“I sometimes look longingly at the mothers I can see from my office window, taking their kids for a walk to the park… sometimes I even tear up at my desk thinking about what I am missing out”
This week’s interview comes from the other side of the world – Rachael Schedewy is a 28 year old blogger and working mother of two from Auckland, New Zealand. In the last two years, her husband has battled cancer and she has had a mini stroke and has Fibromyalgia. Her blog is about her journey to a new healthy lifestyle while working full-time and raising young children www.girlsgotcurves.com
Thank you Rachael for taking part – I’m looking forward to getting a sense of what’s similar and what’s different between Ireland and New Zealand. Could you tell me how many children you have and their ages?
And now could you tell me a little about your job – what do you do and for how long have you been working at this?
I am a Research Consultant in the Market Research Industry for a company in Auckland, New Zealand. I have been in the industry for five years but only just changed companies in the last few months when we moved cities.
As a Research Consultant I have a large variety of responsibilities from writing questionnaires, analysing data, writing reports and recommendations for clients based on the data, and presenting this to the client in an easy to understand format.
What kind of hours do you work?
My official hours are five days a week from 8.30am to 5pm. The Market Research Industry is, like many other industries these days, a very high pressure, deadline driven industry. When there is work to be done, you will work all night to get it done if need be. In my previous company it was not uncommon to work 60-70 hour weeks.
Do you have the flexibility to work from home?
I try not to as I am easily distracted when at home but if I need to be home with sick children I am able to be.
Do you have to travel for work?
Only occasionally and only for short trips usually.
What kind of childcare do you use?
When my husband and I were both working, my son went to day care from 7am to 5.30pm and my daughter went to a home-based before school care and then an after school care programme through the same day care as my son.
In New Zealand, the government provide a subsidy for childcare providing you are working at least 20 hours a week. There is an hourly subsidy of up to $4 an hour (based on your income, the higher your income, the lower your subsidy and once it goes over the threshold, you don’t get any subsidy). Between the ages of three and four, every child get 20 hours free childcare a week regardless of income. Though even with this, our childcare bill for two children was about $400 a week.
My husband was diagnosed with Metastatic Melanoma in April 2013 so stopped working. He is recovering now but has not gone back to work so he drops the kids off at the school bus in the mornings and picks them up after school.
Is your childcare solution working well for you?
It is brilliant at the moment (except for the one income family part!). The kids are far less tired and grumpy than they used to be when in care from 7am to 5.30pm. Once my husband does go back to work, he will hopefully get something where he can still drop them off in the mornings at least.
Are your children in school and has that made balancing work and home easier or more difficult?
I always thought it would be easier when they started school but I actually think it is the opposite. You get home from work and on top of housework and cooking, you still need to do their homework with them!
On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?
It is a lot easier with hubby being home but when he was also working, it was definitely needing to work late on short notice or getting that middle of the day call that your child is sick.
Other things such as school holiday care and pick-ups/drop-offs, can be organised in advance but the short notice things can really take a lot of juggling!
And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
Mum guilt is something that plagues me constantly. I sometimes look longingly at the mothers I can see from my office window, taking their kids for a walk to the park, and wish it was me so badly, sometimes I even tear up at my desk thinking about what I am missing out on.
But then I pull myself together, I remember what I am here for. I am providing for my family and giving them the best life I possibly can while also teaching my kids about work ethic and the importance of contributing to society.
I remind myself that I am a damn good mum, I spend a lot of quality time with my kids and think that I actually appreciate the time that we spend together more now than I did when I was home with them all day.
Do you think there’s an optimal solution out there – a perfect balance that enables a mother to have a fulfilling career while being there for her children?
I don’t think that there is an optimal solution. There is a downside to every possible option, whether it be that you won’t climb the corporate ladder as fast as you would like, won’t make as much money as you need, or that you won’t be at home with your kids as much as you would like.
I am yet to think of the perfect solution, I think all we can do is make the absolute most out of whatever position we are in and make it work for us.
If you could do any job, what would it be?
I do love my job but I am also a blogger and if I could, I would make that my full time job as that is what I am truly passionate about.
Do you think there’s a glass ceiling for women, or is it a perception based on the fact that mothers often look for flexibility or part-time hours, which in turn limits their opportunities?
I have worked with some very strong women in senior management roles but they do seem to be older than their male counterparts. I do think that it takes women a bit longer to get there than men when they have taken time off to have children or worked shorter hours because of family commitments.
In New Zealand in 2014, the proportion of senior roles filled by women was 31%, the global average is 24%. Though in saying that, New Zealand has been sitting at around 30% for the last 10 years whereas the global average has increased from 19% to 24%. I am disappointed that the NZ figures are static as women in NZ are now more educated than ever before so I would like to see that figure start to rise.
Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
- Organisation is key! Having lunches packed and clothes picked out the night before can save a lot of stress during the morning rush.
- Get the kids to help. My five- and seven-year-old have been unloading and reloading the dishwasher since they were about four, my five-year-old loves doing the vacuuming. Get them to help with the housework, while it may take them a bit longer, at least they are doing it. It is also teaching them about responsibility and the importance of everyone pitching in.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. You need to learn to relax and let the little things slide. I saw a picture once that I think is so true. You get the choice of two of these three things – Happy kids, clean house, and your sanity.
Rachael, thank you for sharing your story; this interview, and your post on guilt certainly gave me a sense of perspective about my own life. You’ve obviously been through a lot and you’re still smiling, and making it all work.
What you said about looking out the window at mothers going to the park really hit home – it catches me like that sometimes too. But then again, as you say, you’re doing the right thing – you’re doing your best to provide for your family, and you’re a damn good mum – I love that you said that. Most of us probably don’t give ourselves enough credit for being damn good mums!
The childcare subsidies are interesting to read about – we have something similar to your twenty hours per week free, for children age three and four, but we don’t have the hourly subsidy. And the statistics on women in top positions are impressive! I wonder if it’s ever possible to reach 50% – no matter how many women want to be CEO, there will always be many others who don’t – those who want to do a good job but have time at home with kids too – so maybe 50% is unattainable. 31% sounds pretty impressive.
Rachael, I really enjoyed your interview and I’m so glad you got in touch – I hope your husband’s health continues to improve, and that you get to live out your aspiration to work on blogging full-time.