Category Archives: Home

Things It’s Hard To Find Time For

Alarm clock Polski: Budzik

Alarm clock Polski: Budzik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Children’s haircuts.  I missed the note telling me when it was photo day at day care last year, so Miss 3 looked like a character from Oliver Twist in her class photo.  Oops.

2. Manicures and pedicures.  Always difficult to find a half an hour, now almost impossible.

3. Catch ups with girlfriends without children.  There’s the odd special night out, but the casual catch ups over dinner are few and far between these days.  Social events have to include a babysitter in the budget so they end up a lot more expensive.

4. Boozy Friday drinks.  Technically still possible, but everyone knows the best Friday nights are the ones that aren’t planned.  These days there’s nothing in my life that isn’t planned!

5. Clothes shopping. By the time I get the clothes I already own washed and folded and some fresh food in the house each weekend, the thought of walking into a Westfields and thinking about this season’s colours is no longer my idea of a good time.

6. Tax returns.  Ugh.  This one may not be related to having children.

7. Car servicing.  See 7 above.  Difficult and unpleasant tasks but it’s very difficult to find a day to be a little late because you’re catching the courtesy bus when you’re already *that* mum who skates out the door exactly at 5pm.

8. My own haircut.  Once upon a time sitting and having foils done, a cut and a blow dry on a lazy Saturday afternoon was a wonderful thing to do.  Now my hair appointment starts with a conversation about, “What’s absolutely neccesary this month?”

9. The dentist.  When it is ok to take a long lunch break when you can never arrive early or stay late?

10. Buying panty hose.  This one is clearly ridiculous.  But I like to buy certain brands and they are not always available in my supermarket shop.  Making an extra job out of it makes it a lunchtime task when lunchtimes don’t always happen.  I need to stock up once a year!

It’s true that you make time in life for the important things.

Although I find it hard to find time for all of these above, I wouldn’t swap any of them for the 2o minutes I spend reading stories at the end of the day.

What do you find it hard to fit into your life?

Advertisements

Birthday party tips for working mums

I did not bake this cake. My friend Shehana who has more kids and a more demanding job than me did.

It turns out I can organise a party with punch for three year olds.

Miss Nearly Three turns Three this week and I’ve been panicking about her birthday party since she first shared the guest list with me… nine months ago.

As soon as she’d blown the candles out on Grandma’s cake last July, she started asking me what would happen for her birthday.  I said we could have some friends over and eat cake, if she wished.

We’ve discussed it Every Single Day since.

Each time it’s been somebody else’s birthday, we’ve counted the months/days/weeks until hers, and discussed our plans.  After day care there is always a new best friend to consider.  Mummy and Daddy have come on and off the guest list depending on the number of Time Outs issued.  But the need for cake has been a constant.

Somewhat naively, about a month ago, I sat down with Miss Nearly Three and the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book.  I was inspired by my friend Shehana who posted the gorgeous work of art above on Facebook.  We had a lovely afternoon looking through cakes and working out which one we’d make for the big party.  And then I realised, I simply would not have time! I have not yet met a working mum with hours in her life for fabulously intricate baking.  Except Shehana, and I’m seriously thinking about defriending her on Facebook.

Fortunately, last week I read this great post from Mrs Woog at Kidspot, which helped me realise that many of the cool mums have learned to cut corners.

So here’s what worked for me.

Invitations

I did send out invitations, but since none of the kids can read, and I did it so late I had to text everyone anyway, I wondered why I didn’t just invite everyone by SMS?  Cheaper than a stamp, they have all the details ready to hand and a reply SMS means the RSVP is done too.

Food

This is a vexed issue.  Too much sugar and you’re the bad mum who rotted all the other kids’ teeth.  Not enough, and you’ve broken the kids’ hearts.  We opted for a fruit plate upon arrival, some store bought mini-muffins and a round of coffees for the parents, help yourself juice for everyone and a sausage sizzle.

The sausage sizzle was not my idea, but when we attended a birthday party for Miss Nearly Three’s friend Oliver last weekend it appeared to us as genius. Our local Woolies had packs of 24 sausages for less than $10. Plenty of food, something adults and kids love and by slicing the bread into triangle halves there was no need for plates.  Dishes done.

