How do you combine a career and a kid and stay sane?

A while back Jeanie asked how I combine a career and a kid and stay sane? The fairly short answer is that I don’t always stay sane.

The other morning found me red-eyed in the bathroom silently screaming ten minutes before I had to leave for work. These episodes fortunately don’t occur too often. Once JJ’s dropped off at school if we’ve had a tough morning for whatever reason I can take numerous deep breaths without hyperventilating and once I’m at work forget about it for a while.

One morning I got to work and announced that I was very glad to be at work that day because my son was giving me the royal shits and a colleague couldn’t believe that a gorgeous boy like him could be such a pain to make me want to be at work. I tend to laugh comments like this off and get on with my work. This colleague isn’t a parent so one day, perhaps, she’ll know but I didn’t say that to her.

I work four days a week and often maintain that there’s no way I could work full-time and be a full-time parent. Now I’ve got the work part-time bug I can’t see myself ever going back to five days a week. Although I also maintain that I do a full-time load and that employers usually get more out of their part-timers than they might realise because we’re there to work and don’t have the time to have down time that most full-timers get.

I do hope that one day workplaces and specifically the people within (at all levels) will be more sympathetic to people wanting to work part-time. Even employers that are supposedly work/life balance friendly have a lot more to do for this to actually happen. For instance to change from full-time to part-time work while keeping the same job is really hard. Of course this hits women the most after they’ve had a baby.

When I went back to work after having my baby I was given a different job and the person who’d filled in for me kept my old job. I worked three days a week and he worked full-time. I had to really negotiate the type of work I’d be doing and stand my ground about what I would and wouldn’t do. The job I was given was okay, but it wasn’t what I’d expected to be doing when I went back and I wasn’t really that happy about it. I lasted a year before I moved on. My suggestion to job share was rejected without being considered.

Despite all that I’m pretty happy with my current work but I’m not able to stay past my allotted hours because I have to be at after school care by 6pm to do the pickup and I’m not able to start any earlier, around 9am. When I’m not busy at work this works out okay but I’ve been really busy the last month or so and it’s been a bit hard to switch off.

I can’t switch off when I get home because I keep working to put dinner on the table, do reading with JJ, organise whatever he needs for school the next day, and other assorted household tasks. By the time I plop down in front of Big Brother at 7pm I can feel the tension in my shoulders and it’s hard to get rid of that sometimes. After I’ve rested for that half hour that Big Brother’s on, JJ is out the bath (see I time it well) and he pretty much goes to bed straight away. I then do whatever else I have to do like wash dishes and then relax before going to bed.

Of course I haven’t included the time I spend blogging etc in this. Truthfully with work and child both being full on at the moment, blogging and other online activity has taken a nosedive. Honestly I’d prefer it to be the other way around.

So with all of this I need time to completely switch off and try and maintain some sort of work/life balance to stay sane. I’ll tell you how I try and do that next time.

Shoes

I love buying stuff from op shops, or thrift shops. Out of the clothes I’m wearing today only my underwear and my jeans were bought brand new. Everything else is from the op shop and the shirt was given to me but that was from an op shop too.

I had a good haul a few days ago. I bought a pair of Doc Marten shoes. They’re hardly worn so I don’t mind wearing someone else’s shoes.

Doc Marten shoes

I also bought a pair of work pants. The shoes were $20 and the pants $6. Bargain.

I’m kind of at the stage where I don’t buy a lot brand new and I certainly don’t spend a lot of money on new clothes. Even JJ’s clothes I get as many second hand as I can, especially as he grows a couple of inches every couple of months it seems.

If I keep this up I’ll have enough money to spend on the food that JJ keeps eating more and more of.

My ah-ha moment about some of my blog content

It’s not too much that I read anywhere on the web that makes me go ah-ha but something I read recently did.

Before I share that here’s some background. I guess you could say I fit into the category of mummy blogging because I’m a mum and because I blog about being a mum sometimes. It crosses my mind occasionally that I’m writing about another person – albeit one I pushed from my loins – and he knows that his photos are on the web, but he doesn’t really get that I write about him yet.

