Do I look good today?

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What do you see?

My hair is back, looking tidy, my makeup is on, I’m wearing a white suit and smiling. I’m on my way to talk to a group of underprivileged young adults about adversity, success, life. 

What they will see initially is someone together and doing pretty well. 

If they look closer, what they may see is that I have brown rice smeared on my lapel that Rumi left on me as I walked out. That I have a smudge on my cheek from where guilty tears ran down my face as I left her feeling unwell with her grandparents. They might notice the dark circles under my eyes because I was up all night as she cried in our bed. They might see my fingernails, broken and spilt or my hair, thinning from not having the time to take care of them, or because my body is still recovering from 16 months of breastfeeding. 

What they won’t see, no matter how hard they look, is the inner battle of being a working mum. The guilt, the tearing of my heart as I pursue my passion but leave her most days. The mental and physical effort it takes to be at a meeting. They won’t know that my hair is back because my daughter was an octopus this morning and showering was out of the question. That I put my makeup on in the car because her tentacles were wrapped over my face and any attempt to put her down resulted in screams from a B-grade horror; that to get to them today meant planning babysitters, school pickups, packed food, and Panadol for her pain. 

I recently watched the Handmaids Tale. I was warned against it because of its intensity,  especially for mothers, and because I stopped watching violence 11 years ago. There’s no doubt the shock value of torture and separation. I can’t help but wonder though if the pain it evokes is somewhat linked to a bit of truth. For me, it absolutely brought my choices into account. Watching it was like having my eyes held open against my will staring straight into the fire at the judgments and guilt and consequences of combining work and family. Maybe from others- definitely from myself. This may sound extreme. I assure you, ask a working mum or dad and the pain can be very real. Many of us have found ways to hide it, justify it, accept it, live with it, downplay it, celebrate it, and work with it. In a society that celebrates achievement, success, equality, and independence what choice do we really, practically, have? (I’ll admit there are days I wish to throw it all in and live in a camper by the ocean homeschooling and growing vegetables.)

The other way some women handle the immense pressure and mental and emotional load is to rebel against the high achieving standard many of us set. Think Bad Moms, or that comedic duo who laugh and joke that perhaps their kid does have nits.. ‘who knows? We don’t actually bother brushing their hair hahahahaha’ *insert laissez-faire head throw back and uncontrollable laughter.

I tend to not find this funny, or helpful. I feel like it’s shielding a sense of overwhelm. Of not being able to manage it all. And this is real and something worth feeling the pain over. How else do we address the injustice and the challenge and what it means for us? To me there’s always some sense in trying to make it happen, in putting the effort in that will be felt and seen by our children. There’s a very delicate balance, or perhaps tension, which I’m sure we all stumble across from time to time when all the stars align, between self care, and self sacrifice and it feels good. It’s kind of like parenting. So much struggle and yelling and frustration and then that one little impromptu kiss from tiny sticky lips that makes it all worthwhile. 

Its a tough gig, there’s no denying it. I wonder if it’s made better by sharing? By coming together in our efforts? By having the occasional days where hair brushing is too hard but then jumping back on the horse the next day. For me I find comfort in the small wins, not in giving up or throwing it all in. Each journey is different, each struggle takes its toll. No judgment here. Just know that if you’re out there trying really hard, feeling it day after day and wondering if you’re alone, that you are absolutely not. I’m here too. So many of us are here, looking good and working hard. But if you reach a liiiitle further in, you’ll see that underneath the suit jackets and mascara, we are all in it together, feeling all the feels.

I feel as though I’ve ranted. Hopefully there’s some sense in there, somewhere. Some measure of comfort and connectedness. This is our 3rd night awake in a row with sick and screaming Rumi, so I’m honestly too tired to know. 

Take care, Tiffany

PS. About the group Im meeting today - they may not see the challenges, but Ill be sure to fill them in. Transparency is key!

