Thursday, 29 November 2012

work-life balance, also known as LIFE

Having it all.

Just saying it out aloud makes me tired. Because I am tired. I've just recently gone from full time mum to working mum and I'm exhausted.

I'm new at this work-life balance thing. Well, maybe not. I mean what is work-life balance if not just life itself?

Working outside of the home, even part-time, IS harder than I thought though. It's quite the struggle to be on top of my game at work and at home and the learning curve is steep. I entered into this new life stage with the same arrogance that I did when I became a mum. "Millions of women do this - how hard can it be?"

Well, a bit harder than I thought as it turns out. I think I'm sucking at it.

I'm not good at doing things part-time. During my interview for my new job my boss remarked on the fact that I had spent the last 8 years raising my boys, at home, full-time. "Oh, you're an 'all or nothing' kind of person". Which I guess I am and I'm finding it tough to work out how to be a part-time home maker and a part-time employee. 

My washing is piling up. My filing is piling up. My guilt is piling up.

This is real and can be found on my spare bed.

I've run out of milk, eggs, bread, butter, cereal. I've missed my son reading at assembly. I've spot cleaned uniform shirts that I forgot to wash the night before. I've handed in forms late and I haven't organised a single class get together [shame on you Class Rep].

But it doesn't stop there. Oh no. I've dropped work balls too. Leaving unfinished jobs and missing things that need to be done.

It's become a lesson in humility. A hard lesson but I'm keen to learn. And I'm happy to share what I've learned so far. And this is it.

Having it all is all about perspective.

Here are 13 things I am grateful for when I am really down on myself for not getting the balance right.

1. Working part-time allows me to maintain my personal objective of never having to put the kids into childcare. 

2. Having a 'day off' mid-week really does feel like a 'day off' and I'm grateful for the quiet.

3. After 8 groundhog years I finally have a weekend again!

4. I feel supported by my family to return to work and this validates my choices.

5. I feel appreciated by my colleagues and it feels so good to be recognised by people, who have no affection for me, as someone worthwhile.

6. Earning my own money again is affirming.

7. I like that my boss tells me that I have 'a brain the size of a planet'

8. My boys see that Mum can work out of the home and do 'important stuff' too.

9. I am challenged again and I will always be grateful for any opportunity to learn.

10. When I drop the ball at home someone else picks it up and sometimes that someone is a 7 or 5 year old boy and that makes me so very proud... even if it's not the way I would do it.

This is how boys 'tidy up' the playroom. Just shove it all into the corner.

11. There's nothing quite like enjoying a homemade cafe latte in the quiet of the home you're working to pay off.

12. I now have 'washing days' and 'grocery days' and they are not my everyday.

13. I look forward to coming home and I can see past the mess and know a family committed to life lives here.

I do have it all. 

And I am grateful to know that.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

While you were sleeping

Dear Nathan and Stefan,

So much of my life as your mum goes unseen by you, as it should be but, did you know...

Before I put your clothes in the washing machine I check the pockets. I love the treasures I find in there and line them up in the laundry. Sometimes I find money and I steal it back from you.

When I check on you before I go to bed, I tidy up your covers and push the hair away from your brow and kiss your warm face. 

Sometimes I stand outside your bedroom door and listen to you two talk at night before you go to sleep. The sound of you laughing always makes me smile.

When you're upset and I open my arms for you to come for a cuddle, it's because I need it, not you.

I look at you sometimes and see me.

I remember the feel of your milky baby breath on my face and it makes me cry just a little bit.

When you come bursting in through the back door from playing outside screaming and bleeding and I pick you up and say to calm down, everything's going to be ok - I'm talking to my own panicked heart.

My heart nearly bursts out of my chest when I watch you in assembly and play sport and interact with your mates.

I have spent your whole life watching the expressions on your face and that's how I know when something has happened at school, or someone has upset you or something is on your mind without you saying a word.

I keep your notes to Father Christmas.

I have great expectations of you because I can see your enormous capacity to achieve. To succeed. To love and be loved. I will be your most staunch supporter and harshest critic forever.

Sometimes I look at you and I see my dad and that makes me happy. And sad.

You know how I get very mad at you when you argue back and are disprespectful to me? Well, one day I will tell you that I am proud that you know your own mind already and you have the balls and ability to stand up to me. One day.

Seeing you two hang out together as brothers and friends makes me feel good about the choices I've made.

