This week is Food Allergy Week. Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia are asking us all to paint one nail as a sign of support to the one in ten babies being born with a food allergy. So all this week and next week I’m visiting schools and libraries reading my book Marty’s Nut-Free Party. This morning I’m visiting Broughton Anglican College, tomorrow Pacific Hills Christian School, Thursday I’m at Lane Cove Library Story Time and on Friday I’ll be at Putney Public School. Next week I’m visiting Randwick and Mowbray Public Schools. So even though most of the time I live the relaxed, easy-going life of a full-time stay at home Mum (HA HA), the last few weeks I’ve had a little taste of what it’s like to be one of those busy Mums who work from home.
Based on the week I had last week I think it might be a tad easier to work when you actually go to work.
Let me tell you about my week. On Monday, Birdy had the day off school with a cold, on Tuesday night she was up vomiting all night, so then she had to have Wednesday off school. On Thursday morning, hubby got sick and I also discovered that Birdy had cross-country carnival that day. Somehow I managed to spend almost the entire day down at the cross-country carnival and still managed to miss her actual race! Molly decided not to take her afternoon nap, so by this time it was Thursday afternoon and I still hadn’t managed to get any work done. On Thursday night, Molly screamed the house down from midnight until after 3.30 am, so on Friday I was like a walking zombie just trying to clean up the detritus around my home from the week of sickness and sleep deprivation. On Friday night, I put Molly to bed at 7, hoping to get some work done and after two hours of carry-on she finally fell asleep in my arms sometime after 9. So by the time I finally sat down at the computer it was 20 to 10 on Friday night. Seriously? What’s so great about working from home? Who wants to work at 10 o clock on a Friday night?
There must be some Mums who manage to make it work. A lot of mums seem to be running home-based businesses off their laptops.
It’s definitely easier to work with your kids around now that we have such a proliferation of mobile devices and laptops etc. because you can take your work to the park or out into the backyard. I hear that there are kids who are quite happy to play while Mum types away, but I don’t seem to have one of those kids. (It might be easier if I had a laptop!) I’ve had to master the art of typing one-handed with a baby on my lap because the second I go near our computer, Molly will want to be picked up. And it’s not just when I’m doing ‘real’ work, it’s the same if I start doing housework, or any task that requires two hands. The exact moment that I start chopping tomatoes or carrots, Molly will want to be held. Have you ever tried cutting a pumpkin one-handed? If anyone knows how to chop a pumpkin with one hand, please let me know.
The only time I seem to be able to get anything done is when my kids are in bed.
That’s also the time I want to put my feet up and relax with a glass of wine and an episode of Offspring!
But working at night seems to be the only way I can make it work. Otherwise I get frustrated and cranky that I’m always being interrupted. The other problem with working from home is that although I’m physically present, I’m not fully present, because I’m always distracted by what I’m trying to get done. And that can be true whether you’re running a business at home or just tyring to wash and cook for an army of kids. How do you stop your work from taking over every available part of your time and energy? How do you make time just to be with your children? I know a lot of mums feel guilty about leaving their kids to go off to work, but in some ways it’s almost easier if your work is contained at work and you can just leave it there when you go home.
Do you work from home? Have you tried running a home-based business? What are the pros and cons of working from home? Do you find yourself working odd hours like at 4 in the morning or late at night? If you work from home, how do you stop it from taking over the rest of your life?
I’m not a big fan of Mother’s Day. I love the concept – it’s wonderful to appreciate our mums, and I love the little loving notes my daughter gives me, but the actual day itself is always a bit of a non-event. My Mum lives far away, my husband always works, my sister goes to her mother-in-law, so after church when everyone else rushes off to their special mother’s day lunches, I’m always at a bit of a loss as to what to do. But I love and appreciate my Mum so I want to share some of the things I’m glad my mother taught me.
1) My mother gave me a love of all things creative – books, stories, theatre, art, singing etc. My earliest memories of my Mum were of her reading to us, or writing down our stories, of her sitting outside in the bush sketching a tree or talking with us about her acting days. Even when she was doing boring things like housework, she was always singing or humming.
