Yasmin London is the Executive Director of ySafe, Australia's largest online safety education organisation...she is also a loving wife and mother of two young girls with her partner Anna. Yasmin is known for igniting social change through education and courageous conversations and she is in demand across Australia as a speaker and authority in her field. She is also an active representative of the LGBTIQ+ community - all of which means her schedule is as busy as they come as a working parent.
To celebrate mothers day in 2021, we wanted to ask Yasmin how she does it...how she keeps the family unit together whilst having a full work schedule and still finding time to nurture herself. Here's what she had to say...
What do you think being a working mother is in today’s world?
Being a mother in today’s working world is the ultimate juggling act. There are high expectations placed upon mothers to work like they don’t have kids, and parent like they don’t have a job.
We know statistically women still carry the burden of the majority of the household jobs and child rearing responsibilities, which needs to even out if we are to bridge the gender divide (and tiresome 15% GPG) in the workplace. But often, it is the internal expectations we place upon ourselves as mothers to be everything to everyone, and to highest possible standard that makes this so tough. It doesn’t have to be that way though.
We are beginning to see the light with workplaces showing they not only understand but truly value the family unit and all it offers, and workplaces that appreciate some of the most efficient and productive workers are the mums that have less time due to caring responsibilities. Being a mum in today’s working world is tough, but it’s also never been more exciting.
We have the opportunity to trailblaze, to change the system and support and lift each other up - moving mountains, to show others what can be done.
How do you find the balance between work and motherhood in your own life? What supports you?
In an idealistic way (and being a true Libran) I am always in search of balance and harmony, but secretly I actually think balance is a bit of a myth. I try to focus more on work life integration to a point and find the fun in my days with my girls by doing my best to stay present and playful when I’m with them. With work demands though I have to be honest, it isn’t always easy.
My partner Anna is my true cheerleader. We support each other by prioritising the essential ingredients that make our household work – laughing often, good communication and planning. Just before COVID, we moved from the east to the north and away from my family (and regular support network of helpers), so we really do mostly rely on each other in our day to day. That being said we have been lucky enough to find a beautiful local community of neighbours, school friends and parents who we know we could lean on if we needed to. Knowing they are there means everything to us.
We are also lucky to be part of organisations at the forefront of workplace flexibility. Our roles are demanding, but our people are non-judgemental forward thinkers and that is worth its weight in gold.
The other secret to our balancing act (and what we feel is the ultimate secret to a happy family) is putting your partner, not your kids, first.
I think we all know and trust our default as mothers will always be to ensure the kids are alright. Though, one thing I know for sure is that a strong partnership is one of the healthiest things you can give your kids.
Being a woman and mother in a same sex relationship, do you find there are any additional challenges or opportunities you could share about?
While things are improving, there are still some stark differences for same sex couples in Australia. When you are LGBTIQ+, you don’t just “come out” once. You “come out” daily in some way to someone, often being quite unsure of what their reaction might be and ultimately, how it might impact you. Will they think we are weird? Will they ask tedious questions about who the man is in the relationship (yes, really), and comment that you’re a waste on a woman? Will they find someone else to do the job because of their personal beliefs? Ultimately my biggest concern as a mum is the worry and judgement that may impact my girl’s being accepted and treated equally and respectfully. Thankfully this seems to be happening less and less, but it’s still a consideration for us.
There are also still glaringly gendered stereotypes on basic formalities like passport or school application forms, many of which still say mother/father. This reflects that we still have a way to go in understanding equality in these respects, and that tradition still stands so strong in many ways. When our daughter was born, my wife had to speak to her workplace and lobby to change the paternity leave application to include ‘mothers.' Thankfully her organisation was amazing about the oversight, but this type of thing happens every day in so many workplaces, with many employees not feeling comfortable enough or even safe enough to “come out,” and ask the same. In many countries and workplaces around the world, simply being gay is still illegal.
However, we are big believers in seeing the silver linings in our rainbow family, and the ultimate opportunity we have to be a role models for others.
We have the power to dispel misconceptions people might have about same sex relationships by being open and authentic with our lives. We can show what true love and family looks like in 2021, and we make active choices to share our lives and journeys in the hope we can give glimpses that support people moving between the stages of tolerance to acceptance, and hopefully to the true understanding of the meaning of equality. As a police officer I saw the horrendous effects of young LGBTIQ+ people who didn’t have allies or role models to look to. You can’t be what you can’t see, and if we can help someone see and understand that happiness and acceptance lie on the other side of fear, then we will always do that.
You are quite the role model in the cyber safety community, visiting schools and organisations regularly to educate on the issues around cyber-abuse. What do you see in your day to day that other working parents are going through in relation to these issues?
Parents everywhere are pretty time poor and exhausted, and the online environment is like a duplicate of the world they are already parenting in (but one where many feel far less confident navigating). There are many parents who suffer a fear of the unknown when it comes to technology and others teeter between complete apathy and helicopter parenting. They don’t have the time or energy to be completely honest, to commit to reviewing their children’s digital worlds 24/7.
Yet, they need to incident manage the results of a poorly worded Instagram post or intimate snap that has been unexpectedly screenshot and shared, or navigate their child being excluded (or doing the excluding) in online group chats with friends late at night. It’s tough and there are a lot of unknowns for parents. It has been amazing to see workplaces prioritise cyber safety education as a wellbeing focus for their employees to combat this, and the results of presenteeism and absenteeism because of cyber related welfare issues within the family have been positively impacted.
Sadly, I would also say that while there are certainly some amazing and involved fathers out there, it is often the mothers or the women in the relationships that appear to be doing the heavy lifting in this area. I’ve often observed that our parent sessions are packed to the rafters with mums, but not so many dads. It would be great to see more there.
From your own experience, if you had one message to share with working mothers (and fathers), what would it be?
Doing your best is good enough.
Whatever you had to give on the day, you gave. There are days where you’ll nail it, and others where you won’t, and that’s ok. That’s what non-linear, real life is.
Remember what you see on the socials is everyone’s highlight reel, not day to day life. You’d have heard that before, but the trick is to remember it in the moment, while you’re scrolling through the feeds and make a mental note to keep your thoughts balanced.
Also, drop the perception that everything in life and your household needs to revolve around your kids. As a parent, learn to trust that you are doing your best to ensure they have the best upbringing they can possibly have. As a working parent, you’re showing them what it takes to provide that life. These are all good lessons for them.
Lastly, find a way to legitimise your own needs to yourself. Go for that run, get that massage, and eat the cake. Find a way to truly understand that if your parent buckets are dry - foundations crack. That’s where the road gets bumpy for everyone.
Whoops! As you may have noticed – I’m not a one message kind of gal!