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

Camping with an 8 month old and a 5 year old – Our first family camping trip

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Part of me thought we must be crazy to go camping with an 8 month old baby. A 5 year old, no worries, they love to help and feel important and contribute (mostly), but a baby with their own schedule and demands, with no way of coaxing them into our to do list, well that would take some adjusting and manipulating of the daily regime.
Worries aside, we had a goal in mind this year and we desperately wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of suburban life to clear our minds, live presently and make memories with our boys. Finally we were able to make the time.

I’ve yet to hear of a family regretting camping for holidays or quality family time, in fact it seems to be quite the opposite. Almost an exercise in building problem solving skills, resilience, appreciation of nature and simple life skills in case we do in fact head into dire social circumstance requiring hunting, gathering and self sufficiency. In that instance, wouldn’t you like to know you provided your child with the necessary abilities to make a fire at least? Okay, a bit dramatic, but you see where I am heading with this. Did I mention, most importantly, goals of fun and relaxation (as much as camping with a baby allows)?

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My upbringing was slightly unorthodox but some of my happiest memories stem from camping mostly with my Dad and his family and my Mum. It didn’t matter where we went, beachside, riverside, at the back of his farm, just the action of setting up a tent and foraging for firewood, making walls out of stones in the river to create a pool, searching for abalone in rock pools. Sunburn aside, they were simple activities but meant more than any crappy plastic toy ever did.

With this in mind, we set a date and headed off late Friday afternoon, once the husband got home from working in the city. This meant we needed to be mostly packed and ready to hit the bitumen as soon as we could manage. The Thursday night, after we both had finished work, we packed majority of the large items, with mainly food being packed before departing. We stayed at Morwell River for 2 nights.

Here is an idea of what we packed to set up our family camp site:
• 2 room tent
• Queen sized blow up mattress with bedding from our bed at home
• Portacot and bedding to suit
• Camp table
• Camp Kitchen Table (with wind guards for the gas stove)
• Gas Stove and Butane
• Large pots for sterilising baby bottles
• Kettle
• Basket with cutlery, crockery, plates dishes and utensils
• Tool box with axe, machete style knife, ropes, hammer, mallet and assorted tools
• Camping chairs x2 adult, x1 child and x1 camp highchair ($29 from Kmart)
• Doritos to help start the fire
• Sage to burn in the fire to ward of mosquitoes
• Picnic Rug
• Sunscreen, sunscreen and more sunscreen
• Face washers, towels, plenty of baby wipes
• Baby food sachets (I like to make homecooked meals, but had to be realistic this time)
• Paper Towel
• 3 sets of clothes each (kids got about 5)
• First Aid Kit
• Fire Lighter Clicker
• 4 Slice Toasting Rack ($12.99 from Rays Outdoors)
• Shovel or spade for toiletry uses, and toilet paper
• Rubber backed picnic rug
• Food: Sausage, eggs, bacon, bread, vegemite, nachos, baked beans – we kept it fairly basic this time
• Marshmallows!
• Soap in a soap container
• Pegless clothes line and washing powder (which we did not need to use)
• Large tapped container of water
• Bottles of water
• Cast iron camping oven/hot plate for the fire -for a more authentic cooking experience really
• Cooking oil

Here is what I forgot:
• Sheets for queen mattress
• Single inflatable mattress for the 5 year old
• ALMOST forgot the tent poles, which I thought belonged to something else, so I unpacked them from the car. Husband was not too happy as I almost ruined everything.

Here is why the above didn’t matter:
• We used Zac’s plush blanket as a fitted sheet
• Having a warm 5 year old as a water bottle came mighty handy when it was FREEZING

While we picked the first full weekend of daylight savings to go camping, we did not arrive at the site until quite late and it was a race against time to set up the tent, then get the campfire going to keep warm. The first night I was extremely cold as I did not layer adequately, the baby ended up in bed with us because his face was quite cold.

