I survived

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So it turns out I am perfectly capable of living a normal life outside of social media, without turning into Gollum searching for The Ring. After the first few days, I actually didn’t miss it at all!

The other day I downloaded Instagram onto my phone again. I’ve clicked the app maybe five times in the last three or four days, as opposed to five times in an hour that I was capable of previously.

I can now sit down and think, my mind feels clear, my feet are on the ground.

I was sitting at the traffic lights during the week and I looked into the window of the car next to me. I saw a two year old in his seat, tapping away eagerly on a screen of some sort. This time spent away from social media has really made me think (again) about the place screens play in our lives. How seamlessly they slip, unassuming, into the fabric of our homes.

We bought an iPad last Christmas for KB’s work. I have used it a handful of times and actually forgot we had it until about six weeks ago, when the girls asked if they could watch ABC KIDS on it. They sometimes have a go on one at their Nan and Pa’s place, and surprisingly (or not?) they knew how to use it better than I did. Since that day they have asked to use it constantly, and being so bedraggled I started to say yes. Before I knew it they were having iPad time every afternoon and started to cry if I said no.

What have I done!?

I think it’s unrealistic while I’ve got such a small baby that I ban screens altogether (I’m actually just not willing to put myself through that right now… for better or worse) but I am so conscious and conflicted as their world is saturated with technology, unlike my own childhood… it just doesn’t feel right.

We’ve got some thinking to do, that’s for certain.

time without

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It’s been almost a week since I deleted Instagram, Twitter and Facebook from my phone and decided to take a break from the noisy world of social media. I’ve been monitoring myself and my behaviour which I’m pleased to say has changed over the past six days. Countless times initially I went to pick up my phone to check Instagram, or I thought of something I could take a picture of to post, or someone’s account I should go and look at. None of these actions or thoughts seem particularly sinister, but when I’m having them in the middle of doing something else (cooking dinner, eating, playing with the girls, doing the washing…) and would normally interrupt myself to act on them, I have realised what a disruptive role it is playing in my life.

On Sunday I was home alone with Peach. I sat on the couch to feed her and watched the entire sunset through the window. It made me feel grounded, real. It made me realise how being attached to screens all the time makes me feel flimsy and disconnected.

It’s interesting to sit back and observe sometimes. And funny that today I barely gave Instagram a thought. I do miss it, but I want to be able to enjoy it without the compulsion to be on it constantly. I hope that I can reflect on all this and decide how I want my relationship with social media and my phone to move forward. There is so much more I want to say on this topic but I am typing left handed in bed with a baby sleeping (finally!) on my chest…

On another note I’ve got the dreaded cough/cold large (again) and have this sitting on my kitchen bench. It will be ready tomorrow morning and I really hope it works! I’m also sipping away on ginger, turmeric, lemon, apple cider vinegar and honey tea. I pour it into my drink bottle to sip while I’m out and about. Any other (breastfeeding friendly) tried and true home remedies for me? I always like to add new ones to my list.

bon voyage social media

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My thumb hurts.

I looked down at Peach today and saw she was smiling at me. I nearly missed it


because I was too busy scrolling. Mindlessly scrolling through the depths of Instagram.

I couldn’t tell you what I was looking at. It was just one image after another, scroll, scroll, scroll, pause… like… scroll, scroll… then suddenly a movement on my lap caught my eye and there she was looking up at me, gums and dimples and all.

Then and there I decided to follow in the footsteps of some other friends on Instagram and take a break.

I used to take every January off Facebook in the days when I was quite addicted to it. It was amazing how quickly I forgot all about it, how quickly it was replaced by real live things: books, the newspaper, phone calls, conversation, writing. Thoughts that didn’t automatically translate into status updates. But sure enough February would come around and the habit would begin again.

I like Instagram a lot more than Facebook which is both good and bad at the same time. Good because I am engaging in things and people that truly interest me. I’ve connected with some wonderful people that I would never have had the opportunity to otherwise. I’ve had windows opened towards me into other people’s lives. When you’re home with small children it can make you feel less alone to have a peek through those windows, to see what other people are up to. I’ve been inspired by creative people and learned things from other mothers.

But it can also take away from real life, if you let it. Just like it did today, when I almost missed the sweet and fleeting smile of my baby. I’ve misheard questions and comments from Birdie and the Pixie because I’ve been on my phone, ignoring them and not being present. I don’t like the example I am setting them, losing myself in cyber space while I should be reading them a book or listening to their ideas, or just observing, thinking, watching, sitting. I find my attention span is becoming more and more limited as my thumb flicks from here to there, not fully engaging… and it’s not just Instagram, it’s my phone in its entirety. I remember the days I used to scoff when I heard people talking about phones that had cameras on them. I have a camera thank you very much. Ha!

