Time to balance – the paradox

posted Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

The more I delve into WoLFi the more I realise that achieving balance seems to be about having enough time to do so. Asking about satisfaction with time pressure seems shed more light on WoLFi that asking about satisfaction with balance. A case in point is in Barbara Pocock’s AWALI (Australian Work Life Index) study that showed men and women having similar satisfaction levels on work-life balance – yet greater disparity with feeling rushed or pressed for time, with women feeling more time pressured than men. I wonder asking about balance yields such different results to asking about time pressure. Your thoughts appreciated!!

Meanwhile, a  presentation I did at the Australian Institue of Family Studies (AIFS) conference recently ended up attracting some media attention from Adele Horin in the SMH. My research is mentioned towards the end of the article. Seems to that WoLFi and its link to time pressure are quite topical. My supervisor/mentor’s research is also highlighted.

Dr Who?

posted Friday, July 30th, 2010 at 9:32 am

Conversation with my daughter, 7 years…

Me:  If mummy’s thesis gets passed, they’ll call me ‘Dr Aztec Rose’

Possum: (looking contemplative) Do you have a Tardis?


‘Fragile Families’

posted Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I am currently attending a wonderful winter workshop at uni by visiting Harvard professsor Kathryn Edin who recently co-wrote a very sensitive and beautifully descriptive book called “Promises I can Keep”.  This book which is based on years of ethnographic research on poor families in the US provides real insight into the complexity and issues faced by what she calls ‘fragile families’. I love that term fragile – because it is descriptive but not judgemental. Without giving too much away – as I highly recommend the read – Kathy and her team explores what it is really like to be truely disadvantaged in a country where the minimum wage is $7.27 and CEOS make 350 times more money than those who sit on the poverty threshhold.  This book explores how children provide hope and meaning for poor women,  a priority which far exceeds the importance of marriage.

This leads me ask a rather provocative question. What was/is most important to you – marriage or children? Did/do they have equal priority? Was/is there a set order of preference – or did/do you see marriage as unecessary to raising a family. I am curious to tap into some Australian voices on this issue…

Hip Hip Hurray – paid parental leave is law today

posted Thursday, June 17th, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Pop the cork! Australia has finally joined the paid parental leave club. Details here. I’m off to celebrate, wahoo!

Who takes responsibility for…

posted Monday, June 7th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Who takes responsibility for household and childcare tasks where you live? My qualitative interviews with over 20 mothers in South-East Queensland (so keep in mind a quite small sample) says it is primarily them, not their partner. Some women took almost full responsibility for anything related to the household – bills, shopping, cleaning, cooking  (except mowing/bins) and childcare – appointments, activities, and care of children while other households showed much greater degree of sharing. But when it came to responsibility for the tasks, even when men did them, the responsibility for doing them  seemed to often fall on women’s shoulders. By responsibility for tasks - it means  you are the organiser and the one who either does it or makes sure it gets done.

Here’s a small example from our household. Possum has recently started taking piano lessons. It’s only 1/2 an hour, 1 afternoon per week. Doesn’t sound like much of a time burden, and I acknowledge she is really privileged to be able to partake as her grandparents have helped to pay.  But the work by me to organise this weekly activity included searching around for an appropriate teacher by talking to other parents and following up a lead to a music teacher I met a few years ago. Emailing and ringing  that  teacher. Checking schedules to see where piano lessons would best fit in to our week. Driving her there, buying the workbook and other materials, talking with the teacher, getting payment details. Waiting until the lesson was finished, driving her home. Finding someone in our neighbourhood who had a piano she could practice on, doing her flashcard homework with her, taking her to the neighbour’s house for practice. Scouting out where to buy or borrow a piano…etc you get the drift.  I call this ‘responsibility for’. Last week, Mr G, Possum’s dear dad, took her to her piano lesson, which was great as I had a meeting at uni. He forgot the workbook, flashcards & cd, but he got her to the lesson on time. But did he take responsibility for the activity? Jury is still out.

So why is responsibility for important? Well it seems to be a  contributing factor to feelings of time pressure, stress and work-family imbalance .

I would love to hear your experiences of ‘responsibility for’ … It’s another potentially  important dimension of WoLFi.

