I’m a Tree; She’s a Bird

I'm a tree; She's a bird - motherhood

“I feel scared about facing this week,” I said to my husband yesterday. That sounds rather pathetic, especially when I write it down like that.  But it’s true! I have this fear, anxiety you might call it.  Matt is away, which isn’t unusual, but I am feeling so weary at the end of this school term. The kids are weary too, so right now, it’s like the wheels are coming out from underneath me and ahead I picture myself with gravel rash on my face. The kids are bickering more than usual and my patience is thin. Very thin.  
 
The very thought of going to three parent/teacher interviews by myself, juggling the kids during the interviews (or trying to organise a babysitter), cross country day, an oral assignment due, making sure everyone has the right uniform on and food to eat makes me want to sob.  I guess part of the fear is that I won’t be able to get through it the way I want to: with graceful patience.  Looking ahead at this week, I see myself snapping at the kids at every turn, trying to maintain the peace and dragging myself through.  You know what? I may even reschedule those parent/teacher interviews.
 
This morning, as I was getting lunches ready, Miss 10 hands me this note explaining, “Mum, you’re like a tree. And I am like a bird. You are beautiful like a tree and give me a home — shelter — and food.”
 
Then off she went. She may never know how much it helped me today. She may never realise how that one burst of sunshine will carry me through this week. What a beautiful picture to hold!  One day, I hope she will read this and know special she is and how much I treasured her words.  In a way, the picture she gave helped me refocus and I can see past the moment of overwhelm.
 
Overwhelm: it tends to shift my focus to a very narrow-minded state and I anticipate what I see through those unedifying glasses.  I’m on my skate board, let’s say, and the wheels are wobbling and I’m trying so hard not to hit the curb on the side of the road…trying so hard not to hit the curb; DON’T HIT THE CURB KELLY!! (And yet, it’s all I see, and I hit it).  And yet, when I take the glasses off, and see the big picture, there’s only a little curve there really, and I can look around the bend.  I remember my driving instructor (a very long time ago) telling me the same about steering a car around a corner: look around the bend, not at the bend! Ha! It’s interesting the things you remember sometimes!
 
If there are any other mamas out there feeling weary, remember we are trees, and we are beautiful and strong, even if our branches are drooping a little. And as mothers, we have the privilege to create that haven for the precious little ones in our care. Water will come.

Keep on Keeping on: Health and Fitness (week 1)

Keep on Keeping on: Health and Fitness

It isn’t a great heading for this post and I know it.  There’s a lot of noise about weight loss around these days, and much of it is sensationalised.  If I really wanted to get good click throughs to what I’ve written here, I probably should have titled it something like:

How I Turned from a Frumpy Mummy into a Yummy Mummy

or

The Secret to My Weight Loss

or

5 Tips to Lose Weight

or

Be a Hot New You

or…even better…

I was a FATTY

or wait…just…

FAT

(just like that in big capital letters)

Ack! No, no, no! I’m sick of sensationalism.  But I am interested in health and fitness, and sharing the story of my journey.  Here’s another headline:

I was overweight and I’m grateful for it

The Journey

Stage 1: Realisation aka a crash (1 year)

You see, I never had an issue with my weight before. Not even during my pregnancies.  Then my mum died, and it was like a brick that…fell…crashed…and life suddenly overwhelmed me; it caved in on me, and around me. I was depressed.  The weight crept up on me slowly as did the heaviness in my person.  Anxiety turned into an undercurrent of permanent fear.

I had to learn an entire new set of skills.  It was tough when the usual challenges of life didn’t let up. Still four children to care for. Still moving every year at that point of my life. Still with a husband working very long hours. Still motherless.  Nothing stopped and I felt like I was drowning in bricks, with life throwing more bricks, never stopping.  That peek was over five years ago now and I am different now.  I am different than when I was under a cloud…sure — but what I mean is I am different now, than before was depressed.  And I’m glad for the experiences I’ve had and the opportunities to learn from them.

Stage 2: Small Changes (+2 years = 3 years)

People who haven’t seen me for a while say, “Wow, you’re looking fantastic,” and it always surprises me.  Why? Because losing weight wasn’t my goal.  I didn’t weigh myself (I don’t own scales) or track my progress. I simply changed my life in small and simple ways: learned more; stressed less; moved more; ate better. Losing weight was an outcome, a consequence, not a goal.  I can’t even tell you how much weight I’ve lost between these pics, but I was surprised at what small sustainable changes DO over a long period.  

Then

weight loss journey

Now

Health Journey - before and after

In the first pic below, that was probably close to 2 and a half years ago now, and I think I had already lost some weight at this point.  I tend to carry weight evenly around my body (rather than having problem spots)…which is good — and bad. Good because I tend to hide weight well…and bad for exactly the same reason! 

