One term down…going back to work wasn’t so bad after all.

It’s been a busy three months, so busy I have once neglected writing but here I am with a little update.

Basically: I survived.

No, that’s being hard on myself. I did more than survive. I was bloody awesome.

I guess when I look back to this first term back at work teaching part time I can break it down in to four parts: my children, my house, my teaching and me. So, here goes.

Part time is great. I am at work Monday, Wednesday and Friday which means the girls go to before school care and kindy early on those days. I drop them off at 7.30am and then drive 15 minutes to work. My first week back, I had to creep into their room and wake them up in the darkness. For six and a half years I have been striving for them to sleep longer and here I was waking them up. It all felt so wrong. A couple of weeks in and they were naturally waking up. They know on “quick days” as we call them that they need to get up and get dressed while I’m in the shower, and they will have breakfast there, not at home. For the most part it’s working. They love seeing their friends in the morning and I’m lucky that where we are this is affordable ($21 for each child for those three days before school). The only problem was last Monday (school holidays) when the youngest demanded she still wanted to go to kindy at 7.30am!

In the afternoons I’m fortunate enough to have my mum pick them up, bring them home and give them afternoon tea. I’m home by four at the latest and pick up from there. I’m so grateful she can do it and the routine is working well. 

So, check to number one on the list. The children have survived…with smiles on their faces.

Next up, the house. It’s still standing! That’s the main thing and for the most part it is still in order. I do like order in my life. It’s important. A month or so in, we decided to start getting My Foodbag and it has been life changing. Yes, I no longer have to plan meals and do the shopping at the weekend but more importantly we are eating a much wider range of healthier food than we we before. No more Friday night calls to Hell’s pizza to deliver! And here’s the weird thing, the kids are eating it without complaint. I’m pretty sure there’s some weird psychology going on here but basically because the lady at My Foodbag is choosing what we eat (their words) and not mummy they will eat it! Win win. 

The laundry is a pain but I’m getting into habits that I can sustain when I go full time next year (more about that later). I stick it on at night before bedtime (electricity is cheaper then too) then hang it out to dry in the morning. It seems routine and organisation is key in this blog post.

Okay, my teaching…I was nervous about going back. Could I remember how to teach? Would they run circles around me? The usual Sunday night dread and fears, but instead of two days away from school, six plus years. But you know what? It was fine. Absolutely fine. In fact, it was awesome. I love it. Like, really really love it. Being a classroom teacher and no longer a middle manager, all of my time at school is spent on teaching, planning and marking. I’m trying new stuff and the kids are responding well. I’m remembering my knowledge of literature and my teaching skills and it’s an absolute joy. And teenage boys? They are amazing. They get such a bum deal sometimes but their energy, wit and spirit is worth going to work for. Remind me next year not to say yes to any responsibility outside of the classroom though. 

Being a parent I have clearly learnt how to get things done quickly and multi-task. I have got nearly all of my planning and marking done at school, rather than bringing it home. I have made a real effort to communicate frequently with the parents of the kids I teach (because I can appreciate now how important that is). It’s like I’m the teacher I was before, but a better version. 

And so yes, I have been offered, and accepted, a full time permanent role at the school I’m teaching at. I didn’t have to think about it for long and it feels good to have that security. There’s a lot of changes happened at the school but maybe I’ll talk about that in another blog post sometime.

Finally, me. I have survived. I am here to tell the tale. The gym has gone out the window unfortunately and there is less time to do the things I love but thankfully I do love what I do, and I think being away from it for so long and coming back to it has reminded me about that. It has also meant that time with my own family feels that little bit more valuable. Weekends are a premium now; mornings are a lot more lazy with cartoons, cuddles and crumpets, but that would have happened anyway with them both being at school as of this November.

I enjoy earning my “own” money (even though it all goes into a big pot that we share) but more importantly I enjoy having stuff to talk about other than the kids. I enjoy having grown up discussions (about what’s on Netflix or what so and so had for dinner last night) and I love the intellectual challenge of teaching. 

So there we go. It is all going swimmingly, and I know people do this all the time, that some people go back to work when their kids are babies etc…but I’m talking about me. We chose as a family for me to stay home with them as long as I could and it was most definitely the right decision for us. I would not change that for the world, but this is the start of a new phase and I, for one, love it.

So brave. Not.