Don’t Play with Paid Parental Leave

posted Sunday, April 18th, 2010 at 4:38 pm

The time is drawing closer to the first comprehensive paid parental leave scheme to be introduced in Australia. From 1 Jan 2011 parents who are the primary carers of a child born or adopted after this date will be eligible for $543.78 a week  for up to 18 weeks. Although primary carer, may in most cases be the mother, being that this has been the dominant social trend up until now, fathers are also eligible. There is also the opportunity to take turns as the role of primary carer. Parents whose previous employment was casual, contract or self-employed are all eligible to apply. Now although compared to some countries that have far more generous parental leave schemes such as the UK or Scandinavia, many work-family advocates believe this scheme is an important first step, one that could be improved over time. Something is better than nothing – or the very patchy situation we have now.

Which is why, when Tony Abbott (our Conservative Opposition leader)  tried to suggest an even bigger and better parental leave scheme -  a grandiose vote grabber with no detail – with the result that those who had been advocating for paid parental leave for decades got nervous.  Particularly as this same politician a few years back was a completely against the very idea of compulsory parental leave. Another problem with the Abbott version – is that it is more of maternity leave rather than the more equally shared option of parental leave of the Rudd version.

So in order to get parental leave happening in 2011, the National Foundation of Australian Women have drafted an open letter to senators and MPs to pressure the pollies to get this important piece of legislation through. I’ve signed it, and so can you if you think it’s worth supporting.



What does work-family balance mean to you?

posted Thursday, February 18th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

I’m at a really fun stage of my PhD,  although ‘fun’ and ‘PhD’ are rarely words that appear together. But I’m at the stage where I’m interviewing women about WoLFi - going into their homes or having them come to mine. Sometimes we meet in cafes or at the park or where they work. The best part of the process is listening to the different stories…and they are all very different…though  common themes are starting to emerge. Some of my favourite questions in the interviews include asking the women to describe a typical day from beginning to end. I think they and I are always amazed at how much they do in a day. When I ask about who takes responsibility for work-family balance in your household – so far all the women have said it is them. This surprised me a little, considering the wider acceptance of more equally shared parenting. It also made we worry about a prediction made in ‘It’s about time’ by HREOC in 2007 which suggested that few improvements to work-family balance will be made as long as it remains framed as a ‘women’s only’ issue.  I also asked ”what does work-family balance mean to you?’ and again was amazed at the diversity of answers…It made me realise that in some ways finding WoLFi is a really personal journey but also very much connected to our social world. So dear reader, as I can not interview you in person, as most of you are spread around this vast country, and many  of you around this vast globe, I would really appreciate your take on this question. What does work-family balance or WoLFi mean to you?  Who do you feel takes responsibility for wfb or WoLFi in your household?  Feel free to ask other close ones to answer this too,  as I think this is an issue everyone needs to think about and take responsibility for…

When life deals you lemons make…a prayer quilt

posted Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Thanks to Ariane for my timely Lemonade award to be proudly displayed on my side bar. It’s all about taking bad news, even really bad news, and making it positive – which is not always easy to do. It’s also about gratitude and because life is a gift.  I dedicate this award to Possum’s auntie…

Possum’s cherished auntie in America has been dealt quite a bitter lemon.  She has ‘aggressive’ lung cancer (despite never being a smoker) which metastisized to the brain (this tumour was removed initially before the lung cancer was discovered). Now they have discovered her lymph nodes are affected and spreading cancer throughout her body like a run away train.

You would expect her to be devasted, and she is, but not as much it seems as us who can’t bear the thought of losing her. You would expect her to be angry at the unfairness of cancer striking a person still quite young, a person who strove to live a healthy life. Yet although frustrated, and scared at times, as the medical procedures for cancer are frightening… she has no self-pity and still manages to smile when we talk to her daily on Skype. 

Before her last big operation, we, her Australian family decided to make a virtual ‘healing quilt’ with beautiful images of things she loves, including her only niece, Possum. We put messages of hope and prayer on the quilt.  She has printed off her quilt and keeps it near her bedside. The messages, it seems have offered her some comfort, and have also been a comfort to us… as it seems you go through the journey of cancer together.  My favourite message comes from a wise woman who has made lots of lemonade in her lifetime, my mother:

Do not give up hope for a medical breakthrough which may kill your cancer cells.

Keep on enjoying life as fully as you can. Laughter can be a good medicine.. 

