Tuesday, 11 November 2014

There's a lot to be said for Self-Care!

Something that’s been on my mind a lot lately is how often I come across a mother who isn’t enjoying parenting. More often than not, when I talk to a mum friend, she’s stressed out, grumpy, and treating motherhood as something to be endured rather than enjoyed. I’ve also been reading a lot of statuses, articles and threads, full of burnt out comments from these run down mums. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get it. I’ve been there. More times than I care to admit. And I don’t pretend to have any magic one size fits all answers. But one thing I do know for sure is that, "If you keep doing what you have always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got." And the number one thing I’m noticing amongst tired mums is their lack of self-care.

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s - an era when ‘good mothers’ did it all. They had immaculate homes, put beautiful meals on the table, sewed adorable clothes for their kids, gave their husbands awesome sex, always looked perfect – hair done, makeup on, slim figure – and sometimes even had a part time job. It was almost entirely appearance based though, because my own family, as well as those of my friends, were far from what they seemed on the outside. Mothers were frazzled, depressed and overwhelmed. Husbands were distant and grumpy. Parents cared more about the fa├žade than they did about the actual health of their brood. Emotional, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing were so often neglected. As long as children behaved, homes were clean, dad had a job and mum looked the part - that’s all that mattered.

But honestly people, what a crock of absolute shit.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy to start caring for yourself when you’re used to putting everyone else first; It’s bloody hard to pull away and disentangle yourself from thoughts that plague you, telling you to be selfless, compliant and uncomplaining. It’s more of a journey than a destination. At least it is for me.

I started trying to take a different route the moment my first child was born, but it wasn’t as easy as I anticipated. It’s taken a long time, and many tough choices, but I feel like I’m getting there, and gaining a certain amount of freedom. I haven't even come close to 'arriving', but I'm more happy than I've ever been. And the number one thing I’ve learnt is this – to be the best mother I can be I have to set my mind on being the best woman I can be, and this means taking care of who I am.

I have to say ‘no’ sometimes. Actually, I have to say ‘no’ A LOT. This is a bit controversial, especially to those still strapped to the roller coaster of martyrdom. They tell me I’m selfish. They ask me how I find the time. They say they can’t possibly do the things I do. And you know what? My heart goes out to them. And their kids. You see, when I chat to my kids about things like this I’ll notice their animated happy faces when they talk about how things are now, and watch their expressions change when they recall the stress of our house 10 years ago.

Sure, back then everything "looked" perfect. My house NEVER had a thing out of place. My linen cupboard was a thing of beauty, and smelled divine. My meals were well thought out, and always on the table on time. I baked most days. I walked 4km every day - rain hail or shine - and if my size 10 shorts got a little tight I’d be straight on a diet. I had a perfect garden. I went to church every Sunday morning while my kids attended Sunday school. I went to 2 bible studies every week and various luncheons with my church friends and their kids. I went to parenting seminars and read tomes on relationship building with my spouse. My life was one big, perfect routine. I was living the dream. THIS was what I’d been told I was made for.

But do you know what? I was 150% un-fucking-happy.

My anxiety levels were through the roof, I disliked my friends, my relationship sucked, I was hungry every second of the day, and burnt out to the extreme. Often I would relieve my frustrations by throwing random objects at the wall, or rolling myself into a heaving, sobbing ball of depression while my children looked on. It was beyond ugly.

I don’t wanna dwell on that though. Even reliving it now, briefly in my memory, makes me feel ill. It was a state I never wish to return to. I know not every mum is depressed, and certainly not to the extent that I was, but many ARE very unhappy, and the one thing that seems universal amongst them is that they believe it’s selfish to think about their our needs. This was the number one thing I needed to change in my situation if I was to get better, and the number one thing the majority of mothers I know need to change.

It’s okay to be a little bit selfish people!!

Does that mean you neglect you family? Don’t feed or dress them? Let them live in squalor or eat tinned food every night? Of course not! But maybe it does mean things like this:

- You can feel okay about hiring a movie YOU like, rather than always what the rest of the family prefers

-You can let your bottom grow a size or two bigger than other people are used to, so that you can actually enjoy your food rather than fearing it

-You can stop wearing makup if it pisses you off. Or start! Whatever floats your boat

- You can tell your husband what YOU like in the bedroom

- You can insist that your teenager catch a bus instead of always relying on you driving them

- You can get that tattoo you’ve wanted for the past 5 years even though someone in your life might not approve.

