By the end of last year, I felt totally depleted and fatigued by doing all the things that we mothers do. The mothering, the schooling, the working, the cooking, the washing, the emotional caring, the disciplining, the routine making, the routine keeping, the household managing, the bill paying and the lunch making. Phew! Why do we ever wonder why mothers are so tired? I knew I needed better mum life balance, stat.
It’s true that, more than ever, I had run the year at a sprint, not really pacing myself. I felt that I could and should manage this better, so as the new year dawned, I took some time reflect. I asked myself.
What is possible to change?
What steps can I take to implement them now?
So over the last few weeks of the school holidays, I really took a long hard look at how we were living and functioning. Both as a family and as contributors to society. I wanted to see what I could change to live in a less stressed, more fulfilling way.
Changes for better mum life balance
1. I’ve had “the chat” with my husband about the division of our roles.
This sounds worse than it was, but the start of the year is a great time to have a chat about expectations, roles both at home and work. We talked about our own goals, what we wanted to achieve personally and professionally, and how that fits into our family.
We also talked logistics: like school administration, after-school activities, school drop-offs and our own personal time. It was so refreshing.
It feels like we are heading into the year supporting each other, not resenting the other person for what they don’t do!
2. I’ve committed to online grocery shopping.
This one is, for me a huge game changer. I know some people (I am not one of them) who love a good grocery shop. For me, outsourcing this feels great. I use Your Grocer and pay a monthly fee for them to deliver my groceries, a couple of times a week.
I chose Your Grocer because they support small business and the range of items is incredible. Now, I’m only popping into a supermarket every now and then for a random item. The best thing about this service is I can set a regular shopping list to be delivered every week. Think staples like milk, bread, snacks for school and a few weekly dinners on repeat all done. It’s one less thing to think about.
I have always been strict about my two kids only doing two extracurricular activities each per week. This year I’ve reduced it to one each. My son is now in high school, and he is committed to school sports training one afternoon, and then Saturday morning sport. If I was to add another four activities on top of this, I think it would be too much to manage.
I spoke to the kids and they were each happy to select their favourite activity from last year and drop the other! This has still meant I’ll be taxi driver a couple of nights a week, but it’s manageable.
Of course, as each year goes by our children grow and so should their independence. With a child starting high school comes great responsibility and a growing need for independence. We’ve talked about his morning routine, and what is expected about being responsible for his timetable, belongings and also getting himself to and from school.
To allow them to be more self-sufficient, I made a space in our cupboard near the kitchen where all the school information is kept. By reducing how much I manage for them, I’m hopeful I’m fostering their independence and resilience.
5. I’m ditching the guilt and taking more time for me.
I’m done feeling guilty over carving out time each week for myself. Whether its reading a book on a Sunday (and ignoring the washing), or a 6am HIIT class a few times a week, I’m making a conscious effort to put my heath and wellbeing closer to the top of my list. As I often say to my husband, “As the captain of this ship, if I’m not at my best, this ship sinks.”
We did this for most of the year last year and loved it. We did nothing and planned nothing on Friday nights. I ensured we didn’t book any extra curricular activities on a Friday, we got takeaway for dinner, and hubs and I would enjoy a glass of wine.
The night usually ends us all curled up on the couch watching a family movie. It’s bliss.
7. I’m taking time to nurture our relationship.
I was having a glass of wine with a neighbour a few months ago and we were lamenting how hard it is to schedule in a babysitter, just to go out for dinner with our husbands. So we came up with an exchange. Each month one of us babysits, whilst the other couple enjoy a night off. When work Christmas parties came up last year we helped each other out again, and it is fabulous. Don’t be shy suggesting this to a school friend or a neighbour!
BONUS better mum life balance tip
8. I’m going to buy in more support.
This is a bonus because I haven’t tried it out yet, but I’ll report back. We have no family support nearby, so it’s hard getting informal support to ease the busy, unbalanced weeks. Late last year (when it all started to unravel), I outsourced the weekly cleaning of our home. It was a huge help and I loved coming home each Thursday to a wonderfully clean home.
Then I discovered a Moncierge Service. It offers parents extra help where they need it, on a flexible basis. You might need assistance with cleaning, laundry and meal prep, or you might need some child minding, errands run or ironing done. This is what they do.
We are yet to try the service, but I thought it was too good not to share and I hope I can report back in a few weeks time to let you know how we are getting along.
What will you change this year to bring you better mum life balance?
“When you get that diagnosis, it’s like a kick in the guts.” This is one of the opening lines in DAD film, a documentary by Autism Awareness Australia. It’s based on the lives of 12 Aussie dads, all of whom have a child on the spectrum.
After my child was diagnosed, it took me over a year to finally turn to my husband and ask, “how are you coping with all of this”?
His answer: “I don’t know that I am, I’m just in it.”
Not really good enough is it?
