News / community

The role that’s invisible on my CV

Imagine a role where you were on call 24/7 with no overtime or time in lieu, where your job description includes being vomited and pooed on, and the stakeholders have the rest of their lives to discuss what you did wrong.  And here’s the kicker – the salary is … well … $0 and the status is … well … invisible.

24 years ago I began a job for which I didn’t apply and definitely didn’t have the necessary qualifications or the skills. This is perhaps the most important job I will ever have, in both skills I have learned and its impacts on the stakeholders, yet I have never put this job on a resume or discussed in an interview. The job? Motherhood.

As mother (and for the last seven years, a single mother), I have been manager of a team, collaborated with my fellow manager, CFO, logistics coordinator, caterer, administrator and secretary (admittedly badly – yes, I would have sacked me), creative designer (particularly around book week and school productions), nutritionist, nurse, tutor and counsellor. Thankfully the role of IT manager has naturally fallen to the stakeholders themselves.

As a project manager, I have managed numerous house relocations, overseas travel for stakeholders, Christmas and birthday celebrations by meeting deadlines, setting timelines and meeting budget.  And while managing might seem like the creative use of this term, without the reality of my management these projects would not have been completed successfully. We have successfully moved house, we have never gone hungry or not paid rent, stakeholders have returned from their travels in one piece and all are now thriving.

As the stakeholders have grown and my collaborator and I both have new collaborators, I have also become a negotiator, adding active listening and non-violent communication to my list of skills. Working towards outcomes that bring the whole team forward is a key component in this new role.

My active listening and interpersonal skills can be demonstrated by the countless hours I have spent listening to my stakeholders’ concerns, interests, heartbreaks, obsessions, anxieties, depression, anger, fears and successes. Success in these skills is clearly demonstrated by the coherence and functionality of the whole team, including all collaborators.

My skills in logistics and operations management can be demonstrated by getting three stakeholders to three different schools, mostly with lunch in bag and breakfast in the belly, followed by me making it to my business. Then managing transport to the different after school activities, often at different sides of the city.

My capacity to simultaneously manage different projects with different demands is clearly demonstrated by the multitasking nature of the role defined as a mother. And while my administrative and secretarial skills are a work in progress, enough notes have been signed and forms completed that we are still afloat.

All of this while managing a chronic health condition that has seen me in an electric wheelchair and several long stays in hospital, retraining, building a micro-business teaching yoga and meditation to people in crisis, writing and marketing a book and contributing to my community by volunteering and charity fundraising.

As a mother, I have learned and developed invaluable skills in the management of individuals, team building and capacity building but I have never referred to them in my ‘professional’ life.  However, there is no doubt in my mind that these skills, this ‘job’ has informed and contributed invaluably to my business role as therapeutic yoga teacher and yoga therapist.

It is now my paid job to nurture people to wellbeing, engage with organisations to build resilience, capacity build for all stakeholders, engage in active listening for clients and students and design programs that will best serve individuals, groups and organisations. I have project managed the release of two editions of my book, A Journey to Peace through Yoga, from conception through writing, pitching and marketing. I have taught on yoga and meditation teacher training, given many public speaking presentations and been interviewed for print, radio and television.

I now offer immeasurable value into my community and none of it would have been possible without the experience and skills I gained through the most important and longest position – mother.

So why haven’t I included this most important role in my resume? On reflection I think I have perceived the society I am applying into does not value this lynch-pin role in creating community. This may or may not be a correct perception but regardless, in holding this belief I have limited my own valuing of my role as a mother, while denying others the opportunity to also recognise its value.

As I look back on this nearly 24-year role, I realise it’s time to include this role of 'Mother' in my CV because, while the dollar salary was zero, the actual salary was and is life and love.

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.


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Mental health – when we fall off the trapeze we need a safety net

Mental health across Australian society is in crisis, yet government funding for the community services that support mental wellbeing has been reduced, partly due to the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Simultaneously, philanthropy has reduced for both general and special interest community groups, the assumption being that the NDIS will pay for everything that Medicare doesn’t.

Sadly, this isn’t the case, with the groups most affected being the most marginalised and stigmatised groups in our society: Indigenous Australians and people suffering mental illness.

I have experienced the issues relating to mental health from multiple perspectives. I watched my mother struggle with bipolar through her life, her suffering was accentuated by the medicalisation of her condition that didn't allow her to have a life that walked alongside her mental illness.

