In over my head…

It’s Saturday night (at least I think it is), and I find myself sitting in a corner at Los Angeles airport with tears streaming down my cheeks.  My jeans are ripped and my clothes smell…and I’m hungry…in short, I’m feeling incredibly sorry for myself.

How did I get here?

Well, it all started a few weeks back when I get a phone call from my boss asking if I was available to go to a workshop in New York.  Hmm…let me think about this, check my diary… HELLL YES PLEASE, I want to go!   Getting to New York has been a not so secret dream of mine for some time now.  It’s on the vision board for goodness sake…I was beginning to wonder when it would finally manifest itself after several close encounters over the last year that fizzled and died.

I don’t know why New York had suddenly become so important in my world but there was something about the opportunity to not only connect and work with some of the most respected people in my discipline, but to do so in such an iconic city (where, last time I visited was when I backpacked with my husband and we stayed at a hostel… which I figured out was 18years ago…ouch).

Of course, the timing wasn’t great.  I would need to fly out on the weekend, directly after my Sister arrived from overseas to visit our family.  Plus, my husband also had some work travel scheduled.  But after some creative juggling and yet again help from the parents (thank you!)…I was on my way.

New York was exactly as I imagined it might be.  I didn’t feel jetlag because I think I was flying on adrenalin for at least the first four days.   I felt like I belonged.  I felt like I had found “my people” at work and I spent joyously long days rabbiting about the things that confound me at work and getting their opinions on everything that we do.   I was amazed at the differences and the significant similarities between issues from country to country.  I even made time for some sightseeing and wander down the streets of New York pretending I was indeed, part of Sex in the City.

And then it was time to come home.  A tropical summer storm (in New York…yes…really) saw my plane to Dallas delayed and that is when things started going horribly wrong.   Suddenly I was waiting in a long queue for customer service in the airport, after I missed my connecting flight to Australia.   Around me, airport shops were shutting and they were rolling out rows of stretches with blankets in the corridors.   The service assistant (after 1 1/2hrs in the queue and well after midnight), tells me that there no more flights back to Australia until the next night, and I would have to fly to LA to get them.   She offered up a stretcher for me to have some rest.

As I sat contemplating my fate on the stretcher, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps work did not expect for me to sleep on the floor at the airport and I promptly found myself a hotel.  After a decent sleep at the hotel,  I was feeling a little more positive.  I could do this.  I had called my husband to tell him I was delayed by 24hrs,  which turned out to be rather a major problem because he had to fly out for another job himself, but he organised to ship the children to my sister in-law (thank you!) and we were back on track.

I decide that perhaps I should do some Yoga stretches in my hotel room, to help calm myself for the rest of my journey and after a few lovely vinyasa’s, I hear and feel a big rip as the inside thigh of my jeans rips across my leg.   Of course, I had no bags, as my bags were being held hostage at the airport…so I had no choice but to continue on as if nothing had happened and complete my trip with ripped trousers.  After all, surely I would be able to find something at the airport to buy (turns out not…actually).

After being on standby for several hours,  I somehow snatch a last minute pass onto a plane and I am finally on my way to LA.  And after some serious navigation issues,  also manage to find my way to the right gate at the international airport.   When I sit down with a thump and look up to the screen and realise with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach… that my plane was….DELAYED.

This time, I broke.   Oh my goodness, it felt like I was never going to get home.  I had been wearing the same clothes for days, literally. My pants were ripped.  I was oh so tired.  I missed home.  I missed the kids.

What the hell was I thinking when I agreed to go overseas?  Why did I not realise that it would be too much.  That it would be the straw that broke the camels back.  The juggling work and home is so hard at the best of times.  Now this was just a cruel way for the universe to tell me that I was pushing my luck.  That I didn’t need to do this.  I could have been safe and comfortable at home, all this time. It isn’t worth it.

I finally boarded the plane and started to relax as I realised that I would…eventually…make it home.  And I was reading through some of the notes I had made on the trip and I found this quote.

“Get in over your head as often and as joyfully as possible” – Alexander Isley

It was written on the wall of one of our offices, and I had written it down because I think we have become very negative about trying to “have it all” that perhaps we’ve swung the pendulum the other way and now everyone is stressed that they are trying to do too much.