2) There is no such thing as too many hugs or too much love. My Mum was always very affectionate and affirming of her four children and that’s something I really appreciate.
3) How to make a proper roué, real gravy and a good omelette. I can’t claim to be much of a cook, but those kind of basic skills come in very handy.
4) That it’s never too late to learn something new. Our church lost their organist quite a few years ago, so my mum started learning the organ at age 69. She’s now 75 and still playing the organ every week. Onya Mum!
5) Never be ashamed of who you are, your family history or anything about your family because all those things make you who you are. Growing up in a small town, it was sometimes hard to be different, but now I am pretty relaxed about who I am and where I come from.
6) When picking a fellow, make sure you can be yourself with him. Mum used to tell us this story about her little cappuccino test. She liked to eat the froth off her cappuccino with a teaspoon. One time when she was out on a date, the fellow she was with told her off for eating her cappuccino froth. (Not the done thing, apparently.) Needless to say, he didn’t last long. So when she went out with my Dad, she ate the froth off her cappuccino again to see how he would react. He just smiled and laughed good-naturedly. She told us that story a few times, so I got the message that your hubby should be someone you can relax and be yourself with.
7) If you’re ever feeling shy at a party, just start offering something around. My parents used to have a few dinner parties and us kids always had to pass around the beer nuts, the camembert and water crackers and my personal favourite, the ‘devils on horseback’. I was a pretty shy kid, so now whenever I’m in an awkward social situation, I just grab something and start pouring it, passing it, offering it or re-filling it.
8) A smile is free and it makes people feel good. When I was a kid, my Mum used to take us to the local pool and the whole time she was watching us she was always smiling. My friends used to say, “Why does your mum smile all the time?” And I don’t mean that kind of fake, plaster-a-smile-on-your-face-even-when-things-are-going-crap smile. It was just a genuine, natural kind of smile that is a response to enjoying the moment or being genuinely pleased to see you.
9) Be content with the life you have. This is probably a reflection of my last point, but the main thing I learnt from my mother is to be content, whatever your circumstances. To be honest, I’m completely hopeless at this, but I do try.
10) You don’t have to yell, get cross or lose your temper to teach your kids right from wrong. My mother never raised her voice (no really, I mean never!) She always had a gentle and quiet spirit and I just wish I could live up to that with my kids.
So thanks Mum for all these little things you taught me. I hope I can be half the mum to my kids that you are to me. Happy Mother’s Day xox
We’ve all been waiting for it and now it’s finally happened!
Molly has taken her first independent steps!
She’s already 17 months so she’s a bit of a late bloomer, but hey, we all get there in the end. The first time it happened we were in Dubbo, visiting my in-laws. She was holding onto a chair on the dining table, then took three steps over to the couch to get to Mum. It was probably only just one step that she wasn’t holding on for, but she managed to transfer her weight from one foot to the other so that was exciting.
After that she lost confidence and didn’t do any more walking for a week or so. Then she waited until the one night of the year that I went out with some girlfriends and decided to run a marathon while I wasn’t looking. According to an eyewitness account from a reliable 6 year old I know, she took at least five steps before she fell down on her bottom. I can’t say she has mastered the whole walking concept yet but she is definitely making progress.
I think she has started to understand that it is something she can learn. The thing I’ve realised watching Molly slowly learn to walk is that it really does take a lot of practice. She’s in this stage where she wants to walk, but she’s not quite confident enough to do it on her own, so she crawls over to one of us, takes both our hands, stands up and asks us to walk with her wherever she wants to go. I don’t want to complain, but it’s actually very time consuming and sometimes slightly annoying. I can be in the middle of cooking breakfast or getting dressed and Molly will come over and want me to take both her hands and walk up and down the hall with her. Or she’ll want to climb up and down the stairs over and over again.
