life in the fast lane

Guys, it’s been a while. I’m not going to launch into apologies though because I’d therefore be setting a terrible precedent and would likely have to begin posts that way every time given my lack of consistency here. Let’s just all acknowledge my blogging has become very sporadical, and then none of us will be disappointed. I’ve also got weird things going on with photos on the blog which I haven’t had time to investigate so many apologies there.

Moving on. I don’t even know where to start really, so much has been happening lately, hence my disappearance from this space. Mothers who work: please come to my aid. I am falling to pieces in my new life. Don’t laugh, but I really don’t think I’m cut out for employment. Do you hear me? Seriously, working and parenting and maintaing some semblance of a life of my own – um, slightly unrealistic people!!! Whoever put this idea into my head that I could do it all, please stand up now so that I can have someone to blame other than myself (and possibly throw something [soft] at you)… and my husband… who really would like to get out of the line of fire right now (sorry KB).

Basically I’ve got my knickers in a knot and they have become rather tight. Most of you know I’m not terribly organised… and that was when I was a stay at home mum. Now I’m a working mum and my life is a complete shambles. It is literally raining down around me in the form of dirty laundry, upset children and unmade beds… all my cooking, sewing, whole foods, meal planning, tidying, being-on-top-of-things, hanging out at the park, going with the flow, wearing thongs (flip flops) type lifestyle is currently ground to a complete halt.

I spent two hours last night washing dishes, and the house is still a mess.

I put on three loads of washing today and still had to step over laundry to get to my lounge room tonight.

I mopped the floor last night at 8.30pm (on a Saturday night… joy) and today it is covered in muck.

The girls and I went down into the backyard this morning for the first time in over a month, and it was – quite literally – a jungle. There were a number of dandelions which were taller than Birdie… she’s four and a half. (I pulled them out?)

Even when I do make an effort, life seems to overcome me.

When I think of the term ‘working mother’ I think of a lady with her hair pulled back (neatly), wearing a black (or navy) blazer, smart shoes and a crisp shirt or blouse of some description. She gets home to a house with tiles, and most likely a foyer or entrance area where shoes, coats and keys are neatly and minimally placed. She has planned her meals for the week and she has one of those island bench thingys (cleared and clean) in the middle of her (tiled) kitchen. The children wear clean clothes (possibly ironed) and have places to put their various things. A place for everything and everything in its place. Is this what you think of?

I asked my Mum the other day, “Do you think I’m dirty?” She laughed and said no, but there was a slight hesitation and I’m fairly confident she was lying.

I’ve noticed most motherly type blogs give advice on how to do things and get things right. I fear I am continually leaning in the opposite direction, begging for help and advice myself. Nevertheless, in my heart of hearts I know that there are other messy, disorganised mothers out there who tirelessly blame their creativity (ha!) and fun loving natures (ha!) for their lack of coordination in the home, and that they are still brilliant mothers. If I can’t become the mum in the blazer with the kitchen island, I only wish I knew how to sit more comfortably amongst the dirty washing in my moth eaten t-shirt.

Any words of advice, commiseration or camaraderie would be warmly accepted.

being all of the things

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mother

wife

friend

person who cleans things up

person who folds things

organiser, sometimes

writer

maker and creator of things

person who likes to be in nature

person who files things and pays bills

person who enjoys some time to themselves

person who wants to learn new things

striver to achieve, something

I read a book recently that aims to help you find out what you want to do in life, and how to achieve it (thanks CR + SP! I love it). It’s great book and one I will refer to often. I had to write a list of all the things I wanted to do and be, and although it was different to this list, it made me realise that you don’t just have to be one thing in life.

But if that is the case, how to fit it all in? Going back to work, life just feels like such a struggle and a juggle. It feels a lot like survival, setting out each day just to get through it and maybe even be slightly organised for the next. My girls are cross, Birdie in particular. I’m tired and KB is just as muddled as I am. Washing is literally climbing the walls, the dog is depressed and on weekends we are all just falling in a heap. I feel as though I am so many things, good things, but at the moment I’m spread so thinly I’m just dipping my toes in each area. There is no immersion.

What is this all about? Am I conforming to the way of the modern family, just going along and doing it because I sense some expectation about the way my life should look? Or do I genuinely want to be here in the midst of all this, paddling around, doing lots of things but never quite reaching 100% in any of them? And if I wasn’t doing this thing – these things – what would life look like? What could it look like?

I love so many of the different aspects of my life – parenting, working, the outdoors… just not all at once. All at once it feels overwhelming, chaotic and dull. You might be imagining me typing this from my studio, looking out a white washed window into a forest, my face pensive and thoughtful. In reality, the lap top is currently on the kitchen bench, I’m typing single words, phrases or sentences at a time, in between making lunch, tidying, vacuuming and playing princess fairies with Birdie.