At night, when you're asleep, your dad and I talk about you. We discuss your behaviour that day and what you've got on that week and what we can do together for fun and what lessons we can teach you and how we can be the best parents possible. Sometimes we fight but it's always for the same outcome. You and us as a family.

I brag about you on Facebook.

Your bodies amaze me. I watch them grow strong and see the muscles develop under your brown skin and I can already see the men you're going to be. I know my days of wrapping a towel around you and drying you off after a shower are numbered and that makes me anxious that I'm running out of time.

People will tell you that your mum is your first love but what you may never know is that you two are the greatest loves I have ever known and I will never love anyone or anything as purely as I do you. Until I take my last breath.

Love Mum xx

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Team Meeting - United States of Tania

Ok, we all know why we're here. Well except for you Short-term Memory Loss, but I promise it will come back to you in fragments when you least expect it. 

I've called this meeting because it's well overdue and quite frankly, there are some things that just need to be put on the table.

Let's start with you Judgement. Why do you insist on leaving town every time Sav Blanc comes to visit? Have I not tried to keep you two together. You two need to be friends. Please stay awhile next time. It makes it so much easier for the rest of us but especially for Fancy Footwork. Yes, we know you think you can dance but whenever Judgement leaves you throw in those little dance moves that really should have been left back in the '90s when you wore hi-top sneakers out and not stilettos.

Piss Weak Guts would also like it if you stuck around to keep Sav Blanc under control. I know we had high expectations of her French heritage and are all disappointed that after years of training she still hasn't come up to speed but I think we all just need accept that this is the best we're going to get from her. The same goes for Sore Feet, Pounding Head and Severe Nausea. They're not going anywhere, so the sooner the rest of the team accepts that the better.

While we're here, can I just make a point to you Back Fat and Behind the Knees Cellulite. Don't think that because I can't see you, that I've forgotten you're there. I know and I'm not happy. I also know that I can't sack you without an aggressive managing-out process but I just don't have the resources for that at the moment so I'm going to ask you, again, to please leave. You are not required and serve no purpose. Perhaps you could take Tuck Shop Arms with you and set up your own team somewhere else.

Oh and as for you Laugh Lines... what the fuck was so funny? Seriously, take it down a notch.

How are you going Short-term Memory Loss? Have you caught up yet? Ah yes, you make a good point. Not a Morning Person is VERY upset that Judgement let the team down again. Having two kids who are up with the sparrows is hard enough but when you wake up on the morning after the night before with that bastard Hangover in your bed you know you're in for a tough day 'cause that prick just won't leave!

So, that concludes our meeting. At the end of the day, the bottom line is... to achieve a win/win situation, 24/7, Judgement is not to take unapproved leave. 

Ever again.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Step away from Mr Wrong

It still gets to me when I see women sell themselves short for men. Almost every woman I know has done it at least once. Shit, I've done it myself COUNTLESS times.

EVERY SINGLE thing that I am about to post is from recent real-life conversations with a number of women I know who range, in age, from 20 through to 60 years old. EVERY SINGLE conversation involved those same women justifying the very things they were complaining of... and that they SHOULD be complaining of.

This is my Top Ten list of signs that your Mr Right is wrong for you.

1. You don't exist in public
If you have not yet met his friends or family and you have been with him for longer than a few months [and you're not dating a refugee], there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

2. You give him a 'softy'
If he can't get it up, keep it up or seal the deal, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

3. You're walking and dancing on your own
If he never wants to do what you want to do, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

4. You are not John and Yoko
If he only ever wants to see you in bed, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

5. You are not on an island
If he doesn't want you to see your friends or family, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

6. You are not his therapist
If all he wants to do is talk about his problems and has no time to hear yours, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

7. You are not a babysitter
If he expects you to look after his kid from another partnership all the time while he pursues the things he wants to do, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

8. You are gorgeous
If he finds the need to tell you otherwise, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

9. You are worth it
If you have to beg him for your needs to be met, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

10. You are a grown-up
If you have to lie to him about where you're going, what you're doing and what you're spending, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

Like I said to one of my gorgeous, smart, grown-up friends... he's not as good as you think.

Step away xx

Monday, 5 November 2012

Time Travelling Tan

I recently watched the Time Traveller's Wife. Y'know... the one where the husband has some brain issue that causes him to travel back and forth in time so that he sees himself and his family at all different ages including after death. 

It's a head-case of a movie but it got me thinking. What would I tell myself if I knew what I do now...

