Tag Archives: stay at home mom

5 Reasons Why Stay-At-Home Parenting = Writing Success

I used to think I would have to wait for my children to grow up a bit before thinking about becoming a writer, but now I realize I’m exactly where I need to be. Here’s why:

 

1. You will be desperate for a creative outlet

odd socks

There are only so many lullabies you can sing and pretend cappuccinos you can sip before you start craving a use for your brain.  Harness this hunger and write!

 

2.  It’s the ideal set-up

"The Frenzy": a cartoon depicting chaos surrounding an oblivious Kate who is writing furiously. Annie empties cornflakes onto the table, Harry is watering the television and the other two have kindled a small fire on the table and are roasting marshmallows

If you were trying to write on weekends whilst working full-time, you might struggle to get yourself into the right frame of mind.  If you took time off work to focus on your writing, you would have to face the unbearable pressure of producing something good and printable to validate your choice.  When you’re a stay-at-home-parent, you have the luxury of writing for fun.  If you ever get to the point of writing something print-worthy, that’s a bonus.

 

3. Writing time is precious

Pretty notepad with pen, tea and chocolate

Let’s face it: If I had all day to write, I would probably spend it drinking tea, flipping through Facebook, re-organising my shoe collection and staring at a blank page.  As a stay-at-home-parent, writing time alone is a rare treat for me.  I try to make the most of every second, whether the words are flowing or not.

 

4. There is a never-ending supply of writer’s block cures

fairy dresses on washing line

I find the best antidote for blank-page-syndrome is menial work.  Doing something boring with my hands frees up my brain to explore ideas.  Fortunately, being a stay-at-home-parent provides me with an endless supply of these cures.  I’ve chewed over writing while I’m doing the dishes, shopping for sausages, pegging out washing, changing nappies and buttering piles of sandwiches.

It works wonders.

 

5.  You will be provided with a perfect abundance of material

Hand drawn cartoon. A wild-haired Kate is holding a saucepan and looking disconcerted: her five-year-old daughter has collapsed under the weight of her saucepan costume. Caption reads "Enid Blyton versus Newton's law or universal gravitation"

Can you tell there’s a squashed child under all those saucepans? Can you even tell they’re meant to be saucepans??

We all think we would write better if we could just go off to some cabin in the woods and be a hermit for a while.  But I don’t think it really works that way.  Apart from the obvious homicidal-mania-related side effects (haven’t you ever seen The Shining?), shutting yourself off from daily distraction would also mean shutting yourself off from a wealth of inspiration.  If I didn’t spend the bulk of my time making colossal mistakes as a parent, I would have nothing to write about.

 

So there you have it.  I know you think you don’t have time, but use what small pockets you can set aside.  A lot of this can apply to other creative pursuits as well (just replace the word “writing” with “painting”/ “pottery”/ “international space-station design”)

What do you think?  Have I missed anything?  Am I totally off my rocker?  Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.

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On Writing

Pretty notepad with pen, tea and chocolate

Disclaimer: I suspect this is going to be an insufferably self-indulgent and introspective post.

Suffer.

I love writing. I get such a rush from words tumbling out and jostling for position on the screen or in my ratty notebook.  There is a delicious agony in searching for the right word or the perfect one-liner. I am filled with glee when I finish a piece and it’s done, it’s definitely done and I can totally publish it.  And knowing that I have readers as lovely as you is pure bliss.  I think I know now what I want to be when I grow up.

And here’s the funny part: I think that my job as a stay-at-home-mum fits perfectly with this plan.

I feel a little nervous saying this – in any other profession, it’s perfectly OK to say you love working and that your job is full of fun perks, but the role of full-time Domestic Engineer is fraught with emotional landmines.

You see, we’re all a little bruised by the idea put about that we’re spoiled rich ladies who spend our days wearing pearls and watching infomercials.  Or that we’re a little bit stupid and child-care (being such an unworthy pursuit) is all our poor intellects are capable of. Or that we’re so insufferably dull, we need to surround ourselves with children as a distraction.

This makes us rather defensive.

As a result, we flood social media with earnest posts about how SAHMs should be earning a CEO’s salary for all the work they do (often accompanied by a Vishnu-like diagram depicting all the roles they play); stories of husbands who try to do the work of their stay-as-home wife and fall apart after Day 1 (“I had no idea!”); and heartwarming video clips that involve evocative piano music, baby’s first steps and advertisements for a South East Asian phone company.

I feel like a traitor to the cause admitting I really like what I do – and not just for the worthy reasons like “being there for my kids” and “hearing Baby’s first words” – the lifestyle really suits me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a proper career as a writer and I see this time at home not as a delay or a roadblock, but as a gift.  Time to practice and develop my skills before I try it on for real.

In fact, I’ve been thinking about it so much, I’m going to write a whole separate blog post about it.