- You can refuse to spend time with friends or family who are toxic

- You can read a book, take a walk, have a bath, even if it means saying ‘no’ to your family for a short period of time

- You might decide you don’t have time to clean your floor before a visitor arrives. Instead you could unapologetically leave your child’s craft over the entire surface, and provide no excuses (that’s my favourite)

You get the idea.

Should you do these things, or similar, because you are more important than everyone else? Nope. You should do them because you are JUST AS important as everyone else. You should do them because if you don’t, you will quite literally be useless to everyone else. We need to look after ourselves, my beautiful mummy friends, so we can look after others. Parenting is about sacrifice, yes, but it’s not about sacrificing everything, and it’s most definitely not about giving up on who you are. You’re still a person. Nuture yourself occasionally. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

'Tick' and 'Cross' Days

Last week I accidentally slept in till 8:30am. After staggering into the lounge room with one eye still shut, I found my (almost) five year old daughter, watching Uma Thurman, in "Kill Bill", whilst working her way through an entire packet of milk arrowroot biscuits.

Yep. Not my finest parenting moment.

I quickly changed the channel and pried the packet out of her sticky little hands, but I felt terrible, and it got me thinking...is there a stage where we as parents should just admit defeat? I mean, is there a point where you just need to throw up your hands, and admit you've totally stuffed it all up? That you have no idea what you're doing? And when should that moment be?

Is it when your six month old won't stop crying, no matter what you do? Or when your two year old keeps getting out of bed at night? What about if your three year old is throwing tantrums every time you venture past the front door...Is it then? Maybe it's if you get called to the school because your eight year old stole their best friend's wrist watch? Or could it be if your teenager slams the door and turns up their music, whenever life doesn't go their way?

Do these things imply that you're a bad parent, or that your child is a banshee? I know sometimes it feels that way. Some days it's so easy to look at our children's behaviours and wonder where we've gone wrong. It can be so deflating. But something I really believe to be true is this...my bad days do not define me as a parent, just as my child's bad days do not define them.

And here's how I know...

We keep guinea pigs. A totally random thing to say, but stick with me. Ever since my eldest daughter was about three, we've had a cage or two of 'piggies' in the backyard. They're an easy pet to keep, and we go all gooey when they have their adorable little babies. The interesting thing about these little fluff balls is that they're literally born 'ready to go'. They are covered in fur, already have teeth, and can eat grass and vegetables just like mum and dad. Sure, mum does feed them herself for a little while, but aside from those two or three weeks, they don't need to be around their parents at all. They just know instinctively what to do to survive, and off they go into the big wide world.

There's a good reason why most people are careful about when, or if, they become a parent. Unlike guinea pigs, human babies are not born 'ready to go'. We mums and dads have to keep them close, not just for a couple of weeks, but for a couple of decades...and two decades is a bloody long time! Also, we aren't usually raising rodents, we're raising little people with unique personalities, temperaments, and ideas. Chances are that our human offspring are not always going to be perfect, because, hey, if they were they wouldn't need us. Parents are there for reason. We actually have to work at this parenting gig. And you know what, I really don't think we can expect to be perfect for the entirety of two decades. We get tired, and angry or even indifferent at times. We're not always gonna get it right.

I really think being a good parent is a lot more than the result of a single act. Whether that be good or bad. You don't just get to pull your best 'bit' out of a hat and declare yourself awesome. Likewise, stuffing up occasionally doesn't mean you've failed. As for your little one, the chances are they are NOT going to end up a mass murderer just because they've spent the last 3 months pulling the dog's ears and tail. Does this behaviour require some action from a parent? Sure! But it doesn't define that child. They're growing, they're learning. They aren't 'ready to go'. That's why you're there!

A couple of years back, when I was trying to lose a bit of weight, I remember being reminded of how people would often give up on a healthy eating plan if they ate something they shouldn't. Even if they'd eaten well for an entire month, they'd just throw it all in because they'd had a Mars Bar. The article displayed a grid to illustrate the eating habits of the people who had successfully lost weight. There was a square allocated for every day. If the person had eaten healthfully, they ticked that day's box. If they hadn't, then they marked it with a cross. The interesting thing is that the ones who had lost the most weight, had plenty of crosses. Heaps of them! But here's the thing...THEY JUST MADE SURE THEY HAD MORE TICKS!

