The Problem with Preschool

2018 marks a big year for the Morrison family, Avery in particular. You see, in February, Avery will start what we in the Nation’s Capital refer to as “Big School”. What we are actually talking about is Preschool, or for those of you who live in most of the other parts of the country – Kindergarten. It’s the year before you start actual school. Ugh can we just have a nationally standardised school system already please?

Anyway, I digress.

Next year, Avery will be breaking free from the shackles of childcare and making her way into the public school system and she can’t wait. She asked for and received a new backpack from Santa this year, and we just braved the Boxing Day sales with Noonsie (AKA Grandma) for a new pair of school shoes.

It all sounds a little too fantastic, doesn’t it…

Of course. Here it comes…

IMG_5212
Swinging into the new year like…

BUT

2018 is going to be a major pain in the butt for the parent’s of the Morrison household, because Preschool in the ACT is only five days a fortnight. Two days one week, three days the next and repeat.

I’ve been chatting to many a parent over the last couple of months to get a feel for how they are going to navigate this weird and wonderful year in the schooling calendar and for most, it’s easy. Pay for a day a week at childcare and then only use it once a fortnight, or pop the kids over with the grandparents once a fortnight for free babysitting family bonding time.

IMG_5211
The Pre School year is a balancing act for many Canberra families

At this stage, Avery is booked into childcare, but to be perfectly honest, I’d rather burn a $100 note once a week than continue to put her in childcare for another year. I’m ready for her to move on. And as for the grandparent option, well… That’s just not an option for us. We don’t have any other family here to rely on. *Cue the violin please reader* Yes, we chose to move away from our families and set up in Canberra, but there’s still a massive amount of jealousy when I hear people talk about how their parents look after their children. I have tried in vain to convince my Mum to move to Canberra, but alas, she’s staying put interstate for the time being. Probably until the kids are both through Preschool and she knows it’s safe to come here without being hit up for a regular babysitting gig. Smart woman.

So where to from here? Ben and I are toying with the idea of us taking a day off once every four weeks, but realistically I don’t think we can actually afford to do that and we have to save our annual leave for the bloody school holidays (don’t get me started on those.) We could look at a nanny, but again, there’s the whole money factor. I’ve tried to hit up parents who have kids in school the same days as us to see if they want to do a sharing arrangement between the four parents so we would only have to take off a day every eight weeks, but haven’t had much success with that yet either.

IMG_5210
Someone is hanging to start Preschool. It’s not me, give you the hot tip.

So, here we are, with six-ish weeks to figure something out, I’m a little bit stuck. Not quite sure how this is going to work. And to be honest, I’m probably going to let it be Future Amy’s problem, because Present-Day Amy is still a little full and tired from Christmas to be thinking too hard about schooling schedules.

Sorry ’bout that Future Amy x

 

My Day with Anxiety

They say that drowning isn’t actually like you see it in the movies. There is no thrashing, no shouting, no waving hands. Just your head above water one minute and then it slips under, never to resurface… For me, that’s what anxiety is like. It’s silent. Calm on the surface. No major “red flags” for those around me to know everything is not okay. Drowning in plain sight.

BAM! The first wave crashes over me ferociously before I am even aware that I’m standing in the water. I’m on the ground, gasping for air. I get to my knees just as the next wave comes. BAM! Down I go again. Wet, confused and disoriented.

Of course, I’m not really in the water at all. I live in Canberra. There are no oceans here. No waves to knock me off my feet. Well, at least, none that you can see. But here I am. Gasping for air where moments earlier, I was going about my day. I’m actually walking through the local shopping centre on my lunch break as it happens. I don’t know what’s caused it. One minute I’m going through my Christmas shopping list and the next I’m telling myself to “act cool” as I walk through the crowds with a silly smile on my face in an attempt to “look normal”. Whatever that looks like.

The waves keep coming. It feels a little like an asthma attack. Struggling to breathe. Unable to fill my lungs up with air. Each breath harder than the last. Wave after wave after wave. And naturally, because I know this isn’t normal, I focus on it more. “Just breathe Amy” I tell myself as I walk into the book shop.

“You’re going to be okay”…

“It will pass soon”…

I buy some books for the kids and head back to the office.

