Survival Mode – A Pregnant Mum in Melbourne Lockdown


Families across Australia will remember what they were doing in March 2020, the last month of normality before covid-19 really hit.  Our family had just participated in the ultimate New South Welshman betrayal – we packed up the family home in Sydney and moved to Melbourne.  I was pregnant, had just started work in a new job, was running my start-up and was transitioning our two-year-old into a new city and a new day care centre. 

As covid-19 case numbers started increasing daily, friends started pulling their kids out of day care but I found myself frozen by indecision. I was stuck between the pressure and expectation of being a “good parent” and the reality I would face which was juggling work and caring for a toddler at home while being heavily pregnant. The mum-guilt was consuming. We pulled our son out of day care and commenced the daily trapeze, swinging between the priorities of parenting and work all the while hoping like hell we didn’t fall.  

The hardest part of being pregnant during covid-19 wasn’t going to appointments alone, being scanned by a doctor in a face shield or the threat of labour without my partner if I had any cold or flu symptoms. It was the total sense of isolation from my family.  An inability to plan for who would look after our toddler in the hours and days after birth. Our plan was a flawed one. To hope that lockdowns eased by my due date and that our parents would be allowed to cross the border into Victoria. 

My labour came three weeks early and with no family available, we urgently called a nearby friend to come over to help. Fast forward all of sixty minutes and my water had broken, the ambulance had been called and I was pushing. My husband had triple zero on the phone, assuming the role of our expensive obstetrician and trying to decipher instructions on how to deliver our baby, while also calming down our toddler who was determined to get in bed with his screaming Mum. 

Our son was born in the back of an ambulance without his Dad. Covid-19 meant no accompanying passengers were allowed.  

I thought that my isolated, back of an ambulance birth would be the peak of stress the pandemic could throw at our family. Then came Stage 4 lockdowns. 

Locked in an apartment with a newborn and a toddler makes labour seem like a breezy memory. The solitary hour we are allowed to leave the apartment each day has resulted in my highly energetic toddler using our hallway as a racetrack, Peppa Pig being played on repeat and so many online purchases that our living room looks like a day care centre. 

Every day I am reminding myself “it’s only for a short time, I’m not a bad parent.”  Juggling young children in stage four restrictions has a name in our house: survival mode.

We will survive it, apart but together. 


Julia Hardiman – September 2020



“I could say no to the promotion or ask for a pay cut”: the choice for working mums.

Australian families are grappling with our first recession in twenty-nine years and for some reason the Australian Government has chosen to turn its back on working mothers. July saw us slapped with the ‘snap back’ to a broken childcare subsidy system, one that discourages women to work more than three days a week and encourages women to say no to higher paying, leadership roles. This story is of Rhea, a working mum who, as the all too familiar story goes, has little choice when it comes to progressing her career and care responsibilities due to the failures of the current subsidy set up. 

There is sufficient evidence to say we need a change to the current childcare subsidy system. Participation in early childhood education, has significant economic benefits from the perspective of increased female workforce participation and benefits for children. A ‘shecession’ has been called out as a result of the global pandemic and it doesn’t make sense to go back to a childcare subsidy that encourages women to work less, not more.

Rhea recently grappled with the restraints of the child care subsidy model that meant she had to choose between working five days a week, for effectively six-dollars an hour, or saying no to a promotion she had been working towards for years.

Rhea is a social worker for a large, non-government organisation, her promotion meant she would be taking on a leadership position following her maternity leave. Most people would think that a promotion and a pay rise could only bode well for the family budget. Unfortunately, it means her family would hit the child care subsidy cap (an annual cap of $10 373 per child) and as a result child care would become unaffordable. Working full time, in a leadership position means that her family would be worse off, despite her working longer hours, in a more stressful job. Rhea said:

“I could choose between saying no to the promotion or working for six dollars an hour after tax and childcare costs. What would be the point?”

We are talking about an economy that is struggling, so why are we ignoring the evidence? Female leadership is good for business. The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Gender Equity Insights report (2020) lists ‘critical actions’ that companies need to take to address gender inequality in the workplace and make the most of this fact. Two key call outs are increasing the representation of women in leadership and addressing the gender pay gap. The subsidy the way it stands discourages both of these critical actions. 

Now more than ever we need a childcare subsidy system that supports Australian families with a better choice.

The global pandemic threatens setting women back a generation.  There is currently unprecedented spending to stimulate the economy, why won’t the government look at an old problem that need a better solution (one that has already been delivered to them on a silver plate)?

We are begging for a common-sense approach. We need a new system. One that allows the Rhea’s of the world; intelligent, hard-working, motivated mothers who want to work more, a chance to do just that.

Maybe, just maybe, it would be a good news story for the tanking economy too.

Why I can’t afford to work full time with a child care subsidy ‘snap back’

Working Mum

Why doing a ‘snap back’ to the childcare subsidy model means I can not afford to work full time.

They say there are two sides to every story and this is certainly true when it comes to the Australian governments ‘free childcare’ program. On one hand you hear about the need to stop free childcare, that centres can’t afford it or that some parents  can’t access the care they need. On the other are the small business owners, parents who have lost jobs and those hit hardest by the global pandemic, pleading with the government not to be so hasty in switching it off.