Dear three year old me, 
Your fluffy little yellow baby chick is not standing up because it's dead. You killed it when you took it to bed with you to sleep. No amount of leaning it against the wall is going to make it stand up.

Dear sixteen year old me, 
I know you think he's the love of your life and that you will be with him forever and ever and NO-ONE could possibly understand how much you love him but he's not. Don't run away from home to be with him. You're going to break your mum's heart and your friends are going to think you're an idiot. Which you are.

Dear twenty two year old me, 
DO NOT resign from Apple. They're going to rule the world and you're gonna wish for the rest of your days that your were on that ship. Also, you know that start-up company that gave you an offer that you thought was too good to be true but you went for anyway? Trust your gut girl - they're crooks.

Dear pre-motherhood me,
Don't waste your time on girl's baby names.

Dear fourteen year old me, 
Don't be so hard on your Dad. He's not well and fighting many demons, which you will understand when you're older. Don't tell him that you're not his daughter because you've never had a father. Kiss him and tell him you love him. Don't tell him that you never want to see him again. Because you won't. 

Dear four year old me, 
Don't drag three kindy chairs together and ask your hugely overweight neighbour to take a seat when she comes to see you in your kindergarten concert. It will cause her and your mother enormous embarrassment.

Dear thirty-five year old me, 
The midwife got it wrong. You're NOT 7 centimetres dilated, you're only 3. Take the fucking epidural!

Dear eleven year old me,
He's just not that into you. Get used to it. It's gonna happen a lot.

Dear Year Twelve me,
Don't bother turning up to Biology AT ALL. You're going to write a poem for your mid year exam and you're gonna get passed for the subject anyway. PLUS you'll win the poetry prize, get published and have it read out on radio.

Dear twenty three year old me, 
She really IS a stupid, disloyal friend who should NEVER have chosen to sleep with your ex-boyfriend. So...when she comes out of the pub, take her around the back to beat her up instead of in the lit-up car park so you're not dragged off her in a full nelson by the bouncers.

Dear seventeen year old me,
You don't know everything. You never will.

Love forty year old me xx

What would you tell your younger self??

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Beware the Anti-Mum!


I'm finally ready to admit that I'm a Mean Mum. I'm already having conversations that involve "Why can't we Mum, so and so is allowed to?" and "If I promise to do this, can I have that?" and "But Mum - EVERYONE'S got one!" 

I know you're dying to know what tipped me off. Well here's the list. Challenge me if you will.

Anti technology
We do not have a Wii or a Playstation or a DS of any denomination or a Nintendo thingy or even Foxtel. My boys are allowed to play a couple of Mean-Mum-Approved [MMA] on-line games on the weekends ONLY and we let them play MMA games on our iPhones if we're out somewhere and need them occupied. Otherwise it's an MMA movie off the USB, ABC 2&3, reading, colouring or playing outside. Apparently we're the ONLY household without any of those things. Unfortunately for my kids, the more I hear that - the stronger my resolve.

Anti pets
I'm not an animal person. They smell. They dribble. They fart. They need food. They whine. They shit. They're like babies without a nappy. There will not be a pet in this household until the kids can look after it and since they still don't wipe their own arse properly, that could be years. This includes fish, birds, crabs and all other suggestions. If it needs to be fed and its house cleaned, it's not welcome here.

Anti sooks
I cannot stand kids who sook. Toughen up princess. Don't come whining to me that you hurt yourself jumping off the top of the swing set. Of course you did. It's called gravity. The sooner you work that out the better. It also hurts when you fall of your bike. When someone takes a 'speccy' off your back. When you jump from bed to bed and miss. When you start a fight with your brother. When you yell at your mother. Actions and consequences son.

Anti lazy
Get outside and do something. Run. Ride. Kick a ball. Play tennis. Swim. Climb a tree. Jump on the trampoline. Skate. Play basketball. Play chasey. Jump off the swing set. If you can't find anything to do outside then I will and you can choose from washing my car, raking the leaves or weeding the vegetable garden. You're young and you're fit and if you're not that would be my fault and that's not gonna happen on my watch. Thankfully, because I'm anti technology, there's not much to do INSIDE so it's not too hard to get them outside. See what I did there??

