International Women’s Day – a working mother’s story
As I listened to the radio on my way to work, I noted that today is International Women’s Day. It got me thinking about my own circumstances and what it means to be a working woman nowadays. Most of the women calling in to the station felt that particularly since they had children, life as a working woman and mother had become significantly more difficult. Their relationships with their employers, cooworkers and the way they were viewed and treated at work had changed. This left them feeling undervalued and like a burden rather than an asset.
My story is different. It’s a love story of sorts. I began work with Beyond Bank (or CPS ACT as we were then known) in 2003. I began in our branches as a teller, getting to know our customers learning all about exceptional service and exactly what that means. A few months later, I was offered a role in the Marketing department. I was excited to try something different but nervous as I was a total novice. And so my love affair with my job began.
Immediately I wanted to know everything about Marketing. Beyond Bank were amazing, they put me through school while I was working so I could learn on the job. I was given days off to attend school for exams and senior staff members were instrumental in guiding me and allowing me to independently flex my marketing muscle wherever possible.
In 2004, I began a romance with a colleague. Usually these are advised against, but it truly was the best thing that ever happened to me. In 2005, we married and came back from our honeymoon with the same surname and wondering if continuing to work together at the same place would work out. We both worked really hard and continued to enjoy working at Beyond Bank.
In 2009, I became pregnant with our first child. We were ecstatic…and then we were worried. How would this affect my job? Would I be able to continue working once my baby was born? We really couldn’t afford me to give up my work totally and to be honest, I didn’t want to – I loved my job. We needn’t have worried. Beyond Bank was beyond amazing from the minute I was pregnant. I was extremely sick the first five months. The mornings were the worst and I could barely function between the dizziness and the non stop vomiting. My boss was amazing. Straight away she allowed me to changed my work hours so I could start later in the morning once the worst of it was over. I don’t know how I would I would have made it through that period without her support.
I smile to myself thinking about the rest of my pregnancy. My workmates teasing me about “just how many are in there anyway?” the times I fell asleep on the lounge while eating my lunch in the tea room, poring over sonograms with my teammates to decide if the baby was a boy or a girl. But most of all, I remember Beyond Bank granting both myself and my husband time to attend our antenatal appointments and the support we received to ensure that both myself and my baby were as healthy as possible while I continued to work.
The support didn’t stop there. Once my baby was born, I took a year’s parental leave to take care of him. During this time, I was kept updated on what was happening at work via staff bulletins, phone calls and invitations to our regular communications nights so I was not a year out of the loop when I returned. Beyond Bank converted my full time role to a part time one so I was able to continue in the job I loved. A private room was made available for me to express milk so I could continue to breast feed my baby while working. I was also given a laptop and phone so I could work from home one day a week. This has been invaluable to my happiness and work/life balance.
I now have 3 little boys, the oldest of whom just turned 6. To say life is busy is an epic understatement. But still we are happy and our life feels balanced. I often bring the children in to visit the office and everyone loves seeing how much they have grown and their little personalities emerging. I am a working woman, but I am also a mother who gets to spend quality time with her children without sacrificing a career I love to do so. The happiness translates into my work as I am always willing to go the extra mile for the job and organization who have taken good care of myself and my family. The littlest things have made the biggest difference. Sometimes life happens – your child gets sick, a carer gets sick, a school play is on or you have a parent teacher interview. Beyond Bank takes work/life balance very seriously, they know that a happy employee is a good employee. They don’t want us to miss out on the important things in life just because we are working. Work/Life balance days are given to employees annually and we are highly encouraged to take them.
As I listen to the radio, my heart goes out to other working women who are not treated as well by their employers as I am. Women are extremely important in the workplace. By penalising women for being mothers and making it difficult for them to work, we miss out on the valuable contribution they make to the workplace. Reflecting on this day, it is my hope for the future that other employers take a leaf from Beyond Bank and learn to appreciate the valuable asset they have in the working mother.