Self-Worth

Mapping a pathway for my new future self is turning out to be hard work. The ‘new’ improved me strategy is changing from the stay-at-home-mummy to the ‘working mother’. Also, my end goal is to change career direction and move into a different area of work. However, the process is slow going. There is a dusty CV to be updated and uploaded; enrolling in online courses that will hopefully be helpful in upskilling what I’ve already got to offer the working world; putting my ‘feelers’ out into the world by querying friends and family if they know of any jobs and so on. Part of that strategy is trying to create and update my LinkedIn profile and create opportunities for keeping in touch with the industry I’d like to work in via social media outlets like Twitter. The process in itself is time-consuming and when I peer closely at our economy, the jobs that are on offer are far and in-between at best. Not to mention, not all jobs are advertised or even exist yet. Whenever, I have put out a completed job application and then followed it up, I am constantly hearing from the gatekeepers that they’re sure the application has been received – mine and the other 300 applicants, all vying for the same position on offer.

As difficult as it is, the only comfort I can draw upon is that I know I’m not the only one going through this difficult process. Finding a job is not an easy feat in the current economic climate. At my last hairdresser appointment, I was being regaled stories of other stay-at-home-mothers who were also trying to find part-time work opportunities. Some of them hoping to land the job that fit around school hours, so that they could still do the other 24/7 unpaid job of being a mother/carer/wife/bottom-snot-wiper/negotiator (you get my drift I’m sure) the other 99 per cent of the time!

Thrown in amongst the mix of job hunting is the feeling of anxiety that I’m trying to quash down. When I speak to my other half of my working life goals and the end goal I’m trying to aim towards, he is seemingly not very interested/supportive of hearing about where I’m headed. When I queried his lack of support, he was quick to point out that of course he supported me and my ideas but he was just trying to be realistic about getting a job. His mantra: just get a job first, then you can plan for your career change/goals/study/and so on. I fully appreciate where he’s coming from. I am not putting the blinkers on, if I say so myself, as I am aware that there are bills to be paid. But to me, someone who has been out of work for four years now, I didn’t feel as if I could just take on any kind of job. I definitely don’t think I’m better than anyone else. It’s just that when you’ve been a fulltime mummy for a period of time, you cannot help but feel ‘out of the loop’. As much as I have tried not to let it affect me, my self-worth has taken a bit of a battering. Thus, if I were to simply go out into the world and just do any old job (read as: check-out chick at my local Coles) I think it would erode at my self-worth big time. Not to mention that I’d be terrible at retail, having to stand in one spot all day; I would love chatting to customers, but then I’d probably be the slowest check out aisle in the store! Okay, so the list is endless and there’s not enough room here to even begin such an analysis.

Sigh. Is anyone feeling this? Am I just being too picky?

Four

If someone had looked me in the eye more than five years ago and said, “You will go through a difficult time after the birth of your first child and feel a sense of loss of self and your identity” – or words to that effect – I would have scoffed at them. I would have raised my eyebrows and questioned such a negative futuristic vision of personal experience. Disbelief and disdain. In my eyes, motherhood is supposed to be a happy and momentous occasion; not riddled with issues such as depression (how green was I?). Now, on the anniversary week of my first-born and only child turning four years of age (the Saturday just gone), I look back at where I’ve been and how far I’ve travelled in this life and I can honestly say that I’m better off for the learning curve that postnatal depression has provided. The personal insight has been invaluable and I realise that I wouldn’t change a thing. And so it is that I mentally pat myself on the back and celebrate this milestone – my son turning four years old. I’ve come a long way.

Milestones can be found everywhere in our lives. From the moment we celebrate reaching our 21st birthday, getting our first car, landing our first job, having our first child and so on. There are so many firsts and they all deserve a mention and, for some, deserve equal celebration. When it comes to depression and anxiety, it really is no different. Each day is a milestone, each week and month that you manage to get yourself out of bed and insist that your mind also “get up and at ’em” is in equal measure something that should be celebrated; to give yourself a ‘pat on the back’ and a good talking to in the bathroom mirror for being able to ‘raise yourself up’ to everyday living.

These days, as my son screams around the house on his little four-wheeler “car”, I manage to remember at times not to yell at him or have a negative outlook on some of the things he does. After all, yes he is only four, but I celebrate this because there was once a time where everything seemed too hard and I wasn’t coping; trying to operate as a functional human being with a brain that was riddled with the heavy weight of depression. I can fully appreciate that my son’s brain is still developing and he has a lot of things about life to learn. Having said that we are at the stage of his development where he has learnt the art of fibbing. He’s also learnt to suddenly push all of my buttons – all at once! Such is the life of a toddler…and I’ve become accustomed to his now daily worship of the word “No”. He uses it so often that it is painstaking to hear anyone else use the word, including myself! (But that’s another blog post…).

