Work’s well worth it, despite the struggle

I love my family and I love my job, but I confess that I don't always love the juggle. I posted this on Facebook the week that school went back after a stressful morning getting my six-year-old twins to class and myself to work. Judging by the response, I struck a nerve. 

My update attracted a chorus of “me too” from my contemporaries, a few cries of “it gets better” from those slightly older than me and well-meaning comments from older friends and relatives asking why I work.

Everyone should think about why they work and whether their job is really meeting their needs. 

Of course, the ability to earn a crust is top of mind for me, as it is for most Australians. The cost of living means most people need to work if they can.

We bought our home when my husband was studying and I was the main breadwinner, so I already know that paying our mortgage on one income is not a whole lot of fun. But even if we didn't need two incomes, I would still work. That's both as a form of insurance, and because I enjoy it. 

My kids are only little once, but I'll only have this time in my career once too. I know they're well cared for, they know they're loved and I make sure I give them my time and attention most of the time when I'm not working. The truth is it's hard to get your career back on track after an extended break, especially these days when so many industries are in turmoil because of technology and globalisation.

When people take time out, they are giving up not just current earnings, but also future earnings from stalled career progression and superannuation.

You never know what life will bring. You can, and should, take out insurance for the possibility of death and disability, but one in three marriages end in divorce, and you can't insure your marriage.

In our society it's usually mothers who drop out of the workforce or work part-time to bring up children. And most single-parent households are led by women. 

I believe it's wise to protect your future earning capacity by keeping your experience and networks current. If worst came to worst, I want to be able to house and clothe and feed my children. We often talk about flexible working practices to enable parents to manage the juggle with childcare and work, and that's well and good. But maybe we should be thinking about how to make the work itself better too.

Caitlin Fitzsimmons is editor of Money.