Back to school! January 25 2018 1 Comment
It’s that time of year again to gear up for the morning rush and be back making hundreds of school lunch boxes. I managed to really relax this summer and it will take a little getting used to being up, organised and out the door with four boys early (8.10am for us EEK!) The twins start Prep this year too, so that means remembering four different sets of responsibilities, as well as their favourite lunch box foods. There is nothing worse that food coming home wasted and the thought of your child being hungry while at school.
To stay organised and to save my time and sanity, I’m doing a weekly meal planner. The boys all have different tastes and just when you think you can remember exactly who likes ham with their cheese or which snack they prefer for recess, they change on you! So I have asked the boys to update me on their top five favourite lunch box foods. I do a dinner time one too but for school lunch boxes, this covers their sandwich, fruit and snacks. They get a treat too but that is my choice as their list would be a lot longer than five favourites! I walk around the house with my little list and corner them at a cooperative moment.
Here is a sample of our latest table of their favourites (of course there are many more but I try to keep it simple and include the food groups that most people in the family enjoy). After agonising discussions about whether they’d like their sandwich cut into squares or triangles this term, or their hilarious suggestions on how I could make the strawberries “less mushy” by lunch time, we have our list. On sleepy mornings I quickly refer to this, as well as when writing my shopping list.
I cross my fingers that there is an overlap between all of their different preferences and I try to come up with an efficient way to make a personalised lunch box that they will love (and that should come home empty!) As much as people suggest it, I am not a “make the lunch box the night before” kind of Mum as I like their food to be as fresh and crisp as possible (as well as choosing to collapse on the couch in the evening). However, I do try to line them all up along the bench and pop any non perishable items in the lunchbox, as well as refill their water bottles and put them back in their school bag the night before. This probably only saves me three minutes but it may be the three minutes that we arrive past the school bell! I also go to bed feeling a little more organised.
As the boys get older, they get hungrier and I can only imagine our shopping bill when I have four teenagers. So I try to make all of the food choices as healthy and filling as possible to get them through their busy day. They all love banana bread so on my more organised weeks I include this as their snack or bring some with me after school fresh from the oven (yum!) No matter how much they eat, they still seem ravenous after school and we are often driving straight to an after school activity. Of course, I love to surprise them with an icy pole on a hot day but I prefer to get something healthier into them, especially if he are heading straight to a sporting activity.
I recently discovered that Chris’ Dips do mini dip+cracker snack packs. We love dips, so I was happy to see they do three of our favourite flavours in the mini packs - Hommus, Corn Relish and French Onion. The snack packs have a generous portion of the dip, as well as five crackers, so they are filling. All of these dips are Australian made and contain no artificial colours or flavours, which is a bonus.
I pop a small ice pack under the dip packet to make sure it remains cool until eaten. These holidays they have also been great for an easy snack to ‘grab and go’ as we jump in the car or I pack another bag for a beach outing.
Another handy tip to save time on school mornings is to create a school bag station somewhere handy in your house. I use a large cupboard at the back door that holds all of their uniforms, has a shoe rack and enough room for four school bags. It does help to keep everything together and ideally, they get changed as soon as we arrive home after school. That way I can scan all of their uniforms to make sure they’re clean and ready to go the next day and avoid a last minute morning search for a dirty school shirt! I also print out a large weekly planner with everything we need to remember each day (sports uniform, library bags etc) which I do a quick scan over as we rush out the door. If all goes to plan, I just need to pop the fresh lunch boxes in the four bags at the last minute and head off.
I have calculated I will make about 700 lunch boxes over the next 40 weeks of school this year (we do have some lunch orders), so having some quick and easy tips up my sleeve will be handy. A little planning helps ease the stress for everyone and saving five minutes is like gold when you’re searching for a car park or have younger kids needing a bit more of your attention in the mornings.
Good luck to all of the Mums heading back to school next week, especially the first timers! Jack and Harry start Prep full of excitement and pride as they join Charlie and Ben in big school. I’m saddened by this a little but I do look forward to the serenity of my morning coffee after drop off!
If you'd like more information about Chris' Dips snack packs and other dip products, go to www.eatloveshare.com.au
Available at Woolworths.
Our Trip with Free Spirit December 21 2017
Every December as soon as school finishes, I like to take the boys on a mini break. Partly to avoid the craziness in the lead up to Christmas, but more importantly to feel instantly like we are on holidays. By the end of the year our boys are exhausted and of course, so am I.
The thought of driving somewhere with tired, fighting boys in the back seat did not appeal at all so when we got the chance to try Free Spirit Airlines regional destinations, we jumped at the chance. For me, it was an awesome way to treat the boys and to fly somewhere new for just a few days of quality time to reconnect after a busy year.
From Essendon Fields you can fly to so many regional destinations (see below) and Merimbula was our choice! I have great childhood memories of this relaxed coastal town and I knew our boys would love it too. Flying directly from Essendon Fields airport also appealed, avoiding the busy major airports, their extra stress, time and parking costs!
From start to finish, the trip was hassle free. Getting to and parking at Essendon Fields was so easy. It was probably 20 metres from the car park to the check in desk and not long after, we boarded our plane. The plane was smaller than usual, but the boys loved it and only one hour later and we touched down in Merimbula. No fights, no boredom and no “are we there yet?” whinging from the back seat.
We got directly transferred just a five minute drive to Coast Resort Merimbula (it is also only ten minutes in the other direction to Pambula). After the excitement of choosing their beds and checking out the two pools subsided, we walked to the beach. The Sapphire Coast has so much to offer in terms of accommodation but I can highly recommend Coast Resort for the family sized apartments and facilities.
Directly in front is the beach, plus a fantastic park, great coffee and meals at Cranky’s Cafe, as well as a Fish & Chip shop (very important!) Directly behind the resort is Merimbula Lake with a short walk into town. The area provided endless adventures for the boys and we barely touched the surface of things to do in the area. There is also a fun park (Magic Mountain), Top Fun (bowling, mini golf, laser tag), plus a million other water activities on the lake and ocean (including whale watching at certain times of the year).
For me, Christmas is all about reconnecting and spending time with the ones you love the most. Quality time is hard to find and our little mini break removed all the stress of the year as we adventured away together. Walking, exploring and just enjoying the outdoors with plenty of time on our hands. Nothing flash, just our little tribe enjoying each others company. Raising four young boys can be tough, even tougher if they don’t get along, so this was exactly what we needed to start our summer holidays off right.
We are already planning our next little trip away (Port Macquarie looks good!) and when quality time is of the essence, we will definitely look to fly from Essendon Fields again. It was definitely hassle free and three days away felt like a week. We arrived without the stress of every day life on our shoulders and I got to spend so much quality time with our boys.
I also need to investigate a Girls Trip (maybe to eat & drink our way around King Island) for some rest and recovery after the school holidays are over! There are three operators with regular scheduled services that fly from www.essendonfields.com.au to 8 regional destinations.
Check them out:
1. Victoria: Warrnambool and Portland
2. Tasmania: Burnie/Wynyard, Flinders and King Islands
3. New South Wales: Merimbula, Dubbo and Port Macquarie
- Flights to Wollongong, Hervey Bay and Orange coming soon!
Our accommodation: www.coastresort.com.au
Our amazing 2008 Grand Final Week September 30 2017 1 Comment
In the spirit of Grand Final week I have decided to share with you some of my memories of the week we had as a family back in 2008. It is probably not you would expect.
Shane had played 304 games for his beloved Hawks and was contemplating playing his last. In a Grand Final no less. His only Grand Final. While we all knew the importance of this game to Shane and the huge significance that this would probably be his only chance to achieve his life long dream, we all tried to carry on like it was normal. It was NOT normal.
Throw in an active two year old boy who did not understand the significance of the occasion. Who had barely slept an entire night in his life and very rarely woke after 6am. Then there was me, eight months pregnant. Not at all tired, hormonal or anxious. Then there was a little renovation we were trying to finish out the back, including a half ripped up wooden deck.
It is well documented that physically, Shane was not in good shape. His back and his knee in particular were giving him the most trouble and I’m sure I only knew the half of it. He had had the best treatment, recovery and training programs possible to get him to 300 games about one month earlier in Tasmania. He had so desperately wanted that milestone and he really, really wanted to share it with Charlie (the aforementioned sleepless, active toddler). He made it and it will forever be one of my fondest memories of watching Shane enjoying the game and being surrounded by admiring people that loved him. And that was just from within the Club.
Shane had arrived at Hawthorn more than 17 years earlier and joined a hugely successful team who had won five Premierships in the previous decade. So it would have been reasonable to expect that he wouldn’t have to wait so long for his chance. But it was to be the entire length of his long playing career, riding the bumps with a grin. No one saw that coming.
So here was his chance. Of course he is so proud of his 1999 Brownlow Medal, but ask any AFL player and it’s the Premiership they want. The lucky few that achieve it get to live a different life. Not materially, but psychologically. I didn’t want to live with those battle scars.
The “what if’s” the “if only’s”.
I wanted Shane to not only have closure, but to also live the rest of his life as a free man inside his head. A father to my children that had no unnecessary demons.
I am not saying that a Premiership maketh the man, but it certainly makes a different man.
One that is more content and forward thinking, I can imagine. That is what I wanted for our future. It was not just the most important of Shane’s career goals to tick off, his boyhood dream and a fitting end to his amazing career. It was his sanity and his peace of mind too.
So the pressure was on. But we couldn’t make it look that way. The day after winning the semi final, I asked Shane what he wanted me to do that week. How should I act? Should I stay scarce? Who can come to the house? What do you want to eat? Do you want to go and stay in a hotel?
“NO, just be normal. I just want it to be like any other week”.
Well Shane, it was not like any other bloody week and that answer just made it more difficult for me. There was so much anxiety that swelled into that grey area. I wanted specific’s. An itinerary of what I could do and when. What meals to serve. How much to talk. Whether I should keep Charlie out of his way? Or use him as a nice distraction? Should I sleep in his bed? Can I pass on the thousands of well wishes that were directed through me? The requests for tickets? The updates on the renovation?
IT WAS NOT JUST A NORMAL WEEK.
Should I dare ask him what I should do if I went into labour?
Did you recall that I mentioned I was eight months pregnant with my second child?
There is always that chance that Shane Junior #2 was going to try to spoil the party. However, on that front, I was pretty confident that there would be no movement there. All of my babies have been very comfortable in breech position (sideways, upside down, wedged under my ribs). Yes even the twins. Apparently quads could have fit in there nicely. (Never underestimate your ability to breathe, or lie down on your back, or even hold a conversation without gasping for air).
So… I knew that Benjamin (as it turns out another boy) was pretty well stuck in there no matter how much stress I was under, or how many flights of MCG stairs I ran up and down (more on that later). But just for the record, I had decided (as with all of our babies) that if Shane was playing a game of footy when I went into labour, I would keep the news to myself.
You may call me stupid, selfish, or worse still, inflating the importance of an AFL game.
Unless you have had a child with one of these madmen, save your judgement. I mean that in the nicest possible way. I did not want the burden of knowing Shane had missed an AFL Grand Final opportunity to watch me in labour.
Of course, if I had the choice I would want him going through as much pain as I was and to gain just a glimpse of what women put their bodies through for years and years, even before the day they give birth. And then after….if only he could understand how lucky he is to sprint around the park and not wet himself, or feel his uterus in his undies, or his belly jiggle, or his boobs swell so hard and then leak. Or squirt everywhere in the shower.
But we all know that is why the WOMEN have the children. So my point is, no I was not going to interrupt his lifelong dream to have him sit next to my hospital bed eating a toasted sandwich.
So there it was, we were to act normal.
We did NOT act normal, we just had our best poker faces on. I did my best to make sure Charlie was not over tired, hyperactive or even loud around Shane. Instead of faking a deep sleep, or kicking Shane to notion that it was HIS turn to get up, I jumped out of bed in a split second at even the slightest non sleeping sound coming from Charlie’s room. I stocked the fridge with all of his favourite foods, healthy and unhealthy. I didn’t want to not have what he was craving in that particular moment. I put extra effort into preparing the meals and ramped my inner domestic goddess up a notch (not hard). I took most of the phone calls and requests and remembered all of the messages. I perfected the logistics of our week and incorporated sudden changes to our plans with a grin.
I danced around him and I walked on egg shells, all with a smile on my face, acting “normal”.
The Monday night was fun. Finding a flattering dress for the Brownlow, ripping an upset toddler off my leg and walking the red carpet feeling like a bloated whale. Then trying to last in between Ad breaks without wetting my pants. Every time I waddled across Crown Palladium to the bathroom (a lot) I prayed my waters wouldn’t break. Right there in front of Bruce McAvaney. Joining the boys in drinking cups of tea instead of alcohol and dreaming of my luxurious bed that was just a short ride in the lift away upstairs.
So we got that out of the way. No disrespect to that year’s winner, Adam Cooney. (You may also remember him as the guy who proposed to his beautiful wife with a Cheezel).
So we put on our poker faces once again and danced through a couple more days. UNTIL Shane decided to vent, or exercise, or help, or something equally bizarre, by helping the builders to rip up the old rusty, splintered deck in our back garden. Can you see where I am going with this?
Did someone say Tetanus shot?
He couldn’t be told and in the spirit of keeping my smiling poker face, I watched out the window with baited breath.
Yes, he stepped on an old rusted nail that wedged itself right inside his foot. His expensive, skilful, 304 game foot that had the weight of thousands of Hawks supporters on top of it too. Shit.
The nail was as quickly pulled out as Shane put his tail between his legs to come inside and call the Club Doctor. Another Tetanus shot later and it was nothing more than a bruised ego for handyman Shane.
So we danced some more and I tried a bit harder to keep all potential hazards out of the way of not only our two year old, but Shane also, who was clearly looking for distractions. It was just a normal week.
Thursday night’s Footy Show passed in a lot more serious way than Shane’s usual all singing, all dancing, shirtless extravaganza’s of previous years. There were no girls draped all over him and there were no special effects or acrobatic hoists being used to help Shane take centre stage in the Player Review of 2008. This year he only had eyes for one big stage.
