The Vulnerability of Motherhood

The Vulnerability of Motherhood

I saw her. I could see her heart thumping without seeing her heart at all. Living off adrenaline. Survival mode. Her baby, not quite 6 months old, sitting quietly on her lap with oxygen tubes attached to his face.

A hospital sleep specialist walks by to make himself a coffee. Courageously he asks, “how are you, and how is he going?”.

You could pressume that he was assigned to the baby as his specialist by the way the woman responded, you’d be wrong.

“Exhausted. I’m utterly exhausted.”, the mother replied. “This is so tiring.”

The staff members eyes widen as if to suggest he received more than he’d bargain for, and regretted asking anything in the first place. He walks away – politely but awkwardly smiling.

The room is quiet. After reading a brochure, I look up. She sits there jiggling her leg to bounce her baby. Jittering, fidgeting. This mother has not slept properly for some time.

Her inner engine is at full revs trying to get through the day. A symptom of stress all too familiar.

I blurt out, “Is he in here for sleep testing?”. Fully aware it’s likely to be for something else.

“Oh, he’s on a CPAP. We’ve just had an overnight sleep study a week ago. It was the best sleep I’ve had in ages. Because I didn’t have to worry and fuss, I knew someone was going to be there to watch him too. It wouldn’t just be me. ”

The flood gates open.

I can’t help but empathise and ask, has she got any help at home. “No. Not if you count a husband who argues with me in the middle of the night about the baby.”

She was alone. She is alone. And vulnerable. Maybe craving for someone to hear her out. And to validate that her emotions are accepted by someone. Her own opinion is not enough.

I sigh for her and share in her disappointment in the lack of support. Then spend the next 5 minutes listening to her story. The story of her baby having a “floppy airway” otherwise known as laryngomalacia. It creates an obstruction which stops him from breathing. She can’t sleep knowing this. Who could? The respiratory team and ENT battle over how to manage it, constantly.

They decided to perform a bronchoscopy recently to get a visual of it. Her son needed to be resuscitated twice in recovery. Putting on hold any surgical solution for the condition. I am overwhelmed with emotion for her.

She counted, almost 50 times she woke up to adjust his machine the previous night. She said her son had always sounded congested from birth but for some time nobody wanted to listen to her concerns. His condition is serious.

We were interrupted by each of our specialist nurses and doctors and went our separate ways.

If she were ever to read this, I would want her to know that I was privileged to hear her story. A stranger she may be, but a fellow comrade she is.

People often steer away from those who are full to the brim with the challenges in their lives, what if we were all eager to engage with them and connect with them? To hear their story, acknowledge their vulnerability and validate their feelings. How different the world could be.

This mother was at the end of her tether. Maybe she needed just one nice thing to show her that all is not dark and grim. That there is more to this life than scary things out of her control that send you pleading on your knees for mercy. To be heard, to have openness and understanding is worth more than any physical gift you can give someone.

Sending out love to all of you in my tribe who did this very thing for me recently. Your kindness makes the day shine a little brighter.

Sha x

**Illustration by Jamina Bone of @mommingwithtruth

What to do when Gratitute journaling isn’t your jam?

Something didn’t feel quite right about Gratitude journaling for me. I thought it was the format, so I bought a new journal. I suspected it was the method of writing, so I downloaded an app. Then I stopped gratitude journaling altogether. It felt vague, or unfulfilling. The words began to recycle themselves and become devoid of any emotion. And the term “gratitude” became lifeless to me.

Sure, I am grateful for a house, who fucking isn’t. Yeah, I am grateful for good health, a beautiful family, a car, my husband, but repeating these things every day never really affected change on my negative mindset. I’ve even recommended to you all to take up gratitude journaling yourselves, that was before I knew it didn’t work for me.

Knowing that it may not be for me, and feeling like a dickhead and that maybe I am a broken human, feeling guilty I can’t find more things to be grateful for, I stopped that form of journaling and slid back into my comfy home of listening to podcasts.

Maybe it has taken an Aussie bloke to say it in an Aussie accent. In my comfy home of podcasting whilst I fold washing, I found Hugh Van Cuylenburg (who I unashamedly have stalked since hearing about his Resilience Project work some time ago) speaking about this very topic and resilience on A Life of Greatness by Sarah Grynberg.

Instead of this “recycling” habit and feeling, to be honest, shit about ourselves because we cannot find anything more to be grateful for, we can try writing the following.

3 things that went well for you today.

Pshhhtt. Mind blown. Totally achievable. A child could do this. Each day is different, so each thing that went well could potentially be different. It can be simple. Or complex. And it doesn’t feel anxiety inducing as if there is a “wrong answer” like gratitude journaling can.

Hugh suggests that within 21 days you can rewire your thought patterns. Rewiring your brain. Challenge accepted.

With this tip, I resume some form of recognising what I am grateful for, in my downtrodden $4 Kmart journal. I shall report back with my findings after 21 days.

Happy Journaling!

*HIGHLY recommended that you follow Hugh on socials @theresilienceproject and check out his webpage. How refreshing it is to have an Aussie guy broaching this subject and making a difference in education.

*Also HIGHLY recommend subscribing to the A Life of Greatness podcast. Sarah is a fantastic interviewer. She really lets people deep dive and find their public speaking groove. Plus, she also interviews one of my favourite happiness author’s, Gretchen Rubin.

Like anything, take self-help advice with a grain of salt. Not every author, speaker, personality is right for your approach to life. And you shouldn’t feel guilty about that either.

