Making changes

Change can be quite daunting. I like to think that the ups and downs of parenthood, with the constant change and new phases, help build our resilience, and help us cope better with change as time goes on. I have gone through a lot of change over the past few years, and have also made quite a few changes, especially in the last year. I have been thinking about what has helped me as I make changes, both recently and in the past, and what reminders I’ve needed, or would have been helpful at the time. I wanted to share them with anyone who is currently making changes, or needs a bit of encouragement to take a leap!

Firstly, it helps to bring those closest with you in on the details so that they understand and can support you in making your changes. They might even like to join you on your journey! Or at the very least, you will have some good support and encouragement along the way.

Don’t worry about what others will think, if you are excited by the changes and they feel right for you then that is what is most important.

Try not to let questions from others make you doubt yourself. Those closest to you will question from a place of concern for you, or of course, based on their own experiences. Remember, each experience will be unique to us.

Be grateful! Especially for the support and encouragement you do receive.

Don’t compare yourself to others. It doesn’t matter if, or when, someone else made the same changes you’re wanting to make, all that matters is that it is now the right time for you.

Trust your gut and go with the flow! If it’s meant to be, it will feel effortless and flow smoothly.

Don’t feel guilty. If making your changes means letting go of some of the old to make way for the new, then let it be. Sometimes we have to do some weeding in our gardens for things to grow.

Make sure you’re happy! It is most important that you are being true to yourself.

Ask for help if you need it. If you don’t ask, how can you receive!?

Remember, there are no mistakes. Life is about learning lessons and you can always make new changes if you need to.

Good luck with making your changes, whatever they may be!

xxx

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Have you been holding back?

How many of us can truthfully say, “I don’t hold back”? I’m not talking just in a sense of saying how you really feel, or “giving a piece of your mind” 😋, or airing all the skeletons in your closet… I’m talking in a sense of showcasing 100% of yourself, being true to yourself, and being unapologetically YOU. Whether it’s in the space of social media, with your family and friends, or work colleagues, how many of us are holding back, afraid to reveal their whole selves for fear of rejection or negative criticism, etc.?

I had the thought recently, after being treated to a beautiful poem, “The Man in the Mirror”, that if we aren’t being true to the person looking back at us, and we aren’t showcasing our full selves, how can we possibly attract the right people, relationships, or state of mind? If we aren’t talking about, or doing and sharing the things that we really enjoy, or that light our world on fire, then how will others ever know that we are interested in those things, and to talk to us about them or invite us along? How can we form new friendships with people with common interests if others don’t know what our interests are? For example, before I started this space, how were other parents or friends or family to know that I would be more than willing to talk to them openly about the ups and downs of my parenting journey, or that I would be happy to be asked for advice or about my experiences (besides knowing how much I love a good chat in general 😊)?

Today, I am acknowledging that I feel I have been holding back. Whilst everything I have shared in this space is of course true and honest, I feel I have been holding back on sharing MORE about me and my personal journey, and MORE of the things that set my soul on fire, and that inspire and excite me. I’ve been unsure about what should and should not be shared, forgetting that only I can set the barriers, no one else. So, I have decided to make a conscious (and unconscious) effort to share more about me, and from me, so that you can see more of what helps me through my parenting journey, and I can open myself up to even more possibilities, and can continue to connect and relate to others.

Do you feel you are showcasing your whole self? Is there something that you don’t share that could be holding you back from attracting new opportunities? We’ll never know if we don’t give it a go!

xxx


What I want my children to know about bullying

I was bullied throughout high school. Boys would tease me about my voice, and call me a man because of my hairy arms; the latter getting to the point where I would wear the school jumper, no matter what the season, even if just with my arms through the sleeves, so that they were unseen. I was often called ‘teacher’s pet’, or the equivalent, because I respected the teachers and got along with them well. There was the subtle bullying with scoffing and whispers during class, of which the details I thankfully no longer recall. In year 11, I found myself in a Phys Ed class with a group of people who gave me a code name and would talk about me throughout each class. It was at this point that my Mum encouraged me to speak to the school psychologist, and despite my embarrassment and shame, I did. I spoke up, and the teacher was involved and the bullies were spoken to, and this particular bullying stopped.

These are just some of my experiences that I can still easily recall over 13 years on. These are the experiences that resulted in me carrying negative feelings throughout high school and for a long time after I graduated. It didn’t seem to matter about the friends I had throughout the years, or the positive experiences I had, or how well I did, I wanted to forget about my high school years, and there was no way you’d get me to a school reunion.

Whilst my experiences are minor compared to what other students have experienced, or those who now also have online bullying to combat alongside the schoolyard bullying, it is not insignificant as it has still impacted me, just as I know bullying has impacted a lot of others. Until now, I haven’t really spoken out about my experiences. Not just because it’s in the past, but also due to the embarrassment and because I didn’t want to draw attention to the things I was bullied for. But more than this, I was also worried about people’s perception of me. What if people felt I was overreacting to the things that were said, or that it was just ‘what happened in high school’, or perhaps someone out there felt like I hadn’t been the nicest to them? All of these things, and more, that stop us from speaking up whilst we’re going through it, but also long after.

