peaceful force to be reckoned with.  But what has this got to do with working parents? In an interview with Waleed Aly, she is asked the question, “Have you had time to be with family?” She has a 9-month old baby. She replies, “No, not much.  Actually, at the moment my time with them probably wouldn’t be quality because I feel such a draw to be focused on doing what’s needed for those who have lost loved ones” (An interview worth watching). She responds with conviction and congruency that her nation needs her presence more than her family right now. A few short months ago, she made political history by taking her baby to the UN and in an interview at that time when asked what made her take her baby, she replied that her baby needs to be fed to keep her alive. Amen to that! How often do you find yourself torn between work and family? How does Jacinda manage it all? Now of course not all things are equal – Jacinda has a great deal of support and flexibility in her role as prime minister. However, she demonstrates what is fundamentally...
A busy parent’s guide to raising awesome kids

A busy parent’s guide to raising awesome kids

As time poor parents pursuing full careers and creating amazing childhoods for our children, we have our work cut out. When you first found out you were having a baby, no doubt you read every book or article you could get your hands on and attended classes to prepare. Once baby arrived, you knew your life would never be the same again and you would love the miracle that lay before you in a way you never previously imagined. What you didn’t know and couldn’t prepare for was how much you’d be required to change to accommodate this baby, this person. And as much work as it is, you wouldn’t have it any other way. Add a career to this picture and there is a reality that kicks in, logistics of child care and school (when they are of age), the carers and teachers to connect with, other parents to catchup with and then the paperwork – who knew there’d be so much paperwork?! On top of this you find out all sorts of things about your partner that were OK to handle before a child, after a child – not so much! Come on, be honest..or was it just me? And in amongst all of this reality, nowhere once are you taught how to thrive in amongst the sheer volume of responsibility. It’s not a question of reducing your career (which is an option some choose), it’s a question of how do I do all the things that make me feel alive and ensure my children and family thrive too? Now, let’s be clear this is a conversation...
Why are parents forgetting to invest time in the most important leadership role of their lives?  By Jenny Vanderhoek

Why are parents forgetting to invest time in the most important leadership role of their lives? By Jenny Vanderhoek

Throughout my last 10 plus years in corporate, I attended minimum 2 leadership courses or conferences a year. I always came back feeling refreshed from the learnings and ready to kick off the next project with some of the newfound skills that I had learnt. When I was pregnant with my kids, I spent a lot of time reading bookings and getting information from new apps about the different milestones of pregnancy and labour. I did this because my doctors, midwives and friends suggested it. After I had kids, I just went into survival mode and even getting through the day was an achievement. I was constantly googling every time my child and I met a new milestone that I didn’t know how to manage yet… tantrums, sharing, biting, fussy eating, hair pulling, whinging- you name it! Once my kids hit toddler age, friends in the same position would often reassure me that the tantrums were just normal, and this was referred to as the ‘terrible twos’ or and was simply a natural progression of growth. What I didn’t recognise, was how much the ‘terrible twos’ affected me. I felt lost very often as to what to do. I was tired, frustrated and felt guilty that I didn’t seem to be nailing this parenting gig. I was worried that my kids behaviour might have been due to my poor parenting. When you talk to other parents about it, you would often get recommendations for books or articles or gurus to follow on social media. However, I must admit, not one of these solutions ever truly resonated with me as...
Sharing the mental load

Sharing the mental load

The concept of mental load was popularised recently by french comic, Emma. Emma, accurately depicts the multiple things we do as parents whilst doing something as simple as inviting a friend over for dinner. Whilst preparing a meal for your friend, you are also ensuring the kids are eating. When they are not, you are encouraging them to eat and in between trying to have a conversation with your friend. Meanwhile, the food boils over and you are now cleaning that up. You get the picture… That’s just ONE dinner. Then add to that the mental load associated with one child: nurturing their hopes and dreams, ensuring they are polite, that they wash their hands, they have a balance of activities and the food they like to eat. Drop off and pick up arrangements from day-care, school and activities. Quality time with grandparents, self-esteem, blossoming friendships, dealing with the kid with mean behaviour in the playground. The list goes on. The mental load increases for more children with differing needs. Contrary to popular belief, it is not only mums that feel the burden of the mental load it is dads too. It is the main carer who often bears the brunt. But what happens when both parents work and both parents are the main carers? Whilst in most families, both parents are working, women are still doing the lion’s share of the work. Census data clearly shows Australian women spend, on average, 5 to 14 hours per week in unpaid domestic work, whereas men spend less than 5 hours a week. Women also spend an additional hour a day looking...
Work-life balance for dads

Work-life balance for dads

The conversation for women managing life and work is still more prevalent than men in today’s society but men’s concerns about their lack of balance are increasing. The research backs this up The National Study of the Changing Workforce found that between 1977 and 2008, the percentage of mothers in dual-earner couples who reported work-family conflict grew from 41% to 47%, while the percentage of fathers reporting it grew from 25% to 60%. The biggest challenge for both men and women in juggling daily demands is feeling torn between responsibilities at work and at home. Frequently we hear about women who are asked about family in job and media interviews, when men are rarely being asked. Whilst this is frustrating, it’s interesting to step back and understand why this bias still exists and how men can help shift it. My husband is a leader who strives to blend work and life. Growing up his dad, an extremely successful building entrepreneur, worked long hours and my husband felt like he missed out on valuable time with him. As a result, he made a vow that if he had children, he would prioritise them and make time for them no matter what. In every position he has held since our children were born he has given himself permission to craft maximum flexibility. And he has. He very much adopts the work-life blend, not balance philosophy and finds himself leading a successful team at work and being a hands-on, fun and treasured dad (and husband!) at home. How can men create more balance? Understanding archetypes can help us. An archetype is simply...
Parent Guilt

Parent Guilt

There’s really only one thing worse than parent guilt…. That is feeling guilty about the guilt. Let me explain. You love your child. You are doing the best you can. In any given moment, you are juggling the multiple small and big tasks we take on as parents because that’s what we signed up for when we embarked on this role. The challenge arises when you don’t feel like there is a choice in what you are doing. Maybe the choice you make to add on an extra day of after-school care leaves you feeling guilty. Perhaps it’s missing a parent-teacher event because you are away for work.  It’s OK to feel guilty. It’s letting you know that there’s a values conflict – two things that are important to you are colliding. It’s when that guilt feeling spirals and you tell yourself you shouldn’t feel guilty or worse still, you turn it into a guilt trip, which intensifies the feeling – that’s when your decision-making is affected and you need to interject. Your mind is incredible and it will help you create lots of stories that may or may not be useful. Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscientist has found an inverse relationship between the activation of amygdala (emotions) and the prefrontal cortex (decision-making). When the amygdala is active with blood and oxygen, there is less activation in the prefrontal cortex. Our thinking power is disrupted and there are deficits in our problem solving, because the blood and oxygen are in the amygdala versus the prefrontal cortex. Any strong emotion, fear, stress, guilt, anxiety, anger, joy, or betrayal trips off the amygdala and impairs the prefrontal...