Whichever side you are sitting on there is one thing we all agree on:

The current (pre-covid) child care system is broken.

Having spent the majority of two and half years at home with two kids, I recently thought, maybe I will go back to work full time. I genuinely feel like I need a mental break from being a Stay at Home Mum.

In the end, I have no choice to make. We quickly realised no matter which way we cut it, our family would be worse off if I was working full time.

In three days our family hits the childcare subsidy cap of $10 373 per child. When we did the sums it came to light, I would basically be paying for the privilege to work any additional days over three. If I wanted to work part-time in my own business we, hands down, couldn’t afford it and if I went back to work full time in my ‘real job’ our day care costs would be so high there would barely be any point.

Given the current global climate, I couldn’t believe I would be saying no to work due to unaffordability of childcare.

KPMG looked at the ‘cost of coming back’ for mothers in 2018 and in particular called out that when women want to increase their days above three per week, they are faced with significant workforce disincentives. Our family, like many others, would be worse off by myself (the mother) wanting to return to work full time.

The KPMG example that really struck me was one where two partners are earning each the equivalent of $100K annual income. I like this example, because I previously worked as a Physiotherapist in the NSW public healthcare system, given the award wages this would most likely be my income had I stayed on.  Okay, so we have two hard working, health care professionals working in the public healthcare system. This is not the story of corporate couples working in finance and law with huge amounts of disposable income. If the mother decided to return to work full-time, she would cost the family $4,082 a year by increasing her work days to five.

It doesn’t make financial sense for women to work more.

It makes financial sense for them to work less.

It is clear how we have landed with the common parenting model of one primary earner (usually the father) and one primary carer and secondary earner (usually the mother).

Prior to having our first child my husband and I were on even salaries. Since taking maternity leave and returning to work part time, I have had no career progression, I had career regression when I wasn’t able to return to work part-time as a manager and I haven’t had a pay rise.  From an operational and performance based reward perspective, I understand why I am in this position, but as a result, our family’s pay gap is substantial.

The problem: Now that I am in this position, I can’t get out.

We now have a clear primary income earner. We can’t afford for me to go back to work full time, to put myself back in the race and start to even out the playing field again. My partner and I had always considered that he may take paternity leave and be the primary carer if we had more children, but now our pay gap is so large, this is no longer an option.

There has been so much talk about essential jobs and keeping those with jobs in work. Here is an opportunity to change things for the better so women can actually afford to work more.

Why would we ‘snap back’ to a broken system when we should be taking the opportunity to fix it?



Why covid-19 nearly killed then saved our babysitting start-up

Always have a babysitter you can rely on

March 2020 was meant to be the make or break point for SitClique. As co-founders and sisters our business dynamics has always had its own special challenges. We are always sensitive to each other’s personal needs as much as we are to the business’ needs. Given that we had been on the entrepreneurship roller-coaster for about 18 months and with increasing demands from work and life we had decided at the start of 2020 we would give ourselves until June to hit our growth targets. If we couldn’t get  increased traction within four months, it would be time to admit defeat, let go of the dream and our beloved business would fall into the pit of statistics that 90% of start-ups fail. 

We don’t need to remind you about covid-19 in March 2020… 

COVID-19 not only killed the opportunity to work on the business as our sole ‘employee’ was now a full-time stay-at-home Mum again but our main service offerings, flexible babysitters and in person, ‘meet and greet’ events were completely obliterated. Our website traction was silent for weeks. We had no new users and no growth. Folding, at times, has seemed inevitable.


The one thing that kept us going was knowing that women more than ever were struggling with work-home pressures. During these crazy times, our mission for all women to have the opportunity to be financially independent and not be limited by their domestic care responsibilities feels more important than ever. 


So we didn’t give up, we spent the time we had talking to our customers (you), re-envisioning the customer journey and unlocking your pain points. We had our initial assumptions about what was ‘valuable’ to you completely challenged. What we initially thought was the need for instant bookings was replaced by the need for a worry-free experience when connecting with carers. 


We have been forced to completely re-scope our business model and service offerings. 

As the fear has started to settle, social distancing easing and parents continuing to struggle with reduced daycare numbers, home schooling and new challenges for before and after school care parents are reaching out needing help to relieve the increased pressures at home.Only now, as our personal covid-19 silver lining, do we have the offering to truly meet their needs.


We were faced with the perfect storm and we are glad to say we are still standing to tell the tale. 


You can see the result by checking out our new premium packages.

It’s the childcare Hunger Games;  it is every family for themselves

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion with a thick layering of parental guilt about whether to keep the kids in childcare. Firstly, we were made to feel guilty about killing the industry when we kept the kids at home due to the uncertainty around COVID-19. When the Government introduced “free childcare” it certainly helped the family budget by taking the pressure off paying fees for a service we weren’t using. The package did feel a little off point though. It did make us feel less guilty about throwing away money, but let’s be honest, the reason we were keeping our kids home was the risk of them getting a virus that is highly contagious and has a frightening mortality rate, not the fees. 

