Monday, 31 August 2015

Fuck Luck

I live a good life. 

Though not for everyone, I recognise that it’s an enviable life for many and that many people think that I am lucky. I know this because I’m told, often. Like it’s a compliment. But it’s not.

I am a first generation Australian. I was born to two European immigrants. My French father and my Dutch-Indonesian mother met in a migrant hostel in South Australia, fell in love and something, something… had two healthy, smart and able kids.

So I AM lucky to be born in Australia. Lucky and grateful. I am lucky to be born healthy, of mind, body and spirit. Lucky and grateful. I am lucky that I was born to a family that held ‘family’ in high regard so that I was raised with love. I’m lucky that the role models in my life were good and strong. I am lucky that my mum is the woman she is and therefore the parent she is. I am lucky that the next man she chose to be her husband would turn out to be the perfect step-father.

I am also lucky that I made it to womanhood, largely unscathed and now have two healthy, smart and able sons. I thank the universe for that good fortune every day.

I do feel lucky for all these incredibly positive things in my life because I had no impact on them. They were bestowed upon me thanks to genetics and thanks to the decisions and choices of my parents, their parents and the generations before them.

What I am not lucky for is everything else that people see in my life today. And be fucked if I’m going to smile and ‘yes, you’re right’ when someone suggests that I am.

Especially about the following ‘compliments’.

You’re so lucky you have a good husband.

My husband is a great partner. He is kind and loyal and reliable. He is loving and respectful. He is generous and supportive. He is strong and present and generally shares the same values as I do. He encourages me to follow my dreams and stands strong whenever I need to weather a personal storm.

But it is not an accident that we are together. Our marriage wasn’t arranged by a third party. At the time of meeting my [now] husband I was dating several other blokes… with an indecent amount of ex-boyfriends in my wake. I was trying before I did any buying. In the time that we have known each other we have dated each other, lived together, broken up, dated other people and got back together. When I said ‘yes’ to his proposal, I already KNEW he would be a good husband. That’s WHY I said ‘yes’. In the fifteen years that we have been married we have struggled, grown, aged, argued, weathered hard times and very nearly and irrevocably separated. Luck has not kept us together. Hard work has.

When we brought our first baby home we were CLUELESS. So we carved out a plan for how we wanted our family’s life to look and we stuck to the plan together. Accountable to each other and encouraging of each other. We headed in the same direction, side by side. He decided he wanted to be the best father he could be and I wanted to be the best mother I could be. So I spend every day doing what I can to achieve that goal. He does the same. He CHOOSES to be present and engaged and invested in his sons. We fuck up a lot but we hold each other accountable to those aspirations every day. 

No luck. No accident. No magic.

You’re so lucky you live in a beautiful home.

I have a beautiful home. It’s GORGEOUS. I am illogically and unreasonably emotionally attached to it. I actually love my home. With real feelings in my heart. It’s what I call my ‘forever home’ and if I had my way I would spend the rest of my days here. After renting for years, the last home I had I built with my husband. We worked crazy hard to build it for as little as possible so we could sell it making the maximum, honest profit… which we then used as a deposit on my ‘forever home’ which we substantially renovated.

We have sacrificed holidays, new cars and extravagant life choices to live in this house. There are many days when we reevaluate and question whether it’s worth it. My answer, every time, is “it is.” Those choices are not for everyone, we know, and we have many friends who prioritise other things like international travel with their family higher than a massive real estate commitment… and we have both been envious of each other’s choices at various times of our lives. Are they lucky to be able to travel regularly? Or have they engineered their life’s decisions around their priorities?

You’re lucky you can stay home with your kids and not have to work.

When I was ‘surprised’ by the arrival of a new life in my womb I had my own menswear boutique where I sold my own-label, imported men’s shirts ties and cufflinks. Before then I had worked full-time since the age of sixteen.

Once we got over the shock of being pregnant we had many candid talks about what we thought our family would look like and we both agreed that we didn’t want our child/children to go into childcare. One of us had to stay home with them and I chose to be the one. Which meant that I had to close my business and give up earning an income to do so.

My husband also has his own business selling wine [now online] that he started when we were first together. We have both worked hard to support each other in our professional lives.

If you’ve ever run your own business you’ll know that it is incredibly taxing and I’m not just talking about tax. It takes an enormous level of commitment, sacrifice and lean living. It also takes tenacity. In business, especially, you make your own luck. When you run your own business it becomes part of the family and though I no longer have my own business, I spend many hours every week with my head in my husband’s business.

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not the good little woman at home lucky to have a man bring home the bacon. My man brings home the bacon because he doesn’t have to worry about cooking it. He also doesn’t have to worry about school commitments, sick children, grocery shopping, clean sheets on the bed or jocks in his drawer.

Of course, becoming a single-income household was not without its challenges and it meant that we had to tighten our belts.

We don’t go to stage shows that are touring or attend concerts of any artists other than our kids. We haven’t been to all the new restaurants in town [or even many of the old ones]. We don’t often go to the movies and we usually choose to have our coffee at home instead of in a cafĂ©. We do A LOT of entertaining at home. In our gorgeous house. We’re prepared to sacrifice lifestyle but we will always invest in our friends and family. And there’s no point in having such a big, beautiful home if you’re not going to fill it, often, with people you love.