Getting a 5 year old involved

Zac was prepared to help with most activities. He assisted with putting up the tent, searching for and chopping firewood, toasting marshmallows. When he wasn’t helping, he made his own fun with sticks and bracken. Once only did he asked for toys, which we had a tiny amount of in the car (mostly broken McDonalds toys) and he only used them when he needed a rest out of the sun in the tent.

My recommendation is to give the kids a chance to help and try to be patient. We discussed what animals we may be hearing, or what animals may possibly be in the bush, gazed at the stars and talked about the planets (Zac is space nut) and quite generally enjoyed each other’s company and ability to live in the present moment sans distraction.

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Camping with a baby

Judd is not crawling yet but is rolling and wriggling distances. We used one room of our tent as storage and a kids play area. There was not much shade at our site and let’s face it, sometimes you need to contain babies in a safe area to get a few minutes peace. When we brought him outside, he often sat in the camping highchair or sat/rolled around on the picnic rug, which usually led him to rolling and playing in dirt. *Helpful Tip: dress kids in anything but whites and creams.

We did bring toys for the baby but he was mostly happy playing with the wipes packet and food. Sachets of food came in handy for a quick fix when we were cooking finger foods.

Bottles were heated using a pot filled with water which we bought on the stove, I then sat the bottles in the pot to warm. They were rinsed afterwards, then we did a big wash up, sterilize and filled them in one hit ready for the next day.

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Washing the Kids

As we were next to the river, hubby filled one of the storage tubs with water from there and boiled a pot to pour into it also. One by one the kids sat in the tub for a wash and that was enough to ward off any nappy rash etc. (Judd inherited my sensitive skin).

What we will do differently:

  • Ditch the portacot, the baby was more comfortable with us and I felt more comfortable being able to be closer to him and check his temperature
  • Arrive with more sunlight to spare. An hour was not enough.
  • Ideally find a campsite with trees to tie tarps to, or trees close by for shade. Having a freestanding gazebo would remedy this too.
  • Bring the blow up mattress for Zac. He slept great without us.
  • Sleeping bag for Zac and eventually us – from a thermal and organisational aspect, it would be easier to wash a sleeping bag when we get home rather than rushing to clean and air our king sized doona and pillows/pillow covers
  • We may try a scavenger hunt for Zac for another source of entertainment. It could also be fun for adults.
  • Buy a bigger axe. We found some felled trees which made great firewood, but it took forever to chop it up. We burned it bit by bit, moving it up into the fire as it burnt through, but it would have been easier in smaller sections.
  • Bring some healthier food options. I was so exhausted shopping at 9pm the night before and rushed to grab whatever food that I could (as I had a busy day prior to departing for the trip). Next time I would bring more salad options and veggie options.

Camping Hacks for kids

  • $2 packet of glow sticks. Perfect for a night light for Zac.
  • Minimise toys. Shock horror, our kid survived without them or technology. In all honesty, that would have terrified me 1.5 years ago but it can actually happen
  • Give kids a task, collecting a certain size of stick, just a goal for them to achieve and a way to contribute to the campsite.
  • Baby sleeping bags and Bonds Wondersuits with fold over mittens (if camping somewhere that is cold at night). We layered Judd and he really slept so much better as a result. His poor little face was the only body part affected by the cold which is why I snuggled with him.
  • Having a safe play area in the tent gave them shade and somewhere to rest. An enclosed gazebo would work just as well.
  • Go on adventure walks.
  • Zac would say the best hack is “Pringles”. Which is what he told his kinder class 😐

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The cleansing power of living in the moment in nature

I wish I could explain the weight lifted after we arrived home and had time to rest. Yes, there was a lot of cleaning and packing away but will get better and faster as we gain more experience. By weight lifted I refer to the background noise we live with every day, as 21st century suburban parents, dissolving because are physically removed from it. With kinder drop offs, work, cleaning, washing, cooking, exercising, house maintenance, worrying about educating our children enough, communicating with family adequately, being constantly switched on to serve technology addiction, is it any wonder we all get depressed and anxious.

