Celebrating Working Mothers on International Women's Day

Anna Dawson

International Women’s Day

Today marks an internationally acclaimed event - International Women's Day. This year's campaign theme is Pledge for Parity. Taking action to close the gender gap. There is a reason why I am posting my first blog entry on this day. I want to celebrate mothers who don the "working mother" hat. I want to celebrate women who choose to have a career as well as being a mother. I want to celebrate mothers who are returning to the workforce AND....I want to celebrate the fathers who support their partner/wives/girlfriend to pursue a career. I want to celebrate that there are families out there with role reversal and the father is the Stay At Home Dad. Without having this support from their partners, these working women may not be able to pursue a career that they strive for. I want to celebrate that it is possible to be a mother, a partner/wife/girlfriend and a good employee/entrepreneur.

In today's society, many mothers have the opportunity to work and focus on their career, either in a full-time or part-time capacity. This trend is increasing, with every year more and more mothers entering or re-entering the workforce. According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, maternal employment has increased from  55% in 1991 to 65% in 2011 for families with children under 18 years old. Further to this, data from the Baseline Mothers Survey found that 71% of mothers had returned to work, about 13 months after the birth of their child and the average age of the child at return to work was 6.5 months for those mothers who had returned to the same job that they had worked in prior to the birth. So the key message here is that majority of women do return to employment following the birth of their child. The question is - How do these women cope with the transition back into the workplace while learning the ropes of being a mother?

'Australian women want..."a good night's sleep! So many of them are really tired and stressed. They feel pressure to have a job, to be a great mother but also a good wife and friend. This is a major challenge and it is in households everywhere". - Helen McCabe, editor-in-chief of The Australian Women's Weekly'.

Sure it is challenging to do all the above and YES, we all want a good night's sleep, but having a job is also very rewarding at the same time.

To initiate my collection of tips and tricks to help mothers manage these challenges, I interviewed local mothers for their tried and tested strategies. You can read their full interview in the IWD 2016 Interview page, but here are a summary of their key strategies:

  1. Schedule your working week and refine your schedule each day
  2. Write lists (Must do vs nice-to-do)
  3. Appreciate and be realistic with your capabilities
  4. Separate home and work life
  5. Lie down and put your legs up, even for a few minutes
  6. Love your job and you'll feel less stress
  7. Have hobbies
  8. Have a colleague or a mentor you can de-brief and talk about the stress at work

I will end this blog post with advice from Sophie McCarthy, McCarthy Mentoring:

The best advice I ever received when I returned to the workforce was...

  • Have a frank conversation with your employer about the role and their expectations and work out a plan for 6 - 12 months.
  • Be flexible, workplaces change, so do you and so do your kids.
  • Organise good childcare.
  • Take one day at a time, sometimes everyone’s sick, the car breaks down and you have arrive at work with baby vomit on your jacket. You do sometimes feel like the world is conspiring against you and why do you bother. But it’s just a day and tomorrow will be different. We all have bad days.
  • Focus on your role and the tasks you need to get done. I became very efficient with less coffee breaks etc as I needed to collect kids.
  • Be strategic about your network. You don’t have to sacrifice the social side of work but maybe be more organised about it.  Organise a catch up with key mentors, decision makers, colleagues in the industry every 1-2 months.

I found working and being a mum a fabulous combination….I still do and now they are teenagers.

What are some of the strategies that you are using to help you stay mentally fit at work and at home?

Anna Dawson is a Mother, Wife, Psychologist, Yoga lover, Student, Blogger and is passionate about helping people deal with the challenges in their life. You can find more information about her and heaps of great advice and plenty of tips at MentallyFitMamas.com.