Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Bumpy Path to Blended Family Holidays

Two years ago this week (I know the exact date thanks to timehop), we were on a family holiday to Bali. Whilst it was a lovely holidays it was also a bit exhausting for hubby and I. It was our step sons first trip overseas and he was very green and needed a lot of guidance, our middle teen just got along with it, but the baby at 4.5 at the time was seriously hard work.

After a long trip to the airport, delayed flight and then transferred we finally arrived at our hotel in Bali, exhausted but excited. Everyone was hot and ready to hit the pool but the older kids mum had made them promise to send her a message as soon as they arrived. We had already had to jump through hoops to get the kids to come on the holidays with providing her with exact itineraries and flight time ect, I mean talk about being controlled on your own holiday. Unfortunately we couldn't get the Wi-fi to work and everyone was starting to get frazzled so we decided to hit the pool, cool down and deal with the wi-fi later.

So we hit the pool, ordered some cool drinks and soaked up some sunshine around the pool. Feeling chilled and happy we sorted the WiFi issue with reception and headed back to the room to send the promised message. What we found on facebook was disgusting, their mum had publicly posted on facebook a post that insinuated that we had taken  the kids and she had no idea where they were, and she was so stressed and crying because she couldn't get in contact. Everyone got so stressed, the kids were sad, hubby was cranky and I felt like no matter what we did or where we went we couldn't just be a family and enjoy it without interference. The messages bombarded the kids throughout the trips and I started to hate heading back to the hotel knowing the kids would have more messages to have to respond to. With each message the kids moods changes and the closeness stalled for a little while.

It was such a difficult holiday to organise, demands on dates, we couldn't go a couple of days over, issue around passports, demands for our exact itinerary or threats that they couldn't come. As a newish step mum I felt like it was a form of domestic violence through control. Don't even get me started on the time she added tracking on Miss 16's phone during our first ever holiday and tracked our whole trip until we realised half way through. Honestly after the holiday part of me felt like giving up.

Last year I started back at work, it was a tough transition. Over Christmas we were lucky enough to be given a weeks accommodation down the coast and we had a super relaxed cheap holidays with the girls. But this year I really wanted to do an overseas holiday again, make it feel worthwhile putting the hard slog at work.  After the stress of the Bali trip I wasn't keen on playing the games to have a nice holiday with the kids. As both hubby and I also have pretty strict holidays dates this Christmas, we decided to plan some dates and ask Miss 16 if she wanted to come. As she finishes school this year the old shared care arrangement dates don't need to be so strict.  So we asked Miss 16 if she was happy to swap holiday access dates to join us on a holiday, she was over the moon and of course said yes, so we had fun planning a holiday as a family on our own terms.

The family decided on a cruise holiday. This year will be challenging, I have taken on quite a big load at work plus studies, hubby has had to pick up a lot more at home, Miss 16 is sitting her HSC and Miss 6 will be exhausted after a long year at school. The idea of a cruise suits us all perfectly, totally chilled, no cooking, no washing and best of all no phone or internet. A time for everyone to just kick back and chill out. The planning of this holiday has been so different, everything has just fallen into place. I have already been busy online shopping for new swimmers and a back back bags for the shore days from

We still have 10 months before our next cruise, I am so excited that we will be all together and chilled for two whole weeks without interference. Although I am hoping for a stress free lead up and holiday I am also aware that things in blended families rarely go exactly to plan.

Have you ever been on a cruise?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Helping your kids with their career choices

I feel old, I have just finished helping Miss 16 fix up her resume and write a cover letter for a job application. Even though she is in year 12 and is applying for university, she has found a job that will fit in with school hours and develop her skills whilst she is at school and later at university. It is on the job training for the career she wants long term. She has always had a strong direction in her career and thirst to do well academically. She has her head screwed on the right way.

Mr 19 on the other hand had no idea what he wanted to do and when a mate applied in year 11 to join the Navy he thought that would be a good idea, so off he went to the Navy. He has thrived in the Navy and loves the mix of discipline, training and physical nature of the position.

But not all kids have their path laid out, I know it took my until I was 25 to realise what I wanted to do, it was a rocky path before then.

I have recently been on the employing end of young tradesmen and administration staff. Reading resumes and covers letters has been a huge eye opener. I am surprised that some people ever get jobs through their lack of direction and poor resumes. I had one resume come through for a trade position, they had all the right experience but then there cover letter said they didn't want to be in the trade anymore they wanted to move into retail. Then there were the countless application from high school students who had not addressed any of the job criteria and putting irrelevant skills forward, such as applying for a trades position and a skill listed was being able to play with kids.