Dear Men, I Hear You

Dear Men, I Hear You

Time to talk about the opposite sex, and to make a confession.

I grew up ignorant to the extent of mental health problems that men face. I grew up with “strong” men around me who went to work 6 or 7 days a week, never complained and if I am honest, hardly spoke of their feelings. If they were sad, I wouldn’t know it. They would withdraw and the little communication that was visible, would not be so visible anymore. It deeply saddens me to know that for so many men, this is the only option they feel is viable.

What saddens me further is that this response seems ingrained in them. That over time it seems to have been constructed from the pressure to generate and deliver the most money to the household, at any personal cost. At any amount of physical sacrifice, and at any mental sacrifice.

This I now know, because I have watched my husband battle with the societal expectation of what a man of the house, and a father, is expected to contribute to a family. To the detriment of his mental wellbeing. Desperately wanting to be present for our children and being limited to, if lucky, a 10-minute timeframe per day to spend with them. Sacrificing time to be the main breadwinner of our house so that I need not work full time and can be there for our boys. Then at least one of us can watch them grow up.

Eventually it has taken its toll.

Work. And work harder. Be tougher. Don’t complain. Have a drink if you feel shit about something. If you still feel shit, have another. It is a cycle that I can say I have watched through many generations of men around me.

As a “mum blogger”, as a wife, a mother of boys, and as a woman who is surrounded by amazing men that stay quiet when there is so much to be said (yet maybe they just don’t know how to), I feel that voicing depression and anxiety in men is just as important as voicing women’s. Because my family and friends are a team. And when one player is on the bench, we don’t simply delist them without a second thought. We guide them on the path to recovery. We want to face the next game with our strongest side.

The rate of male suicide shocks me. The statistic really is jaw-dropping.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2017 about 75% of people who died by suicide were males. In a perfect world there would be 0% for both sexes, of course. But this information is telling us something.

As hard as parents try to educate their sons about the range of emotions and developing tools in their tool box to cope with them, maybe it just takes time and perseverance of this to undo what evolution has itself done. Maybe it takes society speaking more of the challenges that men face. That fathers face. Where they are to accept that for many years their gender was required to work while women raised their children and if they felt the urge to be with them then they need to stow it away. Just suck it up because nothing will change.

After writing blogs about mental health, particularly post-natal depression and anxiety, and seeing how many women can voice their issues (not all women, we each have our own cross to bear) I exist online in a space where men’s mental health is not discussed as much.

I simply wanted to give some air time to acknowledge the men in my life that are feeling deflated, feeling lonely, or that something is missing in their life but they can’t quite pinpoint it, feeling as though they aren’t enough for their family or feeling guilty for the lack of time they may spend with their babies and other halves. Feeling full of emotion and feeling it is unacceptable for them to express it.

By showing there are some guys out there able to get in touch with emotions, becoming aware of how to process them and how to use words in order to manage and express them, you are showing future generations of boys that they can do it too.

While times are slowly changing with a broader range of diversity in household roles, from where I sit men are still pigeonholed as less sensitive and that they can “deal” with working away from family. Men are still generalised as being tougher emotionally because the culture of acceptance is still shifting.

I can only hope that with continual education of this in our schools and through openness with family and friends, that our children will be raised in a different world. I hope that as a result the rate of stress, anxiety and depression in men reduces dramatically.

***Special mention to my husband who has been so brave and allowed me to write about his experiences. Love you babe.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Here is where you can get some more info and support:

https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men

https://au.movember.com/mens-health/mental-health

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mens-mental-health

Christmas Anxiety

Christmas Anxiety

Colourful lights, beautiful decorations, Christmas music everywhere and not to mention the Christmas dinners, lunches and other events you are lucky enough to have been invited to. A time to get into the spirit and put a smile on your dial.

Unless you are Mum who already deals with anxiety.

The to-do lists are infinite and with every one task, each present bought, it feels as if 3 more sprout. Like the annoying grey hairs in your regrowth that you pluck out because you haven’t made it to the hairdressers in over 3 months. Or you stopped dyeing your hair because you don’t get the time.

Christmas is a wonderful time when you have small children but being Santa, being the homemaker, or even being the breadwinner, can feel like you have to find more than 24 hours in a day just to get all of the food and gifts prepped before Christmas.

I have spent many years winding myself up over the Christmas rush. Worrying I wouldn’t get a carpark (you eventually do), stressing that the traffic would be too bad (it eventually moves on), or that the gifts I made/bought would not be good enough (if the receiver doesn’t like it then that really is their problem), circulating these thoughts may sound like fun but it sucks the enjoyment out of the festive activities. Who would have thought.

So, when I thought of writing this post a week ago, I have since tested some theories and put them into practice to that I can report back my findings.

One may consider photo printing stores such as Officeworks a no-go so close to Jesus’ birthday but I decided to take the bull (reindeer?) by the horns (antlers?) and strap in for a lengthy wait. After some chaotic and stressful weeks I was able to shift perspective and somewhat crazily look forward to standing a line merely thinking about nothing more than the ground I was standing on. With that perspective and more relaxed attitude, I found the lines to be shorter – even making conversations with other waiting Mum’s (there were a few of us of varying ages) and assisting others to use the machines! If THAT isn’t in the true spirit of Christmas then I don’t know what is.

This technique has carried on and while some days I have become flustered, for the most part I have felt calm enough to let the pushy people push in front of me without wasting my breath telling them off, only to have people waiting behind me comment on my baby boys beautiful smile.

