Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Working mumma blues

I know a lot of working mums have it a WHOLE lot harder than me, so please don't think from this post that I believe I'm hard done by.  This is just a space for me to vent - my online therapy, if you will.

Today was a bad day.  My amazing sister-in-law looks after my daughter on the two days I work day shift, but today one of her own little ones wasn't well, and while still offering to look after mine, I thought it best to A) keep the sickness quarantined as much as possible, and B) give her a break by having one less child to muster into a doctor's office (PS:  my girl HATES the doctor and freaks out any time she sees the little ear thermometer, or light they use to look at your throat.  My sister-in-law didn't need to add 'freaking-out niece' on to her list of things to juggle today!).

So after some early morning phone juggling, the final plan was to take her to her grandmother's house until 1pm, when darling husband would collect her, take her to a friend's house for the afternoon, until he could come and pick her up again at 4.30pm.  She had a pretty good time at both grandma's house, and at my friend's house (who has two children under two already - superwoman!), but I was sad the whole day.  Why?

The fact that my daughter was a problem to be solved.  That my job took precedence over caring for her.  That I felt like she was being shuffled from pillar to post just to get through her parent's work day.  That any normalcy was thrown out the window.  That she might have felt abandoned by us.  That kills me!  If I wasn't so worried about losing my job, I would have taken a carer's day to look after her, but I'm so worried about losing my job that I don't even want to take my own sick days!

There are no words my tired, mushy brain is capable of stringing together in a coherent form that would even come CLOSE to describing how much and how deeply and unceasingly I love my daughter.  I hate leaving her at the best of times, but to have to "solve" her today made me feel like a bloody horrible mother.  I can only say thank God we have my mum living 20 minutes away, and a friend willing to take a last-minute babysitting job on top of her own two little ones.  Not many people are that fortunate, and we certainly are.

But tomorrow and Thursday are my days off, and I am so glad I get to be with her again for the whole of those two days!  I'm even staying up late tonight putting loads of washing on so tomorrow I can spend more time with her doing fun things, like crawling around the loop in our house, or drawing, or playing outside.  The sleep deprivation will be totally worth it.  Might even go for a run and blow the cobwebs off this funky mood.

Friday, 25 May 2012

So long, friends

So far this year, I've lost two friends.  Not in the funeral sense (thank God!) but in the 'defriending' way.  I deleted one friend, and another friend deleted me.  The reasons for both were very different, and the level of friendship I had with both was different too, but they both affected me quite a lot.  I thought on it and mulled it over for days before I finally accepted that we fell out of each other's circles for a reason.

Not all friends are meant to stay in our lives forever.  I think people come into your life at a point when one or both of you need each other, then often, when that need has been fulfilled, you drift apart again.  And often into a friendship with someone else to serve another purpose - either you for them, or them for you.

Now, the first friend.  We were old friends, former boyfriend/girlfriend (should tell you enough, right there) and I'd helped him through quite a few (mostly relationship) challenges over the years.  We hadn't seen each other for quite a long time, but we occasionally messaged and chatted online.  We could go a year without talking, but when he needed me, I was there, on email or chat, helping him through the latest heart break.  I was his friend and happy to be there for him.  But as we've grown up from our university days, we've both changed considerably - me more than him.   I'm now a Christian.  He's atheist.  When he made fun of my faith and basically said I had no common sense because I believed, I knew that the friendship had come to an end.  I'd served my purpose in his life, and it was time to take my exit.  You can pick on me, but not my faith!  Deal-breaker, right there!

The second friend was a former co-worker, who was having a tough time in the office, and I was her friend, sounding board and light comic relief.  But now that she's moved on to another job with another company, I'm not required any more.  She 'unfriended' me after a silly minor misunderstanding (damn text messages!).  It hurt because I really liked her, and I tried to make amends but she'd already written me off.  She probably saw the minor misunderstanding as a relief.  So I learnt the lesson that picking up the phone and CALLING people should always take precedence over text and email.

And recently, another old friend has moved on.  Well, they moved on quite a while ago but I'm only really seeing it and feeling it now.  I actually shed quite a few tears over this one.  But as I was vacuuming this morning and working myself into a ball of tears over it, I was reminded that everything in life moves in seasons - seasons change.  I am exactly where I am meant to be.  The role I played in the lives of these people has been fulfilled.  I'll probably cry a few more times because I'm a big ol' softie and don't always take change very well - especially change I don't instigate.

But I will keep reminding myself of the "good times" (which will probably make me cry even more because that's the way I roll!) but I'll also try to remind myself to be honoured that I was a part of their lives in the first place.  I mean, not everyone in the world is friends with everyone else, so to be accepted and welcomed as anyone's friend is actually a pretty big honour and privilege.  They thought I was cool enough to hang out with.  Awesome!

