Sunday, 3 March 2013

How my Feb Flash quest ended in a blog...

What do you mean you won't have a drink??? 

'I'm not drinking at the moment, I've decided to have a cleansing month of eating well and not indulging in alcohol THAT's what I mean' 

I'm almost compelled to apologise to my mates. Forgive me, I am not drinking this month. 

I must say I'm gobsmacked by the response to my personal quest to get Flash in Feb. It seems I have committed a social sin. Not many have applauded, most think I'd gone mad. It was the month my monsters started a new school after all, the youngest off to the big wide scary world of kindy, the month I really could have appreciated a glass or three to help calm my nerves. But I didn't want to do that. I wanted to be entirely focussed on my kids. I didn't want to waste an afternoon. I wanted to engage more. I wanted to listen more. I wanted to play more. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to be kind to my body. I wanted to look after me. 

Yet the number of invites for 'drinks' I've turned down, the number of lunches that involve a 'drink' I've turned down is really interesting. 'How about we get together next month' they say. Now I'm suddenly swamped with invites for the next couple of months when I've come around to my 'senses'. 

What is it that makes people nervous when someone around them is on the water? Admittedly, I have before looked at a non drinker and thought 'I wish they'd relax and have a drink' now I feel ashamed to say I have judged or questioned people prematurely. Why do we do it? Do we as a society fear being judged ourselves? It's not as though I am going to count how many you have nor think less of you if you drink while I am not. Do we feel we can't relax if others aren't seemingly relaxing with a drink? Why do we eye non drinkers suspiciously? More importantly, why do we think alcohol is the green light to zen? 

As I relished every good night's sleep, my increased energy and admired my clearer skin and baggier clothes, it prompted me to ask why some drink. The responses? Ones I'm quietly confident we have either said or heard before. 'It helps me relax' to 'it gives me confidence to talk to people socially' to 'I was bored' to this ripper 'it makes me forget everything else' 

Each to their own. Look, I'm not here to judge. I don't care if you have one, three, a bottle or none at all. I do care if you have a problem and need help. I do care if you won't meet me until I am nursing a glass. I only know I will no longer be so quick to judge the non drinker. Personally I am feeling fantastic. I won't bow to pressure and I won't be succumbed in to a drink just because. I will enjoy a glass when I am surrounded by good company and it will be in my own time. 

But you know what? I'm fun with or without a glass of sparkles in my hand. I can still laugh at your anecdotes, I'll tell one thousand of my own and the best part? I'll wake up in the morning after a great sleep and I'll remember every word you said. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Please Don't Judge Me

Mornings for any parent I imagine all start off in the same relative fashion. You wake from sleep deprived slumber to the sheer joy of hearing your little sparrows, and I mean the ones inside the windows, chirping to themselves in their rooms. You stretch luxuriously in bed before your half closed eye peers at the clock. Joy turns to action and you spring out of bed.

As a working mum this is the time the Sergeant Major is unleashed and within half an hour you’re showered, partly dressed, prepared snacks and lunches, dressed little people, fed breakfast in to tiny tummies, patted the dog, fed the cat, popped on a load of washing, answered emails, lived a week. Or so it seems.

You’re out the door carrying 5 bags still adjusting your bra tags, let alone your hair, preparing to conquer the traffic.

A word of warning for those uninitiated. Do not mess with a working mum on any given day between the hours of 7am and 9am. They are on a mission with no time to spare and they will take prisoners if need be.

Yes, I work. But please don’t judge me.

I have known of this ‘distinction’ that occurs in the school playground in pick ups and drops offs. I don’t mean between children, I mean with parents, with mothers particularly.

It’s not spoken of. But it exists.

You can spot the working mum. She’s the maniac who whips through the school yard like a mini cyclone. She’s the one waving to other mums, with no time to chat. She’s the one focussed on ensuring her little ones are safely deposited at their classroom door with their teacher so she can leave for work with a feeling of peace and not guilt. She’s the one who drives off craning her neck to catch a last glimpse of their monster playing in the schoolground. And yes, she’s also the one who doesn’t watch every morning assembly and the one who only volunteers once a month for canteen duty and not every week and yes, she’s the one who doesn’t go on the school excursions as the extra helper.

Yes, I work. But please don’t judge me.

This morning there were a group of stay at home mums watching the cyclone from the cosiness of their playground positions where they were comfortably attired in their tracksuits and gym gear with hours to sit and chat. I couldn’t help but notice they were watching me this morning and it wasn’t friendliness in their eyes. There was…hang on,.,.judgement. Did I just write that? Yes, judgement from one woman to another. Why do woman have to be competitive? We are all in this game together, no-one’s ‘better’ at parenting than someone else when everyone is simply trying their best. No-one’s a ‘better’ mum because they breastfed, no-one’s a ‘better’ mum because they home school, no-one’s a ‘better’ mum because…… get my point.