Now you see me

I’m also aware that there are potential safety issues around me posting images of him on my website and on Flickr. People have differing views about this and I fall into the category of posting images and stories about my son. He’s such a big part of my life that he can’t be obliterated completely from my blog because it’s a personal one. I don’t advertise my address or details of where he goes to school so we are fairly anonymous, and let’s face it, it’s not like millions of people read this website anyway.

Lots of people, however, do read Heather Armstrong’s website – Dooce where she blogs with her real name and writes a lot about her daughter. My ah-ha moment came when I read a recent post of hers where she wrote about blogging about her daughter.

She says:

‘Will you resent me for this website? Absolutely. And I have spent hours and days and months of my life considering this, weighing your resentment against the good that can come from being open and honest about what it’s like to be your mother, the good for you, the good for me, and the good for other women who read what I write here and walk away feeling less alone. And I have every reason to believe that one day you will look at the thousands of pages I have written about my love for you, the thousands of pages other women have written about their own children, and you’re going to be so proud that we were brave enough to do this. We are an army of educated mothers who have finally stood up and said pay attention, this is important work, this is hard, frustrating work and we’re not going to sit around on our hands waiting for permission to do so. We have declared that our voices matter.

These are the stories of our lives as women and they often include you, yes. Am I endangering you by posting pictures of you? Many people think so, but then they’d have to admit that when I take you to the grocery store I am exposing your face to hundreds of strangers, people who can see what car we drove up in, the license plate number, and the direction we head home. Maybe we shouldn’t ever leave the house, otherwise? STRANGERS WILL KNOW WHAT WE LOOK LIKE. Worse? They will know I prefer Tampax to the generic brand.’

In particular the second paragraph above of Heather’s where she talks about exposing her daughter’s face to people during their day-to-day life struck a chord with me.

The number of times I walk around with my son and say his name for one reason or another are extensive. Anyone can hear me say that, store the information, approach him and pretend they know him if I’m looking in another direction or otherwise distracted. This is probably more likely to happen than someone stalking him via photos on a website. I lost him at a department store once and while frantically looking for him I heard over the loudspeaker for JJ’s mum to please find him at the front desk. I asked how they knew his name because he was a bit too young to say it, and they’d heard me say it to him. The amount of times I’m saying JJ come here, or JJ do this, anyone could use that information to their sick advantage.

I included the first paragraph of Heather’s above because it sums up so well why so many of us are mummy bloggers. I know that writing about some (not all) of my parenting struggles here has helped me enormously and for me outweighs any potential safety issues surrounding him. I figure that it’s better for me to get some stuff off my chest now than to bottle it up for a melt-down along the line somewhere.

My son will be able to read this one day and cringe with embarrassment that I did write about it, but if he becomes a dad, he’ll be able to say, ‘Yes, I did that when I was a kid.’ I’d love to be able to read about what I got up to as a kid, because it might bring back some memories of being a kid and what it was like from my mum’s point of view.

Hopefully, JJ, when you read this one day you will see this for the document of your life that it is and you’ll have every right to blog about me. And hopefully you’ll see that I blogged about you because I love you.

Keep in mind that there’s a heck of a lot I don’t say about him, or about me for that matter, on this website and I don’t publish any naked pictures of him. I’m saving them for his 21st birthday party.

Making tomboy stitch

A few weeks ago my son brought home the beginnings of his tomboy stitch (or French knitting as I found out via commenters below). For those who have never heard of it, it’s a crude form of knitting that’s been around for at least as long as my father (and probably longer).

It’s been great at keeping him occupied both at home and at school. When I used to do it at my son’s age we used empty wooden cotton reels but they aren’t easy to come by any more so an empty toilet roll and four wooden icecream sticks will suffice.

Homemade tomboy stitch maker

As the image above shows, evenly space the four wooden icecream sticks around the outside of the empty toilet roll and sticky tape them on. Note that on one end the sticks go past the edge of the cardboard toilet roll. This is what’s used to do the tomboy stitch.

