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?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Keeping kids cool and Safe this summer

This summer has been filled with water time. Miss 6 started Nippers last year and I love it!  It means that
every Sunday the family heads to the beach for an hour, if the weather is good we stay and play. We bough her a skim board for Christmas and it is perfect to catch waves We hired some stand up paddleboards over the holidays and taught the kids how to standup. We spent countless hours at the pool whilst hubby and I take it in turns to train for our respective legs of the Husky Long Triathlon this month. He is swimming 2km and I am running 20km.

Our lifestyle involves lot of water time. But it hasn't always been like this. As a young adult I didn't enjoy the beach much I was always terrified of the ocean, I liked the pool but not the ocean. When I was just 4 years old my dad drown whilst scuba diving,  my mum understandably became a little cautious about our safety around water and we swum less and less at the beach. My parents did although ensure we went to swimming club every week and learn how to swim but I lacked ocean confidence. It wasn't until I started dating my husband that I  learnt how to swim in the ocean and respect the waves. It opened up a whole new whole for me and I realised the importance of every child in Australia not just learning how to swim but also learning and understanding the ocean.

As Miss 6 grows older, I want her to have the confidence I never had in the water and really enjoy the waves with her friends. I want her to learn to surf with my sister and go fishing with my brother without fear. I want to be able to wave her off at the shore without a heavy heart when she wants to get into the powersports with her friends like jet skiing. With the majority of Australia's population living on the coast, water safety is so important, that is why organisations like surf life saving are so important for our families.  Nippers is compulsary until she understands and respects the ocean.

Water is the best way to cool down and family fun in summer, whether it be on a board or underthe sprinklers in the backyard. I just love living in Australia in the summer, maybe minus the flies.

Do your kids do swimming lessons or surf club?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Simple, my word for the year

I have been mulling over for weeks what my word for 2015 would be. Last year my word was balance and there were so many times during that year that the mantra helped get my through. We all had huge changes during the year that at times threw our family into chaos. Our balance was upset and we constantly had to work to bring our family back to centre. Midway through last year I felt like our family had unravelled and our once close blended family was totally unbound and we were all living separate lives under one roof. I felt like I had no energy to pull the strings in, I realised that the mother is the centre of the family the one who doesn't even realise that she coaches everyone to come together everyday. At times of the year things got out of hand, at one point I told my husband I couldn't keep going and I would rather quit my job than lose my family. I think at this point he realised how much I was still doing to keep our family together and once again stepped up to the plate and showed us what an awesome and dedicated husband he is. Balance was the word that kept us all together during 2014.

In my search for a new word this year I looked at what changes I made last year and what worked and what didn't. When I kept things simple, it worked, when I tried to do too much or be artificial and pretend I was coping with full time working mum and awesome house wife, things fell apart.

Here are some ways that I have already been starting the SIMPLE life.

  • Decluttering, the more stuff you have the harder it is to keep clean, I have culled my wardrobe, the kids toys even the linen cupboard, really no family needs 25 beach towels. At the end of this year I want to own less stuff not more.
  • Wash less, this summer beach towels go on the the clothes line not in the wash, sheets get changed slightly less often, kids have to help fold and put away the laundry, everyone needs to iron their own clothes.
  • Somehow I got coerced into cooking a hot lunch for Christmas this year, my nightmare so I thought simple, bought foil disposable baking trays and used a combination of real plates for the mains and plastic throw away for the dessert. Not great for the environment but it meant that everything could go in one dishwasher load after 8 people for lunch and no extra washing up.
  • At Christmas I also decided to buy better products, I have more money but less time now so I can afford to buy the dishwasher tablets rather than the cheaper powder. I even bought dishwasher cleaner which meant my 20 year old dishwasher is able to take pots and pans as well as glasses, this was a lifesaver on Christmas Day when I drank too much champagne. I am also getting a new kitchen and dishwasher this year but that is for another post.
  • Spend more time outside, the highlights of our recent holiday was the runs, the walks along the beach, the time in the pool not the stuff we paid to do or the movies we watched.
  • Delegate, this is a hard one for me as I am a little bit of a control freak, for example I told hubby that he is now responsible for his own ironing, 3.5weeks later his work shirts are all still sitting in the ironing basket waiting to be done, it is driving me nuts. But it is no longer my responsibility. We really toyed with the idea of getting a cleaner this year but I have decided that we have a family of four and if everyone helps and takes responsibility we shouldn't need to pay someone else to do domestic tasks for us.
  • Eat fresh SIMPLE food 
  • Screen time, social media and email and smart phones really are killing us. We sleep less, have more depression and are eating more than ever. I love the book remotely controlled which talks about how damaging TV is on society and our kids, I gave up TV for over two years and I loved it. I noticed that when Miss 6 goes to her Dad's he lets her play the ipad all the time and watch commercial TV, this not affects her sleep, mood, anger but it also has her asking for more stuff like sugary treats and toys. Having less screen time family wide will simplify your life and give you more time for things that matter.
  • Enjoy time with family, don't be distracted. I asked Miss 6 what her favourite part of our holidays was, her response was "time with you mummy". Three weeks no laptop, lots of time and a simple life is all kids want and need.
So there are some things I have already started and hope to expand on during 2015 to find a simple life. Do you have any tips for me? Do you have a word for 2015?


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