I drove to work wondering what sort of mother am  I? Mr 8 once told me he’d be happy to see me back on tv but would prefer me to work in the canteen for ‘the free food’ Bless him. I’d like to think the monsters see me a busy woman, sure, but as one who still manages to hold a good job with responsibility and more importantly greets them with unadulterated love each afternoon I see them.

A girlfriend told me of a book called ‘How not to f*** them up’ where it talks of three different types of mums. There’s the hugger, the organiser and the flexi mum. While I’m yet to read it, apparently it raises questions -  do we as a society offer enough support of one another? How does one achieve the perfect work/life balance?

I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to nail it.

If you’ve nailed it, then I applaud you, no matter if you’re the one at home or the one at work. But how about this? Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Glamper Turns Camper

The Glamper Turns Camper.

Definition of the word? “Camping is an outdoor recreational activity. The participants (known as campers) leave urban areas, their home region, or civilisation and enjoy nature while spending one or several nights outdoors, usually at a campsite

Let it be known I have no issue with camping holidays – my job has certainly exposed me to some wonderful spots - it’s usually others, however, who go. Good for them I say. It’s just never been on my must-do list. Nature? Great, but no need to sleep with it. Camping? A 3.5 star hotel is camping to me.

So imagine my surprise when the bloke comes home and announces ‘”we’re going to have a true blue Australian holiday” What the hell does that mean I asked?  “We’re going camping darl, it’ll be great for the kids”.  Well it had better be bloody good for someone.

“We haven’t got a tent” I start to protest. “Don’t you worry about that I’ll sort that out” he says. 4 hours later he returns with no ordinary tent – but the Taj Bloody Mahal in the form of  a 4 bedroom portable house with sunroom. “How long is this going to take to set up?” “About half a day and I’ll need to weather it too” Weather it? Where? It’s bigger than our backyard!!!! A phone call later, mum’s got a tent at her place for 5 days.  Where is it going to fit? I ask. “We’re getting roof racks darl” Of course we are. The costs involved in buying a tent and all the accessories that go with it including site fees (We have to pay for this I ask? They should be paying us!)  is up there in the thousands.  “It’s an investment” he says.

I found myself thinking: I could be in Mauritius for almost the same price sipping a pina colada by a resort pool.

I figure there’s no getting out of this. I tell friends of our plans – they mock me  – you’ll be lucky to survive the night they say, before hitting me with stories of possums and toilets requiring thongs. The common denominator however was an interesting one. I was bemused that so many associate camping with alcohol. And copious amounts apparently. Why do I need that I ask? More laughter. 

So I pack my Longchamp bag, Dinosaur Designs necklaces to wear with strapless tops, my GHD for the perfect ponytail, a Tiffany & Co cuff,  Prada perfume, my Tom Ford’s.  I packed the colour co-ordinated crockery. I even ironed the bloke’s RL shorts to have him swiftly swap them for a pair of Canterbury’s.

It’s not that I’m a glamour puss. It’s not. I’m blessed with good skin, so I don’t wear make-up every day and when I do it’s minimal, and while I am partial to a good label, I can still rock a Target singlet like the best of ‘em. But somehow the idea of leaving my home and life’s conveniences puts me in a spin. Where does one wash? Does one lock a tent? What we will do up there? What will the kids do without their Wii or their DS? Will I have power, I still have to work. Don’t tell me – shock horror – we might have to talk to each other?

So the Harris Griswalds hit the road with the load to the cries of ‘are we there yet’ enough to drive a sane person otherwise.  Driving the freeway at the whopping speed of 80kms, the load is checked 10 times. We arrive at the holiday park with all the amenities. The bloke had done well. I eye off the toilet blocks – clean. Phew. The close proximity of the tents, however, somewhat alarming for a non-camper.

I could have been in Mauritius.

Hours later the Taj Mahal is right to go. The bloke is as proud as punch when our new neighbours declare our tent the pick of the bunch.  I’m under no illusions,
I know very well this isn’t ‘real’ Bear Grylls camping – but I consider it relative.  The first night was spent watching people patting possums, listening to the 10,000 birds screech through the night and watching the tent groove to the wind.  Tuning in to the noise of someone’s tv they’ve stupidly packed . The kids woke at 5am and seemed to harbour immeasurable energy for  activities. There were still meals to prepare and washing to do, this ain’t no holiday I thought. You hear the neighbours discussing what they’re having for dinner and you time your showers around quiet lulls.  

I could have been in Mauritius.

Relax the bloke says. Just relax.  Relax? As a busy working mum I don’t often ‘relax’ and someone telling me to relax often has the opposite effect.  I can’t help but notice however, even he has turned off his phone and is the happiest I’ve seen him in ages. He’s even taken to fishing. Despite the fact we don’t fish.
“It’s an investment” he says.  We spend hours trying to catch something, clearly patience is a virtue I don’t possess. Seaweed is a specialty somewhere in the world right?

