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It’s ‘in’ to complain 6 May 2016

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Far out – have you seen the articles circulating in the mummy blogosphere of late (maybe longer, but you know, I’ve only been one of late, so…)? 

10 reasons why I hate parenting 

The 12 honest things no one tells you about giving birth 

Why it’s ok to be a drinking parent 

Why having children makes you hate other people’s kids

You will regret having kids

Calm the fuck down parenting

And the list goes on. It makes me wonder. Does anyone else actually enjoy this parenting malarkey? Reading these articles the gist is “parenting is hard” “I sigh and roll my eyes before I answer my kid’s call for me” and “kids are annoying”. Give or take an expletive. 

A lot of parents I know in real life are the same. Ne’er a positive word shall be spoken by me about my child. 

I am sure some people do struggle. Maybe some of those people cope by blogging about it. But I think there is a general trend in the population to speak negatively about their kids specifically and parenting in general. 

To band together over the hardships of parenting and to highlight the tribulations. To make out that this is one of the hardest things there is to do in the world, and to bond over how awful children seemingly are. 

I can’t stand it. I am going to express a bit of a rebel opinion here, but: 

I find it hard to identify with these articles. I do not dislike my child. Nor does he make me hate other people’s children. He doesn’t make me drink, nor do I need “coping mechanisms” to get through the day. Sure, I don’t really know what I’m doing and there are demanding moments. 

But overall, it’s fun! And parenting sort of just happens. It’s not hard because what they need is your presence and your attention. Eye contact. You being on the floor playing with them. You treating them as human beings and seeing them, truly seeing them. 

To watch my child reach his milestones has been one of the greatest blessings I could ever imagine. Seeing the father that my partner is to his child has made me love him deeper and better. 

Being a parent is a true blessing and whilst there are challenges (and there will be more challenges up ahead) I would never wish this life away. 

12 tips for long haul flights with an infant 22 April 2016

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I’ve just arrived in Europe, having travelled here with my Bub (who is less than a year). I found online advice incredibly useful prior to my flights as well as tips from friends. And since I am currently jet lagged and nursing a little bundle of exhaustion in my arms at 3:30am, I thought I might as well share my thoughts. 

Tips for long haul

1) do not worry about other passengers. While this is super hard, keep in mind it’s only a couple of hours out of their lives. They’ll be fine. At most they’ll be slightly annoyed. Most people will be sympathetic. And you don’t need the added stress of caring about others.

2) pack more nappies than you think you need. You are better off with too many than to be stuck mid flight with a poosplosion in a tiny bathroom. 

3) bring extra outfits. Even if you do not have a poosplosion, there will be spit up (theirs or yours) or food on them.

4) bring small toys that they haven’t seen for a while. Small items that you can lose and don’t get worried about are the best. I got a good 10 min out of my little with a clothes peg. Don’t bring balls, they will roll to the back of the plane, trip up the stewardess and cause mayhem as hot tea is poured over other passengers. All of a sudden, tip 1) is out the window. With the toys – milk them for what they are worth before you bring out the next one.

5) bring a clean top for yourself. And deodorant. Do not bring entertainment for yourself, you will not need it. Wear shoes you can easily remove. Don’t wear belts or jewellery that will set off metal detectors. 

6) if your little is small enough for a bassinet, and take to cots, try to get some sleep out of them in there. My little could not fit, his feet were dangling, so he refused to go in it. Remember that if you need to hold your child the whole way, that’s ok too. Whatever works for your sanity, too! Which brings me to point 7.

7) if there is a chance they will need to sleep on you, bring a pillow for them to lie on. They are bulky and annoying, but it was completely worth it: it provides warmth on chilly planes, protects their heads from sudden movements against arm rests, gives your arms a break and facilitates breastfeeding.  

8 ) ziplock bags are your friend. Toys in one, nappies in another, liquids in one, foods etc in another. Bring an extra one for dirty clothes. Don’t be afraid to label. Label label label! Don’t worry if at the end of of your trip you are no longer organised, though. The world has a propensity for chaos. 

