The revamp

You may have noticed that my blog has been going through some changes over the past few weeks.

I’ve finally made the leap and upgraded to Premium, which gave me access to a domain name and proper design templates.

A  work in progress

My blog is still a work in progress. Being a writer and not a graphic designer, I prefer the writing part of the process. 😛

I’ve been playing around with design templates, colours, font and photos, not always obtaining the best results. Next month you might open my blog to find a completely different look and feel. 😛

New sections

I aim to add a Book Review section. But with the little time I get for reading as a working mother, you may only see a review once in a while.

I also want to expand the menu structure, but I’m not quite sure yet how to do this.

Taking it seriously

I’ve started to take blogging seriously.

The blog started as a project for a Web Writing course. At the beginning it was simply an experiment and I wasn’t always too sure of my purpose.

A successful blog needs an angle and for a while I was in danger of deviating too far from my original angle and purpose.

Still new

I’m still new to the world of writing non-fiction. So used to writing short stories, I’m surprised that blogging has managed to draw me in at all.

The future

I’m a writer at heart and feel I still have much to achieve in this field. I would love to complete an MA in Creative Writing when I have the time and money one day. 😛

For now I will just keep on writing and sharing my thoughts and ideas.  I will also try to gain some graphic design skills to promote my blog.

Who knows what the future might hold. 🙂

 

“Old” motherhood

Sometimes, when I’m particularly exhausted after a night of broken sleep or when the busy little man tired me out all day, I wonder if it would have been easier if I was a younger mother.

The magical number

The little guy was extracted into this world when I was 34, a perfectly acceptable age to have a first child, according to today’s standards.

Recent web articles state that the best age to have your first child is 34. And your last one before 35. Huh? I’ve already missed that cut off date.

Advantages of being an older mother

However, there are plenty of advantages to being an older mother and for me it’s simply much easier than it would have been 10 years ago.

  • For one thing, I’ve found a husband. Ten years ago I was floundering around on bad dates. I probably met every weird guy for which there is a definition as part of my online dating experience. None of them would have made good fathers. Finally my luck turned and I met my darling husband, who is also a good dad. 🙂
  • I’m financially a lot more stable and settled in a career, even though I don’t know what the future holds in our country’s uncertain job market. At least I now have work experience and qualifications. I’m also starting to think entrepreneurship. Ten years ago I was still a newbie to the corporate word and I was very busy studying.
  • I have more patience, which is needed when you have a husband and child. 😛 Through the years I’ve learnt not to stress about the small things and also not to take work too seriously.
  • I’ve had time to do some of the things that is difficult to do when you have a child. I’ve studied (for very long, or it feels like that) and have been on an overseas trip. I’ve had the opportunity to live the single life for a few years before getting married and having a child. I think this allows me to appreciate my son even more, because I have no regrets. Even though I want to study some more and go overseas again. 😛

So, while I probably would have had a child at 25 if I’d managed to find a husband at that age, I’m glad I had the opportunity to do all the things I did.

Now to fit in that second child before 40 and hopefully before 38.

 

 

The nerd mother

I’m a nerd mother. Not the stereotypical girly girl.

At the moment I only have a boy, so I don’t have to worry about transferring any girly skills.

Why I’m a nerd mother

  • I don’t worry about hair, makeup and clothes. As long as I’m clean and presentable, with brushed hair. I like comfortable clothes and it’s a bonus if they look good as well. 😛
  • I hate shopping for clothes, shoes and makeup, though I realise it is necessary to do this from time to time. I’d rather spend my money on travel, books and technology.
  • I don’t enjoy activities like cooking and cleaning the house, but I suppose very few women do. 😛
  • Socialising is not for me. I could sit with my head in books all day. I also enjoy the solitary practise of typing away on my laptop.
  • My viewing pleasure mostly includes science fiction shows like Dr Who, Torchwood and Fringe. I also enjoy good horror, like American Horror Story.

So, while the little man will have to learn the manly skills of building stuff, working with tools and riding a motorcycle (only on dirt roads) from his dad, I hope that he will also pick up a few things from his nerdy mother.

I want to give my son:

  • A love of reading and writing. I want him to value education in general. We will have to see how this works out, as he can’t sit still for long and wants to be outside all the time.
  • An appreciation for good science fiction shows and comedy. This seems to be working, as he already loves Dr Who, the Simpsons and Despicable Me.
  • An interest in travel. Money may prove to be somewhat of an obstacle in this regard. 😛
  • A love of the outdoors and excercise. I don’t want him to become one of those kids who spends all his time indoors, watching television and playing video games. At the moment he loves playing outside and in the pool.

