Sarah Gilbin spends her time making sure everyone else at work is happy. Yet, only recently has she taken the time to explore her own career desires. As a senior HR Advisor at the Department of Communities and Justice, and a mother of three, Sarah has had years to learn how to balance home and work. However, after completing the Grace Papers program 18 months ago following the birth of her third child, she discovered the secret to tackling the juggle: knowing her value at work and at home. Here, Sarah opens up about taking the time to think big, learning to squash the guilt, and how knowing her value helps her stay present – no matter what room she is in.
What’s one strategy that you’ve taken away or put into action after going through the GP program?
I always like to revisit my professional vision statement, to update and change it to fit what is currently going on in my home and work life. Being able to dedicate some time to thinking about what I want my career to look like, and what work I want to challenge myself with in the future is something I never used to do. I’ve found this ever-evolving statement gives me clarity, and helps me make better decisions in my career.
Can you share your previous parental leave experiences compared to your last parental leave with DCJ?
With my first two kids I was working at another government department and did not have the support of the Grace Papers platform and program while I was off on parental leave. Therefore I felt quite disconnected from work and was a bit nervous about returning after taking a year off. This time around, having had the support of the Grace Papers platform and coach, I felt really excited about my return. Throughout my parental leave I had some really great conversations with my coach and my manager, I was really clear about what I wanted to focus on when I returned to the office and where I wanted to develop, and I was also clear about what flexible work arrangements I would need to best be able to do my role, while also allowing me to support my family. This meant that my return to work was not a nervous and anxious time for me, rather it was an exciting and supportive transition back to the office.
What hurdles did you come up against on your journey to balance both career and care? How did you tackle them?
I always felt like I needed to fight to work more flexibly and I would feel guilty about not being fully present at work, but also not being fully present at home. This program helped me understand my value. It also helped me understand that working flexibly actually helps me be better at my role. I am able to work more productively, I have more balance, and I manage my time really efficiently.
What would be your advice to any expectant or new working parent?
Be kind to yourself. The juggle is challenging, and sometimes you feel like you are not doing a great job at either role (being a parent and being an employee), but you are! Know your value, at home and at work, and know that you are doing the best job you can do. So be kind!
What would be your advice to any manager in terms of enabling their staff to balance both career and care?
Have conversations with your employees. Allow them to speak freely about their needs and wants. Understand that transitioning back to work and balancing work and home is challenging for parents. Supporting them, understanding the juggle, and providing a safe space for them to speak freely is really important.
What words do you live by?
Always be kind to yourself and others. Don’t judge, just support.
What I’ve Learned is a series dedicated to sharing the collective wisdom of the Grace Papers’ community.