So it made me think.  Even though the end of my trip was a little bit of disaster(ok..a lot of a disaster)… wasn’t it worth it for all the experiences that I had?  We forget that maybe sometimes,  throwing yourself into life…ALL IN… can at least make life interesting.

And I’ve learnt something new…next time… take an extra pair of trousers in your check in baggage.   I have never been so happy as I when I saw my bag slide onto the baggage carousel at the other end, at least the airline got that bit right.

When was the last time that you got yourself in over your head?

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School holidays…the struggle is real

I have a kind of love hate relationship with school holidays.  Any working parent will tell you about the additional angst that comes with the juggle of school holidays;  vacation care, holiday programs,  day swapping with friends, taking time off work, the boredom, the complaining and the lack of structure.

The lead up to holidays always has me in a bit of a head spin…

I am very fortunate that my work has the option to “self fund” additional leave, so when I went back to work full time this year,  I also purchased additional leave to help us manage school holidays.    After all,  the kids are off school for 12 weeks in a year! so juggling all that time can be part of the working parents minefield.

So now I have bought this additional leave,  my holidays will be different.  Right?    Relaxing quality time, bonding with the children,  cafe trips and laughter over hot chocolate,  lazing around the house with my feet up,  catching up on the kids lives and reducing my motherly guilt about working full time.

As the first set of holidays approach,  I’m thinking….here we go, quality Mum time ahead.  I even made a deal with my husband.  You take a week,  I take a week.   Awesome,  this should be a cinch.

But I found myself in mounting chaos before the holidays even started.

Work, for example,  might be officially letting me go on leave,  but that doesn’t mean the work goes away.  So I find myself working frantically in the week before I am due to be away,  trying to get double the work done in order to not leave a massive gap while I am gone.  I’m stressed and frustrated,  this is starting to look like a bad idea.

On the first day of the “holidays”, I am still wired.   The kids are running around like lunatics and my patience is already running thin.   I spend the day doing chores around the house and everything I pick up seems to be back on the floor before I even turn around.

I decide I need a project.

Now might be a good time to redecorate my sons room,  the car bed we got when he was three isn’t really cutting it anymore…and it will be a great bonding project for us to do together I think.

I drop my daughter at a friends house and head to IKEA.   Within 30min my son is complaining he wants to go home.  He has chosen a bed,  job done in his eyes.  He wants icecream.  I am wandering the self service aisles trying to find the right flat packs for the bed and chest of drawers we chose.   They are not there.   We have to find someone to help. They get a forklift.   My son is now WAY over it and pulling at my arms.   I struggle to get the huge flatpacks on to the trolley with “help” from my son.  Somehow manage the get through checkouts and then we are finally free (3 hrs later) and I spend 30min struggling to get everything we have purchased into my trailer.

Pick up my daughter and we are home again.  My son has no interest in constructed the bed.  And before we even start his whole room needs cleaning out.  He moans that he just wants to play computer games.   Has a fight with my daughter.

I look around me at the chaos and I think…this is NOT what I had imagined.  I feel overwhelmed, defeated and exhausted.   I am not enjoying any quality time with the kids.  All they want to do is stare at screens and eat junk food.  Bloody school holidays.

But then I stop myself and I realise that my expectations have gotten the better of me, yet again.   That the picture of “ideal” holidays that I have in my head is unrealistic.   Hopefully being off work and spending all day with the kids means that there will be some pockets of quality time together,  but that doesn’t mean that the WHOLE time is going to be quality time…infact, likely not at all.

So…I shake myself off and reset the expectations button.   Send the kids off to play computer games and watch TV (they think this is awesome), make a cup of tea, put on some music and get stuck into the bedroom.

Over the course of the week,  we had some ups and downs.   Inevitably some days were hard work,  I was not relaxing with my feet on the table having deep and meaningful conversations with the kids…let me tell you now!