I observed the most delightful elderly couple, who had also commented on JJ’s smile (this happens a lot), walk together as the husband helped his less mobile wife walk with confidence, ensuring she didn’t trip or fall. Stopping to look back and smile at us occasionally. Friendliness you think has dissipated in this world.

Another Christmas anxiety-inducer is the thought that the 25th is a deadline for any fun activities. That you must complete all Christmas traditions before that time. Quickly squeeze in that trip to Santa’s Magical Kingdom when you already want to look at Christmas lights, check out the local estate Christmas party in the park while making sure you are home for Santa to drive around the streets in the firetruck (because what kid doesn’t like that). If only I had Doctor Strange’s time stone. Instead I have chosen a few achievable items on the list and otherwise spent time our family or practicing self-care by doing yoga whilst drinking some bubbles then painting my nails watching Home Alone. Merry Christmas to me! And the daily stress afterwards seemed bearable to cope with.

Anxiety is a horrid and all-consuming condition that helps you find the flaws in almost anything. It amplifies the negatives. What would typically be exciting becomes overwhelming and sickening. If you can get some quality sleep, a couple of minutes or hours to care for yourself then you have more chance of battling the crowds at the shops without becoming so irate you hip and shoulder Barbara in Aisle 5 for cutting in front of you.

My Christmas wish for all of you is that you get some you time, so you can spent the remainder of your time with loved ones living in the moment without accumulated stress or worry.

Enjoy the Holiday Season, Have a Very Merry Christmas and Happiest New Year

 

 

 

Mum-Shaming Myself: Post-Partum Body Comparison

Gumption and mental grit may be the badge of honour you earn after a second or third baby.

It took some getting used to my body not “bouncing back” this time around. 3 months after my first birth I was well on my way to becoming leaner and fitter than ever before, but with my second baby it just did not happen.

With the challenge of having 2 children to care for I had decided not to add the stress and anguish of looking as if I hadn’t had a baby this time. Whereas my first experience left me obsessing over it, somewhat unhealthily.

Having a second baby, I almost assumed my body would know what to do, how to bounce back yet again. But realistically I was 4 years older, 2 months off the age of 30, with a differing lifestyle. Going for walks with the baby in the pram has only happened a handful of times, as the opportunity was not available when I was free and willing to do so. Yet I could get out of the house daily before and walk for an hour with Zac sleeping away.

When my efforts fortified, hearing compliments became like a drug to me. “You look as if you haven’t had a baby at all!”. Had I beaten the mum-bod curse? Had I made it to the elusive MILF status? The most important question, now that I have experienced both sides, is it really that fucking important anyway?

There are enormous amounts of content bolstering motherhood, how you have earned stripes, how you should be proud of your body regardless of the opinions of others. But I found myself so hung up on them and using them to fuel myself when I should have been fuelling my own fire. When I should have been caring less about how the comments made me feel and cared more of how I felt about myself when I looked in the mirror, and what was behind the lense I was viewing myself with.

So here I am now. Another baby into my story and convincing myself it is okay to love my body when I don’t have other people telling me I look lovable by their standards.

Social media hurts to look at when you feel something between admiration and utter envy of famous personalities ability to regain pre-baby bodies within a couple of months. You almost look for those who appear to seem human and take their time and who still have mum tum in the “9 months in and 9 months out” photo.

A 15 minute workout these days is manageable on the odd occasion. For sake of sanity and for what my dismal energy stores allow. Keeping a form of muscle conditioning is important to me for the longevity and quality of my life but it cannot always take precedence over my responsibilities as a Mum, having a job and being a wife.

One day this will seem trivial. Spending time tossing up between wanting for my first post partum physique and being proud as hell for what this body aided me to do.
That little pouch sitting over my lower abs will always exist. It reminds us of the human life we grew inside there, and that miracles can seem impossible but occur right before our very eyes. Our breasts will be forever changed. They even scare you to look at sometimes. I can even see and feel that my pelvic bones changed placement with each pregnancy. That is awe inspiring. This body, those bones, literally moved great distances as far as they are concerned and birthed two children.

We may sit back and judge other women who seem to be completely unaffected by one or more pregnancies, but we never know their true story, what change was made to their physicality or what changed inside their brain.

Gumption and mental grit may be the badge of honour you earn after a second or third baby.

Gaining an understanding of temporary frustrations and learning that this precious baby and toddler phase speeds by so fast could be the perspective we gain. Maybe even the realisation that fitness can be earned, we can gain it back. It is not like a rare unicorn that can never be caught. That mental toughness though, that is brought about by dealing with the hard stuff that life will throw at you. You can read books and listen to podcasts but nothing can train your brain quite like living through a testing time and coming out the other side of it.

These thoughts get me through. And exposing myself to realistic, healthy and likeminded women or men who share honest takes of how they reach their goals.

Letting go of expectations to be like the “old me” gets easier when I feel the comfort of experience and knowledge gracing my daily mothering abilities. How good is wisdom?

Until next time,

Sha xx

Image may contain: 2 people, including Shaara Lee Horin, people smiling, people standing and child

For positive Mums on IG:

@emilyskye @reviejane

For some realness:
@garyvee

Gary Vayerchuck

A Letter To Our Sons

Dear Zac and Judd,

Once upon a time your Mum swore she would never write an “open” style letter and post it on the internet, for fear she would be judged. But she became confident and realised she actually really wanted her boys, and the world, to read this one in particular.

