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.

fibbing for fun

This evening after dinner, three and a half year old Xavier came to me to tell me something very important. He told me that our dog Biddy had urinated on the lounge room floor (as she often does being a 16 year old dog with kidney failure). His sister is often praised for raising our attention to this, and I thought how helpful it was of him to do the same.

When I went to inspect his find, I was puzzled as to why the dog would have gone behind a lamp in the corner of the room. I looked at the puddle and realised it looked more like spilled water than urine, so I questioned him about it.

He assured me that he was not fibbing several times, but after further questioning it came out. I was baffled as to why he would go out of his way to tell me a lie to avoid admitting to spilling some water – it was only a small amount after all.

I’ve asked him to tell the truth from now on. We’ll see how that goes…

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

new things

making sentences is so much fun!

The second week of school was just as tiresome as the first, if not more so. We were all a little wiser about the order of things, but the exhaustion by weeks end was much the same.

Aside from this, we had a good week. Scarlett has taken to learning all the things that kindy kids learn like a duck to water, but it has made me think about how little we encouraged these things before she started school. Sight words, sentences and punctuation were not really things we had spent time focusing on with her. The preschool we sent her to (and where her brother now goes) has a teaching philosophy based on self directed play and while there were some basic things, like scissor skills, pen grip and following a simple set of instructions, all this other stuff had not been a focus at all. Starting school, she could write her own name, and recognised most letters of the alphabet, but this last week, I’ve been amazed at how quickly she is learning sights word and forming sentences with them. Needless to say, we are extremely proud of her.

To add to all the changes going on at the moment, I’ve also had a new person start in my team at work. The reason the position was vacant is a whole other story (which I am quite upset and disappointed about), but the fact is there is an unfamiliar person working quite closely with me just seems to make my working life harder. Another thing I know will get easier with time.

Preschool drop off has not improved yet. I’ve tried reasoning (with a three year old!) and tried negotiating deals, but there are still tears each day as I leave my boy. He is going through a very peculiar stage at the moment. He is so in need of my attention and affection, but he also loves to challenge me to see how far he can push me. I must admit, that my fuse is never too long as much as I try to be calm with him. Yet another thing that I really hope gets easier some time soon.

guns

I’ve heard other parents talk about the strange attraction boys seem to have for guns, but it’s only recently that my boy has started mentioning them in conversation. I have a few friends whose children own toy guns, but we spend little time with them and do not have any of our own. When an opportunity presents itself, I talk to my children about why I think guns as a weapon for killing animals or people is wrong, and they listen.

Today while watching the Smurfs movie (of all things) Xavier witnessed a scene where a police officer used a stun gun on Gargamel. Xavier asked what it was and I told him it was a kind of gun used to shock people. He turned to me and said “one day I want a gun to shoot the baddies”. I tried to tell him that shooting bad people wasn’t the right thing to do, but he explained “super heroes kill baddies”. He is right, even if not always with guns, they do.

I wonder if this is something inescapable for parents of boys, unless you completely lock your children away from the world and all forms of media. We don’t watch the news when the children are up, but they pick it up from the little television they watch. Scarlett is exposed to the same content (although she tends to tune out more when any super hero type program is on) and she does not talk about killing baddies. Not at all.

It is a strange thing…

stare

one week down

We have survived the first week of school. I was a little bit cocky in my last post – Scarlett had attended a total of two days of school and I was not working on either of those days – but the week ended up being far more taxing than I had expected.

one week down

Four days a week, I rise at the crack of dawn. On three of those days I have to leave the house an hour before my train is due to manage drop offs at OOSH and preschool. Early evenings are spent washing lunch boxes and preparing dinner, feeding and bathing the children, convincing them to go to bed, then re-packing lunch boxes for the next day. And that is only the logistics.

Scarlett not only needs to find her way at school, she also has OOSH three days a week – another new environment with older children to contend with. As a child whose parents work most days, she also has quite a lot of responsibility for a 5 year old:

  • remember to bring home your hat and jumper each day
  • take this note to your teacher and bring home any other notes in the note folder
  • take this slip with my credit card details on it and don’t drop it on the playground for other kids to find
  • Ditto to all for OOSH

This isn’t so easy when you also have to focus on learning all day. So far, she has left the hat and jumper left at school one day, the hat at OOSH another day, and the note folder at school every day. The payment slip never made it out of the pocket of her backpack.

For me, it has been hard to let go and trust her to take on this responsibility. Not being able to control as much as I could at preschool and having to keep calm about it all.

Xavier and I spent our first day alone together on Monday. We had a great day going to kindergym, a lunch date and to the park before picking Scarlett up from school.

lunch date with my boy

I thought this one on one time would make him feel more secure and make leaving on  preschool days a little easier, but it only seemed to make it worse. He spent half out day together telling me how much he loved me and how much he missed me when I was gone. Consequently, there were tears and heartbreak each day I left him at preschool each day. We are working on it, but it’s hard.

With all the emotional upheaval going on, I didn’t want all the logistics weighing me down even more. So I’ve tackled it the only way I know how – planning. I have been religiously menu planning for some time, but I’ve now added to this the school lunches and snacks.

menu planning

While my mornings are insane, hubby is picking the kids up of an afternoon and bathing them while I prepare dinner, and bedtime is a dual effort. I know it is only early days, but I know we will all get into the swing of things before too long. Heck, we only have another five hundred and thirty two weeks of school to go!*

*for Scarlett that is – add on another eighty two weeks if we’re including Xavier!

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…