A Woman at Work–in the Land Down Under

I am officially a working mommy again—earning a pay check!  I successfully got through two five-hour workdays!  Actually, the ‘work’ part was kind of a breeze—no one pooped their pants the whole time I was there; I got to sit down to eat lunch; and I got to make conversation that didn’t consist of rhyming words.  I felt a bit guilty on Tuesday, when my new boss asked me how I felt after Monday’s training—he asked if I got home and just collapsed, feeling overwhelmed with all the information.  I had to tell him that, no, I didn’t collapse, I went full speed ahead dealing with two kids who had decided to be difficult all evening after spending their days at school.  Getting the three of us packed up, out the door, and each to our respective places was the biggest challenge of the day—each boy has to bring quite a bit of gear to school, especially on Monday, and then we bring it all back home Tuesday.  Steve is going to start dropping off and picking up both boys on Mondays, after his two-week break from school.  In all the time we have had kids, he has never done ‘the drop off’, has never done the morning routine.  I have to admit I am looking forward to hearing how it goes!  Except, I am there the whole time to help them get out the door and they drop me off at the train station when they pull up at Drew’s school, so Steve gets off easy! 

I only had two minor problems—the first was finding parking at Zach’s school and the train station; they are on the same street.  We could only find space on a side street across a very busy road, and, since no one lets you cross the street over here, it was a bit scary getting us both across and to his school.  After that, I got a bit lost trying to leave the train station at my stop, but it only delayed me a few minutes.   Other than that, as all working Moms do, I just need to find a magic fairy that will cook dinner, do the laundry, buy the groceries and clean the house while I am at work, and things will be easy—I can just play with the kids when we get home and get them to bed! 

As far as work differences go, it is a bit hard to know, because not only is it a different country, it is an entirely new industry for me.  For the first time, I work in an ‘office’ that closes at the end of the day and on weekends and holidays, rather than people’s home, where staff is needed around the clock.  The training I am getting seems much more comprehensive than any job training I have ever received, and it is for what seems to be a much simpler, low-stress, entry-level position than I have had since college.  That is great!  The work environment also seems a bit more relaxed and slower paced—so far.  Of course, I have not done any actual work yet.  Almost all of the staff took a break on Tuesday to have a special morning tea, where they celebrated three ladies’ birthdays and had me give a speech to introduce myself.  I know how Aussies love their speeches—at weddings anyone who feels like it is encouraged to get up and speak, for as long as they want to, and pretty much any big gathering for a special occasion includes speeches of some sort.  So, this request made me pretty nervous.  Because I don’t fully ‘get’ the Australian sense of humour, I am unsure of how I did.  My boss had told me all these different topics to cover, and I did not talk about all of them, but one guy loudly laughed and commented about how I can really get going—yikes!   The tea also included the now typical spread of sweet, fattening treats—there were two kinds of cupcakes and three chocolate cakes, all homemade by ladies in the office, as well as typical cheese and crackers and the Aussie staple—sausage rolls.  This was for about 30 people. 

I also need what’s called a Tax File Number, which I equate to a social security number.  I applied for it online about two weeks ago, in another process that thoroughly confused me—what else is new?  It came in yesterday and apparently is used to determine the amount of tax taken out of my checks I guess.  I don’t know what else it’s used for. 

A couple very cool differences—even at 10 or so hours per week, I will accrue paid sick leave and vacation time.  I also am told to sign up for a ‘superannuation fund.’  This is similar to our 401k system, but I just choose whichever bank and fund I want to use and then the company contributes 9% (yes, 9!) of their dollars to my fund.  It is automatically completely vested, all mine, no matter when I leave, and I don’t have to contribute my own money to it at all, although I can if I want to.  In addition, they are required to give me notice if they want to get rid of me—at least a week I think. 

Finally, because of government rebates and assistance here, it looks like it will only cost less than $30 per day for Zach’s childcare, which I should exceed quite easily in less than two hours of part time work (I am a bit nervous to see how much is taken out in taxes to pay for all these great benefits, but it can’t be THAT much, can it?!).

