A “victim” of the years

Three days before my 36th birthday, I appraise my appearance.

The years have left their mark

The years have left their mark on me in the following ways:

  • Fat, especially extra stomach and chin that I really want to get rid off,  but haven’t had the motivation to do yet.
  • Grey hair, lots of it. The roots that are growing out of my dyed hair look like the hair of a fifty year-old woman.
  • Wrinkles, not so much yet. At least I’ve been lucky in that department. 😛

Who cares, really

Still, I don’t really mind. Other women often seem disturbed that I am not more obsessed with my appearance – e.g. I should lose weight, wear more flattering clothes.  But I am comfortable the way I am and this seems to be regarded as a sign of laziness. I’ve also never been one to conform to social norms, especially where traditional female ones are concerned.

Enjoy yourselves

Maybe it’s jealousy, as I’m enjoying a chocolate muffin while they are stressing about their appearance. I feel like telling them – girls wake up, we’re not 16 anymore. We’ve husbands and children and we have earned the right to enjoy ourselves when we can find the time.

By no means am I saying become obese, but it shouldn’t be necessary to follow diets where you cut out diary and meat. Life’s simply too short and food is one of the joys of life.

Happiness

To be honest, being happy and having a mature outlook on life, is far more important than how you look. You can be the most gorgeous person, dressed up in the latest fashionable clothes and shoes, without having a clue how to really live.

You can be  beautiful on the outside, but have no self esteem, emotional intelligence or common sense.

Looking back

If I look back on my life, I’m much happier now in my fat and grey incarnation, than I was ten years ago.

Ten years ago, I had a firm gym body, but I was young and uncertain, trying to find my feet in the corporate world. Work was very important to me then.

Now, I have a loving and understanding husband and a lovable little rascal of a son. Appearance, work performance and all the superficial things in life suddenly seem much less important.

The midlife career change

Well, here I am, the almost 36 year old mother of one, considering a midlife career change.

A tricky ambition

There are several things which makes this a really tricky ambition.

  • I live in a country where it is extremely difficult to find a job that pays anything, especially at my age.
  • I have lots of bills to pay every month, including half of the bond.
  • I have a baby, so study time will be difficult to find, especially if I work and study.
  • I want to have another child and can’t really afford to wait too long, already being of advanced age. 😛

Scary salaries

To tell the truth, I might not even be able to afford to find another job, never mind a career change that may take years of time and money. The salaries that are being advertised for people in my profession these days are simply scary. Yesterday I saw a job for a Communications Manager being advertised at R 7 500 per month. A Communications Manager with degrees and multiple skill sets. Not a receptionist or Admin Assistant. A Communications Manager – possibly a highly complex and stressful position. A working mother may still consider it, if it was a half-day position, but you are expected to put in the full 40 hours a week.

Everyone can’t afford to pay massive salaries, but a Communications Manager deserves to earn at least double that.

Stuck

Oh well, I digress. So I’m feeling kind of stuck at the moment. Desperately wanting to make a move that will allow me to spend more time with my small son as well, but not really being able to do anything.

I’m thankful for the salary I do earn and being able to live a decent life, but I always thought that at this age I would be able to live like I wanted to and perhaps have made a lasting contribution.

Maybe it’s just pre-birthday musings.

For now, I will continue to think around the mid-life career change until my next steps become clear to me.

The little walker

At 16 months, the little man seems more interested in other things than walking on his own.

He’s talks when he feels like it, climbs on couches and into windows, gets stuck in cupboards, but walking is not yet his thing.

He even dances in his own way, jumps up with his arms in the air, screaming “yay” at the top of his voice.

As a first time mother, I may be a tad impatient for him to start walking. Experts claim that the age at which a child takes his/her first steps actually makes little difference in the long run. A baby who starts walking around the age of nine months will not be more advanced in later life than one who is a late walker.

