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    Going back to work after baby

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    Nicola Conville  body and soul

    Returning to work after maternity leave is a big change for any mum and bub.




    Image: Returning to work after having a baby can be a stressful time.


    The good news: there is plenty you can do to ease back into the working world.

    Regardless of your reasons for returning to work, try to avoid feeling guilty – this is just one of many adjustments your family will make over the years, and after a few weeks, things will settle down as a new routine gets established. Here's our advice on making the transition all the more easy.

    1. Stay in touch

    Don't disappear off the radar when you have your baby. Stay in touch with your boss and colleagues while you're on leave. Depending on how relaxed or conservative your work environment is, you can bring bub in for a visit, or just send an email once in a while to ask how everything is going. Request that any important workplace updates be sent to your home email account while on maternity leave. This helps avoid any big surprises when you go back.

    2. Know your rights

    Find out what policies your employer has when it comes to being flexible and family-friendly and speak to your union rep about your entitlements. Under Australian law, an employee returning from parental leave is legally entitled to return to the same job they held prior to going on leave. If that job no longer exists, they are entitled to return to a position that is similar in pay and status. For more information, visit

    3. Be clear about what you want

    It sounds simple, but many people (women especially) shy away from being direct when it comes to work. If you want to work part-time or from home to start with, say so. Speak to your boss about expectations too – if you worked 12-hour days pre-baby and you now wish to leave at 5pm on the dot, make this clear. Ask about carer's leave as well for when your baby gets sick.

    4. Managing breastfeeding

    You may wish to keep breastfeeding when you return to work, and how easy this will be depends on how organised you are; how old your baby is (a three-month-old needs more feeds than a 12-month-old); and the facilities available to you for expressing and storing milk. You may wish to feed your baby in the morning, leave expressed milk for their carer to give them, and either express at work or wait until you get home to feed your baby (bring breast pads with you as you may have to deal with engorgement and/or leaking). Many employers now provide a dedicated room where new mums can express. Go to a breastfeeding organisation such as the ABA for more tips on this topic.

    5. Consider your childcare options

    The earlier you start to think about childcare options the better, as waiting lists can be long. The main options are to have your child cared for by a friend or relative; long day care; family day care; and a babysitter or nanny. Ask friends about their experiences, do your research and make an informed decision based on what will be the best choice for you and your family.

    6. Rest up

    Despite going back to work in increasing numbers, a recent British study found that women still do three times as much housework as their partners. With so much on your plate, it pays to be as organised as possible to make life easier for yourself. Whether that's roping your partner into cooking a few times a week, going to bed an hour earlier each night or hiring a fortnightly cleaner to give yourself a break from the domestic duties. Because if mum is happy, everyone is happy!

    Read more parenting advice at

    Child safety. Preventing accidents in the driveway.

    Friday, August 24, 2012

    Dave Gregory. Dave studied health and nutrition in California. He is now an editor with an emphasis in the health and wellness field, and is learning to mountain bike.


    You read about it so often in the news, you feel like it happens everyday. Drivers start to back out of driveways, feel a bump, and discover to their shock and horror that they've done a backover on a child. It's a terrible feeling for a driver, and increased calls for child safety are coming to the forefront.



    Australia's the Age reported that a father backed over his son, causing injuries and a near death. It so shook him to the core that he started a new national driver and child safety campaign, funded by the Traffic Accident Commission and the RACV.


    How can we prevent these tragedies from happening? There are a number of clear strategies for Australian drivers.

