Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 2 2009 Contents 47
Without an entitlement to paid maternity leave we
would not have been financially able to extend our
family beyond the two children we had before I
joined the RAAF. With both pregnancies I only took
my paid Maternity Leave of 12 weeks.
My early career choices were focused
on keeping my job and progressing in rank to
maximise the wages I was bringing home.
What did or didn’t work for you with
regards to your maternity leave?
Have you returned full or part-time?
With Alexandra, after her birth, I was asked
to do a small project from home in the latter two
months which helped immensely with keeping
up my currency, continuing to be paid (partly) and
feeling human. It was a fellow female officer (and
mum) that arranged this and it was fabulous. I
definitely think more flexibility in returning to work
should be explored.
Being told I had to take maternity leave four
weeks before Alexandra’s birth (she was late)
meant I could not spend as much time after her
birth with her as wanted. There was a perception
that being pregnant really did mean ineffective.
That’s not the case now.
Coming back to work full-time after having
a baby is a tough call for a new mother. You
need a lot of support. Part-time work is a good
way to get a bit of balance but the work has
to be meaningful. You have to be a self-starter
to find the part-time opportunities that provide
meaningful work that supports your overall career
aspirations. You also have to remember that
flexibility is a two-way street. While it is okay to
expect your workplace to be flexible, you also have
to be prepared to be flexible and help out in peak
Overall, it comes down to choice and self-
help. It is very difficult to have it all, and women
put so much pressure on themselves to try and do
this. You have to be realistic and think about how
best to cope with life as a working mother. There
are loads of opportunities in the ADF for working
mothers, but unfortunately, accessing those
opportunities and making them work for you can be
difficult at times. Initiative is required to make the
situation work to your advantage.
It has been a long time since I was pregnant
and took maternity leave (18 and 13 years
respectively), but I have some clear and lasting
memories of the experience. During my first
pregnancy I was moved to a less demanding job
because my supervisors were not convinced I
would be able to work until six weeks before my
baby was due and return to work after my paid
maternity leave expired. Also, there were no
maternity uniforms so the moment I was unable to
fit into my regular uniforms I lost my identity as a
member of the RAAF.
Five years later, things improved. I remained in
my job, my supervisors did not doubt my ability to
continue my work or my commitment to returning,
and despite my big navy blue maternity pinafore, it
was a uniform and I still felt as though I belonged.
What does work-life balance
mean to you?
I am conscious that the work-life balance
is a tenuous one and wholly dependent on your
working situation at the time. Ashore, I have
found all my superiors have been fantastic about
ensuring that all personnel are able to go to school
assemblies if able, countenance the odd half day
that children have to be in at work and understand
that sometimes you have to take time off for dental
appointments. At sea this is simply impossible,
but this is why we need to ensure the sea/
shore respite ratio is as closely met as capability
requirements can allow.
I do feel I have the right mix now and have
consistently. My current CO is extremely family-
orientated and understands that our jobs often
require us to juggle work and family commitments.
He is very comfortable that families are involved
in as many activities as possible especially the
Naval Community Engagement activities that we
are involved in here at Harman. His attitudes I
have found displayed ‘across the board’ and are
increasingly more prevalent.
Work-life balance is a challenge for most
working mothers and it certainly is for me. In the
modern work environment, it is not realistic to
think that you can simply come to work each day,
work eight hours with an hour for lunch and then
go home and relax.
My outside of work time is devoted to my
family and with three small children my home
life is very busy. But, this is a choice I make. The
demands of my present posting mean that I don’t
have an optimal work-life balance. However, for
my next posting I will probably choose something
less intensive that will help even up the balance.
Now that my husband is working full-time, my
career choices are more influenced by locational
stability. We want to live in our own home we
bought last year and my husband wants the
opportunity to pursue his long-term career goals.
So for me life-work balance means
understanding, and accepting the impact of
the choices that I make have. This means that
sometimes I am not as focused on my family as
other mothers and there are career opportunities
I have to forgo. But on balance I am happy that I
have a functional family and a satisfying career.
Defence policy on maternity leave:
aDf – Health Directive 235 / PacMan
chapter 5 Part 4
aPs – Defence Workplace Relations Manual
chapter 8 Part 4 / Deca – Part f17 / Maternity
Leave (commonwealth employees) acT 1973
A working mother’s perspective on
By Michael Weaver
Discussing the finer points of maternity leave are
(L-R) LcDR stacey Porter, WgcDR Bernadette
finglas-Watson and LTcOL Bronwyn Worswick.
Photo: Michael Weaver
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