Apparently, doing the following things may encourage your child to start walking and practise his mobility:

  • Put his favourite toy out of his reach, so that he can support himself as he reaches for it. Ewan is already very good at reaching for the remote on the couch. 😛 He loves all technology.
  • Let your child push his stroller around in a safe spot. He will feel strong and powerful pushing it by himself.
  • Don’t put your child in a stationary activity center for too long. Your eardrums will be pierced if you leave Ewan in his cot or feeding chair for too long. 😛
  • Avoid walkers as they can make baby lazy.
  • Make it fun by turning practice into a game and cheering him on. This involves clapping your hands and screaming “clever boy” and “yay”.
  • Between the ages of 16 and 20 months, you can show your child how to kick a ball. Rolling a ball back and forth is also a great activity for rainy days. Ewan already has a good throwing arm, though I have yet to see him kick the ball.
  • Dance with your child. Clapping hands and stomping feet are fun ways to strengthen the muscles.
  • Introduce your child to swings and playgrounds. Who can forget the fab pink swing in Sedgefield where Ewan wanted to spend his entire Easter holiday? 😛
  • Practice climbing steps. Hold your child’s hand and let him practice going up and down slowly. Practice climbing the steps of the small slide at the playground. And teach your child to climb off the bed and couch feet first. We had a few near misses as Ewan at first insisted to sail down head first like a worm or snake. 😛

I suspect walking is probably imminent, since the little guy stands by himself and walks while holding onto walls and also your hand.

He is already a regular little Dennis the Menace, so I should probably appreciate his limited mobility, as I will soon be chasing after him all day long.

11 months of maternity leave?

Cosatu recently raised some eyebrows by insisting that the maternity leave period should be extended from 4 to 11 months. Pick ‘n Pay is probably currently the only  company in the country the offers maternity leave to this extent.

Maternity leave

According to South African labour law, you are currently entitled to 4 months, even though your company doesn’t have to pay you for this period. My social media investigation indicates that this plea was welcomed by women who wanted more bonding time with their children, but rejected by a lot of men.

Economy too weak

A well-known economist raised legitimate concerns, stating that the South African economy is too weak to survive the wide-spread implementation of  this period. I agree that 11 months is probably not a practical solution for our country, but then he takes a particularly negative stance by stating that the current period of 4 months is already too long.

Questions raised

Other social media commentators have questioned if a company can do without someone for 4 to 6 months, do they even really need them in the first place? It has also been commented that if women want maternity leave, especially extended maternity leave, they should rather stay at home and raise their children. Some are of the opinion that women should not have children if they cannot afford to stay at home and look after them. What happened to wanting to work and making a contribution to the business world? Businesses have threatened that they will not employ women of a childbearing age.

Women’s equality a theoretical concept

So from all these debates, it’s slowly becoming clear that women’s equality is  more of a theoretical concept than a reality.  With the extra responsibility of small children, you are still expected to work the same hours and on the same level as men, even though you may not have had any sleep the night before.  If you have to take time off work to look after sick children, you are not pulling your weight.

Part time option

The other option is to keep the current maternity leave period and allow mothers the opportunity to work part time, even if it’s only for the first few months. However, South African companies are still inflexible in this regard. I can easily perform my job from home, but have to struggle with unreliable public transport every day, so that people can see me sitting at my desk at work. And all I really need to do my job is my laptop, Internet connection and telephone…Flexible working hours is not a solution for every position, but where it can work, women should have that option. This is becoming the norm in many overseas countries.

Maybe the work situation of mothers in our country is just another indication of how little regard we have for women and children. A workable solution needs to be found that will allow women to spend more time with their children, as this will also lead to a healthier and more prosperous future for our country.

Keeping sane as a working mom

Are you a busy working mother who spends 40 hours a week at work and then go home to a crazy household every night to start your second job? Maybe you don’t know how you get it all done a lot of the time, but you just keep on doing the impossible. It is important to learn to take care of yourself and to tune into your body to avoid becoming over stressed and eventually suffering from burnout. Warning signs of severe stress

  • Speaking louder or yelling.
  • You may experience rising blood pressure or a spiked heart rate. You may also feel dizzy.
  • Irritability. You may be impatient or experience lapses in judgement. From experience I can say it is so easy to become impatient when a child keeps crying or whining, especially when you had very little sleep the night before and you had to put in a full day at work.
  • It’s important to take a break when you feel this way so that you can gain new perspective. If your stress is not under control, you may struggle to connect to your children which can cause them to act out. You may also be unable to focus at work which can lead to time-consuming and expensive mistakes which will further increase your stress. This is exacerbated by a lack of sleep. I may feel fine, but then I find I had forgotten to do something or made a silly mistake.