Health journey - before and after weight loss

Stage 3: Mindset (+1 year = 4 years)

Changing my mindset has taken much longer than simply making small changes.  (It’s taken more than a year — ha — many, many years — but there was a fixed year that I had enough space in my head and seeing the outcome of small changes helped it all click. 

I changed my mindset—> that affected my choices —> which in turn changed my body.

Five Don’ts That Worked for Me

1.Don’t try and lose weight

Do aim for a healthy life.

2. Don’t focus on the number on the scales

Do look forward to feeling well, and strong, and having the freedom to wear swimwear so you can swim without a care with your kids. Don’t focus on how you look (don’t buy into the RUBBISH society loves to splash around – just don’t). Do focus on how obtaining health feels and the freedom that comes with that.

3. Don’t do low fat

Do eat good food.  Whole food is good food.  It it what it is. What matters isn’t high fat, or low sugar, low carbs or other marketing ploys. Over the years, I’ve been trying to introduce more whole fresh foods in my diet, and you know…my ‘fat’ intake may even be higher now. It’s when we mess around the gorgeous food, change it and warp it beyond its form,  that it’s wrecked.  

With the risk of appearing like I’m contradicting myself here, I do eat low fat yoghurt and milk sometimes, but the point is I don’t worry too much about ensuring food is low fat, because when you treat each food with respect, you just accept it for what it is and how it fits in the big picture of overall health.  For example, I love a creamy brie and I’ll enjoy it sometimes in the big picture of my health. I don’t want a low fat version!! Haha.

4. Don’t make big changes

Do make small sustainable changes…and keep on keeping on.  For example, buy natural yoghurt and have it with fresh fruit rather than buying ‘low fat’ (usually WAY higher in sugar) flavoured yoghurt. Swap whole nuts for biscuits.  That sort of thing.  There are a million little ways that make up to big changes.

5. Don’t follow anyone’s ‘plans’

Do learn to listen to your body. I’m not against plans.  In fact, I’m doing one at the moment. However, I follow my own path, and I use programs as a tool, not as a goal. If you don’t have your OWN big picture, a plan will most probably become a fad.

Stage 4: Challenge (+1 year = 5 years)

So this is the fifth year now, and made many changes to the choices I make, and how I approach life in terms of health.  I’m always looking to push myself further.  I found a wonderful PT group here in Brisbane, Phyzique by Lauren Phillips, and I attend 3 classes a week. I’ve been with Lauren for over a year now.  When it came to the start of this year, I recognised the need for some support when it comes to putting more fresh food in my diet so I’m doing a 10 week challenge which will help me to be disciplined about the food choices I make.  It’s just another step.

Week One

Clean Eating -- Weekly FoodDay 1: 

Breakfast: Whole apricot

Snack: Blueberries with small amount of greek yoghurt

Lunch: Quoina & almond salad with egg 

Snack: Almonds, carrot & celery sticks

Dinner: Black Rice, whole steamed vegetables, tuna, drizzle of soy sauce

Day 2:

Breakfast: 1 piece of 9 grain toast with peanut butter, lady finger banana

Snack: 1/2 cup fruit smoothie

Lunch: Black quoina & rice salad with a carrot

Snack: 2 chocolate date balls

Dinner: Deconstructed taco: lean mince, cooked with onion, herbs and baked beans, raw beetroot, raw carrot, lettuce

Day 3

Breakfast: Natural yoghurt with blueberries with half an orange

Snack: Tuna sushi (out)

Lunch: Roast vegetable cous cous (150g)

Snack: 1 homemade ginger biscuit

Dinner: Warm chicken salad: with avocado, capsicum & vinaigrette dressing (out)

Day 4:

Breakfast: Porridge with sunflower seeds, wheat germ & small lady finger banana

Snack: Carrot & celery sticks

Lunch: Black rice with corn bok choy, dressed with cream cheese and a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce 

Snack: 6 cherries

Dinner: Homemade chicken & ginger wonton soup with carrot and bok choy.  After dinner: Apricot & oat ball

Day 5:

Breakfast: Porridge with blueberries and sunflower seeds

Snack: –

Lunch: Black rice with tuna, cherry tomatoes, corn and kale

Snack: 2 chocolate date balls

Dinner: Ham, spinach, avocado & fetta with sweet potato chips

Day 6:

Breakfast: High bran weet-bix with sunflower seeds

Snack: Almonds plus a few dates

Lunch: 9 grain bread with ham, avocado, cottage cheese, spinach, cucumber & tomato 

Snack: Cherries

Dinner: Warm chicken salad (out)

Day 7

Breakfast: Porridge with blueberries, natural yoghurt, sunflower seeds

Snack: Celery with peanut butter & snow peas

Lunch: Black rice, tuna, spinach salad, parmesan cheese (instead of dressing)

Snack: Apricot & Oat Ball

Dinner: Wholemeal muffin with lean bacon, egg, wholegrain mustard and spinach

Exercise

3 Group PT Sessions, 1 x 7K Run

Note: I have more time to exercise now my kids are older.  When they were younger, I couldn’t manage as much, but still found ways to maintain fitness and I shared some in this guest post for Diminishing Lucy.