We struggle to allow our minds to do nothing, to think about nothing but what is right in front of us, regularly enough.

I was so relaxed that I fell asleep in my huge camp chair by the fire on the second night (sorry hubby, I know I was bad company). I have not felt that way at home in a long time.
To summarise in one word. Refreshing.
And to conclude. If you are a family feeling sluggish, give camping a go. It is not without challenge, but it can disrupt the rut you may be in and it is worth the effort for the end result.

Sha x

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They are listening.

In the perfect pre-parent world you lived in, would you want your children to hear gossiping, name calling and unsavoury things every single day? I’m mainly talking to myself. As a wake up call. Because hell no would I want my children to hear negative conversations only grown ups should have ears for and yet here I find myself in the dilemma of doing that exact thing.

Meet the accountability department of my blog. Nothing has shocked me more lately than having a trained professional tell me my 4 year old was blocking out his surrounds because I had made it too difficult to cope with. Holy crap this is scary to admit. Yeah I do it. I did it as just before she warned me. The constant offloading of emotions while in earshot of my kids. If I stand back and view our home as a third person, like my own guardian angel, and I feel deeply sad that I would irresponsibly take the moments of innocence away from the boys.

Not to be confused with merely a self-punishing article, I need to refocus to put a strategy out there for myself and for others who may be making this mistake, possibly unknowingly.

Why? Children are not equipped to process such intricate (and extreme) waves of emotion, particularly due to circumstances that are not dire. Not that they should never hear or experience other ranges of emotions, but this level of exposure can rob them of their childish innocence they should be able to indulge in. Death in the family, news of terminal illness and such are circumstances where expressing those emotions would be suited. But regular bouts of going from nought to 100 about bitchy gossipy nonsense sets a tone for the way they will approach scenarios.

I put this to myself, and to you.

Pick your timing. Simple. Bitch and moan outside of “kiddy hours”.

Mind dump in the old journal. Each time something becomes overwhelming and you want to pick up the phone while your kids are around, scribble it down. Review at a kid free time. Is it still worth the effort of speaking about it?

Remember THOUGHTS ARE NOT FEELINGS. You might think you are anxious, maybe about a new career move or a new social setting. But you actually feel anxious, and feelings naturally come and go. The more you deem it a permanent thought and give it negative traction, the longer it will stick around and fester. Let the negative feeling arrive and depart by understanding the link to the situation that created it. Nothing can change what physically happened so before you let that negative train of thought begin and speak it out loud…well…you know what Elsa sings…

Take it back to basics. Are your basic needs being met? Are you blabbing on because you are tired? I am a tired talker and I also catastrophize situations when I am tired. This creates the need to distract myself and zone out.

Do you need a nice space to sit in? To read a book completely irrelevant to your unhelpful thoughts.

Maybe smell a nice smell, if you are into essential oils.

Or like me, you need to decrease coffee/caffeine intake and just slow down a bit instead of pushing yourself to unreasonable limits.

The pay off for correcting these habits now is that your children are less likely to be anxious, over-exaggerating, emotionally unstable adults.

I was unsure whether to post this as it can be controversial but as mentioned, I need to publicly hold myself accountable.

Sha xx

Note: change takes time. I have slipped up on many occassions since I began writing this but I’m committed to sticking to it for the betterment of my life and for my boys.

Don’t be an asshole to strangers.

You’re in the local Westfield, rushing around grabbing gifts for the next kindy kids birthday and suddenly when approaching the next shop your 4 year old digs their heels into the ground screaming, “I don’t want to go in, I don’t want to go in!” for what seems like no apparent reason. Your 6 month old is crying because the teething pain and overtiredness has consumed them while you rush to get to that one last store before a cataclysmic tantrum strikes both children, which they so thoughtfully time together. You missed the boat.

You look to your right, a middle aged woman stares at you, shaking her head in disgust, snorting like a pig at how disgracefully you are handling the situation.