I took my youngest to the local pool this morning. It’s just opened and is all shiny and new. Completely aimed at families with large changing areas, a slide, water sprays etc…it’s all the business. And at a cost of $1 for both of us, this is the second time we’ve been, in fact, we are going to try to go every week. But while I was there I was reminded of something that was said to me over the summer at a friend’s house; something that really annoyed me and has clearly stuck with me.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard something like this, which kind of makes it worse. My friend has a swimming pool and with my kids being only 4 and 5, at the time, I of course was going to get in the pool with them. Not just to keep them safe, but to have fun with them. There were a handful of families there, people that I had only recently met. As I got the kids changed and then pulled out my swimming costume to go and get changed, one of the mums said to me, “Oh, you’re brave.” At first I wandered if she meant because the water would be cold. It was a warm day, and I seriously asked the host “why, isn’t it heated?” But the mum in question, said “No, I mean getting in with them and putting your swimsuit on.” I was flabbergasted.

I am no supermodel but putting on a swimsuit so my kids and I can have fun is not brave in my book. Maybe it’s because I was meeting these people for the first time, but yes, I judged them as the conversation continued as they got their husbands to sit on the side of the pool and watch their kids. I seriously don’t get it.

What message are we sending to our kids if we refuse to put on a swimsuit to get into a pool to play with them? What are we saying about body image?

So this morning as I looked around the pool and saw mums, dads and grandparents of all ages, shapes and sizes in the water having fun with their kids I didn’t for a second think any one of them was brave. I didn’t think how courageous they must be for wearing the necessary clothing for the situation, a swimsuit in a swimming pool (shock, horror) and having loads of fun with their kids as they splashed and played.

Seriously people, get over yourselves. It’s a body. Be grateful for all it can do. Show your kids how amazing it is to be alive. Don’t worry about what other people may think and have some goddamn fun with your kids.

“She’ll let you fall asleep then eat you whole…” The truth about parenting.

I was going to write a warning here to stop reading if you don’t have children yet, or if your kids are babies, or if they are already grown into big strapping teenagers, or even adults, but what would the point of that be? I guess I’d get this thought off my chest but more importantly it would defeat my purpose today. Yes, I have a purpose in this post and that is to discuss the phrase “it’s only a phase.”

‘Refute’ is too strong a word but what I am trying to say is it IS just a phase but it will be followed by another phase, and another and another…it’s all just one BIG phase.

I remember when my babies wouldn’t settle themselves. Just a phase.

I remember the biting. Just a phase.

I remember when getting the youngest into a car seat was like wrestling a drunken octopus every time. Just a phase.

I remember when they would be picky eaters. Just a phase (that continually returns every few days or so depending on mood, phase of the moon, direction of the wind or colour of their socks).


They grow up a little and the phases change, but they are still there.

Currently there is the phase of stamping of feet, doors or anything with a hinge.

There is the pouting and shouting and telling your parents that you “hate them” (I’m expecting a resurgence of this phase in ten years or so).

There are lies creeping in…quickly followed by the admittance of them. Hopefully just a phase. Who am I kidding? Just a phase. It will pass…at least I hope so.

And so it all shall pass, but it is hard especially when you have two or more children going through their various stages at the same time. It is exhausting but all I can try to be is consistent and as understanding as I can be, which, believe me is not as easy as it may sound. It is frustrating and upsetting, and I know these current phases will pass only to be replaced by some other ‘phase’ or challenge.

Is it helpful to hear that “it’s just a phase”, a sentence that is bandied around in coffee groups, playgroups, playgrounds, family dinners? My gut reaction is no but with a little more thought I think maybe yes. If it is said kindly with a cup of tea being poured without asking, it is helpful. If it is said while someone puts an arm around your shoulder then yes, helpful again. Most helpful is when it is the last words you hear as they wander off to the playground with the child going through “the phase” to allow you to sit for five or ten minutes in relative peace and quiet. It is helpful when the person saying it is just reminding you on those difficult days that it shall pass and they are helping you.

Now, I’ve only mentioned a few difficult phases. Let’s remember those more positive times.

When your baby would only fall asleep on your shoulder in the middle of the day, all warm and snug and breathing like a little hedgehog. Just a phase.

When they would try to suck any nose that came near them when they were hungry in case it was a nipple. Just a phase (a very funny one).

When they would learn a new word and say it over and over again. Just a phase (borderline annoying but mainly cute).

There are many more. So what’s to come in this parenting journey is many more phases; some challenging, most fun. Each phase means your little people are developing, changing and dealing with those changes the best they can. 

I could end this with a flourish of clichĂ©s; these things are sent to try us, what won’t kill us will make us stronger etc etc…but I won’t. I’ll end by saying the truth about parenting:

It doesn’t get easier. Don’t believe them. The challenges just change. 