But by the end of the week, I was feeling in a much different space.   It was nice to spend some time just juggling one component of my life, not all of them at once like usual.  I did manage to spend some quality time with the kids,  we did go for walks together,  we did chat about what is going on with them.  They also spent a lot of time doing the things that they love on their own and time with their friends.  And, yes,  they also spent time lazying around the house watching screens in their pjyamas….and guess what,  one day I did that too! (after the redecorating project was complete of course).

Sure…coming back to work this week was another big shock.  Clawing my way back on top of the all the work projects.

And now I’m looking at the pictures of my husband eating ice cream with the kids after a walk around the lake (and getting his text messages saying that they are driving him insane)…and wishing I was there too.

School holidays are a struggle,  but maybe the forced time away from the usual routine is as good for me as it is for the kids.

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Just wait while I eat my playdough spaghetti

My current role requires me to work across global teams,  which means that sometimes I am on teleconferences at odd hours of the day (or video conference…which is so much more pressure because then I have to brush my hair instead of sitting in my pyjama’s with a cup of tea like I normally do).

Whilst clearly this is not always ideal because the lines between my personal time and work time sometimes get blurry.  Overall,  I love the way it forces our teams into a much more flexible culture and teaming environment…

Firstly…because we are on different time zones and in different offices…the whole concept of “being in the office” is less important.   Who knows if people are sitting at their desk all day or where they are working?   At first this seems like a  weird kind of freedom…what if someone in the team is just slacking off and going to the movies?  How do you know if everyone is working as hard as you are?    So…the only option is to focus on outcomes.  What work needs to be done? …Is the work getting done?  Well…then people are working.  And if they choose to go to movies in the middle of the day, I guess they can…as long as they get the work done that they need to.   Which sets a totally different vibe of trust and responsibility across the team.

Secondly…work/life integration becomes second nature.   When I first started joining some of these teleconferences,  it felt a little awkward and distracting when you could hear dogs barking or traffic in the background.   Since people are dialing in from all over the place, at all sorts of times,  there are lots of none typical noises that you hear.

So…. on a call this morning,  I had a huge smile on my face when I could hear a little girl singing in the background…and no one even blinked an eye (well..actually…maybe they did, because I couldn’t see them…but no one said anything…so I’m going just go with the presumption that they were all cool with it!).   And when our Senior Executive stopped mid-update to say “just hold on a moment I have to eat my play dough spaghetti”,  I realised how lovely it is when we accept that work and life sometimes overlap…it feels like a more “human” place to work.

Workplaces are changing….is yours?

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Dinner time hell…

IMG_1490I have always been very diligent and disciplined about having a dinner time routine in our house.   We rarely eat in front of the TV,  and always try to sit down as a family around the dinner table of an evening.

Lovely.  Right?   NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Why o why is dinner time such a NIGHTMARE at our house!!!  Seriously,  instead of being the lovely family time where we catch up on our days,  I’m lucky not to walk out of it without having totally lost my cool and turned into Psycho Mumma.

I had a thing we used to do,  where each person had to say three things that were good from their day,  or three things they were grateful for.  We did this even when the kids were younger,  and it was golden (I know,  I’m good hey!?)

Where have those days gone?

Here is a more typical dinnertime …

It starts with me asking the kids to turn off the TV,  which will be followed by at least 5mins of complaining, possible some stomping around or perhaps, the more likely outcome,  completely ignoring me like I don’t exist.  To which I have to then repeatedly ask before I explode with “TURN IT OF NOWWWWWWWWWW” and march over to switch it off myself.

The children will then complain about what I have cooked.  It doesn’t matter if it is their favourite,  I will have cooked it wrong or the green things might be touching it.  So I’ve given up cooking them stuff they will like, and I just cook them things they won’t like, so at least the whinging is justified (HA!).

My husband will then try to tell me some long winded story from his work but he won’t get two words out before being interrupted by one of the children (not that that will stop him, he will continue to persist with the story).  Most likely the children will be complaining about the other ones behaviour or asking about some random fact, like does it really take 5 days to fly to the moon (I know that is not true, at least I think it is not, useless trivia facts are definitely not my forte)  They then sing, yell, burp, fart or just generally make high pitch ear piercing noises for no reason whatsoever…

My husband will finally give up on his story and we will try to focus on the children instead.  How was your day?  tell me some good things about your day?   To which they will launch into a story, that has nothing to do with their day,  but usually some kind of whinge about the future..like whether they can watch TV after dinner (no you can’t…just like EVERY OTHER NIGHT)..whilst constantly being “talked over” by the other child.  Then getting cross.