There are still days where I find myself mentally struggling with the prospect of facing the day ahead. Most often than not, those days that I struggle are due to not getting enough sleep. Sometimes it’s simply because I haven’t honoured myself in pursuing some ‘me-time’ or downtime away from my child. Even if it’s just reading a chapter of a book (reading is one of my favourite things to do, but is considered a luxury these days) or taking some time out to catch up with a good friend for a coffee. But those off days are far and in between now. I celebrate that fact too.

In the early days of my parenting journey, my perspective was skewed by negative thoughts fuelled by broken sleep and a hormonal tidal wave that I had absolutely no control over. Sadness enveloped me tirelessly each and every day. I look back at how I used to be and think to myself how blessed I was to have the support of my family – in particular, my husband and my dear, dear mother. I still have their support now. However, I am on the mend and able to identify the ‘signs’ – not enough sleep, not eating properly and so on. I may not always do the right thing by myself, but I know to look out and after myself. I am coping much better and better equipped to ‘manage’ my depression and anxiety symptoms, as they flit in and out of my every day life.

Is there something you can celebrate? It doesn’t have to be earth shattering or worthy of a fireworks display necessarily. It can be absolutely anything under the sun. From little things, big things grow.

Toddler, Interrupted

boySomewhere along the way, our little toddler has been morphing into a boy. It has been wonderful to watch; at the same time, I am finding myself missing his babyish ways. In fact, I think that is why, to a certain extent, I have been away from writing this blog. Life has taken over the last four months and we’ve been trying to get through it. Nothing bad. Just the usual suspects showing up at the door: no time to write, not enough sleep, start writing a little then lose my train of thought. The list goes on. But I digress.

In the last few months of 2016, we watched our toddler lose his babyish features. It can probably be said that his metamorphosis began when he finally had his ‘real’ haircut. He lost the soft, rounded baby-faced look that family and friends had gotten used to seeing. Once his locks were chopped off (and his locks were very long, unkempt and straggly-looking) his face was truly revealed and the boy took shape before our very eyes. We received comments left, right and centre from all corners – family and friends and the mothers I often chat to at our local playgroup.

I’ve labelled 2017 the ‘Year of Transitions’ – not just for our little boy, but also for me too. This is the year that said boy in question begins kindergarten (he has now been attending kindy for five weeks this week). This is also the year he turns four years of age and moves past being a toddler into a preschooler.

In the beginning, his transition wasn’t without its downside. Dang! Once upon a time he was a good sleeper. That is, until the end of October last year. All of a sudden we began struggling with his sudden bedtime resistance. This would mean that we would put him to bed and follow our usual bedtime routine – brush teeth, change into pyjamas, pick out a couple of books, read before bed and then lights out. He has a nightlight in his room. There have been no changes in his environment or in our daily lives. No upheavals that would cause him distress. But despite this fact, he suddenly decided that he was not going to sleep at bedtime; instead he would constantly get out of bed and jump around, ask for food and so on. Basically, he would do anything else but go to bed and sleep! To be honest, I never thought we would see the end of such bedtime anarchy!! It affected all of our sleeping habits and the little man would often end up sleeping in our bed. Sigh. Thankfully we’ve managed to get on top of this behaviour and we’ve been able to get him into a reasonable sleeping time and pattern. Just in time for the start of kindy.

After being away from the workforce for almost four years, my transition is to re-enter the workforce. Albeit on a part-time basis at least, but still… I feel a bit out of practice. You know, talking to a little person instead of a steady stream of adults in an office environment with ‘big people’ talk. I’m not sure how I’m going to go with that to be honest. I suppose as long as I veer away from topics on poo, wiping up after little people and the old (but true) adage of needing more sleep – I should do just fine! But either way, I’m looking forward to re-entering the workforce. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

As to be expected, I was more than a little anxious for our son to start kindy. Our circumstances are that he hasn’t been into childcare or any other form of care. We’ve only been to the occasional fitness class (where the crèche has watched him) and then twice a week to playgroup. Since I am a SAHM (stay-at-home-mum), my situation has enabled me to watch him, with the occasional care from my birth mother (his grandma). So we’ve had a nice little routine in place for some time. I feel blessed for this arrangement too. As financially I’ve been able to stay home with our son for the past four years. However, this means that I wasn’t sure how he would go entering a strange environment – for the whole day.