Stay tuned.

Book Week Fail: Part One.

Last week was Book Week (actually, by the time I post this, it might be a little longer, but let’s just pretend it was last week).  Here in Australia, at a certain time of the year, Facebook news feeds everywhere become choked with pictures of school-aged children in costumes.  They all carry the same two word caption: Book Week.  This is the week the Children’s Book of the Year is awarded and suburban libraries try to out-do each other in creative celebrations.  Book Week represents everything I should love, so why does the mere mention of the word fill me with a vague sense of nausea and dread?

I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself on Book Week dress-up day.  When you’re a stay-at-home mum, you don’t often get the chance to prove yourself.  There are no clear-cut KPIs and no performance reviews in my line of work.  It all pretty much boils down to two tests:  visits to the Maternal and Child Health Nurse and Book Week.  As you may know, my previous performances at MCH visits have been underwhelming to say the least.  Book Week, therefore, would have to be Kate’s Time To Shine.

In the past, I’ve been disorganized and turned up late with costumes that didn’t quite work, like the time Matilda arrived half-way through the parade with tangled hair in a generic fairy dress as ‘Silky’, a last-minute substitute after I discovered that a five-year-old couldn’t manage the sheer weight of a Saucepan Man costume when it was made up of proper stainless steel saucepans.  We were both gutted.  I had planned to bask in the glow of good-costume-approval and Matilda had devised plans to pretend to be comically deaf all day (maybe she still did: she’s not easily deterred).

Hand drawn cartoon.  A wild-haired Kate is holding a saucepan and looking disconcerted:  her five-year-old daughter has collapsed under the weight of her saucepan costume.  Caption reads

Can you tell there’s a squashed child under all those saucepans? Can you even tell they’re meant to be saucepans??

This year was going to be different.  A week before the day and I was already thinking it over.  There could be no phoning it in.  No Shrek.  No Spiderman.  No Buzz Lightyear.  My children and their costumes would represent the richness and diversity of well-written children’s books.  The school librarian would nod approvingly and nudge the literacy co-ordinator.  “Do you see those children?  They will go far in life.  Their mother is doing an excellent job.”

I needed to think.  I majored in Literature in University.  I adore children’s literature.   This was a unique opportunity to exhibit my Sublime Literary Taste.  People would see me as a real-life Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail: how could you not know that?).

“What are you doing for Book Week?”  I interrogated Lovely M.

“Ugh!  Book Week!  Peter says he wants to bring his scooter.  Do you know any literary characters who ride scooters?” I shook my head doubtfully.  M sighed.

“Things would be so much easier if I had a little girl with red hair,” I mused, “think about it:  Anne of Green Gables, L’il Orphan Annie, Pippi Longstocking, Sunny Ducrow, Madeleine”

Nancy Drew,” added M, “Millie that red crayon girl”

“Do you think I can convince Christopher Robin to wear a red wig and a dress?” I asked wistfully.  M shook her head.  I sighed.  Lovely M started googling scooter-themed books.

Harry’s costume, at least, would be easy enough.  At some point since our failed Saucepan Man attempt, we had managed to acquire a set of lightweight toy saucepans (I promise we didn’t get them just for Book Week.  At least, that’s what I keep telling myself).  Harry would be an adorable little Saucepan Man; I just needed to think up a decent costume for Christopher Robin.

I ran the idea past my siblings at Family Night.  They’re young and creative and don’t have kids.  This sort of thing is actually fun for them.   We were deep in discussion of proper construction methods of a giant peach and Cindy had just run off to fetch a teapot that looked a little like Aladdin’s lamp when Greg (or Peter) struck gold (they both are taking credit for having the idea first. I’m not getting involved)

“What about George’s Marvellous Medicine?”

The idea had real promise.  Christopher Robin could wear regular clothes and just carry a tray with ‘medicine’ ingredients on it.  Given that we were having this conversation the night before costume day, this plan had great appeal.

As soon as I got home from my parent’s house, I got to work stringing together toy saucepans and gathering household items to put on George’s tray.  I also filled up a bottle with water, put food dye in it and labelled it “Marvellous Medicine”, just to drive the point home.  When I went to bed that night, I was feeling rather smug.  My boys would look adorable.  My Facebook boast would get so many likes. For the first time ever, I was going to get it right on Book Week day.

At least, that’s what I thought.

Art in August – A Wrap Up

So, here’s something you should know about me.  I’m excellent at starting up new and exciting projects.  That’s definitely a strength of mine.  Finishing off all the projects I start?  Not so much.  I’m not the best at tying off ends.  So when we see that the final post for Art in August is coming at the end of October, we all just need to hold hands and take a deep breath and be glad that Kate is actually finishing something.