    • Parents have to teach young children how to avoid backovers. Show children how to stay away from cars, and not play near stationary cars and cars in motion. Small children need to understand that they can't be seen by drivers, and never dart out into the road from in between parked autos.
    • Government and media campaigns are providing driver safety education. For example, the Australian Ministry of Roads sent a pamphlet entitled "Road Safety: A Guide for Families and Carers of Children Aged 0 to 5 Years," to all parents and child care facilities. "The Herald Sun," an Australian newspaper, developed a companion safety campaign called "Check, See, Turn the Key," which urges drivers to turn around and know where your kids are before putting keys in a car's ignition. Another Australian agency, the Office of Child Safety, is broadcasting its "Just Because You Can't See Me, Doesn't Mean I'm Not Here" campaign on radio and social media. Similar efforts are underway in America, Great Britain, and Canada.
    • Drivers should do a basic child safety check to be sure the rear of their vehicle is clear of children and other obstacles. They should walk all the way around their cars to visually confirm that no children are there, which creates a "Circle of Safety," then back up very slowly as they exit the driveway. They should continue to scan their mirrors in case children dart behind the vehicle at the last moment, and roll down windows so they can hear any activity. Rear-view cameras are great, but aren't a substitute for driver vigilance.
    • Drivers can lower insurance premiums through increased car safety measures. Knowing about saving lives and lowering child safety awareness campaigns can all benefit a driver. Responsible drivers who understand their risk exposure, have educated themselves about prevention methods, and who actively secure their vehicles against back-over accidents will be able to protect themselves with low-premium, high-quality auto insurance policies through insurers like Budget Direct car insurance.
    • Drivers should learn some basic facts about back-over accidents to accurately assess their risk levels. For example, over 60% of back-overs involved large-size vehicles, over 70% involved parents or close relatives, and the vast majority of child victims are one to two years-old. This information can help van and SUV drivers, and parents and relatives of toddlers, to understand that they have a greater risk factor for backing over children.
    • Advances in automotive technology that will reduce the element of driver error are on the way. Automatic emergency braking systems (AEB) will soon be standardized and become as important and ordinary as longstanding safety equipment like seat belts and airbags. AEB uses cameras, radar, or lasers—both forward and rear-mounted—to scan surfaces for obstacles, then issues a warning and activates the brakes automatically if the driver fails to apply the brakes.

    It's going to take hard work, education, and prevention strategies to minimize backover accidents. But it can be done, and automotive innovations that will save even more young lives are on the way!


    Kids on the menu not to everyone's taste

    Thursday, May 31, 2012

    john birmingham

    Blunt Instrument

    John Birmingham tells stories. Most of them true.

    View more entries from Blunt Instrument




    I once knew a young woman who occasionally arrived at her mother's group sporting a T-shirt emblazoned with the message “I knew that parenthood would be a bit farked, I just didn't think that 80 per cent of it would be farked”.*

    Anybody who has spent any time on Planet Parenthood would understand. There's a lot about parenthood, particularly in those early months of sleeplessness, social dislocation and crippling impoverishment, that is altogether less appealing than the promotional material made out. Especially if you're the sort of person who enjoyed living The Life before you foolishly decided to create a life of your own.

    I really don't want to add to the stress and trauma of the woman who was refused admission to a restaurant in Melbourne because, according to the manager, there was no room at the bar to park her four-month old daughter's pram. I remember only too well from that time in my own life how snarly I could be when the cocktail hour found me wiping bright yellow fecal matter from my shirtsleeves and rapidly receding hairline, rather than wiping out a couple of margaritas at my favorite bar. Sometimes, as a new parent, you just have to get the hell out. But you can't of course; you're a new parent. There is no getting out. So you change the baby, and gather the nappies, and pack the pram with all of the specialised equipment that made me think of parenthood at that time as the "commando phase", and you just get the hell out. Out of the house you seem to have been trapped in for months, out of the house that smells of yellow fecal matter, and lanolin, and pawpaw cream and desperation and chaos and madness, and you try to find a way out into the world that lets you experience it as something wider than the very constrained and foreshortened horizons of a new parent. Maybe you push the pram to a bar. Maybe to a restaurant. Maybe just down to the local park. You really, at this point in your life, don't need people making things more difficult for you.

    So yes, I can totally understand why Susan Tahmasian and her husband Aramik felt that their one night out had been ruined when the bar staff at Coda suddenly found there was no room at the inn when they turned up with a pram.

    But I totally get Coda's position too. Restaurants aren't just selling meals. They're selling space and ambience. A pram with a child in it, docked at the bar, like Starship Enterprise at Deep Space 9, detracts from both. As necessary as it might be to maintain the sanity of the parents, it hangs like a Nerf Sword of Damocles over the heads of everyone else. Not just the potential of the kid to explode into a squalling mess, but the actual pram itself. Like the Enterprise, those things aren't small. They're not easy to manoeuvre. They're not easy to get around.

    To some extent, I think, what we have here and in a thousand other venues on any given night is a new cultural norm working itself out. It's not so long ago that we had no restaurant culture in this country. We had restaurants, but they tended to be dark and dire steakhouses or massively uptight interpretations of classical French cuisine, almost always aimed at businessman with expense accounts. Normal people did not eat out. And parents never, ever did, unless it was at some wretched "family restaurant" where standards were pitched as low as the presumed tastes of the sleep deprived, harried and desperate paying customers who simply wanted some cheap fries and a pizza to shovel into the head holes of their mewling brats.

    Although the hospitality industry has evolved beyond that embarrassing history, our dining culture, the shared understanding and the expectations of everyone who turns up at a restaurant, has not. It's always a temptation in these circumstances to generalize from one's own opinions and experience.