Anti tuck shop
I've got this thing that kids don't need to be spending money on crap food except for the Royal Show... and even then I'm mean. I grew up in a single parent household with a mum that worked three jobs so there was never any time for a packed lunch. I was so envious of what my other friends brought and I swore I wouldn't send my kids to school with a lunch order. 3 years in and I'm still resisting. It's cheaper and it's better for them. You know they're not buying an apple at the tuck shop right?

Anti pocket money
What the hell are they doing to earn pocket money? Being a good boy? Making their own bed? Having good table manners? Bringing in the bins? They are family expectations in my opinion. I expect them to contribute to this family and this household. I'm not going to PAY them for it. What value could that seriously be teaching them? No. Not paying them until they do something over and above what it expected of them living in a family unit.

Anti dishonesty
I can't stand lying kids. Mine try it on every now and then. It does not go down well... and mum always finds out. Lying includes fibbing, white lies, lying by omission, half truths and however else you want to dress it up. I've done PLENTY of lying in my life. In fact, I'm quite the expert at it so I can tell a mile away when someone's giving it a go. There will be time enough in their life for them to learn the nuances of having a filter and keeping some stuff to themselves. BUT while they're young and still learning and without the maturity to discern that telling your mum you don't like it when she licks a tissue to clean your face because it smells yucky is probably best unsaid... a zero tolerance policy is where I stand.

Anti brats

Well... do you concur and would you like to sign up as a Mean Mum Member too?

Sleep School aka 'Go the F*ck to Sleep'

My first born son was the centre of our combined family’s universe. The first grandchild on both sides. The first nephew. The golden child. He was a happy, smiley, easy-going baby who was a ‘good sleeper’.

My second born son came when my first born had just turned two. He entered a household that already travelled to the beat of the first born’s drum. He came to a mum who naively believed that he would simply fall into step and give me no trouble – like his brother. Instead, he had some health issues including failure to thrive which resulted in him being a terrible sleeper. No, not terrible. That’s far too polite. I created a fucking monster. And it is, unquestionably, my fault. I did ALL the wrong things. I let him fall asleep on the boob. EVERY TIME. I rocked him to sleep. I made him fall into step with a toddler’s routine instead of listening to the needs of a baby. And I should feel terrible about it except I don’t and I don’t because I paid the price. Well and truly. Oh yes, he made me pay. By 11 months he was on the boob every two hours around the clock. On a good day. On a fussy day that could be every hour. How much sleep do you think I was getting?

I was a basket case. Really. No, really. I ended up at a Child and Youth Health appointment during which it was assessed that I required immediate intervention and so my stay at Torrens House was booked.

My four days at Torrens House saved my [and my kids] life.

I was scared to go there. I don’t believe in ‘controlled crying’. My opinion is that it contradicts a mother’s fundamental need to attend to her child’s needs. It does not make sense to me, on any level, to give your child the perception that they are being abandoned. I have not researched this with any authority and I know of many mothers who have successfully used this technique and their children seem unaffected by it. But I am resolute in my opinion nonetheless.  So, I was scared that they were going to make me use this technique with my baby. It turns out though, that my opinion is supported by the staff at Torrens House. Their technique teaches babies to self settle in a totally supported way, with mum by their side at all times. It’s exactly what I wanted and it worked on the VERY FIRST TIME. I have shared this technique with other mums who found themselves in the same nightmare as I did and it worked for them too.

DISCLAIMER. I am not a trained health professional or child/baby specialist. I am a mum who has found this technique to be very successful. You should not try this without first being sure that your child is not suffering from any other medical conditions which may be causing their unsettled behavior.

Step 1
Routine, routine, routine...

There are suggested routines for babies of all ages which you could research and apply or you may have a good idea of your own. I don’t think it really matters but it needs to be consistent. Most babies respond extremely well to regular and expected behaviours. Basically you need to head into this knowing approximately when each day your baby should be sleeping [and how many times] and when bed-time is at night. This applies to meals [including breast feeding or bottle feeding] too.

Step 2
Location, location, location...

When first teaching your baby to self-settle, it is best for it to be in the same place every time. That may be a cot/bassinet in your room or they may already be in their own nursery. If they are sharing a room with another sibling, I would recommend moving them out for a little while. It could get a bit disruptive in there.

Step 3
That’s a wrap!

