When you’re a parent, finding your ‘why’ matters more than ever before. Loving what you do is likely to influence who you are at home, and help make the juggle that much easier.
For Sarah Lindeman, finding clarity around her passion and purpose in life has fuelled her career and parenting self-confidence. Add in the autonomy to choose how she manages a full-time workload, a fair division of responsibilities at home, and a mantra of self-compassion, Sarah is finding joy in the busy juggle of work and life.
Can you tell us about your career journey and your current role?
My career journey has certainly not been typical. I found my passion for making my part of the world a better place when I had the privilege of leading the government affairs and community outreach work for JDRF Australia, a not-for-profit organisation, leading the fight against type 1 diabetes by funding research to cure, treat and prevent the disease.
I made several important contacts who encouraged me to take the jump into federal and state politics. This was an amazing experience as you are truly working for politicians that want to support and make things better for their communities. This gave me a greater sense of self, my passion and my ‘why’.
After I hung up my political boots, I took some time off to have my second baby. Six months in, and an old political friend and colleague reached out indicating there was a patient advocacy role at Sanofi.
Sanofi is a leading global pharmaceutical company that spans over 170 countries, including Australia and New Zealand. We innovate across diverse therapeutic areas, from diabetes and cardiology to oncology, immunology and rare diseases, with a purpose to bring hope, relief and cures to patients. Researching, developing and manufacturing medicines and vaccines, plus accelerating access to scientific innovation is at the core of what we do at Sanofi.
My role within that is working across three of our business units: vaccines, general medicines and consumer healthcare in the policy, advocacy and government relations space.
The role encapsulated my love for making a difference to patients’ lives as well as my love for politics. Over the past five years, the role has evolved into my current public affairs role.
You’re a mum-of-three! How has parenthood changed your perspective on life and your career?
I’ve always had a mantra that if I was going to work full-time, I truly had to love what I do and I needed to feel I was giving back to my community or society in some way. That core value has been unwavering – my ‘why’ has never changed. Understanding this has made career decisions and perspective much easier through the years.
You work full-time, with the support of your employer to work flexibly and remotely. What’s your flexible work arrangement and how do you make it work?
Sanofi is nationwide across Australia with its local corporate headquarters in Sydney, facilities in Brisbane, plus offices in Auckland, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. This gave me the opportunity to work flexibly and, at times, remotely as my role involved lots of travel before the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of my Sanofi journey, I would travel to Sydney from Newcastle weekly for, usually, two to three days and stay with family. My husband worked Monday to Friday and was able to drop-off and pick-up our two children from daycare. We also lived close to family who assisted when I was away.
Then, in 2018 our family faced a big decision and one we did not take lightly. I was still on parental leave with my third baby when my husband received a RAAF posting to Brisbane, Queensland. It was an exciting opportunity and Sanofi were very supportive. I now have a hot desk in our Brisbane office and I was travelling down to Sydney and Canberra every few weeks. Since the pandemic, I have been working full-time from home.
Sanofi has been extremely supportive throughout the pandemic. Early on, the company recognised that most employees will be working from home for an extended period. Everyone was encouraged to take the required technology home, and grants were given to ensure we had a suitable home-office environment. Initiatives have also been set up over Zoom and through our internal communications channels, such as virtual coffees and team activities. We’ve even had the chance to work out with a personal trainer over Zoom and had access to ongoing yoga and meditation to support our health and wellbeing ongoing.
This, along with the support given by our senior leaders, has helped us all through these difficult times.
How did you find managing the demands of relocating your whole family to your new home?
I was just at the beginning of my 12-month maternity leave with my third child when we got the posting. This was my first posting with my husband so I was naturally nervous. I had moved around a lot as a child, but not with three kids in tow. As soon as we received notification my husband was being posted, Sanofi were so supportive and said that when the time came for me to return from parental leave, the right working arrangements would be put in place to suit my personal circumstances.
It made a huge difference moving state and not having to really worry about my work or position. I could 100% focus on the welfare of the children and assisting them in settling into a new environment.
What are your tips for others thinking about requesting to work flexibly?
If there is ever a time to do it, it is now. If anything, the pandemic has shown the need for organisations to pivot in the way they operate and in the way they support their people – for organisations to survive in 2021 and beyond.
What do you enjoy most about being a working parent and what are the challenges?
I enjoy the collaboration with like-minded people, I enjoy the fact I am demonstrating to my children how to contribute to society.
The biggest challenge I have faced recently is learning to switch between two different mindsets – work-mode and parent-mode – and considering I am working from home now full-time, learning to switch between the two has been challenging.
Sharing the responsibilities with my husband helps when I’m in parent-mode. And having a supportive manager at work who understands when I might need to be flexible is also very important to these new challenges we are all facing.
It is also important to be kind to yourself and to manage your own expectations. You will have good and bad days and that is okay.
How do you share home and childcare duties with your partner?
We truly are a 50/50 partnership – at times he will take more of the load. Given my husband’s type of work, not one week is the same. Richard does 90% of the cooking! He loves cooking, it helps him unwind, while I find it quite stressful. Depending upon his roster, he will do school drop-offs and pick-ups, while I may have an early or late global meeting. Night-time routine is a mixture of all hands on deck. I try to make sure 5pm to 7pm is meeting free so I am 100% present with the children. Once I went back to full-time work, we started budgeting for a cleaner once a week as well as a nanny/after school care, etc. when required. Considering we have no family help, this was essential. The juggle is certainly real in the Lindeman household.
What does ‘me time’ look like for you?
My ‘me time’ prior to COVID was when I would travel for work, where I had the opportunity to sleep through the night without interruption from little people, catch up with girlfriends and family. Since travel stopped back in March 2020 and I have been working full-time from home, I had to find a different groove. Sometimes it’s a walk around the block with the dog (and that may be in the middle of the day); a wine with my book club peeps talking all things books, or swimming.
My best parenting tip… Find your people. This was really challenging for me when I moved to Brisbane and had no family for support. Surround yourself with like-minded people; get to know your neighbours. It is invaluable to have other women in your corner, cheering you on. Be flexible, lower your expectations, laugh at yourself, be present, and try to enjoy the little moments.