Posts tagged #parenting

“Your blog makes me feel bad about myself”

Anxiety truth who i am Mama Pyjama Blog

This is something I’ve heard several times over the last two years.  It’s never said with ill-intent, and it’s usually always followed with something like, “because you’re doing all this stuff and I’m just sitting at home watching the TV.” 

I won’t apologise for how my blog makes others feel…but I will say I’m not here to make you feel bad.  I want to motivate you and support you, but most importantly I’m here to share my life honestly with you.  Because honesty is important.  Because there’s not enough of it in the world.

So in case there are any misconceptions about my life – I’ll lay it all out for you to see.

I’ve always believed that there are 24 usable hours in every day.  I’m an achiever.  I am driven by a need to make things happen, to be great at what I do, to be leading the pack.  It’s how I’m programmed, and it’s tied up in my self-worth.  It can be a really awesome thing – I get stuff done, and most of the time I do it well… BUT, it can also be a truly destructive force in my life.

Three weeks ago I crashed and burned.

It was like everything was happening all at once.  Instead of having five or six colourful balls in the air to juggle, I felt like I had forty three flaming fire sticks….  Work pressures had mounted. My extended family were going through a significant period of pain and change.  My son’s health issues were growing.  I was trying to launch my new website which took crazy hours and was a huge learning curve.  Financial pressures were increasing just as I was launching myself into the world of e-commerce, and I was feeling quite dejected in general after several setbacks and lost opportunities over the last 6-12 months.  Put simply, the world was spinning around me with crazy speed and force, and I was standing in the middle feeling exhausted, undervalued, nervous, helpless, vulnerable, anxious, and well and truly out of my depth.  

I found myself sitting in my manager’s office, attempting to have a conversation about a resourcing issue I was having on my project.  It wasn’t a fun conversation, but it’s certainly not something I haven’t done before.  All of a sudden the room felt like it was on fire.  Hot.  HOT like I’d never felt a room feel before.  I could feel the colour filling my cheeks.  I took off my jacket.  My voice changed tone and I was talking really fast.  It was like I was in an inferno and the walls were closing in.  BAM.  I was having my first ever panic attack.  I’ve never felt so out of control in my whole life.  I walked out of the room and straight out the front door and found a park bench to sit at. 

I sat.  I breathed.  I wondered what the hell just happened.  Then I took myself back inside and kept on going.

I should have stopped.

The following week I got influenza.  The universe clearly wasn’t taking no for an answer on this one.  I was bedridden.  I am never bedridden.  I hate being still.  I find it virtually impossible to sit and do nothing.  I was so sick that I literally couldn’t even muster the energy to watch TV, yet I was sitting there with off-the-charts anxiety because I was ‘wasting time’.

I had to take 1.5 weeks off work.  The Sunday before I went back, my youngest was diagnosed with pneumonia.  That same week, my eldest nearly broke his foot.  It doesn’t stop.  But what can we do?

Well me?  I take a deep breath, and I keep going…because that’s who I am.

I’m still going to push myself and I’m still going to try everything in my power to ensure I’m living my life to its fullest potential but my dad, who’s a fellow ‘achiever’, had some good advice for me.  “It's about knowing when to get off the merry go round or change direction”. 

So I will continue to look for new directions, and I will be focusing more on speaking up, saying no, finding balance, supporting my health with supplements, asking for help, and finding ways to get more restful sleep to ensure I don’t reach breaking point again.  I'll also look at ways to slow down a little, and to manage my achievement anxieties a little better too...because if I didn’t, that'd just be stupid, right? 

So there it is.  My life’s not perfect.  I’m not super woman.  I do have a break point.  I do yell when I shouldn’t.  I do take it out on my family sometimes; in fact I completely lose my shiz sometimes.  I do watch reality tv (with a passion way disproportionate to the quality of the show).  I certainly don’t succeed at everything I do.  I do drink too much wine.  I am terrible at phonecalls with friends and family; I often miss texts or emails completely.  My house is an absolute bomb-zone, ‘cause something’s gotta give.  And last week I forgot to supply the grated cheese for all the kids making their own lunch wraps for my son’s 100 days of school celebration. 

