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Working from home is a perk of modern-day employment but what happens when you are forced to work at home for a prolonged period? How do you actually get anything done amid the chaos and detritus of everyday home life? Offspring shares some tried and tested tips.

In these strange and uncertain times, many parents find themselves working from home. In an effort to help stop the spread of the current outbreak of Coronavirus, some employers have closed offices or set up a roster for employees to work from home whilst others are choosing to self-isolate over health concerns.

It’s tempting to think that this will mean you can chill out in your pyjamas all day because really, what’s the point in getting dressed if no one will see you? However, the novelty is likely to wear off quickly.

Boost your productivity and mental health by following this advice:

 

  • Schedule time in your day for work – ideally when the kids are being cared for by someone else, and stick to your schedule.

 

  • Dress appropriately for work – you’ll feel more prepared for challenges and it will help you separate work from play.

 

  • Set up a work space – maybe a desk in your lounge room, or an office in the garage (or shed!) but make it practical and attractive so you’re happy to be there.

  • Start early – your morning can set the tone for the day. Getting up an hour early helps you to get ahead and be ready for when the kids get up.

 

  • Divide the chores between family members – this will help you to concentrate on work rather than using your time on household chores.

 

  • Sort out childcare – sharing childcare with your partner means you can still be there for your children but you can both get work done as well.

  • Equip yourself  – you probably need wireless internet, a laptop and a smartphone to allow you to work flexibly.

 

  • Use chat platforms such as Messenger or email rather than phone calls – that way no-one can hear your toddler yelling in the background!

 

  • Have a box of toys that’s available only when you’re working – pull it out when you need that extra half an hour. The novelty should keep little hands and minds busy!

And most importantly:

  • Take time to rest and reset.

If you are spending more time than usual at home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of always being available. It’s not selfish to take time out to recharge­ – maybe have a bath, curl up on your bed with a book or watch rubbish on TV. The housework can just wait.

This incredible prize will not only give you the opportunity to share your journey and inspire others but will also give your business the exposure you’ve been looking for. Read on for more information on how to enter!

Here at Offspring, we know the dedication and commitment it takes to create your own business. Kate Durack, Editor of Offspring and mum of two, made the decision to launch her own magazine after one particularly difficult sleepless night with her 16-month-old daughter.

Kate’s sleep deprived idea has since evolved into Australia’s largest glossy parenting magazine, sold in three of Australia’s largest cities; Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, not to mention an expansive online audience.

At Offspring, we know it can be hard to step out of the shadows and shine a light on your achievements, but we think it’s time to change that.

To help us celebrate 10 years of Offspring, we will be sharing the story of one deserving mum by making you OUR NEXT COVER GIRL!

In addition to a PROFESSIONAL PHOTO SHOOT, you will also receive an UNBELIEVABLE ADVERTISING PACKAGE with Offspring, worth $50,000! This includes:

  • A FULL PAGE advertisement editorial feature showcasing your story and business.
  • The chance for your business to be seen by 300,000 READERS ACROSS AUSTRALIA.
  • ONLINE PROMOTION in our newsletter and on our website.
  • Advertising across ALL THREE HARD COPY MAGAZINES in Perth, Melbourne AND Sydney.

Entering this competition could not be easier; all it takes is three steps!

Step One: LIKE US on Facebook

Step Two: SIGN UP to our newsletter to be the first to hear about updates and promos

Step Three: SEND US A MESSAGE with your nomination and why you/your nominee should win

SPREAD THE WORD!!! The nominees with the most entries wins so get your family and friends involved!

Former engineer and Perth mother-of-four, Loretta Hill, has found a new career penning best-selling novels about life and love on the mines. She chats to Zoe Deleuil about how she combines writing and motherhood.  

Mine sites in the Pilbara aren’t generally considered the most romantic of settings, but for Perth author and mother-of-four, Loretta Hill, they’ve provided the inspiration and characters for two successful romance novels, The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots and The Girl in the Hard Hat, which was published in January.  