9) bring a muslin cloth. Light weight and versatile. Blocks out cabin lights for sleeping, works as a blanket, spit up cleaner, modesty blanket, etc.

10) bring carriers if they use them. I thought I would get my pram at the lay overs which ended up not being the case. My baby bjorn was a God sent especially in Heathrow (how I hate that airport!). Don’t be afraid to roam the aircraft when seatbelt signs are off. And if anyone shows the slightest interest in your baby – milk it. It will keep them entertained.

11) don’t worry about headphones, but when you have cycled through all the toys twice and you don’t know what else to do – turn on the TV on some kids show. The colours and movements will keep them entertained.

Oh. And 12) sucking will relieve the pressure on their ears, so for take off and landing plan for breastfeeding, a bottle or a dummy. If all of a sudden none of those are accepted, remember that crying also helps, so be patient with little people when they go up or down. Not crying might mean excruciating pain, so crying is good!!

Happy trip! 

Deeper meaning of love 23 March 2016

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I never knew how much my parents love me until I had a child of my own. 

Of course, I knew my parents love me before this. They tell me frequently. They show me in their actions. They care what I do, how I feel, what I think. 

Yet I think I took this for granted. I’ve been lucky that I grew up with two parents who were, and are, there for me. 

But as I was handed my bundle of joy, my eyes have been opened to the depth of their love. I know how monumental the birth of my brother (their first born) really must have been. How they would have marvelled at his little nose and toes and how they would have celebrated his every ‘first’. They would have been there for every step, virtual, mental and physical. I’m sure it would have been similar for their second baby (me). 

And as I have a new found respect for the love I have received, I also am acutely aware that my little one will not grasp the love we as parents have for him. We will tell him and show him, but he might only understand the vastness of that love if he chooses the path of parenthood. 

We love you, little man. 

Reciprocity 28 February 2016

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Friendship is a wonderful thing – we all have people in our lives whom we love, care about, and enjoy spending time with. True friends who know who you are (and love you despite this) who build you up and who energise you. 

When you enter your thirties, you start to distill your relationships. You want to surround yourself with positive people who matter to you. And you stop worrying so much about what others think. 

But then there are the relationships where you mean more to them than they do to you. And that can be hard, because although you don’t feel the need to be friends with these people, you also don’t have the need to be nasty or hurt them. 

Perhaps this is more the nature of female friendships, I don’t know. But sometimes, I feel obligated to be there for people I don’t have much of an affinity for. To show up for people who have invited me so many times that it will be rude to turn them down yet again. I don’t dislike them – they are genuine, nice people – but I wouldn’t call them for a coffee if I’d had a spare moment. Often, these are people you were thrown in with at some point, through work or a group or sports. 

I generally assume those relationships will fizzle and disappear, and mostly they do. But sometimes they don’t and you end up spending a Sunday morning away from your family and loved ones, despite not really having much in common with that person. It always feels fake to me, perhaps because I’m trying too hard. 

Maybe I should just keep turning them down. Keep making excuses. But I don’t have the heart to straight up tell them I’m not interested. 

Perhaps this is because I’ve been on the flip side of this coin too often when I was younger – a person you admire or like who you want to be friends with, so you keep turning to them to force a friendship. Back in the days where I still wanted desperately to be liked. These friendships are not genuine, however, and never bring happiness. They are a two-sided chore we should all be done with. 

I resolve to be better at turning people down, and to focus on friendships that are reciprocated. I think that is kinder. 

Parenting advice  11 February 2016

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There is one bit of essential parenting advice that was given to me while I was pregnant which I now wish to pass on. It is one of the simplest yet most difficult things I’ve ever been told: 

Trust your instincts. 

Because guess what!? Your instincts will know what to do. 

