What follows is a letter I recently sent to my son’s childcare centre, in response to the above note I received from them. His last day with them was this week and he moves on next month to the centre his older brother attended, so we are thrilled.
Firstly, I would like to thank you for the wonderful year my son has spent in your care two days per week. You have been very kind to our whole family and he has been comfortable and happy there–we really appreciate your efforts. We especially appreciate the photos and hand out of his year that you sent home yesterday, the DVD and his teacher’s individual updates on via email throughout the year as to what he’d been up to that day.
One issue I would like to bring to your attention is to please ask that in the future look at your policy on lunchbox notes. A few weeks ago, I received a note in my son’s lunchbox berating me for including potato chips that day. Fortunately for me, I had a day where I felt rested and confident in my parenting abilities and laughed it off. In fact, I took a photo of the note and posted it on Facebook, where I jokingly referred to myself as a “bad mom” sending chips to child care.
However, the comments I received (which I am happy to share with you if you are interested), made plain that the note really touched a nerve with people in several parts of the world, which made me consider the note and its ramifications further.
As I said, I feel fortunate that I was able to find humour in the note. However, what if my husband had been away for work that week? What if I also had a new baby at home and had been up all night with him? What if I sorely needed some respite from my active toddler that day by sending him to childcare, and the only thing I could find in my pantry to send him to childcare with was chips? A note like that could have crushed me.
My excuse happens to be that I was simply tired from my regular daily life of three kids and a part time job, hadn’t been shopping and the best I could think of late in the evening, that was nut-free happened to be chips. I realize that was not the first time my child has eaten chips, and I can assure you it won’t be the last, but I do try my best to offer him healthy foods.
Mothers today are judged and analysed for every decision we make, and we should not be worried about impersonal notes from our children’s caregivers pointing out our faults, not for something as trivial as potato chips. The mental health of mothers today concerns me, and our society needs to be careful to support mothers, not judge them.
I completely understand and respect that your aim is for children to receive proper nutrition while they are in your care, and beyond that, in their homes. The best way for you to know you are achieving that aim would be to provide the food yourselves.
However, I realise that would be quite an undertaking. May I suggest that if the families are responsible for providing food each day, that you quietly keep a record of instances where children bring in unhealthy foods in their lunches, and then, if you notice a pattern, approach the parents in a friendly, non-judgemental, but helpful manner to discuss the issue? A person to person interaction would be much better received, in my opinion, than an impersonal, formalised “mum-shaming” note, with the child’s name and offending food filled into blanks.
You could even extend this practice to other important issues including children’s cleanliness each day, fit of their clothes, health, happiness, etc. Food is only one aspect of many contributing factors towards our children’s wellbeing.
Whatever you decide to do, and please feel free to completely disregard my uneducated suggestions, please endeavour to find a process more mum-friendly than mass-produced notes in the lunchboxes following intermittent offences. I would be happy to discuss this further if you would like.
Thank you again for your wonderful care of my son and kindness towards our family.
Why do I feel lonely and lost these days? Why can’t I seem to figure out what my professional contribution to society can be? Why do I not seem to have friends here that I really connect with, who get me and who I get? Why am I so homesick?
I have three beautiful, happy boys who bring me joy—they truly do. But as any parent knows, they also whine a lot, they seem dissatisfied with much of what I work so hard to do for them; the two older ones argue with almost everything I say and with each other, seemingly constantly sometimes. I find myself stopping to listen and smile when I hear them playing well together—it seems more rare these days and I can’t seem to defuse their frustrations with each other effectively, no matter what parenting articles I read.
Unlike so many mothers whom I have always greatly admired and felt somewhat jealous of, I need more in my life than full time mothering. I lose myself when I only attend to everyone else’s needs. I need appreciation for a job well done. I need recognition, measurable progress in what I’ve accomplished each day. I wish I didn’t, but I can’t really get around the fact that I do.
I think that’s why my work/career/professional struggles are getting me down so much lately. For 14 years before this move to Australia, I worked in retirement communities. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. I was respected in my field and I made good money.
Since I’ve come here, I just can’t figure out how to get back into that field. Now, I realize I haven’t tried as hard as I should. Life gets in the way. I’ve sent online enquiries to senior living companies asking about their jobs in marketing and sales, with no response. I’ve sent a few online applications for activities/recreation/volunteer positions, with no response. I’ve called one nearby community and asked to volunteer—no return call. I’ve asked the few people I’ve met who work in the field about the positions, and they don’t seem to know anything about them—maybe they don’t exist here?
