Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cold showers = good health?

Colds. Bleuch. I am totally over them this month: my daughter's nose runs like a leaky faucet filled with congealed grossness, I can hear my son coughing at night, and I haven't been the best either. I've spent the last little while in health purgatory - not sick enough to call in sick at work, or call in reinforcements while I spend all day in bed, but not well enough to be on form either. Not sick enough to get any sympathy from anyone, but feeling yucky enough to want to complain to anyone that will listen about how I am feeling. 'Tis an annoying place to be, health purgatory. 

So, how to get better? What will turn my daughter's nose-faucet off for good? What will make me feel less sorry for myself? I consulted Modern Mothercraft to see what the 1945 woman would have done. 

Take Vitamin C? Good idea. Looks like some advice hasn't changed. Change shoes and socks when wet? Check. Get lots of sun? Good idea in theory - shame I haven't seen much of the blazing yellow stranger recently. So far, the advice looked good and not too different from what you'd read today. 

The next part, though, didn't convince me - rub the chest with camphorated oil. Having never heard of camphorated oil in my life, I turned to Mr Google to look it up and stumbled upon some discussions about whether or not camphorated oil is endangering the lives of babies. Hmmm. Maybe not for me, then, unless I use the small quantities found in Vicks. 

I then read: "a cool shower in the morning, followed by vigorous exercise, will render a child more resistant to colds."

Not sure about you, but I can't think of anything I feel like less when ill than having a cold shower followed by exercise. I entertained the thought for a millisecond of trying it out tomorrow morning, but can't  make myself go through with it. The mornings here are too cold, and I am too lazy. Plus, the morning routine is manic enough as it is, I can't imagine putting my children through cool showers followed by exercise as well. We get enough exercise as it is running around madly trying to get ready in time, and in my case, running for the bus. I'd like to keep telling myself that's enough. 

So, no cool showers for us, so in health purgatory I stay. But, all of this talk of cool showers has made me really fancy a hot bath, so I think I'll so that instead. Sorry Modern Mothercraft, but this time I am completely disregarding your advice! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

When living in 2015 really is better than living in 1945

Since starting this blog, I've already talked ad nauseum about whether or not things are better now or in 1945. In some ways, life is so much better now than it was before: it's much better to be a woman for so many reasons (birth control, anyone?), and we don't get told we should use one of these gadgets for our babies anymore.

In some ways, though, life in 2015 is worse - social media complicates how we interact, it's hard making friends when we don't have strong communities around us, we waste so much food, things aren't built to last, and who knows what all of this screen time and technology is doing to our minds and attention spans, the way we view the world, and how we react to events. 

But, this week I am pleased to live in 2015. Why? Here's a clue:


The other day, my son was asking about marriage, and I was able to tell him that when he's older, he can marry a man or a woman. I am so pleased that he has that choice, and that at not-even-four, he has been to weddings between a man and a woman, as well as been the page boy for a wedding between two men. When I was growing up, homosexuality was illegal until I was seven, and gay was frequently used as a synonym for bad or lame.

True, there are still Neanderthal-esque homophobes out there, and some people have a long way to go before being as accepting as they ought to be. But, my children will nonetheless grow up in a time when, more than ever before in history, whoever you choose to spend your life is up to you and can be recognised in the eyes of the law. 

And that is why, today at least, I am pleased to be a mother in 2015 rather than 1945. Yay!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Goodbye, toys. Hello, gadgets?

The lovely locally-owned toy shop in my suburb is closing. It's such a shame; over the years I have spent many a happy hour browsing its shelves. When pregnant with my first, it was where I bought the sort of cute-but-impractical toys that only someone without children would buy, and when he was a newborn, it was where I obsessively analysed every baby toy trying to decide what a 6-week old needed to reach his full potential. Over the past four years I've bought bikes, toy cars, gifts for family, board games and even a tin with a photo of a cat on it. The owners recognised me, and I them, making the toy shop feel like an essential part of our community. 

I visited this morning to see what stock was left and to say goodbye, and while there had a long talk to the owner about the shop's closure. Was people buying toys online the problem? I wondered. Was it the ability to buy cheap goods elsewhere?

No, she replied. Apparently, even some online toy stores are going under, unable to sell enough toys to stay afloat. The problem is that children are playing with toys less than they used to. The problem, she said, is that as soon as children hit school age (if not earlier), they are more likely to get gadgets for gifts instead, and more likely to entertain themselves in front of a screen than with a toy.