Well, mama has been up all night with teething baby. Mama has been sick with stress that all of the work she has put in to helping the 4 year olds behaviour means nothing in that moment. Mama is now so riddled with anxiety she is noticeably shaking (and frazzled) and those awful people-pleasing gremlin thoughts seep out, what devils they are. And what mama doesn’t need is a stranger huffing and puffing at a situation that has zilch effect on stranger’s life.

But alas, strangers be strangely obnoxious and rude and they give no fucks about the fact you got 37 minutes sleep last night.

Well parents, I am here to remind that you too need to give even less fucks about them and give more fucks about your own situation, and about building up other parents going through a shit time too.

A few weeks back I had a clanger of a morning but luckily enough a friend joined me and the kids for brunch at a cafe. Coffee was of the utmost importance. This was at a typically bustling cafe that was full, a third of the patrons had children in tow. We were seated next to two women. 4 year old was not listening to me and was banging toys on the table while I tried to have a conversation with my friend. I handled it immediately. Giving him a single warning that the toy would be put away if he continued and naturally, he continued. I removed the toy while feeding the hungry baby his solids. I heard horrible, snarky comments from the two women various times, sniggering about what I SHOULD be doing. They were sure to be loud enough so I could hear.

Fighting back tears, I decided to take the high road and not say anything to them. I wanted to pick myself up and be strong and set an example to my boys not to reward bullying behaviour with a reaction (even if 4 year old was teating my limits at that time). Because thats what it was, bullying. And for women aged 50 or so to bully a 30 year old woman who was handling her child’s behaviour, not ignoring it by any means, is appalling.

Here lies the grub. As appalling as I felt those women were (they even remarked at a baby girls squeals of delight stating “she had better be dying if she is making that sound”), I did not know their back story. Possibly one of them had a painful headache or an ear problem. Who knows.

All I can say is that I wish they shared a respectful and understanding mentality with me, or had a conversation with me instead. I desperately wanted to rip into them for kicking me while I was down. However I didn’t, because I wanted to display to my children that to behave with such offensive mannerisms to another human being who is trying their hardest, is somewhat inhumane. They did not know my back story as I did not know theirs.

I wanted to give you all a context as to why it is so important to think with an open heart and mind around strangers. Nobody likes that screaming child less than their own parent in the moments they shriek at the top of their lungs. Nobody needs to feel shamed and judged for every decision they make as parent, it is theirs to make and theirs only. Love thy neighbour. Have empathy. And if you feel you aren’t capable of walking a mile in someone elses shoes, then simply walk a mile the other way and don’t use your shoes to kick them in the ribs while they figuratively lie on the ground writhing in pain.

Reach out and offer help to a struggling mum who spilled 50 coins out of her purse at the checkout while she is preventing her toddler from ripping apart the chewy and mints display.

Throw an understanding smile to the first time Dad who is pacing in circles shushing and bouncing the crying newborn while Mum ducks off to the loo at the shopping centre. Sometimes we don’t realise how convincing our resting bitch face can be.

If only we spent more time being helpful to one another rather than constantly finding faults, then maybe we can avoid our children being in such turbulent and disrespectful chaos comparable to what the Australian Parliament has displayed this last week (or decade for that matter).

One way to build yourself up when you are feeling low is to do a good deed, not expecting anything in return. In my experience, positive energy almost always comes back to you. At the very least, you will feel full of hope that your efforts maybe changed someones day.

Sha x

Life With Baby Number Two

Life With Baby Number Two

I made my husband wait at least 2 years until I was willing to try for a second baby. Being the control freak I am, I wanted to feel “ready” and stable enough to cope with the logistical aspects of life with a second baby.

The initial adjustment period of our first baby was long and traumatic. For both me and baby Zac. All the love in the world did not take the bitter edge off the horde of changes in my day to day being. Finally, once I dealt with some PND and anxiety issues, we added another delightful, demanding tiny human into our lives.

If I’m honest with you, the fear of not being able to love another child or give the second child equal attention never crossed my mind. I had watched my Mum cope well with this. She would mother us as if she was so blessed to have us both. If she ever had favourites, I never noticed.