The truth of the matter is, that…  Well, I needn’t have worried myself. All ended well and he is happy going to kindy. He is happy to get dressed in the mornings and knows where he is going to be for the rest of the day. When hubby and I first dropped him off, we were faced with a few tears and a slightly clingy child. But over the weeks that followed, he adjusted well and looked forward to it. I thank our lucky stars for this outcome! There is another mother whom I see every week and is frankly, well…hard not to notice with her child. Her boy is always clinging to her, as she sits next to him and tries to rouse his interest in an activity in order to settle him into the classroom. He makes a small scene when she tries to leave and begins to cry and struggle. I truly feel for her. Transitions can be difficult.

The Secret Stash (aka The Sugar Wars)

Having a secret chocolate/sweet stash doesn’t conjure up the same emotions for me like it used to, especially now an offspring has entered the equation.

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Hubby has dared to query aloud the choice of quality ingredients – dark chocolate, dark chocolate with coconut, dark chocolate with almonds, dark chocolate Tim Tams (courtesy of my mother who thought of me whilst purchasing a packet of white chocolate Tim Tams for herself). Inadvertently entering at his own risk into unchartered and dangerous depths with his seemingly innocent question: “Why have you even got any chocolate in this house at all?”. Meaning: Why are you bringing sugar into a household with a toddler in the mix? Hmmmm….

Stupid questions aside (cue for rolling my eyeballs), I feel a sense of entitlement to my sugary decline. My tastes having evolved over the years. Dark chocolate my latest love. I am also too well aware of my toddlers encroachment on such a sacred scoffing space. My sugar. My stash. Now no longer a secret.

Little fingers are all too often searching through my shoulder bag. Every time we visit our local servo to fuel up, he goes to reach for the lollies at the counter before I’ve managed to pay and get away. I can only shake my head repeatedly, say the word ‘No’ with varying falsetto and then mentally kick myself for purchasing the impulse marketing item in front of him in the past. Of course, this is all my own doing. Little monkey sees, little monkey wants to do it again. Every. Single. Time.

Each time he commits a sugar inspection of my bag, I cringe inwardly at his youthful and untainted confidence that he will definitely find the goods. If hubby is around at the time, I can also then count on his predictable and inevitable frown, shaking his head at me slowly. His eyes speaking volumes: How could I? When we haven’t even properly introduced him to a dentist?!

It is of great importance to me as a mother to abstain from providing too much sugar in the little one’s diet. This is easier said than done at times and I admittedly do manage to stuff up the balance now and then. However, it is a somewhat easier task to ‘control’ his consumption under my watch, as opposed to when he attends his first year of kindergarten, then begins school for the first time. From that point forward, his tastebuds will be initiated over and over with new and different taste sensations – some good and some not so good.

Now, I love my mother to bits. I really do. My husband and I are indebted to her and the support she’s provided to us. Her help has been, and continues to be, invaluable. Jack and his grandma have a wonderful bond with one another. It is beautiful to bear witness to it when they are interacting. Their love for each other apparent. However, I am finding it difficult to accept that there seems to be separate grandparent by-laws. Let me give you an example for a moment: the purchase of a cubby house. The telephone conversation between me and my mother going something like this:

Me: But I only mentioned it to you in passing. I didn’t mean that you had to go out and buy one!

Mum: That’s okay. Don’t worry about it. I’ve seen it and they only have one cubby house left in stock.

Me: Ummm…(my mind starts drawing a blank, as it desperately seeks refuge in refusal tactics) So…what are the measurements mum?

Mum: Oh…I don’t know. Don’t worry it’ll be fine.

Me: But mum, if you don’t know the measurements…how will you know if it will fit in our courtyard? We only have a small courtyard.

Mum: Don’t worry, it’ll fit. It’ll be fine.

Me: But…

Mum: Wait a minute (I can hear her phone being moved around and voices in the background). I’m just talking to the lay-by office at Target right now and they won’t let me pay for it and leave it here, not unless I can give them a day this week when you can pick it up by.

Me: (mentally kickstarting my heart with self-serve CPR, as I didn’t know I’d been holding my breath…)

But I digress… Back to the sugar situation.

When my sisters and I were teenagers, we used to be able to count on satisfying our sweet tooths with accessing icecream from my mother’s stand-alone freezer. That same access has now been granted to my son. The only difference being that he isn’t strong enough to lift up the freezer lid by himself, the suction proving too powerful for him.