Now as a ‘mature’ adult and a parent, I look at things in a different light. I know that it is okay to have opinions, it’s just about how you express or don’t express them. I know that taunting, repeatedly teasing, and deliberately hurting someone is never okay. I know that bullying is cowardly, and is about the bully (or bullies) and what is going on inside for them. I know that I want my children to grow up knowing that bullying is not okay. To know that teasing a girl or boy is not how you show them that you like them. To know that it is okay to speak up and to tell an adult if you are being bullied, or if you see someone else being bullied, and to feel comfortable enough to speak to us as parents about it, just as I felt comfortable to speak with my family about it. And to know that it is an adult’s role to help them take the right course of action against bullying, not to sweep it under the carpet, or to tell them to ‘toughen up’.

Let’s teach our children that it is best to have your name remembered for the good things, and how good you made a person feel, and not for being a bully, and for the hurt you caused. Let’s use our experiences, just as my Mum used hers, to teach our children about bullying and how it can make a person feel, but also to show that it does not define you or limit the person you can become. Let us as adults and parents, not to forget the lessons of our high school years. Let us ‘speak (up), even if our voices shake’, for the sake of our children, and their future. Let’s make sure that our children know that they do not have to stand for any behaviour that makes them feel uncomfortable or hurts them in any way. Let’s be the role models we need to be for our children and treat each other with respect and kindness for the sake of a brighter future. The conversations start with us.

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Seeing the strengths

This morning started the same as every weekday morning, as I prepared breakfast and sat down with our 3 little ones to eat. There were the usual discussions over who sits where, with our 3.5 year old son wanting to have his younger brother closest to him, and me explaining that there could be a bit of space between them (without him being in reach of porridge covered hands) and they would still be next to each other. After much discussion, and my porridge getting colder, I ended up putting my toes against one of the legs of my youngest boy’s highchair in a half-hearted attempt to stop it being moved. What followed left me dumbfounded.

Noticing my foot against the highchair, I saw my sons eyes light up with that ‘game on’ look, as he gave the highchair another tug, successfully moving it towards him. He grinned and said, ‘see Mum, I’m strong! You’re not because you’re a girl…’ My mouth dropped open at hearing these words come out of my beautiful little boy’s mouth. I immediately asked him a bunch of questions, ‘What do you mean I’m not strong because I’m a girl?’, ‘Where have you heard that before?’, ‘Where have you learnt that?’, ‘Have you seen it somewhere?’, as I tried to grasp some understanding of where this had come from.

He brought up a couple of things including some of the characters from his favourite TV show, saying that the character Roy, a male fire engine, was strong (as he grimaced and flexed his muscles) and that Amber, the female ambulance, ‘only drilled a hole’. I then asked him if Amber was strong, to which he replied, ‘no, she’s smart and nice’. I quickly remembered that the theme song to the show described Roy as being ‘brave and strong’, and Amber as being ‘smart and friendly’, and was blown away at how he’d drawn all these conclusions. We discussed it a bit more and then I continued to think about it as I cleaned up from breakfast. I decided to give my husband a call, out of earshot of our children, to tell him what had unfolded. He too was just as surprised as I was to hear that our son had said these words and how he’d put things together. We had a good, although brief, discussion about it and agreed that there would have to be a few more conversations about this with our boy, and his sister and brother as they got older.

There have been so many thoughts and questions running through my head since this morning. Was I so shocked because I took it personally as I consider myself a strong woman, and that I come from a line of strong women? Was I largely surprised at how he could come to such a conclusion when he would not have heard these words from us (his parents), or extended family and friends around him? How could an innocent 3.5yo have this view from just observing the world around him, including children’s TV shows? When he has commented to me before about Daddy being ‘bigger’ than Mummy, or asked if Mummy is still growing to be big like Daddy, is there more that I should have said or explained to him? And this is just the first of many of these type of discussions we are going to be having!! He’s not even in school yet!!

What this has brought to light is just how perceptive our little ones really are (because a reminder is always good). I’ve realised that although my husband and I may consider ourselves to role-model equality, and I thought my son would see his Mum as a ‘strong’ woman, what it comes down to is our son’s perception of the word ‘strong’. To him, the word ‘strong’ means physical strength and muscles, and when you look it up in the dictionary that is the primary definition.