The stigma associated with mental didn’t allow her condition to be discussed or even acknowledge that we might also be suffering. There was little safety net or support structure for her or us and the shame was palpable.

I have experienced clinical depression in a more enlightened time. I was funded to have talking therapy. My children and husband -as carers, were supported by community organisations specifically funded by government and philanthropy, to provide this safety net.

I even received funding which enabled me to engage with yoga and meditation teacher training, which was ultimately my saviour physically, emotionally and spiritually.  In the last nine years alone this has saved thousands of dollars in care, pharmaceuticals and medical consultations. My suffering and the suffering of my family has been drastically reduced, while massively contributing to society through my teaching and and writing.

I now teach therapeutic yoga and meditation, and give private yoga therapy for people experiencing mental illness, PTSD and chronic conditions, in the community sector.

My fear is that the current user pays, evidence-based environment being created by the NDIS is the beginning of a return to the bad old days of the medicalisation of mental health. Medicalisation works with equipment, medication and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, but doesn't provide the safety net of community. Treatment without community is a problem.

We need a vital community sector that offers a whole range of services. People from marginalised communities are the least likely to enter into the rigorous and protracted process of NDIS application. They are also most likely to understate the impact of their illness, and therefore most likely to be rejected by NDIS criteria.

And then, even if they are accepted there needs to be the services available that enable them to walk with their illness, and possibly even overcome its dominance over their lives.

The community service sector plays the role of mother, nurturer and carer in our society. It provides the safety net that family and society used to play, unconditional support when the proverbial faeces hit the fan, regardless of your status in society. This is as important for working Australians as it is for people who qualify for a disability pension or a disability parking ticket.

For people suffering mental illness these services include crisis accommodation, access to rehabilitation programs, counselling, financial planning, telephone support, support groups, hang out locations, access to technology, sport & recreation, arts, massage, volunteering opportunities, education and information services, carer nurturing and respite, and most importantly, community services at their best provide an understanding ear for people experiencing crisis, a place for people to land in the midst of their storm.

These services are both therapeutic and preventative and are not offered by the NDIS or Medicare. They are essential for maintaining mental health, preventing mental illness and responding to crisis that can affect any stratum of our society. They provide the care that balances with treatment and equipment – contentment is not just about having the right medical equipment and drugs.

We need to provide a vital and comprehensive safety net for people if and when they fall off the trapeze of modern life. Research shows that mental health is supported by holistically engaging in life; connection with other humans, purpose, nutrition, physical exercise, creative expression, relaxation and meditation/mindfulness. The evidence suggests that these ‘lifestyle’ factors are not luxuries but essential in recovering and maintaining good mental health.

Yet our peak funding bodies are funding and advocating awareness campaigns, pharmaceutical and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)solutions, whilst reducing funding for small community sector organisations that provide lifestyle support, on the basis they are not evidence based.

I know from my own experience that pharmaceuticals can be part of the solution for anxiety and depression. Zoloft opened a space in my dark and cloudy mind for the sun to shine through, enabling me to find more sustainable solutions for my mental health. I could see and then engage in the possibilities of my life when the medication had calmed the dogs breakfast that was my mind; and medication is essential for the management of mental illnesses.

Similarly, (CBT) is very effective for some people, but only one of several evidence based talking therapies that can help people reframe their mental landscape. And even in this current wave of domestic violence, relationship counselling or therapy is not funded by any publicly accessible pathway. The psychologist who helped me to see the light in 2006 would no longer be funded under the current arrangements and I would have needed to travel an hour into Canberra in a wheelchair and find $150-200 a session – not very likely.

I have been servicing this sector since 2009, and have watched the funding for the safety net services dwindle, staff become burnt out and clients suffer as “luxury” services they depended on to maintain wellbeing, disappeared.

Many of my students claim that the classes I deliver are the most effective solutions for improving and maintain both physical and mental health but if they have to make money they become unsustainable. I have already lost one class and others are threatened because students are unable to pay for a service that used to be free. Many are either not registered for the NDIS, have applied and been rejected or are still waiting for their package.

Recovering and maintaining mental health in a modern society requires all the resources we have available to us and to enable this requires honest and open collaboration between all the stakeholders and a vital and viable community safety net. We are a like a huge and complicated family and a family needs a mother that loves unconditionally and is always available to catch the falling trapeze artists.

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

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