Working parents

kerry

I’m sure many of you reading this column are working mums (or working dads, for that matter).

It’s hard, isn’t it?

You try to keep everyone happy, and invariably you end up exhausted and unhappy yourself.

Whether you’re a one or a two income family, the pressure on any working parent is immense. You try to balance keeping everyone happy – the boss, the kids and your partner.

I’m trying to figure out if there are any secrets to this balancing act. I fully understand the quote “nobody, on their death bed, has ever said ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office’ “, but then again, whilst you’re alive you need to keep your employer happy and the income rolling in.

How, for example, do you fit in sports day and award ceremonies? Most of these seem to fall in work time – in fact, even most of the parent-teacher interview time slots are during work time. If you take time off work to attend, you then have to make time up later (unless you have a particularly understanding boss).

In my working life I have been an employee, a consultant and an employer. I therefore have no problem seeing all sides of the argument. What I do struggle with is finding a solution!

I remember reading a lovely novel by Nora Roberts recently (nice light escapism at bedtime!) and the (stressed out) heroine wrote about suddenly seeing the light, and realizing that what she had to create was a working situation for herself and other women so that they could enjoy flexibility of hours to fit in with their families.

I believe that is what we have managed to create at Kiwi Families. We have a whole team of 12 parents (10 mums and 2 dads) who work from home and enjoy flexibility of hours to fit in with their children and families. Everyone has minimum hours and targets to meet each week, but when they complete these hours is up to them. Some parents work during kindy or school hours, and others complete their work after their children have gone to bed.

One of my great dislikes during my corporate career, was the importance placed on “being there”. You had to be seen to be at your desk for very long hours, irrespective of whether you were actually productive.

I think New Zealand still lags behind other countries in terms of providing on-site childcare, paid leave for parents, and other benefits including medical insurance for the whole family. I’m sure as a nation we could be one heck of a lot more productive if parents had more financial and emotional support from employers and the government.

So here’s my view of working utopia (if you can’t work at home):

  • you go to work at your corporate premises – dressed in your jeans, sweatshirt and sneakers (personally I have never found suits to enhance my performance or thinking power).
  • You drop your preschooler at the company daycare, just 2 minutes walk from your office.
  • You join your preschooler for lunch at the company cafeteria.
  • If your child gets sick, you get paid leave (and don’t have to use up your own sick leave).
  • For older children, you can take time out to participate in sports days and awards.
  • In return, you are more relaxed, more productive, less stressed and more giving to your employer.
  • You have flexible working hours, so that you can make up time lost in the evenings if necessary.

Do you know that in the States, some employers even provide healthy cafeteria food on site (including dinners), massages, gyms, and childcare for families – all designed to make work as pleasant and hassle free as possible. Sure there’s an ulterior motive – the employers want higher productivity, a positive attitude and a long term commitment – all of which increase their revenue and keep costs to a minimum.

But isn’t this a win-win situation?

I can’t help but feel that New Zealand is missing the boat – and causing huge family stress as well as decreased productivity.

I’d like to think that we can all work together to improve the situation – but I don’t think the so-called 20 hours free ECE is helping much!

Kerry Burridge

Kerry Burridge is mum to three great kids and was Kiwi Families founding Editor.

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