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Juggling the Demands of Parenting and Work, with Anna Bollinger, DDB's Planning Director

19 Jul 10:00 by Helen Evans

Juggling the Demands of Parenting and Work, with Anna Bollinger, DDB's Planning Director

Here at iknowho, we regularly talk to parents looking for a role which will provide the right balance between their home and work lives. We understand the shift in priority and change in demands raising a family can have. In fact, some of our best hires have been working parents – they’re committed, grateful and super organised…and have a level of resilience that often wasn’t there pre-kids (sleep deprivation will do that!).


With this in mind, we chatted to DDB's Planning Partner and mum of 3, Anna Bollinger. Anna told us how she juggles her precious time between home and work. 
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So, firstly Anna, tell us about your little ones?


I’ve been blessed with a house full of rambunctious boys. Along with two male Kelpies and my husband, I have a three-year-old son and identical twin boys aged one-and-half years. It can become quite intense at times!


And a how about your role at DDB? Tell us about what you do there?


At work, they call me Anna the Planna’. I’m a Planning Partner at DDB Sydney leading the McDonald’s Australia business.


I’m sure you have lots to keep you busy! How does a typical day, juggling work and home, look for you? 


This year, my husband and I decided to put equality in action. So, we both work 4-day weeks taking turns to spend a day with the kids to ourselves. During the rest of the week, the kids are in daycare or with grandparents.


I live in the outer suburbs of Sydney and so find my 50-minute train trip both a blessing and a curse. It’s an opportunity to do some deep thinking, wrap up emails or sort life admin, but it means I’m out of the house early and often home late.


To get through a busy week, I typically outsource as much as financially possible so that my energy is invested in the things I care most about – I don’t think I’ve been to a physical grocery store in over three years… it’s all delivered!


A couple of nights a week, we employ a “parents’ helper” (seventeen-year-old living across the street) between the hours of five and seven while I am commuting. Her role is to be an extra set of hands for my husband. Typically, she walks the dogs, helps feed and bathe the kids and gets dinner started for my husband and me. She’s a lifesaver.


What are the biggest challenges you face?


It’s always in hindsight that you appreciate what you had. In the instance of being a working parent, its time. Time is a luxury commodity I’m forced to use wisely.


I’m always learning how to prioritise, focus, find the magic in the madness and let everything else go. Everything that doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter. Like making the bed.


Raising twins, I‘ve quickly realised that I can’t possibly do everything, and I certainly can’t do it all well. If it’s not critical, I let it go; the un-mopped floor will wait, there will always be dirty clothes to wash, the mortgage broker will chase me. The best part of my days are always the moments spent on the floor cast into the role play of being “Spider King” while the other three are “super pups” ... (thanks Paw Patrol). Satisfaction is never found in ticking off my to-do list.


As a working parent, a sharp dose of pragmatism and perspective is critical to let go of the tasks that can be delegated and focus on what really matters. And if you’re not finding the magic in the madness, it all just feels too hard.


Are there any strategies you personally implement to ensure boundaries are not crossed and to create some balance in your busy life?


Here’s something true about parenting: you make it up every day… and consequently, most of your time is spent course correcting.


This mode of course correction is how I approached my return-to-work-hustle. Continual two-way conversation between my line manager, HR, and most critically, my partner. What’s working? What’s not? How can we work together to make things better?


A big ah-ha moment for me was recognising that while I’d been with DDB a couple of years before maternity leave, I felt less like a returning employee and more like a new starter. My relationship with the agency was not the same as when I left. I had changed. The way I worked was not the same, the hours I worked were not the same, and I had to adapt and re-learn a whole new operating method. DDB was there to help.


I experimented with achieving balance within every day – rushing to finish work and try and make it home for bath time. I ultimately found that adopting a full-tilt approach was most fulfilling and meant that I was present for both work and family at the times they needed. Full tilt means I focus heavily on work during workdays, but don’t touch a laptop or work email on the days that I am home. It’s one or the other, not everything all the time.


In what way does DDB support parents in the industry?


Flexibility and value.


Flexibility: The advertising industry is probably one of the most progressive in terms of flexibility and within that DDB has long been a champion of keeping women in the workforce. I don’t believe that any two working parents within the DDB Group have the same schedule.


From return date to negotiated days worked – initially I returned at three days part-time and after a few months adjusted to four days – to fluid hours to manage day-care drop-offs/pick-ups, to work from home days… DDB is always open to a conversation and taking a personalised approach.


Value: It’s my experience and belief that when you become a parent, you develop and hone a range of qualities/skills that adds to you as a human and in turn, an employee. To name a few:


Confidence & problem solving – Giving birth and raising a tiny human means you can do anything. Creative problem solving becomes not only your job, but your way of life.


Maturity and Focus – You approach your work with greater purpose. You only have time for what is most important. You make faster and better decisions because you don’t have the luxury of time to deliberate on the inane. Parenting teaches you efficiency, time-management and multi-tasking on steroids.


Perseverance and Resilience – Raising a child is a daily practice in keeping cool under pressure and remaining a functioning adult under extreme conditions (sleep deprivation, heightened emotion and exhaustion) i.e. the typical pitch scenario!


Insight and Perspective – Your world gets bigger and you understand people better. As a parent, you are constantly meeting people from surprisingly different walks of life and sharing in their experiences, just because your kid smiles at them. All that texture adds insight and perspective to what we do.


DDB’s management recognise and value this shift, and far from being a workplace weakness or something to apologise for, I feel I can make parenthood my power.


Finally, what advice do you have for parents struggling to manage the juggle of the demands from work and home?


As mentioned above – keep course-correcting and find the magic in the making.


With young kids at home, there is so little time left in life to spend on things that satiate me as an individual. So, work has to be that thing that puts a fire in my belly. It has to be worth me spending time away from my kids for… and that’s about both the quality of work and surrounding myself with good humans who care.


Anna Bollinger, DDB Planning Partner


iknowho has been working with DDB for over 10 years, placing more than 100 roles to date. To find out more about the agency, take a peek at their Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn page.


You can also check out what our Senior Consultant, Beth Price had to say about preparing for maternity leave, and read more tips about heading back to work afterwards from iknowho's Director, Dene Gambotto.