I see parenting almost exactly the same way.

I believe most of us start off with the best of intentions. We love our kids more than life itself. We research and read up about child development, and parenting philosophies. We make them healthy meals, and ensure they're getting enough exercise. We talk to them, play with them, and read to them. We try to shape their character by being good role models, and by teaching them right from wrong. We expose them to stimulating environments and experiences. But life's not always sunshine and roses, and things don't always go to plan. Sometimes we lose our shit, and have mummy meltdowns, and sometimes our kids decide to act like they've been raised by a pack of wolves...usually in public where as many people can see them as possible. They're good like that.

Many, many days we declare ourselves failures, and slap ourselves with the big red X. But shouldn't we just ease up on ourselves...and our kids for that matter? I mean, how much better would we feel if we just got rid of the notion of ever being perfect, and we simply decided to show up and do our best? Imagine how much more peaceful and calm we would be. I really believe that at the end of each day, if our kids are still alive, happy, thriving and connected, we can safely assume they've been exposed to more 'tick days' than 'cross days'.

Don't you think?

Now, to hide that remote control and lock that pantry...

My youngest daughter with our mummy and daddy guinea pigs

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Walking To My Own Beat

It was a quote that first drew my attention. I was browsing through a whole host of blogs, as I do fairly often, when I happened upon a woman talking about how she'd spent the past year writing her first book, and about what a learning process it had been. She went on to list a few things life had taught her, one of which was that she needed to quit apologising to others for the pace of life that her intuition tells her is best for her and her familyDo you ever read something where you wanna stop and fist pump the air?? Well that was one of those moments for me.

Being a "Stay-at-Home"

As a stay-at-home-mum, I've spent a great deal of time defending my decision to not do paid work. I've often suspected people assumed I had no intelligence, or that maybe I was just lazy. It bothered me to the extent that it became a real compulsion for me to prove myself. It was exhausting and depressing, and thank goodness I don't buy into that crap anymore. The reality is that my choice to stay home, was based almost entirely on the fact that my intuition told me that it was what was best for my family. Friends would sometimes get defensive, and say that they were able to parent perfectly well and work full time. Because I'm always conscious of not disrespecting my working friends, I'd go the self-deprecating route, and tell them that "I" just couldn't do both. That I didn't have the ability to be both a good mother, and a dedicated employee at the same time. This isn't entirely true. I mean, I know I could do both. What I should have said is that it just wouldn't feel right for me. My intuition would be telling me, "Whoa!! Lady, this pace is way too crazy!" I really believe in listening to that voice.

Making a Difference

But back to that woman and her blog. After I had my fist pumping, "Oh yeah!" moment, I scrolled though the rest of her blog/website, and was totally wowed! The more I read, the more I found myself muttering, "Yes!" under my breath. It's always just so exciting and inspiring to read the words of a like minded individual. She writes about everything...from her children and her husband, to society and culture...with passion and honesty. Her whole blog revolves around the idea that you can make a difference, and (in her words) "start a revolution", from your own home. I immediately felt a sense of kindredness toward her. My new girl crush!!

Now, I don't tell you any of this to promote her blog (although I will add a link at the end incase you'd like to check it out). I had never even heard of her before today. But I bring it up because I've been struggling to put a label on what I want my own blog to be about. Every bit of literature I come across about setting up a blog, tells me I MUST focus on one topic. I should apparently pick a subject, and just write the crap out of it. But my mind doesn't work that way. I don't have just one thing I'm passionate about. I'd seriously be bored stupid writing about a single subject. It was only after reading this woman's blog that I realised I didn't need just one thing to focus on. I realised that my habit of writing about a plethora of topics might not be the quickest way to build an audience, but if my intuition is telling me I should do it, well I'm gonna do it. I've also realised that although I'm passionate about a lot of things, the driving force behind every one of those passions is the same thing...I just want to make a bit of a difference. Even if it's just a teeny, tiny, little bit.