Throughout your upbringing we know you may resent Mum and Dad for setting boundaries for you or following through with disciplinary threats like; “Put down your Pokémon and eat breakfast right now or we will take them off you!”. And seriously, I literally told Zac this today and the day before, and I actually took them off you mate. Unfortunately you have that many of the little bastards that you have forgotten I took those specific ones.

Anyway, my point: You are very fortunate children. You were born and are living in a time were you are safe and have very little to be concerned about (we hope this continues).

Your great grandparents lived through World War II, which is why Mum and Dad will get so grumpy if you ever complain about not getting enough toys or superficial rubbish. Our family’s have starved and battled to live in this country and we hope one day you will understand the importance of that.

What you are about to read is like a manual of how your Mum and Dad were raised, with our own additions developed from our own experiences, that we have since raised you with. Without guidance we know, and have seen with our own two eyes, how out of hand a persons emotional wellbeing can get.

Our biggest wish for you both is that you grow up strong and healthy mentally and physically, and that you will be able to tackle the adversity life often throws at you. And we hope and pray that you don’t end up bratty like the “Cash me outside how bout dah” girl. You may need to Google that one.

Here it is;

WE DON’T CARE WHO YOU MARRY. So long as they respect you and you respect them in return. We also don’t care if you never marry.

TRY, ALWAYS. This life does not hand you what you want accidentally. It does not reward entitled behaviour or grant wishes to it either. You will need to set goals and work your backsides off to get what you want. Know where to direct your best efforts to achieve your goals but always do your best.

FIND A WAY TO LOVE YOURSELF. That way you lessen the chance of being in unhealthy and toxic relationships.

BE SELF SUFFICIENT AND INDEPENDANT. Wash your own dishes, cook your own meals, and clean your own laundry. Do not rely on another human being to do all of this for you. That is one of the largest contributors to a failing relationship. Expecting your life partner to pick up after you or make your lunches when they too are working and contributing to your lifestyle is detrimental to a relationship.

TRAVEL AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. Even if it breaks our hearts to see you go, deep down we want you to experience as much as this world has to offer.

LEARN FROM YOUR OWN AND OTHER PEOPLE’S MISTAKES. Making mistakes is perfectly okay. What is not okay is repeating them and expecting a different outcome each time. This is often called “the definition of insanity”.

CONFIDENCE EQUALS SUCCESS. This doesn’t mean being boisterous, obnoxious and rude. It means being true to yourself. People will listen to you when you speak with embedded confidence and self-trust. Don’t second guess yourself, or let anybody else make you feel as if your voice is less important. If they do, find another circle of friends.

LISTEN. Mum learnt this the hard way. Sometimes you need to stop ranting and simply listen to what somebody has to say. There are many introverted people that are waiting for the opportunity to speak and what they have to say can be so valuable.

BE HEALTHILY IMPULSIVE. Planning is great, but sometimes real memories are made by doing rather than spending lots of time planning and procrastinating.

ALWAYS PRACTICE COMMON DECENCY. It is rare as I write this. It will most likely be even more rare by the time you read this. Assist the elderly, let them take your seat on the train. Even if you do not receive a thankyou, feel good that you helped another human being. Have respect for people’s boundaries and their property. Be aware that your actions effect those around you. You may have no concept of what type of life somebody has lived. A simple kind gesture could make their day.

FAILURE IS AWESOME. Keep practicing, keep researching and learning, keep failing until you get it right. Giving up is the easy way out.

DON’T FEAR CHANGE. Change is growth. It is hard but that is where the magic happens.

IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU DON’T RECEIVE. It takes real guts to stand up in front of a classroom or a crowd to ask a question you need an answer to but if you don’t withstand those moments of discomfort, you will forever regret it. Be bold.

DON’T LIVE IN REGRET. Clichéd, but true. In conjunction with the above – take the risk. Breathe in the awkwardness of a new situation or a trialling time, breathe out the confidence in knowing it is best for you in the long term.

RESPECT WHERE YOU COME FROM. You are fortunate to have loving family members. Ask them about their life some time. Get them to show you pictures or tell you about their children. Learn and grow from their experiences.

FIND YOUR BIGGEST SUPPORTERS. And support them back. They could be friends, family, colleagues, people you met through sports or co-curricular activities. They are instrumental in your wellbeing. When you feel down and out, make sure you have got someone to vent to that will not only listen but will help build you back up again so you can get on with life.

DWELLING GETS YOU NOWHERE. Your Dad told your Mum something once, “worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” One of his very few wise moments, kidding.

RESILIENCE. Although we try our best to teach you this, it can be a tough skill to develop. Bounce back. One dodgy morning or a few sad times does not set the tone for the remainder of your day or your life. You can control what you absorb so make sure whatever that is, that it is worth your efforts.

THERE WILL BE PEOPLE WHO DO NOT LIKE YOU, AND YOU THEM. You may never discover why. It is perfectly acceptable. At this point in time there is over 7 BILLION people on Earth, you cannot be socially compatible with all of them. If you have to be in each others lives, accept this and put your efforts to people you do get along with.

NO MEANS NO. This is important, boys. Nothing gives you the right to physically or mentally overpower someone into doing what you want. Domestic and sexual violence is not okay. Your family has NEVER condoned it. We will be the first on the list to report you to police should you ever try it.

KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOVED. Mum and Dad love you more than we can possibly tell you. We have faith in you. We trust that within you are bright and positive spirits with all of the potential in the world.

