The Third Space

My first coffee after school drop off is more of a post mortem of the last 24 hours than a reset before the day begins. So much has usually happened in the hours before that I am need of a coffee and in need of some reflection time. But do I make the most of that transition?

I recently came across an idea that has challenged me. Dr Adam Fraser is an Australian who has developed the concept of the third space, using the transitions in life to find balance and happiness. He has a great 6 minute you tube clip that walks you through the basic premise of his idea. But I found the book, The Third Space a fabulous way of truly ascribing meaning to the idea and developing it further.

Life as we know it and observe it has reached unprecedented heights of crazy busy. And most of us are too overwhelmed to step of the treadmill. According to Fraser we find ourself in the first space. In order to move successfully from school drop off to work or job interview or visiting our sick elderly aunt, that is into the second space, we need to enter a third space. In that third space we are challenged to reflect on what went well on the first space, what story do I want to tell myself? We need to rest in the third space and actively try and rest, maybe for an hour or maybe for a moment. Finally, we need to reset my expectations and behaviour as I move into the second space. We have the opportunity to make sense of what went before and prepare ourself to show us in the next space, to do the next job well.

I am sure you are familiar with the parent who brings the stress and chaos of the work day with them as they enter the family home at night. Or you show up to yet another meeting reeling from the disappointment of the one before and cannot concentrate. Perhaps you allow the pressure of kid wrangling to dictate how you ‘love’ them for the rest of the day. If you are like me, you will fail at the transitions and frequently find yourself showing up badly for the next thing.

I have often written here about transitions. And I am aware of the way life takes us on a roller coaster of highs and lows. So it should be no surprise that someone has come up with a way of dealing with these transitions. The Third Space. Take a look at the you tube clip and read more about it.

I would love to know how women in particular deal with these ideas. Many would argue that women do well at multitasking. Does this mean the Third Space is more relevant to men? I think not. I am challenged to think about how I show up for the next thing. How do those of us who are juggling domestic life, family and work do that reflect, rest and reset thing? I would love to dialogue with you about this. Is there are third space for women?

A new view

A change. A transition. A new view.

The school holidays have started, we are mid way on a smallish reno project, the house is chaos and we have headed to the beach. It must be the coldest, wildest June I have known down here on the coast. The wind is terrifying and creating a cacophany of strange howls. The cold is biting, reminding me of our need for layers of wool and warmth. Bed looks good.
But life moves on. The 7mouths need to be fed and watered, we need things to do and play, books to read, movies to watch, a pudding to make,a dog to walk.
Family holidays offer a new view. We all look a little different, have different needs and wants. There are new opportunities and challenges. It is a new ‘space’ that invites reflection, a new view on how we are doing life. Are we doing well?
Here are some points of reference:
1. Sleep – are we using the holiday time to sleep well and sleep more?
2. Speak – are we taking time to speak to each other with kindness and about new things?
3. Song – are we making music? Humming a tune, listening to the soundtrack of life.
4. Sugar – are we eating well, avoiding too many sweet treats?
5. Solo -are we investing in some serious solo time, to clear our head, rest, review, reflect and reset.
How do you do holidays in winter? Do you have some wisdom about how to find that new view?
PS I love this view of Ella Webb’s art @Wynton

