Red

Every Monday morning I spend an hour with the Grade 1 class at my son’s primary school listening to the kids read one on one. While I was there this morning the teacher was instructing the rest of the grade on how to write a poem. The example provided was about the colour green. The kids then had to pick another colour as a class and they brainstormed that colour. They chose red. They had to think of all the things that look, feel, taste and smell red. Afterwards, they were each sent off to spend some time compiling their poems.

Although I passed grade 1 a long time ago, I liked this idea and decided I want to write a “red” poem too. So here goes…

Red is the colour of passion.

Red is the feeling of heat prickling my skin.

Red is the smell of blood.

Red is the colour of the sun.

Red is a kiss.

Red is cheeks blushing with embarrassment.

Red is the smell of roses on Valentine’s day.

Red is strawberries floating in champagne.

Red sky

Red sky (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Red is a wound, fresh and oozing.

Red is fireworks, exploding across the sky.

Red is the colour of love.

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Ready for School

My son had his first transition session for school today. He was so excited. He was bouncing around in the car while we took his younger brother to crèche.

When we got to the school, he darted off to the Lego. He was straight into it. Not bothered at all by the new surroundings. The excitement was just too much for him.

I sat with him a little as he built a house out of Lego. The teacher came over to introduce himself. He proudly told her his name and announced that he was going to be at school next year.

After a few minutes, the principal asked for parents to leave. We were to attend an information session. My son looked a little daunted as I told him I was going. I suggested he stay with the other little boy at the table. He just shrugged as I walked off.

After the routine housekeeping information I wandered past the classroom. Through the window I could see him participating in some group activity. He was encouraging another child to participate.

I headed home. Reaching the door I felt rather odd. I am quite used to being home without children. I work from home and my daily routine consists of dropping them off at crèche and returning to get stuck into work. This was different though. It hit me that he had reached a new milestone. He wasn’t a baby anymore. He was my big schoolboy.

Although my son was a head taller than the other new preps, the older children at the school looked so big. It is a prep to 12 college and there were highschool students at the office. They looked huge.

After a coffee at home I tried to do some work to take my mind off it. Every 2 seconds I looked at the clock, eagerly anticipating the time to collect him.

I was back at the school well before the pick up time. I stood on the steps and peered through the window. He was sitting alone, deeply entranced in constructing a race car. I watched him as he left his car to play musical instruments with his new friends. They then had a group song before the session ended.

When he walked out, he was beaming. He showed me the bookmark he made and asked if he could eat his lunch out of a lunchbox today like the school kids do. He even asked if he could go back tomorrow and seemed genuinely disappointed that he couldn’t.

He is definitely ready for school. I’m just not sure that I am.

The Joys and Pitfalls of Working from Home

I love working from home. With two children, the flexibility working from home brings is invaluable. When I worked in an office, I had used up all my sick leave within the first few months, and none of those days were for my own illnesses.

I certainly don’t miss the mad rush to have my kids up and dressed and out the door by 7am. Every time the alarm went off, I would groan and hope that I was just dreaming and the beeping was part of my dream. Now, I sleep until I hear my baby playing in his cot. Then I know it is time to get up. We casually get breakfast and dress. When everyone is ready, we head to childcare.

Not only is the lack of panic and haste in the morning having an effect on my stress levels, my kids are benefiting from it too. Come evening, they are less cranky and the protests over bedtime are easier to manage. I love that I can alter my work times to suit their needs and feel so much more energetic.

I love that on some days I can work in my pyjamas! Over summer, I couldn’t afford to take time off but found a happy compromise. We spent the summer at our caravan by the river and my partner entertained the kids for a few hours each afternoon while I worked. Looking at the river (see my picture) and sitting outside in the sun certainly made for a nice work environment.

However working from home does have its drawbacks. The lack of company is one of the first things you notice. I drop the kids off at childcare and head home to a quiet, empty house. While there are days when I welcome the peace and quiet, I am beginning to find that the lack of adult conversation during the day is becoming more obvious. Where I once stood in the kitchenette chatting to colleagues while I made my cup of tea, I now find myself alone and telling the kettle about my day. Not surprisingly, the responses I get are somewhat lacking. When my partner gets home from work, I tend to talk his ear off. Afterall, it is often my first adult audience for the day! He finds this frustrating as he has spent all day with people and would prefer to be left alone.