Ewan loves singing, a talent which he certainly didn’t get from me. When he starts singing the theme song from Dr Who, I will know I’m succeeding in my job as a nerd mother. 😛

 

 

Working mothers – it gets easier after maternity leave

More than a year after returning to work, I’ve realised that it does get better after maternity leave.

Any good at the job?

I’ve recently been reading articles/blogs about whether you’re any good at your job after maternity leave.

I agree that we need to lower our expectations of ourselves. In a way you actually get better at getting things done at work and at home, as there is only time to focus on what’s really important. Priorities have changed and soon your inner control freak will be no more. Your family is now the focus of your life, even though you still want to contribute as much as possible at work. 

Surviving the routine

During the first few months, I actually wondered how we were going to survive this for years to come.

It was exhausting, especially when the little man slept badly because of teething. Some days I thought I would faint from exhaustion.

However, gradually you get used to the routine and you find ways of doing things easier and faster. Maybe I’ve just become used to the feeling of being exhausted. 😛

My survival tips

  • Accept life is hectic for now and just go with the flow. There is no time to be a perfectionist or control freak. Realise children have a will of their own and cannot be controlled.
  • Embrace the fact that your priorities have changed and let go of things that are not that important, at home and at work.
  • Drop your standards. Your house does not have to be clean and tidy all the time. This is virtually impossible with a small child and will place a lot of unnecessary stress on yourself.
  • Have a sense of humour. Things will go wrong with a small toddler around and this is just a normal part of life. My little man will throw several items into the toilet and then attempt to flush them. 😛
  • Live from day to day and enjoy every second. Don’t stress yourself out trying to follow a fixed schedule that doesn’t work anymore. When Ewan is having a good day with no teething pain, I also get more done. I try to exercise etc. when I get time.

Number two?

I suppose the next challenge will come when Ewan gets a brother or sister. So for now, I take life one day at a time and just enjoy the chaos as much as possible.

Raising my child in my second language

Raising my child mainly in my second language, wasn’t something I really thought hard about.

Natural process

It’s something that kind of just happened naturally during the course of our lives. My husband is English-speaking and the little man stays with his loving English granny during the day, so he’s naturally inclined to pick up English words. Next year he will also be attending an English playschool, as we live in a predominantly English-speaking area.

His mother’s tongue

I suppose I should be making more of an effort to speak my first language, Afrikaans, to him. But somehow it seems more important that I encourage him to increase his already growing vocabulary of English words.

Maybe I also feel that I will confuse him, if he speaks to me in English and I answer in Afrikaans. I just hope he doesn’t pick up my English accent. 😛

He does know some Afrikaans words, like bad (taking a bath) and stout (naughty).

Cultural shift in South Africa

There’s been a lot of cultural change from the time of my childhood, when South Africa became a democratic country.

My cultural exposure

I attended an Afrikaans school and watched Afrikaans tv programmes. That was my cultural exposure. There were economic sanctions against the country then and we weren’t really exposed to many foreign tv programmes and films until later in our lives.

My child(ren’s) cultural exposure

It seems that my child(ren) will attend English schools and grow up surrounded by English/American culture. In a way this will be to their benefit, as English is now predominantly the language of business and tertiary education.

I’ve never been a particularly patriotic Afrikaner, but I do wonder if I shouldn’t be doing more to teach my child his mother’s language.

English culture

As a working mother, I don’t have much time and I’m afraid I’ll end up just doing the easiest thing and leaving him to become immersed in the English culture.

I will do my best, but I can only hope that the school he eventually attends also manages to instil an interest and love of the Afrikaans language and culture in him.

Teaching empathy to my little terrorist

I watched the little man play with a bug in the bath last night. Once he was finished playing with it and forgot about the poor creature, he kicked it to death before I could rescue it.

This made me realise that the friend who told me human beings had to learn empathy and that it wasn’t our natural state, was correct.

According to Psychcentral you can teach your children empathy.