It’s simple, because most of us have instincts. Even just at the most basic level of feeling protective of children. But it’s hard because we are thinking human beings, and we can overthink and fret and lose sight of those instincts. 

And I am not saying don’t ask specific questions or don’t seek help when you need it. Parenting is overwhelming and, frankly, medical advice cannot be found in your inner instincts. 

But everyone is born with instincts, and we could all do to listen to them a little better. 

The point is, all the expert advice (and not so expert advice, also known as opinion) out there – the should and the should nots – have been my main cause of doubt since I’ve had a baby. 

Before babe, I was pretty good at going “meh” and ignoring the rabble. If I didn’t want to do something, I generally didn’t. I always used to say: 

“I *should* nothing, there is only I want or I don’t want”.

What I meant by that was all the external pressures from society, community, friends and family, could be ignored or adhered to. Their view of what I should or shouldn’t do didn’t matter. And their view of me might be bad person, bad sport, bad friend – but what did that matter as long as I didn’t agree. 

Yet with a woe baby, all of a sudden it is no longer me and my life, it’s another’s life. Someone utterly dependent on me. Therefore the “should and should not” discourse took another meaning. And the bad person/sport/friend turned into bad mother. 

Let that sink in for a moment. 

Bad. Mother. 

That accusation is something much harder to shake. And all the advice is whirpooling around your head. 

– you should not let the baby sleep on you. 

– you should feed the baby 3 solid meals by this age. 

– you should never wake a sleeping baby. 

– you should read to the baby every day. 

I would be feeling pretty cruisey, thinking this parenting stuff is going well for me, when a child health nurse would throw me curveballs about what I should and shouldn’t do. For example, I was told at 4 weeks that I might be overfeeding my baby by a health nurse. Yet I was fully breastfeeding and was I supposed to withhold food from a 4 week old!? And these are the professionals so they should know right? 

Sadly, much of the parenting advice, even the professional stuff out there, is directly contradictory: 

– you should leave the baby to cry themselves to sleep or they will become dependent on you to fall asleep. Or you should never leave a baby to cry as they will become anxious toddlers. 

In my sleep deprived state, I fret. I want to do the best for my baby. I want him to have the best start in life.

Then I remember that apart from the obvious safety advice (the DO and DO NOTS, rather than the should and should nots) such as do not leave children unattended near a body of water or do not let infants play with large knives, go back to that only advice that matters. 

Listen to your instincts. 

Yes, you might not have done this child raising thing before. And of course you can ask for help, that’s essential. But do what’s right for you and your baby. Don’t let the should and should nots drown out the simple joy of parenting. 

Motherhood 22 October 2015

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I was uncertain about motherhood going into it. Not because I didn’t want to be a mother, or because I wasn’t sure whether I would like it. Not even because of the identity crisis some women go through when their life changes this drastically. 

But simply because I wasn’t sure whether I would be any good at it. 

There are plenty of mothers that probably shouldn’t be mothers. What if I was one of them? This has been a fear of mine since I can remember contemplating motherhood. 

I don’t like games. Especially physical ones (think red light green light etc) and somewhere along the line I’ve picked up a heightened sense of my own awkwardness. I am also (I hate to admit) a sore loser. So when you are a sore loser and physically awkward, you avoid games. This may be a problem when it comes to motherhood. 

What if I am not warm? I’ve often been told I’m cold, stoic, standoffish. Not that you would know that from my CV, where I am “approachable” and “friendly”. I’m not sure what makes me standoffish, it might be a combination of my height (and the physical awkwardness mentioned) and a need to suss people out before I reveal too much of myself. But not exactly traits that ooze motherly charms. 

And finally, what if I’m not patient? The little cherub will need time. Lots of time. And attention. Even more attention. And there will be moments where, as a mother, patience must run deep. I lack in that department, too. 

Then I looked at my examples in life, and thought; if I can be but 10% of my own mother, in strength, love, patience and warmth, I will be ok. Emulate your mother, I thought. 

