I was born in 1971.
My Mum and Dad were both 20. My Dad was a meat slicer at the local abattoirs and my Mum worked at The Wales Bank as a Bank Officer, Manager’s Typist and Personal Assistant. In those days there was no maternity leave. My Mum took a total of 12 weeks off – 6 weeks off before I was born due to a pregnancy-related illness and 6 weeks after. This was taken as annual leave and leave without pay. In the early 1970’s I would say my Mum was somewhat of a trailblazer returning to work within such a short period of time.
Mum continued to work full-time for the next 4 years until my brother Anthony was born and I was fortunate to be looked after by my maternal grandparents.
Mum was a great nurturer and after my brother and I, came 2 more brothers and 3 more sisters.
In 1985 Mum decided it was time to return to the workforce and my paternal grandparents gladly put their hand up to look after my youngest brother Ryan.
By this time I was in High School and I guess I was very impressionable.
Here are my memories.
- Our house ran like clockwork – Mum was and still is one of the most organised people I know.
- Mum only knew one speed, not a thing was ever out of place, housework was always up to date and this too has not changed.
- She ran the household budget like she was running a business. She had an impeccable filing system and still to this day can recall her tax file number and all of her bank account numbers!
- She was selfless and did all of these things in her stride
- One of Mum’s favourite sayings was “it’s about quality, not quantity!” – whether that be meant my one Darrell Lea Nougat egg compared to my siblings Red Tulip trains or crates of eggs or whether that was the one pair of Freidelle swimmers that I would get every season and were my only pair of swimmers
- I was proud of my Mum both at home and in her career.
Fast forward 28 years to 1999, I found myself in exactly the same position as my Mum. I was about to start a family and my employer (a mid-tier accounting firm) had no formal maternity leave policy. I was assured something could be worked out, but I wasn’t too keen to be the firm’s guinea pig, I bit the bullet, backed myself and started my accounting practice from scratch, from home. I gradually grew my client base and family at the same time. I was in control! I had my first son Callum within 9 months of starting the business and Dempsey 14 months after. Mum stepped in and looked after the boys during the day and my husband and I were a team – he helped me in the business, was there to get the boys of an afternoon from Mum’s, pre-school or school. We shared household tasks. What we did back then was also trailblazing to an extent as this was well before “house husbands” became an “in thing” and widely accepted. This worked for us, it still does and we wouldn’t change a thing!
I had a wonderfully successful practice, Gascoigne Consulting for 18 years, the last 4 of them with my youngest brother Ryan joining me as a partner. Our family business was built on good old-fashioned principles, morals and work ethics that were passed onto us by our parents and grandparents with our Mum and our Grandmother being extremely positive matriarchal influences to us.
My boys are now nearly 18 and 17 who are becoming incredible young men that I am extremely proud of. I believe that they are part of a generation that will see men and women on a more level playing field with regards to career opportunities, domestic duties and mutual respect. It is so encouraging to see just yesterday, that Energy Australia has agreed to close the pay gap between men and women doing the same jobs. The gap is closing but there is still work to be done in many industries.
So when you are beating yourself up or trying to keep all those balls in the air, thinking you are not spending enough time with your children or thinking you are spreading yourself too thin, just remember these few things:
- you ARE enough
- you ARE doing amazing things
- your children ARE appreciating what you do
- others ARE appreciating what you do
- you ARE making a difference
- and in my Mum’s words, IT’S QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY!
Happy 2018 International Women’s Day.
A Little Bonus – a Q & A with my Mum
Why did you return to work so soon?
I returned to work so soon because we had very little savings (if any) and we wanted to eventually save for a house.
What did your family think of you returning to work so soon?
My family were quite receptive because they were of the opinion you had to save money whilst working.
What did your friends think of you returning to work so soon?
The majority of my friends were working and had no children at that stage. My work friends were very receptive and considerate at the time.
When you became a stay at home Mum for 11 years, what did you miss about being at work?
I did not miss work as a stay at home Mum. Managing everyday finances was quite the norm and was not always easy with limited wages coming into such a large household. I didn’t really have a chance to miss work as the children were a full-time task – especially having you at school and another 3 babies under 3!
How did you feel returning to the workforce after a 11-year break?
Returning to work after an 11-year break was quite challenging – during this time there was new technology, computers and very different procedures that I had to learn. I was very nervous at the beginning but soon regained confidence.
It was also challenging time balancing family with work, however, the income made such a huge difference and being able to pay everyday bills made it all worthwhile.
I did enjoy returning to the workforce and found it extremely rewarding.
What were your secrets of having a successful work/life balance?
The secret to a work/life balance was being organised in the home before and after work and doing a good day’s work efficiently in the specified time frame.
Where you conscious at the time being a trailblazer and a role model for your 3 daughters and the young women you worked with?
Yes, hopefully, was a role model for my daughters at the time and the younger women with whom I worked but I wasn’t conscious of my impact on them at the time.
What did you think when I started my business in 1999?
I was very proud and knew you would excel at the very beginning when you started your new business. In saying that you would have done well in any chosen field because of your determination to succeed. You were good in all areas of maths, numbers and problem solving and have always been interested in learning more and imparting that knowledge to others.
Do you think it is easier or harder for women to successfully combine their career and motherhood these days?
I think probably these days it is easier because it seems the majority are working mothers which is a much different scenario than what it was in years gone by.
Do you have any other advice?
Do the best with what you have to offer and have a balance between work and family – hopefully, you will reap the rewards that I have and the family has benefited as a result.