Changes and Observations

Week one down.  I honestly like the food I’m eating and it hasn’t been too difficult because I’ve already made many small changes to the way we eat as a family so for my meals, I’m just tweaking them a little. The trick is taking the time to fit in more (smaller) meals during the day and being smart about preparing food (so I don’t get caught out).  I don’t have a diet to follow or anything like that — I choose my own food — but am trying to eat more whole foods, less refined, and making the calories count (like choosing quinoa instead of white rice; that sort of thing).

After a week, I’ve noticed a difference in the clarity of my skin.

I’ll update again next week.

HERE’S THE SECRET TO MY WEIGHT LOSS!

Five hard years learning, changing & growing. It’s as simple as that. ;)

Wherever you are on the journey, keep on keeping on. Just start somewhere. Onward. 

The Small Blessings That Speak Truth

I wish I thought to take a picture of all the rubbish that came home in my children’s bags on the last day of school. It was epic!  Think this picture below times at least 100.  This is just the remnants; the stuff that was salvageable.

the little things that count

School is finished and I managed to get through the last couple of weeks.  I didn’t get through gracefully, but the dreaded weeks are behind me.  When there are rough patches in family life, I often feel alone. I wonder if there is something wrong with me. The kids bicker more than usual. My temper is stretched. I’m exhausted. The house becomes a dumping ground as we frantically try to do the everything that needs to be done, and be at all the places we need to be. This means things aren’t organised at home, and I don’t know where I’m at. I can’t find things and the house runs in a hickelty-pickelty fashion. I feel down, and am unable to think clearly.  I wrote about this, and was surprised, and so very encouraged by the lovely responses I received. Parenting can be quite a lonely journey at times. And yet we do share so many of the same experiences, so I have discovered once again.

I feel more like myself again.

There is a little story I want to share.  It has a little to do with the odious task of unpacking school bags, and a lot to do with listening for the stillness of truth amongst the noise.

The small blessings that speak truth…

I watched my girls walk through the gate, and under the fiery poinsettia tree that provided a carpet of red-orange on the grass.  They were walking slow, turning to each other in comfortable conversation.  I never fail to feel a sense of pride at the evidence of their relationship and what good friends they are. It was the last day of school and I was glad of it.  My two eldest girls were still 20 metres away when I wound down the window of the car.

“You DID IT! You finished school for the year! Congratulations!!” I didn’t care who overheard me.

I watched the smiles creep on their faces. As they came closer, I noticed their swollen backpacks and a sense of dread filled me at inevitable: the job of sorting through the contents. Some of my prior exuberance leaked out of me like an injured balloon fading fast. More stuff to deal with. More rubbish. More things to find a home for. I get so sick of stuff sometimes.

Later at home, I found the usual in the backpacks: broken pencils, rotten fruit, pens without lids, 6 erasers (2 from the start of the year and another 4 so called ‘replacements’ I was commissioned to buy), empty glue sticks, small containers I had been looking for all year, 4 teaspoons, 1 fork, books, paper, paper, and more paper.

As I sorted through the items, I came across a self portrait and profile written by my then 7-year-old daughter.

little things that matterYou know, it’s these little things that are like a burst of light through the storm clouds. It’s the redemption in the chaos, when I feel I’m doing everything wrong. It’s the moment in the big picture.

I looked through another bag and found a Portrait of Dad by my 5-year-old daughter (Prep). It’s encouraging to know the effort to visit my husband with the kids on many a long weekend when he is working, is important, it matters, and it impacts on the children in a positive way.

I love the details in this picture.

The surgeon’s hat. The glasses he wears when he is operating. The two pockets either side of the scrubs.

dad by my prep daughter 2011

scrubs

I love the words.

My favourite thing about Dad is: “Because he takes me to the unit at his work and gives me yummy food, and he makes silly jokes.”

I flicked through some of the intact books to see snippets of our family life filter through. What I saw made me happy.

the little things

I was rather astounded by the artwork and felt grateful for the teacher’s efforts and my daughter’s obvious progress.

aboriginal painting prep daughter 2011

I watched a DVD filled with images of my 10-year-old. In it I see how much she has achieved and matured over the year.

When I’m in the valley, it feels like I’m stuck; there’s a mountain to climb at every turn.  Yet God reminds me of all these little blessings that put everything in perspective. Although the sound echoes loud in the valley as it bounces around and surrounds me, it’s often the quiet, still, and small things that speak truth.