Balanced? Not so much.

the time has come

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“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”

This is my last Sunday on maternity leave. I’ve been stuck in a bit of a vortex of my own making, swirling around with all my thoughts and nasty talk and uncomfortable emotions. It’s a familiar little place, but one that makes me squint my eyes and feel a bit cross to be in.

I went out for dinner on Friday night with a bunch of women (both mothers and non-mothers) working in my sector and left feeling really pumped (thanks guys). Then last night I tossed and turned until after midnight, wishing for my life to go back to maternity-leave-normal. To wake up this morning knowing I had a full week, month, year, ahead of being a stay at home mum.

This has basically been the theme of my last six weeks, since I was offered this new job. I was beside myself with excitement for about… two minutes… and then began my slow downward spiral into absolute panic. And back again and around and around and here and there and back to the start again. It’s been a blessing to have the time to get babysitting sorted (the last piece of the puzzle came together just this Thursday gone when Birdie was offered a childcare place on the one day I needed – after being on the waiting list since January – PHEW!) and it has also given me some lessons in positive self talk – and many an opportunity to practice. But now I’m ready to stop flailing around, and get into my new part-time-work life.

So here I go. Round two Back To Work. Action.

*pic above is of my three lovely mother’s group friends, walking ahead of me along a little coastal track on our first girls’ weekend away together a few weekends ago.

and here we go again

It seems like yesterday that I wrote this post, when I had gone back to work after having Birdie. She was ten months old when I went back two days a week and seventeen months old when she started childcare one day a week. It didn’t go well and luckily we were able to make other arrangements and we tried again at Montessori when she was about twenty or twenty-one months old.

I can’t really comprehend why, but for some reason I thought [everything] would be easy the second time around. I thought labour would be easier, I thought breastfeeding would be easier. I thought overall parenting would be easier (I suppose in many ways this is true), I thought that dropping my children off at childcare or going back to work would be easier. I thought that being a parent the second time would be easy because by that stage I’d be a strong, ruthless, tough as guts, Real Life Capital M MOTHER. I’d be the Mum on the side of the footy oval handing out sandwiches (or oranges or something), I’d be chucking the kids in the back of the car and working and playing and doing kinder duty and cleaning the house and paying the bills and just being an overall awesome no-nonsense Mum Who Gets Shit Done.

I have to admit something. I don’t really feel like that at all.

This all comes about because I got a job. A good one. One that I really wanted. So I’m going back to work… again. For three days a week this time.

You know that feeling where you are incredibly excited about something but equally completely shit-scared and apprehensive? Yep? That’s pretty much where I am at the moment. Battling the tug of war between being a “good mum” and making choices that align with that.

I’ve been googling things like “working and being a mum”, “work life balance during motherhood”, “going back to work after maternity leave” and all variations of this that you can think of. All I’m finding are articles written by some tough-as-nails mums (mainly from a particular website) (the type I was sure I’d be by now) who are defending their positions in the nicest (yet slightly aggressive) tones they can muster. I assume because they have had some backlash regarding their choices. I applaud those mums for chasing what they believe in and I wish for them that it was easier to find a good balance. I don’t like it when people say “why bother having kids” when people talk about returning to work because I think it’s a completely nonsensical argument to say that if you want a career you don’t have the right to be a mother. Also, I don’t ever hear this being said to (or about) Dads.

I digress. For this situation, this state of mind I’m in, I was looking for something written by someone like me. Someone who is constantly questioning their role, their choices. Someone who can’t sleep at night because they are wondering if they are getting it all wrong. Someone who can’t write a post defending their choices because they find it hard to pinpoint their position. They just have a gut feeling of what they want to do, and what they think is right for them. But they don’t always have the confidence to say it. They worry that what is right for them isn’t always right for their family. Or is it? They think people are judging them. They think people think they are doing the wrong thing. And these people care about what other people think, even though they try not to. I know they are out there. I’m one of them.

The Pixie started childcare around Easter in preparation for me getting a job. All the memories came flooding back from the first time I did this with Birdie. She clings to me when I leave and I bite the inside of my lip, hard, to prevent the tears from escaping. I hand her over. Things are a bit easier this time. I can talk myself through things. I can make sense of things just a little bit more. But the separation is not. We are going to a different centre this time, and it has made all the difference. But it is still really, really hard.

The girls will be going one day a week to childcare, like when I worked two days a week. The other two days they will be with family. I know we are lucky to have this option. I’m dreading that third day. I remember working two days a week and imagining going back to work for that third day.