You’re lucky that you have such good friends.

You know now that I think about it, I think I only ever hear that from my friends :)

But I’m not alone. I hear people say ‘you’re so lucky’ to women particularly ALL.THE.TIME. And I hear good, strong and capable women take it on the chin far too often. I’ve heard people say ludicrous fucking statements like “Oh you’re LUCKY that you have a husband/partner to BABYSIT your kids” NO. One does not ‘babysit’ one’s own offspring. One parents them. And there’s nothing lucky about that. I know women who have had to defend their ‘fortunate’ lives as though they somehow don’t deserve them. My friends are sick of being called lucky for their life’s choices too. Lucky that they have such a good job, lucky that they drive such a nice car, lucky that they have such a nice partner, lucky that they have a happy family, lucky that they have a good life.

Calling someone ‘lucky’ robs people from owning their decisions. It devalues their own strategic plan and their hard work. It’s condescending and many times demeaning. It’s like the common misconception that new musical artists in the industry are ‘overnight successes’. As if the decade of training and auditions and failures prior to their emergence didn’t exist.

As with many people, the role that luck has played in my life so far is part of the picture.

But the truth is hundreds of little decisions every day and a few really momentous ones are the reasons that I live such a lucky life.

Monday, 17 August 2015


If you look up happiness in the dictionary you will see my face in this photo. I'm smiling so hard that my face is about to turn inside out.

Ladies and gentlemen I'd like to introduce you to Eden Riley. For those of you who don't know, Eden writes all the words of all the feelings ever in the world at Edenland. Her blogs are some of the most favourite things I have read in my life and her vulnerability is one of the most powerful expressions of strength that I have seen.

Sometimes reading her stuff is liking taking a round house kick to the guts and other times it's like I'm up the back of the classroom suppressing giggles while we throw rolled up bits of paper at the back of our teachers head and sometimes it's like looking into a mirror but it's never ordinary. When she publishes something new I have to put aside time to read it. Just in case it's one of those ones that makes all the water in my body leak out of my eyes.

Reading Edenland is not for the faint hearted. With raw honesty she shares her scars and the innermost corners of the dark places of her heart. Her posts of her brother Cam who the world lost to suicide have often been the undoing of my day... sometimes my week. Her love and pain is so palpable that I feel like I have loved and lost him myself.

But she's more than that. Through her, at times, debilitating grief she still manages to give something back to the world. Her work with World Vision is so important and the voice she gives them is inspiring. Her heart is generous even though it is crippled.

And if that's not reason enough for me to worship love her, wait until you see her crusade against the sexist bastards who run Wicked Campers.

Am I gushing? Maybe a little bit. But here's the thing. I've got a blog-crush on Eden. She is beautiful and her soul leaps across her words and her heart and shines out of her face. The seven minutes that we chatted (and hugged!) was the highlight of Problogger for me. I don't think it's because I'm star struck 'cause I met lots of other blogging idols of mine while I was there. I think it's because as you get older and wiser you understand the value of honesty and vulnerability and authenticity. 

And Eden, with a capital E, is all of those things all of the time. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

I miss having a pram

If you are new to the parenting gig or still have young babies at home you will almost definitely have heard at least one person tell you to ‘savour every moment’ or to ‘enjoy this time because it goes so quickly’ or something along those lines. And you may be like me and think quietly to yourself ‘ummmm… I didn’t ask you and having a baby is hard work and can’t you see I’m exhausted and who the fuck gives unsolicited advice to a stranger at the shopping centre anyway??!” Or you may be far more gracious and evolved than that and smile and say “I know” because you may actually know.

I’m not here to tell you those things. Because you didn’t ask and you probably are absolutely exhausted and I know better than to mess with an exhausted mamma with a kid on her boob and quite possibly another one drawing on the sofa in permanent texta.

What I will tell you in ALL MY WISDOM AND EXPERIENCE is that there are some things about those days that you’re in the midst of that I miss. Oh, don’t worry, I’m as shocked as you are.

I miss having a pram.

I loved the moment that I passed my boys’ prams on to my sister-in-law. It heralded the day of grown-up little boys who could walk next me and I had so much more room in my boot! But man, shopping was so much easier with a pram! Now when I go shopping I have to actually CARRY all the bags. I have to hold my coffee and there’s nowhere to hang all the clothes I’m considering buying as I continue browsing. Plus, when my kids whinge that they’re tired I have to actually do something about it instead of just leaning back the seat and suggesting they close their eyes for a minute [hour]. Also, the best parks in the shopping centres are the PRAM PARKS. I miss them too.

I miss being fat.

Easy everyone. I’m allowed to say ‘fat’. I really was fat when I was pregnant. I put on 20kg with my first and 25kg with my second. Those babies were both under 3.5kgs so god knows what I needed all the rest of that extra ‘me’ for but man was there extra! Even my face was big. It was an uncomfortable time and I felt like I was pushing maximum density but it was also so liberating! I was huge and it was wonderful. No hiding it. No sucking anything in or covering up. I was loud and proud pregnant. Now I’m all like ‘does my bum look big in everything?’ when before I just didn’t care. Did. Not. Care. I miss that.