So bye bye Instagram, and while I’m at it: Twitter and Facebook too… I’m off on hiatus for a week or so. Destination: Real Life.

If you’re thinking about it too, check out this video, it might give you the motivation you need!

loosely on the subject of birds and naivety and mindfulness

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I like birds. I really do. Their elegance, their freedom, their delicate skeletons. So much so that when I was in Perth last year I bought a badge that stated the fact: I like birds.

I wear it a lot. But then one day, at the first meeting of a new writing group, one of the men asked me if I was a lesbian. I didn’t really understand, until he pointed at my badge.

How naive I felt? Did this handmade hipster badge have a meaning that was totally lost on me? Was I that ridiculous that I missed it? Ha! I still don’t really know, but I do genuinely like birds…

The unfortunate fact is though, I often find myself feeling rather unworldly. I hardly ever watch the news and I rarely read the newspaper. I like science fiction and teenage drama series. Sometimes I listen to classical music and pretend I can remember the composers’ names. I’m rubbish at trivia and have always been horribly nervous if ever invited to attend (rarely in this life, occasionally in past life). If I didn’t watch so much David Attenborough lord only knows how I would keep up to date with the basic facts of life and death.

Ok, so I’m exaggerating a little, but honestly, I hear of friends travelling the world, getting promotions, going to parties and networking at “events”. (It’s even worse if they have children and seem to be doing all this. Green Face.) I see people’s lives through the windows of social media while I am wiping vegemite off chins and putting on *another* load of washing and sweeping the floor again. There is little time to read or learn or extend oneself when you have smalls. Once or twice I entertained the idea of listening to intelligent podcasts as a means of furthering myself, thinking I could do that hands free while doing all the other things I do, but the closest I get to a podcast around here is listening to Beatrix Potter audiobooks. So instead I play with my succulents, I cook, I clean, I whinge occasionally a fair bit and I memorise the words of the Frozen lyrics so I can sing them to my children.

Can we have it all? It seems that some people (mothers) have really got it together. I’m content now in the delicious mundaneness of this stay at home life. I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to do it. Although it is like a military mission trying to get the kids in and out of the car just to deliver one child to kindergarten – I wouldn’t change it for anything. But there is a part of me that craves knowledge and learning, and there are things I look forward to being able to do when the girls are bigger. I think about my career and what life will look like and what I need to do to make that happen. I have phases where I find it difficult to maintain the patience it takes to be here and now and enjoy this thing I have got. It frustrates me to no end that I struggle to make peace with it, without throwing myself into the future, into the what ifs and the whens and the hows. It’s a constant battle inside my head. I look outside and wonder how other people do it. I want to grab them individually in the street and say, How do you do this thing? Take me through your day – I want to hear it, minute by minute. What do you do? 

For now I’ll peer through the shop windows, knowing there will be a time in the future that I can do it/learn it/be it/try it/have it and that when that time comes I will long for these simple days of being needed – needed so deeply and wholeheartedly. I’ll yearn for it, I know it. I need to remember this.

I posted a photo of Peach


on instagram the other day and a comment about the washing. A friend replied: “I know I sound repetitive but BEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE.” It’s good to get that reminder, because I have a feeling she is absolutely right.

my mother

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We grew up in an old red brick farmhouse in the suburbs. It had once owned much of the land surrounding it, which in the early 1900s had been filled with orchards. The house had various extensions, a wood fired oven, an overgrown garden and many, many places to hide. With each subsequent daughter of my own, the more I think about and appreciate my mother, taking care of us in that big old house while Dad was at work, and my admiration for her only continues to grow.

I am the eldest of four girls. Mum was a full time stay at home mother until I was ten years old when she began her part time career in social work. My childhood memories are calm and peaceful. I don’t remember things being busy or chaotic, yet I look around at my own life with these small ladies and wonder how that could possibly be so.

A few weeks ago I had an older cousin visit whom I haven’t seen in a number of years. “Do you still like butter?” she asked. “I love butter!” I said, a little too enthusiastically (who doesn’t?), wondering where this line of questioning was going. She explained that when I was a child I used to ask Mum if I could have some butter, and apparently she would cut squares from the block and let me eat them. The shock! The horror! Parenting seems so serious these days.

I often talk to Mum about what it was like for her back then, with four of us under her feet. She told me that after she had taken us all to school and kinder and so on she would move around the house making all the beds, and before making each one she would curl up in it and close her eyes for just a few minutes before moving to the next. Back in those days she drank nescafe by the bucket load and cafes were out of the question. Whenever we went somewhere on weekends she would always pack sandwiches (vegemite), apples (lots), muesli bars (no frills), bottles of water (tap) and a thermos (of nescafe) for her and Dad. At the beach the sandwiches would get sand in them and would crunch between your teeth.