This whole scenario has also been sugared with my husband and I inserting a long series of table manner reminders.   “Please use your knife and fork”,  “don’t rock on your chair”,  “eat with your mouth closed”,  “elbows off the table”,  “seriously….you need to use a knife and fork to eat mashed potato”…”NO…don’t wipe your hands all over your top”…etc etc.    All of which are pretty much ignored.

Once they have eaten two mouthfuls,   they start asking what is for Dessert.   Usually,  there isn’t any, except on weekend/special occasions.  But this does not fail to surprise and dishearten the children every single evening…another great opportunity to whinge.

We leave the table 15min after we started (that’s if the children haven’t already been sent to their rooms half way through dinner because we failed to keep the chaos under some kind of control) and I want to lie on the floor and sleep…but instead, I’m packing the dishwasher (it was the children’s job but I have lost the will to argue with them about it).

So…to all you wise family people who tell me that dinner time is one of the most important times of the day…YOU SUCK.   I’m sorry, but dinner time is hell. After a long day, it makes me want to cry.

As such…I have decided to drop my quest for elusive achievement of dinner time bliss.  I’m not saying that we won’t sit and eat at the table…but I’m going to give up on this being a quality time of our day.  It is a practical and required part of the day,  a teaching moment perhaps, but it is not quality time.  Maybe in the future it will be, I can’t imagine that…but sure…I’m open to miracles.

Instead,  I’m going to use reading time,  when the day is done and we are lying quietly in bed together…to have some quality time with the kids.   And when I have left them all snuggled up in bed,  then I can listen to my husband telling me about the stories from his day (and maybe insert something in about my own day if he stops long enough..because, lets not forget that I have also been at work all day)…. as long we are all finished before My Kitchen Rules starts,  because all I really want to do is sit infront of mindless TV with a cup of tea…and be grateful that I have made it through another day.

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Yep…I totally need a wife…

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I think it is fair to say,  I thought I had been nailing it recently…until…well… I wasn’t.   All of a sudden, a torrent of pent up exhaustion and resentment came pouring out of me like a cannonball  which was directed at my husband (Shout out to my husband…love ya!…).

What was his crime,  you ask?   Well…he left me on my own (he had to travel for work) and I had to juggle it all on my own (not unusual),  and I was secretly high fiving myself for getting through the week (yep…nailed it, can I get some applause please?) but then when he returned I was hoping it would all magically get easier.   And it didn’t.   So…clearly,  that was his fault.

Now, I’ll admit.  Quite possibly it was not all his fault.   And,  I do acknowledge that there has been some effort on his behalf to step up his game and get crap done when he IS home…

But what I really need….Is a wife.

I think I’ve talked about this before because Annabel Crabb wrote a great book called “The Wife Drought” …why women need wives and men need a life.

And it is so true.

It would be so much easier if there was someone at home I could just pick up the phone and call to say “sorry dear, going to be a tad late today”.  And I wouldn’t even have to add “can you pick up the kids” because they would already be doing it.   I wouldn’t have to think about the chores that need doing, and co-coordinating school notes and uniforms.

I resent the fact that my husband still has a little bit of this.  I AM the wife.  Which means I get the phone call saying “I have to work late today”  or “next week, I’ll be away all week”…and then I’ll be left juggling schedules trying to make it all work.

I had dinner at a friends house after work this week and it was blissful.  I finished work at 6pm,  drove over and was greeted with a ready poured glass of wine.  I then sat at the table chatting while she busied herself cooking in the kitchen, setting the table and helping the kids with their homework.   Then my meal was placed in front of me.  I ate.  And then someone else cleaned it all up.  Ok…so I probably should have helped a bit more but oh my goodness is was blissful to just have all that taken care of for me.

So…how do I get myself some of that?  Does my husband have to change his work, so he can help more?

