A Tricky Parenting Secret

Do you want to know a tricky wee parenting secret? After three years of being a mama with a chronic illness, it’s just dawned on me…A Tricky Parenting Secret

It doesn’t take as much as you think to make a nice day for your kids.

Take a day recently as an example, I’m exhausted and my pain levels have been creeping up thanks to the baby waking up to six times a night. We went to church (with a baby and a three year old, it’s not so peaceful anymore) got frustrated with Nu not being quiet. We’re not crazy, we know he can’t sit quietly for just over an hour. But not yelling would be great.

Back at home, he was frustrating us, we were feeling cabin fever but also the weight of the incomplete housework (sorry our bathroom gets cleaned fortnightly now eek). Baby wasn’t playing ball with the napping. I was so tired I felt sick.

But we decided to go out. I wanted to be tired and sore out, instead of tired and sore at home. So we bundled into the car, drove half an hour, of which the baby slept 25 minutes (he’s a chronic catnapper) and visited a nice beach with a park. Parking was difficult, we got a 30 minute park, unbundled and faced the cold but beautiful scene. Nu happily rode his scooter up and down the beach, baby watched. On the way home we stopped for chocolate sundaes at a special chocolate cafe.

Nu was difficult to keep occupied as we waited for our order. He was loud on the drive home.

But at the end of the day, as I remembered how frustrating it was to wrangle Nu and the overtired baby and my own issues. While admitting I had a nice time. Nu remembered a great day. He had fun. He remembered the scooter, the birds, the swing, the chocolate sundaes. And our photos look so great.

All it took was a park and a treat. And I managed to give that to him (granted, with Husband’s help) despite pain levels of 5/10 and fatigue levels up the whop.

It is a timely reminder as I worry about my lack of energy and time. As I worry that I don’t have enough to split between two kids. But I do. I continually find reserves I didn’t know I had, for their sakes. And my little efforts to keep Nu occupied pay off.

On days where we’re housebound by baby and pain levels, Nu is just as happy to bake (he loves to stir!) and colour, an ride his digger (as long as I’m watching!) and snuggle while watching a movie.

So now my definition of a successful day is when I ask Nu, “did you have a nice day?” And he responds with an emphatic yes!

IMG-20170521-WA0010

Nu loved his chocolate sundae!

What Every New Mama Needs

Whether you have a chronic illness or not, there is one thing a new mama seems to need…Reassurance that it will get better.

And it will.

It may not be at six weeks, or three months, or whatever magic age you hear touted. But it will get better.IMG_20170308_110851

One day they will sleep through the night, they’ll eat by themselves, they’ll play independently.

You’re in the trenches of motherhood, knee deep in milk and poop and tears, for such a short time. One day you’ll look up and realise it’s over. It’s better.

Your baby will learn to self settle when they’re ready. They’ll get the hang of feeding. They’ll cry less.

Enjoy those smiles that light up even the darkest of sleepless days. Enjoy the soft baby skin, the chubby cheeks, the sweet wrist rolls. I am!

Coping with a Toddler (Fibro or not!)

This post has been a long time coming. I haven’t felt like I was coping these past few months. But we’re here, so that’s winning.

Toddlers seem to have an abundance of energy that I could only dream of. If only Nu would lend me some, maybe it would be easier.

The big thing for me (on the days I’m not working) is to get him active in the morning, when I’m most able and he’s not so tired either. This way the afternoon can be a more relaxed affair.

I am slowly learning that I’ll never feel like I’m coping if I’m putting too much of my energy elsewhere (like work), so my balance needs to be kept in check.

IMG_20160101_144754

Drawing & stickers

Here’s a few tips I’ve gleaned in dealing with a toddler:

  1. Accept help – my husband takes a turn in the morning when he’s not at work, I never get back to sleep, but it’s a break. If grandparents want a visit, give them the toddler and run away!
  2. Enjoy them – this may be the sweetest age, Nu says things like “want some mama hug”.
  3. Play dough, stickers, colouring in to keep them occupied for 10 minutes.
  4. Outside – even checking the mail and watering the garden can seem exciting.
  5. Park – even if you need to drive there, the park is a great and free way to burn off toddler energy.
  6. Routine – my son is a routine boy and we have a loose but similar routine for each night, this helped when bedtime got foggy at the sleep regression.
  7. Setting -first thing, before I get him up, I set up some of his toys seductively. This may buy 10 minutes of independent play! I also swap toys around regularly.
  8. Rest when the toddler rests (if you’re home with them) – on the days I’m home I will do Yoga Nidra before anything else when he naps.
  9. Library, zoo, beach, local attractions – there are options for all energy ranges. Nu loves animals, so we’ve been to the zoo a few times.
  10. Read – when you’re super exhausted and sore, lie or sit down (surrounded by cushions if need be) and read all of their books.
  11. Movies – my guy won’t sit through anything longer than a minute, but if this diversion works for your kids then lie down immediately!
  12. Play dates – another energetic creature can occupy yours! Mamas can chat. Win-win.
  13. Pick your battles. Save your energy for the ones that count.
  14. Consistency, set boundaries and always stick to them.
  15. Don’t forget yourself, keep experimenting and keep practicing your wellness techniques. 

