I have had three planned interstate business trips scheduled over the past two months. I’ve already had to cancel the first two within 24 hours of departure due to issues on the home front. Now as I type this on the eve of the third tomorrow, I have a sick child on my hands (again!).
As a solo parent of three children without family support, it’s a juggle and it’s not easy.
Tory Archbold asked me recently what I thought was the biggest barrier to women progressing up the ladder or really #flourishing in an #entrepreneurial space. My response was:
A) Getting through the very real ‘imposter syndrome’ that women in particular seem to struggle with.
B) Breaking through the limiting beliefs in the stories they are telling themselves on repeat.
C) Affordable and readily accessible childcare.
They can work on the first two but access to affordable and accessible childcare is a systemic issue that I know (from first hand experience) is a huge handbrake on women being able to have the impact they want to. I look around at my own network of female friends in Australia and I have seen them struggle with this same issue and like me, work out a way to juggle things because there’s no other option.
Finding part-time affordable and dependable home help for working parents of school-aged children in Australia is like finding a needle in a haystack in my experience.
I was reflecting with another long-term expat Will Anstee recently about the differences in support for working parents in Australia vs Asia. In Hong Kong, the infrastructure was so different and the expat community understood the challenges we faced with not having extended family around to support. We rallied together to help each other. We understood that the life of an expat was filled with highs and lows – we spoke about things openly with each other. There was no shame in struggling as we knew that it was an inevitable part of expat life. We had each other to lean on and that made all the difference as we knew we could be real.
Of course, it was the norm for families to have live-in care which of course helped enormously but it was my expat friends who became my community and made it possible for me to achieve what I did in Hong Kong. We had school buses that would bring our children home to our doors, clubs where the children could play after school and we knew they were safe, daily after-school activities on school grounds that the older primary-aged kids actually wanted to do (with a late bus to bring them home). But the biggest thing that made it work was that we looked out for each other and each other’s children.
I was the “unofficial” school photographer at my children’s school in Hong Kong, Kellett School, The British International School in Hong Kong. I would turn up at all the events with my camera and take photos of every single child in the various performances to share with the parents. Fellow HK-#expats Lisa Fox and Aparna Kapur Shankar recently reminded me of this as they looked back on six years of photos of their children I’d taken. This was my contribution to the school community and to my friends and their children. It was through this that I got to know many of the children and their parents, and would often end up with one or two ‘extras’ for dinners or a sleepover. It was my way of giving back. What I noticed was that other parents then paid it forward within the community in different ways.
So back in Australia, I’ve taken to calling myself a “Master Juggler” as I negotiate the numerous curveballs that are thrown at me as a mother juggling home and career. My fellow jugglers Fei-Fei Porter, Stella Choe, Marnie LeFevre and Keren Allen have given me some pointers along the way. What I have learnt is the same lesson I learnt when I actually learnt to juggle… keep your eyes on the balls. Which balls are most important and are the ones that you should avoid dropping at all costs? The juggle is real and it is not easy.
So what is my solution to this issue? One word – #Community. It’s all about #connection and the belief that people matter. Period. But how do you go about building community around you when you are the new kid on the block? It has taken me 4 years in Australia and I am slowly getting there. Powerful Steps by Tory Archbold has been a catalyst for me to keep it real and lean further into this space to strengthen my community.
What lessons have you taken about building community around you when you are new to a place?
Millie Edwards, Louise Edmonds, Larissa Kirpichnikov, Dr. Kristie Craigen, Emma Moore, Alina Berdichevsky, Dina Levy, Nicole Frost, Melissa Seymour, Tammy Payne, Ada Jonuse, Michelle Ho, Valerie Ho, Nikola Andersson, Hannah Fahour, Tess Joseph Anna Glynn (MAPP), Dina Pozzo (MAPP. Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator), Amy Tennent, Peter B. Williams, Allison Haworth West, Rachel Lang, Lou Johnson, Kate Davies Margaret Szczepanik, Tahnée Sanders, Elizabeth Barron, Rachel Thompson, Kate Halfpenny
#transitions #expatlife #buildingcommunities #redefiningtherapy #hkexpats #repatriation #expatriation #peoplematter #impostersyndrome #limitingbeliefs