That may be a lie, if you have read my second birth story you would know in an emotional rant on the way to hospital because I felt Zac was missing time prior to that day, and I knew his life would forever be changed when he next saw us. Poor Shane attempted to put positive spins on the situation, but I was way past that, nothing he isn’t used to every 28 days anyway. Sorry babe.

Back to my point, the parts that terrified me were making sure both children were fed, cleaned and had slept adequately and most of all; would Zac accept and get along with the new addition?

I can tell you that 6 months in (to the day as I write this), the boys are OBSESSED with each other. Their worlds are not complete without a good morning and good night hug, kiss or acknowledgement of some form. I secretly tear up over this on the daily, because I never expected such a bond between them and I know as they grow it will morph into other displays of affection that aren’t as heart-warming. Cue rough-housing and wrestling.

Apart from a few incidents where Zac gets a tad overexcited, where he jiggles Judd or tries to “help him roll over”, and a few moments where he shrieks in excitement scaring the living daylights out of the baby, we have yet to see a need to worry about him intentionally causing harm. Touch wood – and as I said, this probably won’t last forever. Overall, we’re sure Judd has caused more pain to Zac by pinching and pulling hair, being the chunky little bruiser he is.

Given our successes so far, I’d love to share what helped us to prepare our child and our home for the arrival of another baby in the house, for the parents that follow my stories and are thinking of/who have added another little peanut into their worlds:

  • Read books about getting a sibling. Our kick-ass Aunty Kate bought Zac “You’re a Big Brother”. He loves a good chuckle about the “babies being smelly” page.
  • Baby dolls with prams, bottles, nappies and dummies. Yes, even for a boy. Zac has always loved playing with dolls, but we decided to get him one specifically around the time JJ was born so that he could sit along side me copying my actions as I fed and changed the baby. This was the perfect opportunity for him to use the baby name he chose (clearly, we weren’t on board) hence we have a Baby Jake residing in the playroom.
  • Make an effort to have one-on-one time with the older sibling. This really is determined by their age, as a younger child is more dependant anyway but an older child who is independent may often get lost in the days activities and before you know it they’ve spent most of the time alone. Even small 15 minute play sessions (without technology interrupting) with just Zac and I, or Shane and him made all the difference. Yes, baby will go through phases of squawking if they aren’t being held. Chuck them in a carrier, bouncer or pram if you have to and do your best with the situation you are in. Zac had his fill of time with one of us and was content to play alone afterwards. Then he could see that Judd got his time with us, but he did too.
  • Have conversations on the way life will change when a new baby is involved. Share all the fun points such as another playmate and someone to talk to, but also be realistic in a concise way that Mum and Dad will share time between baby and them. And that they will need to share some spaces in the house with the new sibling.
  • Create a sanctuary in their bedroom that is ONLY theirs. We found this really important with Zac. We moved his bedroom to a larger one which allowed us to put baby in the room closest to us. I created a reading corner with a tent, pillow, blanket and soft toys and we moved some his favourite toy playsets in the room also. Sure, it took a while of us reinforcing that he doesn’t play all flipping night long (we do find toys have *magically* moved overnight sometimes), but that was worth the ease of adjustment for Zac. He has his OWN space which Judd is allowed in at times of Zac’s choosing, and as he grows older all the smaller toys will be moved there so that the main portion of the house is safer for a crawling baby and toddler.
  • Watch TV shows or movies where children gain siblings and are comfortable with it. Hate to say it, but Baby Jake and Ryan Toys Review were helpful in this department. Like, I really hate to admit that.
  • Now that Judd is older, he pulls and grabs and can even find skin to pinch on tightest parts of a neck or face. Judd gets told not to be rough and grab and encouraged to play softly, just the same as Zac. We feel like this helps Zac to recognise he isn’t the only one that makes mistakes or gets a bit rough and is told off, which in turn creates less resentment.
  • Hug and show affection to both children. Probably an obvious one. Judd gets hugs, Zac gets hugs. Simple, but seriously can be forgotten when baby demands so much attention. Zac is growing out of hugs anyway, so he only needs a quick one and he is good for a while.
  • Involve them in play together. We ask Zac if he can lend some toys to Judd and vice versa (not that Judd can answer, obviously) which doesn’t always work. Zac does get possessive over his toys, but it is still early days and we feel it is important to begin the habit of asking permission first.
  • Involve the older sibling in helping with certain tasks for the baby. “Zac, can you please pass me the wipes” et cetera. He thrives off feeling independent and as if he was helping his Mum and Dad.
  • Routine. We love routine. It grounds our family unit. It became looser with the new arrival but it’s existence gave Zac and us the comfort of knowing what was coming next and that we would eventually get time together when JJ was sleeping. JJ, on the other hand, was not a routine-happy baby until over 12 weeks of age. He was simply not ready and was extremely unsettled. We just let go of the concept until he had calmed down and felt comfortable. Now he is quite flexible (being dragged along to kinder drop off and pickup will do that), but also responds to routine quite well, plus I feel so confident in his cues.
  • Empower the older sibling to be independent. We figured that at some point Zac would need to discover he wasn’t the only young child in the family. Therefore, when I was pregnant we began doing less for him. In a way, we threw him in the deep end and help to guide his way to self-sufficiency. Previous teaching techniques did not work for Zac. This included him learning to dress himself, get himself snacks and drinks, pack up his toys when requested, use the toilet when asked (he was a late toilet user), washing and drying himself after a bath, me physically not carrying him around anymore (I still did this for him at 4 years old and heavily pregnant and simply could not anymore) and overall getting him used to responding to requests from us. Zac began kinder mere weeks before I popped so these habits were important regardless of Judd’s arrival.