Embrace the shadows and enjoy  the light.

May the  pouring out of love from  relatives and friends  provide you with encouragement.  
Keep hoping that the prayers  being said constantly on your behalf will be answered.
 Know that you will never be forgotten.  Your spirit will live on.  It is eternal.
 When we watch ’Possum’ dancing like a ballerina, we shall be reminded of you.


WoLFi Trials & Tribs

posted Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 at 11:37 pm

With the year gone by and the new decade upon us it seemed fitting to do a kind of  assessment or reflection on what worked well or not in the world of WoLFi or trying to interconnect work life and family in my life:

Trials and Tribulations:

> me taking on too many ‘work/study’ commitments in latter half of ’09 left me time poor, stressed and overstretched (this year I will try to leave a bit more time to enjoy life and ‘do nothing’ or at least just ‘hang out’. Yet I know that this year I have quite a few more things I need to achieve,  I realise I am quite driven, both an assest and a liabilitly.  Note to self  – just because you are writing a thesis on work life family balance does not mean you know how to do it)

>Mr G compensated for my time poverty by taking over most of the household/Possum duties, leaving him with less time for paid work and leaving us financially stretched and stressed. (Need to redress sharing parenting and unpaid work with paid work to a more balanced and less see-sawing model)

> Possum found to many extra curricula dance classes, combined with her penchant for late nights was causing her to be over-tired, and difficult to wake on school mornings (cutting back to just one dance class a week improved this greatly, as did our finances, though late nights remain an issue).

> Mr G’s sister became very ill with cancer in the later part of ’09 (I found out in the middle of a conference I was presenting at in Canberra). I felt bad not being there for Mr G when he heard  the dire news. Mr G flew to the states to be with his sister which was a great confort to them both. Mr G’s sister is the most devoted and loving aunt to Possum. The worry, and fear of losing this precious person has affected us all (it also has made me realise that life can be fragile and fleeting and somehow deserves our full attention not some distracted or rushed version of living. Motto for next year keep it simple, keep focused, and appreciate the now)

>Possum experienced her devoted dad away for the first time, which was hard for her, but brought out a very resilient side of her personality. I discovered that life as a sole parent, even of just one child to rear, is quite tiring and yet strangely intimate. You really get to know your child and they you. I appreciated the support network around me in a new light while Mr G was away (grandparents who minded her , a special auntie who spent hours with her in the pool, P0ssums best friend’s mum who offered to take her for a day so I could do my Xmas shopping, a neighbour who invited us over for dinner, a colleague who bought her a fizzy drink to sip on while we had a meeting).

> It has been a year of achievements. Our family unit has grown stronger through the trials. Possum has done really well at school both socially and academically. She knows she is loved and knows how to love back. I have passed my mid-candidature review and are now officially at the half-way point of my PhD. I have conquered my fear of math by achieving a Distinction in both of my statistics courses. I have relished being able to teach a course on gender, sexuality and society to some really delightful university students. I have to admit I am really enjoying the intellectual challenge I have undertaken, despite the hard work. But I must also pay homage to my supervisors who are not only mentors, and fabulous role models but are supporting me most generously along this challenging path.

In summary, I have to say like many years, this one has had its challenges, joys and sorrows and while Wolfi has worked well at times, other times it seems to have collaped in a frazzled heap. Yet despite the undulations – it seems to me that those support networks – the grandparents, the aunties, the neighbours, the friends, are really so important to helping cope with the bumps. Some of these wonderful people you can call on at a moments notice to help you out. I realise and appreciate that not everyone has this kind of support around them and yet I think it is the glue that holds as together as a society. Wolfi just wouldn’t happen without strong and versatile interconnections, ones that give and take, a help us along this journey of life.

Happy new year. I appreciate my blogging community for this same support and flexibility, through word drought and gabfests, it is wonderful to know that there are others all struggling and surviving, all with their own stories to tell.

Would love to hear your WoLFi trials and tribs, if you have time.

Cousins deconstruct Christmas

posted Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Possum: Does Santa know god?

Cousin (male aged 8): I’m not sure Santa is religious

Possum: (un-deterred) Does Santa give god presents?

Cousin: I don’t think Santa flies up that high. The reindeers might get out of breath…Maybe if Santa wore a spacesuit he could.

Possum: (satisfied smile)