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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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maternity leave

Meternity: insulting or ingenious?

The New York Post recently had an article on Meaghan Foye’s concept of Meternity – or as the headline suggests, maternity leave without the maternal bit.

Unsurprisingly, there has been quite a bit of indignant howling. I’ve been reading the comments with the morbid fascination of watching a traffic accident in slow motion. You didn’t just do that, I clutched my face in horror mingled with the kind of inappropriate mirth that bubbles over after a loud fart at a funeral. You didn’t just liken maternity leave to Eat Pray Love.

Continue reading “Meternity: insulting or ingenious?”

TTT – It’s a deliciously mad, mad, mad world

The tardiness can be explained – we’ve been modemless, and even though I could still get to the interwebs through my iPhone, I really don’t enjoy blogging through a handheld device. So here’s my Thursday’s Three Thank-yous, a day late but better that than never, etc etc.

1. Mad Aunt Maree

I love friendships so lasting and genuine that you can pick up from where you left off, despite weeks and months of not talking or seeing each other. I have friendships that stand this test across years and oceans, but today I’d like to focus on Arddun’s Mad Aunt Maree.

Mad Aunt Maree is not actually a blood relation, nor is she actually mental or angry. But she loves me and my child dearly, and we happily return this affection. I haven’t seen Maree in a yonk, so it was lovely to catch up on ANZAC day over a cuppa. Nothing tremendous – we just mooched around the Canberra Centre and looked at pretty things. But I came away feeling refreshed, refilled, and actually heard.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” — Karl Menninger, American psychiatrist

2. Mad Modem

So on Wednesday night, our wireless ADSL2+ modem-router went kaputz. Quite a bummer really, since the NBN is going to roll out to our suburb soonish (I’ll believe it when I see it), and we’ll need a different kind of modem then. And I don’t know about you, but the internet has become one of our home essentials. There’s water. There’s electricity. There’s natural gas. And there’s the internet.

So on Thursday late afternoon, Tony went and bought a crazy modem that does everything – ADSL2+, VoIP calls, NBN thingies… It even works as an answering machine, where messages get emailed to us so we get to listen remotely. And instead of arriving on Monday like they told us, the courier came bounding up our front steps early this morning and bashed on our screen door like a man possessed, till I answered it with hair disheveled, baby freaked out and crying on my hip, and a half-snarl etched on my face.

Note to self: thank God for overnight courier services, and for the money to buy crazy modems quickly and easily.

Other note to self: get doorbell.

Edit 28 April, 9:55am: Since playing with the modem, Tony’s discovered that the Crazy Modem (yes, capitalised now) also has an alarm, is able to divert calls between certain hours to voicemail, and has an iPhone app where we can apparently turn our mobile phones into landline handsets. Or something. We haven’t figured out the last bit because the instructions are in German. But whoa mama! Things have changed since the last time we looked at modems, eh?

3. More mommy madness

After much soul-searching, I’ve decided to extend my maternity leave for another twelve months. Nothing’s official, but there’s been a conversation with Big Fat Organisation, and I’m doing the paperwork now. And I know how blessed I am to be able to do this. To even have the option. I’m surprisingly nervous, partly because I feel guilty about not going back to earn money, partly because I have crazy imaginings of my corporate muscle atrophying… but mostly because I feel guilty about not feeling guilty enough.

Because this feels deliciously right, staying home with our child to play mommy. This feels like I get to have my cake AND eat it. Isn’t it bizarre? That in our day and age, the option to stay home and take care of house and home should feel like a privilege? I am turning into a 1950s housewife and all the feminists are probably stoning me remotely for reversing decades of bra-burning progress, but I am happier than I’ve ever been in a long time, and it’s scaring me.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and maybe it will eventually. But for now, I’m so thankful, I could kiss the sky.

Melting point

So I’ve tried baking cookies – twice, and tried baking lemon currant loaves – twice, and made my own pizza dough – twice, and tried making a passionfruit and blueberry slice – once, and none of it bombed, and so I thought, “Hey. I actually don’t suck at this after all. Let’s try and make passionfruit melting moments for tomorrow’s afternoon tea, so I don’t need to run out and buy the ones from Aldi.”