“Breathe”…

I breathe in as deep as I can, but the air continues to evade me. I sit in meetings and answer emails paying very little attention to anything that doesn’t require my utmost attention. I have more important things to worry about. Like breathing. Who knew it was so difficult? I am focused on getting through this.

Before I know it, an hour has passed. It’s not getting better. I need to retreat, so I make my apologies and leave for the day. I need to be in my nest. My safe place.

Home.

“Distract yourself Amy”, I think to myself. I make lunch, I put on a DVD. I snuggle into myself. But those waves are still there. Every breath is hard. Laboured. Noticed. I can’t escape it. It’s wet and raining outside so I can’t (or maybe I just don’t want to) go for a walk. Plus, all of a sudden it’s four o’clock. It’s time to go get the kids. Time to put my game face on. The kids need your attention and all of it. No more time for thinking about how to breathe and why you’re having trouble with such a simple task.

Time to be a Mum again Amy. If you need to, you can lose your shit later, when the kids are in bed. But for now, get your game face on girl, because it’s go time and you’re needed…

The kids are a mess. They’ve been stuck inside all day and have too much pent-up energy. There are tears, tantrums and everything else imaginable. Two adorable mini tornadoes, ripping the house apart. But you keep your cool. You have to. You have to be strong for them.

“Breathe”…

Thai Red Curry for dinner, cooked by the husband, bless him. He really is a good egg. The girls of course, don’t want to eat any of it. “It’s DISGUSTING!” Bath time is next. Water everywhere, but squeals of delight and lots of laughter.

“It will pass soon”…

Bedtime comes and the girls are asleep. Peace and quiet again. But there I am, still on my knees in the water, floundering in the sand as the next wave approaches. Unable to get on my feet and walk away. Hair stuck to my face and body exhausted from the experience. Wave after wave after wave, just waiting for it to stop.

If you want to read more and find out where and how you can access help, start here, here or here.

You’ve got this Mama and so do I.

Why Wearing my Hair Curly is Brave

I’ve got curly hair. Not tight ringlets, not wavy and effortlessly cool. Just some middle ground kinda curl. Meh.

The kind of curls that for a large majority of my life I have avoided. At 8, Mum cut my hair short because she was sick of having to deal with the bird’s nest on my head. When I was 12, I would tie my hair in a ponytail at the nape of my neck and let it dry that way to try to get it as straight as I could. At 18, I would try furiously to blow dry it straight with very little success. Finally, when I was 21, a wonderful new invention revolutionised my hair routine – The Muster Hair Straightener. Yes, that’s right. There was once a time where GHD’s weren’t a thing and there was a big, clunky, heavy new kid on the block. I loved that bloody thing. For the first time in my life, I could have hair that was straight. I never looked back.

But now, 15 years later, I have two girls with the most beautiful curly hair and I want them to know that their hair is amazing just the way it is, so I’ve made a decision. At 36, it’s time to come to terms with my own hair. It’s time to own it. Embrace the curls.

So I’ve bravely been letting it air-dry over the last couple of weeks and wearing it curly.

“Ha. Good one Amy. Curly hair is really brave of you”

I know. It’s such a little thing. But for me? Not so much.

I’m brave because I’m not going to listen to the voices of all the people who think having an opinion on whether or not they like my hair curly or straight better is welcomed or valid (PS, it’s neither).

I’m brave because I’m dulling the memory of the controlling ex-boyfriend who told me he only liked straight hair on girls and so like a fool, I immediately went out and got my hair chemically straightened because I was so desperate to be loved.

I’m brave because curly hair is everything I’m not. Carefree, unpredictable and wild. walking out of the house in the morning not really knowing what my hair will look like for the day is a big deal for me. I’m trying to be okay with that. For a person who likes being in control of pretty much everything, it’s hard to let go.

I’m brave because changing the way I wear my hair everyday is changing my identity. I’m going through a bit of a style upheaval right now and the curls are a part of that. Who am I now? Changing my hairstyle has made me reflect on a lot more than what’s going on on top of my head.

It’s like I don’t even know who I am anymore…

But, really I do. I know I’m the most confident I’ve ever been in my skin. I am okay with heading to the shops in my trackies, sometimes even in uggboots, because Canberra is one cold sonofabitch and I have no interest in freezing in the name of fashion like I once did. I am happy going makeup free. Sometimes. And so slowly, I am becoming okay with my curly hair. It’s going to take me some time, because for as long as I can remember, I have tried to make it something it’s not. So please, be kind if you see me rocking my curls. I’m just a Mum trying to set a good example for her curly-haired girls.