On the Friday we included Charlie in the Grand Final Parade through the city. It was one of those typical Melbourne days that covered all four seasons, so I left the house with unshaved legs covered in opaque stockings under my maternity dress and kidded myself that it was no problem to take a brisk walk through 100,000 people up Collins Street at a faster pace than the car Shane and Charlie were travelling in. Lets just say that a quick stop off a a city cafe to rip off my tights (yes hairy legs and all) and a $5 bottle of water later…and I made it up the hill in time to see my boys in all their glory. Shane had a glow that came from so deep within that day, I will never forget it. He had his son in one arm and the Premiership in reach of the other and he was definitely in his happy place.
That night while I prepared an oh so casual looking but vitamin packed, carb loaded bowl of his favourite pasta, he announced he was going for a walk. This was not that unusual for Shane who often walked from our bayside home all the way out to Waverley in the months that his injuries were hampering his traditional training. But this week I had noticed he was avoiding being in public much more than usual. He had ticked off all of the mandatory engagements but other than that, had kept very much to himself.
I tried to distract myself as much as possible while he was gone, but the minutes were long and he seemed to be gone for hours. I prayed that it was all not getting too overwhelming for him. Outwardly, he was cruising through the week seemingly enjoying it, relishing all of the special moments. But inside was he breaking down? As the minutes ticked by, the more nervous I got. It was that horrible helpless feeling you get when someone you love is going through something so important (or horrendous) for them and all you can do it be there. Stand there waiting, hoping to do something a little bit useful. Probably a lot like Shane feels in the maternity ward :)
It was only years later when I read the draft to his book “That’s what I’m talking about” that I discovered Shane had had a little cry on that walk.
He wrote “it was the closest I came to betraying my emotions that week. Olivia and many others were just waiting for me to crack, but I didn’t. In fact I remained incredibly calm….
Walking along, caught between the present and the past I started to think about all the team mates I’d played with, the coaches I’d had and the training sessions I’d undergone….That’s when I started to get a bit emotional. For a very long time I’d wondered if I’d ever get the chance to taste team success, and now it was potentially only a few hours away….The thing that really brought tears to my eyes that night was thinking about the fact that this game might be my last”.
“I took a little secret into the 2008 Grand Final that no one other than Olivia knew. I didn’t tell the coach, I didn’t tell my team mates, I didn’t tell my family. I hardly even wanted to admit it to myself. But I knew that this was going to be my last game. I might have changed my mind if we had lost, but losing never crossed my mind. I was confident that we could - and would - win”.
That was the secret we were sharing. The burden we were holding.
I told you, it was not a normal week.
So Grand Final day finally arrived and early in the morning Shane declared that he was going to take Charlie to the park. That was not his usual game day routine at all, but who was I to argue?
Shane’s instructions to me about including Charlie on Grand Final Day were simple. He wanted him to be there if the Hawks won, but not if they lost. Simple? Not at all. As I nodded my head in atypical compliance, my mind raced with the logistical nightmare what exactly pulling off that “simple” statement entailed.
My Mum agreed to stay at our house with Charlie and invite a few friends over to watch the game. At the point that we thought Hawthorn could win, she would jump in the car and drive Charlie into the MCG. Once again, my Mum sacrificed her own enjoyment to help out Shane and I on this important day. She was hosting a party, was not able to have a few drinks in case she had to drive and she was waiting by the phone. (I have told you before what a champ she is).
That last day in September, it was hot. Extra hot for a heavily pregnant woman, so once at the game, I was drinking a lot of water. Which meant, you guessed it…I needed to pee a lot too. Every time I stood and shimmied my way down the aisle towards the bathroom, all of the Hawthorn FC significant others looked at me with expectation. No my waters had not broken. No I was not having labour pains. I just needed to pee.
Again? Yes again.
While everyone else could enjoy an alcoholic beverage to ease their nerves a little, I was sticking to the water when I needed it least. By half time, the score was Hawthorn 51 to Geelong 48 points. Not exactly making it easy to make the phone call to my Mum to bring Charlie into the MCG. We decided to wait a little longer and by three quarter time the scores were Hawthorn 89 to Geelong 72 points and Hawthorn seemed to have the momentum. So Mum jumped in the car with Charlie and her good friend Lois (who has been her Partner in crime since they were very young).
Half way through the final quarter they were approaching the MCG, so I waddled down several flights of stairs (sweating and using my pelvic floor muscles) to wait out the front. If I hadn’t been so stressed, I would have had a good laugh at Mum and Lois driving straight through all of the orange cones looking as naive as possible. They managed to somehow literally drive right up to the entrance only to be stopped by some confused Police Officers. Charlie was promptly handed out of the window without so much as a "thank you" from me and with him on my hip and 8 month preggy belly, I raced back up many flights of stairs to our seats. Phew.
The Hawks had kicked a couple more goals in my absence and it was then that I could finally relax and enjoy the moment. Those last five minutes of the game were blissful. Charlie cheered and I was very emotional. I believed that no-one deserved that fitting ending more than Shane. The siren sounded with a convincing 26 point win and after dancing to the Team Song with Charlie, I had to overcome my next obstacle.
How do I get from level two through this crowd with Charlie in time for him to complete the lap of honour with Shane? Off I went and pushed and shoved and huffed and puffed my way through the crowd to the front row of the ground. Tight security was my next obstacle so without any sort of official ground pass I gave my best pregnant lady innocent face to the burly security guard and explained my story.
He almost laughed in my face and said “everyone has a story lady”.
I will never forget those words. After more pleading and getting nowhere, someone in the crowd recognised either Charlie or myself as part of Shane’s family and started chanting “let her in…let her in!”
I had no option but to swallow my pride and lift my leg up over the fence. How I did that with my preggy belly and a toddler on my hip in a very tight space, I do not know. I made it and said something to the security guard along the lines of “I’m 8 months pregnant, I’m carrying a toddler, I dare you to stop me” to which the crowd cheered and I walked as fast as I could without looking back.
He took my advice.
I managed to find Ben Dixon (Shane’s long term team mate who had unfortunately retired just one year earlier) pretty quickly and handed Charlie over to him. At that point I was pretty much standing in the middle of MCG by myself. It was awesome. 100,012 people cheering, the Hawthorn theme song blaring and the two loves of my life doing a lap of honour around the MCG.
Being alone out there and not wanting to intrude on the boys celebrations (just yet) I was one of the first to head down the race into the players rooms. This is where the second greatest moment of the day happened. Someone must have politely got me a chair and I sat in a corner and watched the team, the coaches and all of the Club officials walk in.
People describe the atmosphere is electric and it is very difficult to explain if you haven’t felt that. It’s making my spine tingle just thinking about it.
If you’ve ever been to a Wedding where you absolutely adore both people and you know they are 100% truly in love and are destined to live happily ever after…you feel the immense love in the room. It was a little like that. Except it was combined with exhaustion and relief and littered with sweat, rather than rose petals.
The X Factor that team had was palpable. They had it in 2008 and clearly they still have it now. It is difficult to explain and impossible to replicate, but you know it when you see it. As a woman I describe it as extreme love and devotion for each other and for their shared goal.
Shane would roll his eyes at that.
So now, I live with a man that is not only a Premiership player, but a content and forward thinking man. He has no Grand Final baggage and he is able to sit back and enjoy watching his former team mates win Premiership after Premiership since his retirement with no bitterness. He became a changed man that day and I count my lucky stars for that. Occasionally I see that little glow appear that he was awarded that day. It is when he shares a moment with another man who has felt what he has felt.
That’s what I’m talking about.
The 7 types of friends every Mum needs December 21 2016 2 Comments
I am so weird, I have so many ideas for Blog posts to write all year round and barely the time to dedicate to writing them properly. This means they are either slap dash or not done at all. Then, four days before Xmas when our entire home has been transformed into a cubby house, my washing pile isn’t a pile, it’s basically a room and I am still only half way through my Christmas shopping…. I get inspired to complete one of the pieces I started a while ago. Of course, it is about my Mum friends. Again, reflecting on 2016 and ALL that it was, I am grateful and exhausted. As PINK reminded me:
The School Mum, the Kinder Mum, the Class Rep Mum, the Twincredible Mum, the Flat Out Mum. The sister, daughter, partner, confidant, drinking partner, coffee date and the pilates pal. She is tired. The cook, cleaner, uber driver, gardener and washer woman are tired. Especially the washer woman, she is very tired. We all are.
That’s why there is an unwritten rule that you just don’t expect much from people after Christmas for at least a few weeks. We are not only allowed to pause, but encouraged. It’s time to slack off, slow down and shut up shop. We need it, we deserve it and it would be unAustralian not too. Just like in some of the best parts of the world where siesta’s are the accepted norm and the afternoons are for eating and sleeping. Bliss. I think I am secretly Spanish (ooh Sangria), or Mexican (yum taco’s). We could learn a lot from those cultures.
So, how do we all do it?
The tribe, the village, the girl gang. Whatever you call it, we all need one and I have detailed the seven Mum friends in particular I am lucky to have and that I think we all need. They range from the Fashionista to the medical practitioner, but they all have one thing in common. They are an expert in something and they will save you in your most vulnerable moment.
Starting with the Fashionista friend. You know the moment when you can no longer do up the zip on that little black dress you relied on before your boobs expanded and then shrunk and then broadened somehow? That LBD you thought you could just throw on and now it has let you down on the afternoon of an important event. The type of event that you’ll willingly pay a babysitter to attend and hopefully not suffer an almighty hangover from? That girlfriend you call who owns a wardrobe full of suitable outfits. You can call and she will deliver. Snap.
That brings me to the pseudo emergency that arises when you urgently need to make yourself look presentable at short notice (or when you are the ONLY person in town to forget to book a hair appointment before the Melbourne Cup). Your talented friend who can blow dry like a Pro or whose endless hours watching You Tube clips enables her to apply makeup to dark circles that make even a 40 something Mother of four look fresh. Oh yes, when she arrives with champagne too, you know she’s a keeper.
Now back to that almighty hangover. The medical practitioner, who can tell you honestly if in fact you might have some rare type of food poisoning or no, its just the 28 glasses of champagne you guzzled before you were dragged home at midnight. Or like the time when one of my boys accidentally flung the trampoline pole into my face resulting in a large gash across my eyebrow. My trusty friend Rebecca gets a lot of strange medical questions from me, none less memorable than the evening I called her and she taught me how to butterfly clip my own bleeding brow back together over Facetime. She understood the threat of possibly spending the rest of my life with eye brows to rival Kriss Kross and neither of us were in a position to leave the house to fix it properly. My brows could do with some more attention but there is not a scar in sight. Boom.
Speaking of medical advice, we also need a wiser “been there, done that” Mum friend in our life. She is probably older, she probably has more kids than you and she is probably calm in a crisis. She has seen it all before and nothing seems to phase her. All of her kids have “turned out all right” as we say and she can tell you if this particular biting / cross dressing / grunting stage is “normal”. She will not only reassure you that this particular WTF phase is not only common, but recount the time that one of her tribe went through it in a way far worse / offensive / prolonged than you could ever imagine. Phew, I’m good.
Like the wise friend, it helps to have the “twinning” friend. For me, that was quite literally other Mums of Twins who I could say “WTF no-one understands like you do” at any time of day or night via all forms of social media.
You might be lucky enough to meet her at Mothers Group, or likely at school. It helps if your kids are a similar age and possibly gender, as you can roll your eyes together and really understand what they’re talking about (before they move on to the next stage and the previous one becomes a blur). If your kids are at the same school / have the same friends or hobbies, then you can really step the friendship up a notch with your combined logistics skills and Uber driver credentials. The busy weekends of sport / parties / play dates are much easier with a small team of likeminded Mums you can text at the last minute to share the load. Specifically the car load :)
The next type of friend every Mum needs is the Master Chef. That friend who just looks into a seemingly empty pantry and can whip up a glorious dish. This friend may be your own Mum, but whoever she is, you need her on speed dial. When it’s 9pm and you remember it’s the school cake stall in the morning. What basic ingredients do you really need to make some half presentable pikelets? Or when you receive the afternoon phone call from your Partner that instead of meeting at a restaurant, those important people are “just going to come to our house for dinner…it’s much more relaxing”. Hold crap, more relaxing? I couldn’t think of anything worse than speed cleaning the house (that means shoving all the mess out of sight and randomly vacuuming the most visible places) and whipping up an edible meal in between school pick-up, basketball and getting four ratty boys fed, bathed and into bed without protest. That MasterChef friend will hopefully calm you down with some “easy” recommendations or offer to drop off the Peking Duck she was casually preparing for her own family. If she is anything like my amazing friend Jodie, she will also drop the boys home from basketball and quickly sweep the front entrance before she disappears into the night like the superhero that she is.
Last but definitely not least is that 3am person. If you have more than one that is not related to you, you’re lucky. That person who would actually answer the phone not expecting you to be drunk, but knowing that you need them. The BFF type of Mum knowing that you want to escape, leave your husband or something tragic has happened. We hope to never have to make this call but knowing that we can is very important.
There are many more types of Mum friends - the interior designer extraordinaire, the Mrs Fix it handy woman, the knowledgeable lawyer and the all important 'Mum you can drop your kids to for a last minute sleepover when the babysitter cancels' soul mate type of Mum. The point is, it takes a Village to raise a child and a small army to raise many of them.
Fabulous Flat Out Mum: Amber Whalan September 13 2016 1 Comment
Introducing Amber Whalan, our Fabulous Flat Out Mum. Reading her story will make you stop and appreciate so many things. Your health, the every day moments you share with your kids, as well as your close friendships and support network.
Can you even imagine what it must have like for Amber, who was a healthy young Mum of three little children when she discovered a lump in her breast at just 28 years old?
Amber had had lumps before that turned out to be benign tumours, so in the early months of her third pregnancy when she noticed a lump in her right breast she thought it was just going to be one of those again. Amber did go to the GP and got a referral for an ultra sound, however with her busy life, she said that “the lump was the least of my worries, so I just left it and never got the ultra sound”.
It wasn’t until one year later, in September 2015 when she attended a fundraising event for Pink Hope’s “Bright Pink Lipstick Day” that she once again thought about the lump and finally went to have that ultrasound. A week later, at 28 years old, Amber found out in fact, she did have breast cancer.
With three kids under five years old Amber says it was “extremely difficult to begin with. In the first two weeks alone, I had about 25 tests / appointments”. With no child care for her five month old, she says there was a lot of juggling. This included three separate drop offs before every appointment and then three pick-ups afterwards. "I was physically and mentally exhausted and the hardest bit hadn’t even begun”. On top of all this, their baby continued waking every 2-3 hours during the night throughout her entire treatment. Now that is what you call exhaustion.