A bridge too far, that. For I bombed spectacularly.

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And while I was initially heartened by a kind friend’s assurance that “a good chef always blames the recipe”, it turns out that the actual quote is “a good chef NEVER blames the recipe”. So I got all geed up to explain to everyone how the butter-flour ratio was totally off in my book, only to realise that just confirms how REALLY bad a chef I am. Poo.

I’m at the stage now where I feel quite comfortable with the whole mother-of-a-baby shindig. Got a lovely routine going, me and my girl get along swell, got a bunch of lovely new mums to swap notes with… And so what do I do? I whip out my list. And try to add to my routine, of all things, an advanced diploma.

Velle BC – Before Child – was convinced that it’d be rather near-sighted to emerge from a year-long maternity leave without accruing at least one new qualification. So she had decided, among other things, to gun for an advanced diploma in program management because hey, it wasn’t enough that she delivered two major projects ahead of schedule while heavily pregnant. And while she didn’t quite promise herself that she’d go through with it, she had her heart set on finishing off the diploma before the year’s end.

Until she gave birth.

Velle AD – After Daughter – is starting to realise three important truths.

ONE – she wasn’t going to accrue one new skill or qualification after maternity leave. She was going to get six. At least. The learning curve of a new mother is steep as, and includes the study of physiology, psychology, diet and nutrition, and the ability to Facebook, cook, watch BBC bonnet drama re-runs, do the laundry, organise Mother’s Group, AND answer the door to get the mail (online shopping!), all while breastfeeding.

TWO – there is an opportunity cost to finishing that list. In exchange for quals that might pretty my CV if people actually cared to read it, I might have to give up precious time playing with my chica. At the risk of sounding like a sop, I love watching this crazy creature grow and change right before my eyes. She is such great company. It seems a rather obvious thing to say, but I’m not lonely when I’m with her. Hanging out with my baby is turning out to be my favourite spectator sport – just watching her figure out the world around her. Who would have thunk.

THREE – all the mothers that laughed their heads off when they first read my good-intentions list? They were right. I wouldn’t be able to get through it. Not because I lack the time – although the days are flying so quickly it scares me. But chiefly because I lack the will.

 

I have changed. When I wrote that list, I didn’t realise how much I would change. And I have. I am BAKING, for crying out loud. And my house is neater. And I am fatter. And I am happy. Cerebrally, I know there’s going to be another switch some time down the road, where I might suddenly wish to be back at work again. Where I’ll be ready and say, “Enough. Let’s pay the mortgage.” Where I’ll want my body back. Where I’ll crave the opportunity to create in a world where grown-ups live.

Here’s the catch, though – would I have evolved into another creature by then? Wanting to accomplish different things? Part of why I’m mulling over this is how I tried this evening to summon the enthusiasm to do my assignment – which is based on the two major projects completed this year. And a large part of me is seriously bored with it. It’s been done – rehashing the details of an old project feels like I’ve stayed back a year at school. This material has been covered. It is FINISHED. Why are we still talking about it? Next better thing, please.

Or is it all excuses?

 

Adjusting to huswifery when shaped like a house

I’ve heard it said that the main benefit of taking the full 6 weeks’ maternity leave before baby arrives is so we can adjust to full-time home life.

Because believe me, it is an adjustment.

Whether it’s the lonely sound of a ticking clock, or the fact that your day is no longer governed by the crisis of the moment in between seven consecutive meetings, this business of full-time huswifery takes a little getting used to.

My urge to nest coincided the week I stopped work in the corporate world. Which is perhaps cruel because when you’re shaped like a blimp, all you can really do when you see dust is to point and stare. Of course, you try and get on your knobbly hands and knees and get some dust-busting going… but you pay for it soon enough. I am still shaped like an inflated bowling ball propped up by Japanese chopsticks. Which means whatever little padding I had to begin with is now squished beyond redemption.