Bloom Where You're Planted

To give you a bit of background, I remember a period of time when I was in my early 20's... My daughter Ebony was a few years old, and my son Lochlan, had just been born. I'd not long moved in with Jason, after living as a single mum for some years, and I was really searching for meaning in my life. I'd always been pretty spiritual, so I'd decided to go back to church for the first time in a while (I should probably add here that although I'm spiritual, I'm not at all religious...there's a big difference. But I digress). I'd had a bit of a rough trot, I guess you could say, and even though I had many wounds that needed tending to, I had this overwhelming desire to help others who might have similar experiences. Although this was partly altruistic, I recognise now that I was probably also searching for a way to be "needed"...to feel like I was important and that I mattered.  I had such an pathetically low self esteem. Anyway, I remember asking God to bring people into my life who I could help. I'd ask the same thing day after day after day, while I busied myself doing my boring, mundane domestic duties...changing nappies, cooking, cleaning and playing with the kids. Nothing changed, and no people mysteriously appeared in my life needing help. It was a little disapointing, but after a while I had a bit of a light bulb moment. I'd heard the phrase, "Bloom where you're planted", for the first time, and it spoke straight to my heart. I kind of sat and chewed it over for a while, and it was truly like God was speaking to me (no, not a real voice...I'm not that crazy) and it was like he was saying, "You know what Davina, if you want to make a difference...if you really want to change the world...then how about you start at home? Stop worrying about proving your worth to others, get off your sad and sorry ass, and just BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED". It was like an entire mind shift. I saw things so differently, and from that moment on I totally immersed myself in my role as a wife and mother. My insecurities didn't go away entirely, but I felt a real sense of purpose, and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.


My Drum Has the MADDEST Beat!

That exact same sense of purpose drives me today. I know that the best way for me to leave an imprint on the world is to raise my kids well. I know it with every fibre of my being. I absolutely believe that pretty much everything that sucks about society (and there's plenty) can be traced back to parenting and family issues. I've changed a hell of a lot over the years, and thrown out a heap of baggage along the way, but I still focus on my family before anything else. I still sift everything through a set of filters, and decide what's true and right based on my intuition (which comes from my faith), not based on what society tells me. I don't always meet other people's expectations of me. I rarely follow what is "mainstream".  My opinions aren't always the most popular. As such, I like to think I really do walk to the beat of my own drum. And, although I might be a little biased, I think my family's beat is ALL KINDS of awesome.

My special ones

Oh, and if you'd like to check out the blog I've been talking about, "Revolution from Home", by writer Beth Barry, then Click Here!

Friday, 21 March 2014

I'm not a fan of introductions.

First impressions are supposed to be so important, but I rarely do them well. For instance, if you were meeting me in person for the first time, you would probably think I was a fairly quiet person. Maybe even aloof. I'm really not, and if you could speak to any one of my long time friends, they'd tell you I'm anything but shy. I just really have a hatred of small talk. I detest it actually. I find it pointless, boring and awkward to make conversation about the weather, or the latest football scores, with a stranger. So I tend to keep to myself.

Most of the time I'm happy to just sit and people watch. Like at school drop off, and pick up, for example. I watch the other mums interact with each other, and find it interesting to witness them forming their cliques. I'd actually like to befriend a couple of them. Their conversations make me think we'd get along. But there's that thing again...introductions...small talk. Yuck. So I just tend to hang back.

I sometimes wish I was more like my partner. Now, there's a talker. Jason just has the gift of the gab. I mean he can seriously talk a leg off a chair. He'll walk up to just about anyone, and still be there an hour later nattering away. He cracks jokes, and makes friends easily with his warmth and charisma. But, put a pen in his hand and ask him to jot down his thoughts, and he'll hyperventilate. Give him a book and he'll be asleep before the second page. Speaking is Jason's "thing"Writing, not so much. But, just as he communicates best through the spoken word, I thrive through the written. Just as he is able to really open up to others through his oral ability, I am able to do the same through a piece of writing.

Writing has done so much for me in my life. It's given me confidence, because although I can occasionally be verbally awkward, I am completely as ease and comfortable with a pen in my hand, or a keyboard in my lap. It's also provided me with a vehicle to use to speak about things I'm passionate about...and there's lots of those. I can chuck on some yoga pants, pour a wine, then sit cross legged with my phone, or computer, and just...write. Writing is my thing.

I'd love for my writing to resonate with others, but that's truely not my priority. This blog is in essence an outlet. Somewhere for me to write about what matters to me...whatever that may be on any given day.

Oh, and to perhaps give my facebook friends a break from my incredibly long status updates ;-)


A couple of my favourite pics of Jason and I from New Year's Eve last year