The Importance of Transparent Parenting

When I give a presentation about Village and the realities and challenges of parenthood and working life, I can at times get quite passionate and emotive. The Village Foundation was born of personal experience and research and both elements have details that can bring up emotions, memories, and truths, particularly during question time when I am often asked about my personal experiences. One of the reasons I developed Village, was to create a platform where truths were told and received with openness, understanding, and compassion. The key to starting here is truths being told, and this needs to start with me as the founder, and as an advocate for transparent parenting. I have been very open and vocal about my experiences with postpartum depression 8 years ago and my experiences as a new fulltime working mother over the past 2 years. Not everything I have to say is warm and fuzzy, rather, I deliberately share the things that often go unsaid, that others may find uncomfortable to hear. I’ve chosen not to hide the reality of being a working mum, of being a mum who isn’t a ‘natural’, of being a mum who prefers to work, like so many women and men are forced to do; pretending that all is ok and that they are unchanged by their new reality.

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What does this mean? It means that like many working parents, I may not always be 100% focused. I may be thinking about my daughters, torn between the old me and the new me that is up with them all night, comforting them when they’re sad or sick and always partially thinking of them. I may be on the brink. And for me, in this role, it means I will state that I’m exhausted if I’m exhausted, that I’ve had little sleep, that I sometimes forget my train of thought. It means I'll openly state that I love being the ‘secondary' caregiver, that I prefer working to reading stories. It means I will openly state the conflict between loving my girls wholeheartedly and not loving all the daily details. It means I share what I'm feeling and thinking despite how unpleasant or how against the norm it may be. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my work. It doesn’t mean I don’t adore my children. And it doesn’t mean Im not 100% committed. To Both. I challenge the norm, the acceptable, the allowed because it's an illusion that society tells us we ‘should' be, the perfect mothering template. The damage this societal framework does is both explicit and clandestine.

I am deliberate in my honesty and my reality is the reality of many working parents’ lives. Perhaps this is unprofessional, perhaps to my detriment. Perhaps others find it difficult or uncomfortable. Despite this, I strongly believe that it’s imperative to change the existing paradigm. How else do we address the unsaid, if not to say it? I would be inauthentic if I acted otherwise or pretended that I am not often moved to be less than perfectly dispassionate and professional during a presentation or talk.

My telling, however raw or real, does not change the facts.

  • One in 5 women experience postpartum depression.

  • One in 10 men.

  • This has developmental effects on the infant and siblings in the short and long term.

  • These effects flow into the community, the workplace.

  • 80% of mothers experience some form of emotional distress after having a baby.

  • Perinatal mental health costs the Australian industry over $500 million a year in lost

    productivity.

  • The first 4 months back into the workforce after leave are critical to retention.

  • 40% of new dads fear taking leave for career impact.

  • Some women report feeling isolated, disconnected and alone on parental leave.

  • Loss of identity when on leave plays a significant role in mental health.

  • Women seek other parents, who have been there before, to share with.

  • Women will not actively seek help or admit their suffering for fear of shame, and impact on

    career.

Women decided not to make their needs known to others

if they felt the people around them could not offer the kind of support they needed.

  • Negron, Martin, Almog, Balbierz and Howell 2013

This is why I share, this is why I am brutally honest. And this is why I believe wholeheartedly, that Village is so important. Mentoring is key in facilitating wellbeing and connection before, during and after leave which may improve the wellbeing of parents at work, the health and wellbeing of our children, productivity and the bottom line for industry in Australia.

Do you have a story to share? We are collating real stories, of real working parents. Please email your experience to tiffany@villagefoundationapp.com or call to chat further

0410 943 873.

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Westpac Summit 2019 - How has being a Westpac Future Leader impacted me?

Westpac Summit 2019 - How has being a Westpac Future Leader impacted me?

I never dreamed that in 2 years so much was possible and just how instrumental my Westpac community would be. When I began my FL journey, I was a mother of one, embarking on a PHD and I had no idea what the future would hold. Since then,  Ive been interviewed, photographed, MC’d prestigious events,  and been invited to give key notes. Ive had the privilege of meeting experts in my field, dignitaries, royalty and Ive pitched in front of hundreds of people across the globe. And all of these opportunities are as a direct result of my connections with the Westpac Community.

'I am a Feminist' - Invited speaker for the History Festival 2019

'I am a Feminist' - Invited speaker for the History Festival 2019

I hadn’t realised I was a feminist. I had always pictured feminists in the stereotypical sense – raging and bra burning, causing unrest and fighting for causes in a wild and untamed manner. It forced me to look at the definition a little closer.  

