Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Working Mother - what it's really like


Working Mums

There are a lot of things you don’t find out about motherhood until after you’re committed to this child birth/baby thing. I have been in the thick of this many times thinking – why the hell didn’t anyone tell me it was going to be like this?

Like, how much is labour going to hurt? Well hot damn, nobody could have quite prepared me for that level of excruciating, vagina tearing pain.

But hey, I survived. If you want to know what it’s really going to feel like, come chat to me. Oh, and just so you know, you don’t actually forget what it feels like. That’s just another story we get told, BUT it is totally worth it and I 100% would not change a thing about the delivery of my babies, except maybe the 26-hour labour with Josie.

Ever since I became a mother I decided to never lie about what it was actually like because I really felt like, had I known, MAYBE I may have been more prepared. So, if someone asks me, they get the truth. I also recognise that as mothers we don’t want to necessarily let on how hard we are finding this motherhood journey for fear of looking like a failure.

Or for fear of being judged.

Screw that, if you want to honestly know the ins and outs of what it’s going to be like, come chat to me. Disclaimer – I may turn you off having kids forever.


However, I wouldn’t change the gifts it’s given me for the world. My kids are my life and I love them more than I ever imagined possible, but here’s my blog on what it’s REALLY like to be a working mother, with a few quotes thrown in from some of the mums in my Mums Who Lift community at Ritual HQ.

I remember thinking, before having children, that once they were ‘out’ I would be able to work from home and raise my babies. I had visions of me sitting calmly at my desk while my baby slept angelically in a cot beside me with gentle music playing.

In my mind I was going to have a roaringly successful Personal Training Business while nursing my baby. Then, after six or so months I was going to head back to my job at the bank full time and it was all going to be fine.

I couldn’t have had this more wrong if I tried.

What quickly became apparent to me was that I urgently had to redefine what success looked like. Success no longer looked like me strutting off to my city job with my six-figure income, stilettos and pencil skirt, and immaculate hair and make-up. Success was now getting to midday and managing to go to the toilet and take a dump without a baby screaming from another room (or managing to do this without taking the baby with me in their Baby Bjorn carrier because they can’t be put down that day). Maybe throwing toast in my mouth (because you can hold toast in your mouth while breast feeding a baby and juggling at least one other task) and MAYBE brushing my hair.

If I was really having a good day, I might even manage to get out of my pyjamas and – wait for it – put on a bra! Nobody told me that whilst breast feeding is absolutely beautiful and an incredible thing to do for your baby and their health, it is actually very challenging (for some of us it hurts like HELL in the early days) and will consume hours of your day. I recall one witching hour feed lasting nearly two hours. Oh, and witching hour is another term I had never heard of. This is the time around dusk when babies turn crazy. Fact.

Without redefining success, the feeling of failure was imminent, and this came regardless. On a good day, the thought of taking on any kind of intellectual work was so far from my mind because the fatigue from sleep deprivation would swamp me like a dark wet blanket. Did you know that sleep deprivation was used as a form of torture by the CIA as part of their interrogation techniques? I can confirm this would work.

Daycare is certainly an option and one I indulged in after the first year. But we need to be realistic about the cost of daycare (whilst factoring in the cost of your sanity). At one stage, my income was only JUST covering the daycare fees.

For me these days, now that my children are no longer babies, a successful morning is managing to get both kids to school with their hair brushed and shoes on both feet…on time. An extra successful day is when I manage to brush my own hair. I don’t always have successful days! Even now.

One of my mums in my Mums Who Lift community sums this up beautifully – the guilt, plus the mornings, plus the juggling act. Amelia says:

“I feel like most of my parenting stress is trying to leave the house for a specific time x 100 when you have to leave the house to get to work and they dont want to get out of bed let alone get ready.

“I can never stay late at work to finish something like I used to as I have to get home to pick them up. I feel guilty during school hols because they go to holiday care and then feel I need to arrange stuff for us to do on my days off when actually they probably need a boring day resting at home (they whinged, fought and complained all day Monday at the activity I
d planned for them).

“The days I work I feel like we
re all on a conveyor belt with not enough time to get dinner in, showers, homework and some reading before bed. And I only work three days and have a partner (I have no family here though). I cant imagine what fulltime and single parents have to deal with.”