Although she always loved writing, publishing her first short story in The West Australian at the age of 11, Hill followed her father’s advice to pursue a ‘sensible career’ and completed degrees in both engineering and commerce at UWA. Upon graduation she was offered a scholarship and a job with a West Australian engineering company and went straight to work in outback Queensland and the Pilbara. But, after three-and-a-half years, she’d had enough. 

“In the mining industry, I worked twelve hour shifts for five weeks straight, and at the end of that you’re so zonked, it takes you half your week off to recover.”

“I felt like a workaholic, and I never saw my friends and family,” she says. “In the mining industry, I worked twelve hour shifts for five weeks straight, and at the end of that you’re so zonked, it takes you half your week off to recover.” 

She found another job in Perth as a design engineer, meeting her husband and starting a family soon afterwards. Throughout those years of work interspersed with maternity leave she continued writing. She’d completed her first novel, The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots, when she’d returned from the Pilbara and her experiences were still fresh in her mind.  

“But real characters kept walking onto the page, so I left it for awhile and then I had my first child, Luke. I was so sleep deprived that I decided to focus on editing rather than writing, and I ended up spending about three years revising it.” 

The next step was finding a publisher. “I’ve been very lucky,” she says modestly. “In 2010 I went to a writers’ conference in Melbourne where writers could give five-minute pitches about their manuscripts, and I managed to get someone interested. Normally you need an agent to send your work to publishing houses, but by pitching it directly I managed to skip that step.” 

  

“I was so sleep deprived that I decided to focus on editing rather than writing, and I ended up spending about three years revising it.”

The next step was finding a publisher. “I’ve been very lucky,” she says modestly. “In 2010 I went to a writers’ conference in Melbourne where writers could give five-minute pitches about their manuscripts, and I managed to get someone interested. Normally you need an agent to send your work to publishing houses, but by pitching it directly I managed to skip that step.” 

While waiting for news, Loretta found a literary agent, which was easier with a publisher already interested. Eventually the original publisher rejected her novel, but her agent sold it to Random House soon afterwards. It was published in January 2012 and became an immediate bestseller, enabling Loretta to employ a part-time nanny with the royalties while she began work on a second book.  

“I had Beth, my third child, in January 2012. Random House wanted another book within nine months, so that was a busy time,” she says. “Mum helped out a lot and my husband gave me all day Sunday to write. I got the second book done but didn’t have much family time, which was hard. Luckily my editor said the quality was still good, otherwise she would have pushed it back.” 

“I’ve been very lucky. In 2010 I went to a writers’ conference in Melbourne where writers could give five-minute pitches about their manuscripts, and I managed to get someone interested.”

Loretta now has four children, Luke, 5, James, 4, Beth, 2, and Michael, 7 months. Writing is squeezed in between the demands of raising a family, with the two worlds sometimes colliding in unexpected ways, such as having to bribe her children with Freddo Frogs to return the missing ‘f’ key of her laptop, which had become a little loose and then vanished after creating a particularly foul-mouthed character in her second novel.  

“I have a nanny on Fridays and my mum does a half day once a week. Anything else I can snatch is a bonus. Sometimes my husband gives me a couple of hours on the weekend, but generally we try to reserve those for family time. I suppose I love writing too much to not do it. When I’m looking after my kids, my stories are always playing in the background. I can’t seem to escape my alternate reality.” 

“I had Beth, my third child, in January 2012. Random House wanted another book within nine months, so that was a busy time.”

The novels are page-turning romances that capture the tensions and intensity of living day-in, day-out with the same faces, the rough humour, the harshness and physical beauty of the desert landscape. Hill has drawn heavily on her own experience of working on a port construction site where men outnumbered women 350 to five.  

Online reviews enthuse about the characters, the confident storytelling and the detailed picture Loretta builds of life as a FIFO worker – something that, for all the wealth it generates, remains mysterious to many Australians.  

The novels are page-turning romances that capture the tensions and intensity of living day-in, day-out with the same faces, the rough humour, the harshness and physical beauty of the desert landscape.