I will also thank God for the amazing friends who are currently in my life, and I pray they will be the long-lasting kind, who will do life with me (and me with them) over the decades to come.  Because we all need all-seasons friends like that, too.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Random acts of kindness for the workplace bully

So anyone who read my first blog post knows that my job, along with hundreds of others in my building, isn't the most secure.  There's a giant axe hanging over everyone's heads.  It's a really positive and thriving place to work right now - not!  Don't get me wrong - nobody is lording this threat over us; it's just there and we know it's coming, just not the "who" or the "when".   It is so easy to get caught up in the gossip and speculation, but all that does is make me more scared than I already am.  And that's hardly conducive to peak work performance!

On Tuesday night I went to a seminar my church holds for women every few months, called Thriving in the Workplace.  There's always several electives to choose from - cooking, craft, marriage, general words of wisdom etc - but this one jumped off the list.  Perfect timing!

In a nutshell, think of people you've worked with who have impacted you for the better, then think of those who have impacted you negatively.  What traits made the positive-impactors so good for you?  Mine were diligent, honest, have an open-door policy and give good feedback on what I'm doing.  The negative bullied by exclusion, were aggressive, yelled, abused their power and micro-managed everyone.

Now, it's so easy to write off the negative people as horrible, mean and nasty.  I actually nicknamed my first minor boss "big, fat, evil, mean, nasty man!"  I kid you not!  I even did a voice!  But the lady taking the seminar on Tuesday night reminded me that those people are often the saddest people around, who have a whole lot more going on than just being mean.  I'm an easy target - I'm small, quiet, polite and often sit dumb-founded when attacked and don't fight back.  I'll come up with a thousand responses in the car on the way home, though!  And the next day, when they apologise, I smile and laugh it off when I'm still dumb-founded on the inside.  But rather than feel angry and want to be mean back, this woman suggested doing an anonymous random act of kindness for them.  Like leaving a chocolate bar on their desk, or a bag of chips or a pot plant or something.  Now that's a good challenge to take on!

And the other thing the host suggested was listing three traits you want to live your work life by (which often spill into your personal life too).  This woman lived her high-powered and highly influential work life by - fairness, kindness and integrity.  Think about it in the car on the drive to work.  Think about it walking to the train or bus.  Pray about it.  Then try to live by it every day.  We'll fail because we're human, but keep trying.

I'm choosing honesty, diligence and kindness.  The diligence part is going to be hard for me because sometimes I just don't have the oomph to keep going when I'm tired, and checking and writing emails to friends is much more appealing.  I do work hard, but some days are just a struggle, and instead of struggling on through and keeping my workload/pace up, I hit the lazy button for a while.  But my husband reminded me last night in prayer that my job, my position and my income are all blessings from God.  It's true!  And how do I want to show my thanks for that - by being a slacker?  Or by working my hardest, helping others when my workload is light, right up until my shift is finished and not a minute before?  Not a hard choice, really!

So I don't know if I'm going to lose my job or not, or if one of my friends will (and some amazing people I work with have the world's biggest mortgages!), but I have resolved to keep working my hardest - I love my job and what I do, so I'm going to relish and make the most of every second I'm there, because it might be over pretty quickly.  I don't want to make it easy for my bosses to fire me - be the easy choice for them.  If they fire me, I want them to have a crappy time doing it!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

I'm not a quitter

So, I've started running.  More accurately, I decided I liked the idea of "going for a run", with a mental picture of a super-fit me, running comfortably for kilometres, in practical and effortlessly stylish running gear, arriving home feeling energised, de-stressed and ready to tackle anything.  Somehow in this vision I'm also taller and have perfect skin.  Romanticised much?!?!  However, the block between me 'now' and me 'there' is unfitness (but the height and skin isn't going to change, sadly).  I don't know how to run and had never run further than it took to catch the train.

Enter Couch to 5k (www.c25k.com), which basically takes couch potatoes (zero fitness) through a 9-week training program to get them running 5km (non-stop) by the end.  Hey presto!  Here I go!

Week 1 was a bit of a struggle, but mostly due to running on wet grass and the gross sensation of cold, squelchy feet.  Eeew!  And also reminding my body that is was actually made to move!  Fancy that!  Now, mind you, I have been a gym junkie at a few points in my life, but I haven't been super-fit since before I met my husband.  Then along comes wedded bliss (don't they say everyone gains weight during the first years of marriage?  I sure did!), then pregnancy (I had planned to exercise and be active all through my pregnancy but with blood pressure issues, I felt like fainting most of the time and came to the realisation while laying on the couch watching my pregnancy yoga DVD, that perhaps my baby and body had other plans for me during her occupation!), then new baby, then work, then no time, then too hard.