And finally, bubba came along. 

And I no longer wonder if I will be a good mum. Because all I want to be is the best mother I can be. For bub. It’s as if someone gave me a bag of tools when bubba came along. 

As I carried the capsule out to the car the very first time, I started caring less about my awkwardness. I blow bubbles toward the child and I sing songs out of tune. None of it matters. 

With the portacot I ordered online arrived a whole new level of warmth. It’s kisses and cuddles, tickles and laughter. 

And as the daily routines descend like a blanket over my life, patience has poured out of me in ways I didn’t know I had capacity for.

So I worried for nothing. 

I am the best mum I can be to the best bub that there is. We have been perfectly matched and I am the happiest I have ever been. 

I’m sure I will make mistakes. But they will not be from lack of love. 

For my son  20 September 2015

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Standing over the cot

Her babe in her arms 

Feeling the soft downy hair 

Against her cheek 

The warm, restful breaths

From the sweaty bundle 

His relaxed weight 

And complete trust

Has her clinging on 

To these fleeting moments 

Not wanting to put him down

Feeling time slip through her hands

From infant to toddler 

In a blink of an eye

Closed eyes 

Breathing his smell

She wants to remember

The wonderful present

She sways softly and whispers 

I love you, my child. 

Advent and the lead up to Christmas 10 December 2014

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I love Christmas, and I miss fir trees heavy with snow, chilly nights and fogged up glasses from a cup of gluwein or warm apple cider. Australian Christmas is just not entirely what it needs to be. But all the same, I enjoy Christmas and the lead up.

This year, I found the cutest advent calendar which combines my past (the calendar) with my present (made out of tiny numbered Christmas stockings) and I couldn’t resist. I bought little treats and filled all the little stockings as a surprise for my gorgeous man. He, bless his socks, has never had an advent calendar before, and is revelling in being spoilt every morning with a new stocking to empty.

I am counting down the days to the Christmas break – as it seems to me that my last holiday (in August) feels like too long ago! In the meantime, I am looking forward to Christmas ham and pickled pork, fresh, tropical fruit at the beach and lazy afternoons reading a book. Bring on the holiday season!

The expat life 17 November 2014

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Living overseas is fun, exhilarating, challenging. It opens your eyes to new ways of seeing the world, different ways of doing things. It sometimes helps you appreciate what you have and where you are from.

Sadly, one of the hardest things about living overseas is losing visibility. People simply forget about you.

Growing up, I did not have many friends. That was incredibly hard, and I could not understand why. I thought I tried really hard, but I never seemed to be popular. Not that I really wanted to be popular, but I did want to have and make friends. I remember crying to my mother about it, and I can imagine it would have been heart wrenching to her as well. For one year, I was best friends with a neighbour, but then she moved. Then, starting junior high, I made friends. Two friends. It was great, I had someone to walk to school with, to hang out with after school, to be up to no good with. Two friends I was very close to, and who I applied to go to France with. Who did not get in, sending me on this great adventure on my own.

I was shocked to find when I went on exchange to France, that I could make friends quite easily. That I was quickly accepted into a big and diverse group of friends, and that I could make friends in lots of different settings. It was a surprise, because I had assumed it was me. Turns out it wasn’t.

Then, upon my return, I made friends that I thought would be for life. Friends that saw me at my best and my absolute worst. Friends I would speak to about my innermost secrets and desires. Friends we felt we explored the world together with.

I went overseas again, and stayed in touch as best as I could. Email, mostly. And text messages. Phone calls were not really that possible on a student budget. Most Christmases I went back, so it was easy to reconnect. And most would catch up with me then. We all assumed I would come back one day. I mean, I left for a two-year study overseas, not life, right? I would be able to slot right into life where we left off.

But time got in the way. It has been close to thirteen years since I left to the other side of the world.