Numbers

Tips to remember in determining numbers for your toddler party.

  • DO NOT invite every small child mentioned in conversation over the previous nine months.  You do not need two dozen toddlers in your home.
  • DO NOT invite all of your adult friends with kids. You won’t get time to chat to them anyway, and kids in groups usually prefer ones close to them in age.  Others get left out or ignored.  Best see those friends one on one, like when you and your friends are having coffee and watching your differently-aged kids use a playground together.
  • DO NOT, under any circumstances, believe your child when she says that someone is her best friend.  This will change many times in the next few years, and almost immediately after you’ve finalised a guest list.
  • Reinforce the good decisions.  Remember to invite the parents you like and the kids you know your kid has enjoyed hanging with on several previous occasions.  Talk about how exciting it will be to see them constantly.
  • Above all, the rule about inviting the number of kids equal to your kids age seemed appropriate.  So we doubled it.

Toys

The most important thing we’ve learned, from previous hosting experience, is to PUT AWAY THE PUZZLES!  You will spend the next three weeks finding pieces wedged into your backside when you sit down to watch Grey’s Anatomy.  You know I speak from experience on this one.

So we left out a few larger toys but put all the good stuff in the backyard.  This worked on all the kids except for poor Sebastian, who remembered our paltry collection of Matchbox cars from a visit last December and spent the whole three hours looking for them.

Cake

I’m pretty sure that this was the highlight of Miss Nearly Three’s life so far. Even better than the zoo.  Even better than the time she convinced me to put the car window down so she could yell out when I’m at 80ks an hour, “You’ll never find my shoes now, ha ha ha!”  Yep, even better than that.

And it was all due to…. Michel’s Patisserie.

This is not the actual cake. There are only two pieces left of ours.

I realised a constant theme in the ever changing requests for cake was chocolate, so we went to Michel’s, flicked through the pictures and made a selection. Princesses of course. Only one day’s notice needed. The downside was that the one we wanted wasn’t available online as promised, so I needed some help to get to the shop.  Annoying for working mums Michels!  More expensive than homemade, but hours and  hours of my life bought back.  The kids loved it.

Last night, as I was patting a ridiculously over-tired little girl off to to sleep, she threw her arms around me and said, “Mummy thank you for my party.  It was the best party ever.”

Mission accomplished.

Me time

Did you see this story in the Sunday papers reporting that mums only get 40 minutes of “me time” a day?

Forty minutes a day – or 4.6 hours a week – sounds like a lot to me.

According to the paper, the pressure to do both jobs well, plus the growing number of extra-curricular activities children do, are stripping time from the busy mother’s schedule.

Sound familiar?

What the heck is “me time”?    Good question, and it’s probably one that most working mums ask.  It’s certainly not as though they have it in spades.

According to The Lipstick Economy, 90% of mums go online for me time.  This is a US figure, so it may not be relevant for Australian mums, but it makes sense to me.

I used the Internet for social contact a lot when I was on maternity leave.  At least, when I wasn’t breastfeeding, washing my daughter’s clothes, washing my clothes she’d thrown up on (reflux baby!) or trying to stop her crying.

I spent a lot of time doing all of those things, so checking Facebook and email was one way of keeping in touch when leaving the house was impossible.

These days me time doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer, although I am a notorious ‘two screener’.  I text or get out the laptop while watching TV. In fact, I’m doing that right now.

I define me time as going for a morning walk, seeing a friend for coffee or getting my nails done. But I don’t get four hours a week!

Time online is still important to me.  Some weeks I spend more time with Facebook friends than my real friends.

What do mums do online?   According to The Lipstick Economy, we engage with social media and spend money. Going online fills our need for social interaction, self-sufficiency and bargain hunting.  Apparently 36% of us are getting bored with what their friends had for dinner last night (yep, that’s me) and are looking for more fulfilling news and content.

Sixty-three percent of mums read articles posted by others, 35% share what they are reading, and 35% post content that others share.

What do you do for me time? How much do you get a day?

Lucy Howes tells how she became a convert to tutoring

English: School children doing exams inside a ...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s no zealot like a convert, which is why I’ve been singing the praises of my son’s new tutoring school all day.

