a new chapter

I began this blog, as the name would suggest, after I became a mother. For those six years and two more before, I have worked for a single employer and been afforded the luxury of paid maternity leave (twice), flexible working hours and a decent salary.

When my first child was born, I wanted to do my best to be a committed and nurturing parent, but I soon realised that I had more sense of achievement and personal satisfaction from work. I was lucky enough to fall into a career that I enjoy and is creatively and professionally rewarding. I didn’t enjoy as some mothers do, being at home when my children were first born and was eager to get back to work. I often wonder about the psychology behind all this.

On the one hand, I feel guilty that I have focuses on myself to some extent instead of devoting myself more to my children. On the other hand, I want to show my children that my career is as important as their fathers and that the assumption shouldn’t always be that a woman should make all the sacrifices for family life.

Woman in the workplace are at an automatic disadvantage once they have children. Periods of leave while nurturing infant children, and then the entitlement to work part-time once they return (if lucky), means they miss out on opportunities. Many mothers I know work part-time. There is always a sense of needing to prove themselves. They overcompensate on the days they are there by fitting far more into their day than most.

A woman who returns to the workforce too soon or who devotes herself too much to work, is looked down on by society for being selfish. Instead of supporting each other and celebrating the freedom to make these choices, women often judge other women who make choices that are different to their own.


All this is going through my mind right now as I reach the end of a chapter in my life. After much deliberation and inner turmoil, I have decided to take up a new position where I will be working full-time. I have been through the pros and cons in my mind many times and have come to realise that the decision is made most difficult because of what it symbolises. I currently work four days a week, and have done so since I returned to work with both my children. Why then is it so hard to imagine working five days? Why has there been an assumption that I would (or should) request to work part-time at a new workplace?

Is it because it means that I am choosing to think of myself first above my children and family? Should I wait a few more years until my youngest is at school to see if another opportunity like this comes up?

I have made the decision to start a new chapter in my life because it is right for me and because I am important. My husband and children are also important, and decisions that impact on their future happiness and success will also be made with the same consideration.

oranges coming out of my ears

The week before last, I made an error in my grocery order. I do the bulk of my grocery shopping online and sometime I misread the specified quantity. This particular time, I accidentally ordered 2kg of oranges instead of 2 oranges!

We ate many, many oranges over the past week or so, but I soon realised we were not going to get through all of them before they started to go bad. I acted swiftly, and was able to find ample delicious cake recipes to use them up.

Hazelnut and orange olive oil cake

I love nutty cakes, and since I had some left-over hazelnut meal, I chose this as my first recipe. The original recipe called for orange flavoured liqueur, but I opted for orange juice instead. This also used up the rest of the orange used for the zest in this cake!

making hazelnut and orange olive oil cake

I decided to make cupcakes instead of a whole cake because I though it would be easier for distribution and sharing at playgroup and the office. Instead of cooking them for 45 minutes, I took them out after 20 minutes.

hazelnut and orange olive oil cupcakes

Orange pistachio cake

I stuck with the recipe for this one – it sounded so delicious with the pistachios, mint and orange flower water! While a little more fuss than I usually like, the boiled and pulped orange gives it such a lovely orangey flavour and is ever so moist. Also a gluten-free one!

making orange pistachio cupcakes

Again I went with cupcakes for these, and I cooked them for 35 minutes on a slightly lower temperature because they seemed to be browning a little too quickly.

pistachio orange cupcakes with orange flower water syrup

With the orange flower water syrup drizzled over them, they look so glossy and delicious – and they are.

Finally, I had a little bit of syrup left after all my cupcakes were soaked, so instead of eating it all off the spoon (which very nearly happened) I poured it into mini cupcake cases and popped them back into the oven for another 20 minutes of so and made some toffee. Yum!

orange flower water toffees made from left over syrup - very sticky but very delicious

baking and being

Today is my birthday. I’m thirty six and just realised just how quickly the last 6 years have gone! Six years ago I celebrated my birthday expecting my first child. I was blissfully unaware of the magnitude of the changes this child would enforce on me. And yet, I cannot imagine my life had these changes not occurred.

It’s been an extremely busy couple of weeks. Still getting into the swing of doing the whole school thing, I now feel a little more relaxed about it all and not so frightened of forgetting to pack lunch or return notes on time. Scarlett has settled in to OOSH a little better, and Xavier has stopped crying when I leave him at preschool, instead adopting an awkward little sad wave goodbye. Lots of cuddles resolve any ill feelings at night.

I have been insanely busy at work lately, which I have come to realise has made me a little on edge at home, but I am trying to be conscious of it and keep things in perspective. Even though at times I feel that I am not achieving anything much, I am lucky enough to have a boss who reassures me that I am, and appreciates my efforts.

