Don’t Let Your Outlet Slide

imageAt the start of August I had one major deadline and four weeks till our big family trip to Europe and Asia. So when my daughter’s carer told me she was taking early maternity leave, I didn’t really panic.

Then, as often happens in life, I got two new clients. Given I am still building my freelance writing business, I was not going to say no to these opportunities, even though I didn’t have any child care in place. I decided I would muddle through by working every day during Freya’s sleep time, and in the evenings, if needed, when all three children were settled.

So that’s what I did. Muddling through would probably be the most accurate way to describe it. Any one who has any experience with babies and toddlers will know, they can be unpredictable, even when you’ve mastered a perfect routine. Some days I’d plan to do the grocery shop in the morning, be home for lunch and then work after lunch while she slept, only to pull in the drive way at 11 and find she had fallen asleep in her car seat. The end result was that I did meet all my deadlines, but everything else went by the wayside, including this blog.

I’d fall into bed at night, with piles of washing waiting to be folded and put away, dust gathering slyly on my window sills and furniture, vegetables wrinkling up in my crisper, and me, feeling cranky, scratchy and pulled in all directions. It’s fair to say, chaos reigned (more than usual) in that period.

There was no down time because the time I would catch up on household jobs – while Freya slept – I was busy working to meet my deadlines, the evenings were spent trying to (unsuccessfully) catch up on things like the washing. But the biggest cost came in sacrificing my outlet. My sanity, my little love; my writing.

I mentioned earlier that I was tetchy. In hind-site, I can see that it was because I had sacrificed writing for pleasure and I had completely underestimated its importance, and its value in my life. It’s a thing that brings me calm, restores balance and brings me satisfaction. And I had foolishly abandoned it when life got hectic.

It’s been a great lesson for me, because not for one moment did I think that not taking that time for myself, to do what makes me happy, would impact so significantly – both on me and on my family. Because I was scratchy, they all suffered. And I suffered doubly – firstly because it’s not pleasant feeling harried and strung out, but I recognised that when I was like this, I wasn’t that pleasant to be around. So that old chestnut, mother guilt, came galloping back in to my life.

Whenever my husband could, he took over caring for the children, and doing house work, so I could work or rest. Which is how I now know, with some distance from the situation, that it wasn’t that I was trying to do too much (which obviously was part of it) but it was that I had let my outlet slide. I’d stopped doing what I love to do, what makes me feel happy.

I know that self-care is the most important thing a mother can do for her family, and in theory I always agreed. But it wasn’t until this little crazy month in my life, where my self-care got unintentionally ditched, that I truly recognise how important it is to make the time to ‘do your thing’. Arianna Huffington says that ‘when we take care of ourselves, we are only going to be better at everything.’ There is a lot of wisdom in that.

The practicalities of life will often prevent us from doing the things that we want to do, but the important thing is that we recognise what is really important to our wellbeing and make a commitment to carve out this time. After all, it not just for yourself, but also for your family.

Letter to My Younger Self

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I have always been fascinated by the ‘Letter to My Younger Self’ and whenever I see them in magazines and online, I always make a point to read them. I imagined that it would be quite a cathartic exercise. I guess I’m quite fortunate that I don’t have a great deal to purge, and what has brought me challenges over the years, I sit with comfortably now. But what I most enjoyed about the process has been reflecting back on how I’ve grown and what I’ve learnt.

I offer no ground-breaking advice, but some simple musings will serve me well beyond today.

Dear Collette,

Here are a few things to help you on your way.

You’re mostly a happy soul so don’t lose that; this disposition will usher you through the trials.

Reshape regrets – they’ll only eat away at you. If you can reshape them you’ll see the purpose they served to make your life better in the end.

Celebrate your success, not only do you deserve it but it will help you identify your true friends. Those who celebrate with you, wish you only good. Those who don’t celebrate with you, harbour resentment and will one day let you down.

Champagne will thicken your waist (and your head), when you over indulge be sure that the joy of the over indulgence will outweigh the discontent of a thick waist. Mostly it will, but be sure to check in with it.

Listen to your father. He was wrong (mostly) about you being the class clown, the town drunk and at times the village idiot, but he was bang on with his advice about adjusting your expectations of others. He told me to never expect someone to behave the same way as you would, if you do you will always be disappointed (your older self is still working on this). 

Listen to your mother and store away what she has to say. Each day something will come up that you will want to ask her and when she is gone you will miss deferring to her on life’s practicalities. She would have known what to do when your youngest wouldn’t sleep. So listen up.

Be more compassionate when you feel that someone has failed you. You will fail someone some day to, and not be able to help it. We all have limitations.

Trust yourself. That sick feeling you get in your stomach has always been right. Don’t ignore it, act on it, then you’ll find that you’re on your right path. 

Write everyday, it is the only way to hone your skills (your older self is still working on this one to). 

That cliche, authentic. Well, there is no other way. The only way is to live truthfully, honestly. You will fail at everything you do if you are not living truthfully. Life will be so much easier to live when you are being your real self. 

Don’t worry about money. Things have a way of working themselves out, even if it’s not how you imagined it would be.