I keep telling myself the best way to find out is to just drive around and walk into communities and ask. But, I’ve always had a kid in tow, or was about to have a kid in tow, so I just never got around to it.
Friends at home say I’m awesome for moving to a new country and learning a new profession and starting my own business. But it doesn’t feel very awesome. I learned the new profession partially out of necessity. I never wanted to run my own business. I don’t enjoy it and it’s not going well. In fact, right now, it seems to be failing miserably. I’m paying to do it. Try as I might, I can’t get people interested in it.
I do love yoga—it’s been a passion of mine for years, and the more I learn about it, the more passionate about it I feel. But people in this area, just don’t seem to get it. Yoga is not as popular around here—I don’t even know many people who do it, or who are physically active as a priority at all. I think that’s partly why I feel disconnected from the friends I’ve made. I’ve rarely been to a yoga class here with more than a handful of people in it, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I can’t get many people interested in my classes, much less my classes for their children.
I just have a hard time fitting in with people who don’t prioritize healthy eating for their families, who don’t prioritize fitness on a regular basis and who don’t get the purpose of yoga. I hope that doesn’t make me sound snobby. I don’t intend it to. I’ve made friends for the past 4+ years with people who are different to me in those core areas, but have other things in common—being a mother, living in a foreign country, but I just don’t feel connected, so I’m guessing that’s the reason why…??? I could be totally off base. I do admit I have met a few people who are health and fitness oriented and am still not clicking with them either.
It often seems to me that people don’t like me over here. I never seemed to have that problem before moving. It is very likely all in my head, but I just seem to rub people the wrong way when I don’t intend to…??
I know I could connect well with my husband, but he’s frustrated in his job, too and we don’t see each other until late in the evening when we’re pretty much too tired to talk about much. He is wonderful and we do try. We both know we need time together. But it’s difficult, because that costs money. And when I’m not making any money, I feel bad spending $80 to go out for two hours together and get a drink each and an appetizer to share—bleah!
I keep meditating and reading about creating my own joy, realizing that my life is just as it should be in this moment and to find peace in the present. I’m honestly trying! For whatever reason, it’s meant to be right now that I’m paying to try and teach yoga, that I’m contributing nothing meaningful to my community in terms of professional employment and that I’m working my tail off for no positive outcome. That’s hard to embrace! But I will keep trying…..For now these musings of a crazy person just help me to get it off my chest.
Isn’t life ironic? I think it’s incredible how, just when I find myself complacent, the universe gives me a nice big smack to remind me that complacency is not good for me! ONE DAY after I wrote my last post, about how routine, “easy” and groovy life has been, I find myself in an ambulance headed to the hospital with Drew. Now that he’s ok, I really just have to look back and laugh, and say, “Yes! Ok! Got the message—thank you!”
He’d had a cold that weekend, but nothing major. He’d been sleeping well, eating well, had good energy, etc. He woke up Tuesday coughing a bit, but nothing that really worried us. Now the only time I set my phone aside while I’m at work is during the 20 minutes that I go to the break room to eat lunch. The school called during that time (of course). When I called back, they said Drew had been coughing quite a bit and seemed pretty unhappy, but had come down to the office for a rest, perked up some and headed back to class to eat lunch. We agreed that if he ended up back there again before the day ended, that we’d come pick him up. I didn’t hear back, so assumed he was ok.
When I got home that evening, he was watching TV and looked sick, although he wasn’t coughing much. I offered him an alternative to our dinner, which I never do. He accepted the toast, but wasn’t interested, began looking more miserable by the minute, and was happy when I brought up the idea of a bath. We bathed the kids and Steve went off to play football, while I got more and more worried. At bedtime, he just couldn’t settle—coughing a lot and seemingly short of breath. The boy can cry loudly enough to bring the house down with a skinned knee, so I thought the breathing might have just been fever and discomfort with some drama mixed in (mean, horrible Mommy!). I asked if he was having trouble getting air and he repeatedly told me No.