Amber and her husband Ben had to also decide how to explain to their children what was going on with their Mum. As the older children were only three and four years old, they had to be very careful. They “thought long and hard about what we would tell the kids and spoke to lots of different people”. In the end they decided to tell them that “mummy was sick and the doctors are giving her special medicine to make her feel better. The special medicine will make mummy very tired so she won’t be able to play with you like she usually can, and she will need to rest on the couch a lot”.
Amber explains that they did find a great children’s picture booked called “My Strong Mummy” by Pamela Schramm, which she says was fantastic to read to her two oldest children. As the book explains a mother’s breast cancer journey to her kids, they found it very helpful.
Amber says the worst part was “not being able to rest when I needed to. As you know young kids are relentless. I remember one day I had all three kids at home with me and it was 5 days after Chemo (so I was terribly ill) I fell asleep on the couch, I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, I woke up 20 minutes later in a panic, the kids were gone. Ollie (my 4 year old) had taken his sister and baby brother into his bedroom and shut the door so mummy could rest. I walked in on them and they were happily playing on the floor together. SERIOUSLY you have no idea how much that made me cry".
Children can be amazingly intuitive and understanding sometimes.
Amber says that "probably the worst was the look in the kids eyes when they wanted me to play with them and I was just too sick. They were too young to understand completely and it broke my heart every single day".
So throughout this horrendous period of her life, who did Amber turn to for support? “My mum and dad and my father and mother in law were exceptional. My mum organised a food roster where friends would bring over meals so I didn’t have to cook. Even my sister who has three young kids herself made me meals and helped with washing and housework. My family came to appointments with me and took notes, it’s pretty much information overload at every appointment and I was so overwhelmed”.
It is during this time that Amber saw her true friendships come to the for. “I realised that family is not always blood. Some of my friends were amazing, and were a constant source of support for me. My best friend Melissa pretty much put her life on hold for six months to help me in any way she could”.
At the same time Amber also admits that not everyone knew what to do or how to acknowledge the turmoil that was happening in her life. “Some of my friends became even more distant than ever before. It was almost like they didn’t know what to say or do, so they chose to say absolutely nothing”. She goes on to say that she has “learnt who I can rely on and that some people are a lot more selfless than others”.
So what does she suggest you can do if you know someone going through cancer treatment? With so many young children Amber found the rostering of others to take her children to childcare was an enormous help. This included the teachers at the children's kindergarten coming to her house at 7am to pick up the kids, and later to return them home. “They went above and beyond their call of duty and it was AMAZING”.
Other practical and very helpful things her family organised for her were when her Mother in Law “organised a group of friends to put in money for a cleaner for me once a week, it was bliss!” Her own Mum also organised a food roster with friends and so her “fridge and freezer was always full of nutritious meals and I didn’t have to worry about cooking”.
It was her best friend though that went wig shopping with Amber. For such a confronting and personal side effect of her treatment she says it was “SOOO good to have the support of someone there. Losing my hair was one of the hardest things for me”.
I asked Amber if we knew someone going through cancer or another illness, what should we say to them and what practical things did you find helped the most?
"This is a really hard question because everyone reacts, copes, deals so differently. So here are a few things that I really did and didn’t like:
- Don’t tell them that everything is going to be alright, just tell them that you’re here for them and their family and they can call on you when every they need. Making meals was just an incredible help. Make meals, drop them off and leave.
- Offer to be a middle man. I had 2 middle men, my mum and my best friend. They were well informed with my progress from day one and if anyone wanted to know how I was I asked them to contact them, not me. It gets exhausting telling the same story over and over again and someone going through treatment for Cancer doesn’t need to be burdened with it.
- NEVER, EVER tell stories about people who they know who died of Cancer…. Seriously people do this and it’s just NOT cool!!!"
How did the support and help of other Mums help at the time?
"I was so incredible lucky to be blessed by some of them most amazing mums from the kids kinder and school. I think as a mum you immediately put yourself in my shoes and you can’t help but need to help. Mums from school would walk Ollie to School for me when I was going through Radiation and pick him up if I had an appointment. Kinder mums were donating money to help us pay for childcare; they were calling Centrelink on my behalf, having the kids on weekends and days when I couldn’t get them into childcare. I couldn’t have done it without them".
So what did Amber miss most (or look forward to having again) throughout her treatment?
"My strength, going from training at the woodshed weekly, running and Pilates twice a week to not even being able to walk to the letter box without wanting to collapse was totally depressing. After Chemo I had a metallic taste in my mouth for a week and I couldn’t taste anything. A definitely missed the taste of a good Shiraz".
"I missed my hair too. Having long hair my whole life then suddenly
being bald was pretty devastating for me".
What do you appreciate more now that you have gone through this experience?
"My husband. He is the rock of this family and I didn’t realise the extent of it until I was diagnosed. He kept it together, kept working, kept the family going when I couldn’t contribute at all. He was amazing the entire time and I most definitely wouldn’t have been able to stay as positive as I did without him by my side".
"I appreciate the local community. I moved to Mentone only a few months before being diagnosed and knew no one, but regardless everyone still banded together and helped me and my family throughout the whole ordeal".
"I appreciate my kids, and realise how amazing and resilient they are".
So what can we learn from Amber's experience?
"The best tip I can give to all women is to know their risk and know their boobies. Pink Hope have a fantastic 'Know your risk online assessment tool', which will help you determine your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer based on your family health history. I highly recommend all women take the 5 minute test here: http://pinkhope.org.au/know-your-risk/
There is also a great initiative called “feel it on the first”, so on the first of every month self-examine your boobs in front of a mirror, familiarise yourself with every single nook, cranny, texture and lump. The more you familiarise yourself with your breast the more likely you are to notice any changes".
Now that Amber has finished treatment, she is helping raise awareness amongst other young women through your involvement with Pink Hope. "They have been there for me throughout my entire journey. They have sent me care pack and books, stayed in touch on social media, and joined me into their online support group, which is an amazing provision. I believe that they are the new generation of breast cancer charities. Their main message is that Men and Woman can actually take charge of their risk and avoid the possibility of cancer all together. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I’ve been through, which is why I am determined to help Pink Hope share this message with the world".
As one of the official faces of Pink Hope's 'Bright pink lipstick day' this year, Amber has collaborated with two other beautiful ladies, Sarah-Jane Young (She is, Sarah-Jane) and Jo French (Shanghai Suzy Lipsticks) and they will be hosting their very own cocktail party in Melbourne on Friday 23rd September.
"It would mean the world to us if your Flat Out Mum followers would get a
group of girlfriends together and purchase tickets to our event".
"The event is a celebration of woman who have had severe mental or physical health issues and not only overcome them but come away inspired, passionate, driven and inspirational. Attitude is everything". Being held at Speakeasy Bar in Chapel Street from 7:30pm, tickets can be purchased here:
Even if you can’t attend, you can still share the message. The motto of this year's Bright Pink Lipstick Day campaign is to “Save Lives with Your Lips”. Everyone should have a conversation regarding their family health history… because with this knowledge they have the power to take control of their health.
You can also donate directly to the online fundraising event page.
Thank you so much to Amber for being a part of our Fabulous Flat Out Mum series. I know you'll be admiring her strength and resilience along with me. Please help Amber to help so many others by coming along to the event if you can, sharing the information from Pink Hope and donating to this amazing cause.
I'm a hot mess Mum & proud of it May 10 2016 1 Comment
If you’re a regular reader you may have noticed that I haven’t written many blog posts lately. Actually I have written them, but only published a few. That’s because after four children and almost a decade of being a Mother, I don’t feel qualified. I have lot’s of topics I would happily discuss with my girlfriends and I get asked the same handful of questions all the time, so I think I know what you’d like me to write about. But I don't feel qualified to give advice. There are a lot of “Mummy Bloggers” out there giving their opinions on all sorts of things. What I know for sure is this.
After ten years, I still don’t know what I am doing.
A lot of the “experts” don’t have it totally covered either. Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was one book we could all eagerly read that gave us all the answers. For all the types of children, in all types of families, all types of environments and facing all types of obstacles. That Baby Manual doesn’t exist for good reason. Every baby and every experience is so different. Each journey is unique and that makes it beautiful, as well as incredibly frustrating.
The routine that worked for your first born probably goes out the window for your second. The sudden appearance of perfect teeth without even a fever, may be the case for one child, but unfortunately not another. The wide variety of organic puree’s you concocted for one child get thrown on the floor by another. It’s hit and miss.
I’ve said before that having identical twins is like living inside a science experiment. Nature versus nurture. As much as you admire their differences and consciously try to develop their individuality, there are some differences that are not celebrated. You just want the picky eater to be like his brother who shoves everything into his mouth with a grateful smile. But that same guy doesn’t sleep all night, nor did he toilet train himself. Yes I got lucky there. (Lucky I reinforce, as I did not follow a step by step guide).
Every day I wing it and every day I face a new challenge. Just when I think “I’ve heard it all before”, my boys invent a new excuse for not finishing their lunchbox or stop me in my tracks with a curly question from left field. Just when I think I’m on top of my housework…I find the entire contents of a chest of drawers strewn across a bedroom. Or I can’t even enter my lounge room because of the latest cubby house creation. The washing, the toilet cleaning (I wish we’d installed a urinal) and the picking up off the floor. Relentless, never ending, I’ll never conquer it. Or when I do I’ll be a lonely mess wishing my boys hadn’t grown up so fast.
I know it and every day that I use even more Pine O Cleen I try to remember that.
Our doona’s are not alway co-ordinated but our bedroom’s are designed to have the greatest of sleepover parties. The shelves are nothing close to display cabinets but they contain the treasures of this particular phase and trophies that are now broken but still contain the same pride within.
Our home couldn’t feature in any interiors magazine without a few week’s notice and a total makeover. It has potential, but no job is ever finished. Or when it is, a child’s artwork gets placed on top of my perfectly positioned wall decals. In the wrong colours. The rooms are rearranged and their beds are pushed together so they can sleep closer to their brother (I allow this one due to the cuteness factor).
Our back garden resembles a junk yard with chewed tennis balls, ‘flat’ footies and half the garden bed strewn across it. It’s the “lived in” look.
I never post my own recipe’s as I actually don’t enjoy cooking. I try really hard to give our boys fresh, real food in as wide a variety of possible. Sticking to a yellow colour palette has been testing with our second child. Mashed potato, scrambled eggs, pasta and toasted sandwiches are on high rotation. Thank goodness that banana’s, milk and cheese are also included in his current mood board.
What gives me hope is that our eldest also went through a similar stage and now at almost ten he is a wonderful healthy eater who proactively gets himself some fruit or yoghurt as a snack, even though he can now easily unlock the “treat cupboard”. I think that just happened. Or maybe, just maybe my subtle but consistent references to how he could help his body grow “big and strong” were actually sinking in with each eye roll.
Now to my organisation skills. I think they are finely tuned, but to an outsider watching me wipe breakfast off their face just as we enter the kindergarten gate or rush back to the car to collect the library bags, we may not appear so organised. I try to focus on the fact that the library bag WAS there somewhere, just not exactly where it was supposed to be ahead of time.
I haven’t actually been to school drop off in my pajama’s but my outfits are rarely well thought out or worthy of a photo shoot. My hair is brushed at the traffic lights and I might scrape the last bit of lip gloss out of a tube as I grab the kids and their ensembles and arrive with only a minute to spare.
Flat shoes reign supreme :)
I am not on any school committee’s and I have been known to accidentally forget my cake stall responsibilities even though I love being a part of our school community. Nothing is hand made - cake’s, costumes or crafts.
My kids have heard me swear and I have proudly walked away to giggle as they have dropped the F bomb in the most appropriate of circumstances. I get bored of their games quickly and have secretly had lots of children so they can play them together. I hate arts and craft’s at home, the mess and inaccuracy tests my patience more than the majority of motherhood challenges put together. I do enjoy baking anything sweet though and I fight them to lick the bowl.
Date nights are not scheduled, I very rarely put mushy photo’s of us on social media and I never give relationship advice. I am lucky to have someone who is made to feel special outside of the home, as inside he is just one of six. Take a number and if you get weet-bix for dinner you should appreciate that we had enough fresh milk to accompany it. Don’t get me wrong, we adore him, he is the King of the kids but he also has copped the wrath of too many sleepless nights and crazy days. He is lucky to have us and we are lucky that he too enjoys the chaotic lively home that he enters. It’s full of real love and he is a magnet for it.
The fact is, I don’t really care what other people think of how I run our family. I don’t know how I became this way, but I never really have cared for the thoughts of the ill informed. I know that I’m doing my best and have the best intentions in each particular set of circumstances every day. I am not doing things to appear a certain way to other mother’s. Pretending I have it all together is not a priority to me. Nor is putting perfect images or recipes or advice on social media. I’m just winging it and sometimes that may appear to be working.
Everything gets done, mostly just in the nick of time. We are a well oiled machine with several squeaky wheels. Inside our large and dirty car we do often turn the radio up loud and yell out the window at strangers to “have a great day” as we wiz past, all noise and grubby faces. After the initial jolt, those strangers seem to like it. I for one, will always remember it.
I let my boys fall over and climb trees perhaps a little too high. They play outside where they use their minds, negotiation skills and develop their courage. They get very dirty, they stay out in the cold and swim in the pool in winter. I have band aids in every place imaginable and have learnt to live with the puddles and dirt constantly being brought back inside with them.
We haven’t been to Disneyland, most of our clothes are not designer and we drive a Nissan. The facade of our home is dignified and beautiful, but inside it is dirty floorboards, broken toys and fingerprinted walls. The carpet is littered with dog hair and the boys bedrooms seem to have a constant smell of urine no matter how many times I wash, spray or open the windows.
They are probably on their iPad’s too much and they have a TV in their bedroom. They will suffer the consequences of not doing their homework at school, I will never do it for them. They are taught to bear the responsibilities for their actions, whether it is time in the naughty corner and being ignored until only the sincerest of apologies comes out of their mouth. But out in the big wide world, I will be a Lioness protecting my cubs if they are double crossed.
With me, I’m all or nothing and rarely in between. With friendships, food and exercise I’m either fantastic or hopeless. This changes daily. I try my best but often think “stuff it” and eat the chocolate or ignore the text for another day. I rarely drink alcohol but when I do I think I’m 21 with no responsibilities to wake up to. My hangover’s can last for days from only a handful of champagne’s and that’s when the wheels really fall off. The kids love it as they get McDonald’s and I fall asleep on the lounge room floor with them inside a magnificent cubby.