I have also found that when you work from home you get very little feedback about your work. In an office, it is quite easy to gauge your progress. You get a “good job on that one” as you pass a colleague in the hall. You can see the boss smiling and you know you are on the right track. At home, no one bothers to call to tell you have done a good job. In fact, you usually won’t get any feedback unless something has gone wrong. This can leave you feeling that you are a failure and that your work is below standard. To combat this, I have started working on the “no news is good news” philosophy.

To work at home , you need to be dedicated. With no one to supervise how you spend your time, it is quite easy to get distracted. The washing needs doing, my Facebook account needs checking, the bed wants me to have a little nap in it. It is important to stay disciplined. During my work hours I allow myself only a certain number of distractions and each distraction must have a time limit.

That is not to say you shouldn’t have breaks. When I first started working from home I felt guilty every time I stopped to do something else. These are billable hours! You must work like a Trojan and not take a break. It took me a little while before I realised I was working about twice as much as I did in the office. Afterall, you stop to chat about your weekend, get a cup of tea, go to the toilet, find out the latest gossip on the girls in admin or complain about your boss. At home, you don’t do any of this. It is just you and your work and there are no interruptions. So I suppose I shouldn’t feel guilty about making a cup of tea. As long as my work is completed, one cup of tea isn’t going to hurt.

When you work from home, the distinction between home and office becomes increasingly blurred. I have found myself of an evening or on a weekend just trying to quickly “finish off things” that I didn’t get completed during the day. I have put on movies to entertain children while I just try “finish something quickly”. The more I did this, the more I realised I had to set myself boundaries. My work hours are those when my children are in childcare. Once they get home, my time is spent with them. One or two evenings a week I will finish things off but not more than that. The rest of my evenings are for me. And weekends, they are for family. It sounds pedantic but it ensures that the lines between home and work are not fuzzy and my children are not being pushed aside in order for me to work. It also ensures that I do take a little time for myself. This is important for my sanity.

So with a few careful rules, I love working from home. I happily chat to my kettle and pounce on my partner with a babble of stories when he walks in the door. I love the flexibility and I feel free. With a few simple rules I think I have finally found a nice balance.

Being a Working Mum

I don’t know if being a working mum is quite what I signed up for. Prior to having children, I often bemused the plight of “housewives”. I wondered how they filled in their days and was sure it must be quite boring.

After two children, my attitude has changed somewhat. I now understand just how much work being at home is. With two young children at home, a simple task like vacuuming can take hours. Every few minutes you are interrupted with cries, accidents, arguments, feeding or some other demand of a child.

Just because you are home fulltime does not mean you actually have time to complete all the chores you need to do. There is always laundry to fold, dishes to wash or toys to put away. No matter how much you do, there is always more.

This is not to say that completing these tasks is fun. If there is a woman out there that loves housework, I am yet to find her.’Frankly, I’d be very surprised if that woman exists.

Not to mention that the lack of company at home can become mind numbing. When your only companion is a one year old, the conversation tends to be fairly limited.

Going back to work certainly helps to stimulate the mind. It gives you the opportunity to socialise with other adults and to feel like part of the world. Working helps you gain a sense of importance and value.

But joining the workforce doesn’t mean all those housework tasks go away. The chores you struggled to finish when you were home fulltime are still there. Now you have even less time to try to finish them in and you end up working harder.

I often find myself coming home from work, changing out of my suit into my track pants and diving straight into a routine of cooking dinner, bathing children, getting clothes and meals sorted for the following day, washing dishes, tidying up, reading bedtime stories and trying to catch up on various chores.

Getting a cleaner goes some way to solving the problem but it doesn’t solve everything. Cleaners are not able to follow your children around all day and vacuum up the crumbs, wash your dishes after each meal, do the mountain of laundry that builds up, cook dinners, do grocery shopping or all the other tasks that need to be performed daily – unless of course you are wealthy enough to have a small army to tend to your home.