Working from home and socially isolating with two small children has been challenging to say the least. We decided we would take the risk and allow some help into our little haven, we hired a babysitter for a couple of days a week. Having some extra help has been a huge relief, being able to do a couple of hours of work has meant I can still work on our small business but it has reduced the hours available to about one third due to affordability of in-home care. With the numbers of COVID-19 reducing significantly this week, we decided it was probably safe for the kids to get back into a normal routine and we called the daycare centre to let them know the good news. We are coming back. 

When I phoned the centre, I was told some both disappointing and extremely confusing news. The Director informed me that there may not be a spot available for us. “Wait, what? We thought keeping the kids at home was killing the industry?” I was told that what had previously been a class of 12 children now only has a capacity for 5.  The reason for which they said was, the impact of the new government funding scheme for the childcare industry meant they could no longer afford to service the usual number of places. We were told we would not only have to demonstrate that we were essential workers but that parents would then be rated and compared against each other to determine who would get the 5 coveted spots. I was told to put a case together, send through documentation from my HR department that I was employed and earning and they would then consider how many days our family was worthy to access.  

We were first guilted about keeping our children away from daycare and now we are being guilted about sending them back. Daycare centres have always been competitive, we have all done the leg work trying to get a spot in our preferred centre. This level of competition is extreme. There can only be finite winners and to win you must prove the others (parents and children) are less worthy. It’s every family for themselves.

The parental guilt continues. We love the centre and the teachers and want the kids to go back so we can get some more work done. Now I am questioning whether we are worthy.  We don’t work in healthcare and we do not want to push out another family that maybe needs the support more than us. If every member of society who is earning an income is considered an essential worker and should have access to childcare, why are we now competing for spots?

Maybe for now we will volunteer as tribute and keep the kids at home. 

Where are all the Working Mums? 

We have all had some pretty uncomfortable conversations in our homes over the past month. What would happen if one of us gets COVID-19?

Would we separate the family to try and isolate it? What happens if one or both of us lose our jobs? Should we take the kids out of school/daycare? Who will look after the kids?

Will I quit work to take care of the kids?

As three women who grew up on the fairy tale that Cinderella went to university, got a good job and only then thought about getting married (if she chose,  while she maintained her independence) to live happily ever after,  we have found this particular question one of the most uncomfortable.

We are children of the 80’s and as a result we have never really had to think about whether we would work or take care of the kids. We have always been able to do both. Paid maternity leave and flexible work options have made the decision to be Working Mums pretty straight forward, not always easy, but certainly accessible. We never had to choose.

COVID-19 has meant we are now being told to keep the kids home from school and daycare if we can. The information is unclear on whether kids are safe from COVID-19. The Government’s position on keeping schools and daycares open to ensure Essential Services’ children have care seems sensible. As parents who have been lucky enough to be in industries where we still have jobs but we can socially distance and work from home, we are put in an ethical dilemma. Do we send the kids to school/daycare despite common sense telling us that these environments are hotbeds for viruses to spread? Or do we pull the kids out and in that case how do we get any work done?

Working Mums know that the juggle of work and parenting is a challenge on the best of days. If you are a working Mum you are often working longer and harder (when the kids are in bed) trying to prove you are still a good employee, that you still care. Work from home and social distancing has certainly made this more challenging again.

If you have kids under the age of four and you are ‘working from home,’ you know this is basically impossible. Trying to squeeze work in, through nap times, before they wake in the morning and after they get to bed. Alternatively, if they are at primary school, we are expected to home school our children while we work. This is when the fear is setting in, are we going to be seen as not pulling our weight at work? In this landscape if someone is going to be made redundant or “stood down” will it be us? This is when that feeling “can I do this or do I need to quit my job” is hitting us the hardest. Is it worth it? Are we being selfish trying to keep our jobs and should we surrender for the short term and become full time carers?

Despite the insecurity and uncertainty we feel, we believe there must be a better way to ensure, that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic women are not having to decide; work or kids? That there needs to be more flexibility and consideration from workplaces and the Government on how this can be achieved.

What about Working Dads? If every job in the economy is essential, perhaps some flexibility should be considered on hours and days of working Dad’s so they can do more in less. Allowing both parents to care and work at home equally.  Could workplaces accept that standard working hours no longer apply? That one parent can do 6am to 12pm and one do 12pm to 6pm and cover the rest off when the kids are in bed.

What about in-home care? The new measures last week from the Government for “Free Chidcare” are great for those of us who aren’t comfortable sending our kids to daycare in the current climate. It means we don’t need to  pay for a service we are not using. It doesn’t really help us though in getting an alternative childcare solution while we work from home. The fact that schools remain open if you choose to send your kids has the same kind of  limited impact. Why has there been no conversation about changing the way we access childcare, for the short term, in our homes, to minimise the risk of contagion?

How are people managing work and parenting when the kids are home? Are people still relying on grandparents? Are you taking extra leave days from work?

How could we support working parents better?

Let us know what you think on Facebook or at [email protected]

Stay healthy, stay safe.