    Perhaps what's needed is a calm and rational discussion about what's appropriate. And yes, I'm totally sure a blog is exactly the right forum in which to have that discussion.

    * I may have missed the correct spelling.

    Playing favourites

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Paul Chai


    My two sons are currently obsessed with being treated equally, to the point where my eldest recently counted the number of peas on his dinner plate to make sure he wasn’t going to be short-changed. I have dubbed it the Terrible Me-Toos.

    This equality process is not only exhausting but it has highlighted for me one of parenting’s dirty little secrets. I have a favourite child.

    Yes, that’s right, I prefer one of my children over the other and I am frightened that they are going to be able to tell. Perhaps I will be cursed with this me-tooism for the rest of my days in an effort to pretend I feel the same about the both of them and not scar them both for life.

    Advertisement: Story continues below So, it was comforting to read in the Australian Women’s Weekly online last month that I am not alone. Jeffrey Kluger author of The Sibling Effect told the AWW that any parent that doesn’t have a favourite kid is -- well, lying. And myriad studies support this idea. So, why do I feel so terrible about it? Surely it is next to impossible to like every person in your family equally. In fact I’m pretty sure I slipped a rung or two down the love ladder once my sons came along.

    I can trace some of my guilt to a Stephen King novel called Duma Key where among the blood, viscera and phantasms, King – as he does when he is on form – described a very poignant triangle between a father and his two daughters, where one is clearly the favourite and the other is pained by it. Try as he might, the protagonist, Edgar Freemantle, cannot do anything about it -- it is just a fact. Having only one child when I read it I remember thinking that it was profoundly sad, now having two it seems … almost reasonable.

    And which one is my favourite? Given the permanent nature of online writing I’m not sure I can afford the therapy bills if I fess up, but I am a cliché. Most studies have shown that parents gravitate to the child most like them and I am no exception. Yep, it is not bad enough that I play favourites but I am apparently so rampantly narcissistic that I love the idea of hanging around with a mini-me, as if one of me in this lifetime wasn’t enough.

    But there is something relaxing, something easy about parenting or guiding someone that you know well. My favourite son and I share a similar temperament, we like a lot of the same things and sometimes I can even help him finish his sentences when he gets tongue tied because I know what he is thinking.

    And the preference is subtle, it’s not like I regard one as my future leader and the other as my future kidney donor. I am not living the life of that hilarious 2006 Tropfest winner Carmichael and Shane where the single dad played by Rob Carlton selects one of his twin sons to favour because “there will always be enough love to go around but there may not always be enough bicycles”.

    And in that joke may be a kernel of truth, because I am not even sure I love one son more, simply that I get on with one better, that I like one more. My wife has yet to confess a bias, in fact she denies it, but I think it is betrayed now and then and, fortunately for the family dynamic, we did not choose the same kid. Does that make us a well-balanced family unit?

    I’m hoping so. I’m running with the idea that we both are smart enough, and subtle enough in our preferences, that it never becomes an issue. Because surely you can’t ever admit to such a thing? If they ever come to suspect the favouritism would it be cathartic for the kids to know which one we preferred, or disastrous?

    That’s not a social experiment that I want to be involved with so, for now, I am keeping quiet and hoping that I dispense an equal amount of peas.

    Do you have a favourite? Is this ok to admit, or do you make sure you show each child the same amount of attention and love?

    Off to a fat start

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Michelle Bridges, Sunday Life 

    Author and trainer on The Biggest Loser.


    To combat childhood obesity, we need to stop the blame game and work together, writes Michelle Bridges.


    Generic feeding baby pic, baby food, mother, mum, father, dad, toddler, child.


    Image: Extra fat cells ... overfed babies become overweight kids.


    I struggle with a lot of things when it comes to the contentious topic of childhood obesity. 


    I struggle with the assumption that it is all about children - it's not really. It's more about parents and families. The kids just respond to what's going on around them, and to the food that is available to them and advertised to their vulnerable selves.

    I struggle with the word "childhood", which puts a temporal identity on the issue, as if it all happens from birth to adolescence. It doesn't. It starts at conception, as we now know that overweight parents are more likely to give birth to overweight babies. The genetic predisposition to be overweight begins at the very beginning of a person's life.

    Overfeeding babies and children brings the age forward at which they start to lay down fat cells. This results in a higher quantity of fat cells carried into adulthood, burdening overweight kids with extra fat cells that they will carry for the rest of their lives.