My two are regulars at my workplace,
mostly out of necessity


These days, I do somehow manage to run two businesses, manage a team of nine, hold a relationship together, manage a separated parenting arrangement and seem to have two relatively well balanced kids, albeit extremely busy kids! But like all of us mums who work excessive hours and manage kids, it comes at a cost and for many of us it is precious time with our kids. I know I have missed a lot of time with my children, however I do have some non-negotiables that ensure the quality is always there.






We also had to learn to work at a level of speed and precision we never imagined possible. Time management skills needed to go to another level and we had to accept that down time or rest time was a luxury that no longer existed. And if you seek this kind of time to yourself, resentment mounts. The other thing I didn’t realise is the pressure that compounds your day when your kids go to school. Suddenly you have a thousand letters to read, music lessons, extra tests, parent teacher interviews, newsletters to absorb, parenting apps, parent reps, volunteering activities, fetes and play dates to navigate. Oh, and birthday parties. Nobody prepared me for this, or the pressure of school holidays, but that’s another blog.
I have been lucky enough to integrate my work into
the kid's school so I can be more present for them in
a more creative way. 


Single mum Lisa explains her world and how it has played out now that her children are a little older:

“I learned that I cant do it all, and I was going to fail everywhere unless I reframed. I was lucky enough to buy extra annual leave for holidays for a few years – and then had one week per hols with them. That was my bargaining chip for holiday/before/after school care. And they were fine with this deal. And I gave up on giving a shit what anyone thought. 

“I
ve worked stupid hours for so long but despite a few horrors (armed burglar in the house with my son whilst Im at work, occasionally forgetting to pick them up or where I had left them, and regularly not getting home til theyre in bed). I also found the bloody joy in watching them look after each other and learn to help me run a house.

“And all my guilt about having to juggle 80-hour weeks and single parenting whilst on a massive IT project was washed away when just weeks ago I apologised to them for my long work hours when they were little, and they both had no idea what I was talking about!! No memory of my absence!!!! This is forgiveness for sure!!!!”

Interestingly, despite discovering all of these things along the way that I had wish I had known, I can now laugh at my naivety. I also know that there is nothing you can say to a mum to be to prepare them for any of this. If a mum had tried to warn me about all of this, I would have nodded, smiled and thought to myself, “yes, but it won’t be like that for me.”

And here is one final thing nobody prepared me for – the depth of love I feel for my children. This hit me harder than anything I could have ever imagined. Every time one of my children gets on stage to dance or sing or play an instrument, or hit the sporting field to do something, I literally weep. Nothing prepared me for the fear I would feel watching one of them cross the road for the first time, or the mumma bear instinct I would experience when my child got picked on at school or how much I would miss cuddling my tiny babies now that they were bigger, despite those years being some of my hardest years. Nothing prepares you for any of this and I guess this is probably a good thing. Because had I known how hard it was going to be I would have missed out on the unconditional love I give and receive now every day from these two tiny humans.



Saturday, 30 June 2018

The bottle


I used to have a really bad relationship with alcohol. Like really bad. In hindsight I guess I was a high-functioning alcoholic. I drank most days. However at the time I believed I was perfectly normal, perfectly ok and absolutely in control of the situation. It was my choice to drink if and when I wanted to. I had a wine club subscription that would deliver twelve bottles of wine every three months.

I often ran out in the first month.

I worked in a corporate environment for years and it wasn’t uncommon to hit the pub at lunchtime on a Friday and I often wouldn’t roll home until well after midnight. Anyone who works in a corporate environment will know what I am talking about and may or may not readily admit that this environment is toxic. 

When I fell pregnant with Josie at age 30, I stopped drinking and these habits went away (along with the smoking habit I had also developed).  Then ‘mummy medicine’ became a thing. As I have written about before, my kids were hard work, so I drank my way through this. I would wait for 5pm to tick over (witching hour) so it was acceptable in my mind, that’s how I justified it. 

This went on for years.

I broke this habit when I met a coach who I recruited to help me change my body composition. He taught me what I know now, but it took quite a bit of convincing and education. Actually, let’s be real, he was pinching my body fat with giant callipers every week and I couldn’t get away with it anymore. The accountability and realising that if I actually wanted to achieve a certain body composition goal, I HAD to make a change. Actually, let's get real, I was trying to prove him wrong and I failed. 

Slowly, the progress became evident and then it became more important than the ‘mummy medicine’. I went twelve weeks without drinking straight up. After that I still socially drank from time to time, but never as regularly as I had been. But I missed it and I started to justify it again. 