The fact is sometimes kids don't want to learn from their parents, or they are not quite ready to join the workforce straight out of school. This is where organisations such as Careers Australia can help school leavers to not only gain a great position but also thrive in it. Their job ready program actually helps students develop resumes, plan their careers, interview technique and most importantly workplace behavior. I work closely with a business who employees apprentices and let me tell you, sometimes the owners wants to pull his hair out. If your kids is like this, I can't recommend enough getting some outside help and guidance through either a mentor or a educational organisation. After so many bad resume and such competition, they really need help with this stuff.

I just love this video on what recruiters look at when looking at resumes quickly, and let me tell you with 120 applications for one job and only a couple of hours to get through them, each resume only gets about 6 seconds.  After reading about 200 job applications in the last couple of months, there are some easy ways to screw up or get an interview. Don't write your kids resumes or cover letters but do proof read and offer guidance and support for their job hunting.

Do you have teenagers? Do you have any tips for parents trying to help their kids with career guidance.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Two steps to simplify my life

Sometimes things just need to get simple. My life is far from simple, hence it be my word for the year. The whole blended family stuff is complicated and there is very little we can do to make it simple but there are things in our life that are complicated when they don't need to be.

A few weeks ago I got a cleaner. I really struggled with this decision because it is such an easy job, it everyone helps it is done in a hour and we can get on with the weekend. But the problem was I was starting to get anxious trying to get everyone to help every freaking Saturday. I started waking up early on weekend mornings, dreading when I had to start motivating my family to do the cores. From hubby hiding in the toilet for half the day, Miss 6 making more mess than she cleans up and Miss 16 pulling faces and slumping over the lounge like I had asked her to clean a bedroom that had shit painted across the room rather than start the vacuum cleaner. The constant attempts at motivating my family to help was soul destroying, it felt I was  the only one who could take control of starting the freaking chores. Hubby has really stepped up to the plate in regards to helping out around the house but no one wants to do the weekly clean up so it gets left for me to ask everyone to please just do it. So for my own sanity I got a cleaner, just once a fortnight but it means every other weekend I don't need to be the organiser and motivator for the chores, I can just enjoy my family.

Something else I have really struggled with since going back to work is that my day starts at 6.30am and just keeps going non stop until about 8pm when the youngest is in bed. Everything is a rush, no matter how early I get up, Miss 6 has a time plan of her own and it is not quick. Last week I was late to work because she decided to unpack her lunch from her checked school bag and leave it at home, I didn't realise until we got to the school gates so had to drive home and repack her bag. Everything is a routine and even then it doesn't work when kids will be....

Every night as I walk in the door from work, I am attacked with conversations, questions, demand and of course dinner needs to be cooked. It is exhausting and unsustainable.

One of my biggest pleasures in life is cooking and sharing food with family and friends, but now I meal plan every Sunday and it is getting pretty bland. I used to shop, then design my menu based on the fresh things I found and what inspirations I got from the butcher and grocer. Now I meal plan at home then write a shopping list and go to the shops, all meals have to be on the table in under 30mins so choices are limited. I have even tried a few slow cooked meals, some of them were disgusting! My food had started to miss the secret ingredient..... love because I resented having to cook every freaking night after being at work all day. Being so freaking structured and organised doesn't really go too well with my free spirit, I need something to look forward, something new.

So as part of my simple regime I looked at ways to make my daily routine easier, prepacked lunches, simple breakies, meal planning and of course the cleaner but I was really missing my food. I was at a baby expo (working not shopping) last month and I saw the solution! Hello Fresh, 5 meals a week for hubby and I are meal planned, shopped and delivered to my home, all I need to do is put it together. (This is not sponsored I am actually just totally in love.) It has brought excitement back into the kitchen and I am enjoying food again because it is based on fresh food with  something different. We do it the fortnight that we don't have Miss 16 so we can feed Miss 6 a simple dinner and get her into bed if we choose, then hubby and I can eat in peace. We still shop and cook a family meal the other 9 nights a fortnight but these deliveries have become a life saver for me.

I feel like these two simple changes have made such a difference in my mental health, like a load of responsibility has been lifted from my shoulders and I am starting to enjoy the nights again with interesting new dinners and a cleaner house.

My mental health is worth more than the just the time saved from these couple of outsourced jobs. Life is for living not feeling like it is just an obligation. So I am one step closer to simple.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Is extended maternity leave worth it?

Nine months ago I went back to working for someone else, it was a shock.

A total shock at;
  •  How inflexible it is to work for someone
  •  A shock at how much I used to do around the home and no one noticed including me.
  • A shock at how hard it was to convince someone to give me a job, from being a desirable candidate to an undesirable one because I had kids and took a long maternity leave.
  • A shock at the ridiculously low pay to get a flexible job, there is always lots of other mums looking for flexible work hours.
  • Shock at how much happens between 9am and 5pm that you miss out on
But when I did find a job in my field, I put my head down and tried to learn as much as I could and do the best job I could. I didn't work long hours because that isn't what I wanted, I wanted to earn a wage an go home with my family. Dropping my daughter at school is more important than  making an extra dollar, tucking my daughter in bed every night is priceless. I took my lunch hour everyday, I wasn't getting paid for the hour so I would eat lunch and do errands or simply take a walk to clear my head. The way I work is so different to before I had kids, I take breaks, leave on time and don't enter into workplace antics. But even doing all these things I remained productive and usually got my work done.