It no longer pays not to have a generous posterior. Ladies, God made us soft for a reason. This is the reason.

My latest party trick is the Movable Pelvis. Everyone goes on and on about the Happy Hormones and the muscle relaxants. No one actually mentioned how said muscle relaxants tend to loosen your body parts near the end – to the extent where you feel like you’re literally coming apart. It is physically ouchy to walk now. Or move in bed. Or dress myself. I actually snap, crackle and pop. It is most disconcerting, but my midwife is very pleased with my progress.

“My pelvic bone hurts like the dickens!” I wail.

“That’s wonderful!” she beams.

“I feel a little like I’m being hanged, drawn and quartered! I can’t breathe!”

“What great progress!” she enthuses. “You’re right on schedule, luv!” And then she goes on to take my blood pressure, and pronounces me textbook and boring.

So, physical limitations coupled with No Corporate Project makes this Jane rather schizophrenic. These 10 days have seen a new pattern emerge: I’ll “go hard” for a day or two, and then completely collapse in the house on day 3. By “go hard”, I might be

  • out at a doctor’s appointment in the morning
  • shopping at Koorong and Baby Bunting in the afternoon
  • grabbing lunch groceries at Woolies, on my way over to
  • FertilityFriend’s place for lunch and baby cuddles
  • stopping by Coles to do the grocery shopping on my way home, before
  • settling in to cook a semi-ambitious dinner.

Not rocket science. Very cushy, really. But I’m paying for it today. The thing is, the mind still remembers how crazy-busy I’ve been the last XX years of my life, and cannot buh-LEEVE that I can be wiped out so easily. So it pushes and pushes. Just one more load of washing. Just one little stop at the shops. Just one quick visit at a friend’s place.

But my bulbous belly can no longer take it. And it’s probably time I learnt to listen to my body.

The unwind

Seven months can fly by scary-quick.

After tying my personal identity inextricably with my corporate life; after delivering a helluva project that proved an exercise in long-suffering and triumph, I cut the cords yesterday at 6.17pm and finally walked out the door. (I ran back in later at 7-something to retrieve my phone charger, earphones and “Well behaved women rarely make history” fridge magnet, which kinda ruined the drama. But you know what I mean.)

Yesterday over dinner, I felt like I had just embarked on a holiday with a wishy-washy start date, and an even more uncertain end. How many times have I been told to savour this freedom for as long as possible because when she finally arrives, I’ll look back on this in wonder. How many times have I been told to sleep, as if sleep were a commodity one could store up and then cash in on later. The body doesn’t work like that.

And yet, sleep I did. I crashed my monthly writer’s group meeting for five minutes to buy a signed copy of a novel that had been brewing since my last meeting with them in September. Had a surprisingly lovely Italian dinner with Tony at La Scala. And then drove home, blogged a list of things I wanted to get to from Monday, crawled meekly into bed… and slept for 12 hours.

This morning, I feel unemployed.

I am wearing a ticking time bomb, if the world is to be believed. My life, as I’ve known it for the past eight years with Tony, will apparently come crashing down the moment we hold her in our arms and make googly eyes. And so I’m slightly stressing over what to do first – get our personal things in order, or run out and manically enjoy my new, temporary liberty like a woman on death row. In amongst everything, I feel resentful of the implication – the expectation, almost – that this will be my last shot at some sort of personal happiness before I lose myself altogether and become a mommy.

How prosaic. And we all secretly protest the pedestrian, or at least fiercely determine that it shall never apply to us. But I’m not getting much positive reinforcement that I will be capable and able of resisting the ordinary.

But! On to more important things… like betting.

Majority of the office folk have dibs that Blobette will announce her arrival this weekend, because I’ll finally relax and my body will kick into gear. I surreptitiously cover where I think her ears are, everytime someone says something like that. But statistically, they say the first baby usually comes after the due date. And if several others are to be believed, I look like I’m carrying a 6-month old, and not a baby due in 3 weeks.

So – when do you think Blobette will arrive?

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