The success of her novels, after years of work, hasn’t stopped Hill, who is already hard at work on another FIFO novel, The Girl in the Yellow Vest, this time set in Queensland. “I get a lot of fan mail from women in the industry, as well as FIFO wives who want to find out more about life in the mining industry. It’s a gruelling way to make a living, hard on relationships, and I think people who know that life enjoy my books. Other readers are simply curious about life in outback Australia.”  

Madonna’s ex-nanny, Perth-based Angela Jacobsen, chats to Offspring about the challenges and benefits of working for high profile families.

When Angela Jacobson decided to swap her dream of flying planes for a living for a career in childcare, she couldn’t have foreseen she’d end up dancing with her boss, Madonna, for the royal family in India, as a kind of cobbled-together entertainment. The down to earth thirty-three-year old laughingly describes the experience as her, “most bizarre nanny moment,” yet.

“When I was in India with Madonna on her family vacation, we were staying with a king and queen in a palace and all the women were forced to dance for the king, and the princes around them actually, because of the sexist world that they live in,” she explains.

“Madonna made me dance, and she made me wear a sari. That was my weirdest boss moment…I just had to. All the women had to get up and dance for the men. We were in the palace…so I, very begrudgingly, danced around in a sari.”

It was one of many strange celebrity encounters Angela experienced in her 18 months working for the Material Girl who, during her tenure, acrimoniously divorced film director Guy Ritchie. As the sole carer of Madonna’s adopted son, David Banda, Angela joined the singer’s entourage and toured with her, as well as jetting to far-flung locations from her New York base.

Madonna, famed for her discipline and work ethic, is also notorious for demanding her staff work equally punishing hours. According to media reports, the gruelling lifestyle eventually took its toll on Angela and, when she handed in her notice after a year and a half, the furious pop star told her to leave immediately.

“All Madonna’s employees work incredibly long hours, so it’s no surprise that Angela had had enough,” a source told a newspaper, at the time.

“If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a weekend.”

Angela later refuted rumours of a rift with her famous employer, saying, “She was a great boss and I mean it was obviously quite a full-on experience. She was fantastic to work for and a big motivation for me…She’s very much a loving mother.”

Melbourne-born Angela’s experience as Madonna’s nanny was a far cry from her childhood goal of being a pilot. It was a dream she was forced to jettison after her parents divorced when she was seventeen, and she was left in charge of her brother and the family home.

“I didn’t foresee this path,” she says. “I wanted to be a pilot and I was in the Air Force Cadets…It wasn’t as though I set out to do this, it chose me. And as much as I’ve tried to move away at different times, it’s brought me back. It seems that’s what I am now. I’m a carer, and that’s what I do.”

“If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a weekend.”

Nannies inhabit a rarefied space in families. They’re privy to the day-to-day interactions between spouses and parents and children, while being required to maintain a discreet distance from the inner workings of a family. It can be an uneasy mix, this intimacy with strangers.

“You learn a lot,” says Angela, diplomatically, of the trusted position most nannies hold.

“You learn how to treat your husband, how not to treat your husband, what to do with your kids, what not to do with your kids. It’s trial and error for everybody but you learn so much just by being in someone else’s family…I’ve got kids, now, all over the world so to speak…A lot of them are teenagers now and I’ve got them on Facebook…There’s so many positive rewards to come out of it.”

Indeed, Angela, who studied childcare, and has worked as a nanny for average families as well as elite sports people, royalty and celebrities, believes that working overseas as a nanny is one of the best options for young, travel-loving Australians, who might otherwise earn their keep toiling in a cafe or a pub.

“If you’re a nanny you get to live in a beautiful house, you eat lovely food, you go on lovely holidays…it’s hard work but everything in life is hard work. I think that for a young girl, it’s the best way to see the world and also save money. It can set you up for later in life.”