Follow these tips to keep your stress levels under control:

  • Know when to ask for help from family and friends. Also ask dad to step up to share the parenting duties.
  • It’s not easy, but try to plan ahead and be organised. This includes things like making dinner the night before so that you can only reheat the next day. I still find myself struggling with the “being organised” bit. The other day I saw someone advertising their services as a life planner. Hmm…
  • Speak to your employer about rearranging your work schedule, if possible. It’s my dream to be able to work from home one day and to turn the granny flat at the back of our house into an office.
  • Set boundaries and don’t say “yes” to everyone’s requests.
  • Take a break and slow down for a cup of coffee or a chat with a friend.
  • Find a type of exercise you enjoy and try to include your children so that everyone benefits. The research is growing that exercise keeps stress at bay. For me time is an issue, as I have a very long commute everyday. I’m still working on my plan to do more exercise.
  • Take time to laugh. When is the last time you had a good laugh with your kids? My crazy little boy gets at least a few laughs from me with his antics. Bring more fun into your lives and create fun family memories. Do spontaneous things like baking the dog a cake for his birthday.
  • Schedule date nights with your partner. This doesn’t have to cost much – go for a walk, watch a rented movie etc. – it’s just about having time alone with your significant other.
  • Take care of yourself. Try to get enough sleep, follow a healthy diet and have some “down time”. Sleep, healthy diet and exercise are all things I’m still struggling to figure out. Guess I’m a work in progress. It might be difficult to fit this into an already full schedule, but proper self-care will enable you to be more efficient in your life in general.

It will be difficult to find a balanced lifestyle as a working mother, but hopefully these tips will help you stay sane for now. Remember that it is in the best interest of your children that you don’t become severely stressed and suffer from burnout. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else, even the most important people in your life.

Are you a slacker mom?

According to a quiz I recently completed on the web, I’m well on my way to becoming a slacker mom.

Being a slacker has always had very negative connotations. You’re a lazy person who avoids work or effort and lets your team down.

A healthy outlook on life

However, in today’s high stress, type A personality wold of chronic heart disease and high blood pressure, being a slacker has actually become a healthy outlook on life. Not necessarily a slacker myself, I would rather work smart than hard. Where others would graft for hours, I enjoy looking for the quickest possible way to achieve my goal efficiently.

Opposite of supermom

Being a slacker mom is the trend on social media at the moment, but it’s also a good way to keep your sanity. A slacker mom is the opposite of the supermom of recent years.

A slacker mom doesn’t hover over her children and tries to direct all their activities, she allows them time to play and discover by themselves. She doesn’t force educational toys down their throat or register them for every class imaginable.

Let the kids get dirty

From experience I know my little man enjoys opportunities to play by himself, sometimes he just wants me to sit next to him while he plays. Other times he enjoys it if I make up games for him and play with him. During summertime he enjoys discovering the garden and getting down and dirty. A good slacker mom doesn’t try to keep her kids clean all the time. In winter I will often only bath him every second day, which I’m sure has saved him from some colds.

As a good slacker mom, I don’t freak out if my child sometimes throws his food on the floor, picks it up and eats it again. Ten second rule.  😛

How to be a slacker mom

You focus on the things that are really important. You realise that some things can wait for another day. Perfectionism is a recipe for a stressful life filled with exhaustion.

Don’t view motherhood and parenting as a form of competition. Allow yourself to make mistakes.

Lower your expectations. You can’t have it all and do it all.
Allow yourself to be more laid back.

Avoid judging other moms.

Stop being a helicopter mom and quit hovering around your children all day long. They have to learn to make their own choices.

Allow your children to get comfortable in nature – especially boys like being muddy and dirty.

Don’t buy your children every new toy that comes out as this will only encourage them to be materialistic from a young age.

Don’t overload your kids with after school activities. They need time to pay freely and to learn to use their imagination. If their entire lives are filled with activities and the need to achieve, you are just encouraging them to become the next generation of office clones.

Don’t do everything for your children, as they will expect that someone will always be around to do things for them. Also stop doing their homework.

Ask your husband to pick up some of the slack. This will help him not to feel sidelined if you do everything and it’s also good for kids to see their parents working together.

Relax and stop feeling guilty. Your kids don’t need the latest and best of everything. They just need your love and attention.

So, I hope I’ve managed to convince those of you, who are running around and trying to be the best at everything, to relax and enjoy the time you have with your children.

They grow up so fast and you don’t want them to remember you as the mom who had always tried to control them or was always too busy. Let go and have some fun with your children.