Although it would be easy to blame a TV show for not depicting more physically ‘strong’ female characters, or it would be easy to blame other people or things for their perceived influence, it is important to think about what we’re teaching our children in our homes and if we’re communicating enough.  This experience has highlighted that we want to be teaching our children that strength comes in different forms, not just the physical, and that you can be strong physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and that we need to make more of a point of this every day. We need to teach our sons that the differing levels of physical strength that are often present between males and females, do not mean that females are not ‘strong’, or as strong as males in totality. We need to teach our daughter that, although she may not be as physically strong as her brothers, it does not mean that she is not ‘strong’, and we need to use the word ‘strong’ more, and in more than just the physical sense. With these little changes, and anymore that we come across, we hope we can make a difference in shaping our children to see their strengths, as well as the strengths in others.

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Giving credit, where credit is due

How often do we give ourselves a pat on the back as parents, and say, ‘You’re doing a great job!’?

When someone says, ‘You’re doing an amazing job!’, or ‘I don’t know how you do it!?’, how often do we accept the compliment, instead of shying away or politely disagreeing?

How often do we sit back and acknowledge the hard work we put in each day as parents, without criticising what we haven’t done, or feeling guilty about something?

The answer… not often enough!

We need to start giving ourselves more credit and allowing ourselves to feel proud of what we achieve each day. Raising people (little or big) is hard work! It takes a lot, and we give so much of ourselves every day, and yet we don’t take the time to celebrate our achievements. We don’t give ourselves compliments, or really accept the compliments that others give us. We don’t acknowledge that we deserve whatever little rewards we want to give ourselves, or allow ourselves the freedom to take a break (guilt free) when we need it. We don’t shout to the earth how proud we are of ourselves for just getting through each day, raising our 1, 2, or 10 children.

So let’s start making a change. The next time you’re celebrating one of your children’s birthdays or other special milestones, give yourselves a pat on the back for getting through the year or helping them achieve their milestone. If you’re at the end of a particularly tough day, take 5 for yourself once the kids are in bed and sit on the couch or soak in the bath, and acknowledge that you’ve gotten through a tough day and that you’re proud of yourself, reminding yourself that tomorrow is a new day. And even if it wasn’t a tough day, smile to yourself (maybe even with a little thumbs up) and be proud of your good day – definitely celebrate those little diamonds! If you have a partner who makes life that bit easier, don’t forget to talk to them and tell them how proud you are of them, and thank them for what they give to your family. And of course, if you receive a bit of praise, graciously accept it and say, ‘Thank you!’ with pride.

It’s also important to block out any comparison making in the process. It doesn’t matter what someone else is achieving, or what we think they might think (because often what we think they’re thinking and what they’re actually thinking are very different), we are all unique, we all do things differently, and we all have our individual circumstances. The bottom line is, we should all be proud of ourselves and we all have the right to be proud of our achievements as parents.

So whether you’re a parent to 1, or 2, or 10, or multiples, or you’ve got little babies or big adult babies… whatever your parenting, feeding, working, sleeping arrangements are… I am proud of you and I think you are doing an amazing job!

Spread the love today. Start by telling yourself how proud you are, and then tell your partner, a friend, or family member how proud you are of them too. We ALL deserve it!

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Innocence

Going back through the photos that our boy took on his camera on our recent Zoo trip, getting to see things through his lens, I can’t help but reflect on his innocence. How free our young children are to look at things without judgement or presumptions.

I’m not sure if it’s the older I get, or the more children I have (possibly the latter as my age didn’t triple overnight, unlike the number of children we have 🙈), but I find myself challenging my reactions & thoughts more and more. In those moments where I find myself taking certain things personally and reacting defensively, I’m also trying harder to question myself and my reactions, and to reason with myself by adopting more of an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ approach.

I find myself reflecting on my own actions, you know the times where maybe I’ve looked at something and then been distracted (usually by one of my cheeky monkeys) and have forgotten to respond, or perhaps haven’t put the usual thought into my response. Or the times where something has completely gone over my ‘Mum brain’ and I’ve missed a key piece of information or an important cue. There’s also been the times when I’ve been caught up in my daily activities and I’ve forgotten to check in, or I’ve been dealing with something greater and haven’t been able to be where I’ve really wanted to be (either physically or mentally). All of these imperfect moments and actions that have taken place unintentionally, or without the intention of hurting or offending anyone.

By putting things into perspective, remembering we’re all human (and that this parenting gig is all-consuming in both amazing and challenging ways), and that the way we see things can be (and often is) so very different to those around us, I’ve found that it helps me to refocus and let go of those niggling thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still very much a work in progress, because I am exactly that (aren’t we all!?), but I’m happy that I’m in this place of challenging my thoughts and making improvements.

So, whether you’re reading this and thinking about how important the innocence of our children is, or you’re happy that someone else takes things personally (often unnecessarily), or you’re relieved that you’re not the only crazy who talks and reasons with themselves 😜, or perhaps it’s made you rethink how you’ve reacted to something – it’s important to remember to be gentle with yourself (you’re only human), and to be gentle with others, maybe giving them the benefit of the doubt (they’re only human too… I think). We’re all on this crazy ride together, so let’s relax and enjoy it 💛

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