I was completely bewildered, my boss had just rung on my day off (meaning no childcare and a six month old baby), asking me to complete some urgent work that needed to be done that day.
I had just been expressing for my son – to give to his daycare when I was back in the office the following day. I frantically fired up my computer, hands shaking and breasts leaking to dial into a meeting to be the communications counsel on a big issue affecting our organisation (one of Australia’s top 4 banks).
It was my second week back at work, I was sleep deprived and my already demanding job was bigger when I returned.
Reflecting on this situation, it wasn’t that my boss rang me to work on my day off – we still today have a great relationship – it was that I lacked the confidence to say, “I don’t work today.”
I lacked confidence as my mind and body – like so many other women’s – wasn’t ready to be thrust into the workplace.
My role was in a fast-paced environment and the problem was, I loved my job.
I was not good at setting boundaries in my personal or professional life – it’s something I’ve had to learn since having a child. And also to adjust my tendency to want to please others.
The constant juggle of life and work
As the months continued I saw that my experience and the constant feeling of being torn between family and career were far from unique.
For my colleagues, dear friends who had become parents and Mother’s Group, I could see an undercurrent of stress, anxiety, grit, exhaustion, frustration and a feeling of being taken for granted. Of having to look like a “happy perfect Mum”, but this wasn’t how we felt.
My research over the past 18 months shows women across the world are experiencing it too
- A UK Household Longitudinal study (the largest of its kind with 6,000 participants), found chronic stress, including hormone levels and blood pressure is 40% higher for women working full time and with two children, compared to those who work full time with no children;
- In a US study, 43% of highly qualified women with children are leaving their careers or off-ramping for a period of time;
- In other UK studies, less than one in five Mums feel confident in returning to work after maternity leave; nearly 40% felt so unsupported and isolated that they considered resigning within 12 months of returning; and 60% are worried about negotiating back to work arrangements, despite knowing it will make them a happier, more productive and loyal employee.
- And Australian parents are said to “spend more time with their children compared to any other OECD country; but there is a tension with two competing priorities: a commitment to work and family. Both are demanding roles.”
The conception of The Women’s Vault
I found this research alarming and concerning. So we decided to create ‘The Women’s Vault’.
A place where working Mums can connect with others, whether that’s opening up about a deeply personal experience, or sharing light-hearted moments.
It’s a place to learn, help yourself and other women to “vault” or spring forward more positively.
It’s a place to be inspired and feel understood.
We know that women, including working Mums, want to make a big contribution in their lives. They want to be great role models for their children, be financially independent and gain valuable self-worth from having a career.
Taking a holistic approach to improve women’s lives
The Women’s Vault brings together experts from all over the world who are leaders in their fields, as well as my personal experiences in life and career and leadership lessons from the executives I’ve worked with over many years to improve “the wheel” of a woman’s life.
The wheel is holistic – family and home, career, health, financial, education, recreation, charity/service, adventure, travel, romance, relationships and spiritual.
To be able to do all of these things, working Mums need support. To be more confident, balanced and in control over all areas of their lives.
The ‘Five’ book by Dan Zandra. The “Wheel of Life”. Edition 2007
Creating change for women and workplaces
We provide courses, events, seminars, retreats, consults for women and workplaces. We have started by supporting working Mums with our 1:1 sessions – and then workplaces, encouraging flexible workplaces and educating managers on supporting working parents.
We want to help women to live better, happier, healthier and more successful lives; and help create more flexible workplaces.
And most importantly, I want my son, George, to know that his Mummy believed in something and decided to spring forth herself and do something about it.