The Six Stages of Preparing for a Kid’s Party

Here I stand, in a friend’s kitchen, close to 10pm. Four piping bags cluttering the bench, bowls and gel icing everywhere. I’m exhausted because 9:30 is usually my bedtime #doiknowhowtoliveorwhat but yet I persist. This bloody cake is going to be the death of me…

It’s birthday party season. You see, apparently September is the most popular month of the year to be born, mostly because people seem to get, ummmm, busy during the Christmas/New Year festivities. True story. So for all the Mums and Dads out there gearing themselves up for another onslaught of birthday parties, this one’s for you.

fullsizeoutput_2a88
So pink. Much glitter.

SHOCK

“Are you sure? It’s only a month until Avery’s birthday? Really? Seriously, didn’t we just have her third birthday party?”

This is a common conversation I started having with my friends and husband around August. There’s that lovely quote about how the days are long but the years are short… I’m pretty sure that was written by a parent that was in shock that they already had to start thinking about another birthday party. FML.

DENIAL

“She’s only turning four. Do we really have to have a party? Surely she won’t notice…” Usually heard coming out of Benji’s mouth.

“Nope, she’s my baby. She’s never growing up.” Usually heard coming out of my mouth as I scoop up my “baby” and smother her with kisses as she rolls her eyes at me and reminds me that, “I’m not a baby anymore Mum. Actually I’m turning four soon”. Ugh.

fullsizeoutput_2a86
This one is still a baby at least. For now…

ANGER

“This is bullshit! Why do we have to bow down to society’s expectations of what a birthday party should entail? We are setting our children up for a life of keeping up with the Jones’, one iced cupcake at a time. I’m taking a stand. No cake! No lolly bags! I’m going to be the change I want to see in the world of kid’s parties!”

This stage looks a lot like me stropping around the house only to sit in front of my computer to trawl through Pinterest for party inspo… Sigh.

BARGAINING

“Okay. So obviously we have to have a cake. And lolly bags. We’re not monsters. But how about we buy a sponge from Woolies and just ice it? And let’s look into a play centre so we don’t have to turn the house upside down making it party ready. How does that sound?”

This is when it all starts to come together. Plans are made. Negotiations are heard and conditions agreed upon.  Breathe Amy.

fullsizeoutput_2a7e
Because I’m not a monster

DEPRESSION

“Ugggggggh, fuck. Why did I say I was going to make a unicorn cake. Whyyyyyyy? Benji, does this look like a penis? Seriously. I’m going to stick in on the top of our daughter’s cake. I can’t have it look like a cock.”

This is when I start to doubt everything. RSVP’s are due tomorrow and I haven’t had a single reply yet… What if the kids don’t want to come? What if Avery doesn’t like the cake? What if her dress doesn’t fit? What if it rains? Oh calm down Amy – you’re having the party indoors! But seriously, what if the unicorn looks like it’s got a cock on it’s head. It’s 10:30 the night before the party. Wahhhhhhh

ACCEPTANCE

And finally, about five minutes before the party starts, “Let’s just enjoy ourselves. I’m sure it’s all going to be fine.”

And of course it always is. Even when things don’t go quite to plan, the kids always have an amazing time. All the effort, sweat and tears is worth it just to see the smiles on their little faces.

fullsizeoutput_2a77
100% worth it

So if you’re about to enter the six stages of planning a kids party, just remember you’re not alone… and just in case you were wondering, I’m pleased to report my unicorn didn’t receive any cock-like comments #nailedit

The Strength of Vulnerability

Let’s wind back the clock a couple of years. 2011 to be precise. My Husband and I have just sat my Mother down to tell her we’ve decided to end our marriage and we’re getting a divorce, 23 months after saying “I do”. I’ll never forget the look on poor Mum’s face that night. Her jaw nearly hit the floor. She was completely and utterly blindsided. Our friends were the same when we told them. Shock. Disbelief. No idea that this was on the cards.

“You were off my radar Amy. You were the one I didn’t need to worry about anymore.”

Surprise! My life was falling apart and very few people had any idea. Why? Because I was strong! I was resilient! I was… stupid.

