The Juggle Between Work and Family Life (from our Guest working mum, Kellie Wade, Diversity Manager at King & Wood Mallesons)

I’d like to introduce you to Kellie Wade, a senior HR professional who has first hand experienced the return to work and who has kindly offered to share her story. Also mums@work client, she is an inspiration to working mums and dads out there…

Hello everyone, I’m Kellie Wade and I am currently the Diversity Manager at King & Wood Mallesons.  I am also a mother to 3 daughters under the age of 3.  And I am still (relatively) sane.  So right there are three things that I take great pride in on a fairly regular basis! 

The majority of my career has been spent in generalist HR and since joining King & Wood Mallesons in 2003 (when it was still known as Mallesons Stephen Jaques) I’ve held a range of People & Development positions.  Prior to commencing my first period of parental leave in June 2009 I was the People & Development Centre Manager for our Sydney office with responsibility for a team of 6 HR professionals and an internal client base of approximately 500 legal and support staff. 

I found that the beauty of parental leave was that in between the life changing chaos of nappy changes, feeding and sleep deprivation, I was given an opportunity to actually step back and reflect on my career – the achievements, the challenges, and the future direction. 

From that reflection I knew that whilst I really enjoyed where I worked and the people I worked with, I was ready for a role that would still make use of my skillset but in a different capacity, and preferably with a different pace.  And so began a conversation between myself and my manager to explore this further.  Starting that conversation was the key to ‘what next’, and I was fortunate in that my ‘what next’ ended up resulting in a move out of the generalist & operations HR side of the business into the small but growing specialist team of Diversity, an area which I quickly came to realise was not only highly relevant to the firm, but also incredibly relevant to my own particular moment in time. 

Several months after returning from my first period of parental leave to my new role as Diversity Manager I went on parental leave again – this time to become mother to twins.  Not surprisingly, that was the real game changer for me.  The twelve months that followed were in equal parts joyous, insane and adrenaline-inducing.  One thing that didn’t alter during that time however was my desire to resume my career again.  If anything that desire had ramped up significantly during the preceding year and so despite encountering some nay-sayers (‘well surely you’re not going back to work are you??’), I  was determined to not only return to work but to actually make it work

The first thing I did was have a long and honest conversation with my husband.  How could we make this work?  What would the impact be on our home life?  How would we both need to change and adapt? Could we do it and not go grey overnight?  He was (and is) extremely supportive, but with his shift work, both of our families living interstate and three young children, there were some practical realities that we were not going to be able to escape. 

Once we had crunched some numbers and worked up what we believed was our ‘ideal’ routine, I then set about having the key conversations I needed to in order to try and get the support in place.  Our fabulous childcare provider had indicated very early on that she would do whatever she could to help us out, so she accommodated our request to have the girls at day-care on specific days. 

My manager was equally supportive and accommodating.  We agreed to trial an arrangement where I would work two days in the office and one day from home.  We’re 6 months in and thus far the arrangement has been very successful.  For part of the week I am able to come to work, reimmerse myself in the commercial world and engage in projects that are interesting and stimulating.  For the rest of the week I can focus on my family and in particular my 3 young daughters, giving them the time and space to drive me and each other crazy and enjoying all that comes with that.

For me, ‘success’ (or feeling successful at it) is made up of a combination of factors but essentially there are three things that have mattered the most – honesty, organisation and flexibility.  If I wasn’t honest with myself or those around me about how I was feeling and about what I wanted, then people may not have known how or what they could do to support me.  If I wasn’t an organised person I couldn’t do what needed to be done in order to make things happen.  If I didn’t work in an environment that supported real flexibility, then I couldn’t produce the required outputs. 

I don’t have the luxury of being able to compartmentalise work into one box and family into another.  I’m still mum when I’m at work and I’m still a Diversity manager when I’m at home.  They do bleed into one another at times.  But it is ultimately up to me to ensure my boundaries are manageable. 

Does it feel like a juggle?  Yes, without question.  Some days more than others.  But would I have it any other way?  Not for one second. 

Kellie Wade
Diversity Manager
King & Wood Mallesons