Often when people talk about taking on a new task or learning a new skill they’ll use the phrase ‘baby steps’ to mean that things don’t happen overnight. It really is so true. We’ve been enjoying watching The Voice lately. I think it’s a very positive show, but you could so easily get the impression that to be successful all you have to do is go on a TV show, become an overnight sensation and it will somehow change your life. What people forget is all the years of learning and practice and preparation that has got those artists to the point where they can sing on national TV without falling apart.
Learning to walk is one of the most life-changing skills anyone could ever learn. Watching Molly practicing her walking over and over again has reinforced to me that achieving anything in life requires baby steps, lots of practice, lots of persistence and even more patience. I sometimes get sick of holding Molly’s hand as she traipses up and down the hallway, but isn’t that what we all need to achieve our dreams? Somebody to hold our hand, while we practice and stumble and fall over on our bottoms again and again and again, until one day, when nobody’s looking, we discover that if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, we can walk all by ourselves. I’m looking forward to sharing that moment with Molly one day soon.
Just want to let you know about a little market day that I’m involved with to raise money for the Cancer Council. There’s going to be lots of beautiful jewellery, clothes, decorations, bags and books for sale. I’ll be down there selling my books and a selection of other titles from Wombat Books.
Entry is $5 and includes a scrumptious morning tea.
All the details and lovely photos are on the facebook page.
Would love to see you there.
On Anzac Day I thought it might be timely to reflect a little on the nature of loss and grief. My husband and I recently lost a baby at 15 weeks. He was a little boy and we called him Alexander. I’ve had quite a few miscarriages before and it’s always really upsetting to lose a pregnancy, no matter how far along you are. But this time I cried more for him than I did for my own loss. As I lay in my hospital bed, waiting to deliver him, all I could think about was how sorry I was that he had missed out on the chance to experience life and all the goodness that it has to offer. He will never feel his mother’s arms around him, never go to school, never make a friend, never see a sunset, never fall in love… This year I’m coming to Anzac Day from that perspective.
Losing Alexander has made me acutely aware that there was a whole generation of young men and women whose lives were cut short. They never got to grow up, get married, follow their dreams, have children, travel the world and finally grow old. I think we intrinsically understand that this was a huge loss and tragedy for the families who were left behind, but I don’t think we always realise what a huge sacrifice it was for them to literally lay down their lives, to give up all their hopes and dreams for the future. What a massive hole that must have left in society, not to have all those young men to take up work, to marry the young women, to be fathers to the next generation. It’s a huge collective loss. And if you think about the way that grief has a tendency to sort of pile up on itself and accumulate, it would have profoundly affected not just individuals, families and communities, but whole generations.
I had a number of different family members involved in the first and second world wars, at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, but I was probably most affected by the stories my grandmother told me of the second world war. My grandfather was a prisoner of war in Germany for more than five years, from when my Dad was six until he was about eleven. My daughter is six now, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to not see her until she is eleven. (It’s not like they had Skype, email and facebook in those days!) I believe my father was deeply affected by that experience, and he was one of the lucky ones whose father actually came home. His father was almost a total stranger when he returned and he only weighed about 50kg, but at least he was still in one piece. When he got back my Dad didn’t recognise him. He had to ask his Mum, ‘Which one is he?’
This is not some ancient story from the dark ages, it’s living history and like any loss, it needs to be acknowledged. That’s why we keep telling the story, every year. For me, that’s what Anzac Day is about… it’s a day to grieve, to remember the losses we experienced as a nation and to recognise that the impact of what happened is still being felt today. So even though Anzac Day might seem like a formal, solemn and reserved occasion, I consider it to be a kind of national group hug where we’re collectively saying, “Yep, we know. We remember. And we’re grateful.”
But the words we use to express that feeling are: Lest we forget.
Sometimes I miss living a life that was a little more adventurous than the life I’m living right now.
I live in hope that when my kids are a bit older we might do more kayaking or hiking or family camping trips. We haven’t really done a lot of that so far. But in my heart I also believe that being adventurous is just as much about being open to ideas and possibilities that come up in everyday life. So on the first day of the school holidays we went for a little bushwalk and Caillie told me she wanted to camp in the backyard and have a midnight feast. Because I’d dearly love to foster a spirit of adventure in my children, if I was half the mother I would like to be I would have rushed home and set up the tent. But I was tired, and it felt like just a bit too much effort. So instead I said, “Why don’t we have a campfire and cook sausages and bacon for dinner and toast marshmallows by the fire, but then go back inside to sleep…” I think it was the marshmallows that clinched it.