I could wax lyrical about how terrible that is on a number of levels, but what I would say isn't new. Most people already know, on an abstract level at least, how much children who are too connected to screens are missing out on in terms of fine motor skills, cognitive development and attention span. I know that the amount my kids watch tv isn't ideal, but all of that knowledge doesn't stop me reaching for the remote when the dinner needs cooking, I'm tired or the kids won't stop fighting. 

Instead, all I will say is that the idea that children are playing with fewer toys is sad, and has made me resolve to limit my children's screen time a little more. Starting today! 

In my day ...

I was talking to my son recently about telephones and the fact mobile phones weren't commonly used until I was in my late teens, and started a sentence with "in my day ... "

I then realised: it's official. I'm getting older. In my day, the only people who started sentences with 'in my day' were old people who grew up in what we called 'the olden days'. 

Surely it's a slippery slope from 'in my day we didn't have mobile phones' to 'in my day we walked to school for 2,321 miles a day through snow, with naught but cow pats to warm our hands'? I'll be reminiscing about floppy disks, video rental stores and Walk-mans while rocking back and forth on my super-sonic-futuristic rocking chairs before you can say 'shake your stick angrily at the neighbourhood children while muttering about the yoof having no respect these days'. Sigh. 

All I can say to make myself feel better is that I hope that rocking chair can hover in mid-air. Because in my days, chairs weren't half as cool as that. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

When history feels more historical than before

While writing this blog, I have thought a lot about how things have changed since 1945. The answer: so much has changed, especially regarding parenting advice, that I have been thinking about it for over a year and still only written about a third of the blog entries I have in mind about the topic. Shame I keep letting life, work, children, and reading trashy magazines get in the way, eh? 

1945 was 60 years ago; 35 years before I was born. It was 8 years before my mum was born, and ever since my last remaining grandparent died in 2006, I have to think really hard about whether or not I even know anyone who remembers 1945 anymore. I used to know a number of people who were around then: my granddad, my great Aunt, lovely Betty who I used to tutor Italian to every Friday morning for three years. My grandmother's brother, who died recently, the last of that generation to go.  Other old people, and people who didn't even seem so old but were still born before 1945. 

Time moves on though, and now all of those people are gone. When I was a teenager first learning about World War Two, it was something that I was only one step removed from: my Grandfather had fought, my grandmothers had lived through it. I knew plenty people who remembered the War, talked about it, and were deeply affected by it. I once met four Auschwitz survivors, and when studying World War Two for my postgraduate degree, I found six people to interview about their first-hand experiences. 

I was talking to my son about war and soldiers recently; the 100 year anniversary of the ANZAC landings brought the issue of war to the fore. In a very sanitized way, I told him about my Grandfather who fought, and when the war was. I then realised that, for him, World War Two will be what the Boer War was for me: something from a far distant time, not something my grandparents lived through, an event which also stamped its mark on the Baby Boomer generation - my parents - in a myriad of ways. And for many of my age, the Boer War is lumped with the Napoleonic Wars, the 100 Years War and the War of the Roses: conflicts that simply happened long ago in some indeterminate point in the past. Nothing that is even moderately relevant to them.

Suddenly, the original publication of Modern Mothercraft in 1945 felt even further ago than it used to. I suppose that's what motivates me to keep blogging - to keep the past alive, and to think about and reflect on what life was like then. So, now I've resolved to put down the trashy magazines and get back to it. After all, that time is only going to feel more distant and alien with every day that passes, and I hate the idea of all of those people that I knew that lived in 1945 being consigned to the distant past as well. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Working Mum, Stay Home Mum? I'm still me

Two months ago, I went back to work after 18 months at home with my lovely children. It's been an interesting experience, to say the least. It's also reminded me why the stay-at-home parent/working parent divide is silly:

I get different reactions when asked the "what do you do? " question, although these reactions seem to come with the same amount of judgement. I feel just as frustrated when people seem interested in my job but not my children as I do when people seem more interested in my children than my job. After all, the different parts of my "self" aren't that disconnected. Regardless of whether I'm inside a play-house playing lions and tigers, or wearing a suit and writing a report, I'm still me. 

I have moments when I feel like I'm good at what I do, and moments when I feel like I'm rubbish, just like when I was a stay at home mum. I also have moments when I am exhilarated by my work, and moments when I'd give a limb to be somewhere else, just like before. I also care about/worry about/think about my children just as much as I did before. After all, I'm still me.

I still hate doing the dishes, and still wish I could hire a team of magic pixies to clean the house while I slept. After all, I've never been a lover of housework, and I'm still me. 