The last few are the result of a thread on my Facebook page, some amazing fibro mamas gave me some advice:

17. Educational games on a tablet – lie down and rest while they sit with you and play.
18. Have a bath together – get some toys or bath paints and let them play while you enjoy the warmth on your muscles.
19. Create a toddler-proof room that you can let them free and self-direct their play, sit back and enjoy their gorgeousness (do you do that? I’ve been known to stare at my boy and just grin lol)
20. Don’t always tidy up. The toys will be back out! Sometimes let the laundry and dishes be.
21. Take time out. Go for a coffee alone. Or a massage. Or a walk. Just go!PhotoGrid_1453879893082

Mostly I think having a toddler is a bit like a newborn, in that you might need to just put your head down and push through, however there are definitely more tools in the arsenal to keep them occupied now.

Have you got anything to add to the list?

Things I’d Like: 2016

It’s 2016! That happened quickly. There are more than a few things I’d like from this year, from the profound to the trivial. A sort of goals list. I’ve compiled them below and will come back to them throughout the year when I need a reminder of my intentions.PhotoGrid_1451589339246

  • I’d like to challenge the perception that one must just “do their time” when they have kids, that sleep deprivation and self-denial is some sort of rite of passage.
  • I’d like to find a way of socialising that doesn’t involve my pain and fatigue levels spiking. We could have rocking lunch parties.
  • I’d like to be unashamed of my preferences and needs and wants. Especially when it’s contrary to those around me.
  • I’d like to stop feeling guilty for what I’m not doing for my family’s sake. Especially when I’m already suffering the consequences of overdoing it for their sake. I’m always going to feel bad when I hold them back, but it costs me so much more when I push myself too far than it does for them to compromise. Which leads to the next one:
  • I’d like to get a better balance of overdoing it and not pushing it (in the right direction) enough. Enacting my cost/benefit analyses better.
  • I’d like to create a toolbox of options to help me sleep well. This doesn’t include permanent medicine, if I can help it, I plan to be off amitriptyline by next week.
  • I’d like to lose a few kilograms and increase my exercise tolerance.
  • I’d like to go to Fiji. This is a few hours of flight time from here and a different climate, a toe in the water for further afield.
  • I’d like a regular date night with my husband. This has been an aim since we were married, but between his shift work, the baby and other commitments, it gets shoved aside too easily.
  • I’d like to get my B12 and iron levels to a better level.
  • I’d like to keep learning.

The list isn’t exhaustive, but enough to keep me moving in the right direction. Do others have a similar list? What sort of things are on it?

Curamin

I was becoming rather despondent about my neck pain and the effects it has on my life.Curaminb

It felt like my neck was getting worse and progression is the closet worry of a mama with Fibromyalgia (it’s not supposed to be progressive, but it developed over a period of ten or so years before plateauing for several).

When I came across Curamin, I was curious and also wary. Nothing ever seems to give me the effect advertised, or noticeable positives.

Curamin “is a blend of all natural ingredients such as DLPA, boswellia and nattokinase which are proven anti-inflammatory compounds. DLPA boosts the effectiveness of endorphins and enkephalins (pain relievers already in the body), nattokinase boosts circulation and alleviates muscle pain by balancing fibrogren levels in the body while boswellia has been known to remove pro-inflammatory compounds.”

Dr Teitelbaum recommends it as one of his favourite 10 supplements for Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

From the first day I noticed a change in my neck, it brought the pain levels down a point on the pain scale.

It also helped me in the night. Recently my neck was becoming so bad that I woke several times and needed to change pillows multiple times. I was waking with extreme stiffness causing severe headaches.

The Curamin enables me to get better blocks of sleep and this has translated into more energy – it lasts me longer into the day.

