Antra Kalnins

Antra Kalnins

Who do you care for and what is the best part for you about being a carer?

We have two daughters – Evelyn just turned four and Clara is one – so life is pretty crazy and we’re pretty sleep deprived! But we also get to spend our days with two amazing little people, who make us laugh and give us smooshy-cheek cuddles on tap. Being with them as they discover the world helps me appreciate the little joys – ladybugs, dancing in the loungeroom at 7am and of course, the seemingly infinite hilarity of toilet humour.

What are some of the responsibilities of your role at the university? What does a typical day look like for you?

I’ve recently returned from parental leave with Clara and am back to my much-loved role publishing the University’s This Week staff news, as part of Group Marketing’s Content team. I love being able to meet, and celebrate, all the wonderful people that do such incredible work at Macquarie, and help them stay informed and (hopefully!) inspired.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a carer and also having a career?

The most obvious, of course, is constantly feeling time-poor and like you’re not able to give 100% of yourself to either aspect. But at the moment, my particular challenge is staying mentally focused on limited or interrupted sleep. Without a strong morning dose of coffee I’d have very little chance of recalling my colleagues names!

What are some of the strategies that you’ve used to overcome these and what have the impacts for you been both personally and professionally?

Aside from the coffee, I am much more reliant now on digital tools that allow me to schedule both my personal and professional life and be able to see everything at a glance on my phone, which is now pretty much surgically attached to my person. Macquarie’s Microsoft Office apps have been very useful for keeping my work world organised, especially when I’m working from home.

How has Macquarie University supported you?

Macquarie’s excellent parental leave, family-friendly policies and quality on-campus childcare were significant factors in my choosing to accept a job here seven years ago. But the best policy-on-paper means little if you have a manager or team that is not actively supportive of it in practice. Luckily, I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive Director, who also has small children and models flexible work practices herself (which unfortunately can still be rare at Director level). Our whole team are encouraged put their family and personal wellbeing first, without question, and I was able to return from my first parental leave in a three-day-per week job share arrangement, with flexible hours that (somewhat!) lessened the pain of a long commute from the Eastern Suburbs. My job-share partner and I also had an overlap day, which technically qualified as additional resourcing, but made all the difference as we didn’t have to waste hours each week writing up handover notes and could focus our energy on our doing the job well.  I had been apprehensive about my return to work at Macquarie after having my first child, but I can honestly say it was the most enjoyable year of my professional life, thanks to my flexible work arrangements and the attitude and support of my manager and team colleagues.

What are your top tips for other employees who have caring responsibilities and also want to have fulfilling and rewarding careers?

The most important lesson I’ve learned is don’t feel like you need to hold yourself back professionally because you equate seniority at work with less work/life balance. There are many senior staff at Macquarie modelling excellent flexible work practices, and the culture is slowly but surely moving away from people feeling like they have to be in the office for long hours every day.  Don’t be afraid to be upfront about your family responsibilities and say no to those 8am meetings if you need to. Also, be sure to recognise colleagues that inevitably will need to cover for you on occasion because of your commitments as a carer. And of course, do what you can to return the favour when a colleague is in need.

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