Your toddler will learn empathy from your behaviour

Very small children are not yet able to understand how the things they say or do can affect other people’s emotions. The little man doesn’t always seem to understand that it hurts when he pulls my hair or slaps me through the face

Young toddlers and babies will start to learn empathy from the way you as their parent treat them, especially under difficult circumstances, such as when they are upset and throw a tantrum. I do to my best not scream or act upset, though I have the occasional lapse after a hard day at work or a somewhat sleepless night. 😛

 Why it’s important to teach empathy to boys

As a result of gender stereotypes, it is often regarded as not as important for boys to learn empathy. This puts them at a disadvantage at school and in their future careers. Empathy also influences their future happiness, as people with empathy usually have stronger interpersonal connections.

Tips for teaching your child empathy

  1. Talk about feelings, e.g. your sister is sad because you took her doll.
  2. Emphasise with your child. Tell him you will hold his hand if he’s scared of something.
  3. Use “I messages” that will encourage self awareness. I don’t like it when you hit me.
  4. It’s important to be patient and remember that most toddlers are naturally very self-centred. Empathy is a very complex skill.

Even though he can be a terrorist, the little man does show signs of having an empathetic and loving nature. He loves to hug the people (and toys) in his life. If you are really lucky, he may reward you with a kiss. 🙂

The terrible pre-2 tantrums

It seems the little man has reached the terrible two tantrum stage, even though he has only just turned 18 months.

Independence

It’s quite a thing to get used to, this quiet and friendly baby turning into an impatient little being with a will of his own. Another lesson to be learnt on the educational journey that is motherhood. 

The tantrums started around the time he finally started walking independently. Ewan wants to do his own thing and doesn’t have patience with the grownups. He will play in the garden for as long as he wants and his refusal to come inside when commanded by any adult, is communicated in loud screams, as he hasn’t got the words for a point blank refusal, yet. 😛

One can only guess the outcome of future disagreements once he becomes a fluent speaker. He is already a regular political narrator in baby language. 😛

Dealing with a tantrum (small toddlers)

  • The advice we’ve followed so far is to ignore tantrums, which is not always easy when you are in public. Screaming and smacking will only give them the attention they want and lead to more tantrums.
  • I’ve also tried diverting his attention, but this only really works during the early stages of a tantrum. It seems to increase his irritation once he is in full blown screaming mode. 😛 The only thing you can do then is to try and stay calm and hope it will pass.
  • Don’t give in, because this will teach them they can use tantrums to get what they want. This one’s terribly hard when my little man’s face goes red and his beautiful blue eyes become full of tears. He’s already mastered the art of looking sad and lost. 😛

There are lots of tips floating around for avoiding tantrums. These below seem to make the most sense for small children.

Avoiding the dreaded tantrum

  • Make sure your child is not tired or hungry, especially before going out. You might find yourself having to come home.  We recently had to leave a restaurant with a tired and grumpy little man.
  • Put dangerous or breakable things out of reach. I’m trying my best to do this, as Ewan is sure to throw a tantrum if he gets hold of an interesting object and you take it away from him.
  • Make sure they get opportunities to take part in activities they enjoy, which will also release their energy. Little man likes to play outside and also in water. It’s rather difficult to keep him entertained as he gets bored quickly.
  • Give your child a choice as to what he/she wants to play with, eat or wear. Ewan couldn’t care less about his clothes, but he’s very particular as to what he eat. He’s a fussy eater, but there is a much greater chance that he will eat something if you give him a few options and leave him to eat by himself.
  • Try and keep calm during stressful times and this will set an example to your child to do the same. This is not always easy, especially when you’ve had little sleep. 😛
  • Try not to say “no” all the time, as this may make your toddler more frustrated.
  • Give plenty of praise and attention for good behaviour and try to ignore the bad behaviour as much as possible.

Sleep deprivation and boredom?

I suspect the little man’s tantrums may also partly be as a result of bad sleep during teething. And boredom. The grownups are simply not always that interesting and can’t always keep him entertained and stimulated.

I’m interested to see how he will progress once he starts playschool January next year…

My extroverted toddler?

Recently, I’ve started to wonder if I may have given birth to an extroverted child.

I’m still not entirely sure how this happened as both his father and I are confirmed introverts.

Needs interaction

My little man seems to crave interaction as much as I need solitude.

He is constantly chattering and telling us about his day, usually not even seeming that interested if we are listening or not. 😛

Extrovert characteristics 

Ewan displays the following characteristics, which are typical of an extrovert.

  • He is outgoing and likes to be around people, even though he might be a little shy at first. He likes to follow you everywhere around the house.
  • He likes to share his food and toys. He doesn’t like eating and playing alone.
  • The little one talks a lot, often using his hands and feet to spice up the conversation. 😛 This weekend he got onto one of the garden chairs and went on for several minutes with and impressive, long-winded speech.
  • Ewan also enjoys more introverted activities such as playing by himself in the garden.