Valleys exist. Waves happen. The rain comes.

But then…

The grass is green. The sun is bright. The flowers sing.

It’s the combination of these contrasts that make life so rich; so beautiful.

It’s the moments that make up the big picture.

It’s the small, quiet blessings that speak truth.

I’m listening.

A Special Mother-Moment

After a hard week, it takes just one special moment to reinforce what a privilege it is to be a mother. You know those moment that take your breath away?

Let me back track a little. My two older girls started training in Rhee Tae Kwon Do before I did. After watching for a few lessons, I wondered why I wasn’t doing it with them. Rhee Tae Kwon Do is a wonderful family sport so I thought it might be a fun thing for us to do together. I asked the trainer if I was way too old to start. HA! He said no, so the next lesson, I was right beside my girls learning along with them. It’s become special thing for us to do every week (plus it’s a great way to fit a bit of exercise into my week).

This particular lesson, the adults were lined up along one side of the hall and the children were standing opposite. My eldest daughter was my sparring (fighting) partner. We faced each other and she looked up to me and smiled. I mouthed the words, “I love you,” and smiled back. We are totally supposed to be serious but she had such a sparkle in her eye this night. After a few minutes of sparring, the instructor asked the children if they were a little scared of the adults. I figured the instructor’s motive for this question was to ensure the kids have the ability to protect themselves from adults if they needed to. This is really important, and it’s great the instructor trains the kids how to react in to many situations. All the kids answered “Yes” to the question. Until it came to my daughter.

“No,” she said.

The instructor asked why (because adults can kick pretty hard you know).

“Because she’s my mum and I trust her. I know she would never hurt me.”

It wasn’t so much what she said but the way she said it. It was like she couldn’t possibly fathom the concept of being afraid of me, and I almost cried at the trust in her eyes. Her big blue eyes, the colour of sapphires, sparkled with honour. That trust makes me feel fearful and incredibly privileged at the same time.

I will always strive and be worthy of the trust I saw in her eyes in that moment.

Have you had any special mother-moments recently?

Other Post

Terrible Mother Moment

A Squeaky Wheel

be a fun mum

REEEK, REEEK, REEEK, REEEK.

Jolly pram.

REEEK, REEEK, REEEK, REEEK.

My feet hit the ground, falling in rhythm with the repetive screech of the pram wheel as I walked the short path to pick up my school children.

I walked fast, as I like to do. Just up ahead, I saw a small grandma with a neat white bob, strolling beside a happy looking girl wearing red and white check pants. If I wasn’t on such a get-to-school-and-back mission, I might have paused at the pair because they represented the joy you see in an illustrated children’s book.

As I neared, the little girl jumped close to her grandmother’s leg, hearing the (REEEK!) sound of the pram wheel behind her.

“It needs some oil,” I said in way of explanation as I came along side the duo. I felt I needed to apolgise for the terrible sound coming from the contraption.

“I’m sure it’s the last thing on your list of things to.” The grandmother gave me a kind smile.

I was rather surprised at her empathic response. I often brace for some sort of judgement.

“It’s not hard to do, but I just put up with it because it seems right down on the list of priorities right now.” I gave a short laugh.

“Of course! Yes, absolutely.”

I continued past the joyful pair and walked fast up the hill, my legs pumping hard.

“Who was that Mum?” It was the first time my son spoke since we left home. His question reflected the kind words the white-bobbed lady spoke, and I’m sure he wondered if she was a friend.

“Just a lady. Maybe walking to the school like we are. She was nice, wasn’t she?”

Such a short conversation. And in many ways, an unnecessary one. However, I can tell you, her true empathy, non-judgemental words and face of kindness, made a difference to my afternoon. There was no look of annoyance or cold silence. Just kindness. Pure, simple kindness.

When was the last time I said something unnecessary but kind?

When was the last time I smiled at a stranger?

When was the last time I exercised empathy for those around me?

When was the last time I lived joy, so obviously?

Someone’s Grandma probably wouldn’t think anything of the conversation, but right now I’m writing it on my blog. You never know who you may touch; just a few words can make someone’s day a little lighter.

Kindness is contagious.

And sometimes I am my own squeaky wheel…

Has a small kindness made a difference to your day?

Do you often expect judgement for you actions as a mum?

Other Confessions

The Things You Do For Your Kids

I Feel Crappy Today

Do You Argue In front of The Kids

Playing With Kids (a confession)

My Daughter Insulted Me, And it Made Me Happy

I Don’t Want to Give My Kids Advice

 I don’t want to give my kids advice, I want to impart wisdom.

wisdom is a gift that keeps on giving

Advice:

 a proposal for an appropriate course of action

Wisdom:

ability to apply knowledge or experience or understanding or common sense and insight

Many will give my children’s advice as they mature — doctors, dentists, teachers, friends, colleagues — but as a mother, I want to be different because I know and love them unconditionally.