Unlike last time though, I really want to go back. I want to work. I was super careful choosing jobs to apply for, and have been lucky enough to get the one I wanted. I’ve had time to do a lot of thinking and I know now what I want to do. I can see a path ahead of myself that I didn’t picture before. I didn’t have that time when Birdie was a baby. I went back too soon. Pixie will be twenty-one months when I start my new job. I know now that I have passions and thoughts and aspirations outside of motherhood that I lost sight of in the early days of parenting (rightly so). I see things differently now and I am following the path that I feel is right for me. I think. See? The confusion.

Who else balances work and motherhood? I am still searching for those kids that truly love childcare and can’t wait to go. Do you have one of those kids or are you all just being nice and supporting your fellow working-mothers by saying they love it?

here we sit

IMG_1228Once again the forces of motherhood have intervened to teach me daily lessons of patience, gratitude and mindfulness.

We have been holed up for over a week fighting off colds and sore throats and various viruses. I am getting better at this process. Cancelling everything, slowing down, sitting down, being in the here and now. Trying not to feel frustrated. Dishing out teaspoons of olive leaf extract, stirring glasses of vitamin c, slicing and grating ginger and garlic into drinks, tea, and meals. Events of late have reminded me to be grateful for the opportunities to heal and grow and cherish the present moment.

We spent the weekend at my in-laws beach house. I took just a small bag of books and toys for the kids. It was unbelievable how little mess there was to clean up! Gave me some serious motivation to clear out the toy shelves at home (again). We spent the majority of the weekend lying on the couch reading books and watching kiddy movies (Frozen, anyone?) and aside from feeling a bit wretched it was bliss.

This morning I had a job interview. Motherhood stepped in again to remind me that I was no longer in control of my own life, with the Pixie waking up at 5.30am for a leisurely spew. And another a little while later. As I mopped the kitchen floor, flicked peppermint oil this way and that and got down on hands and knees to clean vomit from the floorboards, I remembered a time when a job interview would have had priority over all other things. Thankfully I managed to exceed my expectations, get dressed, do my hair, free myself of any germy remnants and be on my way. As my Dad put it in a text message he sent me earlier after hearing of my morning: No wonder women often develop extraordinary resourcefulness.

on the fly

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Firstly I must say a very warm and heartfelt thank you to those who have commented on my last post, emailed me, texted me, called me, hugged me. Thank you dear friends, family and readers! I really do appreciate your kind words and thoughts, particularly in times of tough decision making and shitty/unplanned outcomes as I have been experiencing around here.

About a month ago I was lucky enough to be given a leave pass to use a massage voucher I was given for Christmas. I see my naturopath for massages every now and then which are absolutely amazing and a wonderful treat. We were talking as I lay on the table, about this and that. Usually we talk about True Blood and life. True Blood hasn’t been a discussion point of late as we are waiting for Season 6, so it was mainly just life that was being discussed. She advised me to wait four weeks. Just wait. To give myself four weeks without thinking too much about this dilemma and that dilemma. Without wondering who I am and where I’m going and if I’m breastfeeding or what type of mother I am or where we are going to live or whether the sky is blue for any particular reason or whether or not there is life in outer-space (I do wonder this, do you?). She assured me that things would fall into place.

This was a harder task than one would imagine, but I tried hard and kind of managed to succeed.

And fall into place, things did!

In the last week I have gone from the point where I could not make a decision about whether or not to take the rubbish out, to suddenly seeing so much clarity around me. Perhaps coming to the end of breastfeeding and making such an enormously difficult decision has cleared some space in my mind. Yes, probably. Perhaps getting a few hours of extra sleep has removed some fog. Who knows.

I have learnt a few things on this motherly path. I experienced this influx of “life questions” on-mass last time I was on maternity leave. Maternity leave is wonderful: it is fun and tiring and expansive. It’s also a time that I personally feel kind of withdrawn from the rest of society. For me, it is like stepping away from the “real” world (I hesitate to say that, as I think being a mother is pretty much as real as it gets), taking time out and not having the external hustle and bustle going on that distracts you from you. Maternity leave has given me the time and space to think (too much?) about my life and where I am headed, despite being physically and environmentally busier than I have ever been in my life.

Excuse all this, I have had two coffees today which we all know is against the rules for me, so I am not really sure where this is going or if it makes sense to any of you.

I had kind of a premonition the other day. I’m just about due to go back to uni (naturopathy degree) after a year off. We are balancing some figures and wondering how long we can last without me going back to work. Things have been vague and for a while now I have had a niggling feeling in my gut that has been questioning my path. Do I forget about uni for now and go back to community development and disability? Do I change plans again and do something completely different? Who the bloody hell am I? What do I like? What am I good at? I felt insanely jealous of people who have just fallen into something they feel passionate about and who totally love going to work every day. I had pretty much decided to forget everything and think about it again when my girls are in Primary School.