After an extremely long week (having attending a music festival and two gigs), I am just grateful to stay home today (in my pyjamas) and do the things that make me happy. Presents in bed, breakfast made by someone else, lounging around and baking. Today I have made good use of some bananas that were going bad…

banana bread with coconut

And have also made some delicious Crunchy Lola Cookies

delightful crunchy Lola cookies

But what I am enjoying right now, is listening two my delightful children playing ‘schools’ downstairs. Scarlett, being so excited about learning new things at school, has decided to start her own letter lessons for toddlers such as her brother. I wonder if she will become a teacher one day?

excited to be writing her own words, each family member was asked what they like doings this evening

starting school

stand up straight Starting school is something I’ve thought plenty about over the past five and a half years. When Scarlett was younger, I wondered if she would be able to start school ‘early’ at four and a half since she was an August baby.

After her first year of preschool, I quickly realised that she was nowhere near ready for school, and didn’t even ask the question.

During her second year of preschool, she flourished. Under the guidance of a firm but caring teacher, she learnt that not everything could be done her way, and also learnt how to be confident and assertive in groups, overcoming her shyness a little.

Once she ‘graduated’ from preschool, I had no qualms about her readiness for school. That was until the week before she was due to start…

I got messages and emails from friends wishing me luck. Every person I saw asked me how I was feeling about it. It made me focus on it much more that I would have otherwise, and it made me anxious and confused.

Unlike some mothers, I never have those moments of longing or regret that the baby days are over. I don’t think back to my children being babies and wish I could go back. I am always excited and relieved to pass new milestones and don’t want to ponder the past too much.

on the way in
All this talk of how I would cope with my first child going to school made me wonder if I would be emotional. Would I be scared and not want to let her go? I did feel nervous on the day we were due to go. Had I remembered to label everything correctly? Had I ensured she had everything she needed? It was really more about if I was going to pass my first day as a school mum.

After we finally arrived for her first day of big school, I walked with her to the classroom, and before I had a chance to think, she had gone in and sat down with the class. I had to call her back so I could say goodbye and give her a kiss. I did not get teary or cry. I did not feel sad or worried for her – I was just relieved and proud.

She is a smart little girl who is confident in herself. She makes up her mind about (most) things for herself and is determined enough to see things through. While she has not gone into kindergarten with many close friends, I know she will make some when it suits her.

Now there is only the matter of my own insecurities… I have many mixed feelings about the incongruence of my desire to further myself in my career, and my want to be a ‘good’ mother and participate in my children’s school life.

scarlett & freyaTalking to other parents at school, I have discovered that (mostly) mums are expected to participate in school activities such as sporting events, helping with group work in class, canteen duty and more. As someone who works four days a week, I am not sure how much of this I will be able to commit to, yet I don’t want my child to feel that her parents are not as involved as others’ parents.

I guess it is something many parents have no choice in, and I am lucky that, for the moment, I have some flexibility to work ‘part time’. I am already starting to worry about two years down the track when my youngest starts school, when my right to work part time will no longer be a given, but a privilege. In the mean time, I guess I will have to learn to navigate each school term, and see where I can fit everything in…

christmas baking

Today I spent the day baking with my mum. For as long as I can remember, my mum has made the most delicious biscuits each christmas. There is her famous almond bread, hazelnut logs, almond crescents and pistachio pears.

As my sisters an I got older, we started to pitch in and began helping out each year. For several years now though, both my sisters have been living in another state, so it’s just mum and I. This year it was I who approached mum to get the day organised.

There is something very special about baking with a mission. Not just baking one cake or a batch of cookies, but to tackle the sum of baked goods we plan each year requires organisation and hard work. For six straight hours we each moved from one task to the next. Grinding, beating, mixing, moulding, baking, dusting, drizzling. Today we barely stopped to eat lunch or have a cup of tea.

The results were worth it.

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Aside from the copious amounts of baked goods I returned home with today, I also left with a great feeling. Mum and I had spent the whole day working, but also chatting and just being together which has been a rare thing this year. We talked about kids, work, health, religion, education, discipline and being women. I’ve suggested we do it more often. We have a lot to talk about.

baking with lemons

I love baking, so whenever the opportunity presents itself I can’t resist. I recently received some home grown lemons from my dad’s tree, and not wanting to waster them, I went in search of something sweet to use them in.

I found a delicious (gluten and dairy free) Lemon Meringue Pie recipe, but lacked the occasion for it. Plus, I knew the kids would not appreciate the effort it required. This morning Xavier showed some interest in helping, so I found this simple Orange Poppyseed Cake recipe and substituted orange with lemon.

We added a delicious simple lemon icing (icing sugar and lemon juice) and voilà. Delicious.

 

spontaneous bush walking

Today in an attempt to avert other priorities, on the way home form an outing we decided to go for an impromptu bush walk. It’s been years since I went to Knapsack Bridge, and after a few hundred metres of walking Scarlett started complaining. Granted, we weren’t dress or stocked for the occasion, but we decided to push on anyway. More complaining ensued as we walked along the paved road that leads to the historic bridge.

After arriving at the bridge, we found ourselves descending the stairs down the side of the bridge.

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The magnificence of this historic structure kept us moving down the stairs marvelling at each new angle. The kids became excited by the rain forest atmosphere as we got closer to the bottom.

Once we had made several attempts to get back up the other side of the stream, we realised we would have to go back the way we came once again. To my surprise, there was barely a complaint from either child. They even ran the last few hundred metres back to the car. Well I guess that may have been due tot he promise of chocolate once there, but…