Returning to work after a prolonged absence

This week has been my first week back to work after having had a year off on maternity leave. The first week, especially the first day back, is always the toughest. It is tough because it means the end of a period of your life, that if like me, you especially treasured. I loved my time off to bond with my baby and also appreciated the extra time I had with my eldest before she starts school next year.

I don’t know whether it is the personality of my second born, or whether having an older sister that wasn’t stressed, helped, but my baby girl was actually upbeat and happy the first and second morning that I had to return to work.

Normally a baby that loves to sleep in, she must have sensed something was up on my first morning, as she was awake about one minute before my alarm went off. I have no idea how she knew, but once she was awake, there was no getting her back to sleep again. I allowed extra time in the morning to  feed her and cuddle both girls. Even though she was awake, I was actually glad for it. I even got a happy wave from both girls before I left. The morning was so peaceful and lovely. It actually came as a pleasant surprise.

With my first born, it was a different story. My first day back, she too woke as my alarm went off (how do they know?), only she wasn’t happy, she was devastated. She knew something was up and that possibly we wouldn’t be together. She spent the whole time I was getting ready, sobbing great, big tears. I believe I cried all the way into work. What a great look that would have been as I walked back in to the office!

It is with relief, that the second time around has gone off almost smoothly. I say almost smoothly, as today, being my second morning, would have been perfect, had my baby girl not hit her face, from a fall, trying to wave goodbye to me. She is just learning to walk, and has reached a clumsy phase of step-step-fall.

Things that I have been grateful the second time around, returning to work, has been:

Grandparents

Having access to grandparents that genuinely love my girls is an absolute relief. The times that the girls are with them, I know in my heart that they are well looked after and are loved. Grandparents are also brilliant at sending regular updates throughout the day. I love that I am able to check my mobile, and see videos or photos of my girls playing and having fun. It really helps me to settle in at work and not feel any distress.

Transitioned my baby into childcare 

As mentioned in a previous post, I transitioned my baby girl into childcare, a month prior to going on leave. Doing so was great not only for my baby girl, but also for me. I actually wonder if parents feel separation anxiety more than their babies. Sure, babies definitely hate being away from their parents, but it surprised me, that I too, hated being away from my girls. I think it is because, as a parent, you worry about anything happening to your child when you are not around to protect them, or that they might need you and you are not there to comfort them. Having time to transition my baby girl, gave us both time to learn to be away from each other, and to realise that other people can care for them too.

Great place to work

Returning to a workplace that you know, and feel welcome, can make a huge difference when returning from a long absence of leave. I have been lucky in that aspect, as I have always liked where I work. I’m passionate by nature, so only ever want to work where I am happy. As much as going back to work was a shock to the system, at least going back to somewhere that I actually enjoy, was something to embrace, rather than be stressed out about.

One of the loveliest things about returning to work, has definitely been all the new toys I was greeted with. Working in technology, I always love playing with new things. I loved that I was able to use things that had never been used by anyone else. It actually felt like a fresh start.

Having a year off, it seems that change is inevitable. Working with technology, I understand that change happens regularly. Software applications are always changing, and new features are forever being rolled out. I am used to change in the workplace, so have been prepared for it, but I haven’t been prepared for all the changes on the way to the workplace. Simple things, like train ticket machines at my local train station have recently been implemented. A passenger must swipe their ticket before entering the platform. A simple change, but for someone, like me, that is always running for a train, and only ever barely making it, this is a significant change. Train timetables also were different since I last boarded a train. Once again, not a big problem, but if you are also like me, and you calculate exactly what train you need to be on, to ensure that you get where you need to at exactly the right amount of time, this can actually come as a shock.

If you are heading back to work after a prolonged absence, then my advice to you is:

  • Check and double-check any changes that might have happened on your route back to work. Roadworks could delay your trip in, as could newly altered train timetables.
  • Get up earlier than you need the first couple of weeks until a routine forms. As difficult as it might be to wake up early, it will be a lot more enjoyable, getting ready when you are relaxed, then when you are stressed and trying to get out of the door as fast as possible.
  • Try to get enough sleep. Sleeping, the night before going back to work, was near impossible for me. I think a mix of adrenaline and not wanting my leave to end, were keeping me awake up all night. I felt tired on my first day. A better sleep the next night, and I felt so much better the next day.
  • Keep positive. If you have small children that you are leaving to go to work, the more positive you are the better. I don’t know how they do it, but children seem to be able to pick up on a nervous vibe. If you are stressed, they will be too and it will just make leaving all the more harder.
  • Prepare everything the night before. I have found already that having everything prepared the night before really makes it so much more quicker and easier to get ready in the morning. I would rather be reaching for my second coffee, or cuddling my girls for the fiftieth time, than deciding which outfit I should wear.
  • If you are catching transport, than make the most of your ‘me time’ and do what you want to do: read a book, play a game on your mobile, learn a language, or write a post for your blog.

Returning to work is tough. Over time it will settle down and you will feel like you are back in control. The best thing you can do is be kind to yourself.