Nonetheless, it seems that grandparent by-laws mostly differ from birth parent by-laws. A few months back, grandma looked at me incredulous. “Why are you giving him a lollypop?”. Followed by a short silence. “I never gave you girls any lollypops when you were all growing up”. Here we go, I thought. I could feel myself feeling a little off. My glucose levels suddenly feeling dangerously low. I waited for a bit, but there was no further verbal onslaught to follow. Thankfully.

I’ll just point out that our son eats plenty of fruit and vegetables, so I am happy with the occasional consumption of sugar. Just last month I was being followed by a very determined toddler, as I tried to eat my icecream (said toddlers icecream was already making its way down through his lower intestines at this stage of the chase). As I hopscotched my way around my mother’s house, holding precariously onto my share of creamy deliciousness, the ridiculousness of such a scenario wasn’t lost on me. I felt mean for running away, but icecream ownership is a serious thing. Not to be contested. Well…unless you’re a toddler of course. I gave up running away, after a near collision with one of his aunties, and half-heartedly handed over almost half of my frozen dessert, waiting for him to take a bite. Rookie parent. I never did see that icecream cone ever again…

And so it is that I persist in mourning my once anonymous saccharine existence. The skirmish continues with no truce in sight.

 

The Hoarder Within…

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On the way to my doctor’s appointment this morning, I drove past a block of land for sale. Only about two or three streets away from our humble abode, it has been on sale for the last few months. Looking at it now it is overridden with weeds about a metre high, the ‘For Sale’ signage hardly visible. It suddenly reminded me of how our own minds, and sometimes lives, can become a bit unkempt and overlooked. How it sometimes becomes an effort to maintain and keep on top of our game.

Further to this analogy, my mother and her remaining living siblings, are sorting through and cleaning up my late grandfather’s deceased estate. The eldest of five children, with one brother (once my uncle) no longer with us, my mother was regaling her day to me and explaining how she had been clearing my grandfathers’ backyard. Together with her other brother, and two family friends, they spent half their weekend pulling out weeds as high, if not higher, than their own knees.

To fully appreciate such extraneous work, one needs to imagine four people over the age of sixty-five and into their early seventies, all with various ailments (including knee reconstructions and only partly successful cataract surgery). All of them bending over at the waist and/or crouched low on the ground performing labour intensive tasks. Obviously I queried if this was absolutely necessary work. The response was swift with stubborn overtones, yet it made sense. Now that it was spring in Perth, our hot summers would arrive shortly thereafter. Despite the absence of my grandfather, the practicalities of life still endured. His property was fast becoming a fire hazard.

It’s only now, a few days later, that I realise my error in how I had phrased my concern. Instead, I perhaps could have reworded it as: Is it absolutely necessary that all of you perform these tasks? Could you not delegate paid work to a professional and pay the fee out of the estate? Understandably, it would have incurred a high financial cost to them, but it would have saved them so much backbreaking work. Surely. Nonetheless, it is not my business to interfere. After all, historical data in our family line shows that the stubborn trait sometimes overrides any sort of gentle coaxing or advice given… Especially when it comes from the ‘younger’ generation.

My grandfather has left behind him a very big clean up job for family to address. A part of his ‘informal’ legacy if you like. No disrespect. In particular, his accumulation of things. Stuff. Some junk. Some not. I would like to point out here that I do not use the word ‘accumulation’ very lightly. The whole and honest truth is that my grandfather was a hoarder, just one description amongst many that could be made  about him.

According to my genetic calculations – I fall into the second generation hoarder category. Yes, alas, I too have hoarder tendencies. I am, after all, my mother’s daughter. Although I have worked hard at trying to curb it over the years, it is still scarily evident in my own collection of ‘things’. Which reminds me, I am due for another purge.

To provide a description of his ‘things’: a pantry overstocked with expired food items; boxes of cassette tapes with copied music, mostly religious; religious paraphernalia of different sorts from prayer books and cards to holy medals that had been blessed by a Roman Catholic priest at some time or other. To name but a few. Not to mention an old tin shed out the back of the property containing an assortment of boxes with my mothers’ things.

Unfortunately, my mother is also a hoarding offender from way back. When she moved house in recent weeks (right next door to us to be precise), we had been walking through her then rental from room to room with me asking: “Are you sure there isn’t anything else you can throw out?”. Man, did I feel like such a hypocrite! You know, from one hoarder to another and all that. How could I ask her such a question? Sigh… My mother had assured me at the time that she had already, believe it or not, let go of a lot of things. Although I didn’t say anything to her at the time, my facial expression might have shown the doubt I felt at her admission. Had she really thrown anything out at all? There was still so much…stuff!