There they are, boys. The snippets of life experience and core values that we have to share and have tried to instill in you. One more very important one, HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOUR. Just please don’t let it be your father’s 😆.

Love Always and Forever,

Mum xoxo

Whatever you do woman, do not drop the ball

Whatever you do woman, do not drop the ball

That’s right. Parents have been working and parenting simultaneously for years, hop to it lady. And stop your whinging because it is not as if you are the first person to experience this. I’m saying this to myself by the way.

Get up, get yourself dressed and made up for the day, make the bed, have breakfast, feed and dress the baby, play with the baby or you’re an ignorant parent, wake and make breakfast for the older child whilst being a positive and excited Mum, eventually yell at him for not eating breakfast (you have asked him to do so at least 20 times already), ask him to get dressed, again, and again, then yell at him because he cannot hear a damned thing (constant ear problems), clean up kitchen, double check all persons bags for the day are adequately packed, pack items into the car, try to appease the crying baby and clean his refluxy spit up from his freshly changed clothes, change his clothes again, get older child to brush teeth and go to the toilet and brush his hair, sit on toilet floor while said child inconveniently poops because “he needs someone to talk to”, then argue about why he needs to brush his teeth and wash his hands, put baby in car while he screams like Chewbacca getting kicked in the nuts, request older child puts his shoes on, repeat another gazillion times until you give in and do it yourself because now you are going to be late, buckle older child into car seat whilst refusing to listen to some weird Pikachu song on YouTube, awkwardly deliver spewy baby to daycare along with wandering older child who is still mad at you for moving him from this daycare to a kinder, rush back to car, zip through school traffic to kinder while dodging other flustered parents, argue again with child this time about wearing his own backpack, sign child in and quickly get shown around the latest activities (even if you are needing to leave because your feel guilty af for yelling at him all morning), rush back to car and drive to work. Look at the time, it is not even 9am yet.

This is not any different to most parent’s mornings. In fact, I am very privileged to have the life I do, and I am aware of that. Which is exactly why I am being hard on myself. Which is exactly why I work myself up into a twisted ball of stress that is so tightly knitted, I snap at the mention of anyone expecting something slight from me. I whisper to myself, “please don’t expect any more from me.”

I have asked my Mum why I find it so hard. She managed to make it through years of working 6 days a week and running a farm while caring for us, getting up way before dawn and driving an hour from remote farmland to take us to our grandmothers only to get home at 6:30-7:00 at night and do the dinner, bath, bed routine. I don’t know how she did it. She replied to my question, “Sha, the pace of life was very different then”. She is right. We have smartphones strapped to our hands and they may as well be a part of our body because they even join us in the loo. Hey, I am the first to admit I am guilty of taking it everywhere with me. We are always accessible, always switched on, always processing information, being told via several channels how to parent, or that we do it wrong, or that we don’t eat a balanced diet, or that we should eat that tasty fucking burger that Facebook & Instagram ads so rudely shows on my newsfeed at dinnertime every night. Be polite, but don’t let yourself be walked over, be strong, but be politically correct or invest in a figurative shovel to dig yourself a hole, be an attentive parent, but research how to be that kind of parent because society says you are doing it wrong. So does the old lady in line at supermarket checkout, by the way. Just. Be. More.

I can’t stand it. And I break. It feels bloody impossible to parent the way that suits your family with the enormous aforementioned pressures being thrust into your face. The expectations add up so much so that I transform into a no-shit-taking demon like woman and god help you if you ask any more of me, even if it is to know where the loo is. I cannot afford to drop the “parenting” juggling ball as result of fulfilling another expectation. My children need me. And that expectation cloud around me soils my family goals.

My husband calls me the single-married-mum. Meaning, I am considered a married woman but he is home so very little because of his job that I am the one who keeps the cogs spinning in the house, while working and trying to be there for our kids. I closely watch other parents do the same thing and never will I ever stop being amazed at how hard they all work. Whether they work full time or not, it is nothing short of inspiring. We share the one goal. To give our children healthy, plentiful lives. We live in a lucky country and have that option thankfully. But the pressure of leading a “balanced life” is real.

You know when you are at the end of your tether and on the brink of burnout. You are so tired you could vomit, sometimes you might. It feels like you are a bottle of champagne, you get filled up to the brim with bubbly expectation, get shaken up by the need to be everything to everyone then eventually the cork pops right off and you are angrily and resentfully bursting the contents out directing it at anyone who dare stand in your way. Or, you implode, you take those feelings and you trap them inside like a turtle. A very, very sad little turtle.

So, do you know what I do? I drop the juggling ball. I have dropped the ball. I will continue to DROP THE BALL. Right now I write to you from my bedroom where I can hear my cousin-in-law babysitting our children. I asked her to come over and help me out so that I don’t go completely postal on the world. Working and mum-ing is such a huge adjustment. My baby is almost 5 months old and every inch of the mother within me is unsettled by the notion I have to leave him at a child care centre 2 days a week. Prior to this, even parenting full time at home felt like a huge responsibility because you are expected to have a cleaner, more organised house than others while teaching your pre-schooler some Beethoven on the piano. I’ve done both and both are as equally tough.