While Angela has used her earnings to invest wisely for her future, she reveals that working for a celebrity boss doesn’t necessarily mean getting paid a celebrity salary. Payment for working for a ‘civilian’ family is on a par with, for example, working for royalty in an Asian country.

“You generally get paid a weekly rate as a nanny,” she explains. “The saving side of it is just incredible. I’ve got two properties. One overseas, and one here in Australia in the city. They were from two different jobs…I basically just set a budget for both jobs.

You don’t pay for anything. You don’t pay for accommodation, or travel. I had a driver in Asia and I had a driver in America too. Or you have a taxi account. All the food is cooked by chefs and all the housekeepers are buying your food, and what have you, and they give you a phone and the internet, all that sort of stuff, so it’s a great way to save some cash. It definitely beats working in a pub!”

Not everyone is cut out for looking after other people’s children, however Angela cites flexibility and patience as the key qualities for being an effective nanny.

“She was a great boss and I mean it was obviously quite a full-on experience. She was fantastic to work for and a big motivation for me…She’s very much a loving mother.”

“You need to be very hard working, as all women do, and all mothers need to be. You need to be flexible, patient, obviously loving and caring. The upside is that it’s a job, so you can leave at the end of the day, or have the weekend free to yourself, and still have your own life, whereas mothers don’t get that break.”

The downside to the job that can offer worldwide travel, a luxurious lifestyle, numerous perks and a window into the cocooned world of the super wealthy, is leaving the children you have become so attached to.

“They’re not your actual children and leaving them would be the hardest part of being a nanny,” Angela says.

“I now put a two year maximum, because I stayed with a family in England for about three years and it just is so hard on me and the children. The baby had grown up just with me. She didn’t know anything else so it was really difficult for me to leave.

 

There becomes a lot of emotional blackmail with the parents as well, at that point, because you are going to upset their children and you are going to upset their life if you move on but, also, you’re a young person that needs their own life. So there’s a fine line.

So, now I like to go in and go ‘okay, I’m doing this for eighteen months or I’m doing this for two years’. It can’t be too short either because that’s not fair on the children to go in and only work for a few months and move on. So to have an outline of how long you’re going to stay for makes it easier…you can see a finish, because sometimes things aren’t that great. So… you…set a goal and say, ‘okay I’m going to work this long and I’m going to earn this amount’. ”

“The upside is that it’s a job, so you can leave at the end of the day, or have the weekend free to yourself, and still have your own life, whereas mothers don’t get that break.”

That focus and determination have seen Angela use her years of professional experience to develop a burgeoning, nanny-related, media career, as well as a number of side businesses. She has written two books, Baby Love and Baby Food, and is just about to start filming a new television show Family 360 (working title) in Singapore.

The show, which Angela describes as having a different focus to the phenomenally successful Super Nanny program, will see her work with local Singaporean families on any problems they may have.

“We go in at the top level, being the parents, and work out the issues that are going on there, because they obviously stem through to the kids,” she states.

“So whether it be nutrition or fitness, or what have you, we tackle it as a whole family and not just go in and put a band aid on and leave. We’ll do eight episodes with one family…and really make it more educational than drama.”

Family 360 is a concept she has discussed with Australian media personality, Steve Vizard, and Profile Talent Management, in the hope the show will be developed in Australia. It’s early days but, so far, the feedback on her idea has been encouraging. Along with her TV show, a project with Google and an interactive Nanny/Babysitting site, utilising Facebook, are also in the works.

Despite her budding media and business careers, Angela is keeping her hand in with the work she knows best and, this time, she’s staying close to home. She recently turned down a job working for the royal family in the Middle East, for a stint as a nanny for an ordinary family in suburban Noranda, Perth.

“I’ve been there and done that with the celebrities and that kind of lifestyle,” she explains, cheerfully.

“I’d much prefer to work in the suburbs of Perth…Everything’s just normal. The kids muck in and help you with the dishwasher unstacking. There’s no maids running around, and all that sort of stuff that I’d got used to.

She pauses for a moment, then laughs. “It’s kind of refreshing to be working back in Australia.”