I want to offer my children something more than advice. I want to give them the gift of wisdom.  I aim to impart insight based on my knowledge of them and unconditional love of who they are.   I hope this will enable my children to make good choices for themselves, long after the wisdom is given. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

I don’t want to say, “You should do this.”

I want to say, “What do you think?”

I don’t want to say, “Believe this.”

I want to say, “What is truth?”

I don’t want to say, “Behave like this.”

I want to say, “Do right.”

In the small things, and the big things, I aim to give wisdom, not advice.

I often fall into the trap of advising my kids because it’s easier and usually black and white. It’s there, and then it’s gone.

However, the complex shades of wisdom are an investment built over time and take a great deal of energy, thought and love.

Like a painting starts with shades, so I hope wisdom gives my children an individual map to work on which is grounded by knowledge and love. 

As colour is built on the shades to reveal a picture, so I hope my children will add colour and shape to their own life as they live.

blossom tree painting

Then, as a mother, I can stand back with excitment to admire the ever-evolving picture I see.

What I see won’t be my work. But my love.

What I see won’t be what I picked. But what I sowed.

What I see won’t be a destination. But a journey.

What I see will be beautiful. Individual. Unique.

And a surprise.

I’m sure of it.

Wisdom is a gift that keeps on giving.

Other Relevant Post

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Mothering Motherless

{My mother with her grandchildren. This picture captures her essence.}

mothering_motherless

She died 5 years ago, my mother. Too young to die at 51. They say time heals the pain. In many ways this is true: the knife pain in my heart is now an ache that never quite goes away. The pain is not as sharp but it runs deeper than it did before. I’m a motherless mother.

I often think I would be a better mother if she was here to encourage me. To be with me. There’s grief in that.

I know how much she would have invested in, and loved my children; their life won’t be as rich with out her. There’s grief in that.

I want to pick up the phone right now and tell her something I’m excited about, but I can’t. There’s grief in that.

I miss the feeling of my mother being proud of me. There’s grief in that.

I miss being held by a mother. There’s grief in that.

I want to talk to her about how the children love each other one minute and bicker the next, knowing she would give me advice, not just general advice, but words of wisdom that would take in my situation, my personality and my children. There’s grief in that.

I miss her holding me to the highest and pulling me up when I need it. There’s grief in that.

I miss her encouraging me; being someone who says, “You’re doing a good job.” There’s grief in that.

I miss being known. Truly understood and recognised for who I am. There’s grief in that.

Grief is like that. Yes, it dulls but the pain spreads as you live life, and the gaping holes that remain, become more obvious. They seem to spread until once what was whole, is no more; it’s gone and you are left with an empty feeling of loss. True loss. Gone. That part of my life is lost. I’m a motherless mother.

*********

Loss. It’s everywhere. Grief: in its every form is relative and real to the person experiencing it. It’s in the mother who has lost a child.  It’s in the broken marriage. It’s in the woman who longs for a child.  It’s in the widow and widower. It’s in sickness and discord. It’s in the what-could-have-been. True: some forms of loss are greater than others, but it is all real.

When I’m overwhelmed with an aching sense of loss, I remember what I have.

What I do have

My heritage

Much of who I am I owe to my heritage: The way I was raised; the people I have loved; the love I have experienced.

My memories

Memories can be painful. But they are oh so very beautiful. I’m looking for my mother’s favourite perfume this month. I want the smell to bring back  visceral memories to mind.

My faith

It’s like explaining what it’s like to be in love, or the joy of meeting your first child: I can’t fully explain how my faith has helped me parent.  What I can say: it’s not religion, it’s relationship. It’s a way of living. It’s hope.

My family

My own little family here with me. My husband, my children. We can create our own identity. We have choice. We have love.  We fight through the hard times and fix and build around the broken pieces. I can’t, and won’t dwell on the loss, or the what-could-have-been. I have here. And I have now. And I want to make it count.

Who hasn’t experienced some sort of loss? Yes — loss, grief, the what-could-have-been — they leave holes that never heal. 

Accept: I can’t fill them. I can’t fill the holes. It’s gone. However, I can build on them. And around them. The emptiness — while still there; the essence always gone — is replaced with something new. There is always something new. Something to build. Something beautiful.

There is always strength in weakness. There’s always a way to shine in the darkness.  There is always hope.

On Being Fallible & Giving My Kids the Chance to Shine

I have realised I don’t have to be everything to my kids in order for them to thrive. Actually, trying to be everything can do quite the opposite, I believe. In my many, many moments of weakness, I see how capable my children are.

I absolutely adore this picture of my amazing kids shining.