I was really good at keeping up appearances and making it seem all was okay, until of course everything was shit. My world was broken and I needed help to fix it, but those around me were too shocked to know how to help and I wasn’t willing to let them even if they wanted to.

Eventually, I healed and my world became “unbroken” over time. I learned to love again and to be loved in ways I never knew I was allowed. But I also learned a valuable lesson in the importance of vulnerability. Allowing people to see inside doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong. It gives you an army of friends and family who are able to be there for you and help you when your chips are down.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, I can imagine you looking at your screen quizzically as you read this.

“I’ve literally seen you cry more on Instagram this week than I did when my dog died last Autumn. Seriously, I think you know how to share your feelings…”

And you know what? You’re right. There have been a lot of “real” moments on my social media these last couple of weeks. My chips are down. My resilience is very very low. Lower than it’s been for a very long time. And I’m a little ashamed of the fact that it’s all due to a couple of back to back colds and me feeling crappy. But that’s the thing with resilience. It’s not always the big stuff that breaks you. Sometimes, it’s not being able to taste food for a month straight because you just can’t get back to 100% and your baby has just been diagnosed with Scarlet Fever and you didn’t even know that was still a thing and you’ve had so much time off of work lately and your new boss is surely going to be annoyed at you because you’ve got that time critical project that you need to write that brief for that you haven’t started yet and your eldest comes into bed with you every night and you just need eight hours of unbroken sleep for once but your husband is away for work again this week anddddddddd take a breath! Ahhhhhhh. You get the picture. Life is messy sometimes.

I made a decision not too long ago that I was going to share the bad times with everyone as well as the good. Call it an experiment of sorts. My way of forcing myself into being more open. Because if I don’t, I might just go back to 2011 Amy, who is great at pretending her life is like a magazine picture.

If this week has taught me anything, it’s that support is everywhere. I’ve had so many amazing people reach out to offer a kind word, flowers, a small gift. It’s filled my heart with all sorts of warm and fuzzies. I’ve also had others reach out to let me know that they have been feeling the same and thought they were alone, but seeing me go through something similar has made them realise they’re not.

IMG_1161
When people know you’re having a rough time, they do really lovely things, like send you ALL THE PRETTY FLOWERS

There are people everywhere wanting to be strong to support you, if you let them. You just have to be brave, and open yourself to the possibility. Vulnerable is the new strong.

Amy x

 

The Rise of the Mombies

It’s Monday morning. I think. It’s as I push the pram in one hand, hold a large latte in the other and encourage Avery to keep up with my snail-like pace as I schlep from Woolies to Coles in search of… something, that I first notice it. I don’t know why I haven’t seen it before…

Mombies. Everywhere.

And it appears I might be their newest recruit.

We live in a messy combination of active wear and sleeveless puffer-vests over jeans. Our hair has its own name, the “Mum Bun” which almost certainly contains traces of our kid’s breakfast. While our faces might contain traces of BB cream, a quick swish of mascara and Go-To’s Pinky-Nudey Lips (because Zoe Foster Blake is our spirit animal) the odds are that we didn’t have time for a shower, so you can forget the idea of makeup. There are bags under our eyes and attached to our prams which probably only contain about 1/3 of the items we actually needed to buy today because in our sleep deprived state we’ve forgotten what we actually needed and those caramel and pretzel cookies looked really tasty as I passed through the bakery section.

You can recognise Mombies by their glazed eyes and the way their bodies slump over their prams. Tired, worn out and stuck in the continuous loop of the thanklessness that is raising small children. Don’t ask her what day it is. She’ll probably only know if it’s a weekday or the weekend. But I tell you what – she will know every goddamn word from the theme song of ‘Ready Steady Wiggle”, complete with hand actions and she’ll proudly admit that she kinda likes it too. It’s catchy you know.

IMG_1114
How to spot a Mombie in six simple steps
If you don’t see them coming, then you’ll certainly hear them. Just listen for the sighing and accompanying cries of, “Stop touching that.” “Hurry up please!” and my personal favourite, “Why can’t you just listen to me for once?”