 

My friends, forgive yourself if you can’t always “get it right”. Chances are the things that cause friction also hold potential to build resilience, within reason and with the right attitude. Guilt is imminent, and I often wish there was a way around it, but dodging negative emotions is not realistic and maintainable. It is healthy to feel pangs of guilt because your time is now in higher demand and you created made a mammoth global shift in the older child’s life. Try to accept it, and use it is a driver of change. You begin finding more pockets of free time that you never noticed before to hang out with your kids or partner.

Feel proud that you created another human being into a life where they are loved and given opportunity to thrive by parents who actually give a fuck. Which shows because here you are, reading this post about my experiences and tips on the second little squawker joining our crew.

 

Until next time,

 

Sha x

Coping With Returning To Work After Baby

Twice I have gone through the gut wrenching process of putting my 4-5 month old baby into a childcare centre and returning to work.

It is TOUGH, and that is putting it lightly. Coming from experiencing stay-at-home parenting and full-time stints there is no mistaking my appreciation for parents that tackle either or both of these lifestyles. Each come with their pros, cons and some serious personal demands and sacrifices. For one, when you are at work, it is nice not being screamed at to wipe a small humans butt, or needing to play duck duck goose with teddies for 5 hours a day whispering “FML” under your breath, but at the same token you MISS those moments when you are stuck at a desk replying to 50 emails, answering calls of angry people.

Work/Life balance seems like a mythical creature that I am forever in search of. Which is why I settle for the idea that some aspects of life are more demanding than others at particular times and as long as I feel comfortable communicating this to family and am meeting their basic needs, I know that we can get back to the fun stuff afterwards.