The thing is though…I don’t actually want my husband to change…to be my wife.  I am very proud of him and the work that he does.  I don’t want him to stop working and look after the house & kids.  I think that would just annoy me even more.  I want us both to follow our dreams and raise a family together, all at the same time.   And what he really needs,  is more time to spend on his “life”, because right now all his time is spent working (and dealing with his crazy wife…but, you know, she is also kinda awesome).

So I guess we have to just keep navigating our way through this partnership.  To divide and conquer the things that need to get done.  To accept that maybe sometimes,  it is just going to be hard…but that doesn’t mean it is wrong or bad.

And,  I probably will find myself on the couch again,  crying into the pillow.  But then we’ll make some changes,  pick ourselves up, dust off…and keep making this work,  because in the end…it is totally worth it.

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Nailed it or failed it?

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This week has been pretty massive,  had to fly interstate for work (at the same time as my husband did …grr…I booked mine in first), it was my sons 10th birthday and it was only the 2nd week back at school (so I still haven’t quite got through the pile of first week of laundry, school notes, and notifications).

So, at the end of the week when I was standing on the BMX track (volunteering at the finish line…as you do when you have just got off a plane), I have to admit, I was feeling just a tiny bit smug.

Yes people. I NAILED IT this week.

Sure…

  • The neighbour just got chewing gum on his foot because we haven’t vacuumed the floor (err…sorry).
  • The kids had a lunch order EVERY DAY this week (they think this is awesome, i have mother guilt about the less than perfect number of vegetables that would have been consumed this week).
  • My son is having a birthday week fiesta because we feel guilty about both not being there on his birthday evening
  • We spent all of this morning running about 8 loads of washing to clean out the back log.
  • We had a lot of help from Aunty A (thank you!) and parents (thank you),  and other people who pitched in across the week (thank you thank you).
  • And…I got mossie bites all over my feet because I may have changed my suit but I forgot to change out of my fancy shoes before BMX

Even so…there is something deeply satisfying when you feel like you were juggling 10 balls and you only drop a few tiny ones (I mean…nothing major…come on, the chewing gum wasn’t that bad?  right?).

However.   I actually really know…that there is no time for being smug because life has already moved onto the next week.  And quite frankly, it could just as easily have gone a little pear shaped this week…despite my clear awesomeness….and most possibly will do so next week.

So,  I’ve sat down with the diary and I’m looking at where I can cut back.  Especially because next week my husband is away again and I’ll be juggling on my own all week.  I realise that it’s times like these I don’t want to push my luck.  Do I have a little me time planned (haircut…check),  do I have any unnecessary appointments (yep, why don’t I move one of them…check)…do I have a bit of “white space” some time during work and in the evenings that are currently free…that can take a bit of overflow activities if everything starts to boil over…or,  imagine,  it never gets filled up and I can just plug in and recharge.   Nice.

Did you nail it, or fail it this week?   And…are you ready for the next one?

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Sometimes you just have to laugh…

Saw these pjyama's at Kmart and couldn't resist!
Saw these pjyama’s at Kmart and couldn’t resist!

You know those moments when everything seems to be going a little (ok a lot) pear shaped,  and you find yourself doing this kinda crazy half laughing thing because you think if I don’t laugh right now I’m going to fall into a heap and never get up again?   Yeah?  I have those moments quite a lot…

And I was thinking about this the other day and realised that humour can be a really important coping mechanism.    I think the key is being able to look at yourself from an external perspective (sometimes I imagine that I’m in some sort of dodgy sitcom on TV),  and take some of the personal emotion out of what is happening.   Because most of the time, what is happening is not actually that bad and would make a pretty funny scene in a movie…

OK..so here’s an example that got me thinking about this.   It was morning time in our household and I was super excited that the husband was home to help because he is normally long gone before morning chaos hits.  I’m running around like a nut bag,  trying to get myself ready for work whilst simultaneously making kids lunches,  packing bags,  getting kids dressed and all the typical morning stuff…you know the drill.   Anyway,  at some point my husband yells “shall I get the kids breakfast?” and I say “yes”  and I think ….great…he’s getting the breakfast sorted.  So I jump in the shower , finally get myself ready in record speed,  gather up the children and just as we are about to walk out the door my son says “but I haven’t eaten anything?” .  What?  how has this happened?   I look at my husband, who looks accusingly at me.  “Err…you said you were getting them breakfast?”, I say.   “No??”  he says “I asked you, if you had already given them breakfast and you said “Yes”. Ahhh… right.