I’m not here to make you feel bad.  I’m here to make myself feel better…because all this?  This is my passion.  I’m here to inspire you to find your passion too.  And I’m here to spread the honesty around the universe.  Life’s not perfect.  I’m not perfect.  You’re not perfect.  And that’s ok.  That’s exactly as it should be.

Amplified Emotions

Amplified Emotions Mama Pyjama

Yesterday on my way to work I drove past a funeral procession.  I’m a generally empathetic person, but there was something different about this moment.  As a passed I felt the air change, the energy got thick and dark and I felt swept into a great wave of grief.  Moments before I was relishing the sunshine thinking how much better I felt with the change of weather, and then bang - out of nowhere I was engulfed by an overwhelming sense of loss and pain.  I burst into tears, I felt an enormous lump in my throat and I all-but had to pull over.  It wasn’t my pain, it wasn’t my experience, it wasn’t my loss…but I felt it as real and as raw as if it were my own. 

I arrived to work to be greeted by the tragic news of the baby boy that had died in his father’s car.  My grief compounded.  I felt sick to my stomach.  I cannot fathom the pain, the shock, the grief, the regret, the horror that those people must be experiencing right now. 

I don’t know if it’s a parent thing, a growth thing, or just an evolution of awareness…but the intensity of my emotions seems so much greater at this point in my life. 

Perhaps a big part of it is tied up in having children…I recall a moment shortly after the birth of my first child.  I was watching TV and "Law and Order – SVU" came on.  It was a show I had once watched regularly, but this time about three minutes in I had to shut it off.  It’s amazing how in an instant our perspective of the world can change completely.  All of a sudden shows like these, the news, even commercials, could have me in a crumpled mess on the couch, tears streaming, sick to my stomach.

As they say, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  With great love comes great fear.  Fear of loss, fear of hurt…the fear that is borne from the realisation of just how vulnerable we all really are.  Yesterday was an all-consuming reminder. 

But my love for my children transcends everything - even the fear that it brings forth.  There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them.  Nothing.  So I’ll embrace the intensity of yesterday as it is a reflection of the depth of love I feel for my family, and the compassion I hold for those who are suffering.  And I’ll tell you all again how grateful I am to have the blessing of my children. 

Parenting is hard - really, really hard.  It’s a rollercoaster of emotions – anxiety, love, fear, guilt, pride, panic, doubt, joy…but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank the universe for my place in it and for the family that surrounds me.  My heart bleeds for those whose children have passed on before them.  I cannot begin to imagine the world of sorrow and despair that must engulf them.  I hope that some light survives the darkness of their days and that they can somehow find a way to let their love outshine the grief that they will no doubt carry in their hearts forever.   

Gender Rules

"Let me walk a mile in your shoes"

"Let me walk a mile in your shoes"

Mummy I want the pink glittery gumboots with the unicorns on them. Mummy, I want to put makeup on just like you. Mummy, when I grow up I’m going to be a girl.

Having boys has forced me to question a lot about society and a man’s place within it. I’m not sure how to respond to statements like these. After all, some boys do grow up to be girls and there is no valid reason why a boy can’t wear makeup or don pink boots. In my heart of hearts I don’t care at all that my son’s favourite colour is pink and that he likes to play with makeup and have his nails painted. I’m pretty sure most boys his age do too – probably because it’s fun and pink is great and they haven’t yet been told that being a boy somehow means they’re not supposed to enjoy these things. But the social survival part of my brain questions my responsibility as a parent to ensure he understands the social ‘rules’ around gender roles. I don’t want to perpetuate gender stereotypes, but I do want to ensure my child is well-equipped to deal socially with his peers.

I want to be part of the movement that is fighting against these gender stereotypes. I don’t want to hear the words “Don’t be such a GIRL” or “MAN up” uttered in my presence…though I’m sure that both statements have come rolling off my own sub-consciously programmed tongue at some point in time. Shame on me. I want my boys to feel free to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. But…and there’s always a but…I want to protect them. Kids can be mean! Adult society can be even meaner. Right now I don’t think it’s an issue. My boys are only 2 and 4 years old. But is there an age when it becomes your responsibility to at least warn them that wearing pink sparkly shoes to school might result in them being teased? I’m all for supporting your children, propping them up, loving them and backing them no matter what choices they make…but can failing to warn them about their sparkly shoes be likened to the parents of children on those talent shows who have been included in the ‘outtakes’ (I hate that part of talent shows by the way – celebrating social ignorance and bullying makes me feel sick)? You know the kids that have been told their whole life how brilliantly they can sing and dance and have no awareness at all that their audience is laughing at them not with them? When does saying nothing equate to not fulfilling your responsibilities as a parent?

