One Night in Heaven....:)

Kids rolling over my head and tummy at 5.30 in the morning, yelling get up Mum, get up and play with me.  Kids not going to sleep when I want them to, leaving me with only enough time to clean up the house before going to bed myself.  A week of my husband working late at night meant no time out for me.   So I booked myself into the Hilton for a night and was lucky enough to take another Mum with me.

Ironically, I was sad to leave my family.  My husband had to push me, and the small blue back pack I carried, out the door. I took the train to the hotel and in the ultra modern room with twin beds I lay back against two soft pillows and listened to the hum of the air-conditioner’s white noise.  The only noise I could hear.  The silence enveloped me like a hug.   My friend arrived and my sadness disappeared. 

We dined at Wagamama’s and talked unhurriedly and without interruption.  I flipped through books in Kinokiniya like a kid in a candy store.  We shared, with complete relish, a desert of toffee soufflĂ©, brownie icecream and Spanish churizos.  I had a sense as I went to sleep that night, that home was a good, secure place, a place where my family was, a place where I could be myself and feel completely and utterly loved.  It was good to come away and give myself that perspective.

The real feeling of rest did not come until the next morning.  I woke without being pounced on.  A novelty I could get used to.  I did ten laps and lazed around in the spa. I could get used to that too.  Later, after I read the newspaper (without it being flicked or ripped away from me) over a truly five star buffet breakfast, I felt bliss begin to creep into my body.   But it was after we meditated that I sighed and relaxed.  I wished I had started my stay with meditation for it filled my bones with rest.  Ahhhhh.  To feel rested.  I wished I had another night but it was enough for now to know that a spell away was exactly what I’d needed. 

Rejuvenation is a priority

The words Time Management used to send a chill up my spine.  Too corporate.  Too much about lists, about carving up chunks of time into smaller and smaller pieces.  Serendipitously, this last week I’ve been blessed to read Balanced Living for Busy Baha’is by Catherine Brooker and listen to a webinaire on Time Management for Mother Writers, hosted by SheWrites and presented by Rebecca Rodskog.

What struck me most powerfully was that ‘to do’ lists need to come from ‘to be’ lists.  First I needed to know what was most important for me in my life, what were my priorities.  When it came to mothering, I realised I wanted to be relaxed, stress-free, creative and fun.  I observed that when I put too much into my day, when I was trying to do too much I became stressed and far more likely to get angry with the children. 

Instead of Time Management being about getting more done in my day, it became about what will help me to be as relaxed and creative as possible.  On a practical level it meant packing bags, lunches etc, the night before, not doing laundry in the morning, so that my morning had as few things to do as possible.  It meant being realistic about how long things take to do with children.  It’s a ten minute walk to the preschool – for me.  This included pestering and prodding my daughter to walk faster and stop dawdling, with me getting more and more irritated that we’d be late.  When I realised it was a twenty minute walk for her, allowing for her pace, for walking on fences and picking up leaves, then we all arrived at school feeling relaxed. 

Rejuvenation is also key to keeping relaxed.  Many of us are putting 80%, if not more of our time into our family.  That level of care is not sustainable unless we also make rejuvenation a priority for ourselves.  I suggest a zestful activity twice a week but if this is not going to be possible, once will suffice.

Most importantly, once you’ve planned a time for yourself, let your partner and kids know when it will occur and get their support.  That time is carved out for you.  Commit to it and see how it makes this work that is mothering, not just sustainable but a place of ideas, of meditative moments, of whimsy and a conversation with the world at large.       J  (next week I blog about a banghra dance party)

Swim through witching hour (literally) – a good one for daylight savings

Here’s our latest “thing” and I would totally recommend you try it out as your challenge…

About twice a week, we (my husband, my two kids and I) all go to the pool at the end of the day (usually straight from day-care/work).