Back 2 School Life

The last week has been packed with school preparations. Collecting, labelling and sorting books, hemming, washing and ironing uniforms. Collating forms and invoices for school, planning the school lunch box menu. There are so many things that no one ever tells you about how to “do school life” as a family. So many practical ideas and words of wisdom that I have had glimpses of but never really nailed- do you know what I mean?
So this pre- school term season has allowed me time to gather some thought on the subject of doing school life well as a family. We have five students to organise and each one has specific needs and requirements. Whether you are in private or public schooling I have no doubt we have a lot to learn from each other.
Here are my tips for being ready for the school year. I would love you to share your ideas too.
1. Opportunity: Our local op/thrift shops carry a range of second hand uniforms. Browse regularly to pick up basics. An extra pair of sports shorts, end of line stock that has been forwarded to the op shop and occasionally school bags and books. End of term or academic year is often peak times when there is an abundance of uniform. One op shop volunteer confessed that they stockpiled school uniforms for the summer/winter change over.
2. Flexibility: Don’ get locked into ordering all of your books, uniform and so on from the suggested retailer if there is choice. Some key pieces which have logos and so on maybe best bought from the schools retailer. However, I have found there is generic basic uniform from many larger department stores that can be bought in store or online. The same applies to textbooks – be bold and check the online competition, as sometimes you can save 30-40% off the suggested price.
3. Network: Sometimes we have connected with friends who have children in alternate years to us. We have found that you can come to an understanding that textbooks can be passed from family a to family b for a year and then back to family a when the next child requires them. There is of course the  issue of care for property and the possibility of losing a text, but generally people are are generous and careful about these things.
4. Marketing: Don’t get sucked into the back to school marketing. I have been there and bought enough stationery supplied to open my own store, only to find the kids do not want to use a particular pen or notebook. Some back to school sales are going to save you money but buying another whizz bang lunchbox will not make school lunches any easier. Trust me I have tried many, many plastic, metal, fabric insulated options and I am still not entirely happy with our current arrangement. Buy what you need and what you know works for our child – yes, you might be buying 5 different styles of the same product!
5. Design: I have four girls who are artistic and love things to look beautiful. So we have spent days decorating books and folders. You don’t have to spend a fortune on matching books and binders if you are willing to make time to ‘make friends with the contact roll’. Contacting is one thing I struggle with, but the results are always fun. This year the kids have printed out pictures and pasted and contacted them on with their subject labels.
6. Labels: Years ago when the kids were few and young I was seduced by the kid marketing and bought packets of pre-printed labels in coloured plastic, complete with motif. They promised to stay on forever and be dishwasher safe. Well they come off. And they are expensive, especially for us when we need to be buy five sets! A cheap but effective laundry marker, a permanent marker pen with a chiselled edge and a Dymo labeller are all fabulous and effective.
7. Change: Don’t be afraid to change something as you go. After first term it is usually clear what is working and what is not. We are forever tweaking the 2 big transitions each day- getting to school and getting everyone home again (after sport and music commitments). My man and I share taking big and little kids to school. The older kids are taking advantage of supervised study sessions after school to complete homework before getting home later in the afternoon. And I have learnt to say no – to pull kids out of an activity if it was not working. Do something for a term rather than a year, after all 10 weeks of swimming is still of benefit. Ask you music teacher if they offer fortnightly lessons – a financial saving but a time saving too.
8. Names: One thing that I am less good at is remembering the names of the parents in our school community. I can spot Joe’s mum from 100 meters but do you think I can remember her name? Make use of class lists, parent contact details and so on if you school shares that info ration with you. It is helpful to annotate these with any information for you and your partner. For example, Joe has two older brothers or Maggie’s mum has breast cancer right now. If you enjoy chatting to a parent or want to get to know your their friend’s family ask to share mobile numbers.
9. Communication: I have only used a large arch lever file in the last couple of years to collate and keep track of all the paper work that our school sends us. If I don’t do this I lose everything, well a lot of things. I have a ¬†section for each child, plus an admin section. To help with all of this communication find out how you can access things online. An online newsletter for example, a class blog for parents/students, email addresses of teachers and key staff or maybe your school has an app like we do which contains contact information, updated notices and alerts when there is a sudden change to an excursion pick up time or sport training is cancelled due to bad weather. My man and I also sync our iPhones so that our calendars tell each other about school and work events.
10. Choices: As a parent you don’t have to say yes to everything. If you are in a season of small children then offering to help with reading in your child’s classroom may be more stress than one Mama can handle. Decide how much time you have and when/how you can support the community. Don’t let those zealous parent and friends types intimidate you into signing up for every canteen duty in the next term, but do what you can with what time, energy and money you have.

And enjoy each school day. Some days will be easier than others. But everyone tells me these years fly by. How do you do school life?