Having it all Kinda Sucks

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 There are mommy blogs, parenting websites, teaching articles and lifestyle writers who clog up your social media feed with pretty pics. I am guilty of following it all. Sometimes it is great inspiration, other times it is eye candy on some days there is a tip worth implementing that saves me stress and time with the kidlets. And then there is an article that literally stops you in your tracks. Put down your coffee cup, stop multitasking and read the article fully. S.L.O.W.L.Y.

Amy Westervelt’s raw and candid article about working from home days after the birth of her second child puts the whole “Work Life Balance Debate” in perspective. Well, at least a new framework for women to ponder. A challenge. A reprimand perhaps. A reflection.

I would really love to know what you think about Amy’s insights. Here is a sneak peak:

Here’s what I think is going on: this whole “having it all” business has been grossly misinterpreted by our society at large. The purpose of all that bra burning back in the 60s was to give women choices. You wanna have sex without getting pregnant? Cool, hit that. You’re pregnant but in no position to raise a baby (or were sexually assaulted and impregnated, or are pregnant with a severely ill or deformed baby, or any number of other scenarios)? No problem, you can choose not to have that baby. You want to go to work? Do it! You want to stay at home and raise kids? Great. You want to do a little bit of both? Groovy. You want to be stylish and wear makeup? Or frumpy and never wash? Hey, you do you.
Doing all of it at the same time was never the idea. By that definition, single working moms have been “having it all” for ages and yet society does not hold the single working mom up as the goal for women everywhere. No, no, that’s just what happens when you’re poor and have no choice. Except actually, that’s what happens to all but the very very rich when you encourage women to work and have children but don’t change any other part of the world they live in.
No woman (or man, for that matter) ever said, hey, you know what would be great? If I could get up at 5am, make breakfast for everyone, then get dressed (with heels, natch), drop my kids off at daycare, go to work for 10 hours, pick the kids up, come home, cook dinner, clean up, put the kids to bed, work in bed ’til midnight so I don’t get behind at work, then do it all again tomorrow on 5 hours sleep.

Even if your life does not look like the rat race described above, you may catch yourself doing crazy stupid things that require great juggle and execution, for NO reason. Well at least no good reason you can recall when you took on that new job, volunteer position, art class, extra study load or the books for the family farm. No good reason.

The truth is we often get ourselves caught up in the extreme sport of family life work balance. We add more and more to the do list, we fail to stop doing anything and then we wonder why we are exhausted, sleep deprived, have no energy for sex, love and an adult conversation. And usually all of things we are doing are GOOD things.

Our capacity to keep giving and keep juggling is limited. But on most days we fail to acknowledge that very fact. Our smartphone out smarts us here. Our smartphone knows what capacity it has – 67% battery life left. It also slows down when we leave too many apps open and occasionally it will glitch and freeze. Me – I am not sure I could tell you how much battery life I have left. I assume I can do it all, always. And then I wonder why I struggle to get out of bed of a morning or why I cannot listen to three conversations at once on the car ride home from school.

Amy Westervelt’s confession about having it all has got me thinking again. About how I can be my best, how I can thrive in the place I have been called to be now. And not succumb to the grand ideas of chasing it all at once when my battery is about to die. How about you?

Saying NO to learn

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Focus focus. This could be me this week juggling family life and a surge of ‘work’. My work is a strange beast at the moment. I am a research student and I am exploring some areas of great interest to me- women, leadership, learning and thinking about living in a rural area. I am trying to pull together some new ideas about how living in a rural space impacts women’s identity, especially those who are working in leadership roles in education.

I am reading, writing, interviewing, transcribing, reflecting, reading again and yes, doing more writing. (I have another blog life here) I would love to know how you juggle your life  and its demands – family life, work and study. Whether you are doing an online course, research, some vocational training or professional learning I am interested to know how you create space in your schedule to do all that you have to  get done. Do you outsource household tasks? Do you rely on extended family to help with child care? Do you and your partner play tag with home duties? Are your children expected to do more?

Perhaps this question is even more important. What do you say no to, so that you can keep on learning? Tell me, please! xx

Naked Hedgehog

My kids surprise me everyday. One of the things I have done since returning to live in the country is to bake slices. Yes, it seems a country women’s association kinda thing to do. But the advantage of the humble slice, whether it is baked or unbaked, is that they tend to keep well – if they last that long!

In the middle of a recent afternoon baking session the girls gathered in the kitchen to ‘help’ me. This is code for eating mixture, licking bowls and draining the dregs of the condensed milk can. I was making hedgehog with my fail safe recipe when all four girls insisted that I not ice the hedgehog slice. Really? A Naked Hedgehog slice? I was in the habit of making  slab of chocolate icing or using real chocolate if I was feeling generous. But they were determined. A naked, nude hedgehog slice.