I called the nurse line. The nurse who could hear him told me to get him seen by the after hours’ doctor at our house that night. This service is my favorite part of the healthcare system in Australia. We waited a couple hours for the doctor to arrive (at NO cost!) and I almost cancelled it during that time, because he’d fallen asleep and I felt guilty having a doctor come all the way out to the house to visit a peacefully sleeping child. He just didn’t sound right, though, so I didn’t cancel. He woke up when she started examining him and she lifted up his shirt and my eyes teared up. His chest was retracting and you could see his ribs with each breath. I felt absolutely horrible that I hadn’t thought to do that earlier when I’d asked him how he was breathing. She gave him three treatments with a puffer and called the ambulance. The treatments helped him tremendously and he enjoyed the thrill of the ambulance ride—I’m glad one of us did!
We ended up spending two nights in a public hospital and came home Thursday afternoon. It was in the hospital that I missed the American healthcare system. Everyone was very nice and he got great care, but the patient food was disgusting and unhealthy and I DO NOT like sharing a room—yuck! One of our sweet neighbors brought me a magazine and chocolate, in addition to bread and milk for Steve and Zach at home, so we made things better by sharing the chocolate around the room. If you’re in a hospital, you NEED chocolate!
Bless his little heart; he was such a sweet, accepting patient. He did everything they asked of him without complaint–as long as they didn’t mind that he was completely zoned out on TV, there were no issues. I didn’t sleep much and was a bit of an anxious, crabby wreck.
My main issue with this hospital was that the nurse who discharged us sent us home with an empty inhaler! They gave us a weaning plan of how often to administer the medication over the next 4 days and I specifically asked if there was enough left in the tube they’d been using. She assured me there was and we ran out on the 2nd day! No prescription, no more medicine—wth?! I thank God that he didn’t have another attack, because I don’t know how many times I gave it to him while it had nothing in it, before I realized it was empty! Wow, just wow……
That whole incident was a big wake up call for me to remember to be grateful daily for our good health. I’ve kept a gratitude journal for almost 4 years now, where I write down 3 things I am grateful for at the end of each day. I enjoy the reflection. But it is amazing, how even with that daily practice, I take good health for granted. I was also so grateful for the numerous friends here who brought us food, helped with Zach and just gave us moral support. In addition, I was grateful for the friends and family far away who kept sending us love and support. This was another instance that made me thankful for technology—it can definitely be annoying and I have to continually work on managing the time I spend on it, but man, is it an incredible gift as well!
Of course, Zach got the same bad cold the following week. Luckily, other than a couple bumpy nights at home trying to settle his cough, it didn’t get serious. By the weekend of June 22nd, we were all quite healthy again. And, as luck would have it, Steve and I had a babysitter booked and Keith Urban tickets for Tuesday the 17th. We’d had the tickets for months and when the night came, I felt so guilty leaving Zach. He was doing relatively well and we know the babysitter really well, so we went for it, and, of course, again, he did fine. He started coughing and having issues AFTER we got home! It left us relative zombies on Wednesday, but otherwise everyone was no worse for wear.
The biggest way that all this affected me (selfishly, I need to explain this part) was that I had a lot going on with the yoga business, as well as an ongoing freelance writing project, and my race training amping up, all at the same time, when this happened. It all combined to make me feel very overwhelmed. I thought I’d reached the stage in my children’s lives that I could try something as crazy as starting my own business and training for a longish race, and suddenly, I was rethinking it all, wondering what the heck possessed me to try either of those, when sleep is not a guarantee! It reinforced to me that my family is the most important thing to me. Even with running a business, not everything is urgent and space can be, and must be made, when needed to take care of my boys.
Thankfully, we’ve had some pretty quiet weekends to start feeling normal again. Although that just makes me wonder if there’s a reason that my kids haven’t been invited to many birthday parties lately! Ay yi yi—my crazy, spinning brain!
And, another two weeks off from school began last week, and they have been very relaxing and productive so far, just what I think we all needed.
Highlights after everyone’s been feeling well, for me, have included our first trip to Queensland’s first Costco! Yippee! Sadly, it has brought super-sizes of the fattening, terrible, processed foods that nobody should be eating, that can only contribute to Australia’s growing obesity problem—catch us right up to the U.S.! But for a health nut like me, it means roasted seaweed, pita chips and reasonably priced foods like chia seeds, quinoa, dried fruits and coconut oil. Again—yippee! I can’t say how many stores here I’ve searched for dried cherries since we moved here—yummy!
