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.

little bother of a brother

This morning as I was trying to leave the house an argument erupted.

Scarlett was trying to tell me something, and her brother was complaining at me that I hadn’t put his cereal bowl in the right spot. I told Scarlett to wait a minute. At this point she burst into tears and ran down stairs screaming that Xavier always gets to talk first.

After losing my own temper, I put Xavier in his place (screaming) while I went to find Scarlett. When I found her I apologised for what had happened.

As I hugged her she said “I wish Xavier had a zipper in his mouth and only you could open it”.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

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…

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…

mandarin season

I love mandarins – they are one of the best things about winter. A friend of mine has an enormous mandarin tree in her backyard, so she tries to give as many of them as possible away when people visit. That way,  she won’t have to continually clean up rotten ones from the lawn!

I recently gratefully receive my second batch of mandarins but was a little less excited than the first time. The kids wouldn’t eat them. These ‘organic’ mandarins are not uniform in size or colour, and they have seeds! I knew I could not eat 4 bags of mandarins myself before they went bad, so I went in search of recipes.

I love cake, so this whole mandarin and pistachio cake really appealed to me, but 2 large mandarins wasn’t going to cut it. I’d would have to make ten cakes! So I went looking for marmalade. I found this mandarin marmalade recipe on a table for two (which I only just realised was the ex-masterchef guy Billy Law’s blog). The recipe was a little beyond the effort I usually put in, but I liked the idea that I could use only what I already had in the house – no need to go and buy special setting sugar or anything like that.

After many hours of peeling, seeding, chopping and cooking, I finally made my first ever marmalade (or any jam for that matter). I am so please with the result. I’m going to give some to my dad for Father’s Day tomorrow and keep the rest for myself.

I may just have to pay another visit to my friend’s house before mandarin season is over…

school

Today was the first official visit to big school for our first born child. I hadn’t thought much of it until today, only concerning myself with preparing her for what to come. As we walked in the gate to the school I felt a little anxious. For her, for me, for all of us.

As outspoken and crazy as she is at home, our girl is a tad shy in group situations. Never one to assert herself when big personalities are around, she quietly sits back taking everything in and then makes her judgement once she feels comfortable.

When we arrived and found the other preschool kids there were several she knew from preschool. I sighed with relief, but she was anything but relaxed. She was reluctant to interact with her friends preferring instead to stay by out side.

As the year 5 buddies started circling looking for their kindy kids I was sure there would be resistance or maybe even tears. There wasn’t. A lovely boy named Jem (who we had mistaken for a girl from the letter we received in the mail due to his long hair, feminine features and ambiguous name) came to find Scarlett. He was jovial and friendly but as he approached I was nervous. He introduced himself, asked her name and then took her hand. Off they went went without a second thought.

I was so proud and relieved that she went without a fuss. I was so worried about her being too fragile or shy to participate, but she certainly proved me wrong. Seeing her participate in the school parade, seeing her watch and listen intently to the band and choir gave me confidence.

I’m sure she will be fine starting school next year, but will I?

scarlett school