I miss breastfeeding in the middle of the night.

I cannot believe I’m saying this. I seriously can’t but I really, really do miss it. Yeah it’s tiring. Yeah there were many, many nights that I desperately hoped my son would sleep through. Yeah I resented my husband plenty of times for being able to continue sleeping while I was y’know nourishing his child with my body with milk that I made. But here’s the thing. I made milk, people. I created life and then I made the only food that went into that human being for six months. I was the sole reason that baby was alive and thriving. And sometimes, in the fog of exhaustion, all of that was clear to me and those moments were some of the most validating and empowering moments of my entire life. And the love! Oh my stars the love. In the dead of night when it felt like the rest of the entire world was sleeping and it was just me and my son together in the lamp-light and there was nowhere else I needed to be [except asleep in bed] and nothing else needed my attention and there was nothing more important than feeding my baby [except sleeping] it was possible to just drink in the preciousness of the moment. Now I have to negotiate in terrorism-esque conditions just to have him finish off his dinner and put his plate in the dishwasher without scowling. Ungrateful. He used to adore me.

I miss the warmth of carrying a baby next to my heart.

Ok so I think I miss this so much at the moment because it is bloody FREEZING this winter. I’m putting on the electric blanket and going to bed at 8.30pm just to defrost my brain so I can think straight. I remember when my babies were permanently attached to me and they were so warm! Their little swaddled bodies rested against my heart and my days were spent kissing their sweet warm, round heads. I miss the feeling of cold when I would put them down [you should NEVER let your baby sleep in your arms all day – I can’t remember the reason why but apparently it was very bad parenting] like something was missing from me. My babies kept me warm and I miss the pureness of that. Now I’m too scared to kiss their head because I’m sure they never actually wash their face in the shower and who knows what hideous germs they’ve brought home from school on that head.

I miss stewing fruit and vegetables.

Oh those early solids! It used to drive me nuts having all those little ziplock bags full of various cubes of pureed food in the freezer. Organic fruits, veggies and meats all labeled and dated. What a hassle! What a moron. That was paradise. Going out for the day? Just pop a selection of ice-cubes in your snack pack next to the teething rusks and you’re good to go! Nowadays I’ve got to pack two different types of sandwiches, drinks, chips and be expected to fork out for a treat [which will definitely NOT be organic] while we’re out. And I’ll have to remind them AGAIN to use their manners. And stop kicking each other.

I miss changing nappies.

Nappies. Blegh. Except they’re not blegh. They were [usually] well-contained, sanitary human waste options. Sure, they cost a fortune but I had those awesome, scented nappy disposal bags which just packaged them up and in the bin. And those cute little bums that were all lovely and clean ‘cause I could use wet wipes were delightful! Now? There’s piss on the seat and on the bathroom floor. There’s shit stuck on the side of the toilet bowl and skid marks in jocks. Those bums are at the end of very long, skinny, hairy legs with dirty knees. I miss changing nappies.

I miss rocking a baby to sleep.

JUST GO TO SLEEP! I remember thinking this a million times. Yes, really – ONE MILLION TIMES. When my boys were babies, I was obsessed with getting them to sleep. OB.SESSED. Them? Not so much. How hard is it? “YOU’RE TIRED BABY. Close your eyes and go to sleep. Here, watch how easy it is for Mummy.” I hated being in those trenches. But fuck I miss it now. Rocking a baby to sleep is a walk in the park compared to sending a defiant 10 year old to bed. Pat, pat, pat and a bit of singing vs an all-out screaming match with threats of taking away everything that’s in any way important in the 10 year old life? It’s a no-brainer. Pass me that baby.

I miss toddler tantrums.

Toddlers are hard work. They are demanding and inflexible on so many levels. They’re loud and emotional and exhausting. Just when you think you’ve worked them out, they do a full 180 [figuratively, emotionally and sometimes physically] and you’re left standing there with triangle toast pieces thrown all over the floor and a crying monster screaming that they only eat squares. There were some days that I didn’t think I could cope. Coping was a breeze. How easy is it to make another piece of toast and cut it properly? Or clean up the toast from the floor and ignore their screaming until they wore themselves out? Or even distract them? Tantrums these days involve slamming doors and stand-offs that last hours and harsh consequences. And I reckon I’m not far off the dreaded ‘I hate you!’. Yep, toddler tantrums were a walk in the park by comparison.

I miss living by a 24 hour clock.

I hated living by a 24 hour clock. It was relentless but now I miss it. I miss the time when the only commitments I needed to meet were bath time, tummy time and the next feed. When I could lose HOURS of my day encouraging my son to roll and nothing else would be affected by that lost time. When that was not even considered ‘lost time’. That was called parenting and the things my baby did was called development. Now it’s all actions and consequences and attitude. LOTS of attitude.

What do you miss that you never you never thought you would?