My son has pink boots, and ‘girl’ toys, and we always save the pink cupcake for him. I’ve painted his nails and let him try on my lip gloss and powder his nose. We don’t plan on changing our attitude, but I do feel conflicted about when and how to approach the subject of gender stereotypes without serving to perpetuate them further! Ideally, I would find a way to raise my boys to be confident enough to feel free in their creative expression of themselves, with awareness that not everybody will share the same views or opinions as them. I want to raise boys who stand up to those who are being bullied, who will question social stereotypes even if they themselves fit neatly within them. This is another parenting moment where I wish I had hold of the secret formula - the guaranteed way to ensure you raise balanced, socially aware, self-confident children without buying into and reinforcing the social ignorance of stereotypes and gender rules.

Being the "Bad Guy"

"You spoil all my fun, mummy!"

"You spoil all my fun, mummy!"

I’m a naysayer, a wet blanket…I am officially a killjoy.

I had not anticipated the impact on my state of mind that being the ‘bad guy’ would have.  “No” is not a word I like, and one I rarely needed to use pre-children.  Now it seems it’s in every other sentence that comes rolling off my tongue. 

There are times when I just want to cry because it feels like all I’ve done for 12 hours is take things away, say no and put the brakes on anything that looks remotely like ‘fun’. 

I know it’s all part of the gig.  You have little lives in your hands…you can’t very well let them run around with scissors, eat chocolate for breakfast or test their new wings from the roof of your two storey house.  But it is really hard not to let it get to you! 

I’m an optimistic, easy-going (mostly!) person by nature…but at times it becomes hard to separate your personality from your parental responsibilities.  It’s difficult not to absorb the negative rhetoric.  You start to feel irritated and frustrated when it seems like all you’re doing is putting up barriers.  It’s tough not to begin thinking of yourself as a blocker, a naysayer, a wet blanket, a pessimist, a killjoy …

But I guess I’ve just got to suck it up and take this one on board.  If I wasn’t being the ‘bad guy’ sometimes, I wouldn’t be doing my job, right?  I’m providing safe boundaries, I’m teaching them valuable life skills…and I’m keeping the alive.  I think I just need to remind myself of these things when I sense an impending tail spin at the end of a long, hard day of saying “no”.

The Up Side

The Up Side Mama Pyjama

I am often reminded of the quote: “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about”.  Like the other day when my three year old said to me, “I’m happy with what I’ve got…Are you happy with what you’ve  got Mummy?”.  Or today when he stood gazing down our humble, semi-suburban street and turned to say, “Look at the lovely view mummy.  Isn’t it just lovely?”.  He says and does this sort of thing often.  We call him an old soul.  We say he’s beyond his years.  We stand marveling at the depth of his understanding, the magnitude of his empathy…put simply - the way his mind works.

This is one of the wonderful gifts that parenting brings.  It's the ability to see through the eyes of the young.  To view the world again as if for the first time.  To be reminded of what’s really important and what really warrants our energy.

I talk a lot about the challenges of parenting in my blog, so this week I’d like to focus on the great things. 

Here are six things that my children have taught me:

  1. Self-awareness – aided even more by my 3 year old’s new found love of mimicking me.  There’s nothing that brings about self-awareness faster than hearing your words come out of the mouth of a toddler.
  2. Another way to love – a little corny and a little obvious but it can’t go unmentioned.  The ability to offer unconditional, uninhibited, pure love – no matter what.
  3. Where each and every one of my buttons are - and how to push them!  My children have triggered a great deal of personal development! I thank them for that.  I am a better person because of it.
  4. Fun doesn’t require money, alcohol, parties or presents - all you need is your imagination and the ability to leave your inhibitions at the door.
  5. Forgiveness - There’s little that can dull a child’s smile for more than an hour.  Grudges serve no purpose other than to hurt ourselves and shut us off from potential new and wonderful experiences.
  6. That my limits are limitless – Through children I’ve discovered that there is no limit to have far we can go, what we can do, and what we can achieve.  Children can push you to your perceived physical and emotional limits…but just when you think you’ve reached them, you find you have more left to give.  There is so much power in this realisation.

