The dream I’m hoping comes true


A Perth CEO called Linda Wayman put her foot in her mouth BIG TIME last week when she griped about too many of her employees getting pregnant and having the audacity to ask to work part-time after having their babies.

She said stuff like: “We do have a big jar of condoms at work. I’m not lying, I’m not exaggerating. I do encourage people regularly, to have sex with condoms. That is a big area of focus for me, encouraging people to have sex with condoms.”

And: “I don’t agree with the union push at the moment that women coming back to work automatically should be allowed to come back part-time. It’s an idealistic and anti-commercial stance, in my opinion.”

I mean, she’s right, it IS idealistic. But she’s not doing working mums any favours by damning it so publicly.

As Lucy Kippist wrote at Kidspot: “When women like you say it, it becomes one billion times worse because all men then hear is, “Yeah, see we thought so … And that’s why what you said makes me so angry. Important men will listen to you, you’re their boss, you’re speaking at their events – big events like the one you went to yesterday that was filled to the brim with more leaders of industry. What you say in that context has an impact – it can affect  decisions being made in HR offices all over the country right now.”

Being a working mum is SO. FREAKING. HARD.

I am awed by the women I see doing is so bloody well.

I’m a single mum who only works three days a week and it’s a killer. It feels like there’s never a moment to relax.

But I’m also proof that coming back to your job part-time CAN work.

It’s been nine years since I worked full-time.

Even when I was the editor of Woman’s Day, I only worked four days a week after having my second child. I had an awesome deputy editor who stepped up on a Friday and got valuable experience at running the ship when I was gone and went on to become a weekly magazine editor herself.

I also had two amazing designers job share for me at the magazine after they had babies at the same time. They were both hard-working, talented and dedicated. I got amazing results and never regretted the decision.

Yet it’s always the part-timers who are targetted when the cost-cutters come around; like they’re not as crucial to the success of the company.

It’s mad.

Sure, part-time might not work for every role but don’t just dismiss it, Linda, without considering whether any of those pregnant women in your office might make an awesome job-share pair, or could work from home part of the week.

I wrote a blog once called “My working mums’ utopia.” It was about one of my school mum friends returning to full-time work after four and a half years at home with her kids. It went like this …

Leaving her six-year-old and three-year-old is a big step. Especially when her new boss reckons the kids “better get used to not seeing much of mummy”. Nice.

She requested a part-time role, or to work from home one day a week. Resounding no. Her line in the sand was being late to the office twice a week, so she can drop the kids at school. Her boss grudgingly agreed. She’s hired a nanny to do the rest.

While the challenge of the role was a major drawcard, so was the chance to chip away at her mortgage and afford holidays again. Some of the mums were envious of her escaping to the workplace. Earning money. Others despaired about ever working again. All too hard.

It’s made me wonder what my workplace utopia would look like. And I’ve decided it would be filled with understanding, supportive mums. Hours would be flexible: early starts with school-pick-up finishes; job shares; school-hours roles; no dirty looks when you leave at 5pm or 5.30. I reckon it would go gangbusters.

Working mums work hard – they get the job done (right) and get out. No mucking about, no time for faffing. They’ve got places to go, kids to pick up, dinners to cook. And if they think they can do the job part-time, I say give ‘em a chance.

Since I’ve stopped work, I don’t see the two-full-time-working-parents scenario as being truly viable. It means outsourcing vast swathes of your parenting to nannies, daycare centres and OOSH. But parents (and kids) need more than that. Our kids should be able to leave school some days with their mum or dad, kick about in their own backyard, do their homework before dark, have playdates …

I wish employers would dare to dream about a workplace that was family friendly AND commercial. Then let’s try and make it happen, because this house of cards we’ve created where everyone works more and sees their kids less is looking pretty shaky to me.

Song of the day: Dolly Parton “9 to 5”


4 thoughts on “The dream I’m hoping comes true

  1. I’ve been thinking for quite some time that if I had really wanted to push on with my career I would not have had kids. Having a family and economic independence for women are increasingly incompatible goals in our society – unfortunately.

  2. I wish there had been more support for me and also more encouragement for me to return to work 40 years ago. Going part time at my job was not a consideration back then. A shame. It would have been good for my self esteem, good for my relationship with my husband, great for my children. They would have seen a happier and more confident mum.

    • I can remember how horrified my dad was when my mum insisted on going to work when I was about 12. He thought it made it look like he couldn’t afford to support his family. But she got so much out of it that wasn’t financial.

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