Cleaners are also expensive. Add this cost to the cost of childcare and you end up working more hours at work just to stay ahead.

Living the life of a working mum, I now understand why women choose to stay home. Although I didn’t particularly enjoy the lack of company and activities requiring thought, I still look back on my time at home longingly.

At one stage, I had the opportunity to work from home on project work. This was a fairly good solution. My children still went to childcare a few days a week but I was able to drop them off later and pick them up earlier. With the reduced hours I found they were less cranky in the evenings. It also gave me the flexibility to fit my housework in around my paid work.

The problem with this was it was project based work. Whilst the flexibility was fantastic, the lack of job security and steady income became problematic. Projects would come and go with no guarantee of a new project starting. Payment of invoices had to be chased. As my income was needed to support the family, it became necessary to seek more permanent work.

I still don’t know which is better. Being at home or working. Flexible project based work is good, provided you are not reliant on a steady income for day-to-day living. Finding a balance is a real challenge. When you do think you have the solution, usually something happens at home or a work to tip the scales and then we are back at square one.

8 Things You Inevitably Say when Shopping with Kids

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When I shop with my two children I feel like a broken record. For some reason my children turn into circus monkeys the second we enter a supermarket. It seems the aisles of groceries induce a hyperactive state and no amount of reasoning will bring them out of it.

I don’t believe I am alone. I often see other mothers struggling with their children. I see them trying desperately to break the speed record for filling the trolley with all required items while rounding up children.

The key is to get out the door as quickly as possible. You need to be organised. You need to know where items are and make sure you move through the supermarket systematically and swiftly. Going back to an aisle could prove deadly.

Throughout this process, a mother finds herself saying the same desperate pleas for good behaviour. It is par for the course and it goes something like this:

  1. Put that back! – It doesn’t matter how many times you say it, they still need to grab something they shouldn’t. All those shiny wrappers are simply too much temptation and unless you have managed to cage them in the trolley and place it further than arms reach from the shelf, something will be grabbed. The hope is to have the item returned to the shelf before it is dropped, squashed, torn or broken.
  2. No you can’t have that! – Usually said in relation to something with a high sugar content. Often this follows the whiny plea of “Muuuuum, can’t I have it”. I often have this plea followed with the reasoning of “my friends get these” or “dad said I could”.
  3. Get up! – If your child is like mine, the previous statement has the potential to lead to a full tantrum. This usually involves throwing themself on the floor. Alternatively, this statement gets used when the child ends up crawling on the floor to see under shelves or to try to find a dropped toy or grocery item.
  4. Come here! – the minute you let them loose they seem to have a beacon guiding them in the opposite direction. Inevitably they wonder off or the end up distracted by something sparkly and fail to follow as you move to the next item on the list.
  5. Leave your brother alone! – why they insist on annoying each other I have never understood. There is an innate need to snatch anything your sibling holds, poke your sibling, pull hair or find otherways to irritate your sibling.
  6. No you can’t get in the trolley! – the trolley is for the shopping. If I could carry the shopping, I wouldn’t need the trolley. There is no room in the trolley if it is filled with children. Not to mention the squashing of items that occurs when children are in the trolley with the groceries. That of course does not stop the temptation for children to get in the trolley. The lustre of shiny metal and wheels is simply too inviting.
  7. I’ll leave you at home next time! – I don’t know why we say this. Although usually said as a threat, both mother and child know it would be preferred. In reality, neither child or mother really wants to be at the supermarket and given the choice, any mother would prefer to shop without their children. Still, in desperation we say anything to try to get them to behave.
  8. Don’t touch that! – Don’t touch the fresh fruit and vegetables, don’t poke your finger in the meat packets, don’t smudge your finger prints on the deli banemarie, don’t press the button and don’t touch anything on the shelves!

All in all, there is just far too much temptation for a child at the supermarket. This leads to far too much frustration for any mother. But we will always go back for more. Not because we want to; because we have to.