Rather than produce a new art work for the final post, I thought it might be nice to create a mosaic to represent the different contributors and their widely different styles.  I only chose one piece from each participant, which was difficult as there were many great works to choose from.

I also tried to set it up so that, by clicking on the picture, you would be taken to the participant’s blog, but it turns out I can’t do that when I have the pictures in a mosaic like this, so I’ve put the links underneath instead.

Top row: The Plucky Parent, The Hippy Geek, Mathair Fiona

Middle row: 可愛い国, Laptop on the Ironing Board, Red Lipstick Mama,

Bottom Row: the mmmmm family, Allison Road, Sourdough Lifestyle

Isn’t it amazing to see all this hidden talent?  This is what happens when we stop critiquing ourselves and just play.

I’d like to say a massive THANK YOU for everyone who joined in and everyone who encouraged me and the other artists.  It has been such an affirming exercise and I’ve loved making friends in Blogland.  I will definitely be doing this again next year.

In the meantime I have a germ of a new idea to work on: Finishing Things in February.  What do you think?

Soul Diet

So I’ve been thinking.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people lately about food.  It seems everyone is on a special diet to help them feel better.  So we go gluten free, low FODMAP, cut out milk, limit caffeine, cut out processed food, go organic free range, eat brown-not-white, and avoid flavour enhancer 621 (it makes me hyper).

I suppose it’s all about looking at what we put into our bodies and how it affects our wellbeing.  As far as conversations go, it can be a deathly boring subject, but it got me thinking – what kind of diet is my soul on?  What do I watch and read and do that is healthy for my soul?  What do I watch and read and do that is toxic?

pizza

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Catholic.  One of the – I don’t know – “membership requirements”? – that we have is that we go to Mass once a week on a Sunday unless we’re really sick or something.  Please wait a minute whilst I shudder inwardly at the abysmal grammatical mess I just created.  I don’t even know where to begin fixing that sentence.  Please forgive me.

Maybe a new paragraph will help.  A lot of people I know take issue with this obligation and think my church is a cranky parent who likes to make rules and boss people around, as if the church itself is somehow separate from the people that form it.  These people say things like “it doesn’t really matter if you go to church or not, so long as you are a good person” (because it’s one or the other – take your pick) and “you don’t have to go every week – it’s too hard.  Just go when you can – God will understand” (because parties, sport and wandering around Bunnings should always take priority over your spiritual health).

The thing is, Sunday Mass is supposed to be the minimum I do to look after myself and my community spiritually, and if I commit to it regularly, it becomes a part of who I am.  It makes me think of something my friend did the other week.

I had some friends over at my house to watch the Grand Final / gossip and eat food whilst the Grand Final was playing.  My friend, whom I will call Lydia, turned up with bags and bags of fruit (and a cask of delicious vodka cranberry, which counts as a fruit), which she then proceeded to transform into healthy fruit platters.  As we munched strawberry and pineapple and felt very virtuous (and drank vodka cranberry and felt rather tipsy), we praised Lydia and her healthy generosity.   It was at this point that Lydia made a sheepish confession: she had eaten KFC for lunch and the fruit was part of a rueful attempt to get back on track.

I feed my soul a lot of junk food.  Every day I feel like I battle an onslaught of Buy-Now-Pay-Later, Post-Baby-Bikini-Body, Give-Your-Little-Precious-a-Head-Start-in-Advanced-Calculus, Kim Kardashian, First-World-Problem-Facebook-Rant, What-Does-Your-Loo-Say-About-You, Miley Cyrus, She-Bought-a-Jeep, Seven-Signs-of-Ageing, What’s-Hot-and-What’s-Not, Who-Wore-it-Best, Adultery-Dot-Com.

One hour a week feeding my soul fruit in the form of Sunday Mass doesn’t seem like a big ask.  I need to be challenged on the way I treat those around me.  I need to be reminded that what I buy really isn’t that important, it’s who I am that counts.  I need to love the Lord my God with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength and love my neighbour as I love myself and all that.  And it’s the minimum, it really is.  And sometimes I only do the minimum.  Far too often I turn up at Mass only to realise that the last time I spent in prayer was a week ago in Mass, whilst holding a wriggling baby and saying “Shush”.  I need more wholefoods in my spiritual diet.  And I need to cut down on the junk.

fruit

So what does this mean?  Here are some things I need to work on:

  • I’m cutting out the sort of radio where the announcers make a career out of being cruel and then cut to a song extolling the virtues of anonymous sex before half-an-hour of blaring ads.  Light FM might be a little daggy, but it’s got my vote.
  • I’m not ready to cut out TV completely, but I want to cut right back – especially the sort where I’m just staring at the screen for the sake of it, to ‘relax’.
  • If I were to spend as much time catching up with those friends who give me joy as I do fiddling about on social media, I would be a much happier person.
  • I need to stop reading the sort of magazines that teach me to hate my body and feel depressed and wrinkled and fat.
  • I need to spend more time with God in prayer.