The first definition I came across was simple:

“the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”

As simply put as this is, it encapsulates all the things I had thought, but it adds a calmer element… a more subtle and quiet determination. The word advocacy changes things up. The public support of a particular issue. That public support can come in many forms. I found myself really asking, how am I a feminist?

 

International Women's Day Speech for Westpac SA 2019 #balanceforbetter

International Women's Day Speech for Westpac SA 2019 #balanceforbetter

Its easy to talk about balance and how important it is conceptually, but Id like to share a personal story about balance, or rather a lack of balance. 8 years ago, on the 11th of February – I gave birth to my beautiful first daughter, Faith. In that moment, in her utter perfection when I looked down at her, and as I breathed in her scent and kissed her head, I knew I was never going to be the same. A perfectionist by nature I had read everything. I had studied it all and I had plans for this to be perfect. I held her every moment of the day. I wore her like a little koala and as she clung to my sides in her carrier, she would look up at me with big blue eyes and I would sing to her as we walked our gorgeous treelined streets. I played her beautiful music, I ate the right foods, I responded to each cry and was more than hesitant to leave her with anyone, including her dad. I was trying to be the perfect mother. I thought it was my role alone to be her everything.

Tribe. Community. Village

Tribe. Community. Village

Tribe. Community. Village. Whatever we call it, it’s what we need to feel whole. They connect us with a part of us that we may have long forgotten. That part that knows we belong to something bigger than ourselves. It’s easy to forget in our individualised, independent culture that we need people. As women and mothers we need to connect for appraisal, validation and support – a kind of ‘checking in’ that we’re/it’s normal.

BIG BANKS. Turns out they're filled with people like you and me.

BIG BANKS. Turns out they're filled with people like you and me.

Being a Westpac Future Leader has afforded me many opportunities - more than I ever imagined. Today, I had the privilege of meeting Brian Hartzer, Westpac CEO for a conversation between him and us, the SA Westpac scholars. It could have been many things – what it was for me, was unexpected. Not only did he leave me with a new perspective on big banks, he has in fact inspired me. Being inspired is a gift, in this case given unwittingly by a big bank CEO.

Reposted from MamaMia: Life After PND

Reposted from MamaMia: Life After PND

The signs of my post natal depression were everywhere, but I didn’t see them.

I was so desperate to have this be perfect I dared not admit it, even to myself. I missed my mum, every day I wished she was there to help me, to listen to me, to hold my baby and love her – spoil her the way I saw other mums spoil their grandchildren.

Perfect Parenting, Let it Go

Perfect Parenting, Let it Go

It’s 1043am. I’m logged into a parenting course I was recruited for and we have two weeks left. As I watch the screen holding my three month old, I see twelve faces in their little boxes, all looking somewhat stressed or perplexed as they ponder how they can master this thing called parenting, implementing strategies to enhance their relationships with their kids, and berating themselves for getting it wrong.

Is it Any Wonder, We're Stressed?

Is it Any Wonder, We're Stressed?

Today, if you’re a mother, it’s easy to get angry at the state of things. While each generation faces its own challenges and hardships I fear this one is bearing the brunt of a system designed to fail.  Despite knowing the facts and figures, women today are still breadwinner with homemaker and I for one have had enough. For working women, in the home we are the default, wearing 70% of tasks which if you’re partnered surely is a 50/50 responsibility.

The small actions we can all take, that literally change lives.

The small actions we can all take, that literally change lives.

The postnatal period is fraught with danger. It is well known that the health and mindset of the mother during the postpartum period can have long lasting effects on her, her baby and the whole family. It’s a big responsibility to bear and I for one, wholeheartedly believe that this responsibility should be shared, by not only the family, immediate and extended, but by you, me, employers, indeed every member of the community.

#metoo

I am not usually a fan of ‘awareness campaigns’ such as the #metoo one currently being circulated on social media. In the past I have found that they trivialize the issue being identified. Instead of starting a conversation, or bringing about actual change they simply allow people to feel as though they have done something before swiftly moving on with their lives. I resisted posting #metoo but felt the resistance too deeply this time. While I have well and truly dealt with the numerous cases of sexual abuse I have experienced from the age of 6, today I was faced with the fear I have dreaded since having a baby girl.