My children have taught me a lot!

In keeping with today's theme, here are six more bonuses!  Things you can do just because you’re a parent:

  1. Dress up – whenever you want, as whatever you like, in costumes that are way too small for you.  Awesome.  Seriously.
  2. Sing – like ALL the time…anywhere...as badly as you please.  You don’t come off looking like a crazy person or get criticised for being out of tune.  You just get bonus points for being an interactive, fun, loving parent.
  3. Play – you can spend a full day jumping on a trampoline, dancing, playing with dough, colouring in, watching cartoons and building forts…and nobody’s going to tell you to grow up.
  4. Finish off other peoples’ dinner – there’s a lot of leftovers where children are involved, and guess what?  They’re all yours!  This is an especially great bonus at kids’ birthday parties or when it’s sausage roll and chips night at home.  Waste not, want not right?
  5. Talk in third person – a LOT.  It’s a great way to shift the blame ;)  That “Mummy” has a lot to answer for always wanting them to do something to make her “happy”. ;)
  6. Make fart jokes and celebrate bodily functions - complete with cheers, high-fives and sometimes even Smarties.

Two's Company

"Saddle up! We're in for a ride!"

"Saddle up! We're in for a ride!"

I miss my husband.

I miss: spending the whole day just messing around in the kitchen cooking up a storm with him; drinking a bottle of wine each and staying up all night just because we could; fooling around, popping coke bottles with a BB gun; aimless drives in our panel van, Elvis singing effortlessly in the background. 

I miss: the laughter and the banter; watching a movie together, with popcorn, and beer and no interruptions; dinner at strange restaurants watching him order the weirdest thing on the menu as I search for the chicken parmy. 

I miss: watching him laugh with friends; spending the whole day in bed with him; sundowners and the goofy ballroom dancing we’d inevitably end up displaying at the night’s end. 

I miss the holidays: discovering new worlds together; learning together; relaxing together… 

I miss my husband.

A few weeks ago I asked you guys to tell me something you took for granted before having kids.  I took for granted by time with my husband.

I wish we’d gone out more, travelled more, “lived” more.  I wish we’d spent less time in front of the TV and more time out in the world.  I wish we’d realised how much freedom and opportunity we had.  I wish we’d fully appreciated the ability to do just about anything we wanted to do at the drop of a hat. 

And now that we know all this and we are so grateful for even the smallest opportunity to be alone together – I wish we weren’t so damn tired!!

I know that these days don’t last forever and that with each day that passes the kids get more independent and the window of opportunity to hang out in another room and chat gets bigger.  But right now, it’s hard.  Really hard.

I also know that in those moments when the kids aren’t wrestling or head butting each other, when they’re not trying to stick cheese up their nose or tip yoghurt on their brother’s head… those moments when they’re just sitting together hugging like angels or giggling at how funny the word “butt” is... you look across the room at each other and know that together you made them, you gave them life.  In those moments there’s a feeling that you share that you couldn’t manufacture and you wouldn’t trade for anything.  But in between those moments, in between the sleepless nights, in between all the disciplining, food preparation, laundry and work…there’s little time to just be a couple.  Not Mum and Dad.  Just Kellie and Dino. 

So, for those of us lucky enough to be sharing this journey with a partner, if you’ve not yet had your baby I urge you to go out and make the most of your time together.  Even if you’re pregnant and tired and feeling like Shamu the Whale…get out there and watch a movie, eat at a fancy restaurant, take 15 trips to the shops together in one day just because you can.  Sleep in together, laugh together, cook together.  Go for a walk as the sun’s going down, talk, play a boardgame, go see a play.  Stay up all night and sleep all day, ring each other on the phone and just chat for no reason at all – because telephone calls without the sound of cats dying in the background will soon be a thing of the past. 

The times you have ahead will be the best but also some of the hardest years.  The tiredness, the lack of time alone and the constant pressures of parenting will test your relationships tremendously.  So do what you can to make sure the foundations are strong now. 