I think most people are inherently lazy - well, our bodies are.  I know my body is much more comfortable on the couch, under a blanket, watching TV, than pounding the footpath at 6am in the 5 degree pre-dawn!  I'm now in Week 2 of the Couch to 5k - Day 2 coming tomorrow morning.  I've shocked my body back into activity and, like an old machine, it's grinding, groaning and squealing its way back up to speed.  What's the human equivalent of WD40, I wonder?  Anyone?

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm great at setting goals (see my bucket list blog), but not the best at seeing them through.  So I asked some friends to help me out here, and keep me accountable on my running goal.  Now enter, the Bridge to Brisbane (www.bridgetobrisbane.com.au/event-info/) - a fun run event with a 5km section, and a 10km section.  The aforementioned friends are enlisting with me, and are meeting me at the starting line to run the whole 5km section.  (The always-ambitious side of me wants to do the 10km run, but my body and common sense says 'easy does it, sister!')  I can't back out if I know there are people expecting me!  I hate letting people down - I refuse and will not.  I will RUN the whole way!  And the friendly little counter on the Bridge to Brisbane homepage reminds me I've got 101 days to get my ageing act together!  YES.  I.  CAN!

This is the beginning of my journey to the Boston Marathon (again, see bucket list blog).  I have a vision I'm holding onto to spur me on, of my husband and daughter at the finishing line, watching me coming down the home stretch, cheering me on.  The smiles I see on their faces is either going to make me burst into tears (entirely likely), or give me that last surge to get over the line when my lead-like legs want to pack it up and go home.  Who'm I kidding!  Of course I'll burst into tears AND get the extra surge to cross the line!  Hec, if I've run 40km, I'm not about to stop in the last 2km!

We all need something to spur us on - a reason to meet our goal, to keep us focused when it gets hard - whether it's a mental picture of your awesome self achieving your goal (promotion, getting the corner office, being made partner, buying a business, running a marathon...), a mantra, a weight target, an event or a person.

I've read so many 'positive poster' messages lately, I can't credit this to the right person or website, so forgive me, but chew on this one today if you're like me, in trying to reach a goal that seems laughable - "Pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever."  Say it with me - I. Won't.  Quit.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

One cup of mother's guilt, please.

Every mother does the best job they can by making what they think are the best choices for them and their child/children.  But how many mothers come away from "mummy mornings" or a visit with a mummy friend feeling supremely inadequate?  Me!

"Oh, crap, I'm doing it all wrong and my child will never learn to [fill in the blank]."  Or "Little Johnny is the same age as my child and my child can't do XYZ yet.  I must be a bad mother.  I'm doing it all wrong and my child will fail at school and hate me when he grows up!"

Silly?  Yes.  Relatively truthful internal dialog of a new mum?  Yes again.

Every day I try my best and do the best I can that day.  Some days are more successful than others.  But in the back of my head is a little voice that tells me I should be doing MORE.  I should be TRYING HARDER to make all my daughter's food from scratch; reading to her even more; watching less television; getting outside to get dirty more; trying harder to teach her to feed herself and put herself to sleep on cue; and shouldn't she be walking by now; and she needs to know sign language because every kid around her is getting it hammered into them and I'm doing a bad job that she doesn't know any!  AND she uses a dummy to go to sleep.  And I use disposable nappies!  And, and, and...!  Argh!  Enough!

When I tell that voice to shut up, I look at my daughter playing on the floor.  She's happy.  She's healthy and smiling and laughing at tickles, calling the cat, chasing the cat, crawling at the speed of light and generally having a whale of a time... most of the time.  She grizzles when she's tired and throws her food on the floor and thinks it's very entertaining which drives my clean-freak self bananas!

There are as many parenting choices out there as there are colours in the world!  But as soon as you start looking at what you're doing and hold it up against someone else, you'll always come away feeling like you're doing something wrong - even if you thought you were doing a pretty good job before you walked into that "mummy friend's" house!  You could be doing 98% "right" but you'll kick yourself mercilessly for the 2% you could improve.  Why is that?

I think it's a mixture of not thinking I'm good enough to be as blessed as I am; but also from the immense strength of love I have for my daughter that I want her to be the best little girl she can be... and in order for that to happen, I need to be the best mummy I can be.  And am I going to be the best mummy I can be if I keep moving the goal posts on myself?  Am I going to be the best mummy I can be by teaching my daughter that you gauge your self-worth or success by comparing yourself to other people?  That you should always second guess yourself because of what other people do?  Can I get a HELL NO!

So next time you're hanging with your mummy friends (or talking dad talk over the barbecue with your mates) just stop and remind yourself of all the things you're doing right - about how happy / smart / funny your child is - and smile.

Be the best mum / dad / friend / aunt / uncle YOU can be - whatever that may look like.