Fast forward a few years, another child, a marriage breakdown and significant illness. The cycle continued on and off. Then I met a man who, while being 16 years my junior, had a really healthy relationship with alcohol. He taught me that alcohol didn’t fix a bad day. He taught me that it was perfectly ok to say no in a social situation and he taught me to love myself the way I was. Sober.

He also taught me that it was ok to take pride in my appearance and to also respect the process of training. Drinking didn’t serve this. Do we still drink and have fun together? Absolutely. But it is a rare occurrence these days.

Now that the fog has cleared and I have been almost four years ‘sober’ (no longer a functioning alcoholic), I can see the benefits. I also realised that the greatest gift my father gave me was his early death as a consequence of poor lifestyle choices. I know this sounds strange to some, but for those who know me, you know I search for the gift in every experience, this was his life lesson he gifted to me. I now use this as fuel to constantly remind myself why I NEED to be on this earth.

I do not want to leave my kids without a mum too soon because of my relationship with the bottle. I don’t want to miss out on seeing my kids get married and have children of their own because of my relationship with the bottle. And I sure as hell don’t want to have the body, skin, hair and nails of a chronic drinker because of my relationship with the bottle.

Now that I am a reformed drinker, I am that person who can pick out a drinker a mile away. You can see it in their skin, in the body fat they carry, in the way their belly sits over their gym tights and in the way they speak and communicate.  Drinkers think they are happy, but there is a sadness that you only become aware of once you reform. I am that annoying reformed drinker.

Why does alcohol have such a strong hold over us? Because as a society we have decided that it is our right to drink, that we deserve it. We work hard, so why the hell not? If we’ve had a hard day, a tough week or the kids annoyed us, we should dull it with wine. It works. But here’s the thing, that problem doesn’t go away, it only compounds it.

What I don’t understand is why we WILLINGLY choose to shorten our life by drinking. Please process that. YOU ARE SHAVING YEARS OFF YOUR LIFE. And no, you are not immune to this. If you are drinking regularly, you are causing damage to your body at a cellular level.

If you have kids…look at them and tell them you won’t be here for as long as they would like because the wine in your hand is far more important than they are. In fact, you might not even make it to their wedding.

What I have learnt is that I can actually tackle problems so much quicker and more effectively with a clear head. But from a purely selfish point of view, I am the happiest I have ever been with my own body as I face my 40th birthday.

So as a mother, I implore you. Reach out and let my team help you.

Break the cycle and live a long and healthy life, because you only get one fucking shot at it.




Saturday, 9 June 2018

Ode to a single mum




 What I didn’t know about becoming a mum is there’s an unspoken code between mums that others wouldn’t understand until they became one. Being a mum is something you can’t begin to understand or empathise with until you are living and breathing it on a daily basis.


 There’s this look we give each other, a slightly different smile that we just know. We can see if things are going ok, if the other mum is struggling or perhaps just needs to connect. I know that when I was a first-time mum, another mum just knew by looking at me that I needed urgent support and help and took me to a doctor, where I was diagnosed with postnatal depression. We didn’t talk much about it. We both just knew that this had to happen and I surrendered.

 This is the mother code. Well, I’ve called it that anyway.

 Once I understood this, I settled into this new role as mum, knowing that I had a village of support around me. You often face judgment as a mother, but I largely managed to avoid the groups of mothers who had too much time on their hands and so spent it judging other mums. That’s just not my jam.

 When my kids were still quite young (3 and 6), I separated from my husband and entered a new world, the single mums world. What I didn’t realise at the time was again there was this subliminal understanding between single mums that no human can actually understand or appreciate until they are one. Including other mums.

 This isn’t a superior or inferior place, this isn’t a place where things are harder, easier, better or worse, it’s just…different. Like, really different.

 I had no idea. Like child birth – you can’t comprehend the actual pain of child birth until you have been through it. People think they know what it’s going to be like. You don’t. Especially men. Trust me, you don’t. I remember asking my mum two days before I went into labour with Josie what the pain was going to be like and her response was, “like nothing you can ever imagine.” She was right. Being a single mum is the same. You can’t comprehend what this is like until you are living it. The chaos and all.

 We all learn to adapt and we make it work, but we have to make it work differently to how we knew it and none of us had any understanding or comprehension of this world until we faced the reality of it. I thought this would be a simple transition for me because my husband had always travelled extensively, I was used to being on my own, right?

 I could not have been more wrong and I apologise to all single mums for my lack of understanding and appreciation for your world. You almost have to learn how to be a mother again within different parameters. You have to be the good cop and the bad cop.