I miss being at home, just like when I was at home I had moments when I wished I was at work. I crave intellectual stimulation just as much as before, and still struggle to find time for my hobbies and interests. While I have less time for myself now I work, I do have more adult conversation which probably just balances the two things out. But, working hasn't changed me, it's just changed how I spend my days. I'm still me. 

I still try hard to feed my children healthy meals, while secretly eating far to many marshmallows myself. After all, I'm still me. 

I still feel guilty about my choices at times, just as much as I did when I made different choices and was at home. I still feel defensive when I hear someone criticize whatever side of the fence I'm currently on, and affirmed when I meet other mothers who have made the same choices I have. But, I have to remember that those other mothers are still them regardless of whether they're home with kids or not, just as I'm still me. 

Most of all, I love my kids just as much as I did before. After all, they're still them, and I'm still me.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How to get more free time

I don't get much free time, not really. I imagine most of you are the same: after all of the minutiae of every day life has been and gone, there isn't much time at the end of it to do something purely for leisure. 

This year, though, my resolution was to change that, inspired by an excellent article [pay wall] I read over the Christmas break. It's only been 13 days so far, but already I'm seeing a difference. What is this magic machine have I used to create free-time from nothing? I hear you ask. What strange manner of alchemy is this? And where can I get it? Here's the thing, though. I don't actually have more free time, I've just figured out how to make it feel like more free time. And it's awesome. Here's how:

1. Stop multi-tasking. I'm sure you know the feeling: you want to watch something on the telly, surf the internet, and chat to your mum online. So, given you're so busy, you decide to do it all at once. Problem is, I've realised that when I do that, I don't end up really enjoying any of those things as I'm not really paying attention to any of them. And afterward, I'm not any happier or more relaxed: if anything, frantic multi-tasking in your leisure time can leave you feeling even more stressed. Leisure time is for leisure, not ticking 'to-do' boxes. I've found that when I only do one thing at I time, I really do enjoy myself much more. 

2. Beware of online FOMO. I get terrible FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) sometimes. I think the main reason I check Facebook as often as I do is due to a fear of missing out on some really important bit of news if I don't. But then, I remembered that checking Facebook all of the time still didn't stop me from missing the news that a friend had died. And while Facebook and other social media is a great way of keeping in touch, when used too often it's just a giant black hole into which free time is thrown, never to be seen again. Restricting my use of social media really has left me feeling like I have more free time. 

3. Stop doing thing for "fun" that aren't fun. I'm never going to be a musical maestro on the ukelele I bought last year and don't get much joy from learning, so have decided to let it slide. I've also had a think about all of the other things I do in my free time, and tried to be honest with myself about how much joy I actually get from them. When you get so little free time, it's a no-brainer that spending that time doing things we feel we ought to do rather than want to do is a poor choice. Yet why do we continue to do it? We need to stop putting pressure on ourselves to do things that are worthy, unless we truly enjoy them. If lying in front of trashy television in my PJs eating ice-cream leaves me feeling more energized for my kids and for my job, then it is a worthy use of time in my book. 

4. When you're somewhere, be there. As in, be there in body and in mind. This in many ways has been the hardest thing for me to implement, especially as it means putting down my phone. But, it really does make interpersonal interactions infinitely more pleasant when you pay attention to the people that you're with. Especially my kids. And I know that many people may beg to differ, but surely taking the time out of something to post online about what you're doing (Having a great time at a party right now! Out at dinner with my honey-bunny man friend, so much fun!) detracts from the experience? If a tree falls in a forest and no-one posts on Facebook about it, it's still fallen. Not sharing something with hundreds of people doesn't mean that whatever you're doing doesn't have any importance to you or isn't worthy. And being somewhere in body and mind makes it so much more rewarding, not to mention is much more respectful to whoever you are with. 

5. Daydream. Now I am slowly training myself not to check my phone or email every time I have a spare few minutes I'm reminded of how restful a good old daydream is every now and then. It's much nicer than spending that two minutes while waiting for the bus logging into Facebook to see what the person I sat beside in science class and not seen since is eating for dinner.

6. Reassess your goals. This one is hard, but something I found I had to do to reclaim my free time.  I was simply trying to achieve too much: I don't have time to pen the great unwritten novel, blog, train for a run, sew some dresses, and watch all seven seasons of Mad Men. Something had to give, and I had to decide which of those things I really wanted to do. If you have too many hobbies, they just start to feel like extra chores, and who needs more of those?

For me, doing these things really has made me feel like I have more free time. Of course it won't work for everyone, but I've been surprised by how a few little tweaks here and there have left me feeling like I have more time to myself. After all, free time is such a treat when we're busy. It seems such a shame to spend it on things that don't leave us feeling better in the end.