It’s probably too early to say for sure what his personality type is. We’ll probably find out more next year when he goes to playschool.

Survival tips for the introverted parents of extroverted children:

  • Create opportunities for your child to interact with others. That’s part of the reason why Ewan is going to playgroup next year. He also gets the opportunity to interact with family members.
  • Don’t feel that you are selfish because you need time to recharge. Some “me-time” will make you a better and more loving parent.
  • Find ways of using some of your daily activities or duties as recharging time. If you drive home, play music or listen to a soothing audio book. I use my daily two hour train commute to write and read. Rather do exercise like walking or running than working out in a noisy and crowded gym.
  • Also teach your little extrovert from a young age that he/she must also be able to play and work alone.

Quiet by Susan Cain will also tell you more about your own introverted nature and about the difference between introverts and extroverts.

The seasons of a working mom’s life

Once upon a time, my body used to be well toned.

Exercise

I had a lot of time to excercise. One of the gym regulars, I did at least 4 sessions a week of 45 minutes to an hour.

I also lived in town which meant I could walk to work and home, an additional 45 minutes of exercise a day.

Diet

I always used to eat pretty much what I wanted, but I suppose all the exercise burned the kilojoules. I never gained much weight.  And I also used to be younger… 😛

What happened?

  • We moved to Fish Hoek, which meant that I now have a two hour sit on the train every day, instead of the 45 minute walking commute that used to keep me fit.
  • Then we had a baby, which futher cut down on time and opportunities to exercise. 😛

The solutions?

So far, I haven’t managed to find a solution. I try to walk and swim on weekends, but obviously this is not enough.

Acceptance

At the moment there’s not much space for exercise in my already full timetable.

A wise person recently told me that I’m in a season of life where there’s not much time for anything. 😛

Maybe it’s best for once to just go with the flow and not try to have the perfect body.

Working mothers can’t have it all

From my experience so far, it has become clear that working mothers can’t have it all.

It’s only a recipe for disaster and mental breakdown if you think you can be the perfect wife, mother, employee, housewife and then also have the perfect body.

Life has seasons

For me it seems a more practical and reasonable approach to accept that life indeed has seasons.

I’ve decided in this season I just want to enjoy my life for what it is – somewhat chaotic with a busy little growing baby at the centre of everything. 😛

My toddler’s 3 favourite activities

At 18 months, Ewan has 3 favourite activities – bottle, bad and outside.

Further clarification of these cryptic terms

  1. Bottle – mother frequently gets asked where his bottle is, especially when she wants to sleep a bit later on a Sunday morning. He also has the habit of pointing at anything remotely bottle-shaped and then asking mother to give it to him. He is frequently disappointed by mother’s refusal, as he has the habit of throwing everything (including his bottle) very hard, and these bottles have the tendency of breaking open upon landing, spraying their contents everywhere.
  2. Bad – this is the only Afrikaans word in his vocabulary and mother should probably be proud that he uses it to describe his favourite activity, namely taking a bath. But bad can be a pain, as the little man has the tendency to sit outside the bathroom and scream at the top of the lungs until he gets his bath. 😛  Mother has wondered on occasion if it is normal for a boy to enjoy taking a bath so much. 😛 But it’s too cute when he asks for his bath after a gruelling session of playing outside.
  3. Outside – mother and granny dread hearing this word during Winter. When he is not in the bad, the little man wants to spend the rest of his days playing outside and going for the occasional walk. He gets very grumpy if he gets no outside time during the day.

The positives and negatives of outside:

  • Outside is a great babysitter. Ewan seems to require much less parental involvement and attention when he is playing outside. He can amuse himself for hours on end, playing with sticks and stones and scratching in the dirt. He might finally stop to ask for a bottle or bad.
  • When he is outside, Ewan seems to forget his teething pain. He moans much less when he is in the process of getting himself thoroughly dirty. Unfortunately the pain seems to return as soon as he’s back in the house.
  • But don’t respond to the plea for “outside” if you don’t have time to leave him there for a while. Rather face a short crying spell, then an ear piercing tantrum when you have to bring him inside before he wants to come inside. Alternatively,  you can try to lure him inside with the promise of a “bad”.

It will be interesting to see how my son’s favourite activities change as he gets older. Hopefully there will be less tantrum throwing.  😛