Listen here, reader. It is okay to surrender to your feelings and let them out. If you don’t you are opening up a future pandora’s box of undealt-with issues and that will snowball like a motherfucker. Take a deep breath in. We ain’t perfect. In fact, let me share with you what seems like anti self-help style advice because I’m certain I’ve never heard of Tony Robins or Louise Hay suggesting this so bluntly. Maybe you’re the kind of person that needs to receive information in this bogan-esque style…

Steps on how to drop the ball:

First, you need to accept that when you have too much on your plate, something’s gotta give.

Secondly, you need to narrow down if you need “you” time, “family” time or identify another space in your life that needs more attention.

Thirdly, accept that as a result of refocusing your attention, things such as washing, thorough house cleans or yard work may suffer. It is okay, those things don’t have feelings and you can always do it later when you get more energy again, or outsource them if you’re willing and able. Heads up, people may not like your refocussed decision. Repeat this mantra in your mind: “fuck off, it is my life”. Just kidding, but pick something to the tune of that and it wouldn’t hurt to mentally repeat it until it sticks.

Fourthly (is that a word?), be courageous and DO IT. Drop the juggling charade. Hardest step guys. This is what separates you from the pack of people stuck in a loop. You can continue a façade that you can manage it all, but ultimately it is about your lifestyle preference and what you can cope with. I attempt multitasking but it simply is not my strongest forte, so I need to separate things like a dude (P.S. not sure I believe that tale, my husband is better at multitasking than me).  

The reward of this is worth more than any people pleasing task you would complete. You fill the empty “self-care” cup shoved at the back of your to do list and suddenly the to do list does not scare the bejesus out of you anymore.

Trust me, I literally did this today and I feel so much more human.

Good luck my lovelies.

Sha x

 

READ (and watch)

I Don’t Know How She Does it by Kate Reddy

WATCH

Bad Moms 1 & 2

You Do You. Losing and Regaining Your Identity

You Do You. Losing and Regaining Your Identity

Have you ever got to a point in life where you thought, what happened to me? Some major event occurred in your life and what was important at that time shifted. Like a huge universal shift. This happened to me. And I know this happens to most parents, or anyone going through huge changes.

Before this version of me I was the partygoing, wild and crazy person. I was a “woo” girl. I still knew how to prioritise, budget and act like an adult, but high on my list of priorities was waltzing down to the local club, bar, pub, party, basically anywhere that my friends were having a “piss up”. I wouldn’t drink enough to erase my memory of the night but would drink enough to lose inhibitions so that I could dance around like a hippie at Woodstock (minus the acid). I loved to listen to music loud enough to make your ears bleed and with such randomness that you’d often hear me listening to Killswitch Engage and Edith Piaf in the same 10 minutes. I’d completed an Associate Degree in Fashion, worked my tush off with a variety of designers until I realised it wasn’t for me, then I continued partying some more. It was fun. There were minimal responsibilities and I was in the process of building a house and planning a European holiday with Shane.

If you know me, or have read any previous posts then you would be aware that what happened next flipped my world upside down and around so hard that it felt like I was slapped in the face. We fell pregnant with Zac and immediately I renounced who I was. I now had to be a mother. Mums don’t have fun. Mums don’t party, that would be ‘unacceptable’. Mums don’t spend time or money on themselves. That would be ‘selfish’. Mums simply cannot behave one iota of the way they did before falling pregnant. That would be ‘immature’. I call bullshit.

Now I know this because I spent a good few years pretending to be a mother, a person, that I was not. The pressure was mostly from myself and the lack of grit to ignore judgement from others. I psychologically beat myself up until I didn’t even know who I was anymore. This was not the first time I had done this. When difficult periods of life arose the same thing would happen.

I even found myself latching onto confident people as if they exuded some sort of contagious confidence disease that I may eventually catch. I lost myself so deeply that whenever I was placed under stress no matter how small, I would explode.

All of me was trapped inside like I was holding myself hostage. It was not sustainable and at various points I would just live each day, not feeling anything but utter emptiness. I silenced my soul, what truly made me happy and forced myself into auto-pilot mode because if I couldn’t keep myself happy then I’d better at least try to make my family and close friends happy so I didn’t feel completely useless. I did what I thought others expected of me.

This became such an issue that for a long time I recall forcing myself to laugh at things. And laying in bed at night wondering why I couldn’t legitimately laugh at anything, even if I thought it was truly funny. Fake me. Fake attitude. Fake smile. Fake life. What on earth was I doing.

I’d like to say that one day I just snapped out of it – but that would be incorrect. It took months and years of “ah ha” moments, reading, practicing yoga, watching inspiring movies (or just reality TV of people’s lives that I envied), exercising and researching on repeat just to get it through my head that if I did not start DOING something this would be my life forever. I would die not doing anything I researched about. I would die not having lived.

My son would not look at me with respect, he would look at me with pity or he would grow up in my image. Don’t speak up, Zac. Sit there, be quiet and be sure not to say what you feel because you might offend someone, Zac. Children are to be seen and not heard. Fuck that. Fuck that thought back to where it came from.

We teach him (and will teach his brother) to respect others but now especially, respect himself. Because if you don’t respect you, and who you are deep down into your core beliefs, then you will forever float through life like a mindless zombie. That type of damage is exponentially tough to reverse.

I remember apologising so often for Zac’s energetic personality that I prevented myself from seeing any good in him. A very difficult truth for me to share. He is a wonderfully motivated, bright child and how in the world could I smother the flame within him because I cared what jo-blo who I hardly know thought of him and my parenting abilities.