I had a plan for that last point this morning.  I set the alarm for six o’clock and snuck downstairs for some quiet prayer time and maybe a sneaky bit of blog time as well before the rest of the family got up.  I started digging around in search of the nifty devotional I’d recently purchased when I heard the distinct clomp-clomp-clomp of a small person making his way down the stairs.  There stood Harry, tousle-haired and bleary-eyed, wearing only his night-nappy (he’d thrown a tantrum the night before and refused all pyjamas that didn’t have Batman on them.  His Batman pyjamas were in the washing machine.).

“I want a cuddle, Mum.”

I tried to patiently explain to Harry that it was “still night time” and that he could “go back to bed had have a bit more sleep”.  Harry shook his head.

“I just want a cuddle, Mum.” and settled himself on the couch.  I sighed and continued my search for the devotional.  Harry giggled, “I’m right here, Mummy!”. He thought I was looking for him.

And so I made my prayer whilst holding my three-year-old third child, feeling his small heart beat in his narrow chest and smelling his golden hair.  I gave thanks for him and his healthy, sturdy little body.  In a few short years, he won’t want to be held like this.  Last night I was short-tempered with him.  He kept climbing on me in a bid to win my attention.  I’d had enough of being a Mummy for the day and I just wanted five minutes with NOBODY TOUCHING ME.   So I prayed that God’s grace might enter my life, that His light might shine through all the cracks of my shortcomings and imperfections.  Most of all I prayed that I might remember to pray when I needed to most.  It was beautiful and profound, it really was.

Then Harry dirtied his nappy and woke his baby sister and poured cornflakes all over the floor.

But I picked up the broom with a serene smile (after changing two nappies and fixing two breakfasts).  I felt peaceful and recharged.

It’s amazing what a healthy diet can do for you.

PS: After I was halfway through writing this, I discovered The Simple Italians at Simple Living ABC’s had written an excellent post on this very topic.  You might think I copied their idea, but I didn’t, I promise.   And it’s definitely worth a read.

My New Best Favourite Place

Apple Blossom

Come and have afternoon tea with me at my new favourite place.

Orchard

A few weekends ago, Mr Knightley and I discovered Petty’s Orchard, a delightful piece of picturesque countryside in the middle of the suburbs (it’s tucked away in Templestowe).

Children playing on the grass

Harry and Matilda are having a game of footy.

tractor

And Christopher Robin is driving on the tractor (it was very hard for him to look away from the camera.  That boy loves to pose)

Coffee and Cake

But here’s the real reason I love this place so much!  This GF chocolate and walnut cake is amazing.  It was warm, too!

playground

And the children keep playing, blissfully unaware of what their parents are getting up to.

children drawing

After a little while, Annie and Christopher Robin come back to the table to draw a picture, but by that stage Mr Knightley and I have destroyed all evidence.

artwork

Here is their collaborative effort.  I promised Christopher Robin I’d include it.  As a matter of fact, we’ve got to the point that Christopher Robin is constantly making creations for me to photograph and put on my blog.  If he asks you, just tell him you’ve seen them all…

blossom trees

There’s a lovely organic shop here as well.  After a long time relaxing, Mr Knightley and I somehow managed to get out of our seats and took the kids on a walk in an attempt to somehow compensate for all that cake.  I’m not sure how many calories we worked off, but we did see a bunch of kangaroos, some rainbow lorikeets and rosellas (pretty birds with bright feathers), a few rabbits and some adorable ducklings.  Ah.  Fun for the whole family.

more blossom

After my last post, dear reader, there were so many of you that I wanted to have a virtual cup of tea with, that I thought we might as well have it somewhere really nice!  Thanks for your patience during this unusually silent time.  I hope now the kids are back at school I will get back into to routine of proper blogging.  Hope to chat soon!

Petty's Orchard on Urbanspoon

Nothing Post

Free Aldi flowers - still going after 2 weeks!

This is just a nothing post.  I want to write something sparkling and profound for you, but I don’t think I can manage it today.  So this is a nothing post.  I miss you, dear reader, and I want to connect, there are plenty of topics I want to write about, but they’re difficult and I just can’t get the shape of them today.  Maybe we can just sit at my virtual kitchen table (that’s where I always imagine us to be, you see) and stare out the window together.

Perhaps if I write this, then whatever I write next won’t have all the pressure and expectation of a two-week break on its shoulders.  It can just be an ordinary post, not a Triumphant Return to Blogworld.

Ugh.  Annie’s crying.  She was supposed to sleep for longer!  Thank you for sharing this nothing time with me.  With any luck, I’ll be back soon with something of substance to say!