Boarding the emotional roller coaster
DAD Film shines the light on the emotional roller coaster that is parenting a child with ASD. From the stages of denial, anger, resentment and pity, all the way to joy, elation, acceptance and resilience. These 12 fathers opened their homes and hearts and let us be part of their private journey. Collectively their story is told simply, honestly and candidly.
There should be no shame in feeling anger and hurt at the realisation your child has a diagnosis of autism. Some dads describe feeling emotionally winded… just everything draining from their body and feeling empty.
There is stoicism here, but these men shed tears too. Tears of confusion and guilt for grieving for the child they hoped that would have. Tears for the challenges that lie ahead as their world and their family have been changed forever.
Like any home across Australia, in the home of an Autistic child, it’s statistically most likely that the mother is the doer – and when I say that, I mean the organiser of the therapies, the one visiting the school, the one making the adjustments and preparations and minimising impacts so there are fewer meltdowns… and so on it goes. It is also sad to say, that the divorce rate is higher for parents with a child on the spectrum.
As one of the dads in DAD Film shares, “It’s a team effort, you can’t do it alone and you can’t expect your partner to do it alone”. These conversations are essential to the longevity of a successful marriage and partnership, and I am so glad DAD Film touched on this issue. It opens the door to speak about support, and nurturing one another and about mutual respect.
The mental load of parenting a child with ASD
The stories of each of the fathers in DAD Film resonated so deeply for both my husband and I. More importantly it reminded us of our connection. A realisation that we are not alone, even though the path ahead will be hard.
At times in my mothering journey I have envied my husband’s role. He can get up and go to work and not worry if the school will call or to make that appointment with OT and strategise about which behaviours to work on next. Caring for an ASD child is emotionally draining.
Recently, I started to share more about how emotionally drained I felt, of needing to share the load (even mentally) and bring my husband further into the world of parenting our child with autism. He admits now, that he was in denial for a long time. He admits he didn’t know what to do.
DAD Film touches on just how vulnerable dads can feel too. I bet it is a lot harder for men to open up and ask their mates for guidance than it is for us mothers. We are the over-sharers. They are not.
The documentary is a celebration of dads who are fathering children on the spectrum and it couldn’t be more needed. The fathers share real advice, open up about their challenges and articulate their thoughts beautifully. The biggest celebrations is their love and commitment to their role as father.
“It’s the club you never wanted to join, but the best people are in it,” says one.
As a family we love to travel. It doesn’t come without it’s challenges and, like so many of the memes we all read and nod along to, it certainly is easy to believe the “highlight reel” of so many travellers making it look effortless and easy.
Well, it’s not effortless and easy. The challenge of family travel is that it’s exhausting and overwhelming and real and I love it. What travel has given my family can not be replicated in the classroom or, for that matter, in the home. We have just always loved exploring near and far with our children. Here are some of the reasons why.
The world is a school
If all the world is a school, and humanity our teacher, the greatest gift we can give ourselves and our children is the gift of travel. We approach each destination as a place of learning for all of us. I don’t mean that I drill history or art, or culture into my children (okay, sometimes I do like to drill), but what I do love is the natural curiosity that comes with seeking out a new destination. There is so much to learn – some things practical, some not.
Kids will learn with wonder and interest from meeting new people, seeing new cultures in their everyday lives and watching communities go about their day. Broadening their understanding of the world doesn’t have to mean they learn a tangible concept they can recite when they get home. Sometimes what they learn is a new way to see the world.
Fresh eyes on old places
We are not all drawn to be interested in exactly the same thing, which is why when you travel with children you learn so much more.
As adults we are already programmed to “like” that popular monument, or visit that Instagrammable beach. Kids open our eyes to the wonder of simple enjoyment that is unaffected by what other people deem worthy. Their enjoyment of a place is pure and simply from their hearts.
Whether we travel near, or far, on short trips or long adventures, we invest in enriching the lives of all members of the family. As avid travellers there have been times when we needed to have a hiatus, but when you think about it, travel does not need to involve months of planning, itineraries and airfares. A trip to your next town, or even suburb, can be the best adventure.
Our favourite trips are often when we spontaneously load the car up, chuck in a cricket bat, a frisbee and some snacks and see where we can drive to in an hour kind of trip. The arguing in the back seat as the passer of snacks (me) gets the distribution of said snacks wrong, has sometimes threatened the end of some of these road trips, however all it takes is a little shift, a glimpse of something new, or stumbling upon a market, and the little hiccups are so worthwhile.
Your memories are yours and yours alone
At the heart of every journey lies unique, inspiring and memorable shared experiences which strengthen the bond of the family unit forever. We all go to the same place, yet our memories are often oh-so different. I love the uniqueness that adventure and travel can gift a family. The discussions about past mishaps, when things go wrong and at the time you couldn’t laugh – but you laugh now, and sometimes you laugh so hard tears spring to your eyes.
Have you travelled as a family or do you plan to?
Images: Brenda Pomponio
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