Also, I did two 17.6km jogs on two recent Sunday mornings, and my dear husband packed up the boys and supplies and food and met me at my finish points to cook us all a BBQ breakfast. It was delightful, not only to run that far in one direction, which felt so liberating and like a great accomplishment, but to have their support, meeting me at the end for breakfast. They could just think—“Ok. Mommy’s on a training run today. We’ll just have breakfast without her and see her when she gets home.” But, they didn’t. They made an event out of it and made it more fun for all of us. I love that my husband is willing to do things like that.
I ran 19kms today and am as ready as I can be for the race in two weeks. Wish me luck! It may sound crazy, but I still get sad hearing about pregnancies and babies. I have a few friends having babies now, or pregnant, some with a 3rd child, and while I am honestly incredibly happy for them, it still makes me sad. For whatever crazy reason, my miscarriage made me want to do something that was all about me, and that made me feel strong and my body feel competent. That was the impetus for finally signing up for this half marathon. I knew I couldn’t do one if I was pregnant—at least for a couple years. Since I’m not pregnant, I decided to go for it. So, two weeks and here goes!! I’m excited.
Another highlight was the purchase of a waffle maker! I actually brought a friend’s old one over here this past January—taking up about 15 pounds of my allotted luggage weight and about half of one suitcase—only to have the fuse blow the first time we turned it on. Doh! So this past week, we enjoyed our first homemade waffles in Australia—fabulous!
The most recent highlight was a fun, lively 4th of July celebration that we held yesterday, on the 5th, out at a nearby reservoir. Our party included 4 other half-American, half-Aussie families, some South Africans who’ve lived in the U.S. for a few years and some true blue Aussies, up for a different kind of celebration. It was a great time with good people and I am thankful for the opportunity to still celebrate such important dates on the other side of the world.
I finish up my part time job in two days. Then it’s a big leap and hope for the best!
Oh, by the way, I saw on the news that the Queen’s birthday was actually being celebrated in England the week of June 10th, just after our public holiday here on the 9th. So, as an update to my last post–it’s not just some weird Aussie reason for celebrating her birthday in June. Her birthday is in April, but something official must be celebrated related to it in June—in England, too! Weird, but good to know…..
The past four weeks have been days of humility, healing, and personal growth for me. It’s been truly eye-opening. Firstly, I know that I am blessed with the most incredible support system of family and friends, near and far, old and new. I have been so touched with the messages of love and kindness I have received, from those closest to me in distance and/or in heart, and by those who I was surprised thought enough of me to reach out.
I have been humbled by their honest expressions of kindness and by the stories of loss and grief that they have told. People go through so much in this world; we have no idea. It has helped me to remember that whenever people act in ways that frustrate me, I need to step back and remember they have a story; they have something going on that I know nothing about and it is in no way my place to judge. This is something I strive to remember, but too easily forget. We never know what people are dealing with on the day that we interact with them and what is spurring their actions and words. I need to remember to bring acceptance and tolerance to any situation.
I heard stories of stillbirths, of amazingly strong women laboring to deliver a recognizable human who would never breathe and who would later be buried. I heard stories of inspiring women waiting to find out news that would be crushing, of finding the strength to try again and move forward. I heard about women who cry decades later remembering their experiences, but are able still to lavish love on their surviving dear ones. The strength and love women are capable of is truly inspiring!
However, I must relate one particularly touching message that was from a man. It sticks out because it was the only message I received from a male unrelated to me. It sticks out also because we last were friends in a face to face way 20 years ago and even then, weren’t close. But it was more meaningful because he told of his own struggle with emotion when his wife miscarried a few years ago. It gave me great pause:
So many of us women, myself included, have said these losses are harder for us. We are the ones who deal with the physical loss, with our changing bodies. This story made me realize that in reality it is unfair of us to think that. It is judging, the way I mentioned above. I tried to think about it from a man’s perspective. Number one, it is less accepted by society for them to cry and be broken up by a miscarriage; they likely feel more pressure to hold their emotions in. Also, they don’t have the support system that we have in each other, other women’s stories of their pain. Again, it is likely harder for them to reach out to other men and seek support in this situation, partly because it is “their wives” who are experiencing it, not them. And sadly, that’s not true! But what hit me most of all, is that men not only have to deal with the loss of the child and of their plans for fatherhood, they also have to watch their wives in physical and emotional pain and feel quite helpless to “make it better”, which is what men need to do. It made me think about it all in a whole new way and I commend and admire the man who reached out to me to share so openly and vulnerably.
