How I Saved My Sanity in January

School goes back next week.

Although, I’m no longer a teacher so I don’t live by the term, die by the term. And, my little rascal is still a few years off school (and his daycare largely stayed open in January - thank goodness!).

So why does it matter to me at all?

I don’t know about you, but it always feels like there’s a different energy around the place in January. Even for those of us continuing to go to work, we’re conscious of so many other people either away on holidays (sigh) or navigating the work/kids on school holidays juggle. But more than that, I’m a little bit of a (whispered) control freak. Honestly, I can’t remember what came first. The teaching term or routine addict. The chicken or the egg. But that’s how I roll.

And January is a month where routines tend to slip a little. There are occasional later bedtimes, both for adults and little ones, pushed back or skipped naps, or unusually busy days. While that allowed our family more social flexibility, we certainly paid the price some days. Okay, okay so we also have an almost-two-year-old on our hands, which probably accounts for plenty. At any rate, it’s become abundantly clear that both he and I are natural sticklers for routine (much to the chagrin of my spontaneous husband - we’re still working on finding that middle ground).

So, how did I find some structure amongst the free-fall of January to keep my inner (sometimes outer) control freak happy? And, to feel like I was having a bit of a holiday in my own city some days?

We chose activities for the whole family. By that I mean, we selected either kid activities that we were happy to do, like visit the new Ground Up exhibition at Scienceworks. Or adult activities where toddlers would be welcome, like hanging at the super-relaxed bar and eatery Tallboy and Moose in Thornbury.

We used babysitters. With parent babysitters temporarily out of action, we were happy to pay our fabulous local babysitters for the privilege of dining out for our wedding anniversary and to just have some adult time.

We took naps or had down time. Some weekends were really full, so we made sure to take the opportunity if ever the toddler slept to sleep too, or simply rest in front of the cricket. To reset, and to find some more energy for when he woke.

We socialised with other families. This gave the little ones some instant friends to play with, and made ‘another trip to the park’ loads more enjoyable.

We tried new experiences. We went for pho and pizza, mastered the art of the babycino, explored Scienceworks, found a new water play park. We mixed it up.

In a funny way, I think I need January to reset myself, to reinvigorate and re-energise, to exercise my spontaneous muscle and to just free-fall. Knowing full well that, by February, everything will be back in its place, just as it should be.

Happy end of January everyone (and to my fellow control freaks, we’re nearly there!).

P.S. If there was anything on your Jan to-do list that you didn’t get to and I can possibly help - just sing out! Copywriting, editing, proofreading, hit me up! Piles of washing, cooking, bill paying, I will politely decline.

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Things I said I’d never do (and then did them) as a new mama

I had an incredibly clear picture of the kind of mother I was going to be, sorted out well and truly before becoming pregnant with my son at age 34.

I was going to be all relaxed and earth-mother, wearing and taking our baby everywhere. Our baby was just going to seamlessly slot into our lives. I would wear floaty maxi dresses, and breastfeed comfortably anywhere. I would see friends and family regularly - yes, the types of catch ups would change (I wasn’t a total fool) -  but I would stay connected with everyone. At some point I would return to work, in an effort to achieve balance between time with my angelic yet-to-be-conceived child, and feeling like myself again.

Say, WHAAAAT?!

I mean, I don’t even own a maxi dress.

I had been so fixated on this idealistic vision of parenthood, that I hadn’t actually done any reading about what happens when a baby arrives. I read loads about pregnancy, sure. But from birth onwards, I really was as clueless as they come, preferring to think that my mothering instincts would just ‘kick in’ #denial.  

Instead, I became a different kind of mother. The kind who puts a note on the front door, asking visitors to knock quietly as the baby is sleeping. Who becomes obsessed with cot sleeps, cancelling plans and scheduling days around getting home, because naps in the pram are fleeting and a melting down child = hell. Breastfeeding was pretty much a disaster from the get-go, with supply issues and a lazy latcher, but I persisted obsessively for several months, with round-the-clock expressing and rapidly rising stress levels. I tried desperately to exercise control and routine, with a tiny baby who had other ideas.

Eventually I sought the help I needed, and the tide slowly began to turn.

Other things began to happen that I hadn’t expected either. I spent entire afternoons on the couch, in the quiet and the stillness as my son slept, snuggled deep into my shoulder. I began to repeat the mantra, Be in the moment, to try to be mindful, realising that this time would end. Before long, he was sleeping in his own room, and I was packing away clothes that were already too small with tears streaming down my face.

Time passed.

He grew bigger. We laughed a lot. I discovered formula. He slept. We danced to House of Pain - Jump Around. I read a book. A whole book! He projectile vomited avocado straight onto the freshly cleaned floors. Wore his first pair of Converse. Rolled, then crawled, then stood.

And then one day, as the three of us stood in front of the mirror pulling funny faces, a big smile of recognition slowly appeared on my son’s face. He knew us. He loved us. I realised then, that whatever we were doing was working. There was no right way, or best way. But there was our way.

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A Day in the Life of a Copywriter/Mama

Sharing a day of my life with you is a little tricky. Some days, I put on my educator hat and spend the day wrangling secondary school students (read: inspiring the young minds of tomorrow) while my mini is socialising at the local childcare. Other days are more of a juggle as I put on both my freelance copywriter and mum hats and try my hardest to fulfil both roles authentically. It may go a little something like this:

6.30-7ish

Hear the mini chatting to himself in his bedroom next door. Try and grab a few extra bedtime minutes by bringing him in for his bottle and his collection of toys.

7.30

Downstairs for playtime where all the carefully categorised and tidied toys are strewn around the living room in 0.46 seconds. All. Of. Them.

7.45

Saucepan cupboard exploration.

7.50

Tupperware drawer exploration. The house now looks like 25 children live here.

8.00

Brekky then we hit the pavement in the pram for coffee and an activity (swimming, the library, a playdate, Grandma and Grandpa time). While walking I might pop my headphones in and do a quick 10 minute meditation. While at coffee, I’ll jump on Trello and make a plan for the day - 3 items to action while bub naps later in the day.

11.30

Home in time for lunch, which may be eagerly devoured or dropped on to the floor, depending on the day.

12noon

Nap time. Not for me, although some days I’d dearly love to. However, this is biz time so I need to hop to it. I light a candle, pop on some music and fire up my laptop. I like to use the Pomodoro Technique, working in 25-minute blocks, as I find it really promotes productivity. During the 5-minute breaks, I’ll fix a quick snack or throw on a load of washing.

2.30ish

The mini wakes up and it’s time for his afternoon bottle then playtime. We will read a stack of books too, several times over if requested. I love that my little one is so keen for story time.

3.30

Afternoon tea then we’ll pop to the park if it’s a nice day.

4.00

An afternoon walk, perhaps with a girlfriend and her bub, followed by a pop in to the supermarket for a few dinner essentials.

5.30

Dinner, again a battleground depending on the day. This toddler is certainly revealing his strong will at times!

6.10

My husband walks through the door - happy days! Playtime with Daddy and then bath time for bub. I start on dinner prep and let the boys have some time together.

7.00

Bub to bed and we cook then sit down to dinner. Some nights I’ll head out to an exercise session, others we will pop on an episode of a series we’re watching and have a glass of red. I might send a few cheeky emails or pop up an Instagram post during the show. I try not to multi-task but sometimes it can’t be helped.

10.00

I’m an early-to-bed person these days so I try to be in bed by 10. I will read a few pages of a book - currently 57 Ways to Change Your Mind before I fall asleep and drop the book on my husband’s face. Unfortunately I’m wildly predictable that way.

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