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but have fun, always. Even when you feel your soul is under fire. The joy of the small things will get you through.

And finally, always remember that life will never be better than it is now, so make the most of it.

And so my friend, be brave, be bold and go gently; it is a fine combination.

Collette

Do you have some advice to your younger self that you’d like to share? Share below, it is rather cathartic after all.

 

 

It’s time to come out of the closet…

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I had something completely different planned for this week’s post, but I read an article this morning by Clementine Ford, and I was moved to action. The article was called ‘I was a teenage non-feminist’ – and was written in response to this dastardly website ‘Women Against Feminism’, where women post photos of themselves holding up a sign explaining why they don’t need feminism. Nauseating statements like ‘I don’t need feminism because I like to be treated like a lady, by a gentlemen’ – sorry, when did you say you were born? Are you sure it wasn’t 1933?

And ‘I don’t need feminism because my boyfriend treats me right’. Well, bully for you! Happy for you, but what about your best friend whose boyfriend doesn’t treat her right? This is the underpinning argument of Ford’s article. Just because you are secure in how you are treated as a woman should not mean that there is no fight to fight.

Ford explains that the ‘Women Against Feminism’ movement has completely misunderstood what being a feminist means. She explains ‘Part of feminism’s core mission statement is to advocate for a world in which all women, not just some, are given equal opportunities and respect.’ It’s not a global anti-men movement, but a movement that advocates for global equality.

I can recall a tram ride home from University nearly 15 years ago. There was a young woman on the tram with her friend and she was explaining to her friend why she didn’t have to be a feminist. She said ‘My Mum was a feminist. So thanks to her, I don’t need to be’. Even back then, I was alarmed at such a declaration and turned to look at this woman, just to get a visual on what a person who would say such a thing, might look like. She looked just like you and me. Educated, well off and articulate.

But what was interesting about this conversation that I wasn’t a part of, like Clementine Ford, I’d never called myself a feminist. But if it did one thing that day, eavesdropping on that conversation, it confirmed to me that I was indeed, a feminist. So today, I come out of the closet properly. You should to.

I’ll tell you why I’m being a little bit bossy about this. We are fighting a good fight, but let me tell you, the road is long and fraught, and really we are in the very early stages. There is no doubt that I have benefited enormously from the first wave of feminism.

I do believe if I was born a generation or two earlier I would be one of those gin-soaked, valium addicted mothers, imprisoned by my own life. I know this simply because I did try to be a stay-at-home Mum, for a while. After about 16 months I was nearly demented by it. So thankfully, the path forged so far by the sisterhood means that I’ve managed to avoid the gin/valium path – at this stage anyway.

You should come out of the closet to. If you have daughters, continue forging the path for them. If you have sons show them why its important to treat women equally – one day they may have wives and daughters themselves, but if not, they will always have a mother, who deserve equality. But look beyond your backyard and be outraged by what you see.

In India, a woman is raped every 20 minutes

In Afghanistan, more than half of marriages involve a child bride (under the age of 16)

In Mali, one in ten women die in child birth

Genital mutilation is not a thing of the past. More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been undergone genital mutilation, in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where it is most prevalent.

Now, I don’t mean to alarm you with these statistics, but this is what is happening with women, and to women, all over the world. And before you shake your head and say ‘well, not here in Australia’, I’ll tell you this:

In Australia, it will take 75 years before women receive equal pay to men 

Just over 16% of women in Australia & New Zealand have been sexually assaulted, and that doesn’t account for the women who don’t report it

Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital says it is seeing between 600 and 700 women each year who have experienced genital mutilation in some form

The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre has identified 250 cases of under-age marriage over the past 24 months.

One woman is killed every week in Australia, by a current or former partner

Between five and ten per cent of Australian women experienced at least one incident of physical and/or sexual violence by a man, in a 12 month period.

So it is happening here. These horrors may not be as prevalent, but they are still happening. So, I’m urging you to come out of the closet with your feminism. Challenge misogyny and passive sexism, point out to your sons and daughters that chauvinistic acts are not ok. Just chip away, and do it knowing that its not just for the good of the sisterhood, but for the liberation of all.

Slow Parenting – a reflection on the way we live

 

This article was written some time ago, the child I was carrying is now five years old, and also has a baby sister. There are some lessons for me to revisit in this post, which is why I share it today. (The article firsts appeared in Plane Trees magazine – Melbourne University’s Post graduate magazine).

Part 1. I run from the office to the train station, from the train station to my car, from my car to the creche, and because I am in the habit of running everywhere, I run from my car to my front door.

Part 2. Dinner, bath time, bed time. Not for me, but for my daughter. Part three of my day is for me. Compartmentalising my day like this isn’t a conscious strategy, it’s just how I’m able to manage things.

Part 3. Dinner with my husband (after our daughter is in bed), an attempt at some sort of meaningful adult conversation and then pulling out the books or computer for a bit of ‘leisurely’ work. Such is the life of the parent who crazily balances paid work, family & home duties, or study. No doubt this scenario is very familiar to you readers, with parents attempting to balance work or study (or both), with family life. However, recent events have led me to question how much of this mania is out of our control.

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