We take turns doing laps (which are therapeutic in and of themselves) while the other watches over the kids. Then we give them their shower right there (most pools have special family changing rooms, with plenty of space and nice warm water), have dinner (either at the swimming pool or at a shopping centre next door), put their pyjamas on, brush their teeth and head back home.

Half way through the drive the kids are already fast asleep. When we get home, we just have to put then in bed, and enjoy the rest of the evening – no dishes to wash, no toys to pack away, no cajoling into the shower, no bedtime stories… *heaven* J

It does take a little bit of organising (packing pool bag, pjs, toothbrushes, etc), but I just keep the two bags always ready: one with pool stuff and one with pjs and toothbrushes, and just make sure I organise them again straight away every time we come home. Totally worth it! J           

First Time to Hire A BabySitter

I knew one thing.  I needed time to out with my husband alone more than once a year when his parents came from England or my parents came from Queensland. 

I had a recommendation from a friend for a babysitter and I booked her in.  When she arrived, I knew the grandmotherly figure was perfect.  The kids were in safe hands. 

We left our sleeping children, walking ten minutes up hill to Dulwich Hill, holding hands under the starry sky to an Egyptian Restaurant.  The food was delicious and despite feeling tired from night weaning, I was out, alone, with my husband.

We followed one simple rule - Five (5) minutes of talk about the kids and after that they were a no go zone.  It did stretch me for the first few minutes and my mind did wander back to the kids every so often, but it was good practice to focus on other topics.

Back at home, our toddler had woken but the Babysitter had dealt expertly with her, lying in our bed with her, then offering some milk, then finally lying with her again before leaving her to go quickly back to sleep. 

I was amazed and in awe that now I could reliably have a night out every two months while someone warmly and gently took care of my children.                                                                                       J

Reading....for Pleasure (shock, horror, gasp)

I’d forgotten how nice it is to read a good novel. To be able to just “disappear” into this whole other world… 

For a good few years, all I read was either work related or parenting related. I thought I didn’t have time to read, but now I make the time! 

Even if it’s just for ten minutes, it takes me away to another universe AND it stops my brain from thinking /worrying about a hundred other things.

Because I am obviously a bit of a rule nazi, I have made two simple rules for myself in this regard:

a) easy reads only; and light hearted stories - nothing full on emotional or depressing (I have the same rule for movies at this point too).   Call me superficial, but it’s meant to be a time out…

b) no reading with the kids or other interruptions around – I like to know that if I’m going to pick up the book, even if it IS just for 10 minutes, I’m going to be allowed to “travel” with it without interruptions.

I never take it to the park with the kids for example. If I’m at the park with the kids, I’m with the kids. Even if they’re happy playing on their own, the risk of being interrupted mid-sentence is too high… this way they’re happy (about the attention) and so am I…                                                                         M

Orange Peel....

We were having one of those moments.

The Spring sky was piercing blue.  Kids zipped down blue slides or jumped from big green frog to big green frog.  “I can go higher than you,” children chanted at each other on the swings.   My daughter was playing with one of her favourite friends.  There was plenty to be grateful for.
“How are you?” Marjan asked.

“I’m ready to leave the kids with my husband and move to South America for a year.  I’ve had enough.  I’m over Motherhood.  I’m exhausted.  Five years of interrupted and low amounts of sleep, the kind they torture prisoners with, certainly contributes to it.  But it’s less the physical exhaustion than the emotional well used for “giving out to my children”.  It’s empty.  My soul is exhausted,” I told her.

“O my God, I’m so glad you said that,” M said. “So am I.”

Being able to share our burn out with another was therapeutic in itself.  We don’t hear others say it often enough, in fact we’d been under the illusion that we were the only ones!  But if we were experiencing it, so were a lot of others.  

We asked ourselves, “What would help alleviate the exhausted soul?  What would rejuvenate the soul, give it back its zest?  What would fill up the emotional well so we weren’t drawing on empty?