We drifted apart. Some would not have the time (or take the time) to see me when I came ‘home’. Most never visited. Some I no longer have anything in common with, and the long list of friends whittles down every year. I now only have a handful left. Some still invite me to weddings that happen, but I am mostly unable to go. Most don’t even invite me anymore, some don’t even tell me when they get married or have babies.

Emails are scarce, if at all.

The worst part is that I understand. It is exhausting to try to keep abreast with friends that you never see. Keep them up to date, care about their lives that are so different from yours. Facebook helps, but only marginally. Out of sight out of mind. And I understand. Perhaps they meant more to me than I did to them, because they represented a time in my life where I proved that friendship was something I was capable of. That I was not little ‘viggo-no-friends’.

Despite understanding, I sometimes feel sad about it, because I wonder whether we would have grown apart if I had remained. But if I am being truthful, we probably would have. If it is this hard to stay in touch via text messages, I doubt that we would have been better at staying in touch for a coffee if we were near each other. Maybe I have been trying to hang on to people who I would have naturally grown away from, despite them being wonderful, sweet, caring people? Just because they are no longer my friend, does not mean they are not good people.

And I have wonderful friends here. Granted, they never knew me at my worst. But is that a prerequisite for true friendship? They make me laugh and they are supportive, and some have known me for longer than the time I lived in Norway.

I do care for my friends, past and present, near and far. And they have contributed to me being who I am. What more could you ask for from a friendship?

Salut!

Summer recollections 21 October 2014

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Slowly walking through the sunshine, still timid with a chilly wind, I was reminded of summers of my youth. That moment when school is out, realising that there would be no more instruction for two whole months. Ultimate lazy days doing nothing at all. Days that seem to drag on forever, like time stands still. Long summer nights that never get dark. Heavy summer storms at night, thunder, lightening. Clear, crisp mornings covered in dew.

Pasta salads with thousand islands. Whole prawns on the back veranda, spending what would seem hours with mother cleaning them. Push your thumb under the external skeletons between the legs. Circle the body, removing the scales. Pull off the tail, twist off the head. Pink, large, naked C-shaped bodies piling up in one bowl, cast off remains in another. Cold fingers from the ice chilling the prawns.

Mother braiding my hair, impressed with the bunches of flowers brought home, carefully arranged. Large vases and warm hugs.

Father building a deck, painting the house, tinkering on the car. Growing fresh vegetables in the garden, sweaty, sun burnt. Taking me fishing early mornings at the lake, misty forms dancing on the water, not necessarily catching fish, not that it ever mattered. Rowing out on the lake in the red plastic dinghy, keeping a watchful eye on the horse flies and the orange float gently bobbing at the surface. Perch for dinner.

My brother, playing games together. Sometimes on the computer; two-player Doom. Other times, running around the yard as cowboys (him) and Indians (me). The tepee was declared a safe zone. Building forts in the living room, or nagging parents to pitch a tent in the backyard. Reading books, devouring them as the cumulus clouds floated by. Feeding the squirrel in the garden, eating fresh rhubarb dipped in sugar. Getting on the bikes to go play tennis or to swim at the water park. Tanned to a dark hue, bleached hair from chlorine. Always smiling. Often together. Listening out for mother’s Lada as it came trundling down the street – jumping up to complete our chores in the five minutes that we had before she would enter the house.

Those summer days were magic. Not a care in the world.

Memories of pets past – a rabbit too big to pick up, a cat who would speak to us. Budgies, hamsters and another rabbit.

Carefree, tanned, young. Scabbed knees and soaked socks from falling in the brook. Burning nettle everywhere. Heat bead barbecues, the smell of summer. Picking black currants, raspberries and gooseberries, juice running down your chin. Strawberries still warm from the summer sun, sweet and soft. Cherries and plums fragrant and inviting. And bugs. Everywhere.

Later, these memories were intertwined with friends, late nights, parties and beer. Still by the water, swimming, grilling, laughing. But innocence lost, growing up too fast.

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