I wasn’t around when JJ started his tomboy stitch but I reckon this will work. Loop some wool around one of the icrecream sticks and tie a knot. Loop the wool around again and pull the first loop over the second loop, therefore creating the first stitch.

Move onto the next icecream stick holder and loop the wool around twice and pull the first loop over the second loop again. Repeat this twice more until you’re back to where you started. This will create the base of the tomboy stitch.

Keep going in an anti-clockwise direction if you’re right handed. I’m presuming a left handed person will go the opposite way.

Pull the wool across the stick like the image below so the existing stitch is underneath.

Making tomboy

Then pull the existing loop over the piece of wool as I’ve tried to demonstrate below.

How to do tomboy stitch

Like so.

Tomboy stitch in the making

Keep repeating this around and around the four sticks until you get completely sick of it.

It’s very repetitive but fun to do because it can get really long and kids love a competition. There’s a competition going at after school care to see who’s got the longest tomboy stitch by the end of this term.

If anyone’s got any questions or comments about this method please let me know.

Ask and the universe might provide

As JJ is a bit older now I want to start taking him on holidays. This is a bit daunting because it will be just him and me ALL the time with no break from each other which puts me off a bit but I want to do it nevertheless.

So, I’d been thinking of going to Queensland as it will be warm when I want to go there. Then I realised I’d never been to Perth so I thought I’d go there instead. I looked up airfares and realised that it would turn into an expensive holiday after paying for airfares and accommodation. This is why some of my friends go to Asia for their holidays because it’s not much more expensive to fly there and it’s cheap once you’re there.

I put my holiday plans on hold for a bit to think some more. Then at work recently I nearly had a chance to go to the States for a conference in July. Unfortunately that was kyboshed so my manager could go but as a ‘consolation’ prize I get to go to Perth for a one day workshop which happens to be during the school holidays. Therefore I get a free flight to Perth.

My brain immediately started ticking when I realised that I could take JJ but I’ll have to get him babysat for the one day of my workshop.

I’ve got some feelers out but if anyone from Perth reads this blog and knows of childcare options please let me know. I don’t know if I’m able to put him in vacation care for a day at a school there as it will be school holidays there also. I’ll have to find out.

My other option is to put him on a plane back to Adelaide and have someone pick him up and look after him until I get back. I’m hesitant to do this as it’s a fairly lengthy flight from Perth to Adelaide.

So it appears as though I’m going to Perth folks. I can’t wait.

Mothering on

Mothers day card

The card above is what JJ made for my mum for mother’s day.

There are some mother’s day crafts hidden around the house that JJ made at after school care and school. He’s really excited about it. He’s also not been backward in coming forward in telling me how I could improve my parenting. We all need feedback right? If you’ve read my last post I copied out what he’d written to me not knowing then that it was meant to be for mother’s day.

Friday night was my saviour. I got to go out and be an adult. I dropped JJ off at the overnight babysitter’s and came back to my house where my two girlfriends were cooking nachos and a glass of sparkling red was awaiting.

We then went to see a friend’s band and The Kill Devil Hills from Perth. It was the perfect night out for me getting to see live music. I was sitting down for the second band and I ended up getting up to dance. They were great. So great I bought a CD and got the six of them to sign it for me. It’s only a day or so since I got the CD but I’ve already listened to it at least five times. I’m a bit like a kid with the latest Wiggles video.

I said Friday night was my saviour. I must have really needed a night out to let off some steam because despite being a bit tired the next morning I had a fabulous day. JJ was a dream. We chatted about my parenting and about how he responds to that and I think we reached an understanding and a truce!

I felt so good and had so much energy I blogged, twittered (see right hand side of my blog), took photos (to come), cleaned my room and a cleaned out a couple of my drawers, changed my bed’s sheets, did housework, washed and hung out two loads of washing, cooked dinner, washed dishes, mowed the lawn, filled up the big wheelie bin with cuttings, walked the dog and the kid, and hired a couple of DVDs.

I think I must have been in a slump for a while now because I haven’t felt as good for some time.

Welcome to my world as a mother. Happy mother’s day to me and to all the other mother’s out there (especially my own).