I confess it is actually great without the extra sweetness. So here is me, having an afternoon coffee and a sweet treat. And here is the exceptionally easy recipe for you to make for you and yours.
Enjoy. x

Naked Hedgehog Slice

2 packets of Marie/Arrowroot biscuits, crushed ( I use a food processor or Thermomix)
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
250 grams butter
1/2 cup cocoa

Melt the butter, condensed milk and cocoa and mix until combined. I use the microwave and it usually takes 1 min 30 sec. It should be thick and glossy when you mix it all together.

Combine the cocoa mixture with the crushed biscuits. Press mixture firmly into a slice tin or plastic container lined with foil. Place the slice in the fridge until set. Cut into mini bars.

** The basic hedgehog is great with dried fruit and nuts, but my kids prefer it simple.

Unprepared – a son leaving home

Eighteen years ago I did the most amazing thing – I gave birth to my son. It was a miracle, such pain and joy and love all rolled into one.

Today my boy left home, to start his own journey in a city far away. I feel those birthing pains again as I let him go; I love him to bits and pray for his future and his protection. Even after all those years I feel unprepared.

Have you read actor Rob Lowe’s account of sending his son to college? I don’t think anything prepares you for this day. I urge you to read this article as it captures the ‘letting go’ with great clarity.

Dad, what if it’s too hard for me here?” he asks me later, sitting on his fold-out bed back at the hotel, looking more “fresh” than “man.”

“You came from a very tough academic school with great grades. You took the tests, you got the scores, you did the hours and you did the travel and extracurriculars. You made it happen. No one else. This won’t be any different. This school chose you because they know you can succeed here.”
“None of the other kids look scared at all,” he says, and for the first time I can remember since he was a baby, I can see his eyes welling up. I want to reach out and hug him, but I don’t. Instead I look him in the eye.
“Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”

There is much pain and joy in the letting go. As father and mother, parents to our son we share this journey together. As a family we regroup, smaller around the dinner table, different banter and chat. No one tells jokes like he does. Our lives will be altered. There is now only 6mouths2feed and I am somewhat unprepared.

The Monthly Pain

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We need more information. We need facts. We need to understand our bodies better.

As a woman I know I have this amazing God given body that can bring life into the world. But there are times I feel my body is letting me down, plagued with pain, cramping, discomfort and making me emotionally fragile. So how can this body be so fabulous when each month it is a struggle? I promised to write more on periods so I wanted to share this article with you.

Without doubt there needs to be more research, more information and knowledge about what happens to the female body through the course of her life. In the short piece ‘BLOODY PAIN: Period pain can be “almost as bad as a heart attack. Why aren’t we researching how to treat it?‘ Olivia Goldhill shares her experiences of period related pain and some expert opinions.  John Guillebaud says:

 “Men don’t get it and it hasn’t been given the centrality it should have. I do believe it’s something that should be taken care of, like anything else in medicine.”

It is an interesting read and it has renewed my commitment to share all of the wonderful details of the female body with my girls. Knowledge is power.

That Dragon Cancer

I have never liked video games. I am bad at them. So it was inevitable when my boy started playing video games (some years ago now), that I would sigh, shrug and my eyes would glaze over. 

The paradox is that as an English teacher I an intrigued by the game as text and how we can learn from this as a medium. So I have not entirely had my eyes shut when my boy has introduced me to another game, talked about the narrative, the character development, artwork, amazing animation and sound track. The video game is epic novel and film on one, with the added bonus of having full interactivity. You can choose your own adventure and to my surprise you have to have sound literacy and numeracy skills, the ability to problem solve and reason to play well.

My boy is good at gaming.

He sat me down, as he often does to show me a video. But this time it was different. This was a gaming review of a new production That Dragon Cancer. What comes to mind?

Honestly I did not expect what unfolded. The Good Game reviewers (see you tube review here) were pleasantly authentic in their response to this game that was born out of a couple’s experience with their own child’s cancer. Cancer is the dragon and in the life of the game you ‘experience’ the competing emotions, decisions and developments as cancer, the dragon devours  the child and impacts the family.

From a gaming point of view even I can tell that there is something stilted about the game, the on track progression and clumsy transitions. However,  this game game created by Ryan and Amy Green, Josh Larson, and a small team under the name Numinous Games use the real voice over recordings of the family that intersperse the play and the result is amazing. I was in tears watching the review.

Most remarkable of all is the game makers inclusion of their strong faith journey throughout their cancer journey. The Christian faith is the framework from which they celebrate small wins and cry out in pain and hopelessness. For me this was gaming at a whole new level.

Here is a real life family experience that has been expressed through the world of gaming, to help others and enlarge each players understanding of what is possible in life. I am more in awe of the gaming world and can appreciate a bit more of what my boy enjoys.