By the time I was in VCE Mum and Dad had divorced. Mum went back to uni to study law. It took her years to finish it, and while I was at uni she was still also studying. I have a vivid memory of her hunched over the old desk in her bedroom overlooking the front garden, with piles of law books on either side of her. I remember her asking me once (probably more), “Don’t you have homework to do? Aren’t you meant to be at uni today? Shouldn’t you be studying?” “Nope,” I shrugged before heading back to the TV, knowing full well I did, and I was. Now that I’m at a stage in my life where I have plans to go back to study in the future, I am only beginning to comprehend what it would have meant to make that decision (particularly to do something like law) and to stick at it, like Mum did. My sisters and I used to tease her about being one of the mature age students in the front row. I asked her if she always put her hand up to answer all the questions. She admitted that yes, she did.

As I go about my days I often text Mum, or call her and say help me! She always does, even if I can hear her frantically typing in the background. She’s the first person I ask when the girls are sick, if they have a rash or if I have a question about life. When she comes over I cling to her and I make her stay a lot longer than she wants to. I turn up at her house and let her make me cups of tea and cook me dinner. She never makes me wash up.

I am so lucky to have her and to know that whenever I’m stuck or lacking motivation or struggling all I have to do is think what would Mum do? and know that if I do that, things will work out. If that means giving my kids hunks of butter to keep them quiet then… I guess I have to do it. But then again, there are iPads these days.

adjusting

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Pixie hauls herself onto my lap while I’m breastfeeding Peach. She grabs each side of my face and forces me to look at her while I’m ushering lots of “careful, careful, careful of the baby.” She looks at the baby. “I love your baby, she’s beautiful. ” (“luff”, “boo-full”) she says. She thinks momentarily. “Now your baby has come out, there’s room for me in your tummy again.”

This has been a common thread of late, Pixie commenting on the appearance of the baby, and the vacant accommodations she has left behind. And how she would dearly like to climb back into said vacant block. Please.

I look at this enormous creature perched precariously on my knee, her gigantic deep brown eyes staring at me, eagerly awaiting a response. I’m confused. Only three weeks ago this huge being was my baby. I would pick her up like a tiny doll and balance her on top of my rounded stomach. I would play with her soft curls and wipe vegemite from her stained baby lips. Now she appears in front of me like a monstrous Japanese cartoon; all eyes and head and face. She reaches out a finger and pokes the side of Peach’s face. “Can I kiss your baby?” (“tan”, “tiss”) She asks, sick of waiting for a response to her request to climb back inside me.

She kisses the baby then pulls my hand away from where it is rested, cradling Peach’s back. She holds my hand and makes sure I can’t touch the baby with it.

We are all adjusting to this new way of life, this new being who is suddenly in our family and in our space after an eternity of pregnancy. Adjusting to my constant “shhhhh’s” and “careful’s!!”. Adjusting to the crying, to the constant commands of this tiny person.

And then I see my eldest two daughters playing and hugging and kissing each other. I see them holding hands tonight while we walked to get fish and chips. I see them giggling together and whispering rude secrets (namely about poo). And I remember when Pixie was this tiny thing in my arms and Bird was the giant child poking and prodding. And I know everything and everyone will be just fine.

feeling grateful

Yesterday I caught myself saying a number of variations of:

I AM HAVING THE WORST DAY.

I started stomping my feet a bit and frowning. I growled at the girls and I ate pizza and a magnum for dinner because I had the WORST DAY and I totally deserved it.

I woke up this morning feeling a little ashamed. Because the night before my WORST DAY I was busy signing petitions and sharing things on facebook and getting so so so very angry about the terrible situation asylum seekers are finding themselves in Australia’s abysmal detention centres. I listened to the voices of real asylum seekers as they rang to inform our Asylum Seeker Resource Centre about what has been going on at Manus Island the past few days. I read articles about shit shit shit stuff. I thought about the pregnant women being separated from their small children to be brought to the mainland to give birth, often in late pregnancy with dubious support prior. I thought about our Government thinking that this is an OK thing to do. I thought about all the people I know who don’t give a shit or don’t care to research this issue or don’t care enough to look outside their own lives and care about someone else’s.

And then I had the nerve to wake up yesterday and go about my day as if it was the WORST DAY. Which it absolutely, totally and completely was not.

Sure, I may have had a few hiccups in the morning. I may have come up against some challenges.

Sure, I may have left two folders worth of confidential kinder documents on the roof of my car while I buckled up the Pixie and drove off only to realise when I got home that they were gone and have to drive back to find said documents and USB stick sprawled over the main road, run over and ripped and broken, over an area of about 100 metres and then have to run around like a mad woman collecting papers and stopping traffic and being beeped at by a very large truck and angry truck driver man while my children cried in the car. It wasn’t the best.

But it most definitely was NOT the WORST.

