Olivia Fordham never thought someone so small could change her world in an instant. When her daughter, Sophia, arrived in March last year she was proven wrong. Becoming a parent sparked a tectonic shift in Fordham’s perspective; suddenly life wasn’t about work, but tackling the balance of both work and parenthood. It’s been an experience she has found equal parts joyful and challenging.
After working as a HR officer for the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (formerly NSW Department of Family and Community Services) for almost a decade, Fordham was anxious about negotiating a part-time return to the office. Here, she opens up about tackling the transition, finding flexibility, and developing the confidence to be true to her values.
What strategies did you take away from the Grace Papers program?
The Grace Papers program gave me the confidence to believe in myself and be true to my values. Being clear on what I could manage balancing both parenthood and work – and effectively communicating this to my manager – was vital. Now, 10 months into my return, I still live by the strategy of clear, effective communication. Should I need to take a day to look after a sick child I feel more confident in contacting my manager.
What hurdles have you come up against throughout your journey balancing career and care?
When I transitioned back into work, my biggest hurdle was balancing the hours I needed to follow to allow me to do childcare drop off and pickup. Being clear to my manager about my needs became vital. Having the support of my manager and team allows me to plan my workday around my new needs. Flexibility is key!
What have you learned about yourself through the process?
The Grace Papers program helped me understand that, as a new mum, I am still a valued team member. Working part-time does not restrict your career ambitions. Don’t focus on the unknown.
What would be your advice to any new working parent?
Life is not limited just because you decide to have a baby. Be true to yourself, stand by your values and what you want for both you and your family. Be confident in knowing that your time in the workplace – whether it be part-time or full-time – is valued.
What would be your advice to any leader out there in terms of enabling their staff to balance both career and care?
Flexibility works. Having a workplace that is accepting and flexible can empower a parent returning to the workforce.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself before having a child?
Becoming a mum does not change the person you are. Life is about finding the balance that is right for you.
Do you have a life motto?
Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by choice.