As for me, I am doing quite well. I do get sad around pregnant women and new babies and we seem to have been around a lot of both lately. We have put the idea in the back of our minds for now while we wait for my body to get back to a couple months of normalcy. We think we want to try again when we do revisit the topic, but are not firm right now and neither of us wants to pursue this idea much older than we currently are. We’ll see…..
Once I stopped wallowing, I decided to throw myself into my personal goals and dreams and all the things that would have been put on a back burner if there was a baby on the way. I got back into exercising and am playing with the idea of a long race sometime this fall/winter (It still sounds so funny to say that at the end of March! Will it ever feel normal???). I cooked and baked a lot, because feeding my family nutritious food and satisfying our sweet tooths in healthier, more natural ways fuels me. I updated my resume to get serious about moving beyond this part time job that brings me no fulfillment. I reached out to possible mentors and people succeeding in fields I am interested in to get guidance.
And things started to happen! My main freelance writing client wrote me a glowing recommendation on Elance, the site I work with him through. The editor of the magazine that published my first creative article last year gave me fantastic advice and told me she would welcome future article ideas from me anytime.
But the most exciting news deals with yoga. My insurance and Blue Card (two requirements over here to teach children) came through this month, enabling me to set up meetings at both of my boys’ schools about the possibility of teaching. The meeting at Zach’s school is next week, but Drew’s principal told me yesterday that she supports me launching my own class one afternoon each week after school. WOWowowowweeeeee!!! I can’t believe it! She wants 200 fliers to send home with families and I can start when school resumes after a two-week break late next month. Out of nowhere, I need to finalize a business name, create enrollment forms for the children, devise a pricing structure, design fliers, start a Facebook page and internet marketing……Holy moly, is this real?! Somebody pinch me!
Anyway, I will keep you posted on what develops, but the first day I teach a class that I am paid for, it will be proof that dreams really do come true and it is possible to get paid to follow your passion—completely awesome!
And what’s funny about all that is that I returned home from the meeting, floating on a cloud, to Zach beginning to throw up for the next three hours with a nasty stomach bug. I consider it a gentle reminder not to lose sight of my main and true purpose in life—thank you, Universe, for keeping me grounded! Poor little man is much better today and while I have felt bad for him, I have been impressed by how sweet and polite he’s been through it all and grateful for the extra snuggles.
As for the rest of us, Steve and Drew, and all of us, are looking forward to two plus weeks off school as of next Friday. We’ve had a pretty normal, routine month overall. Steve enjoyed a weekend away with his rugby team. We’ve kept up with the usual children’s birthday party circuit. We’ve enjoyed some fun social evenings and some sweet family days together. The week of the miscarriage, Drew seemed off a bit, so he stayed home from school that Friday and I just truly reveled in an opportunity to love on my babies and enjoy slow time together. It was poignant and beautiful.
Zach has started a soccer program and is precious to watch. He loves every minute of it and I can’t stop staring at his face full of concentration, determination and thrill. Steve is taking the boys to their last two swimming lessons until we pick it up again in October, which is giving me an incredible gift (it truly is the little things!) to have a break from that weekly routine.
Most exciting of all is that Drew is beginning to read. He really is! Something just recently clicked for him. It’s weird, realizing our days of spelling things are nearly over, but so awe-inspiring to watch this world open up for my child. Seeing him point out words to me as we drive around and putting sentences together in books is incredible. It drives home that reading does truly open up a whole new world for us. It is an incredible gift to be able to be a part of this process with my child and I am so grateful for it. It really is a beautiful life, when we slow down enough to appreciate it.
I just finished reading “I Am Malala,” the book about the teenage girl who campaigns for education and was shot by the Taliban. It was eye opening—realizing that our world feels so global and connected to me most of the time, yet there are still people out there without access to what we take for granted as basic rights and necessities. It is shocking and sad. It makes me ever more grateful for the life I have and it makes me want to keep working at practicing that acceptance I mentioned earlier and at enjoying the gifts I have been given.