For those of you already in the thick of it, I wish you all the best in working through it, finding time for each other and coming out the other side of the toddler years with your relationship still intact.  I am so blessed to be sharing this journey with my husband.  It’s so important to remind each other of that.  To try and make the time to reconnect as a couple on a regular basis.  To support each other’s needs and to be as understanding and as patient with each other as possible. 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel and these times don’t last forever.  In fact, in a couple of years I’m sure we’ll be looking back on these times and missing all the baby first moments and the way they used to say “Dah-dee and MaMaaa”.  We’ll miss the times we nursed them at 2 in the morning, and the way they fought for our attention (one on each leg both screaming our name, refusing to be shook off).  We’ll forget all the hard stuff, and we’ll look back together and think what a great job we did together bringing them up ;). 

But in the meantime…try to keep perspective, nurture your patience and do your best to put each other first sometimes. 

Voices

"Has that crazy lady gone yet?"

"Has that crazy lady gone yet?"

You know when you hear your recorded voice and think, “oh my god, that’s not ME, I sound TERRIBLE!”?

Well sometimes I feel like I’m living inside a stereo with a recording of my own voice playing over and over again.

Before I had children I was blissfully unaware of the many voices that lay waiting in my voice box for their debut.  There’s:

The Darth Vader in Drag: “Get back here rrright NNNow.”

The Raving Lunatic: You know the one where you’re pretending like you’re talking to them but you’re really just talking to yourself?       “I just don’t understand why I have to ask you sixteen times to do something. I just don’t get it.  I don’t get why you listen to everyone else.  Why don’t you listen to me? It’s driving me crazy……I SAID GET INSIDE NOW!”

The Strangled Seagull: “Stop it, SQUAWK, put that down, SQUAWK, stop picking your nose, SQUAWK, give that back, SQUAWK, get off your brother, SQUAWK, don’t touch that!”

The Town Crier: This one comes out in playgrounds (usually in front of the masses) hollering across a sea of children “You’ve got five minutes until we leave, five minutes!  Ok?!!  Five minutes...say ‘yes, mummy!’ ... Thank you.  FIVE MINUTES!”

The Manic Negotiator: “It’s ok, just breathe, it’s alright it’s alright it’s alright, don’t scream, calm down, it’s your turn next…”

The I Don’t Care Who’s Listening: Usually emerges in the car park shortly following a grocery shop. “GET IN THE CARSEAT!  I’M SO UPSET WITH YOU RIGHT NOW! YOUR BEHAVIOUR IN THERE WAS DISGRACEFUL!!  I SAID GET IN THE CARSEAT! NO YOU CAN NOT HAVE A LOLLLLLLLYPOP!!!!!!”

This is something I definitely wasn’t prepared for!  There are days I actually hate the sound of my own voice.  I had no idea that this was such a big part of the parenting gig!  I had visions of Lullaby Mama, all gentle and sweet (not to mention coherent and reasonable!)…not this Negative Nancy!

But it seems that even if you approach it in a positive manner, offering them options or choices, telling them what they could or should be doing in lieu of what not to do…no matter which way you spin it ultimately you’re still the bearer of bad news.  You spend a great deal of your day trying to convince them that not doing something they want to do, or doing something they don’t want to do, is the way to go.  Despite all my best efforts, I still hear myself speaking and think “my god you’re so annoying!  You sound so negative all the time”.

And how is it that someone so small, and someone you love so much, can push your every button so very well?!  No one else has ever managed to bring to life the I Don’t Care Who’s Listening or the Spitting Dragon (I’ll leave this one to your imagination). 

I’m sure that the voices will die down as my children get older…(did that just make me sound totally crazy?!).  Until then I guess I just need to try to keep the less productive ones in check and look for ways to bring out Lullaby Mama more (I used to get sneaky when they were infants and change the words of songs to vent my frustrations…like Brahms’ Lullaby “Go to sleep, little one, Mummy’s looosssing the plot”.  Yeah, that was a bit of a fail).  So…work on Lullaby Mama, and try to find ways to balance out the seemingly negative banter.  Pick my battles - I’m not going to win all of them.  Try to find a healthy medium between letting them be kids yet ensuring I stay on top of the necessary discipline.  Sounds good in theory, I’ll let you know how I go with it!  In the meantime I welcome any tips, advice or shared experiences!