There have been lots of changes in my workplace and plenty of uncertainty so I decided that I wanted to speak to my boss about my job.  I wanted to talk about where my job was going, I was taking on more responsibility without more direction. I also wanted a pay rise, I knew that I was worth more than what I was originally put on, but I also knew that wage increases were rare. I wanted to know what training I was able to do and how I could develop my career again and most importantly was I on the right track with my work? So many questions were going through my head, I had such a sleepless week thinking about it.

Last Friday I sucked out all my nerves and got hubby to take the girls to school and headed in for an early chat with my boss. The first thing I asked was "do you mind if I had a chat with you about my job", quickly followed by "I'm not leaving". We had a great chat and I discussed my concerns and asked about direction for my job. I walked out pretty happy with greater focus. On Monday she came back with a small payrise, a defined role in the organisation and I just enrolled in some more post graduate studies which they are assisting me with.

I was pretty excited all weekend because it was such a bad time when I was job searching and trying to get a job post maternity leave. The job I ended up taking would not have been my first choice but in retrospect it has been a really great choice. I am back to the level where I left before I had my daughter and I hope that pay catches up soon. My knowledge base is coming back and I finally feel like I am getting on top of this mummy work thing. After so many low points last year, when I regretted having off from my career for my family, I now know that it was all worth it and it just takes time to get back into the groove.

Some days still suck, like when I go to work exhausted because I am unwell or have been looking after my sick family and all I want to do is stay in bed, it is hard on these days to be productive. Some days I don't stop for 14hours, actually that is most days, adding work with parenting is exhausting. I am so glad that I have some flexibility in work hours so I can take my daughter to appointments and I have two early days each week. Everything has to be prioritised now and even down time needs to be scheduled in, how boring.  There is nothing glamorous about having both parents working in a family. It takes commitment from everyone, hubby has really had to step up and we now share domestic duties equally, the kids have also had to help out.

So I guess the question I keep asking myself, if I had the time over would I have abandoned my career for six years to focus on family and myself, the answer I think is yes. I have timehop app to remind me of the wonderful things we did together as a family when we had no money but more time, now the situation is reversed and we need to learn to make the best of more money less time.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Children first, husbands next, friends last?

I often find myself deeply considering facebook posts made by other mums, this week a post from a friend has really made me think.

"Dear friends sorry if I am a crap friend but my kids come first, then my husband, then my family and then friends, if you want to wait 15 or so years I am sure I will be a better friend then"

I thought about it, read the comments, but did not respond. I was torn between whether I thought it was true or whether I thought it was the wrong order. I sure do feel like a crap friend, in fact last year an old friend accused me of not being there for her and not making effort in our friendship. We live 5 hours apart and with growing families connecting seems more like work then time out. Of course when we do connect, the conversation flows and we wonder why we don't talk more often but time seems to have other ideas.

I do strongly believe that your marriage should come first in so many respects, a strong relationship between husband and wife can give children the stability that they need. When a marriage is strong parenting is so much easier plus you have a friend who will grow old with you. But I also think sometimes you need to put your kids first because they only ever have one mum and relationships can break up but children are forever. They are far more vunerable than adults and need you to be their closest friend and confidant. But then there are friends, the ones outside the craziness of family life that we live everyday, the ones who remind us of who we are. Friends give us a glimpse of our life outside of parenting help us see ourselves for who we truly are. My time out with my girlfriends honestly keeps me sane.

So how do we balance all these relationships and how do they revolve around our own life, I want an easier life, one where I have a happy family and I feel nurtured too. Far too often I feel like I don't have enough to give, not enough of my left, that is why I need my friends. So...... do they deserve to be at the bottom of the list?

I write a lot on here about how important it is to put your marriage first but then I also know deep down if I had to make the decision my child would always come before my husband, it is biological. I also think it is biological to let yourself go as a mother and put others first because you always want the best for your family.

One of my favourite things about blogging and something I miss now that I am not doing it full time is being send samples of things where you had to make a story out of looking after yourself. I loved when I was sent relaxing face masks, it meant I had an excuse to take time out for me. Or being send new herbal teas gave me an excuse to sit down and have a cuppa. Or this week I discovered spray moisturiser, this stuff is awesome, smells AMAZING and drys quick so it is like speed pamper session, mum style. We don't need these excuses though, we should make time to do small 5 minute treats for ourselves.