I have a favourite child and lucky for them, it rotates frequently. Somehow I manage to squeeze in alone time with each of them, even if it is just a trip to the supermarket or a late night snuggle in bed. We are in the moment and it is our little bubble of love that we create each day, however fleeting.
I invite friends over without cleaning up first and then I serve take away thai as dinner. The kids get a sausage in bread and we all live happily ever after.
When I look back at this time as a blur of meals, early morning’s and whinging children, this blog will help me to remember how much fun it was.
The only advice I feel qualified to give is this, try really hard to enjoy it.
The hilarious and irrational tantrums, the bath times that end up as rivers down the hall way and the time they threw their scrambled eggs at the wall. Inform yourself but stay open minded as to how your child will react to new things. Surround yourself with awesome people, even if there are only a couple of them. Keep your inner circle tight.
Embrace the chaos, laugh before you cry
and remind your kids every day that of all the things you do,
it is your favourite thing to be their Mum.
A hot mess Mum in all her glory.
Please don't say you're tired February 26 2016
I fell asleep in a bikini wax once. Yes a bikini wax.
So I know what it feels like to be tired. Beyond the normal definition of tired and more like the kind that Hollywood celebrities check themselves into hospital for. Exhaustion. If it could be measured, I was probably living for many years with the equivalent of 45 tequila shots in my system. Hazy, incoherent and with my physical and mental faculties severely impaired. Intoxicated with tiredness.
If the normal definition of tired is ‘fatigued or sleepy’, then I am looking for a new definition. If you can fall asleep while someone pours hot wax on your nether regions and then rips away at half of your genitalia, it has gone slightly beyond fatigued. So if you are so tired that just because you are horizontal you could fall instantly asleep, then you know what I’m talking about. In the dentist chair, during the extended puppy pose or yes, even during a bikini wax.
“Mombie" is a good definition. Maybe I will start a crowd funding project for a Mombie Warehouse. It wouldn’t need to be more than comfy bed’s, darkness and silence. You could check in for a few hours, a few days. Whatever you need.
I know Mum’s are tired. It just comes with the territory. Tiredness is not a competition and I hate hearing people compare notes. Vent to your partner. Vent to your own mother, but don’t make it the general topic of discussion. It is boring and like stress, it becomes self fulfilling. The more you harp on about how tired you are and how many times you had to get up in the night and that you watch the sun rise every morning, it is just reinforcing your tiredness.
It is dragging you down.
Last night is done and there is another one coming, so positivity is always best.
Yes Mums of little bubs need to count their night feeds and stay on a schedule, but don’t focus on the fact that you woke at 11.52pm
and then AGAIN at 2.13am
and then AGAIN at 3.55am
and then lay awake until 5.59am when you finally fell asleep until your bub woke ready for its 6am feed.
If the average life expectancy of an Australian woman is now 84 years, when you throw in at least two kids then you should expect to be extremely sleep deprived for perhaps ten percent of your life. For many it is more. I am only just getting a full nights sleep as I pass 10 years since my first pregnancy. So unless someone can do something to help with your tiredness, don’t mention the war.
Get your Partner to get up in the night, or let you sleep in when you can. Guilt free. Get someone to come and help in the day so you can power nap. Take an annual leave day to sleep. Yes an annual leave day. It will be worth it. Check yourself into a hotel for the night. Take up meditation or whatever makes you feel less tired. But please don’t talk about it with people who can’t actually help you out.
It is a global phenomenon and you are not alone.
So drink coffee, red bull, whatever.
Inhale more oxygen…eat protein…just do something.
And until I open my Mombie Warehouse, look forward not back.
School returns... with all its frustrations February 04 2016
As school starts back and I finally watch our first born happily get dressed and ready for school it warms my heart. I am so proud of how far he has come. He was THAT child crying and clinging to my leg for years. YEARS. He actually has always enjoyed school once he was there and has the most awesome BFF’s you could ask for, but he would just rather be at home. Blame the big back yard full of boys toys and the Dad who is a big kid himself, but the appeal of leaving our nest was never there for our eldest. Until now. And that makes me SO happy.
At the height of his anxiety one stressful morning, he almost pulled one of the most senior teachers over in the mud. You see, she had kindly offered to help me try to remove his grip from the car door as I wrangled the other children and bags in the rain. We both believed he would respond better to her kindness but NO, he put up a fight. He is a very determined child and I am happy about that. BUT I wasn’t looking forward to pulling both him and this amazing woman out of a muddy puddle. Luckily it didn’t come to that, but it is an image I will never forget.
Having a child like this is equally heart breaking and equally frustrating. You know how confident they can be and you know that once inside the classroom, it is the best place for them. Luckily I was pretty confident that no issues with any other children, or teachers, or learning, were the cause of his anxiety. I just wanted him to let himself enjoy it. That’s where the frustration comes in. You know they will thrive if they just let themselves. Now I have learnt, at least with us, that you need patience and time to get to that point.
He was the same for birthday parties. He would be so excited when he received an invitation and carefully planned the present and count down the days. Until it was time to go. I have since learnt that this is very common. The fear of the unknown. Not knowing that person’s house, what exactly was going to happen at the party and if I was going to LEAVE him there. Several times we were forced to pull out at the last minute or I was the only Mum who stayed and watched from the corner. It was so frustrating for us to watch him miss out. What child doesn’t want to go to a party with their friends? Ours. And many others apparently.
So the reason for my post is this. Every child has their “thing”. As confident as they look striding into the classroom alone, or speaking confidently in Assembly or winning another blue ribbon, every Mum is dealing with something that is frustrating about their child. Don’t be fooled by appearances and the small glimpse into their life that you may get. Don’t compare your children to theirs and don’t be hard on yourself. As I said it takes patience and time.
Last year we tackled his first school camp. Well wasn’t that months of dread and anxious conversations, (or non conversations) avoiding the thought of his upcoming departure? All for nothing. He was awesome. Yes the build up was horrible. Heart wrenching for me as I put on a brave face boldly promising him that he would love it. Surprise surprise, the tears I saw were from the children I least expected. Once you share your own story, other Mums tell you things about their child that you may least expect.
If you are reading this and not relating, count yourself very lucky. And your perfectly well adjusted child. Families of many kids know how different they all can be. Nature versus nature. I have learnt a lot about this having identical twins. It is not ALL YOUR FAULT! The temperament and personality they are born with, determine so much. Of course nurture is SO important, but some kids are just born that way, and as parents we need to earn how to bring out the best in that individual at that particular stage.
I read a lot of Steve Biddulph’s literature on raising boys and last year I was lucky to hear him talk in person. He was amazing and empowering and I walked away with so many thoughts racing. One thing he said that resonated with me so much and I will never forget it, is this.
You do not MAKE your child, you MEET your child.
So simple, yet so powerful. From a young age we consciously and unconsciously create an image of the type of parent we are going to be. They type of child we are going to have. A mixture of the best parts of both parents. Our expectations are high and they are not often met.
Our first born has taught us to remove our own expectations and open our minds more to meeting him. He is amazing. He is different to how we thought he was going to be, he is so much better, because he is Charlie. His quirks and frustrations and steely resolve are amazing. He has brought on the grey hairs and extra bags under my eyes and tested my patience to no end. He isn’t what I would have predicted, he is better.
This week as I watch him take the confidence and humour that he has always shown us at home with him to school, I couldn’t be prouder. He has opened up my eyes so much as a parent and given me confidence too.
Whatever their “thing” is, if you learn to MEET them where they are and work with them in their way a bit more, their time will come. One day they will speak in Assembly, or eat five food groups in one day or bring home a blue ribbon and your heart will just melt.
You do not MAKE your child, you MEET your child.
Merry Christmas & enjoy your summer December 24 2015
To me, everything that is great about childhood lies within an Australian summer.
Long, carefree days spent barefoot running wild. Less clothes and night swims. Water fights, sprinklers under trampolines, beach days. Sandy toes, wet dogs and sun kissed skin. No homework, no schedules, no deadlines. Balmy nights and sleepovers. BBQ’s and festive feasts. Succulent fruit and juicy faces. Each new day brings another adventure. Oh to be a lucky Aussie kid.
Our boys are at a great age. Right in the thick of childhood where their imagination runs free and Santa rules. Pure innocence and delighting at everyday things. Their laughter is infectious. They are all that is good in the world. Optimistic, happy, adventurous, ready to take on whatever the day throws at them.
I’m here for the ride. Building my patience and resilience along with them. Seeing the world through their sparkling eyes. Band aids and sun screen at the ready, sneaking in another load of washing as they scoff their toasted sandwiches. I’m the diplomat, crowd controller and head chef.
Amongst the mess and the fights its the time of our lives. I am present but I feel nostalgic. like it is flashing before my eyes. I am sucking it all in and storing every cheeky laugh and show off antic in my long term memory. Oh to be a lucky Aussie Mum.
From our family to yours, enjoy the festive season and summer in all its glory. Thank you to each and every one of you who has followed and supported Flat Out Mum. There are big plans for this wonderful community of Mums in 2016 and I can't wait to share it with you all.
Your Circle of Trust :) December 01 2015
This weeks blog post is inspired by a very interesting conversation I had with a friend about her husband (shhh don’t tell them). A lot is spoken of the sisterhood and the importance of maintaining a strong circle of close, supporting women in our tribe. Not so much for the men, but equally as important. Although it is often disguised as a few beers or a game of (pretending not to be serious) tennis, men need their gang to communicate and de-stress with just as much as women (in ways only they know how).
My friend was telling me that about once a year (usually on long haul business trips) her husband takes some time to reflect on his time management and how much he is investing in his own friendships. (Very clever guy he is). He bases this on the “Circle of trust” diagram which basically has yourself at the centre, surrounded by the inner circle where only the closest, most trusted and dependable friends can sit. As the layers continue, the closeness and trust dissipates until you reach acquaintances and then strangers on the periphery.
So he re-evaluates his inner circle and makes sure he is giving as much to the friendship that they are (and vice versa). If not, he makes it a priority to lock in some dates in the diary asap to catch up with them upon his return. His wife is also included in his inner circle so she is often ‘surprised’ with a lovely text or email while he is away reminded her what she means to him. How lovely (and such an easy thing to do that has such a HUGE impact). The modern day love letter.
As another busy year draws to a close and we see on the horizon some spare time and long summer nights to share with friends, I thought this would be a timely reminder that we could all benefit from thinking about our own Inner Circle. The treadmill of life is getting faster and faster and as much as we are aware of the importance of being still and quiet and having quality time, it is very hard to actually put this into practice most of the time. (Especially for Flat Out Mum’s).
I have always been good at moving people from the inner circle to the outer layers of acquaintance. My Dad always preached the importance of quality over quantity and in today’s crazy world, it has never been so relevant. Just because you’ve known someone a long time and have a precious history, it doesn’t mean that they are right for you in your life as it is now. That also doesn’t mean that your friendship can’t be restored in the future if it is right for both of you then.
Unfortunately being ‘family’ does not automatically qualify for being within your inner circle. Nor do people that you see all the time by circumstance and have a lot to do with in your day to day activities. Girlfriends who have been with you for a long time are definitely precious but I think it is healthy to honestly re-assess where they really sit in your life right now. These long term friends and possibly some family members may need to move further out of the circle. No one is ‘entitled to’ inner circle status just because you share bloodlines or a long history.
I’m not advising you to delete these people from your life, or even tell them that they are slipping down your ladder of importance, but I think it is helpful to be self aware. That way you can pick your battles and invest your precious time wisely with the right people. The people who you really could call at 2am if you needed. Time is precious and this summer will be most fun if you spend it with those most dear.
So as the year draws to a close, I am looking forward to spending some time with those most precious to me. It doesn’t have to be extravagant but it has to be meaningful. I have at least five precious girlfriends in my inner circle that I’m hoping still have me in theirs even though we are not physically together very much any more. I am hoping that the quality of our friendship overrides that and my few and far between text messages and emails reminding them that I think they are awesome and I miss them, are enough until we can reconnect properly again.
Enjoy the silly season!
Fabulous Mum: Amber from The Throwdown November 27 2015
It is not often that I find another Mum with four young boys and when I do, we either talk for hours or just share a knowing and respectful look. Earlier this year on my trip to Bali with my boys, I met this week’s Fabulous Flat Out Mum Amber Gourlay.
She had all four of her boys in six years and from our evening together (with 11 boys, all 8 years of age and under!) I could tell she was made to be a Mum of busy boys. Petite and fit (in her previous life she was on the pro surfing tour!) and with eyes in the back of her head, Amber personified the phrase I often use “embrace the chaos”.
She told me that in their short lives her boys have already given her many scary moments. Including when her oldest was lifted up into a fan (8 stitches to the back of his head) to her second oldest getting a surfboard through his mouth (same deal - stitches!) and her third boy once pulled a fish tank onto himself! She is grateful that her fourth has not yet been in any scary situations, but he is only 14 months old!
Living what many would perceive as the ‘dream life’ between Perth and Bali, her days are spent outdoors. When she couldn’t find a durable rug that also had style to suit the needs of her young and adventurous family, she went ahead and founded “The ThrowDown”, a truly multi-purpose and easily transportable mat which is made with a water resistant PVC underside, inbuilt pocket and handle carry case. Such a great idea (we use ours all the time).
So I took ten minutes of Amber’s precious time to suck as much wisdom out of her as possible.
With so many young children and living abroad, did your friends think you were crazy starting The Throwdown on top of everything else?
Yes, but my life runs on chaos so they expected nothing less!
When you have so much on your plate already, what drives you each day to run a business?
Just doing what I love, I love the challenge of it and the love of my boys that I breathe in every day makes it worth it.
What is your best time saving tip?
I have a window of about four hours a day in between big boys school drops and quality time with my little ones. So just Focus Focus Focus… I have a million things going on at once but in that four hrs I just try put my work hat on!
What is the best thing that you outsource?
I have a Production Manager who is on the ground running in between our factories and suppliers. So that allows me to be at my desk and drive the sales and marketing side of the biz. Occasionally sourcing new materials and launching new products I have to be on the ground but we are at a stage now that I can have someone reliable running around for me and that is a time/life saver!!!