The joy of siblings

And if you need four words to simply live by:


I hope this helps. It helped me to write it. 

J xx

“Welcome to the future of your world”…how we construct the life we present.

While talking to a close friend over the Christmas holidays we both laughed at how the world we present on social media can be so different from the life we are actually living. And when I say laugh, I mean laugh hysterically.

Let me give you some context; we have known each other over thirteen years. In the days before social media we worked together and lived around the corner from each other, close enough to borrow a cup of sugar, that close. We knew what each other’s lives were like because we were living our lives alongside each other. She knew what I looked like first thing in the morning as she would pick me up for work. I knew what her Sunday dinner looked like because she cooked for me. She knew what my cocktail looked like on a night out in town because she was matching me drink for drink. I knew what her attempts at gardening looked like because I saw her hanging baskets when I knocked on her door. There was no Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat. We knew what the good in our lives looked like, and the bad.

Then we both took leaps of faith and left the UK at the same time to teach in different countries. No regrets from either of us, I think I can safely say, but my point is we were no longer living in each other’s pockets and the internet became our international way of keeping in touch; mainly emails at first, then Bebo (anyone remember that?) and then of course Facebook came along.

Our discussion over Christmas was mainly focused on Facebook and the way we choose how we want to present our lives to other people. We make a decision what to post and what to say and in our minds how we want our audience to perceive our lives.

 

A “look at my amazing view” pic

The audience; here is a crucial point in this discussion. For me my Facebook audience is made up of family, close friends, former work colleagues and old university and school friends. These are people who you only want to see the best of your life. You post the photos of your children smiling and laughing. You post the statuses showing off where you are, what shows and films you are seeing. You share your location when you are on a beautiful beach, in a fancy bar or on a picturesque holiday. It’s human nature. You want them to know your successes and to think you are doing well.

 

A “I have happy children” pic

Well, the reason my friend and I were laughing so much discussing this is that we were, for the first time since we left the UK ten years ago, living together for four weeks. And not just us, we had multiplied! Now we were both married and had two children each, so that was eight of us living together for a month.

Our Facebook timelines did not show the toddler tantrums, the messy meal times, the refusals to go to bed. They did not show the bags under our eyes in the mornings after being woken three times in the night. They did not show porridge smeared on the backs of our pyjama pants where we had sat in the remainder of chaos after breakfast time. I’m quick to say, we KNEW all about this because of course we chat about it on Whatsapp or iMessage regularly, but we hadn’t SEEN it. But we didn’t KNOW about it from the manufactured lives we make for social media.

 

The reality: child falls asleep in Farmers while wearing wellies in the summer as she refuses to wear shoes

 

The reality: not sure how much porridge is in her tummy but there is a lot everywhere else

When I was considering writing this blog post I said to myself, “right, the next bad, normal day I have I will take some pictures to document it.” Today was kind of one of those days. I check my photostream. Only one or two photos. The reason? It’s thoroughly depressing to record the tantrums, the whining, the mess. You think to yourself, “Nobody wants to see that!” The other reason is that when you’re having a tough day you don’t have the time or energy to stop and take a photo. Today I felt like I was fighting fires with children bickering on a rainy day and me suffering from sleep deprivation. The last thing on my mind was to reach for my phone and take a photo of the chaos.

 

The reality: “Get dressed” means take your pyjamas off in kitchen and refuse to wear clothes for an hour.

I am of an age where I can remember life without social media. It is a huge part of my life but I know what it was like before it. I can look at photos on social media with a critical eye and question why someone may have posted that particular shot, cropped it that way, added that filter. I know because I do it myself. There is a generation behind me however who know no different. The culture of sharing their lives is somewhat innate and it raises too many for questions for me to pose or answer here. And before you think this is one of those posts that is going to slam millennials, you’re wrong. I’m merely expressing a curiosity as to why we feel a need to do this and what it means for the future. How do we ensure that people do have the ability to read between the lines of what is presented to them on social media?

 

The reality: bed hair first thing in the morning, bags under my eyes.

So if Facebook for me is my idealised life then Instagram is my coffee table glossy book life (complete with an index of hashtags), Twitter is my stream of consciousness and Snapchat is the god awful truth, after all it disappears after ten seconds never to be seen again (unless someone screen shots it!). These are the versions of my life online. I am glad my best friend got to see my real life for a month. It was no surprise to her.

 

Cropped and filtered for instagram but the smiles are real; that’s friendship.