I still, however, start to get sleepy very early. I have learnt that there’s a difference between fatigue and sleepiness.

I have revelled in feeling just a bit less soul-crushingly fatigued.

The true test for the difference it makes came when I ran out before the new bottle arrived, I slept poorly (the restless/awake time shot back up to an hour with less blocks of sleep), felt super exhausted upon waking and my neck pain went up a level.

It is so nice to have found something that helps. Unfortunately, neither curcumin nor boswellia is recommended for pregnancy or breastfeeding, so mamas who are going down that path will have to give it up for a time.

For me, the cost is worth the effect. I completely understand that nothing works for everyone, but, if you’re not allergic to these ingredients, then it may be worth a try.

Has anyone else tried this? Or other things that have a similar effect?

The Big Three O

I’m turning 30 this week.

I have no trepidation about it, because I feel like I’ve achieved a lot. I’ve come a long way. A lot of it was in the last two years.

I have accomplished some of my key life goals: I have a degree (and I’m pretty proud of that), I have amassed some great work experience, I have a home, a (hunky) husband, a delicious baby, a four-legged love and I have developed and followed my passions.

I’m still working on my health and wellbeing. But even that has come so far in the last three years alone.

I’ve been slowly embracing some big lessons this year, they are:

1. Being me is mandatory. We are not meant to fill an identical mould, differing experiences, skills and attitudes make a well rounded team. It’s perfectly OK that I am a voracious reader, prefer to meet people in smaller groups, need time alone, prefer walking and yoga to sports, prioritise my energy levels, protect myself from extra pain, love to know why and am obsessed with Nashville!

2. Let others be themselves. While you’re being you, respect others for who they are. And sometimes that means accepting that they’ll never accept you for who you are.

3. Passions are the foundation for a life well lived. As I look back on my journey so far and think of what keeps me going, it’s passion. I look forward to a lot. I have phases as well as some long loved passions such as reading and writing. Knowing the things that make me happy in ascending order of energy required has helped me get through many a flare up.PhotoGrid_1445107463651

So as I turn the big Three O I will be spending the day with my son and mum. I’ll have dinner with my parents, brothers, husband and son. My husband, son and I will be going away for the weekend for a tiny getaway. It’s a perfect way for me to celebrate, the only shadow will be that I won’t see my sister.

And I’m not the least bit sorry for not throwing a party (see learning one!).

20 Hours and a Baby

The great experiment of finding my new work/life balance has actually gone well. Despite the job not being for me, the hours are working.

Why four shorter days works for me:

*I adore my midweek mama/baba day.
*Having a midweek break from work lets my body reset a little, I feel more refreshed on a Thursday morning.
*Doing school hours means I can be there for my baby in the morning and afternoon without rushing him off and adding stress to our lives. I don’t miss as much of his life.
*School hour days are more manageable for my pain and fatigue levels. Unfortunately the baby doesn’t tend to nap in the afternoon any longer so I can’t rest, but it was awesome when I could!
*We don’t spend as long in traffic.
*I’m actually really efficient so I manage to cram a lot into my workday, I’d posit that I achieve more than a person there two hours longer (full time).

I feel really strongly about part time work and fulfilling careers for part time workers. Not just to retain the talent of mothers, the talent of those not physically suited to full time work (particularly computer work, who is?!), but also to allow for greater productivity, greater health and greater passion.

Success!

I’d suggest that I was about right with my guess for balance: working half time hours over four days. I appreciate that I am super lucky to be able to do that in terms of affordability (though this is not without sacrifice, half of my net income goes to childcare) but also in my health. I’ve done some hard yards to build up to this point, but I also think I’ve been blessed with better health this year. And, as always, a big reason I manage, is my husband. He sometimes struggles with being the main breadwinner, but he supports me in this decision, which I appreciate to no end.

First Month

My first month in the new job is complete.

I’m exhausted.

Happy Mother’s Day to me, I’m alone with the baby/toddler in the lounge while husband sleeps after nightshift.

His nightshift is every second week at the moment. So every second week I am woken by my husband when he comes home (somewhere between 4-6am) and after finally getting my boy to sleep 7ish to 6ish, he has reverted to waking between 4-530 for a top up, then sleeping til 650.

On the weeks my husband does nightshift I have to keep our very active little guy quiet before we rush off to work/care. And he works Friday and Saturday nights so there is no respite on the weekend. On the days that I don’t work, my boy and I have to go and do something out of the house to keep us busy, which can be hard when I’m so exhausted that I can’t even talk coherently.