Have you discovered any indispensable household products that you can share?
Sard wonder stick!!! My boys are crazy messy and this a must in my house. I bring it up from Australia by the bucket loads. LOL!
Have you managed to get your boys to help in any way with your business?
Yes I guess they help by smiling and posing in some of my marketing material.
If you could teach your pre-baby self one thing, what would it be?
Contraception!!! LOL no kidding… I would not change a thing and I guess I would want to appreciate all the spare time I had and make the most of travel as that is hard with a little tribe.
Do you have any tips for other ‘Mothers of Many’ on how to juggle everything?
Just go with the flow, choose your battles and be mindful that they are not kids for a long time, so enjoy the mayhem!!
What about things specific to raising a tribe of boys?
Routine, structure and whole lot of sport and outdoor activities!!! Basically keeping them busy!!!
Is there anything that you hear yourself saying (that you never thought would come out of your mouth)?
I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap? I’m like OMG its that my mum talking?!?!?
Best thing about raising children overseas?
The experience of a different culture and the extra languages they learn and the extra helping hands ;)
Hardest thing about raising children overseas?
No trusting in the medical system up here (Bali). I forever find myself second guessing a doctors opinion and I know I would not do that at home???!
Hardest thing about running a business overseas?
Probably exporting stock and the logistics on the other end!
What is your favourite every day wardrobe essential?
My One Teaspoon Denim shorts.
What are your favourite flat shoes and why?
Well I'm a lover of bare feet so do my fav shell crochet ankle jewels count???
Make sure you check out Amber's awesome Throwdown products here and support another Fabulous Flat Out Mum in business by shopping small this Christmas.
Mother Guilt November 18 2015
So it starts the minute you see those blue lines on the pregnancy test and you try to work backwards and remember how many big night outs you’ve had and how much blue cheese you’ve eaten since conception. Mother Guilt. It steadily increases from there and occasionally you experience a “fuck it” moment where you put yourself first. BIG MISTAKE. There creeps in the Mother Guilt again, probably twice as hard. Oh no wait that might be the hangover.
If the definition of GUILT is "a feeling of responsibility or remorse” then it actually takes into account both the past and the future. Double whammy. We are not only remorseful of all the tequila shots we unknowingly sank prior to our pregnancy glow, but we are also preempting the future with the huge weight of responsibility that lies ahead.
And so it begins. Where, how and for how long your labour took (or shock horror your planned C-section). Boob or bottle. Attachment parenting or controlled crying. Organic, ethically sourced whole foods or grabbing a jar of something that looks the same on the go. Working or not working. We know the drill.
As time goes on, I’m sure the guilt increases over time in proportion to the number of things you’ve done or said or thought as a Mother. Maybe my child was just born a non sleeping, picky eater who bites innocent girls at the park? NO, Mother guilt says "it’s all your fault!"
As most Mums know, normally there is one parent who can exit the house each morning only thinking about themselves and their day ahead. Happily they skip off to work and generally don’t think about the daily grind back at home until their thoughts turn to dinner. Most of the time when a Mother leaves the house they are normally exhausted from all of the planning that has gone into place to get there, and then their mind never really leaves their children. If we are lucky enough to get some hours to ourself, we may be worrying if they are sleeping well at day care or racking our brains if today was the day they were supposed to go to school with a cake or a gold coin donation. They never leave our minds. The survival of mankind can thank Mothers for that.
So why am I feeling a dose of the Mother Guilts this week?
Because I booked a quite spontaneous trip to Bali ALL BY MYSELF!
I know, it’s going to be amazing.
Or is it?
Should I really be leaving the boys when it’s such a busy time of year? There’s that party. That basketball game. That presentation assembly. That Volcanic Ash that could quite possibly delay my exit…. or prolong my sleeping, swimming, slurping, shopping holiday. None of it has happened and I’m ridden with guilt already. My spreadsheet is going crazy with every little detail of each day that might be forgotten. Hours of work will go into that spreadsheet that will probably stay neglected on the kitchen bench.
I know I deserve a little Mummy break. My rational mind is telling me so. But my rational mind tells me a lot of things. My heart is already aching at the thought of those days, nights and early mornings without my boys. I know it’s ridiculous. Sick even. What am I thinking? Well I’m not thinking, I’ve been sprinkled with a little bit more of that guilty dust with each additional boy that we’ve added to our crew.
Before you send me a little note to tell me not to feel bad and that I deserve it and that Shane can handle it, don’t worry I do have the capacity to switch off. The anticipation is always the worse bit.
So what can Mum’s do to shake a little bit of that Mother’s Guilt off? We know that it will never truly go away, so the first thing is probably to not be so hard on yourself. About anything really. We are our own worst critic. The reality of life is that each day will always include a variety of choices and compromises and opportunity costs. I’ve said it before, do the best with what you have in that moment.
Secondly, remember that the glass is half full. MOST of the time, the situation could be worse. For me this week and my little trip to Bali, my glass is very full. Focus on the positives and always look forwards, not backwards.
Thirdly, be present. Wherever you are, be all there. Make the most of every moment and don’t waste your energy (or miss the moment) thinking of another. Remember what the wise Maya Angelou said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
When you are with your children, especially when you have the opportunity to get out of the daily grind with them, make it quality time. Focus on them. Strike up an all consuming conversation that reminds them that they are the centre of your universe. Even when you are sipping cocktails half way across the world!
So when I'm on the plane to Bali and they remind parents to always put the oxygen mask on themselves BEFORE their children, I will shake off that guilt and remind myself of the most important lesson of all - you need to look after YOURSELF so you can be the best Mum possible.
Wish me luck…..
How to visit a new Mum October 29 2015
Last week I was listening to two ladies discuss when to visit their friend who had just had a baby. They were both very excited for the first time Mum, as well as relieved that everything had gone ‘well’ (anyone who has had a baby knows that even the most seamless of births is still FULL ON).
The baby had arrived that morning and one lady planned to visit that evening. The other was going to wait “about a month” to pop over to her house once invited. I’m not sure where you sit in this debate, but I am definitely with the latter.
When people are pregnant (especially for the first time) they tend to invite or even encourage their friends to come and visit them in hospital as soon as they hear the good news. They probably picture new Mums that they have visited before (or gorgeous photo’s they have seen) sitting up in bed either lovingly holding a baby, or with the cutest newborn wrapped snugly and quietly next to them.
This imagery can lead to you to believe that for several days at least, this is pretty much all a new Mum does whilst in Hospital. Well I am here to remind you that it is NOT. A woman who has just given birth and a family that has just met their new baby, is not just sitting there just waiting for visitors. Here is a list (that is definitely not comprehensive) to remind or surprise you as to what exactly has been going on in that hospital room or ward immediately prior to your visit:
New Mums have been:
- admiring their newborn creation in peace and quiet
- trying to ‘pass’ their first motion (ie: poo)
- trying to call their best friend to tell them the most intimate and intricate details of the birth experience. O.M.G!
- crying unexpectantly and uncontrollably
- allowing all sorts of people to have another look at every single part of her body
- inspecting and rubbing cream on their red cracked nipples
- putting ice packs or heat packs across their bulging breasts
- attempting to attach their baby to their sore nipples and bulging breasts in PRIVATE
- trying to grab the attention of the obstetrician / paediatrician / nurse / lactation consultant / cleaner / caterer (or all of these important people) when they wizz quickly in and out of the room
- admiring their newborn creation in peace and quiet
- filling out the mountains of paperwork
- reading the mountains of paperwork
- attending to the GIANT pad that is inside their granny undies
- getting changed out of their hospital gown into an outfit that fits / is respectable for visitors / doesn’t hurt any or all of these - boobs or tummy or nether regions
- eating whatever they are craving and without judgement
- trying to change the tiny little nappy of their tiny little baby and then discuss in detail the contents
- giving the all important (and often nerve wracking) first bath
- spending time with their Partner (and admiring their newborn creation in peace and quiet)
- introducing big brothers or sisters properly to their new sibling
These are just some of the 'normal' things occurring, but the list goes on and on and on.
I really believe that the hospital is a time to rest, recuperate, be with your baby and ask a million questions. There will be plenty of time to share the wonder with visitors, further down the track.
Clearly I have a definite opinion on this. Obviously there are exceptions for close family and friends to visit the hospital, but even these people should have received an invitation (a new one AFTER the birth experience) and a suggested day / time that it would suit the new Mother. Stick to that time, no matter what the demands on your own schedule are.
The rest of the admirers can wait. Some may have to wait a long time. Don’t be offended if it is a lot longer than you would have needed or anticipated. Each new Mum is different and each new Mum disappears into the baby bubble for short or long periods. It is normal and expected and looking back, I say should be embraced and enjoyed.
So, if and when you do get INVITED to visit, bring something.
I don’t mean an expensive baby gift (you can if you would like) I mean something USEFUL. A freshly baked batch of cookies aimed at increasing her milk supply or some other nutritionally packed item that will help to start restoring her body. Bring frozen dinners, a bag full of groceries, something that they need. Without being asked to.
Or ask the new Mum before hand what she is craving. For some it has been a very long nine months without Sushi or Brie or Corona or a spicy Indian curry :)
Upon arrival, text or quietly knock….don’t come inside screaming your excitement down the hallway and either wake the sleeping baby or big brother or husband who has JUST gone to sleep.
While you are there ask if you can put on a load of washing, help prepare dinner, unpack the dishwasher or something else useful while you chat. But remember not to offend them, or their once picture perfect home when you do make a suggestion. They’ve probably sprinted around for ten minutes hiding mess and clearing away dirty plates as you walked up the front path.
If you are offered something to eat or drink please say no unless you are dying of thirst or you can completely make it yourself. Anything you need, you should arrive with.
If they are happy for you to hold the baby, offer the new Mum ten minutes to herself. If the baby is awake (especially if grizzly) offer to walk the pram around the block. She may want to shower / shave her legs / dry her hair / change her pajama’s. Or she may not, but at least offer.
Remember it is all about them, not all about you. Maybe take a walk in the fresh air together. If she can walk (refer back to previous list).
DO NOT STAY LONG. If you announce your departure and they beg for you to stay, do stay but maybe offer again to do something while you are there. It is easy to fold or iron clothes whilst talking. Hand wash some bottles. Do something.
On your way out the door offer to walk the dog, take the rubbish out or hang up a load of washing on the way. If you noticed that they were either out of milk or bread or had mentioned they were craving a real coffee, quickly buy it and drop it back on their front door step.
I am not saying that you need to do all of these things but offering is a good start. Even if they say no to all of them, you will come across as the low maintenance, helpful and respectful friend who they WILL call when they do need something. Wouldn’t you rather be THAT person than the one who demanded peppermint tea, coughed all over the baby and then out-stayed their welcome?
Be useful, be available but do not get in the way.
As much as it may look like a peaceful and tidy home, most often the scene is more like a duck floating across a lake.
All calm and graceful on the surface....but paddling like crazy underneath.
Fabulous Mum: Bree from Little Chomps October 16 2015
We have all heard of Mumpreneur's, those amazing creatures that due to modern technology, social media and let's face it...women's creativity and our ability to multi task, have recently appeared.
You might be one, you might know one, or you may dream of being one. The thought of having your own business, being your own boss and fitting work around your family is VERY appealing. The truth is, it is very hard work and a constant juggling act. Not many Mumpreneur's become millionaire's but most have very high job satisfaction. At Flat Out Mum, we always try to support these types of businesses first.
One of these amazing women is Bree, who has created Little Chomp's feeding smocks. I have tried many of these products in my time with four very messy eaters and I promise Little Chomps are the best! They are NOT made of plastic (I won't tell you Bree's secret ingredients!) so they are durable, machine washable and have secure buttons to keep them properly in place!
This week, Bree share's her thoughts on starting her own business and gives some excellent advice to Flat Out Mum's thinking of doing the same thing.
How did you get the idea to start Little Chomps?
When my daughter started solids we were blown away by the mess she made. We tried a few products on the market but they either didn't cover her clothes properly, were too expensive and/or weren't waterproof or wipeable. We saw an unmet need and decided to take the plunge!
What do you find is the most difficult challenge of being a working Mum?
Definitely balancing all the competing needs of family, marriage, friends, extended family and the business. Having kids in my mid-thirties, I found it really difficult to switch off my work brain. I really enjoy working, coming up with ideas, researching and learning. I also enjoy working at home, being in the house with the kids rather than rushing out the door each morning to an office. But on the flip-side, like many other mums in business and working from home have said before me, it's difficult to separate work and home life, to switch off and relax, and to recognise when you humanly can't do it all. My husband often threatens to confiscate the iPad and to turn off the wifi? It's hard to know when to stop when you're so emotionally invested and don't have standard work hours.
Your tip for Mums on how to juggle returning to work….
Juggle is the right word. I think you have to accept that you can't get the balance right 100% of the time. Some days it all works well and you feel fulfilled in every way and other days you feel as though you've fallen short of your responsibilities to your family, business or both. I'd also say it's important to take care of yourself (of course I'm hopeless at following any of this advice).
Your tip for Mums who have an idea & want to start a business...
- Research the market extensively first.
- Trial your product/idea with a sizeable group from your market.
- Educate yourself. I attended a series of free ecommerce workshops run by VECCI and funded by the government. These workshops were invaluable!
- Join or form a group of women also 'going it alone'. I was lucky enough to have a brilliant group of four ladies to 'chew the fat' with. They were so reassuring and a wealth of information always.
- And finally, marry well. I don't underestimate the importance of a supportive partner. On top of sharing the parenting and household responsibilities, working on your own can be lonely. I share and seek his advice often, and I'm not sure I would have had the nerve to take the plunge if it wasn't for his support.
Your best time saving tip is…
Keep a notebook handy. Mine lives on the kitchen bench so I can jot down ideas and return to them later when my hands are less full. Also, I try to categorise my to do list into three categories so that I can have realistic expectations of what's achievable in a day.
1. Must do
2. Ought to do
3. Would like to do.
Then, if I only achieve the couple of things on my 'Must do' list, I can relax (that's the theory anyway).
Also, if you can manage it, get a cleaner! I don't know what I'd do without the help.
The best thing a friend has done for you since having kids is…
I was lucky enough to have a really great Mothers Group. I found it so helpful to vent and compare horror stories when the going got tough, and of course to share in the joys as well. These girls, my existing girlfriends, and of course the grandparents, have all been supportive through this parenting and business journey. I'm a lucky girl.