I remember when I used to care what I looked like, wearing things like high heels and shift dresses to work everyday. I would go to the same mall as I did this morning, usually at lunch time to buy myself something pretty because I had all the disposable income in the world and #imworthit. I would look these fascinating creatures up and down and tut-tut them. “Ugh, Mums let themselves go sahhhhh bad.” I would think. “I’m never going to be like that”. I’m not going to be a regular Mum. I’ll be a cool Mum…

*insert eye roll here*

Ironically, I now see the childless masses look at me in their current season clothes, unreasonably high shoes and hair that glistens in the fluorescent light of the shops with the same look that I used to give those Mombies. I’m being judged. As we pass, I give them a knowing look. “I used to be you” I whisper under my breath. Karma is coming my pretty little friends.

When you’re a Mombie, it feels like it’s never going to end. This is your life now. Mum buns, eye bags and buckets of coffee fo’ life. I’m in the tunnel and I can’t even see the bloody light at the other end. I’m not even sure I’m heading in the right direction to be honest with you.

IMG_1112
Seriously. Caramel and Pretzel people.
But then there’s a second group of people I see looking at me. Mums with older children. When they spot me, I see a different look come over them. Is it nostalgia? Not quite. Maybe there’s a twinge of that. But there’s more to it than that. It’s recognition. Recognition that they’ve been where I am now. They understand that the fact I’ve made it out of the house with everyone fully dressed is an achievement. “Go Mama! You’ve got this!” I half expect to see a Hunger Games three finger salute to be offered as we pass each other with a coy smile.

It takes me a moment before I realise why I’m smiling back at them. They offer what no one else can. A glimmer of hope. They’ve been in the never-ending tunnel and somehow managed to make it to the other side. Sure, the shift dress and high heels might have made way for a waterfall cardigan and a kick arse pair of orthopaedic loafers, but they are dressed. They have a hair style. They probably slept past 6am! They have made it!

And Mama, so will we x

 

 

#nomoremumguilt

You know I have only been to the hairdressers once in the last year? And that was only for a cut, because I felt bad about staying longer and getting a colour done.

I go and get a massage probably around once a month, but only after the kids are fed and tucked in bed.

I love having baths, but since the birth of my youngest daughter, the only one I have had was with her in there with me.

Some of you might look at these statements and think, “What a devoted Mum”. Others may say, “Geez, sounds like this one needs to learn to relax!” If you ask me, I’m going to tell you, “This Mum is in desperate need of some alone time”. In the words of the wise Lily Rabbit, “I know that for a fact”, because this Mum, is me.

I can be a mystery wrapped in a riddle sometimes. Desperate for “me time” but as soon as I get it, the guilt creeps in. I know I am not alone because when I posted on Instagram a couple of weeks ago mentioning how I feel, the comments I received were overwhelmingly in agreeance. There are a sea of Mums out there who need to be alone sometimes but feel terrible about it.

Stories are everywhere of Mums who have a problem leaving their children to spend some time on themselves. Why do we feel bad going to the hairdresser, going out for dinner with friends, or gasp! Spending the night away from the children? We all know how important me time is. How you “can’t pour from an empty cup” blah blah blah… We need time to rest and recuperate in order to best look after everyone else.

So why is this such a problem? Why do I feel guilty every time I spend time on me? I know the girls are going to be fine without me. I know my Husband is going to be fine with the girls – he is more than their babysitter! Maybe this is about me. Will I be fine without them?

Before I had children I was so confident that having them wasn’t going to change who I was as a person and I would always be more than “just a mother”. Yes, yes. Please stop laughing. I know. I KNOW! I have changed so much in the last couple of years I barely know who I am anymore.

So I think that’s it. I’m still coming to terms with this new version of myself. She’s softer (both metaphorically and literally), wears sneakers pretty much everywhere, and cries when she watches sappy commercials. She is used to being covered in baby spew and having unwashed hair with way too many greys poking through, but isn’t used to spending time on her like she once did. Her calendar is full of play-dates and children’s appointments with no time left to spend alone on things just for her.

But just like the old version of me managed to adjust to mum-life, the new version of me will adjust again, to allow herself to be focused on every now and then.

So to the guilty Mum reading this, I am setting us both a challenge:

  1. Make plans today to do something for you (I’m going to ask a friend to come and see a movie)
  2. Set yourself an achievable goal (I am going to have a bath once a week for a month)
  3. If you’re on Instagram, post about something you’ve done for yourself using the tag #nomoremumguilt – let’s spread the word that spending time on you is good for you and your family!

Now, excuse me while I go and check the movie listings for this week.

Amy x