When you're giving out to others, there's got to be something to give from.  That well needs constant attention and topping up.  Otherwise, eventually, there will come a time when the well says, "Nope, got no water.  Not a bucket, not a cup, not a thimble.  Just some dry dust down here."

So we left the questions hanging that afternoon.  

We thought Orange Peel would be a way to start answering those questions, to reach out to others and share ideas and experiences about emotional rejuvenation.  

We’ve started “The List  ” and we’d love you to add your ideas to it of what do you do to fill the well? 

Then take “The Challenge”.  Let us know how it goes, we'd love to hear.  

Retail Therapy

It sounds a bit clichĂ© (and possibly inappropriate, in the aftermath of the GFC), but it is not just (or even mainly) about spending – it’s about unadulterated, guilt free ME time. So there are rules:

i)               TIME – leave at least 2-3 hours. You don’t want to be rushing around looking for things. It’s got to be stress free.

ii)             NO KIDS - or it would hardly be therapeutic! J. Ideally they should not even be in the vicinity! (E.g.: if leaving them with dad, it’s best if they stay at home, rather than come along and dad stays with them while you shop. Somehow, it’s just not the same).

iii)            ONLY FOR YOU – if it’s ME time, it’s got to be about ME. No entering, or even LOOKING at any kids’ clothes, men’s clothes, gifts for a friend… anything that is not strictly for YOU.

iv)            SALES – not a firm rule, but I found it helps to go during the sales and/or to a factory outlet type place, just to ensure the shopping isn’t slightly tinged with guilt about the spending afterwards.

I tried it and I loved it! I got a few items for my VERY neglected wardrobe; but mostly I think I just enjoyed feeling “free”, roaming around the shops without my brain working overtime to amuse the children while I hurriedly tried something on or trying to plan the week ahead, just doing something solely for ME.                                                                                                                                         M

Pizza Gang Burns the Witching Hour

After five nights of weaning my 18 month old from boobie at night it was me experiencing the witching hour.  I was snappy and angry and there were no more clocks to throw at the wall - they were all in pieces in the bin.   I wanted a way out of those last two hours before hubby got home and I hid myself in the kitchen, looking into empty cupboards, too tired to get to the shop. 
So yesterday, in the late afternoon, my daughter invited herself to a friend’s place.  I grabbed some pizza dough from the fridge, a bottle of pessata, mozzarella cheese, black olives and my daughter’s yellow playdough rolling pin then drove the kids over. 
One kid rolled the dough, another sat on the bench.  Three more played.  The pizza took ten minutes on high.   I was smiling and talking and using my fingers to eat apple, lettuce and Feta cheese salad.  This beat the witching hour blues, in fact it elevated it to a night to remember.                                                                                                                   J

The List

What do you do to put the "zest" back into your life....?

Find a Listening Partner
Create a Gratitude List of parents/friends you love and send them a postcard telling them how much you appreciate them.
Swim through witching hour - especially good for daylight savings!
Retail Therapy
Go to the gym - if you have kids make sure it has a creche
Reading for Pleasure
Go to the movies
Gang up with a friend and have a Pizza Night
Hire a babysitter or friend and have a night out alone with your partner
Crochet or knit a little scarf or beanie
Cycling - especially in the country side.
Crafternoon - get a group of women together and make crafts
Your kids play - you play.  Next time you're in the playground go down the slide and swing hight to the sky.
Massage - schedule it late in the afternoon so you can have dinner and go to bed.
Go out for dinner with other Mums.
Dancing in the living room
Have a regular child swap arrangement and get some time out that way


Post here or email me -

The Challenge

Choose one thing from the list each week. Choose a time to do it, book it in with your partner and let your children know. There is a time slot this week that Mum is going to be filling her well. Then don't give yourself a way out.

This thing you're about to do is utterly essential, for you and flowing on from that, for your partner and children.

This is going to save you later in the week - it might be the difference between screaming at your child for making a normal mistake and having the patience to wade through it and use it as a useful experience.

Lastly, let us know how it goes, we'd love to hear.