Lets face it,  it was actually a pretty funny moment.   Us standing in the doorway,  looking at each other as it dawns on us that we both thought the other person had done it and no one has given the kids anything to eat.   But did we laugh?  No…no…we did not.

I got cross.   I believe “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!” was yelled at some great decible.   I stomped into the house and started opening and slamming cupboards trying to find a suitable food item that could be consumed whilst walking to school.    I stared my husband down with my best evil glare,  hoping he might feel the burning rath of my fury and remember never to cross my path in such a failing way in the future.   I got cross with the kids for not reminding us that they hadn’t eaten…I mean, seriously…who forgets to eat?  it’s not like they don’t do it EVERY morning.  Take some responsibility people!!!   Needless to say, the kids got upset and everyone left for the day in a bad mood.

Wouldn’t it have been better,  to take a big sigh and then, maybe,  laugh about our misunderstanding?  Quickly run into the house and make a joke about the lame breakfast they were having and everyone would have gone on with their day in a much better mood??  Oh…if only….

Luckily…later in the week, I had another chance to handle things a bit better… we were on an adventure to go chop down a real Christmas tree.  It seemed like the perfect family outing, and everyone is a little bit excited.   We jump out of the car to choose our tree,  and things start going wrong.   The kids split up and decide that different trees are perfect.  I wander around aimlessly trying to find the tree with the perfect shape.  And my husband just wants to chop down the one nearest to the car and get the job done.   Finally we choose a tree (my selection of course), and my daughter cries all the way home because we didn’t choose her one, while my son yells at her to just shut up.

We get home to put the tree up and my son immediately says “can I just go play computer games?” before we have even managed to push the tree through the door.   As we battle to get the tree into the stand,  it becomes clear that the tree WE have chosen actually has an incredibly wonky trunk which means every time we stand it up, it falls over.   My husband starts cursing, and we start debating about whose fault it was that the tree was falling over (clearly his because he cut it down,  although he thought it was mine because I chose it …I guess that bit is true…and because I was “holding it funny” when we put the stand in..sooo wasn’t).   We decide to cut down the trunk some more, so next thing we know, the tree is shoved half in and half out of the house through the balcony door, so my husband can saw off the end of the end of the trunk (but he’s having a bit of trouble). He is getting REALLY cranky.  There is swearing involved.  I’m inside the house trying to hold the tree still.  Pine needles are going all over the floor (what the hell is he doing???) and I can feel my blood starting to boil….this was not turning out to be the lovely family day I had imagined.

Then I stop.  I take a look around.  I see my daughter standing there with three of our ugliest baubles patiently waiting for the tree to be upright so she can put them on, my son completely oblivious to what is going on staring at a screen in the corner,  my husband trapped in the corner of the balcony having a battle royale with a Christmas Tree, me with pine needles stuck up my nose and a rash starting to appear on my arms from holding the tree…and I think…you’ve got to laugh.  This is pretty funny.  I mean, seriously,  this could totally be a scene from a Chevy Chase movie ( those movies were a family staple in our household).   My blood pressure drops and I manage to stay calm enough to keep my husband from jumping off the balcony in frustration.    Finally the end of the trunk was cut and we somehow manage to get the tree standing with a the help of a brick on one side of the stand.   My husband went and had a strong coffee,  while my daughter and I put on the Christmas music and decorated the tree.  And when we were finished,  there were smiles all around.  Our first Real family Christmas tree.   We DID IT!

It’s easy to take life way too seriously sometimes.   And it is REALLY hard to catch yourself in the moment and stop the rage from appearing.   But, sometimes…well, really…what else can you do but laugh?

Hope you are having lots of holiday fun at your houses too and just remember ‘life is better when you are laughing”.

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