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Working mum contemplates balance amid chaos

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The tweet I sent that afternoon pretty much summed things up: 'Running late for work-life balance seminar. Why? Life, of course.'

Balanced ballsThe irony wasn't lost on me. I received notification of the seminar via my work email. At the time I was hovering somewhere between the 11th hour of a Monday deadline (I work on a weekly publication) and working out what to make for dinner with an all-but empty fridge and pantry (of course, the fact that I didn't manage to get to the supermarket on the weekend was in itself kind of revealing).

'Parents of today,' went the press release, 'face a constant juggle balancing the demands of work and the intrusion of 24-7 connectivity, with the needs of themselves and their children. Combining work and family responsibilities is a business-critical challenge for organisations, and a dilemma for both mothers and fathers.'

Yes, as a working mother of two young children who struggles to keep all balls in the air, something about 'Finding a better balance together: Contemporary solutions for working parents and employers' struck a chord.

The fact that it was to be presented by Professor Jan Nicholson from the La Trobe University's Judith Lumley Centre, whose work in child development and parenting is widely renowned (the results of which can be found in the longitudinal study of children 'Growing Up in Australia' and seen in the exceptional Life At ... series on ABC) sealed the deal.

When I mentioned the event to my husband, he was all for it. This was despite knowing that even a minor modification to our routine could so easily tip us into 'insanity'. He also knew that for me to get to the seminar at the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne's CBD, meant that he would have to leave work at A Reasonable Hour.

Not that finding the time to attend the seminar was a breeze for me, either. While 'officially' I work part-time, I also freelance as a writer, volunteer regularly at my kids' primary school, have increasingly frail elderly parents who I feel terribly responsible for, and try to keep fit and maintain some semblance of a social life. (I did say that the seminar struck a chord, but perhaps hit a nerve was more accurate.)

On the day of the seminar I'd managed to fill my schedule to breaking point.

After an early-morning PT session, I walked the kids to the pool for their school swimming lessons, cleaned the house, did the washing, had a girlfriend over for lunch (as well as my mother-in-law who dropped by), prepared and cooked dinner, picked the kids up from school, ferried them to their after-school swimming lessons, and then raced home to feed them and wait for my husband to get home so I could jump on the tram to the city.

Phew. Somehow I was still standing by the allotted hour; unfortunately, good intentions and planning are no match for Melbourne's rush-hour traffic.

As the minutes ticked by and my husband's ute had still not materialised, it was starting to look like I wasn't going to make it out of the house, let alone to the National Gallery (on the plus side, that meal I had prepared earlier meant the kids were, at least, satisfied).

But that's the thing about curveballs; you never know whether you're going to catch (or dodge) one until it almost hits you square between the eyes. By the time I finally got through to my husband on his mobile (and he had confirmed that he was indeed stuck in traffic and was already nutting out a new plan) I realised I had the aforementioned curveball in my hand.

So moments after communicating with the twittersphere, the kids (who, bless them, didn't even put up a fight) and I were in my husband's ute and on our way to the gallery. Getting stuck behind Melbourne's trams notwithstanding, it was seriously looking like I was going to make it.

And what of the conference? It was informative and stimulating ... well, that's how the woman I sat next to described it. You see, while I got there with a few minutes to spare, once I actually sat down and finally relaxed I couldn't keep my eyes open.

I may not have taken away from the seminar as much as I would have liked, but upon reflection the experience did provide a salient lesson. Managing work with a young family can be undeniably hectic, chaotic and anxiety-inducing, but sometimes 'finding a better balance together' may be closer to home than we think.


Jen VukJen Vuk is a freelance writer and editor.

Image: Shutterstock

Topic tags: Jen Vuk, work-life balance



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Existing comments

Single parents are the experts in managing the impossible demands of daily life. The best conference I ever went to (and the one that public servants who attended also said the same) was a conference organised by the organisation: Single Mothers and their Children. So much wisdom was shared, was practical, informative, generous, affordable and real-world about all sorts of life matters including "work-life" balance. These people are the hardest working people I know ... with endless barriers to creatively manage and be worked through. My advice is to ask these people for tips ... no-one else comes even close.... and yes, I have been there myself.

mary tehan | 27 November 2015  

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