Your favourite every day wardrobe essential is…
Jeans. I basically wear jeans every day. It takes so much time and effort to negotiate my kids into their clothes, I put much less effort into getting myself ready in the morning. And, forget about accessorising!
Your favourite flat shoes and why…
Heels? What are heels? I'm in Converse most days. My 3yr old daughter asked me to wear a pair of heels from my wardrobe the other day and I had to say "no sorry sweetie, mummy only wears heels at night time".
Thanks so much to Bree for sharing her wisdom!
Find out more about Little Chomps here.
For new Mums (after the first or even fourth baby) October 14 2015
So last week I had a conversation with a first time Mum that alarmed me. She has a very young baby and was worried about how she was going to “do it all”. She asked me how I juggled things with four kids, a job, a social life and everything that goes on in the rest of my life. It is a good question but my answer was this - you simply can’t compare the early days with a young baby, with where I am now.
Firstly, I do NOT have a it all together. There are days when things slip through the cracks, many days. If you’ve read my blog before I hope you find that to be the consistent message. The needs of my children are many and life is often a logistical nightmare. BUT they will not starve if I don’t feed them every three hours and most nights now (finally) I get a good nights sleep. (The only thing stopping me getting a great nights sleep is my love of social media and the ability of Instagram to draw you into a fascinating labyrinth).
The needs of a young baby are relentless and physically you are not usually in great condition. You can often feel very overwhelmed with it all. In fact, I think you probably should feel a little over whelmed with how different your life is now. Yes it is different, so accepting that is a good start. You can’t picture how and when it will get easier, and if you can, that time seems a long way off. There are SO many sleepless nights to get through before you might feel ‘normal’ again.
I urge Mums in this phase to just simplify and lower your expectations. All Mums in fact, regardless of the age of your children.
With young children, you are most likely to miss social engagements and you will be pissed off. Or if you attend, you will find nothing to wear that makes you feel great, you’ll have to leave early or you will have such a great time that the pounding hangover alone will deter you from doing it again in a hurry.
You will feel like you’re drowning in housework and washing and that you will never get on top of it. Just when you’re starting to feel like you are, a wave of gastro or something equally as disgusting, will go through your home. You probably will dislike new parts of your body. If you’re genetically blessed enough to ‘bounce back’ quickly, you will probably be judged for it anyway. You will probably not give your Husband / Partner the attention that you used to, as your affections are focused on your baby. Or your own Mum, or best friend or whoever is your new confidant and pillar of strength that you suddenly identify with so much more.
I don’t really like to give advice as it implies that you are an expert at something. I do not claim to be an expert, just someone who has experienced a lot either personally with my own children, or I’ve been that previously mentioned confident for another Mum.
So here is a little list of practical things you can do to hopefully make each day easier.
The days will add up and all of a sudden you will ‘come up for air’ and think, “that wasn’t so bad…now where is my Husband we need to make another baby”.
- Try not to be busy, be efficient. Multi-tasking can sometimes result in a several unfinished jobs in every room of the house. Try to do one job at a time from start to finish.
- To be efficient you must rest. To be fully rested, you can not have GUILT. Take 20 minutes with your feet up on the coach to eat your sandwich, rather than walking around and leaving half of it somewhere only to find it went through the wash with the load of whites. Book that massage. Sit still. Have a cup of tea in the garden without your phone or pulling out the weeds. Start and finish a cup with only staring and deep breathing in between.
- Go to bed early. The amount of times that you need to get up in the night is mostly out of your control (sorry if I am the first person to tell you this). What you can control is how early you jump into bed. I won’t ask you not to reply to text messages or have a TEN MINUTE scroll through social media, but that is it. Everything esle can wait. You will thank me in the morning.
- Write lists. Do NOT rely on your brain to remember things. Even for the most obvious of tasks. You are a new woman now and that unfortunately includes your memory. Part of it was removed with your placenta.
- Divide the list into a couple of jobs that MUST be done today and add to it with optional extra’s. If you get further down the list than expected, book that massage as a reward. If you don’t even cross one thing off the list, book that massage anyway, as you probably need it more.
- Connect with people. Have that chat with the stranger at the supermarket. Blast out a bunch of text messages to friends (they will boomerang back when you need it most). Book in date night. Attend Mothers Group. Whoever, wherever you like to connect with REAL people.
- Nourish your body. I will never live without coffee and chocolate so I try to be smart about everything else. Good quality, fresh, real food in whatever form is best for you. Walk, stretch and breathe as often as you can muster. Be kind to yourself.
- Nourish your soul. Say NO to a mediocre social invitation to do something that you TRULY love. That makes you feel like YOU. Not someone’s Partner, Mum, sister or friend. Make time for this, at the expense of other things that don’t make you feel as good about yourself.
- Do NOT compare yourself. Even to the Mum of the same age in the same street with a similar baby. Do not compare, ever.
- Do the best with what you have in your reach and with the energy you can muster from within.
- Be grateful. I’ve said this before but after even the roughest of nights and no matter how bad you feel, try to remember that there is a woman (millions actually) who would love to trade what you have.
So to that new Mum. You will be able to "do it all". One day.
It will probably JUST be for one day before it all falls to pieces again but hey, we need to be optimistic.
If you have any more advice like this, please share :)
Fabulous Mum: Carla Rodan from Styling The Tribe October 07 2015
You know when you meet someone and you just get them? Well I have recently put a face to the name behind “Styling the Tribe” Carla Rodan. I have been admiring her from a distance for some time now and now after her interview, I’m even more in awe.
It is not often that I meet another Flat Out Mum of so many boys (she has three!) who has also lived the up’s and down’s of life with a footballer. Of all the things we have in common one of the most defining is that we both know we are going to be upstaged on the dance floor if we attempt to step out with our Partner. You see, her husband David is now just as well known for his awesome moves that saw him WIN the 2014 Dancing with The Stars competition, as he is as an AFL footballer (he had a very successful 12 year professional football career, retiring at the end of 2013).
So how does this SAHM manage three young boys (Tevita, Maikeli and Tomasi) and run her business? I could definitely do with some tips, so I asked her how exactly does she juggle the commitments of her business with the demands of raising three young (very active) boys?
“It's been a struggle. In fact it's taken me two years to launch stylingthetribe.com! I guess I've learned to find time around my little people and not to stress the small stuff. The majority of my blogging and admin occurs once the boys are in bed. I've also recently signed on as an influencer with talent management agency The Co Collective, who now handle all my enquiries, scheduling and collaboration proposals - which is a HUGE help. With two of my boys still not of school age, I'm a SAHM by choice and our days are filled with sports, play dates, kinder runs and house maintenance! My mother-in-law takes the younger 2 boys for an outing on Tuesday's which give's me a 5 hour block to be productive - it's amazing how much more you can do with a quiet house!”
So what is Carla’s best time saving tip?
I've learned very quickly that you can't say YES to everything. When starting out, I tried to accommodate everyone and everything that came my way, which ultimately left me feeling rundown and very overwhelmed. Signing on with The Co Collective has helped me better manage my time and prioritise.
Do you have any advice for others Mums with all boys?
Embrace the commotion and constant noise, it's one of the non-negotiables with having all boys at home! I'm probably quite relaxed when it comes to parenting styles and this works well for us. They have a clear (unofficial) code of behaviour which we model as parents and in turn they replicate when dealing with one another and others. Respect, Empathy and Honesty are values what we wish to install in our boys.
I also believe in the FFF Rule when it comes to raising boys - be Fair, Fun and Firm. In a previous life I was secondary school Physical Education teacher and these principals served me well when dealing with 28 fourteen year old boys in my ball sports elective! Given my three are so close in age, everything must be fairly divided, from the number of biscuits one receives to the number of hugs - they don't miss a beat! Of course FUN is what it's all about and creating an environment to nurture their curiosity and direct their energy into! And LOVE hard, boys are such affectionate creatures, cuddle them and remind them how special they are daily.
Is three a crowd, or do all of the boys get along well most of the time?
Three works well for us. The older two (who are 15 months apart) are literally joined at the hip and generally play well together. Of course they have their disagreements, but they usually work them out without having mum or dad intervene. The youngest is happy doing his own thing. He gets along well with both older brothers however is usually the instigator of any trouble! I'm lucky that all three have quite similar likes and interests - AFL, Ninja Turtles, Spongebob, Lego and Swimming.
What is the best thing a friend has done for YOU since motherhood?
Being part of an interstate football club (Port Adelaide FC) and living away from family when all three boys were born was definitely a challenge. However the friendships made at the club were priceless. I would have girls cook and freeze dinners for us, come by my house to keep my company (and wash dishes) when hubby played interstate and go out of their way to make life easier for me (coffee runs etc) The football club at the time were also a great support and really did become our second family.
If you could tell your pre-baby self something, what would it be?
Where would I start?! Go out more, stay out late, sleep in, travel, take risks and believe in yourself. Since having children I have learned so much more about myself and the way of the world, it's a complete eye opener.
Is there anything that you hear yourself saying now (that you never thought would come out of your mouth)?
(insert laugh) Yes. Some of the discussions had with my boys (particular in the bathroom) are hilarious. Also when it comes to behaviour management I've ripped out some beauties! The old wives tails to treat 'an injury' or encourage them to eat their veggies also comes in handy! My husband was born in Fiji and therefore has some 'village tales' which he shares from time to time to convince the boys to toe the line - we are often eyeballing each other and need to stop ourselves from laughing.
So on top of all of this, how did “Styling the Tribe” come about”?
The blog itself evolved from my personal Instagram page which at the time was only followed by friends and family. I was often asked by mothers of boys for advice on outfits for special occasions and would have family and friends recommend my page to mums struggling to find cool threads for boys or those after inspiration. I identified a gap in the market for an independent opinion on boys fashion, and with my personal following on social media growing organically, it was a natural progression into blogging. Social media is such an influential advertising tool and designers are extremely keen to showcase their products and connect with the target audience.
How would you describe your boys fashion preferences?
I think I have quite a rounded taste in boys fashion - comfort and practicality for day wear, but I do love a bit of luxe for evening events or special occasions. Given the boys are extremely active, I need to ensure my wardrobe choices allow them to be young and explore at will. At the same time, I avoid licensed apparel like a plague (pyjamas and the odd marvel tee are an exception) and ensure they have enough 'staples' (denim, whites, khaki, greys) to be able to create some classic looks. Being a Melbournian I also love to layer them up in the cooler months, sweater over shirts, card's and tee's, bomber jackets and knits - I can't get enough and pay close attention to global trends.
If you could suggest one thing to add to a young boys Spring wardrobe, what would it be?
One thing?! Geez! It would have to be a versatile pair of denim shorts. Possibly slightly distressed denim to add some bite to his outfit. Once you have a great pair of bottoms, you can change up his look from day to night with various tee's, patterned shirts and sweaters etc. And Boardies (sorry, I know thats two!) Boardies are a no brainer for a boy on the move.
So back to the dance floor, I was curious if their boys are prouder of their Dad for his AFL achievements or for winning Dancing With the Stars?
Ha ha, definitely prouder of his mirrorball glory! The boys were quite young (4 and under) when David played AFL and even though we attended matches, they never took a real interest in the game until he retired! Now they are AFL mad, and all support different clubs, two of which are interstate. Given David competed on DWTS last year, and the boys were of age to understand that Daddy was doing really well, it's had a much greater impact on them than his 12 year AFL career (much to his disgust!) ha ha.
Lastly, while I have captured the attention of one of Melbourne’s most fashionable Flat Out Mum’s, please share with us what is your favourite every day wardrobe essential?
Sneakers. I was an avid active wear fan prior to the sports luxe trend taking hold of the global market, which stems from my Phys Ed days. Particularly now chasing boys around, comfort and practicality are paramount. Anything from stylerunner.com is on my 'must have' list.
Finally, what are your favourite flat shoes and why?
Favourite pair would be my Rollie Golden Jungle trainers I picked up from the South Melbourne market http://www.rollienation.com/trainer-golden-jungle/
They are a local label and also make matching kids trainers which sits well with me!
A fun design, great with tights or denim and ideal for all day wear.
Well there you have it it, that’s why I say “it is hard to be a Flat out Mum in stiletto’s!”
Thank you so much Carla x
The best school holiday memories September 24 2015
Last school holidays we were very lucky to spend ten luxurious days in Bali. We were warm, relaxed and totally carefree. I was able to be a great Mum. Without the constant washing, cleaning and preparation of meals, I had so much free time to devote to my four energetic boys. Without all of the stresses that go with the school term and running a busy household, I was a fun, happy Mum too. I was the antithesis of me at 8am on a Monday morning trying to rally the troops out the door on time for school and kindergarten.
This school holidays we are staying at home. It is something we have been looking forward to for various reasons. Slow, messy mornings not rushing anywhere. Play dates. No bed time curfew’s. No homework, no sports training sessions and no deadlines. Bliss for different reasons.
The big boys (who share a room) are eagerly awaiting the delivery of their new bunk beds. That means I am using the opportunity to subtly discard some old toys and start spring cleaning. A chance to start term four feeling relaxed and organised before the routine starts again and we travel head first into summer.
In planning our two weeks “staycation” I have been thinking about my best memories of holidays as a child. To my surprise it was the long days at the local beach, pretending to camp on our trampoline and staying in our pyjama’s as long as we wanted, that I recalled first. I too grew up in a family with four children so that meant built in play dates and constant action. I’m sure my Mum chased her tail cleaning up after us, but to me the memories are all carefree. Making up games, entertaining ourselves and always surrounded by a lot of kids.
I was lucky to also grow up in a family with parents who loved to travel and explore. Whether it was intentional or not, they instilled this in each of us too. We had some amazing holidays travelling across the United States, riding donkeys in Greece and exploring different parts of South East Asia. But these were not the first things that sprung to mind when I was jogging my memory about my own school holidays. It was the “free” stuff. The games that required more imagination and the wild escapades that I got up to with my siblings.
Spending days building cubby houses in the garden bushes that included separate and elaborate kitchens, bedrooms & lounge rooms. Trying to fit all four of us on one bike and then riding fast down the hill. Of course, with no helmets. Or shoes. Never shoes.