Her lounge area, in her now cosy three bedroom rental, contains a few too many single and mismatched chairs. She hasn’t owned a sofa or couch for some years. Why? Apparently because it lightened the load of carting around too much stuff from one rental to another. Hmmm… The master bedroom looks like a master bedroom should. Take one look at the other two bedrooms and the same cannot be said. One room allocated by her for sewing purposes and prayer, with the other as a ‘spare’ room for junk and my eastern-states visiting sister once or twice a year. At present, both rooms are almost full with boxes of… Well, to be honest, I really don’t want to think about it.

The moral of this story? Metaphorically speaking: try clearing out the weeds in a timely manner. Do it now – before you realise that it’s too late to mow the lawn. Why? Because pulling weeds is back breaking work!

 

The Daily Grind vs Influenza

Woe is me. As I sit here and write this, my head hurts. The last few weeks have been a struggle: both mentally, physically and emotionally. Why? Because I don’t make a very good sick person.

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This year the flu hit our household pretty badly. Talking to those around me from my doctor to friends and the other mothers at my son’s playgroup, I’ve come to understand that we’re not the only sufferers. Many others have been hit by the flu bug this year and have struggled to get through it and then back to ‘normal’ health. Nonetheless, I have honestly, truly, really struggled. We all have.

My hubby, who is usually a tower of strength, was knocked for six and also found it difficult to get through the daily grind. The only silver lining here was that our 3.5 year old was struck down by a virus for only a few days and then thankfully made a quick recovery. Amongst the three of us, he is the healthiest one. The flip side of this meant that the poor little guy always wanted to go out and/or play, but mummy and daddy were feeling so poorly that we couldn’t take him out anywhere!

To add insult to injury, I didn’t just suffer the usual suspects: sore throat, tiredness, coughing, sneezing, stuffy nose, fever, and so on. With all the coughing that took place, I also managed to pull several muscles in my ribs on the right side of my body. As I sat in a chair opposite my GP regaling my sorry state, I felt silly also explaining that the simple act of coughing so much had caused me to pull muscles! My pain scale was about a 7 out of 10 when standing or sitting still but quickly escalated to 12 out of 10 when moving! Driving to and from anywhere was a one-handed affair with much grimacing. I didn’t realise how many muscles worked together from both sides of the body to perform the everyday simple tasks that keep a household running!

Dotted throughout our fluey indoor hiatus, the Perth weather was going through its transition from winter to spring. So despite the rainy weather of winter, there were some beautiful sunny days which we couldn’t take full advantage of due to our ill health. It made me feel worse. The waiting. Wanting our bodies to be rid of infection. This brief intermission from our normal daily lives was making me feel, to be honest, quite depressed.

To keep on top of my anxiety and depression, I decided to seek counselling from a clinical psychologist in order to assist with my recovery and management of my mental health. However, due to the flu, I had to reschedule my appointment. Ever since I was first diagnosed with postnatal depression, it would have assisted me greatly to seek professional help right away. But my stubbornness, or my pride, or my feelings of shame and embarrassment took over instead and I put off the inevitable. That is, until about a year and a half ago. Then I took a sabbatical of sorts because I felt ‘well’ and thought I didn’t need to see the psych anymore. However, after about a six month break, I am ‘touching base’ once more. It feels good to be able to know when I need to get a bit of a top-up in my mental health. It feels empowering that I can do something for myself.

When I finally made it to my rescheduled appointment, my psych stated that it wasn’t just going through the flu itself, but the recovery process that also takes a toll. She stated that most people after the flu were discovering that their bodies were extremely tired. I felt so validated when I heard her comment. Admittedly, I was mindful throughout my session of not wanting to complain too much. This is why keeping up with everyday life these last few weeks has sometimes felt overwhelming for me. Life, after all, hasn’t paused or stopped and waited for us to get well. It has continued to go on. So instead of whinging or complaining, I’ve been doing my best to keep pushing on to get through each day.

I hate being sick. It slows me right down and I resent that. My frustration levels were getting quite high when I couldn’t do simple tasks and/or I could feel the lethargy and tiredness taking over. Funny thing is before getting sick I was so over doing the daily grind day in and day out. I so desperately wanted a break from it. But when I was really sick and feeling down, I just wanted to return to the daily grind with my usual gusto and energy. I just wanted to get things done!

The verdict: Give me the daily grind any day…