    I struggle with the junk-food industry wriggling around self-regulation of TV advertising to kids. The Australian Food and Grocery Council claims that since the adoption of industry self-regulation in 2009, TV junk-food advertising to kids has been reduced. But a joint University of Sydney and Cancer Council NSW study found that junk-food advertising to kids has actually increased since then.

    And while preventative health is broadly on the federal government's agenda, it's approach to junk-food advertising has been "vague", to quote Dr Rhonda Jolly in a Parliamentary Library paper published in January this year.

    But my biggest struggle is with the blame game. We are all responsible - government, parents, advertisers, manufacturers, educators - and, even at some level, the kids themselves. Being responsible is a way of being, so let's start by being role models ourselves.

    Our childhood obesity crisis isn't particularly anyone's fault, and as long as we keep trying to make it someone's fault, we'll just keep arguing about it, and nothing will get done.

    It's not about blame.

    What steps do you take as a provider of children's services to ensure they are getting a healthy education about lifestyle?

    Kids shows are for adults only

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Baz Blakeney  Herald Sun


    Today's column comes all the way from sunny Perth. OK, forget the sunny bit. I won't lie. It's been teeming for days.




    Image: Junior MasterChef Tuck Shop challenge. Pierre, Gary Mehigan and Cassidy. Source: HWT Image Library

    Any more of this weather and I may have to build an ark to get home to Melbourne.

    They've just had the Perth Fashion Festival over here, which is a bit like a Melbourne Fashion Festival that got shrunk in the wash.

    Speaking of fashion, I see Melbourne has named two youngsters the best-dressed kids in town.

    The young fashionistettes will tread the catwalk with the grown-ups at the Spring Racing Carnival.

    It's a growing trend, this adultification of children. (Is adultification really a word? Well, it is now.)

    Junior MasterChef has kicked off again and the kids are sharpening their knives (literally, I hope, not figuratively).

    Little girls are being primped and preened into living Barbie dolls in beauty pageants that mimic Miss World or Miss Universe.

    And I read this week that some childcare centres are now offering gyms for tots who want to muscle up.

    Most of it is harmless fun - just kids acting out adult roles, which they do anyway.

    But sometimes you get the vibe there's a desperate parent in the wings pushing young Oscar or Ophelia into the spotlight.

    "Go on, darling, be famous. Now."

    Judging by the number of people who dig Junior MasterChef, I'd say TV is ripe for any number of Junior shows.

    How about Junior CSI? A crack team of mini-sleuths would try to solve mysteries like who stole Tom's lunch money and who wrote the rude word on the blackboard.

    There could be forensic tests for girl germs and boy germs.

    Anyone under suspicion could then appear on Junior LA Law to be judged by a jury of their peers.

    Most of the legal debate would be along the lines of: "Did so, did not, did so, did not."

    Junior Renovators: The Cubby House. That could work.

    Junior Survivor? Dump a bunch of kids on a remote island and see what happens.

    It would probably end up something like William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, with tribalism and superstition taking over.

    Actually, that doesn't sound too bad. UNICEF may have some issues with it, though.

    Junior Room for Improvement. This would involve kids tidying up their rooms. Yes, I know, we're moving into the realms of science fiction.

    Adultification is not a great problem if the kids instigate it themselves.

    Some youngsters are more advanced than others and are quite capable of handling the glare of attention and loss of privacy that comes with public exposure. But I'd hazard a guess most kids aren't ready for it.

    You only have to look at the long list of child stars who went screwy after having their childhoods snatched away. The wacko Jacko story is still far from over.

    One of my young son's mates surprised me a little recently when he said he wished he was famous. When I asked why, he said: "Because if you're famous you get rich."

    When I asked why he wanted to be rich, he said: "So I can build a ninja fortress."

    When you think about it, what other reason could there be?

    What do you think? Are kids growing up too fast?

    'Having it all': not possible

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011
     Isobel King , Brisbane Times 
    Working mother.


    Working mums can lose the guilt - but it will take a change of mindset.

    Ask your average frazzled working mum what she secretly dreams of and it will probably be something as pedestrian as a decent night's sleep and a few snatched hours alone. With every waking hour consumed by the demands of motherhood, work and maintaining domestic sanity, it's little wonder the "work-life balance" just feels like a luxury reserved for others. But does it have to be that way?

    Adjust your mindset

    "The idea you can have it all is ludicrous; maybe across a lifetime but not all at one point in time," says executive coach Kate James, the director of the Total Balance Group and a regular corporate speaker on work-life balance and stress management. Working mothers constantly feel they are spread too thin "and with that comes a lot of guilt", she says. Her advice is simple: stop trying to be perfect and be realistic. If that means putting career advancement on hold, so be it.

