Sick babysitters & five tips for the ‘perfect’ work-life balance

It was 1.26 pm on a Monday during September, the first Monday in my three-month temporary work relocation to Chicago with my kids. My phone vibrated with a message my newfound babysitter was sick. It made me smile - a fact that may raise a few eyebrows - but in that instant I realised how truly fortunate I am.

I am a dual Australian/US citizen and after a fun-filled and culturally rich three-week holiday I had stood with my 10 and seven year olds at the airport to bid my husband farewell. 

Click image to zoom Tap image to zoom

Pic: Katie Bennett-Stenton and her children Source: Provided

He had headed home to Australia and the kids and I were embarking upon an adventure of school and (remote) work in the US while we finalised their US citizenship.

"I realised how fortunate I am to work for an organisation where I could walk out the door in the middle of the working day as a result of an issue in my personal life.”

On the Monday afternoon in question I was a little over an hour on the train from our temporary home and knew I could not reach home before school got out. So I double-checked the timetable, rearranged my work schedule, called the school and ensured my kids knew I would be with them about 15 minutes after they walked home.

The reason for my smile was I realised how fortunate I am to work for an organisation where I could walk out the door in the middle of the working day as a result of an issue in my personal life.

Many are not afforded that respect. I’m sure fewer still will have the opportunity to temporarily relocate their job, with full support of their employer, because of a personal commitment. I know this is a particular privilege I’m enjoying and far from the norm for most working people.

But a month into our adventure, I’ve learned a number of important lessons for myself. Below is a collection of five key ones and I hope they’re almost universal.

Click image to zoom Tap image to zoom

Pic: Katie Bennett-Stenton's children Source: Provided

How to strike an optimal work-life balance

  • Step out of your comfort zone and ask yourself what would make your heart truly sing. It was important to me that my kids have US citizenship to broaden their horizons when they are older.
  • Remember, children can adapt superbly to change. On the second afternoon after school my (admittedly particularly gregarious and chilled) seven-year-old son’s teacher told me “there are no transition issues. It’s as though he was here with these kids last year”.

My kids are learning more about different cultures and the importance of being adaptable and flexible. They have been fascinated that teachers are Mrs or Mr (rather than first name) and nightly homework must be signed by a parent and returned. Failure to do so results in a stern note being sent home the following evening.

  • I am extremely fortunate to work for a firm where ‘empower and trust’ of employees includes spending three months on the other side of the world while continuing my Australian-based job.

It’s critical for businesses that really wish to empower their employees to offer this flexibility – and for those who want it to seek out businesses which do so.

  • Taking time out of regular lives and stepping into/visiting a new life affords the time to consider what is important.

With busy lives it can be easy to get caught up in frenetic activity; sometimes without pausing to consider whether said activity is making us fulfilled. I’m currently caring a little less about a neat house and more about fun!

  • Really consider what flexible working means for you. I am now shaping my day to be most-productive for work and yet still well-connected with my colleagues in Australia.

Working across timezones is always interesting. I’m working a slightly longer week but benefiting from being ‘stateside’.

For the past couple of years I’ve worked from home two days a week but my current construct has enabled me to truly consider how I can work most efficiently.

My Australian colleagues are settling into bed when I start my working day and about three nights a week I have calls with them in my evening until around 10pm. It works.


I’m a morning person so I’m getting a couple of hours of work done before the kids get up. After spending some time with them, if I’m working from home I go to the gym, then work a couple more hours before pausing for a short lunch, often with my aunt.

 The joy of being able to eat lunch with my aunt at least a couple of days a week is significant. After continuing work in the afternoon I collect the kids from school and we complete homework with anything outstanding for me. Then after dinner together I get into my evening of calls.

I am a firm believer in creating regular time in life to pause and consider the way you are living and to set long-term goals. Taking a completely unconstrained view about how you would like to live can be very liberating.

Add to that mix an employer that will really enable you to embrace flexibility (in whatever form that means for you) and get moving.

Don’t be afraid to ask the question. At the beginning of 2018 this was a pipe dream and now I’m living it.

Katie Bennett-Stenton is National Marketing Lead for Energy & Resources at Deloitte and a dual citizen of Australian and the US.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

editor's picks

05 Mar 2018

IWD2018: how job sharing creates better leaders

Jemma Wight | Production Editor, bluenotes

Flexible working allows women - and men - to create a better work-life balance and ultimately be better workplace leaders.

01 Mar 2018

IWD2018: fake it till you make it

Catriona Noble | Managing Director Retail Distribution Australia, ANZ

In 2018, why is there still a cavernous gap between men and women assessing their own competence and ability to do a job?