Allowing Kids to Shine

When I’m sick…

From a curled up position on the couch, the house still ticks away. Sure, not as efficiently or as well as I may like, but things still happen. My daughter makes cheese toast for dinner. My son brings me water and I love the proud look on his face. The other girls rush around  making me comfortable with pillows. When I’m sick, it reaffirms to me the importance of not always being a total crazy control freak in charge of absolutely everything in the home.

When I’m tired…

When I’m tired, I slow down from my fast forward normal. It’s a good thing for me sometimes. When I’m tired, I don’t be the hero but focus on the simple things like chillin’ with my kids and watching them smile. This post is a perfect example: I Feel Crappy Today.

When I’m premenstrual…

I get majorly feral when I’m pre-menstral. I know I’m being feral but it’s like I’m watching myself from above but can’t stop the crankiness (or eating all the carbs in the house). It happens 2-3 days every month. Every. Single. Month. I have decided to be honest with my kids about it. With my pre-teen girls, I explain to them that I’m getting my period (which is something we have talked about before). The younger kids don’t notice so much; I don’t go into details with them.

The key for me is to ensure the children know why I’m cranky (age relevant) and that it has nothing to do with them; that is, they are not the reason for my crankiness. I hope by being open about normal stuff, it will be just that: normal. I don’t want to spring a “big talk” on my kids or give them the token book without tricklings of information beforehand. I’d rather talk about things as they happen so over time, the education is there along with the real life connection. I say something like this, and I say it every single time I’m premenstrual and feel it’s affecting the family (believe me, I do try to ensure it doesn’t affect them but usually fail):

“Sorry I’m so cranky Beautifuls. I’m getting my period again. I’m totally fine and please know that I’m not annoyed at you, or cranky at you. I’m just not at my best.”

This usually opens up the opportunity for the children to ask questions which helps me gauge what information to give them. Some might assert that  you should protect children from these sorts of negative issues but these issues are life, and whether I like it or not, they affect the family. For my pre-teen girls, the issues will far too soon, be their own. I can either feel guilty for being cranky before my period (because I’ve accepted that I surely will be) or use it as an opportunity to share with my kids, to help them understand what positive tools they can use when they feel down and educate them about normal stuff.

When I’m me…

I’m not great at routine. I mean, I’m okay with the broad outline of the day — breakfast, morning school jobs, afternoon jobs, washing hands after toilet, dinner — but fixed routine and organisation I don’t sustain well. I’m more of a creative dreamer and am liable to be caught up in the moment so dinner is late. That’s me. That’s me not trying to be the mum I’m not. Of course, there’s good and bad about my personality and how it plays out in my parenting, but I have noticed that my children are unique, and develop their own sense of how they like to do things anyway. Take my two eldest for instance: Number 1 is more like me and yet Number 2 is always super organised and has her own special routine, despite me being the type of person I am. I’ve discovered it’s more important for my kids to feel secure about who they are at home rather than me enforcing my own personality values on them. My imperfection hasn’t majorly damaged my kids (I don’t think!).

How it affects our relationship

Being fallible (and honest about it) has brought depth to the relationship I have with my children. People are often shocked at how deeply my kids share with me, especially as my girls get older as there’s an expectation they will lie to me. Below are re-occuring instances where I have seen a genuine openness and honesty between the children and I.

Previous posts:

In life:
  • Our entire family is honest when we are not having a good day or feel anxious about something. Green Brain (happy) and Red Brain (anxious) we affectionately name it.
  • I had a discussion with the Principal of our school about an issue my daughter raised with me. He was shocked that my daughter was so open with me, and actually rang later to tell me how wonderful it was. I feel privileged that my kids are willing to share with me. It was lovely to have the reinforcement that I’m not totally ruining my kids. HA!

I strive to be the best Mum I can be, and at the end of the day, the best I can be is not about being perfect all the time but creating a loving environment where my children have the opportunity to shine. And they do. Bless them!

It’s Okay — Be Fallible: Give Kids the Chance to Shine

Parenting: Trusting My Gut

{How high is too high? How much freedom is too much?}

I recently read a post from the lovely Megan from Writing Out Loud about Parenting Against Instinct (which I loved). In the post, Megan talks about how she often holds herself back when her daughter, for example, is climbing the ladder to a slide. This is something I often do also, but I may not call it parenting against my instinct (or I’ll use the words gut and intuition which I think in this instance, are interchangeable). The longer I parent, the more I trust my gut. What I have to hold back is my own insecurities and anxieties and external pressures on how I should parent.

What is Intuition?

When it comes to instinct or intuition, I think an automatic sense of knowing what to do is assumed, and this is  especially applied to new mothers. When I first became a mother, I found very little of it natural.  In fact I found the transition to motherhood difficult.