I want my children to grow up feeling secure, sure of themselves, confident to ask questions, because if you don’t ask then you don’t get, but also be kind and respectful. Zac is polite, manners have been taught. He is given healthy boundaries, but I simply refuse to apologise or try to mould what makes him who he is, into some robot child.

I want the same for you, whoever you are reading this. I want you to like you who are as a person and I want you to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know you are being true to yourself

The best advice I have received all year was from a midwife while I cried in the hospital room. You do you. Stuff what other people think or say. So long as you are respectful to yourself and the world. Just do YOU, and the people that truly love you will stick by you.

How, though. How do you pull out that wonderful persona back into the forefront?

Commitment. Do you know what is scarier than change? Staying in a shit situation that you hate for the rest of your life. Sometimes it takes getting to the end of your tether to be able to commit to bettering yourself.

The Penny Dropping tactic. Do you feel something is not sitting right? Like a mad scientist, observe and record what has taken place leading up to this feeling. A pattern will appear. Then “ah huh”, the penny drops and you have narrowed down what to tackle next.

Priorities. Write them down and number them in order of importance and consider if this is ACTUALLY how you want to prioritise, or are you appeasing other people rather than yourself. Now write the list again, this time numbering what you’d ideally like to come first.

Get your shit together. The less time and money spent chasing your tail, the more spent on things that you enjoy. Get a calendar or diary system that suits you. For years I tried to utilise hard copy diaries. I have doctor handwriting which made it totally illegible and I would forget to bring it with me . Now I use Google Calendar on my phone, which allows you to colour code and it syncs to your devices. Winning.

Planning and goal setting. Honestly, try it. A few months ago I mind-mapped goals for the year. what I listed what I wanted to achieve, and I am smashing through that list. Sometimes you just need a visual.

Journaling. Do a personal mind dump of the things that cloud your thoughts. Nobody has to read it. You don’t even have to read it. You can scrunch it up and use it for dunny paper if you really wish. It is all about creating space in your mind for things that hold value to YOU. Not thoughts about other people or topics that are not of personal importance.

Listen to old school music that made you happy and dance around in your lounge room like an idiot. This is probably the most important tip.

Empower yourself to be the driver of your own life. Nobody else will fix your problems. There is no magical knight riding on a unicorn that saves you from yourself. That’s why you need to remember who you are. Live life in a way that does justice to your soul. YOU DO YOU. Stick to your guns and be ballsy and daring in your own life.

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Resources

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – Also a movie where Liz is played by Julie Roberts. It is a brilliant journey of self-discovery

Gary Vee (Vaynerchuck) – All out legend. Business mogul but the most REAL motivational speaker, even though he admits he isn’t one officially. Follow him on socials

Robin Sharma – Author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and The Leader Who Had No Title. By storytelling, Robin conveys many messages regarding self discovery and building your own confidence.

Maggie Dent – A seasoned school principal but shares her most effective strategies for raising children and building their confidence and resilience

Killswitch Engage, or Korn – because when you are mad, frustrated or emotional you need to let it out and a great way to do so is by listening to metal

Mum Guilt: the process of letting it go

We’ve all been there at some point. You feel guilty because your baby cries and you cannot for the life of you figure out why. You get mad at them and feel so horribly guilty for it because they are so beautiful and innocent. Maybe you accidentally bumped their head on the car when putting your little one into their seat, maybe you disciplined your preschooler and they are so upset it feels like it’s tearing your heart out. You needed to go back to work because of finances or maintaining positions in your career (current feels). Or it could be ensuring both children equally get enough attention and love, and do they eat enough fruit and veg? And this one, the absolute peak of my guilt, the most I have ever experienced- “I am depriving my child because I am unable to breastfeed”.

When we look back, we usually see how trivial the guilt is, and how we were simply doing the best we could at the time. However given the fact I’m on my second baby, and I do have that foresight, I wanted to buck up and deal with it NOW so I can enjoy my baby and preschooler without the constant negativity lingering. After moping around for a couple of weeks I set out with determination and put into practice techniques I had learnt to overcome this type of situation (yet had pushed them to the back of my mind while I had my little pity party).

Us parents just want the best for our children. We’d do anything within our capabilities to secure a safe, healthy and happy future for them and instill values that ensue success. But if you are a dweller or a worrier like I am you almost create the opposite environment for them by letting all of the guilt take over from what is important. Reading this you may feel it is time to make a change, as I did. I will give some pointers but first of all, committing to putting the effort in is the guts of change.

“Do or do not. There is no ‘how’.

You are already choosing, in every moment of every day what to give a f*ck about, so change is about as simple as choosing to give a f*ck about something else”

-Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

Here are the strategies I use to redirect my thoughts into more positive ones:

    1. Get that nasty and negative word vomit out in a thought diary. Buy yourself a nice little journal, Kmart have some nice plain paged options. Just pick up a pen and let all of your thoughts flow out onto the paper. I believe there is something about physically writing with a pen on paper that can tap into your psyche more so than using a note app on your phone. This helped me to reduce the amount of negative talk to myself, and helps to stop me alienating myself from my friends and family.
    2. Go outside for a walk. The vitamin D does wonders. Just getting out of your house, which apparently contains more toxic allergens in the air than being outdoors, puts you back in touch with reality. Notice the sky, trees and birds or that freshly cut grass smell. Which brings me to…
    3. Practice mindfulness. Ever find yourself completing a task and can’t remember actually doing it? Or sometimes like me I count out the scoops of formula as I tip them into my baby’s bottle, but my mind wanders to irrelevant thoughts about things I feel guilty about and I lose count. It takes time, but as soon as you feel yourself doing it, stop and bring yourself back to earth. Remind yourself of how consuming those negative thoughts are and refocus your energies only onto the task you are undertaking at that moment. For example, now I try to count out loud when filling the bottle.
    4. Write lists. We often feel guilt when we forget something. Eliminate that by writing lists such as daily tasks. Number them in terms of urgency to ensure you prioritise. Cross out the tasks when you complete them so that you have a visual of the achievement. Buy a cheap little notepad for your shopping lists (mine is from Coles and has a magnet so I can keep it on the fridge). Make it known to the family that if they want something at the shops, it needs to be written on the list. This can also apply to goal setting. Create small goals that work toward a bigger achievement. For example, my husband and I are in week 3 of the Max and Maxine’s 12 week Challenge. I need to write shopping lists and follow a written plan to execute the goals.

      Shopping list notepads readily available from Coles
    5. Yoga. Just yoga. What a way to relax and recentre. I was the first in my family to ever try yoga and have been a fan of it for about 12 years now. If you let it, it will mentally and physically strengthen you. You learn deep breathing, how to forgive yourself and literally breathe out guilt and negativity not relative to the moment. If you have tendencies of being a control freak or a bit neurotic (like me), yoga slows you down and helps you to make that space in your mind you otherwise would not have. Try YouTube or online vids for some classes if you can’t leave the house: Yoga With Adriene
    6. Eat and drink water regularly. We would all feed our kids first of course. But you cant be your best if you don’t fuel your body appropriately. Prepare your meals and snacks for the dayahead hthe night before and ensure you nourish your body. Just commit 5 or 10 minutes to it before you relax for the night. I am way more sensitive to unhelpful self talk and lashing out if I dont eat. Hangry is a thing!
    7. Take 10 minutes a day for “you time”. Don’t mistake how important this is for mental health. It seems somewhat contradictory because you might feel guilty, like you should be doing housework constantly or “living” for your spouse and your kids but if you forfeit this time you are almost guaranteed to put yourself in a mentally weaker state of mind that lets those nasty green gremlin thought and guilt patterns back in.
    8. Experience new things with your family. It doesn’t have to be much, maybe you go for a drive to a new park or drink a coffee and babycino at a nice new cafe. If you have more time or finances then book a little family getaway. Make it fun, and if you fear it will turn sour then limit the time you do it for. Memories are worth more than any gift you ever receive and this is an effective way of redirecting thoughts and generating all the happy hormones we all love and crave.
    9. Commit to a gratitude or bullet point journal. What POSITIVE, AMAZING, FUN things did you see, hear or do today? What made you HAPPY? I have never journalled religiously every day but limiting daily writing to bullet points pulled me out of a horrible guilty rut I was in when I gave up breastfeeding. It consumed me until I decided enough was enough and I wanted to direct my energies to positive things. Be it my children, feeling grateful for having a roof over head, sunshine or a nice food I tried. Anything positive small or big is good enough to talk about and before you know it you will have retrained your brain! There are some beautiful gratitude journals out there such as “I am happy, I am here”
    10. Hugs. Hugs all day, every day. Get that oxytocin flowing.
    11. Distraction and diversion. If you fudge any of the previous things up do not waste any time and get up and aim to complete one of them asap! Some guilt about life is normal but we do not need to further pressure ourselves and dwell, creating layers of it that will taking longer to dismantle. Be proactive. You’ve got this. Start with a small happiness inducing tasks and keep up the momentum as much as you can. If it slows,start from the start. Time can only help you to get better at it.

Above all, take it easy on yourself. Failure is normal and natural. We are programmed to think it is a negative experience but it is one of the biggest drivers of motivation if you let it be! Taking any action at all is better than doing nothing. And it’s less for you to fe guilty about later. I hope these tips are useful for someone out there struggling with mum guilt, dad guilt, any type of guilt really.

✌ Sha xoxo

Resources:

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson

“The Happiness Project” and Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin

“I am happy, I am here” gratitude journal

“Remarkability” by Lorraine Marks

Taking the leap

Here we go – finally the day I set out on a journey to expose what goes on inside this head of mine. Something my husband is forever wanting to know, and immediately regrets once he finds out.

I’m from an outer burbs town in Melbourne, Australia and like many other oversharers on the internets, I too am a Mum. How original right? My household is filled with boys. Husband, Zac (4yo) and baby Judd (3mo). What I aim to do is impart my knowledge of not just mum-ing but also life-ing and the strategies and methodologies I have used to get me to the ripe old age of 30. This is in the hopes that someone out there who was once as clueless as me in many topics will find a post that makes them feel as if they are not alone, something I too have sought through late night googling when life throws a spanner in the works.

I will also share what shenanigans I get up to on the daily. Probably best that you follow me on insta for that -@shaaralee

I warn you. My life would seem somewhat ordinary to most. I’m not a full blown #fitmum or a #breastfeedingmum or an #organicmum. But I am an #openmindedmum and I have respect for every person’s decisions and believe we all tread our own little path. I love my family and my children. I have battled PND and anxiety just like most people in this decade and I have only in recent years accepted and learnt how to combat it. I’m learning to retrain my brain and by sharing what has worked for me in this lifetime, heck it may work for someone else out there.

Cheers for reading and keep on eye out for my next install ✌

It is well to fly towards the light, even when there may be some fluttering and bruising of wings against the windowpanes, is it not?                                — Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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