You’ve got this!

 

Going without for a year

Throughout Australia, a nominated parent is entitled to receive $719.35 per week before tax for up to 18 weeks, as part of the Parental Leave Pay scheme. Money is transferred to your current employer and the parent receives the payment at the time they would normally expect to be paid.

For more information on the Parental Leave Pay scheme, refer to the following: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/parental-leave-pay/payment-rates/how-much-you-can-receive

In addition to the amount provided, some (not all), employers can pay their staff a wage during their parental leave.

I was not one of the fortunate ones to receive any additional income. It would have been lovely, but to me, as I am sure to many others, the additional money wasn’t important. What was important was being able to take time off to bond with my baby.

When I learned I was pregnant, despite having just come to terms with never being able to have another child (a story for another day), I knew that I would desperately want to have the first year off of work with my baby. I knew I would only receive the Parenting Leave Pay, so I saved as much as I possibly could until she was born.

My budget for the year included bills that I had to pay each month. I had to make sure that no matter what, I had enough to cover things I absolutely had to pay. These were the most important items. I then budgeted an allowance each month. I knew I would still want to do things with my girls and to take them places, so I set aside money to be able to do this.

While on leave I had the support of my partner, who was back to work after a short time off. Regardless, I wanted my own independence. Budgeting and having my own money throughout the year was good for my self esteem.

Ways that I managed to stretch my savings further, to allow for more time off, to spend with my girls, included:

Annual memberships

Taking out annual memberships to places like zoos or national parks, is a great way to be able to go numerous times throughout the year at a significantly reduced cost.

While on leave, I took out memberships to the Adelaide Zoo and also to Urimbirra, a wildlife park. We have gone to the zoo once, so far this year. I have lost count of the times we have been to the wildlife park.

A lot of annual memberships are free for children under a certain age. In most cases, you only need to purchase memberships for any adults that will likely visit regularly. Usually, just by going twice, the membership has paid for itself! Bargain!

The memberships provided absolutely perfect days out, while on leave. Regardless how many times we visit, it always felt like a grand day out.

Libraries  

Not every place requires money. Two of my daughters favorite places are free to go to; playgrounds and libraries. There are several libraries close by that I could take the girls to. Each offering something special and slightly different from one another.

Libraries often have events like ‘Baby time’, or ‘toddler time’ for example, where many other parents are able to take their children for a free session involving nursery rhymes and stories.

While on leave, I frequented the local libraries regularly. My girls loved going, and I loved socializing with all the other parents and librarians. Libraries also teach children, not only to appreciate books, which is brilliant in its own right, but they teach children to share and to take care of other people’s property.

Buy less 

This probably seems obvious, but, in the course of the 12 months, I really had to decide whether or not I really needed something. I love a good sale, but if it meant spending more time with my girls, I had to first decide whether any item was really needed.

I would love to decorate my house more than it currently is, but it wasn’t necessary. Buying things for the house, I decided, could wait until I was back at work.

I would love new boots and more outfits, but really, I have enough already.

The only items I really needed over the year was mainly clothes for the girls. Unlike in the past, where I would just buy whatever looked cute, I actually worked out what was needed and went from there.

Buy in bulk 

Sometimes you do have to buy stuff. I wear contact lenses. As part of my contact lenses, I need to purchase a specific solution. Right before going on leave, I stocked up on the solution, which just happened to be on sale. I didn’t have to buy it again throughout the year. This was a bargain for me and something I was glad to have taken care of from the start.

Second opinions 

Approximately a week before delivering my baby, I took my car to a dealership to get a service. The car had always driven well. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that everything was wrong with my car, well, except the tyres. The tyres were still good. The quote was in the thousands! I was so shocked! It was heartbreaking. I hadn’t budgeted for anything that bad while on leave.

Getting a second opinion was the best thing I did. It turned out, I didn’t need half the things I was originally quoted for and what did need to be fixed, could be done significantly cheaper.

Even when I return to work, I will stick with the mechanic that came to my rescue. The dealership definitely lost a customer after that!

Make the most of what I already have 

So often, we are lead to believe that we need to continuously consume. If it’s not one thing, it’s another: birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Fathers Day, Valentines Day, Christmas. It’s never ending.

Sometimes it is good to finally sit down and read that book, or watch that movie that you have never gotten around to.

That is what I did while on leave. I read books that had been gifted to me, but had never had time to read, and watched movies that I had never gotten around to watching.

Sell unused items

Finally, with all the extra time off, it made me aware of certain items in the house that were just getting in the way, and no longer needed. For those items, I was able to sell. The money I made, went straight towards my daughters birthday celebration. She had a fantastic party and it didn’t cost me anything! If anything, I gained space in the house.

What about you? Have you taken time off work? Were you able to stick to a budget? What worked or didn’t work for you?

I learned a lot while on leave. I learned that I don’t need to spend and that the most precious moments in life are free. Time is the most valuable resource.

I hope when I return to work that I remember what I learned while on leave. You never know what your future holds. Being able to budget and to save are good skills to keep hold of.