 What this experience has taught me is that we must never pretend to understand what someone else’s world is like unless we have genuinely walked a day/week/year in their shoes.

 Admittedly, I am one of the lucky ones. I have a superb ex-husband who approaches everything with maturity, a sense of fun and friendship, and always knows that the kids come first, not our differences. I also have the luxury of a nanny thanks to the hours I work. My hours are split days, so I can’t be there every morning and every evening; it’s an extra set of hands that I can’t live without, which allows me to do what I do. But I appreciate that this makes my circumstances different, and that’s the thing about being a single mum – everyone’s circumstances and arrangements are different because we have to do whatever it takes to get through each day successfully (and a successful day looks different to all of us too!).

 I am also surrounded by a LOT of single mothers and we support each other, because we just know. I have heard the worst of it and the best of it.

 So what’s different?

 Money

You go from relying on two streams of income to just one. Even with the parental support payments or whatever you may receive, there is no denying that the frightening realisation that you are now solely responsible for the bills, the food, the rent or mortgage repayments, can bring you to your knees. Most weeks I run down to the last couple of dollars in my bank accounts and have been known to move a few dollars from one account to another and then a few more dollars from another account to make up enough money to be able to withdraw $20. I have laughed about this with other single mums; it seems to be a common theme.

 I have gone from never worrying about how to pay for things to just getting by each fortnight, and sometimes not quite making it. It’s tough having to ‘borrow’ some pocket money from the kids or dig into savings, with the hope that one day I can transfer that back. I have often had those heart stopping moments where you realise you legitimately can’t get food on the table for the next few days, but we get there, we make it work and we are doing ok. On the flipside, I have become so much better at saving. I have multiple saving accounts and I have my next few events/adventures mapped out and I save for them. Just little bits each fortnight, because I never want my kids or I to miss out.

 When a child is sick

This is a big one for me and I never really understood this until I was on my own. When you have another adult in the house, whether or not you are happily married, you at least have that other adult. So if there is an emergency or a sick child, you have a second set of hands. When you’re on your own and illness hits at midnight, you are quite literally screwed. Especially if more than one child is sick, or worse, if you have to get one to a hospital. All of these scenarios have played out for me. Again, I am lucky enough to be able to call their dad and get him over in the event of a genuine emergency.

 But when you are faced with a night of gastro and you have a child hurling their guts up and nobody to help you clean it, or keep the other kid away, or take over when exhaustion strikes, some silent and very lonely tears are shed. All these scenarios don’t occur when you have that extra set of hands. I have very vivid memories of a particularly bad night with Josie when she was very sick with gastro and she managed to spray a big section of my hallway, stairs and bathroom in vomit. I just sat on the floor and stared at it. After I managed to get her back to bed and the feeling of overwhelm and loneliness hit, I just didn’t know where to start. Thirty minutes after I had cleaned it up, she started again and the cycle continued until sun up.

 When YOU are sick

Well let me tell you, this is possibly the worst scenario of all. When you are frightfully ill and you also have two small children to care for. They don’t understand that you need to rest and can’t prepare their food. Or that the throbbing migraine has taken away your sight and ability to tolerate loud noise, or any noise for that matter. The world revolves around them when they are little and they just need you. You literally have to find that super human side of you and get on with it. Even when you absolutely don’t think you can, you have no choice because there is no other adult in the house.

 Loneliness

I’m actually pretty good at being on my own. Whilst I am a social creature, I am still quite introverted, so I do enjoy being on my own. But the evenings really hit me hard in those early days. Once the chaos of the evening is done and your little ones are in bed, you sit there and realise you have nobody to chat to, to cuddle or to fall asleep beside. It’s just you and the house. The nights when they were at their dads were worse because I couldn’t stall their bedtime just so I had company a little longer. Those were the nights I chose to stay a little longer at work.

 I’m blessed with a new partner now so I don’t experience this anymore, but I will never forget those evenings. I’m also a bit of a scaredy cat at night so I would often do three laps of the house checking every window, door and garage door, and would peer out the windows checking the yard. I still do that now, but only one lap instead of three, mostly out of habit.