A key success factor of this technique is WRAPPING YOUR BABY. I was explained that most babies have a strong startle reflex [you know, when they jerk with their hands out to the side]. This can happen even when they seem to be sleeping soundly and it wakes them up. If they are not able to self settle, this is when they’ll call out for their dummy or YOU. If you have tried wrapping and your baby is getting out of that wrap then you either haven’t wrapped them properly OR the wrap is too small. I have found that larger babies need something like a cotton cot sheet for this to work. I helped a mum with a one year old boy [that was a challenge!] and we used a single bed sheet for him.

So, in line with your routine and AFTER you have fed them you will need to wrap them. I like to strip them down to nappy and singlet, depending on the weather/temperature in the room, and gently sing “time for sleep” while I’m doing this. I learned that this is a good ‘sleep trigger’ but it’s not essential.  Do not let one arm out because ‘they like it’ or keep it loose because ‘they don’t like being constricted’ or this will not work. The wrap needs to be firm. They will be able to move their arms within the wrap but they must be kept close to their body or the startle reflex will wake them up.

Step 4
Hush little baby, don’t you cry

Put your lovely, wrapped baby into their cot/bassinet awake. They may already be crying because this is all new to them and you’re upsetting their apple cart. It’s ok. With bigger babies, you can secure them in place [sounds worse than it is] by tucking another sheet across them and firmly under the mattress. This just helps the whole process. Quietly talk to them while you’re getting them settled. You could sing or just quietly and calmly explain what you’re doing. Eg “Shhh… it’s ok. It’s time for sleep now and Mummy[or Daddy!]is  going to help. I’ll be right here baby.” My very firm suggestion at this stage is DO NOT apologise to them in words, tone or actions. Eg “Mummy’s sorry I have to do this” You are doing your job as their parent to help them sleep. Don’t apologise for that. Once you are comfortable that they are in place, we can move on to the next step.

Step 5
Pat a cake, pat a cake...

The next key success factor in this technique is to PAT THE BED. I was taught that once the baby has been laid down, not to touch them to help them sleep. This then becomes another thing they ‘need’. So, maybe pull up a chair and rhythmically pat the bed near their head. You can do this quite firmly as the intention is for them to feel it, almost like a heart-beat. I usually continue with my ‘time for sleep’ mantra punctuated with a few, calming ‘shhh’s’ and ‘Mummy’s here’.  Your baby will probably be crying throughout this whole process. Try to interpret that cry. Is it distress or is it just a protest? “What are you doing mum???? Why aren’t you holding me? Why aren’t you feeding me?” PRESS ON. You may quietly sing to them or talk to them reassuringly [you’re ok baby, mummy’s here] but try not to make eye contact with them. The intention is that they know you’re there but it’s time for sleep and you mean business.

Step 6

If this is overnight and your baby wakes up and YOU KNOW THERE’S NOTHING WRONG ie, they haven’t wet through the bed, or have a fever, or are too cold, or too hot bla bla, then simply pick them up for quick cuddle, rewrap them and start patting that bed! Your intention should be to help your baby make it through to the morning without a feed. For me, that meant bed time at 7.30pm and NO FEEDING before 5am. If he woke any time after 5am, he got a feed… and we were UP FOR THE DAY. [insert coffee here]

These are some things that I have experienced:
  • On the first night of sleep training my son went to sleep using this method within 10 minutes. He SCREAMED but I could tell he was outraged not distressed.
  • After never sleeping longer than 2 hours in a row, he slept 5 hours on that first night.
  • My boobs were going to EXPLODE by the time I fed him in the morning because it was the first time in 11 months that I hadn’t fed him overnight.
  • Once your baby has learned to go to sleep this way, anyone can do it. So this means your partner, your parent, your baby-sitter. It’s extremely liberating!
  • Everything changes when this starts to work. You feel better. Your baby behaves better. It’s a happier life to live when everyone can get some real sleep.
  • My son responded so well that he would bring me his wrap if he was tired to tell me it was time to go to sleep.


This is not for everyone, I understand that. I just wanted to share it because I know it works and I believe in it. Essentially, we all have different thresholds of what we can and can’t handle. In parenting, in sleeping, in disciplining, in eating, in loving, in working, in life. Some parents do not mind one bit being woken multiple times in the night by their baby. Some parents believe in co-sleeping and giving their baby full access to mum’s breasts all night. Some parents want their baby sleeping through the night from as early as weeks old and will let them cry it out. Whatever works for you, is whatever works for you. BUT, if it’s not working for you then here’s something that worked for us.

If you do try it, I’d love to know how it went for you.

Now… get some sleep :)

It gets better... I promise xx