I believe trusting my gut (or instinct, or intuition), is something very different. I believe women particularly have an ability to accumulate vast amount of conscious and sub-conscious information over time and make sense of it to get a feeling for things, even though the exact reason for the feeling can’t necessarily be traced.

Trusting my gut comes down to this: I know myself, I know my children and I know my family’s situation better than anyone, plus I’ve invested much time and energy into my family so I can fall back on my intuition to help me make good decisions for those in my care. It’s not guess work or magic, it’s applied knowledge.

An Example

Just recently, I arranged for my daughter to visit her Aunty’s home for a sleepover. She was a little unwell but my sister was happy to have her (and I trust my sister completely; she’s like a second mum really). My daughter REALLY, REALLY wanted to go to her Aunty’s house, and there was a potential that she would be fine. It was hard to tell my daughter that I decided that she couldn’t go. She was absolutely devastated.  As it turned out, that night she deteriorated and was very ill.  In the past, I would have probably would have spent a lot of time trying to work out if I was being over protective, and being influenced by my daughter’s desperate pleas. But I felt very clear in my decision because I had the feeling. My daughter got over her disapointment and we arranged for another time for her to have a sleep-over.  In this instance, I made the right choice.

Another Example

I often plan to do things on my own with the children because my husband often is working, even on weekends. On this day, I decided to go on a short bush walk with the kids. When I got to the destination (I hadn’t visited before) and I felt it wasn’t safe for me to go with all the children on my own. I don’t know why, because I could only see the start of the trail.  I probably should have researched it better myself but it was a new area and I was trying to scope out where great walks were. Sure the kids were disappointed but we still had a nice drive and stopped at a park instead. Later, my husband came with us and we enjoyed the walk but there were many parts we had to hold the younger children’s hands and so I’m glad I didn’t go on my own.

{Bush-walking}

What is Insecurity?

I often have to hold myself back when I parent but it’s my own insecurities and anxieties, and also external pressure on how I should parent that I fight, not my intuition. I’m quite an anxious person so it’s something I’m aware of.

An example

There are many times when I become reactive when I parent depending on whom I’m around and what their expectations are.  I’m not proud of this. Sure, I learn from other parents in a positive way, but I also am influenced in a negative way. What is right for one family may not be right for me and my family. I often worry about being judged for my decisions but at the end of the day, I have learned (or am learning) to stay true to how I believe I should parent.

Another example

We recently spent a day 4-wheel-driving at Double Island Point.  We found a spot on the beach to swim and set up a makeshift camp. There are always cars driving past on the beach so we needed to watch the children carefully, but I was an over-anxious mess. In fact, I was so anxious, I ended up sitting on the beach constantly ordering my husband to watch the kids because I convinenced myself they were going to be run over. HA! When I’m really anxious, I often freeze and become reactive and this is a perfect example of this. I didn’t have a nice day, and I really didn’t facilitate giving the children a good day either. Fortunately, they had fun anyway…but my husband had to deal with a deranged wife for the day! This wasn’t  intuition, it was anxiety. If I would have gone with my gut, I would have fought off the I’m-frozen-must-control-everything-around-me feeling and just got into the day by spending it playing close with the kids so I could ensure they were safe because the danger was real. Lesson learned.

{Soldier Crabs at Double Island Point}

soldier crabs

How I know the difference

It sounds a little strange but I’ve come to know the difference between my intuition talking, and my insecurities talking.  My intuition speaks in a deep calm and decisive voice, and my insecurities are jittery and unsettling. My insecurities are about me and what I feel, and my intuition is applying what I know (even though I don’t always know why I know) into caring for my family.

When I get it wrong

I still get it wrong…just like that day at Double Island Point. However, getting it wrong is one step to getting it right next time. It’s just another exercise in wise parenting.

Of course, intuition isn’t the only factor to consider when parenting. For example, my children enjoy a variety of play experience with sticks but in a busy playground, and out of respect for others who may think differently, I ask my children to refrain from playing with sticks at certain times. Then there’s my faith, what I know of my children’s physical and emotional abilities and many other situational reasons that affect the way I parent and help me make good decisions in the moment. So, as well as these other factors, I often trust my gut to help me make good decisions because it’s not just a feeling, it’s knowledge.

Other Relevant Posts

 

Playing With Your Kids (a confession)

Sacrifices

Sacrifices

sacrifices in motherhoodI remember when my fourth child was born. A big beautiful baby boy. That’s a lot of b’s. After he was born, a lot of people congratulated me on (finally) managing to have a boy after 3 girls. But I wasn’t hoping for a boy. And I wasn’t hoping for a girl either. I was excited about welcoming a new person to our family, and if it was another girl, I would have been just as thrilled!

