Parenting is the ultimate curveball.
Few parents escape the inevitable shift in priorities that bringing in a child requires.
“Giving up a career” is no longer a necessity – thanks to the advent of daycare and the rise of grandparent care.
But what if your pre-natal working life does not match your post-natal condition?
Is it because of a loss of ambition?
Or are other things important to you now?
It’s okay if the ‘old’ you isn’t the same as the ‘parent’ you
The Sunshine Coast mother of nine-year-old Harlan, Hannah Stacey, found the courage to change the way she lives and works after reaching “near the breaking point”.
“I felt like I had to do anything and after everyone else’s understanding of this standard,” she says.
“I worked many hours in a day job and when I got home I didn’t want to be touched and I was completely exhausted with joy.
“The moment I quit my job, I felt tremendous relief and Harlan felt it too – immediately.”
Hannah quit her job after having her son, vowing “never again to get a day job over 20 hours a week” (
Delivered: Hannah Stacey
Ms. Stacey’s household took stock of her real priorities and the first step was to trim the fat.
They cleaned up, moved to a cheaper area, and let go of materialistic pursuits that were not their own.
Stacey says comparisons on social media and the pursuit of material possessions have led her to work and raise in a way that suited her intuition.
“After I quit, I realized how upset I was all the time,” she says.
“Suddenly I was able to think clearly again and as a family we adjusted our expectations for a lower income.
“Buy the cheaper wine, accept not going to Italy on your next vacation like someone on Instagram did, and cut people off [out] that fuel that culture of exaggerated expectations in you.
“I did a cleanup at a friend’s house and it was really deep.”
Become part of the ABC Everyday community by joining our Facebook group.
Ms. Stacey started building a barre dance and yoga business and began studying holistic life coaching with the promise of “never again getting a day job of more than 20 hours a week”.
“My husband is a musician, that’s his passion, so our hack is balancing our passions and parenting with part-time jobs to pay the bills,” she says.
“That means we have so much more time with Harlan and can take turns both on pickups and special occasions.
“We’ll never look back.”
Hannah and her business partner. (
Delivered: Hannah Stacey
Breadwinners and losers
Lyn Craig, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Melbourne, examines in his most recent, as yet unpublished study, how the mental health of mothers, fathers and children varies greatly depending on the type of employment in the household.
“The idea of working full time after having children doesn’t take into account how extremely difficult it will be for each family member,” says Professor Craig.
“If we could make it possible for both parents to work part-time and look after the child part-time, one would like to attend every second school game instead of having to say, ‘That’s not what I’m here for – no! one will be there ‘.
“Nordic countries have fewer working hours, fewer school hours and much less friction at home – this is no coincidence.”
Professor Craig says Australian society is so focused on education that it has created a labor market bottleneck that few saw coming, especially for women.
“According to the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report, Australia ranks first for educational attainment but 49th for labor force participation,” says Professor Craig.
“This proves that we have a huge construct between our girls’ education and their subsequent sustainable employment, as the burden of social reproduction rests on women.
“The punishment for motherhood is real – many even feel guilty when their committed attachment to their new child outweighs their desire to advance their careers – and we cannot undermine the repercussions.
“It’s okay if everything changes when you become a parent, that’s how it should be, it’s just that nobody has the courage to say that anymore.”
Parenting tips from a time management specialist
Kate Christie is now a time management expert known for helping new parents find an additional 30 hours of lost time each month. That’s how it’s done.
Do not put yourself or your children in second fiddle
For former CEO and reformed workaholic, Fleur Madden, selling her high-intensity business coincided with the realization of her dream of becoming a mother after a long battle with infertility.
And she is looking forward to the end of the “9-5” model.
“The gig economy is the future,” she says.
“I never want to tell my kids, ‘No, I can’t come to the swimming carnival’.
“I never want my kids to feel like they are second fiddle or I wish I were at work instead of with them.
“But I still have ambition and I still have a lot to give and it is archaic to hold the view that work means being in an office from 9am to 5pm.
“In order for things to work for me, I had to go back on my own and build a digital business that I can do with one hand while feeding a baby.”
What changes when you have children
Six mothers and fathers talk about what changed in their lives after they became parents.
It’s hard for dads too
For Daniel Wales from Roma in Queensland, the birth of his daughter six years ago resulted in a traditional gender role reversal in his household.
“As we approached the birth of our daughter, conversations led to my wife returning to work and me to stay at home,” he says.
“It’s the best I’ve ever done – but sometimes you feel very isolated.”
Mr Wales says a Facebook group for stay-at-home fathers has been his lifeline as he got used to the transition from full-time work to full-time parenting.
“This group was a valuable source of information, friendships, and connections,” he says.
Finding support as a first father
From online networking and informal meetings over a beer, fathers are finding new ways to network.
Mr Wales says the old adage that “you have to work like you have no children and parents like you don’t have a job” is an accurate summary of our society’s unattainable attitude towards modern parenting.
“It’s a dissonance that a lot of parents struggle with,” he says.
“But how can we encourage companies to make their working hours and working arrangements more flexible?
“A lot has to change.”
Perhaps we can all just admit that cross country tends to be more compelling than this board meeting – and always will be.
How did your career change after the birth of your children? We would like to know. Email every [email protected]
ABC Everyday in your inbox
Get our newsletter for the best from ABC Everyday every week