Then, the epiphany. What do I like most outside my family and kids? What am I drawn to? What am I interested in? What do I think about when I think about a future career in naturopathy and how I would treat patients? What do I like to do? What do I think about? What excites me? What do I want to learn about? What do I read books about? What do I like searching on google?

The answer came to me a couple of nights ago at around 2.30am as I sat up in bed cradling the Pixie in my arms in the dark:

FOOD.

I LOVE FOOD. I love thinking about it, cooking it, learning about it. I love how good food, real food, can influence our lives, our health, our happiness and our communities. I love the connection between good nutrition and community. My community development background urges me to learn how to teach other people about it, help pregnant women to navigate it, to show new mummies how to introduce it to their kidlets. It feels like a fit, a fantastic melding together of my current skills and future goals. My gut said YES! I said YES! This is it! I could hardly contain myself from waking the just-sleeping baby in my lap to tell her.

The very next day, I rang uni and began the process of transferring from naturopathy to nutritional medicine. I go back in four weeks (part time!).

Flying by the seat of my pants? Absolutely!

Excited? Finally feeling in my gut that I am doing the right thing? Many questions evaporated from my mind? YES!

I am a true believer, particularly since becoming a mum, of listening to your gut. It usually tells you what is right and wrong. From wondering if your baby is sick, to making big life decisions. Once the fog has cleared, you know most of the answers already.

Have you guys made any big decisions this week? Are you at a turning point? Do you wonder where life is going to take you?

montessori

A while ago you might remember me having some misgivings about childcare. Then things got a little better. Then they got worse again. In the end and after speaking to some lovely members of my family, we were lucky enough to be able to pull Baby out of childcare and make it through to Christmas with my sisters and a couple of aunties pitching in to look after her at our home one day per week while I went to work. I work two days per week. My mum and mother in law look after Baby a day a fortnight each leaving one day a week.

It has been and continues to be a great area of confusion and stress for us, wondering what is the right thing to do and how to make it happen. Some people, including staff at the childcare centre we were at, suggested that we should book in for two days a week as one day alone makes it hard for the children to adjust. I can imagine that going two days a week would make it easier in some ways, but the thought of sending her off to childcare when I didn’t need it for a day or half a day just didn’t seem right.

We started looking at other local childcare centres. We looked into family day care. We looked into getting a nanny and sharing that nanny with friends. None of the options were suitable for one reason or another – the two main reasons being either cost or just a gut feeling! That gut feeling that something just doesn’t quite fit is hard to explain, but it’s pretty much how I guide my entire parenting philosophy (rocket science, right?) so when I feel it heading either way, I tend to go with it.

Then me and the kid were sitting up at our local cafe having a coffee and “baby-nino” one day when I caught eyes with a mum from a natural parenting melbourne playgroup I used to attend. We had a chat and she said she was enrolling her daughter in the brand-new-yet-to-be-opened long daycare centre at the local Montessori School. My ears pricked up. I went home, googled them, rang them up, and booked a tour for the following week.

I was impressed.

The room is beautiful and spacious, the staff are kind and quiet and gentle. I didn’t have to go all Moses trying to part the waters of a fisher price ocean to get through the door. There’s a strong focus on encouraging learning through discovery, following through with an activity independently, packing up after yourself, respecting each other and personal space.

Yesterday we took Baby to Montessori for her first orientation session. At first she clung shyly to our legs and peeked around at the children. After half an hour she started to venture out into the room to investigate. I watched a staff member show Baby how to pour her own cup of water, drink the water, then wash her cup at the little-person sized sink. I watched her being shown how to get a placemat at morning tea time and set it out where she wanted to sit with encouragement from an older child. She timidly got a plate and was directed to the fruit platter where she used the tongs to select some watermelon, avocado and banana. She took it back to the table and ate it. She was watching the other children intently and soon enough toddled back to the platter with her plate and got some more. It might not sound like much, but it was very nice to watch. It was amazing seeing the older toddlers who had been going for a while. The way they selected an activity, were absorbed by it – by that one activity – and then when finished packed things away, washed up after themselves and moved on to something else. There was a lot of staff interaction, modelling and encouragement.

I think it’s a nice place and I think she will experience great things there. It suits her personality so far and I feel comfortable. I hope that my genuine positivity about it reflect in Baby’s experience, rather than my terrible attempt at disguising my reservations last time.

If you’d like to learn more about Montessori, I have found some of the following websites useful:

:: Montessori Australia

:: Montessori for age 0-3

:: Montessori Australia Council

:: Steiner vs Montessori – the differences

:: Wiki Montessori

Hope you’re having a great weekend.