I couldn’t wait for my three girls to meet their brother. Here they are watching TV on my hospital bed.

motherhood sacrifices

I remember coming home from hospital to my brood of children under 6 years of age. And Motherhood hit me with full force. Motherhood. It’s filled with so much joy. Incredible really. But there is also a lot of sacrifice involved. And I can tell you, I felt it especially when my children were little. Right from when you carry your first child within you, your body doesn’t belong to you anymore. And it doesn’t stop when the child is born. So much of what is “yours” ceases to be anymore. In a way you, your body, and your life is dictated by your role as Mother.

What you eat can affect pregnancy and breastfeeding.

When you eat depends on when you have a spare moment (and sometimes you hide in the pantry to eat a piece of chocolate so you don’t need explain to a 2-year-old, why they can’t have some).

What you wear depends on how much vomit and snot you are prepared to have on a particular outfit.

When you dress you need to allow for breastfeeding and looking after little children. This means dresses are sometimes out…and dangly earrings, and long hair left out, and necklaces, and rings, and a lot of other things.

When you sleep, and how long for, depends how sick your children are, when they are teething and a myriad of other reasons.

What you do and where you go depends on how settled your child is and a million other variables.

The home needs to be child proof, and is rarely tidy when you have a toddler tearing around pulling everything out.

You can’t go anywhere without a huge bag filled with mumsy things.

You can almost never sit down for a more than a few minutes, even when you’re trying to have coffee with a friend.

You’re constantly (absolutely constantly) responsible for keeping another person alive.

Sometimes you feel like a machine, always providing for the needs of other and cease to exist as an individual person.

It’s like you need to consult 100 variables before you make any decision! And that can be extremely draining. This may not be true for everyone, but it was for me. I’m not trying to paint a negative picture of motherhood. Being a mum is an incredible privilege. And if anyone asked me whether I would recommend becoming a parent I would say, without hesitation, “YES!” Best thing that happened to me. However, the sacrifices involved in parenting, at any stage, are real.

My baby boy is now almost 4 and my eldest will soon be 10. I’ve entered a new phase of parenting, filled with school issues, attitudes and extracurricular activities. I can tell you, all the sacrifices when children are little — all the wearing nights and long days; all the giving of yourself, and your body — it’s all worth it! And it’s ALL IMORTANT!

You see, while being a mum is always going to involve sacrifice (because that’s part of the beauty of it), it does change. You will get (most of) your body back. You will be able to go away for a weekend (childless) with your spouse. You will be able to sit for more than 2 minutes at a time while the kids play. You will find yourself again. It does happen.

If you’re in the midst of raising little kids, feeling weary, and my story rings true to you, I’m telling you from the other side: What you are doing is vital, even when no one notices. It’s an investment, so keep on keeping on and keep on loving the moment. While it may not be clear now, you’ll look back and see all the moments for what they are: pieces of a beautiful masterpiece.

“Anything worth something involves sacrifice. And it terms of worth, Motherhood is absolute gold. Believe it!”

Other Relevant Posts

My Birth Stories

The Transition to Motherhood

Many people have misconceptions about me.  They see me with my four children (6 years between them) and think I’m some sort of Earth Mother. In truth, I found the transition from full-time work to stay-at-home-mother (SAHM), well, basically a shock. I’ve written this list with a little jest, but honestly.

 

I know many women take to Motherhood gracefully and smoothly (I’m jealous).  But for me, it was a struggle.  Over time, I’ve settled into my role as mother, so much so, I blog about it! I’ve listed below, 6 things that helped me with the adjustment. 

1. Join a mother’s group

Joining a mother’s group gives structure to your week and also affords the opportunity to talk with other adults.  Even if your child is very young, it’s beneficial. Find a group near you.

* MOPS

* Playgroup

* Mainly Music

2. Baby Clinic

I made use of the service many Pharmacy’s provide for monitoring infant health.  I went every two weeks for the first 6-8 weeks.  This gave me reassurance and got me out of the house.

3. Walk everyday

A little walk outside does wonders. I used to walk down to the local fruit and vegetable shop most days to buy fresh produce for dinner.  This got me out of the house and gave me a “mission”.

4. Start an interest

Start an interest that’s not too time consuming.  I scrapbooked when my children were young.

5. Internet support/advice

There are many online support groups for mothers.  It’s wonderful to chat and connect with people who are at the same stage as you. Here’s a few places to look at:

* Baby Centre

* Connect2Mums

* Parenting Australia

* Focus on the Family

* Kleenex Mums

6. Find your way

Find out what works for you and your growing family.  Try not to get caught up with taking on too much advice. What works for one family may not work for another.  It takes time to find your way so don’t expect too much, too soon.

After reading over the list I wasn’t surprised to find it boils down to structure and support.

Motherhood is truly a blessed job so if you are like me, find ways to make it work for you.

External Links

Stay at Home Dad: Beginning the Idiot’s Guide

Keeping Your Dreams Alive