Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One door closes...

I don’t do ends of eras well.

My baby finishes primary school today. Not the new baby who is gurgling in the pram beside me as I write this, but his twelve-year-old sister – who was his age yesterday and is now a gangly pre-teen who fills me with joy and frustration in almost equal measure.

I’ve had about six cups of tea today and they haven’t taken the edge off the train smash that I am at the thought of flying past this milestone. I fuel my instability with a tortuous glance at her kindergarten photo – the one we took on her first day, of me crouching down at her level, holding her hands, staring lovingly into her anxious little face and willing her to be confident.

Whatever I did that day, it worked. Not immediately, mind – she was barnacled to my ankle at every morning drop-off for the first five weeks and, at the time, I thought it would never end.

Now it’s me – barnacled to her ankle, as I watch her race past me and clatter the front door behind her, despite my telling her every morning not to slam it. Racing past me full stop.

She’s clutching an old school polo shirt and a heap of textas for everyone to graffiti their names on it today. The music she’s listening to is awful. She looks at me like I came down last week in the Queanbeyan flood. The bathroom reeks of way too much hair-removal cream, after I let her use it for the first time for tonight’s farewell disco, despite her being far too young (ie. exactly the same age that I was when I first shaved my legs, but that was different! I felt much older than she looks!)

I thought it would never end, and now it has.

‘I can’t believe it’s her last day of primary school,’ I sob, when my husband asks me what’s wrong.

‘Oh well,’ he replies. ‘She’ll start high school next year.’

I look at him incredulously – carrying our seven-week-old baby, who he’s just changed, fed and burped, as well as cup of tea that he’s made for me – and wonder how he could have gone so far wrong with that comment.

It occurs to me that this was perhaps not, in hindsight, the best week to choose to wean the baby. That particular horse has, however, well and truly bolted, and there must be a way of riding this roller-coaster without re-lactating.

I have a flashback to my own final day of primary school. The big party we had at Anna Green’s house. The kissing competition...

Right! That’s it! I need a distraction, and I need one fast. It’s times like this that you need the soothing fluffiness of ABBA, and what could be more harmless than watching Mamma Mia on DVD?

An hour later, I’m submerged in a swamp of used tissues and empty chocolate wrappers, with Meryl Streep’s Slipping Through my Fingers on continuous loop.

I realise I have precisely an hour and fifteen minutes to pull myself together before my daughter gets home, takes one look at me and accuses me of being a weirdo/freak/loser etc before instructing me not to be embarrassing at the presentation evening (at which, I kid you not, they are showing a slide-show of their school journey, set to music).

I rifle through the letter box, hoping to find a Round Robin Christmas letter but finding instead a letter from the high school she’s going to. Dare I open it?

It’s addressed to the 2011 Year Seven parents and outlines what will happen in the first week of school. As I read through it, I find it strangely comforting. The list of stationery requirements includes coloured pencils. Sounds positively kindergartenish. It says they’ll take all students to the buses on the first day, whether they’re catching the bus that day or not, just so they become familiar with their bus. How reassuringly hand-holding-ish.

By the time she gets home I realise she’s still a little fish - about to be thrown into a big pond, and the journey is far from over. We’re only half way there...

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning, waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile... I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter, that funny little girl.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday survival plan!

With six weeks of holidays looming, I suggested to my daughters (who are 12 and 10) that we not spend the entire period hunched over the TV and glued to various varieties of social networking.

We're developing a plan together, involving a mix of activities and a set budget. The plan includes:

• A small range of daily chores

• A daily walk

• Two planned 'outings' each week (one must be free)

• One friend over (or vice versa) each week

• Re-joining the local library and visiting each week

• Visiting the craft superstore and each starting a long-term project

• Working our way through the Junior MasterChef cookbook

We might not stick to it without fail, and there will be daily screen time, too, but we're looking forward to giving it a go.

It has been a pleasure getting to know many of you this year. We're taking a break until 4 January and will return with fresh ideas on how to 'have it all' in 2011.

In the meantime, if you're in the mood to overhaul the way you do things next year, feel free to check out our downloadable self-paced 'Life Balance Program'. Between now and 4 January, we've reduced the price of the eBook from $39.95 to just $16.95 as a New Year Special.

Wishing you all the best for a beautiful Christmas and a happy and balanced year ahead.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do I walk my talk?

I was asked this week whether I feel under pressure to live up to my own advice, and thought it was a really useful question to answer.

I do feel responsible for 'walking the talk', but this is certainly not the same as saying that I get it right all the time.

I've got the perfect excuse to create balance in my life, because it's my business 'brand'. A friend of mine runs a fitness business, and I remember her saying that she has to be seen by others to be staying fit and eating well. In my case, thankfully I don't have this pressure, and can eat all the chocolate I want! :-)

What I need to be seen to be doing is making 'me time' and 'family and friend' time outside work, to balance my commitments and to reduce stress in my life so that I can make the most of each aspect of it. It's an enjoyable 'brand' to strive for.

Are things blissful all the time? Of course not!

Working from home with kids of all ages (my husband's children are 20 and 17, my two are 12 and 10 and our baby is nearly 6 weeks old), I've got the perfect family to make running a business a huge challenge! There are moments when it all comes crashing down and I feel like out-classing a toddler in the tanty department, times when I cry and times when I feel like a failure. When this happens, I sometimes ask myself whether I'm in the right game...

What leads me to think that I am, is that these 'falling in a heap' moments happen much less frequently than they used to. A few years ago, I regularly over-committed myself and was often at wits' end (a situation that led to my book, Wits' End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum')

I used to be the cause of most of my problems in this area and I'm now the cause of most of my success. I know my own limits, and rarely exceed them. I know the lifestyle I want (in terms of how the time is divided), and I carve it out thoughtfully. I know when to say 'no', how to say it and who to say it to, whether this means knocking back a work demand, a cool opportunity or a child.

If I've learned a lot about 'having it all' (and I'm still learning) , it hasn't been from self-help books or 'gurus' but through making a lot of mistakes. I had too much on my plate, dropped it, lost it and gradually found it again.

I'm very careful, these days, with the things that matter most to me, and I see my role as providing others with the short cuts I wish I'd known earlier.

So, in answer to the question - yes, there is some pressure to live up to my own advice, but the rewards are great when I do!