I woke up this morning, in a warm cosy bed, I went to a yoga class and was stretched and pulled in all directions by my teacher. I meditated and went home. I fed my two delicious girls breakfast and took them out for a coffee. I gave my big girl vitamin c and good things for her cold. I went to the shops and bought us food and nourishment. I came home and tucked them into warm beds and sat and had a cup of tea. I checked the internet at my leisure and read some blogs. I thought about what I will wear when I go out for dinner tonight.

I feel grateful. So very, very, very, grateful.

balancing act

Last night, after spending an afternoon (an entire afternoon) cleaning the house (but oh my it was lovely to get up to this morning!) and crashing on the couch to do our online organics order and meal planning for the week and paying some bills and watching some boring television, Papawho and I were finally ready to go to bed.

Then there was that awkward moment when I saw him packing his runners and putting his sports bag out on the couch at the same moment that I was organising my yoga gear for the following morning.

We paused.

“Are you going to the gym in the morning?” I asked.

“Yep, I was planning to?” Came his reply.

“Oh… I was thinking of doing yoga in the morning.”

Silence. We niggled this way and that, both wanting to start the week on a good note, both having goals that we want to achieve and things we want to do outside this parenting gig. Neither wanting to stop the other from doing and achieving and enjoying; on the contrary, we both make a real effort to support each other to do and achieve and enjoy things for ourselves… yet here we were, both wanting to do something, each hanging on to our own for dear life.

A little tug of war.

In the end I set my alarm super early and managed to squeeze in twenty minutes of yoga at home before the Pixie woke up. (Naturally, being a pixie and all, she likes to wake at ungodly hours each morning. Apparently that is what naughty pixies do.) Papawho went to the gym and squeezed in a workout before he went to school.

It is so, so, so very easy to fall into the who is worse off game with our partners. It is hard to make sure that in amongst parenting, working and being a family, that we each get time to ourselves to maintain a sense of self. We are continually learning. We don’t always get it right. Do you?

How do you make sure you each get what you need while parenting small (or big!) children? How to you make sure you are present as a parent when you need to be? How do you support your partner whilst making sure that you too are fulfilled? I would love to know. x

moving forward

20140204-185524.jpgMotherhood. Before I had children I thought it would be relatively straightforward. You care for them, cuddle them, clean them, feed them, play with them. No one could have ever explained to me the depth, the cavities, the gullies and the complexities that I still don’t understand almost four years in.

While striving for a simple existence, my life has become more complex than I ever could have imagined. 2013 was an internal explosion of this life, this existence. Every conflict I felt, every confusion, every darkness and every light imploded on my very being. At times it felt like I was collapsing, at others I felt so enriched and enlightened by motherhood that I could hardly bare the weight of it. Caring for a small baby who didn’t care much for sleeping or for eating, and a toddler who needed me absolutely immediately and constantly brought with it such intense conflicts. Conflict between my love and my frustration. Clashes between my yearning for my children and my exhaustion. Desperately needing time for myself, feeling the urge to learn, to expand the tiny corner of my brain that is reserved for me versus the fight to keep that tiny corner, to fence it off and bar the doors and not let it be overrun by chicken stock and nappies and watercolour paints. Friction between me and my lovely husband, as I watched him drive away each morning, coffee in hand on his way to work. A hopeless, strangling love for these tiny beings strapped to my chest and gripping my legs, and, at times, an intense urge to be alone, to be quiet, to not be touched.

That was then. Now it’s 2014 and although I still feel the same way and experience the same antithesis, I have spent the summer consolidating. We spent time by the ocean and in the forest. I didn’t take my crochet with me. I deleted instagram from my phone. I took my usual summer sabbatical from facebook.

I spent time re-building rhythm into our days. I joined a writing group to preserve that little corner I hold so dear. I paid attention to nature’s cycles: the moon, the weather. I listened to my body and my mind. I saw little connections that I have been ignoring. I adjusted our diets and cleared out our home. I gathered my thoughts. I collected little bunches of them: negativity, jealousy, anger, depression. I acknowledged them and the darkness they bring with them. I allowed myself to feel them knowing that their propulsion is short lived. They come on fast but stay only momentarily.

Things are easier now. Motherhood will forever be filled with these explosions of darkness and light. There will always be conflicts, confusion, contradictions. There will be inconsistencies of mind and thought. There will be pushing and pulling.

This year I want to embrace the push and the pull. I know now that the good is here to stay and the bad is transparent, temporary. I want to keep consolidating, compartmentalising. I want to find and recognise the simplicity amongst the chaos. A simple “mama” uttered from the lips of my smallest. An evening of silence when both children miraculously Go. To. Sleep. A walk up to the coffee shop. Holding his hand. The stirring of my weekly pot of stock. Small moments alone.

I know this is just the beginning. I am still learning. And that is ok.

What do you hope 2014 will bring?

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