The weekend is a continuum of the weekdays. Even when I worked 3/4 time with no baby I had to completely rest on the weekend and sleep a whole heap more!

I wouldn’t say I’ve coped so much as survived for a lot of the days.

On a positive note, I’ve adored my Wednesdays with my little guy. 

Work has been mostly OK. I like using my brain in that way.

But I want to refuse the notion that I must now live with the physical symptoms that have been exacerbated or ones that have resurged. My neck, while mostly tolerable and hovering around 4-6/10 most days, has begun to keep me awake in the night when I get woken. It’s stiffer more than sore, making lying in bed uncomfortable. My shoulders are so tight I can’t lie on my side. My upper legs and glutes have become super tight again and ache, due to sitting for so long at the computer.

So long = 4.5 hours a day.

So I ought to be grateful I can work these hours. That it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

I have begun to cling to my magic number of eight hours sleep. Treating myself gently on the days I have less (far too often) as I am usually miserable. Being really grateful on the days I get it.

Before the three month trial is up I have to decide if we can make this work long term.

Meanwhile, my husband will have another shift change – to one with no discernable pattern, so he won’t be able to help with our little guy’s care at all. Once we put him in with his carer for every hour I work (plus travel and lunch break) the cost:benefit ratio plummets. My energy for the money I get (after taxes and childcare), it’s a heavy balance.

I am still trying to keep myself on the journey to wellness. We are purchasing a smoothie maker soon so that I can supercharge my afternoon tea and increase my fruit and vegetable intake. I have managed a 20 minute walk most days. I’m trying super hard to get as much sleep as I can.

It’s just slower at the moment.

First Week

I have written about my fears of starting work and how that will impact my energy levels, pain levels and my job as a mama. After one week, I can’t say much.

I worked four hours on three days. The desk isn’t ergonomically set up, there’s not even a proper chair yet. So that didn’t help anything. I also caught a bad cold.

On day two I was fighting steel blinds that were my eyelids, they wanted to come down!

Luckily, on day three the fatigue had reduced from 8/10 to 6-7/10.

It’s been hard doing three shifts (baby 530/6am-9, work 930-130, baby 2-630/7).

So I was in bed at 830 most nights, the tradeoff of not staying up for a dream feed is that baby’s been waking between 530/6am and not going back to sleep. It’s been awful. Too many hours before work even starts!

I have managed to get him to sleep til 6am, but he gets disrupted when his father gets up for early shift at 540 (so do I and it’s super hard to get back to sleep at that time) or we get woken when his father comes home about the same time when he’s on nightshift. So we can’t win on that one!

The job itself seems like it will be good. I think it’s a good move, strategically, to set me up for school hours office management work. I feel like the take home pay, once I’ve given the childcare payment away isn’t a fair exchange of my precious energy. At least it is for a job that will feed a better next one and fits with baby’s childcare hours. I don’t want him with someone who’s not his mama for too much of the time.

So the outcome of week one is that I don’t know how it will work out in the long run due to the cold. But it wasn’t too bad! I just hope I don’t let myself get dragged too far down before I realise (if) it’s not going to work. Because I am very good at just getting on with it!

The Definition of Successful

I think I lost sight of what is important. I lost sight of my definition of the term successful.

I got sucked into the idea of “rising”, of the point being to earn more and more and be “business minded” (read: work lots and have heaps of money).

But that’s not me. My goal has been to build myself a permanent part-time career. So that I can always chase the intersection  of my work life balance. So that I can be well, so that I can be a good mama.

My body and energy levels are unique. Prepregnancy I knew this to be 25-30 hours per week of work. Now, I plan to begin the experiment at 20 hours.

But I was looking for the wrong things.

If the goal is to have a permanent part-time career, then the actual job is going to be a bit different to what I have been thinking. Unfortunately, the business world hasn’t caught up to the idea of meaningful part-time work. So I need to aim at administration level roles.

If I’m being honest, that is a sticking point. I like to think of myself as “past” admin, I have done some amazing roles in the non-profit sector, there is such opportunity there, so I did far more than just administrative tasks when I was EA. Other administrative roles just don’t seem to cut it, challenge-wise.
But what is important is the ability to work part-time. And to be as close as possible to my baby’s care so that I spend as little time away from him as possible. I need to re focus on what’s important to me. Not get lost in the world’s definition of successful.
I am successful. I am good at my work, am married to the love of my life, have been given the joy of my life (my baby), know and follow my passions, live well with a chronic illness and love, A LOT.