 When you need to duck to the shops at 8pm

This sounds like such a simple thing, but when you’re on your own you have to bundle those poor kids up in their PJs and take them with you for that emergency milk/chemist/fruit run to the shops. This is a common occurrence for us and yes, this could be solved if I was more organised, but I’m also human and a single mum, so life is chaotic and we often run out of things at the last minute. That’s the reality and it’s a constant reminder that you are on your own when you are dragging them to the shops. It gets harder when they are already asleep…that’s when you phone a friend and beg for help (and forgiveness) and ask them to do an emergency milk run for you. Thank god for understanding single mums who know how to help even when their hands are also tied.

 Good cop, bad cop, ultimate decision maker

Again, I feel like I have it pretty easy in this department, because if I need back up I’ll get their dad over if he is available. I feel like this will get challenged more as they head into their teens. What is hard though is managing your own responses to things when you don’t have the other parent there to help balance things out. The night I sat down to write this post was a really good example of this. I just lost my grandfather that day and the kids were really pushing my buttons. Because I was already feeling emotionally fragile, I was struggling to manage my state and my reactions. Without someone there to grab me and remind me to take a breath and go and have a moment to grieve, I lost my shit unnecessarily.

 This happens. The balance of a good cop/bad cop is lost when you are on your own. You’re also stuck facing some pretty difficult decisions around parenting, consequences, etc. without someone to bounce them off. One of my single mum friends summed this up beautifully when I interviewed her for this blog:  “The resounding silence and loneliness of having to make decisions with a person who no longer loves you. Having to consider them when you hate them. It’s true.”

 When you find a new partner

This has been a really interesting experience for me. Mostly because everyone has an opinion on the role your new partner plays in your children’s lives. Tyler doesn’t play a parenting role. It’s not necessary. They have a dad and he is the perfect dad for them. They have a mum. They don’t need the confusion of another parent. 

 This means that he plays no role in their parenting. It’s only been recently (we have been together for well over three years) that he moved in with us and I was finally prepared to leave one of the kids with him to duck to the shops. Not because I don’t trust him, quite the opposite, but because I’m now in that habit of doing everything myself. Navigating new relationships can be extremely challenging and I found it interesting that so many people wanted to know:


1.     What the kids thought,
2.     How they were settling in, and
3.     What role was Tyler playing.

 I didn’t really think this stuff was anyone’s business, but I guess for some people who live a ‘normal’ life this can be fairly intriguing. So here’s my answer to those questions – we make our own rules and it works just fine.
 Thank you.

 On the flipside, some mums choose to not find love again or share their life with another person. We all make choices based on what we think is right for ourselves and our children. Right or wrong, we never really know.  

 Holidays

This is a BIG one for me. I am committed to taking my kids on many adventures and I don’t want to restrict their overseas travel (or mine!) just because I am on my own. They are extremely lucky kids because they have a father who also has the same belief system, so they get lots of holidays.

 I aim to take them overseas once a year. This is a whole new world of terror. Not just because you have to save up and pay for it on your own (flights, accommodation, food, activities), but you also have to navigate airports, taxis, language barriers and public transport on your own. Again, I am blessed with two seasoned travellers who take it in their stride, but it can be frightening and I understand why some mums just wouldn’t do it. However, I would not miss these experiences for the world.

 We have made some amazing memories. This year I want to take them to Disneyland and LA. Working through the logistics of this trip has taken me months already. I have been saving for well over 12 months and have nowhere near enough money yet. However, I am committed to this adventure with them while they are young enough to enjoy it. So, the three of us are slowly piecing together an overseas USA adventure and we can’t wait.

 As I said in the beginning of this piece, it’s important to never assume you know what someone is going through or what life is like unless you are living it. Don’t offend other mums by telling them you know what their life is like. You don’t. Single mothers are often single by choice because they chose not to live in a situation that made them miserable. And to be perfectly honest, they chose the harder option. For me, I chose the harder option of facing this on my own because my ex and I knew that we were not role modeling a healthy relationship to our children. That was a choice, it was a hard choice and life is a LOT harder. But it is also happier. There are so many other reasons why women are to left to raise their kids on their own. And dads too.

 I have a nanny who helps me out with the early morning starts and evenings when I am at work and I have a wonderful ex-husband. But whilst I am one of the lucky ones in this regard, it doesn’t mean I am immune to the empty bank accounts, the loneliness at night and the terror of facing an emergency alone. So, to all the single mums out there. I salute you and I get it.

RECEPTION/

(07) 3300 5551

info@ritualhq.com.au


CHANTAL COLEMAN/

0417 737 066

chantal@ritualhq.com.au


TYLER SMALL/

0409 698 473

tyler@ritualhq.com.au





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