What kid doesn’t love toasting marshmallow’s by the fire?
Actually building a fire is pretty damn fun too. Collecting the sticks, discussing which ones look like they would burn well, building it up in just the right arrangement. I must say I was quite proud of my fire. Normally my husband likes to don the Akubra, play the part of the bushman and expertly fan the flames, but he was still at work, so I actually enjoyed doing it myself for once. We all had sooo much fun! We really felt like we were away on holidays camping. Never mind that the Billy tea was full of sticks and the sausages were burnt to a crisp – it was so dark we couldn’t actually see what we were eating which was probably just as well! But we had an awesome adventure in our own back yard. I even went foraging in the fridge for milk and heated up Molly’s bedtime bottle in the billy, which I thought was very hardcore considering there was a microwave just inside the back door.
And the best bit was that after we’d lazed around the campfire drinking tea and snacking on marshmallows, when the mozzies started eating us for dinner, we could all go back inside. By that time, the kids were so tired out from their dinner in the dark that they were both tucked up in bed by seven-thirty! My sister and I still had time to have a glass of red wine and watch To Rome with Love (How funny is the opera singer in the shower?)
As much as it’s fun to be an adventurer, it’s also quite nice to be suburban!
Have you had adventures with your children? What age did they start to be able to handle slightly more adventurous activities? Are there things you miss from life before babies?
PS. For Mums on a budget, his was probably also the cheapest fun I’ve had with my kids for a long time!
My youngest daughter is about 16 months old now. When she turned one, her big sister gave her a beautiful baby doll to play with. Nothing warms my heart like seeing Molly care for her baby doll. She makes a little crying noise and sometimes even says ‘up’, she picks the dolly up, gives her a cuddle, gently pats her back, kisses her very tenderly, then cuddles her again. After she’s done all that, she either gives her baby a bottle, puts her to her chest like she’s breastfeeding, or tucks the baby into bed, gives her a pat and then rocks her to sleep. At the end of the sequence she gets this big smile on her face like she’s really proud of herself.
It’s just the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen, and I find it amazing that even at 16 months, she’s starting to care for someone else and thinking about their needs. (Even if that someone else is just a lump of plastic in the shape of a baby!)
She’s obviously learned that stuff from watching myself and other adults caring for their babies. And that’s not the only way she mimics the adults around her. One of the first things she ever did was pick things up, hold them to her ear and talk on them like they’re a phone. It could be anything – a shoe, a Tupperware container, a banana. My husband likes to imply that this somehow means that Mummy is always on the phone, which I assure you is not the case!
Yesterday my husband brought home a beautiful hand-me-down toy kitchen from someone at his work. Both my girls spent all afternoon playing with it. They were doing pretend cooking, filling up the fridge with pretend food, stacking plates, washing-up, heating up bottles of milk in the microwave and making tea. They were having so much fun! Why isn’t it ever that much fun when I’m washing up? But for kids, play is their work. Play is how they learn. These little role-playing games that my girls are acting out are their way of learning about the world. And scarily, the person they learn that from, is mostly me.
Sometimes my little mimics aren’t so flattering. Sometimes Birdy tries to cut a deal with me, or makes conditions on what she does. For example, I’ve just asked her to pick up her clothes and she says, “I’ll only clean up my clothes if you let me watch another episode of Mr Moon.” That kind of controlling behaviour is kind of ugly when it comes out of your kids’ mouths, but of course she’s learned that from us. We use those techniques as a way to get our children to do what we want, and then they can’t understand why they’re not allowed to do the same thing. It’s probably just as well that our children’s behaviour can sometimes hold up a mirror to us. I just hope that one day my children will mimic Mummy doing something a little more inspiring than washing up, cooking dinner and talking on the phone!