I am only required to work part-time, but I have pointers that make life run a tad smoother while I juggle demands of being a working mum:

  • This goes without saying; ensure the facility you leave your baby at meets your expectations. Research the crap out of them, ask every question imaginable. If you feel confident your baby is being cared for at a high level then obviously you will beat yourself up a little less. Check the centre’s National Quality Standard rating here.
  • Lay out clothes the night before. No matter how tired you are, you will be more tired and remember less at 5 in the morning.
  • Prep lunches/baby bottles/breakfasts as much as possible the night before. Zac gets a snackbox for snack time with any 3 of the following; “cheesy chips” (tortilla chips), Tamar Valley Yoghurt pouches, strawberries, blueberries, cheese cubes, cucumber, avocado, carrot, popcorn, Jumpy’s snacks. He then get a sandwich, and an apple for fruit snack time in the arvo. He always has his reusable water bottles in the fridge. We use Cambelback and Zak! bottles. This is all stacked in the fridge, as well as my lunch, ready for the zombie-morning version of me to grab.
  • Set bags out ready to pack lunches into in the morning.
  • Wake up before the kids. This is where I put my hand up and say I find this extremely difficult. I love sleep, and mornings usually scare me. No longer can I fulfill my selfish desire to use my doona as a cave to hide me from the morning. If I don’t get up and get ready before the kids it can ruin my morning -and day. I constantly remind myself of the shitty mornings where I turn into a panicked “yelly” mum because I am not feeling ready to take on the day. Reminding myself of the guilt of that, or alternatively the feeling of independence and pride I get by actually getting my shit together is normally enough to get me up.
  • I feed the baby before I get the kinder boy out of bed. Then baby is dressed and fed, happy and playing so that I can dedicate some time to getting the older child ready.
  • Prep a couple of dinners or draw up a meal plan. Try to have cooked or prepped at least one dinner in advance so you have quick go to for the night you are too exhausted to function. Or arrange a meal that is simple to put together. For example, steak with pre-made salad and microwavable Uncle Ben’s rice. It might not be organic, home grown, free from any sugar/salt or things that god forbid you may ingest, but it is better than rubbish takeway. Then the last option is to have the shitty takeaway, if it is within your budget, because life is too short to mentally punish yourself for not being a supermum that can do it all at once. Good on you if you can manage it all and not burnout, that just ain’t me. See earlier post about “dropping the ball”.
  • Washing: if, like me, large washing loads give you nightmares put small manageable loads on quickly at night and in the morning. Smaller and faster to fold and put away! I use a drier too. Not environmentally friendly, or wallet friendly, but for me to cope better with my second child I decided I would use the drier and not beat myself up over it like I did when I had my first and thought I could be the perfect mother. Which, by the way, doesn’t exist as I am sure everyone knows by now.
  • Make sure your cars fuel tank is filled before your work week starts. For me it works better this way. Each time I think it would be more efficient to fill up once I’ve dropped the kids off and head to work, traffic is at an extreme level of crapness and I don’t really have the time.
  • Write lists. Or invest in a noticeboard. Even if it is to just get you started so you remember what needs to be done, what needs to be packed and in what order before you leave for the day, it is still a huge help and eventually it will all become habit.
  • Online grocery shopping. Takes 10 minutes, you do it once and it saves your previous items so you can simply go to that section of your profile and quickly reorder if need be.
  • COFFEE. Keep a generous supply in your house.
  • When you get home quickly unpack the dirty dishes, dirty washing or bottles needing to be washed. If I leave it for later I forget and it snowballs into a mammoth effort at a time of night where my body and mind need to relax.

Each day presents new challenges. I would be lying if I said the above happens every single work day. It doesn’t. The morning after I wrote most of this post both of my kids woke at 5am and would not go back to sleep. That impinged my personal time and threw a spanner into my morning regime but I had to try and roll with it. The truth is that with kids you never really know what lies ahead, but you make the most of the time you do get to spend with them. These tips above allow me more time to do that. They allow me to relax and have fun with the boys at appropriate times rather than being frazzled constantly. Perfection is not the goal with my coping mechanisms but rather maintaining the purpose behind it and learning to go with the flow in between. Some days (like today) the “yelly” me appears, but by being organised I can move onto the next task faster and enjoy the boys without added overwhelming guilt of working. I no longer cry on the drive to work because now I know Judd is settled, I feel confident in his and Zac’s carers/teachers because I did my research and went with my intuition and I am able to focus on the tasks at work.

Good luck to the rest of you Mama’s that are returning to work – I hope this helped ♡

Sha xx