    Karen Miles, the author of The Real Baby Book You Need at 3am, which looks at how motherhood affects a woman's identity, also believes "mother guilt" is at the root of a lot of unnecessary stress.

    "Society tells us that to be a good mother, it should be all about the children - that if you go back to work or pursue personal interests or community interests, then you're a bad mother, which is absolute rubbish," Miles says.

    As a working mother of two children, she concedes parenthood is exhausting. A woman should feel OK to admit she's feeling overwhelmed and can ask for help. That could mean outsourcing household chores or renegotiating with her partner who does what around the house.

    A support network is also vital and provides the added opportunity to pool childcare. "It's a great relief to share your war stories with others in the same boat," Miles says.

    Make your job work for you

    Returning to part-time work can often produce career angst. "Don't make the classic mistake of taking a demotion when you return to work after having children, or a job below your skill level, thinking that will give you more flexibility," Miles says. "In three months you'll be bored and frustrated."

    She points out you can't be happy in life if you're miserable in your job.

    And don't feel bad about leaving on time if you have childcare obligations; have an open conversation with your manager or even colleagues if you think it is an issue. "You might need to develop a thicker skin," James says.

    Take heart from the fact flexible work arrangements are becoming common as savvy employers realise they are the best way to keep working mothers in the workforce. It doesn't signal a lack of ambition, says the director for Equal Opportunity in the Workplace Agency, former corporate high-flyer Helen Conway. She points out many managerial positions are now being filled on a shared or part-time basis.

    Nurture your relationship

    "The issue of time together is still the No. 1 thing people quote as the wedge that comes between them in relationships," says the director of operations at Relationships Australia, Lyn Fletcher, citing the organisation's latest relationships indicators survey. She says it is essential couples prioritise spending quality time together. "If not, you're saying it's not important," she says.

    Miles says parenthood has to be a team effort, with couples sharing their emotions and expectations of what type of parents they want to be. Negotiation and communication is the name of the game. Research by the University of Queensland Institute for Social Research reveals many men want a greater share of domestic duties and to be more involved in parenting. So, ladies, maybe it's a matter of asking.

    Happiness amid chaos

    Priorities straight ... it is possible to be a working mum like Samantha Baker, with baby Georgina and Ella, 4.


    Image: Priorities straight ... it is possible to be a working mum like Samantha Baker, with baby Georgina and Ella, 4. Photo: Edwina Pickles

    Samantha Baker, 37, pictured above, is living proof "work-life happiness" is as much about mindset as the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Mother to five-year-old Ella and 15-month-old Georgina, she has returned to work recently as a part-time HR consultant and this year started a law degree.

    "It's something I'd always wanted to do and I didn't want to wake up at 50 and regret not doing it," Baker says.

    She's the first to admit "it's an overwhelming juggling act at the moment".

    Fortunately, Baker has parents who look after the kids on the two days she goes into work. A nanny looks after them another day, who fits in some washing and ironing. A cleaner comes around once a week.

    Baker concedes exercise and time with friends have taken a back seat, as her study consumes what free time she used to have during evenings and weekends. However, she describes her husband as "a gem" who supports her decision to return to study.

    "I'm happy with the choices I've made," she says. "I chose to have children, I want to work and I enjoy the learning; running a perfect household just doesn't give me a sense of achievement."

    Five steps to help you keep your sanity

    1. Outsource whatever you can

    Free up more time by outsourcing the mundane stuff. Do your grocery shopping online, hire a cleaner, put your ironing into the laundromat … but don't hire the dog walker - that can give you exercise and time to unwind.

    2. Make time for yourself

    Schedule recreational time into your working week - whether it's the gym, a night out with friends or just a Saturday morning of quiet pottering - and then stick to it. And don't hoard your annual leave - you need the holidays.

    3. Relieve the financial pressure

    In his book Fat, Forty and Fired, Nigel Marsh famously wrote about people who are slaves to "jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don't need, to impress people they don't like". Maybe just by spending less, you won't feel the need to earn as much? That applies to shopping sprees, eating out, where you live or the car you drive. Ask yourself: do I really need the extra debt?

    4. Do an audit of what's really important in life

    Acknowledging it's impossible to be all things to all people is the first step towards achieving happiness in work and life. "It's critical to do an audit and ask yourself what you really need and want," Kate James, of Total Balance, says.

    5. Watch your diet and alcohol intake

    Neglecting your diet and bingeing on alcohol are sure ways to feel flat and rundown and you're likely to suffer long-term health effects. So back off the booze and fatty foods and try to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

    What other tips would you give working Mums?