I could have been in Mauritius.

But then a remarkable thing happened. Whether it was the walks along the beach collecting seashells with my monsters, the amazing sunsets, quality face time with my bloke, the camaraderie amongst ‘happy campers’ I began to enjoy myself and dare I say it – relax. Even though I spent time on my laptop working, I began to unwind.  It was the fact there was no pressure. Nowhere to go, nowhere to be, except in the moment. I lived. I loved. I realised it didn’t matter if the kids didn’t have their baths on time, it didn’t matter if my sundress wasn’t ironed, what mattered was the simple joy of being together on holiday where we made our own fun. No resort could have given me this.

I began to draw comfort from hearing the flip flopping of passers-by wearing thongs on gravel, the distinct aroma of bacon cooking in the mornings and the gentle respect for others in a public space.  Our neighbours helped us co-parent, their kids spending as much time in our tent as their own. ‘Choppy’ from across the road (yes he resembles the Reed fellow) bellowed hellos each morning and happily dished out fishing and camping tips.  Other neighbours let me hold their baby. I adored the breeze through the tent windows and the chance to snooze in the sun. I relished finding out that my 7 year old’s favourite colour had changed without me knowing. Life gets so busy, has us working so hard to cram it all in – and while I hate clich├ęs, “taking the time to smell the roses” has never been truer.

You know what else? The kids didn’t ask for the wretched Wii once, my sans makeup week didn’t phase me at all, my Dinosaur necklaces didn’t get a show, my GHD completely unnecessary.  

The latest accessory I’m sporting?  Tan marks on my feet from wearing my thongs for a week.

Saturday, 12 November 2011


I buried a baby on this day, two years ago.

A beautiful tiny baby boy we named Joel. 

Finding myself pregnant for the third time was indeed a blessing and a surprise. The kids were beside themselves, I made plans with my employer  that  would work around a new baby, clothes were being washed in preparation,  everything was going smoothly.

I could not have anticipated what happened next. Just when I thought I was ‘safe’ I miscarried six and a half months into the pregnancy.  The picture that had appeared in every scan to date had been of a vibrant little baby who had given me the thumbs up after seemingly dancing at a rave party within my tummy.  Now the graphic on the screen told a very different tale, showing me a lifeless little soul lying perfectly still.

My mind screamed ‘No no no no no’  as I stared at the screen, the image now etched in my brain. My world stopped.  The news that shattered me was also about to shatter all those around me. Just like that.

Despite assurances from my fantastic obstetrician Rod Kirsop that it wasn’t my fault, that I had done nothing wrong, that these things happen, a woman will always carry some form of guilt with them.  There’s guilt if you eat fetta cheese in pregnancy ‘just’ in case it’s a soft cheese, guilt if you have a coffee too many.  Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. I thought I had let the team down.

I was put in hospital and induced overnight. The irony that I had to deliver the poor little baby, that the induction took all night like a ‘normal’ birth, wasn’t lost on me. For here was a life, albeit a very short one in utero that was not to be forgotten. The nursing team at the Sydney Adventist Hospital  told me that as common as miscarriage and stillbirth is, many many couples opt for the seemingly ‘easier’ option at the time of a delivery like ours - which is to request not to see the baby, not to bury or cremate the baby but to let the hospital staff deal with it accordingly. However by dealing with this devastating loss this way has also seen a return of these same couples 6, 9, 12 months down the track who want to see their baby. They want……(I won’t say ‘closure’ - my days as a news journo taught me to avoid that term) a momento, a reminder, a keepsake, something…anything.  But of course, it’s too late. With all babies born after a certain gestation hospitals produce photos with hand and foot prints as a reminder to help couples deal with their loss. They also have terrific support programs in place where a psychologist is brought in to help you through this time. We opted for the harder choice which was to deal with it properly. By properly I mean we met and touched our tiny tiny little boy, my obstetrician helped dress him, we named him, we had a blessing for him and we spent time with him.  

The burial was a small, quiet affair. Who has words at a time like that? Witnessing the placing of a tiny box in a gravesite for tiny babies who would have if they could have, seemed so unjust.

My point is that in Joel’s resting place, there are hundreds of plaques that read just like his. Hundreds, thousands of couples out there have experienced this loss, this sad, seemingly lonely road. Everyone deals with the pain of bereavement differently and I had to remember that as it placed a strain on my relationship with my husband. Partners suffer in their own way too. When well known personalities like Kristina Keneally  talk of their own experiences I applaud them.  We are all in this life together, we should all lend each other the occasional hand and speaking up can help someone. I'm a private person but it's these real stories that resonate. We need to hear more of them so people don't feel like they're alone. That's why I'm sharing this with you.
It’s raw. It’s real. It happens.