In other exciting news, we are being invited places!  Yippee!  On Tuesday last week, Zach and I were invited to meet one of the Mom’s of a girl in Drew’s class, and her two younger daughters at a nearby park to play after we dropped the older kids off.  She is from Fiji and her husband is American and they seem like great people.  On Friday, the boys and I were invited to a friend’s house that we met at our new playgroup, to make Easter chocolates (I got lost twice getting there, once because we had to go straight from our swimming lessons, but that is another story—Screw the guy who made angry gestures at me when I ended up going slow and in the wrong lane!).  This family is from South Africa and are lovely as well.  They have invited us for afternoon tea this weekend, which I really hope to make, although out of nowhere, we actually have a busy weekend, full of plans.  Yay!  This coming Saturday, we are invited to bbq at a friend’s house that I met at my former playgroup, and they are like Steve and I—she is American married to an Aussie, has been here 15 years.  I am finding that all of us people from other countries seem to gravitate towards each other.  We have a lot in common naturally—all of us are homesick; all of us find some things odd here, some things wonderful, as with our home countries, and all of us have been through this experience of making this major move, hoping to do something good for our families. 

Last Friday, the new playgroup I joined had their ‘once per term’ Mom’s social.  The school year here is divided into four terms—with two week breaks after the first three—in April, in June and in September, and six weeks after the last one, the end of the year.  I met the other Moms at a nearby cafe for coffee and cake that evening.  While everyone was very kind and genuine, the evening made me feel very homesick for my girls, and for that ease of conversation and familiarity.  Maybe it’s sad to say, but I much prefer a cocktail over coffee on a Friday night, and even though I really intended to, I just couldn’t bring myself to order a hot drink on this gorgeous, balmy evening, so stuck to water.   It was the first evening out that I’ve had here, where I was easily the outsider.  They were all Australian women, friends through their church, and I just didn’t jive easily with much of the conversation.  It all seemed quite serious, although, as I said they were all so nice and friendly.  They asked me about my home, and were so helpful explaining their conversations (A big one was all about net ball, a game I had never heard of but is apparently similar to basketball, except players are not allowed to take any steps while they are in possession of the ball.).  It just made me miss the easy, goofy laughter with my friends, and, of course, the cocktails.  But I was very proud of myself for doing it.  I knew I would have had more fun with our old friends that had wanted to get together that night for Friday night footy for the boys and wine and chatting for us girls, but I knew that I needed to do that activity, to get out of my comfort zone and I am glad I did. 

Other than that, which was in actuality a good experience that I am just being a baby about, it has been a great week.  The weather cleared up over the weekend and has been gorgeous since.  It is cool now in the mornings and evenings and around the low 80s during the days, which is fantastic.  Drew’s school had a family open house on Sunday, where he got to show us around.  He really enjoyed that, and we got to talk to some nice families, and then they had the standard afternoon tea sweets, complete with a giant chocolate cake right at kid level.  Today we went to the church music time at Steve’s school, where they made it a special Easter event since all of these programs are off as of Friday for two weeks.  Drew was sent home from school yesterday with a big chocolate Easter egg and then today after the music and morning tea, there was an Easter Egg Hunt, for small chocolate eggs.  Because of this, I tried to avoid giving my boys sweets at morning tea, knowing they would be getting chocolate right after.  But Drew started crying seeing all the other kids eating chocolate eggs and cakes, so an older lady went and got them each one—nice.  I think after today I just need to give up worrying what sweets they eat.  It’s just pointless here.  And, thankfully, they eat all the healthy food I provide for them each day and are very active and on the small side—let’s just hope we can all steer clear of obesity here!  I am just as bad if not worse than they are at eating all the sweets when they’re right in front of me—and I love to bake as well!  Aahh, well, what can you do?  I didn’t sleep at all Sunday night because of my nerves and then last night Zach didn’t sleep—he has done relatively well at day care so far, only cried for me once, while I was gone on Tuesday, and it didn’t last long, but he has been super clingy and ‘off’ since.  So, today, I overslept for my exercise and then when I got jogging I just had a really hard time.  I forgot to mention that on Monday when I jogged, I ran an extra kilometre because I got lost (are we seeing a pattern here?  I get lost a lot!), so I was whipped from that.  And, taking the train makes me feel really good—the public transportation system here is really good, although it seems they could run more often than every half hour.  I feel like I am leaving less of a stamp on the earth and it feels good, walking to and from the stations and involves a lot of stairs to the platforms and exits.  All that, combined with a clingy 24-pound child that wants to be held all the time right now, and a lack of sleep, has left me pretty sore.  Sometimes, you just need to listen to your body and slow it down a bit……

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