How do I juggle being a parent and CEO?
For 5 years, Ruby has been nanny to our kids and a personal assistant to me. She brings order to chaos. She’s a champion multitasker. Ruby’s like a second mum to our kids. (Some days it feels like she’s a second mum to me.)
The truth is, there is no way I could do what I do — as a CEO, mum or spouse — without her.
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Celebrities and social media influencers make it look like they’re doing it all by themselves. (Think Kim Kardashian lecturing women to ‘get your f*cking ass up and work’.) The reality is most have a small army of people behind them. Running interference. Organising travel. Picking up their kids. Managing their schedules.
They don’t do any of it alone. They couldn’t.
Neither can I.
It’s time we recognise the notion of women ‘doing it all on our own’ for what it is. A myth. An impossible fiction — damaging to women’s identities and demeaning to our value.
The myth of ‘doing it all’ says that I’m worth less if I need help juggling my career and family. If I struggle to keep up, the myth of ‘doing it all’ says I should choose one: career or home — and it should probably be home.
The myth of ‘doing it all’ also erases the people who help us get it done. When I asked Ruby if it was OK to share this story, she mentioned that often people don’t take her work seriously. They see it as somehow secondary, of lesser importance. Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s no way for me to measure the impact Ruby has on our lives. I could not do what I do for a living. My agency, ntegrity, could not have the impact we have apart from her.
But of course, I’m immensely privileged to be able to hire someone like Ruby. This option is inaccessible to most women — which is why businesses like mine and governments like ours need to step up.
If we want more women to be able to juggle parenthood and careers, then we need more workplaces with pro-parent policies. That’s why ntegrity offers paid parental leave for all parents, regardless of gender. My partner Kyle (who’s also the agency’s creative director) and I took advantage of this policy to support each other after the birth of our second child. Kyle kept the business thriving while I took my maternity leave. Then when I was ready to come back as CEO, Kyle made the most of our inclusive parental leave policy — and took over as ‘house manager’.
But paid parental leave and flexible working is only a start. Under current law, I can’t give my staff a parental support allowance, to help them hire someone like Ruby, without it being taxed as a fringe benefit — at a whopping 47%. There is nothing fringe about the need for parental support.
I can’t do it all alone. Neither can you. The thing is, we shouldn’t have to.
Removing the fringe benefits tax on parental support wouldn’t cost our government a thing. I’m not asking for a handout or tax relief; I’m asking for the opportunity to provide a benefit to help working parents thrive without being excessively penalised.
If other employers were to get on board, together we could boost Australia’s GDP by increasing women’s participation in the workforce — both as professionals working for companies like mine and as professional caregivers working in homes like mine. It’s time we all do our part — individuals, businesses and governments — to give women the support they deserve, so they can balance their lives in the ways that work for them.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.