Making mud pies and home made lemonade and then attempting to sell them out the front of our house. Finding 50 cents and sneaking down to the Milk Bar to buy the biggest bag of mixed lollies ever. Playing with the neighbours in the street until dark. Marco…..Polo. A Monopoly game that was taken so seriously that it consumed the kitchen table for days and days.
So while I would NEVER let my kids do most of the things I have just mentioned (I know I’m Mrs Fun Police) I have come up with just three fun things we would like to try these school holidays that I hope you will share with your kids at some stage too.
- Go out in the rain. Yes the rain. Rather than it be a hindrance, see it as an opportunity to have a lot of fun. Put on some old clothes or waterproof yourself as best as possible and go for a walk. Jump in puddles. Dance in the rain. I promise when you get over the initial jolt you will laugh with your children and they will rejoice in watching their Mum in a different light. After a warm shower and a change of clothes you will laugh some more. Priceless.
- Build the best cubby house possible and then try to have a sleepover in it. If you’re lucky enough to experience some warm nights, do it outside. If not, rearrange the lounge room for just one night. Yes it will be a big mess but who cares? Make it as elaborate as possible as it is the creation of your fortress that is most of the fun. Take in a “midnight snack” and snuggle up to your children with a torch. Even if you only last until 9pm, the look of them blissfully sleeping with a smile on their face will be worth it.
- Do something for others. Collect your old toys and take your children with you to a donation centre. Make colourful little notes with happy messages inside them and plant them in places around town for people to discover. Spend a day with arts and crafts and make lots of postcards to mail to friends. Go to your local park or beach equipped with gloves and bags and spend a few hours cleaning up. Teach them to do something for other people without expecting anything in return.
It doesn’t have to be expensive or exotic to be memorable.
In fact for me, the priceless memories are the one’s I least expected.
Fabulous Mum: Jodie Blight from Hello Table September 09 2015
Jodie Blight is one of those people who epitomises the saying “if you want something done, give it to a busy person”. She is smart, energetic and always on the go.
A Flat Out Mum.
Luckily for me, my oldest son chose her second son to be his best friend in three year old kindergarten and has barely left his side since. The boys union has been made stronger as their Mums love to have a chat and we have each developed our own businesses at similar times, so have been sounding boards for each other.
Even though she doesn’t drink coffee (say what??) and their family barracks for the Hawks recent arch rival (Sydney Swans) she is one of those Mums that you are lucky to have in your corner. The other school Mums and I already admired Jodie before she independently wrote and published her very own cookbook Summer Table last year, but watching her grow and persevere as she did so, has been extremely admirable.
Her dedication to fulfilling her own dream and setting a brilliant example for her children paid off on the weekend when she was awarded the prestigious St George Bank Ausmumpreneur Award for Digital Innovation. You see, she didn’t just self publish an amazing cook book, she also created a WORLD FIRST smart phone APP that makes the cook book interactive. You just scan the QR code featured at the end of each recipe and a shopping list is automatically sent to your phone. All of the items are even sorted by the supermarket sections – too easy! Believe it or not, Jodie had never even used an APP before and her lack of technical ability has always been the butt of many jokes with her friends and family.
It is one of those idea’s that is so simple and handy, you wonder why no-one has done it before. It took an entrepreneurial multi-tasking Melbourne Mum to do so.
Jodie got the idea to write Summer Table from lesson’s learnt when she moved her young family to a small Dutch village for a few years. There she was forced to change her approach to many things including cooking. This creativity and need to plan ahead to prepare meals that suited the entire family (and often for several days in a row), led to Jodie being skilled at producing interesting and tasty meals with whatever she had in the fridge. As a lover of good food (and as she admits, a little frugal), she didn’t want to simply reheat yesterday’s food and serve the same meal again.
So she became accomplished at creating tasty, quick and healthy meals with the abundance of beautiful food left over from her delicious Sunday roasts. She says that the best part was that no one knew they were eating leftovers (well, not until she wrote her book!)
What do you find is the most difficult challenge of being a working Mum?
Finding time for myself. I just don’t do it. I’m either throwing myself into my work or being a mum, with a tiny bit of sleep in there when I can.
I used to get irritated when I was trying to work while the kids were around. They always wanted or needed something (even if it was just a cuddle). So for everyone’s sake, I had to set some boundaries about time for work and time for kids and family.
Working on such an all-consuming project and being so passionate about it, I was working crazy hours which was not great for me – I was up at 4.30am and worked til 7am then made breakfast, lunches and took the kids to school. I then had a solid 6 hours to work before picking them up and running them to all their sporting events. Once they were in bed at 8pm, I would continue to work until I literally couldn’t focus any more. A few hours’ sleep, then do it all again. I sustained that for about 6 months. Crazy.
Recently I set some guidelines for myself to try to get some balance back in my life. My new rule is no working on the weekends. That has been relatively successful, although there is always the temptation to ‘nick in’ and check the emails as the office is so close and so easily accessible. (Having said that, I worked all weekend just gone. Oops!)
Your tip for Mums on how to juggle returning to work….
Don’t expect too much from yourself and don’t expect everything to be perfect. In fact expect everything to be in complete chaos and then you might be pleasantly surprised when it’s not (or at least you won’t be disappointed when it is). Get help – within the business and at home. Get a cleaner and maybe someone to iron etc. Take the pressure off yourself.
And also get the family chipping in to help. Kids love helping and demonstrating how they can be responsible. My boys love to help and it gives them self-confidence when they do something that normally an adult does. No matter what the age, kids can help (even if it is matching socks, feeding the animals, cooking…). Try it - you may be surprised at how they will respond.
Your tip for Mums who have an idea & want to start a business...
I think Nike said it best - Just do it!
Stop dreaming, or coming up with reasons not to do something and just give it a go. But do it for the right reasons, and do your research. Know your market, ask lots of questions and then put your head down and bum up.
Making mistakes are par for the course and what you learn from them is invaluable for both your project and also your life. Making mistakes isn’t a sin, but not giving it a go in case you do make a mistake, is!
The DIY approach doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. You can hire help where needed. And if the budget doesn’t allow for it, you need to come up with different innovative ways of incentivising and paying people. If they truly believe in your idea, they will jump on board. Offer them a delayed payment (when you’re successful) or a portion of the profit or a percentage of the business.
And remember, not every single person on the planet will love your idea. Don’t be discouraged by those who don’t get it. Just find your niche and focus on them.
You can achieve anything with passion, commitment and determination.
Your best time saving tip in the kitchen is…
I have thousands, but the best tip is effectively the concept behind Summer TABLE. When you are cooking, cook extra and then you have a fantastic, flavoursome base for a quick dinner another night during the week.
The best thing a friend has done for you since having kids is…
I am so lucky to have so many wonderful friends. I can’t pick just one thing or one person. They are all so supportive and also keep me in check.
Your favourite every day wardrobe essential is…
In winter that would be my black jodhpurs and boots. In summer, it is my denim skirt. They both go with anything.
Your favourite flat shoes and why…
I have a passion for shoes but as I get older, my shoes get flatter. I can be seen running around in my Skechers most days (I have a few pairs, different colours) but my favourite flats are these from Mimco. I saw them on Flat Out Mum and mentioned to a friend how much I loved them. She went and bought them for me! Just amazing – see what I mean about so many amazing wonderful friends! I’m very lucky.
So now do you understand why Jodie is this week's Fabulous Flat Out Mum?
Just the title of this blog will be enough to make my friends squirm. They'll think I was writing drunk or that Shane has hacked into my computer. For it only takes one visit to our house to work out who is the best at entertaining the kids (and consequently creating more chaos) and who keeps all the wheels turning (mostly in the right direction).
You see, Shane and I are very different. At least on the surface. Yin and Yang works well in a partnership but when it comes to parenting styles, we can be polar opposites.
Mrs Fun Police meets Mr Super Dad.
Many times I can be seen tearing my hair out when I have just got all four boys fed, bathed and calmed down ready for bed.....then the whirlwind that is Shane rolls through the door.
Of course, the boys adore him. Relish every opportunity to join in his antics. They wait at the door like the most eager puppy dogs and everything that mum has managed to make happen throughout this day flies out the door with the peacefulness of the evening air.
It can be very frustrating to live on the edge like this. To live with the prospect that my well laid plans can be over turned at any minute. But I know they are lucky to have him. Shane is tactile and hands on and all children need that. In my calmer moments I have reflected on what Mrs Fun Police can learn from Shane’s more relaxed style of parenting.
So here it is, I swallow my pride and I give you my list of the seven key lessons I have learnt from the silver lining that is Shane.1. Always have a sense of humour.
Spilt milk, drawing on the walls, tomato sauce all over the homework, you name it, he can find humour in it. What’s done is done and although it normally takes me at least 24 hours to reflect on the episode with a grin, he and the boys seem to find most things funny immediately. As they say, laughter is the best medicine.
2. Be in the moment.
This is really important. When Shane is playing with the boys, it’s like he has put his blinkers on and can not see anything but them and their game in front of him. He ignores the clock, he ignores the dinner in the oven and he ignores any kind of conservative rules that may get in the way of their fun. We all know that in the busyness of our lives it is so important to live ‘in the moment’. Easier said than done, but it’s definitely worth a shot to master this skill.
3. Play like kids play.
For our boys, who are all eight years and under, this means be silly. Do not make up adult rules, shake off your inhibitions and be a kid. Choose games they love and get involved with all the enthusiasm you can muster. No matter how stupid you feel.
4. Make a complete mess.
It pains me to write this one and it is directly related to number two. Under no circumstances should you take your blinkers off and clean up as you go. Nor should you be sensible or practical in the types of household items you use in your games. The wetter and dirtier you get, the more fun will be had. The length and width of the trail of destruction, is directly proportionate to the amount of fun you have had. Suck it up.
5. Be tactile.
With boys, there is always wrestling. For Shane and his friends this has continued into adulthood. I don’t think it’s just a footy thing as I’ve also seen my brothers and brother in law give their old friends lots of cuddles (disguised as wrestles) especially when a few drinks are involved. My nieces love this too. There is a fine line between being too rough and not being tactile enough. You must never cross that line, but tickling, wizzy dizzy’s and throwing soft objects below head height are all encouraged in our house.
6. Laugh. Laugh a lot.
Hysterically giggle until you hyperventilate if possible. Don’t let the running around be the only reason that you are breathless.
7. Never stop before they do.
It is vital to have boundless energy. Real or fake. Find some stamina because the ultimate man-child will never stop before their “victims” are happily scattered around the house exhausted.
I am not saying that I have mastered these seven ways to be a more fun parent. And clearly, I do not adhere to these rules 24/7. But when the time comes to play, I think that everyone can learn a little from Shane.
For when their childhood has passed I know that the routine, consistency and boundaries I have set will hopefully help make them into good, accountable men. Men who hopefully put women on a pedestal. But I also know that their childhood memories will probably be made more of Mr Super Dad than Mrs Fun Police.
And I'm ok with that.
How do you do it? August 26 2015
This week I was asked to write a post for a great blog Flat Bum Mum, written by Bron a blogger, teacher and stylist. She is also a mum to three adorable but equally exhausting young girls and she puts it, the "owner of a pancake butt". Check it out here.
My blog post was in answer to the question that I often get "How do you do it?" so here is is:
When I meet new people and tell them that I have four young children and that they are all boys, they are fascinated. When people see me piled with school bags, plus a twin on each arm with one grumpy school boy refusing to get in the car and another chasing his footy down the street, they often say “I don’t know how you do it”. I am definitely not the busiest mother, nor the one with the most children or the least help in my life. I am well aware that there are many many other Mums out there facing a much tougher day than me. But I also know how much I DO fit into each day and how most of the time I feel like I am running a school camp.
The meals and the washing seem to be the most relentless. The twins are now 3 and a half so their eating habits have caught up to the rest of the family, but throw in fussy eaters and a Dad coming home late, dinner prep can start at 5pm and seem to cover a dozen courses over several hours. Don’t even get me started on the washing!
There are ways to get organised and to get the children involved in helping with household chores, systems to put in place. I plan ahead, write a lot of lists, my (paper) diary is my most prized possession and am a good multi tasker. On top of that, I rarely sit down, unless I am on a sun lounge or at a beauty parlour (rare unfortunately), but I don't really like sitting down for long any way.
What I actually find to be the most exhausting is not physical, it is the emotional stuff.
Giving everyone the attention they deserve. Not letting anyone feel left out. Remembering all their little nuances and pre-empting what could be a hazardous situation for one of them. I definitely think that your heart expands with each child, but sharing yourself with each of them equally when you are utterly exhausted yourself, can be very difficult.
So what do I do? Each day I just do my best. In that moment, on the day, the best I can do.
I know that I won’t remember the details of the days or the never ending nights, but hopefully I do remember that on each of them, I did the best I could.
Some days were terrible, especially when the twins were babies. I was a mean, impatient pajama wearing mum. They ate left overs. They wore dirty clothes. I drank too much coffee. I didn't return phone calls. I was late to school pick up. I bribed and I bluffed my way through the day.
Some days I was amazing. I was a kind, patient and skilful multi tasker. I baked, I cleaned and I entertained. My house was tidy and my hair was clean. You need to rejoice on those days.
My best is enough. Our good days outweigh our terrible days. And those amazing days make up for those horrific nights. Those nights where it took every ounce of my strength to make it through each minute. Where I wanted to jump in my car and just drive away.
So my advice is simple. Just do your best with what you have in that moment. What you have left inside you and what is within your reach, it will be enough.
Did I mention coffee? Chocolate? A walk around the block with your BFF. A long hot shower (alone)……you can do it, just like the millions of amazing Mums before you. No-one expects you to be a super hero, just try baby steps.
Oh and if you can’t find the energy any other way, just stare at their perfect faces. Hold their chubby hands. Smell their beautiful purity. Suck it in. Be grateful for what you do have. For every exhausted frustrated mum, there is another in a different type of pain. The type of pain that doesn't just go away after a good nights sleep. The type of pain suffered by those who would love to be in your shoes, but have not been able to join the ranks of Motherhood yet. Be grateful.
Keep things in perspective, don’t blame yourself for everything and don’t compare yourself to what you PERCEIVE other’s are doing. Motherhood is hard work. The early sleep deprived years can be horrendous. As the children grow older, their problems and fear’s grow more complicated. As Mums know, the benefits far outweigh the struggles, so just be. Your best is more than enough.