I guess in the end life isn't always about having everything in a priority line, it is about being flexible and responding to your own needs and those of your family. It is all about balance and keeping things simple.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

City Life

As most of my readers know I escaped the city six years ago to have my beautiful daughter, I so wanted her to grow up outside of the busy life of Sydney, I needed a break too. We ended up settling in beautiful Wollongong which is half city and half country, people are really nice and the air is fresh. I don't love Sydney, my memories of living there are overworking and not looking after myself. I have noticed lately that I have started to slip back into those thought patterns of city life, working too hard and burning the candle at both ends.

I have been travelling a lot, spending time in the city, weekends in Melbourne, commuting for work, it is exhausting. I have noticed that I am not bouncing out of bed in the morning anymore in fact I am getting tired and loosing my fizz in the afternoon. Even though I am eating pretty well, not drinking too much and training a lot, I am starting to look exhausted and my skin is so sensitive. People keep commenting that I look so tired, it gets a little depressing really. I am wearing makeup almost everyday which I don't think is doing me any favours and being in air conditioning all day or in the city pollution is killing me. Of course getting closer to 40 everyday isn't helping either, I am seriously contemplating some harsh laser and some gently botox.

Anyways I was mindlessly googling City Skin to see if there was such a phenomena to describe why I look a hundred at the moment and I found that there was a whole page written about the effects of  my lifestyle on my skin. After reading this page I felt like my life wasn't suited to plump juicy skin. Do these risk factors sound familiar for every working mum??
Massive glasses hide dark circles :)
  • Lack of sleep - isn't that every mum? 
  • Exercise causes dehydration, hello freaking 20km dehydrating runs, it is so bad training through summer that I have started taking hydralite to help my electrolytes recover. I drink so much water but I never seem to be hydrated. I have started though using face wipes to quickly take off work makeup before hitting the gym at night because they are easy.
  • Headaches and pain relievers, getting back into a desk job is killing my neck and the added stress of work and running a family plus chronic sinusitis problems has me reaching for the panadeine way more than I should.
  • Air conditioning, it is so drying on my skin, the first three months of work I constantly had dry patches on my face and pimples on other parts. Thankfully I have since discovered the miracle of BB cream and it tends to keep things a bit better.
  • Stress, I can't explain how much extra stress there is on our family now I am working full time in a serious job, everyone has had to put in extra effort, it is draining, small things like shopping for a birthday gift have become an overwhelming chore.
I don't have answers for how to deal with all these things but I do like the idea of increasing my wellness and using Simple skin care to keep up with my word of the year. My theory at the moment is spend more time outside with a big hat, massive glasses and a huge smile!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Marriage is hard work

My favourite part of my job is meeting new clients, you can often learn a lot about life when you interview people about their tax. I met a new client last week, he proudly told me he had a good financial advisor, it was himself. His advice...... live frugally. He retired this year and after a lifetime of working as the sole breadwinner, taking regular overseas holidays and living frugally, he is financially ready to happily retire.

He went on to proudly told me that he had been married for 45 years, so I asked him what was the secret. He told me love......... then said after a pause..... and a lot of work, marriage is not easy.

It is currently Fight Free Feb, I forgot it was February and snapped at hubby earlier in the month. I was feeling so crap after a long run which was supposed to run 16km ended at 10km. My stupid ITB (knee) seized up and I had to limp to the closest place with a phone 500metres away to call hubby to pick me up. I was feeling very sorry for myself and even more angry about breaking my phone the previous weekend. I got home and crashed literally into a depressive ball and went to sleep. None of it was his fault I was transferring my pain onto him.

I often feel like all I do these days is cook, clean, shop, wash, and parent all weekend and when the only thing for me ends in disaster it is hard to keep chilled and happy. I miss the intimacy of chilling our with my family knowing the washing is done, the shopping all complete and the house is clean. We never have that feeling anymore, our weekends are playing catchup of all the things that got left during the week. Two parents working is such hard work on everyone not just the workers.

I begged with my husband last weekend just to sit with me and talk, just be with each other. I have been feeling like we are more friends lately than lovers. We get on just fine, we are a good team but our busyness takes away from our intimacy. That closeness to my husband is important but it takes awareness to make it happen. It is so easy to get home from work, cook dinner, clean up, put the kids to bed, do some paperwork and then jump on the Internet/TV to finish the night. But this pattern means you become distant from your partner.

But where on earth do we have time just to chill together, our lives are so full, I often try to downsize our life but being a blended family means so much of it is outside of our control. It is tiring and sometimes I feel like I have lost so much of myself in this parenting gig.

Whilst I don't have any fabulous advice on how to make your marriage survive these tough parenting years, I will mirror my clients advice, live frugally, love a lot and work hard on marriage.

Do you have any advice for me?


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