I used to be dead against coaching colleges, which drill kids in things like the Opportunity Class and Selective Schools exams. I used to think bright children would get there themselves, and that it was deeply unfair to ‘train’ a child how to study to a test in order to get into an elite school.

And then I had a son enter primary school, and I watched as he spent the vast amount of school time trying to stay out of trouble. I watched as his class sizes swelled from a perfectly manageable 16 in kindergarten, to 30 by year four. And I wondered how my child could score highly in the year 3 Naplan test, but bring home a report card so woeful six months later that you would not think it was describing the same child.

And I realized that with two other kids (one a baby), and a career, a cat, a household to run, and a husband, I could not help him enough at home. I was allowing him to do badly in class, based on my own ideological beliefs.

When I went back to work after my third baby last year, I started juggling the dreaded triple pick-up.

My kids – two in primary school, and one in daycare – are in three different locations after 4pm. So even though I leave work at a very reasonable hour, by the time we get home it’s nudging 6pm, and there’s dinner to cook, and baths to supervise, and pajamas to find, and bags to unpack, and squashed pears to throw out, and lunchboxes to decontaminate.

But homework, especially for an older primary school child, requires parental input. I’ve heard this at five consecutive school information nights for five consecutive years. But how do you provide sufficient homework input when you’re trying to put the baby to bed and it’s already 8pm, and your son is wailing that ‘none of this makes any sense!’ and frankly, all you want is a glass of wine and to watch some mindless television?

The truth is, I am a terrible teacher, so it’s just as well I am a passable lawyer. I can’t remember anything from primary school. I’m hard pressed spotting a collective noun in a word-web, and by now, my son’s maths homework greatly exceeds my own mathematical ability. My ability to explain the proper use of past particles is also severely limited, and my claim that “I know them when I see it” is apparently both annoying and unhelpful.

The answer, I have discovered, is to find the best coaching school you can, and get your tiger mother on. The idea of Saturday school – almost five hours of it – was so utterly repugnant to my son that he sulked for a week. I had to practically drag him into the classroom.

But by the time my husband picked him up, he bounced out like the Energizer Bunny. He’d loved it. He’d made a friend. He’d learnt about the NSW parliament, and scored 24 out of 24 for a comprehension test, and gotten a sticker, which he assured me was “pretty dorky”, but I could tell he was secretly thrilled.

And then today, when we sat down to do his revision, he flew through the work. He didn’t need my help. He told me that for the first time, he understood it. The teacher, who only had four other kids to teach, had ‘properly’ explained it to him what a homonym was, and he’d gotten it (which was lucky, because I had to look it up on my Iphone, pretending to check an email).

And I couldn’t be more thrilled. To see my son excited by schoolwork, and engaged in his learning, feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. The cost, although not cheap, is no more than any other extra-curricula activity, and the school was full of kids just like mine.

In the Year of the Tiger, embracing my inner Tiger Mother has been the best decision I’ve made yet. And, in the end, it was one of the easiest. Not least of all, I’m very hopeful it may buy me a little more wine-drinking and television-watching time.

Do you worry about whether you should get you children a tutor?

Does homework put pressure on your day?

How do you manage school work in your family?

Lucy Howes is a working mum of three children aged ten, six and twenty months, who also somehow manages a career as a lawyer.

Kidspot has a lot of information on what to look for in a tutor and how to make a decision about whether your child needs a tutor here

Working from home

I’m lucky enough to work from home one day a week.

It really takes the pressure off when I need a handyman to stop by the house, collecting something from our local post office or doing a load of washing in my lunch hour.  I also use what is normally my travel time to make it to the gym.  This all makes me terribly productive while Miss Nearly Three plays in the sandpit at day care down the road and without an afternoon commute, we have an extra hour in the evenings together.

On the odd occasion when I’ve tried to work from home with Miss Nearly Three in the house, it has been an unmitigated disaster. I can’t speak on the phone without a demanding toddler interrupting me. I feel unprofessional and am constantly apologising to colleagues for the background noise.  I know I am less efficient and feel guilty that I am using work time so unproductively.  I then try and rectify this by working into the evening, and through lunchtimes to make up the time, but it is a vicious, unhappy cycle.