Making new Mum friends August 19 2015
When I think of all of the things I am grateful for, I always think of my amazing girlfriends. I have definitely not been the perfect friend all my life, but somehow I have managed to accumulate the most amazing group of women in my 41 years. I have deleted a few along the way and found some in the most unexpected places. Like in a blizzard at Penn State University. Or in the stands at the MCG. And of course, the sand pit. Not to mention a few beauties that are now my relatives.
I always think that if you have a couple of people (non family) who you could genuinely phone at 2am and there would be backlash, you have succeeded in the friendship stakes. As you grow older you know the value of quality over quantity and losing friends whether on purpose on not, becomes part of your evolution. As we know, when motherhood strikes, we really need these true friends.
Australia is awesome for getting new Mums associated with their local Maternal Health Centre which then offers “Mother’s Groups”. However, I find that women are very polarised on Mother’s Group. It is either a definite “yes they are still my bestie's after 8 years” or “no, I didn’t relate to ANY of them”. Personally I recommend persevering with them until the end as friends appear in the most unlikely packages sometimes. I loved my Mother’s Group but unfortunately for me we moved when our first born was very young. We did live in a transient area at the time, full of young couple’s who tended to move out to the suburbs once the babies came along.
Moving to a new suburb is hard enough, let alone interstate or even to a new Country with a young child. It often results in even the most popular person suddenly becoming “friend-less”. This can be very isolating and just damn boring, so I know that life’s circumstances often result in the need to find a whole new girl gang. Likewise, when the second child comes along and there is no Mothers Group offered, you often have a lot of time alone with that child.
The hardest time to meet new Mum friends seems to be when your babies are between 6 months to 3 years of age. Ie, after the Mothers Group period / when you've come up for air and can actually leave the house fully dressed and coherant....but before kindergarten age when you're all of a sudden faced with at least 20 sets of parents belonging to your children's new friends.
So if you do not have this gaggle of giggling girlies by your side, where do you find them? There are a lot of articles written on this subject (just google it) so this is nothing new to discuss and yes, it is a bit like dating….so here are some tips.
Firstly, you need to give a little thought to the type of friend(s) you would like. Do you want someone who you can have a wine with (without kids) who you really relate to and have a good chat with one-on-one? Or do you need a daytime friend to hang out with amongst the chaos? Someone with kids of a similar age?
Do you want a “family friend” who also has a Partner that will get along with your Partner (hopefully) and you can do things as a big gang on weekends….If you’ve given this a bit of thought then you can narrow it down to where you may be able to best find these people. Sounds like stalking doesn’t it? I know some women who have made amazing friends by joining a book club. They talk less about the books and more about their life and love to have these confidants that are separate to their husband, family and other friends.
If you don’t know many people in your local area and have plenty of time to spare in the middle of the day with your children, you need a different approach. Once again, have a little think about what you want to get out of the activity. Eg; is it purely so your child can learn a skill or burn off some energy? Do you want to participate in the activity too, or do you want a “break” from your child while they play and you can have a chance to talk to the other parents? Don’t expect to make a best friend if your child requires your 100% devoted attention in the swimming pool or at an activity where the other Mums use the opportunity to nip out for a coffee or open up their laptop.
If any of your children are interested in a specific hobby, if they have special needs or are say, a twin, there are groups for that too. Finding like-minded parents who are facing similar issues with their kids day after day is a huge support. There is nothing worse than joining a group where perhaps the other parents don’t really “get it”. Luckily I knew quite a few Mums of twins who I could ask advice and exchange knowing glances with when our twin boys arrived. It has been a life saver. I’m sure this is the same for other more ‘niche’ groups. Google and Facebook are awesome for finding these communities and they will do wonders for your mental health.
If you’re after something more general in your local neighbourhood, there are groups and activity centres everywhere. You don’t necessarily have to pay for classes as most Libraries have a regular “story-time” and local Halls hold community Playgroups etc. These types of activities where the children can be a bit more independent (within eye contact) enable parents to have a good chat and develop relationships too. Look for a class or activity where the parents can also interact and perhaps have an opportunity to continue the chatting after the class at the park/cafe nearby.
Likewise if you are a working Mum you may want to find a class on the weekends where you may be more likely to find people in a similar situation to you. If you work part-time and choose to do a class on your one week day that you don’t work, you might only find Mums who aren’t currently working. Therefore developing an ongoing relationship may be tricky as schedules are difficult to co-ordinate. Try to find Mums who are also juggling the daily obstacles that you are.
Exercise classes with your children are also a great idea. Kill two birds with the one stone by committing yourself to an exercise group, get your child out and about and hopefully meet some other lovely Mums. There is everything from the Mums with Prams sessions, Mums & Bubs pilates classes and even dance-athons for you all. Sweat it out and hopefully strike up some friendships over time.
Now you have found an activity that suits your needs, you will need to put a little effort in if you want to develop genuine relationships with these people. Firstly, don’t expect it to happen overnight and secondly, to discover anything new, including friends, you have to put yourself out there.
Yes I can feel you cringe from here but new friends are not just going to land in your lap, especially now that there is not usually alcohol involved.
So, find a club that interests you in your local area - book club, passionate Paleo’s anonymous, Mini Maestro’s Music or Mums who marathon…Whatever your interests, find a group and take the plunge by turning up to the first session. You probably won’t feel like going and no doubt every obstacle will seem to be in your way on the first ‘date’ but persevere. After all, if it is an absolute disaster all you can do is laugh and give yourself a pat on the back for trying. Just think of it as practice session for one that really counts.
Finally, here are some key success factors for developing some new friendships. Juggling life and kids and possibly work leaves limited time in your schedule for socialising so you need to ensure that your are meeting with compatible people. In my experience, if they have most of the following it is much easier to form a lasting friendship:
- You have children of a similar age
- Your children who get along / play well together (dah)
- They live nearby
- You have similar work/home lifestyles
- Your Partners/husbands also want to make new friends & also get along
- The class/activity where you met is a genuine interest or hobby that you can continue together
So, put yourself out there...persevere and let us know how you go!
Find Your Tribe and Love Them Hard August 12 2015
Yesterday I shared a blog post that really resonated with a lot of the Flat Out Mummies on Facebook. It talked about the early days with a newborn and how hard it can be. Titled “When love feels heavy” by N'tima Preusser, it was shared with me initially by a young Mum I know who reads the Coffee & Crumbs blog. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.
It got me thinking about just how hard women can be on themselves and each other and I wanted to share my thoughts again on this.
I am really worried about all of the young Mums using social media as their benchmark for what most Mums are doing.
You are all smart women and I just wanted to remind you, not to believe everything you see.
As you know, it is rare to show an ugly photo of yourself or an unflattering angle of your screaming baby. When you’re having a crap day and nothing seems to be going your way, normally this is not what you are posting. You know this.
The whole reason for Flat Out Mum is to remind you day in and day out that this motherhood gig is hard. It is not as glamorous or as predictable as our previous lives, but that is OK. We all know why it is better and how it is better, even though it takes some time to get used to your ‘new normal’.
I want Flat Out Mum to reflect the realities of motherhood and perhaps provide some tips (and soon products) that will make life just that little bit easier.
I want Mums to read it and feel better, to feel normal. I want them to know that even the Mums with the most pristine exterior’s often struggle on the inside too. If someone is making it look easy, they are probably lying about something. Surely right?
Don’t do that.
My first tip is the most important. Find other Mums that you relate to, not that you have on a pedestal. The ones who will let you come to their house without tidying it up beforehand. The ones who will bring you a block of chocolate after hours and just sloth with you on the couch. The ones where your friendship doesn’t miss a beat when you finally ring them back when your baby is 6 months old. The one’s who you don’t feel embarrassed to tell that actually today I couldn’t stand my kids.
A line at the end of the aforementioned blog piece inspired my second tip:
“I beg you, embrace that things will always feel unfinished. Let unfinished be okay. Let unfinished be enough”.
You need to find your new normal and be okay with it. Life will never be the same, so just give in to it and ‘embrace the chaos’. No-one is judging you and if they are, stay well clear. Find the Mums that laugh at your daily dilemma’s and then share one of theirs with you too. Hang out with people who lift you up.
Re-adjust your priorities, lower your expectations of how much you can accomplish each day and how you want to look and feel 24/7. Do your best to be positive and see the best in each day, but quickly move on from the bad days. Have you noticed how quickly a toddler can recover from the most almighty tantrum? Five minutes later….all cuddly and innocent.
Upon finding your new normal, learn to ask for help. Learn that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. People actually want to help and it makes them feel better and that they’re important to you. Likewise, ask friends (especially those with newborns) how you can help them. Or just arrive for your (invited!) visit with your famous lasagne, pop it in their freezer and text them later with the lovely news. Rather than expecting someone to clean their house and be your waitress upon your arrival, come bearing a cafe bought coffee and offer to fold their clean washing while you chat. This is the type of friend they need.
I know that with motherhood comes a change in friendship groups. Life evolves and people come and go out of our lives. Sometimes this is really sad. Never did you think that you could be so distant with your high school BFF. Never did you think that you’d get along so well with that eccentric girl from Mother’s Group. Life often delivers what you need right now and so embrace that.
You’ve heard the lingo, so go and find your tribe, get your little girl gang together or assemble your sisterhood somehow. They will be your saviours.
This reminds me of a very interesting conversation I had recently with a great friend of mine who’s Father had passed away. We could relate and talk openly about how our Mums were left alone and how to try to support them. She confided that the best support to her Mum were the friends that she had made long ago when they all had very young kids. Many she hadn’t been close to once her kids left primary school and being in the generation without social media, she had unintentionally lost contact with many.
But their bond was strong. Their bond was real. They found her again at her lowest low and came back with a vengeance.
You see, they formed their friendships when life was not all rosy. When they were in the trenches together raising young children. They had become friends in some of the most testing times of their lives. They saw the unwashed hair, the messy homes and the scrapped together meals. They saw the tantrums and the tears, and it wasn’t just from the kids. They pitched in and helped each other and laughed along for the ride. Now of course, they look back at those crazy sleepless years as some of the best.
Do you see my point? Let those women in, let them see you warts and all. They will love you more for that and they will let you see a side to them that makes you feel better about yourself, not worse.
So...in the article the writer talks about sitting at a baby shower watching the innocence and naivety of the expectant Mum and “wanted so badly to prepare my friend somehow for the wave that was about to wash over her”.
I too have had this dilemma many times. No-one wants to be the bearer of bad news so we sit politely basking in all the positives of parenthood. I don’t suggest being the killjoy, but by portraying a realistic view of the daily grind of motherhood we are making it easier for those that come after us. By extending a helping hand and not judging, we will slowly chip away at that facade.
In the meantime, choose your tribe carefully and love them hard. The bonds that you are making today will see you though the rollercoaster that is life. Let the fair-weather friends fly off that rollercoaster at each turn and eventually you and your little girl gang will be screaming with delight at the ride. And what a ride it is.
How I know that you're a good Mum August 05 2015 2 Comments
Last Sunday as we enjoyed the first glimpse of clear sky for days, I ventured out into the back garden with the twins. I attempted to tackle the endless weed crop that seems to have sprouted overnight while they played happily together.
Having twins seems like more than double the work sometimes as you have the individual needs of two babies to deal with, plus the energy created from their interactions together. But when they finally reach an age when they can genuinely play happily together, it is just bliss. Their own built in play date and best buddy to face each new day with. It is gorgeous to watch and listen to their self absorbed conversations as they are beautifully unaware of time passing and the world around them.
This afternoon they were in one of their happy zones. They were playing some type of imaginary game on the trampoline that I don’t really understand as each time I tried to engage or participate I was politely ushered away. As I pulled out another weed I again contemplated the whole “nature versus nurture” debate. Since we have four children all of the same gender and the twins are genetically identical, I feel like I can comment confidently on this subject.
If I had to pick one that I feel has more influence over a persons life, I would definitely say NATURE. When you have twins, especially identical twins and they are on the same schedule, eating the same foods and going about their day in a very similar way, it is fascinating to watch just how differently they can react to the same things. It’s like living within a science experiment.
When I had my first child if he didn’t have long day time sleeps I was constantly analysing if he was over tired, or he had too much sleep the night before, hungry, teething etc etc. As you know, the list goes on and there are so many variables that can affect a child’s mood and sleeping habits. There is no single obvious answer and that is why the book stores are filled with a gazillion books on a myriad of different parenting styles, techniques and schedules.
With my first child, I beat myself up over this. If my baby didn’t sleep well it must have been something I had done. If he didn’t eat all of the food offered to him, maybe I hadn’t made it tasty enough, picked the right time to give it to him, or was offering it to him in the wrong order? What I know now is that NO, a lot of the time it wasn’t me! Yay it wasn’t me!
My baby had just woken up in a bad mood as that is his temperament…he is still not a morning person at 9 years old. He loves action and movement and rarely sits still (except for on Minecraft). With hindsight and with the benefit of my live-in twin experiment, that is perhaps why he never wanted to be in the high chair for long. Or low and behold, he was never happy to be strapped in his pram for long periods of time watching a girlfriend and I catch up over coffee. He is not interested now, so why would he have been at nine months of age?
Each of our four boys are so different in temperaments, personalities and the way they react to what life throws at them. One in particular embraces change and any new adventures, while another is a real home body who needs consistency. The twins too are already showing distinct differences in personality. One springs out of bed with a smile, while the other is grumpy until his Weet-bix have well and truly digested. One yells out hello from the car window at unsuspecting strangers, while the other prefers to suss things out for a while first before he makes friends. One eats almost anything and is adventurous with his tastes (yay!). The other, not so much.
One twin will sit happily reading one book, looking very intellectual. The other will eat that same book or put it in the toilet. Together it’s a crazy combination. As I said, fascinating.
So what does this mean for other Mums?
You are doing good job!
I can spend hours researching, creating and serving up a nutritionally balanced, organic tasty meal and one twin with engulf it, while the other will spit it back on the plate. So...it’s not your fault.
I’m not saying to throw the routine out the window, to stop trying to feed your children the best possible food, or to give up trying to get them to bed on time. I’m just saying that if it doesn’t go as you planned, don’t beat yourself up about it. Some days will be good and on others, no matter how hard you try… the shit will hit the fan. What you have to see is that that shit was probably going to hit the fan anyway, even if you were the "perfect mother".
My advice? Just do your best each day, embrace the chaos and remember that another day is dawning.
21 Things I've learnt since having twins July 22 2015 2 Comments
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