If I focus on the work and bribe Miss Nearly Three with extra episodes of Peppa Pig just to be quiet, then my ‘Mummy self’ feels awful because I’ve just plonked her in front of TV and turned her into a zombie.   It often seems like a no win situation.

This is partly the reason I love my days in the office. They allow me to wear nice clothes, have adult conversation and get the more engaging part of my work done.  Unfortunately, not every job can be done from home and even when they can, not every boss is supportive.

Workingmother.com has listed 15 surprising work from home jobs.  It even claims a chef and a CEO can work from home.  I’m a bit skeptical about the practicality of this and think maybe they are giving us false hope.  I also think ‘face time’ is important in lots of jobs as it helps build team work and shared understanding of what needs to be done, I think it makes me understand my organization better and learn more about the work of others.  Even if I am not working directly with many of my colleagues, the casual chats in the kitchen help me get better at promoting our work, which is a handy benefit in PR!

Do you work from home?  What do you think works about it?  What doesn’t work? Do you think employers get ripped off?  Any suggestions to help me be more productive?

Happy Valentine’s Day – the results are in!

The results are in!

One in ten of you think Valentine’s Day is stupid.   But many more of you would like a nice meal out with your partner or hubby.

Only two people voted for a meal out with the hubby and kids.  I’m guessing your kids aren’t toddlers.

I especially loved the write in answers.  Here’s a sample.

  • For him to cook dinner AND do the dishes afterwards
  • sleep in, massage, peace and quiet
  • a hand written letter
  • Non tangible displays of love eg recognition, feeling appreciated

Good ideas all.  And my news?  Well, it wasn’t what I voted for but it was a great choice – Grease *and* Grease 2 on DVD.  

My husband  absolutely hates those movies, but he knows I love them, daggy as they are.

The best part of my morning was Miss Nearly Three opening her four little hearts of chocolate and working out which of her friends will receive them.  I expect by the time we see any of these friends they will all be safely in her tummy.  But don’t worry Oliver, Zamarah and Sebastian – she was thinking of you today!

Thanks for your votes.  Are you surprised by the results?

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Kirsten x

Gwyneth Paltrow’s lessons for working mums – no thanks

I have a love/hate relationship with Gwyneth.  I love most of her movies, but her lack of self awareness, or the world most of us live in, is quite odd.

Last week in an interview with Harpers Bazaar, Gynweth  said what made her marriage work  was being at home when her husband returned home from work.

What??  Nothing like a bit more pressure and guilt from a high profile and wealthy mum to make the rest of us feel bad.

I don’t really care about what works for Gwyneth because her life is so unlike mine  –  although I am interested in how some of the amazing mums I know manage to hold it all together despite challenges like commuting, managing finances and imperfect child care arrangements.

Fortunately Michelle Beckett at the Huffington Post UK has managed to sum up my concerns about this.  She writes:

I’d love to stay at home in the day with my three daughters, baking organic recipes from your twee lifestyle website and getting my nose hairs detoxed with sea purslane or whatever.

Waiting sweetly in a pretty dress for my husband (if I had one) to return from work, so I can rub his shoulders and fetch him his pipe and slippers as his organic butternut squash and quinoa supper cooks….

Let me tell you about MY life. I know enough about your perfect one, thanks…

I’m a single self-employed full time working mum of three girls aged 15, 11 and nearly three. I won’t moan, I consider myself very privileged. I juggle my successful business with organising myself, the girls, the logistics of two ex husbands, the housework, the cooking, the… holy crap, please no one drop in and notice my kitchen floor…

My life is a whirl of missing school letters, frantic washing of school tights at 11pm when we’ve run out, trying not to shout at kids for missing homework left to the last minute, painting walls, potty training, nursery pick ups…

Mixed with… (deep breath) preparation of PowerPoints and booking trains so I can go speak on stage to business audiences, as I try to look immaculate, professional and as if I have it all together behind the scenes, perfectly, like Gwyneth does.

Check out the full version of Michelle’s piece here.

What do you think of Gwyneth?  Am I being unfair in resenting her lessons to working mums?  Or is she simply answering questions about her life and if any of us feel guilty is it our problem?