 

 

Life is not all that it appears on social media

I remember when my first was born. She cried a lot at night. I remember at the time, thinking she was broken as all the posts I had ever seen online from my friends and family, had always shown pictures of happy babies, having a great time. I seriously started to doubt my parenting abilities.

I recall, when the eldest was still a baby, asking a friend, rather shyly, if her baby ever cried. Her response took me by surprise. Of course he cried. He cried all the time. I was shocked. I had only ever seen happy pictures, and whenever I saw him, he was happy.

I have since learned as a parent, that taking your child anywhere, that feeding them first and trying to get them to rest, helps them to be settled and calm when out and about. Of course, it also depends on the mood and temperament of the child too.

I also learned that babies do cry. When they’re tiny, it’s how they communicate. Knowing that, helped a lot.

As my girls have grown, I have noticed that I too, only post the happy, cheery pictures. Not every moment in parenting is sunshine and light. Sometimes parenting can have it’s terrible moments. Tantrums for example are the worst. Meltdowns are draining and babies cry! They cry a lot if tired, hungry, over stimulated, teething, grumpy, developing new skills or not developing skills fast enough.

I have decided not to post, or even take photos of the dark side of parenting, but to focus my attention and memory on the happy bits. Photos are posted, because, I want to look back and remember, fondly, good things that happened. I also choose not to post unpleasant photos, because I don’t want to embarrass my children. I don’t want them to grow up and have photos of them, losing it in public or at home, all over the Internet.

Of course, the decision not to post unpleasant photos, is my choice and each person is free to do whatever they like. I just want anyone to know that if they see pictures of me and my family online, and we are all happy, that there is probably a whole story behind that photo. Chances are, everyone was happy at the time, or it could have been taken before or after everything turned sour. Usually before. I don’t tend to take photos after.

Is it therefore fake, that photos are posted and it doesn’t show the whole picture? Maybe.

I think with anything posted online, that it’s important to realize that the image displayed is only a snapshot in time and that it isn’t how things are always. The photo could also be completely staged to get a particular reaction from the intended audience. Never judge your parenting from what you see online. Know yourself and be confident in who you are. Everyone has bad days or even bad moments most days. You’re not alone.

Attending my first and possibly last school excursion

Today I joined my eldest daughter on her first ever kindergarten excursion. I joined several other parents as they managed to take breaks from their daily routines to join their child. It was so nice to actually see so many fathers come along. There is possibly still a stereotype that mothers take part in activities, so much so, that every time a dad popped his head into the classroom, people assumed the father was actually Gary, the bus driver!

Prior to going on the excursion, I had always imagined how wonderful it would be to take my children on an excursion one day. It’s something I had always thought would be a lovely thing to do. Knowing that I will be back at work soon, and quickly running out of available days to attend, I jumped at the chance to tag along.

Before the big day, I (and I assume the other parents also), had to sign forms stating that we wouldn’t take photos of other children. There were a bunch of other rules too, mostly common sense. Normally I would love to photograph and document everything, but today, I wanted to be a good role model to the children, and do as I was told.

The excursion was to a local theater to see a stage adaptation of the children’s book “The Cranky Bear”. Most children in the audience possibly wouldn’t have previously seen a stage performance before. The reaction from the children to the performance was quite amusing. Firstly, the actors sung the entire book in the first few minutes. The children (and some of us parents), thought it was going to be a rather short performance! Thankfully, there was more to the show than just one song. Possibly, something that was disappointing to the children, was the lack of decent costumes. This week in Australia, it’s Book Week. Children everywhere are encouraged to wear costumes to promote books that they have read and love. The children on the excursion possibly thought some of their costumes at home were better than the ones the actors wore.

Still, it was a lovely trip.

It was a short trip, only a few hours in duration, with most time being spent getting children on and off the bus and to and from the theatre.

I’m so glad that I was able to go on the excursion, even if the performance wasn’t really to my liking. We all had a great time. I loved spending time with my daughter and her classmates. I don’t know if I will get the opportunity to go on another excursion, due to work commitments, so I am so glad that I was able to go today.

One thing that excursions teach parents that tag along, is how tiring their day really is. The teachers do a fantastic job. It’s incredibly tiring to imagine doing it every day and then going home to your own family. It certainly made me appreciate, going home afterwards and resting while my baby napped, and that when I return to work, I will be sitting down at a computer.

Surviving the first drop-offs at childcare

Surviving the first drop-offs at childcare is tough for both baby and parents. Everyone seems to tell me it is the parent that feels the pain of separation more. As babies can’t really talk at this stage, I guess we will never know who feels the separation the hardest. According to the carers, they will usually say that a few minutes after the parents have left that their baby has started to enjoy themselves and has found something to take their minds off of the fact that their parents are no longer with them.

What can we as parents do while our children are in care? The following list delves into a few options to help keep you busy and your mind off of your baby until you are once again reunited.

Work

This one may not be by choice, but it should, hopefully, help keep your mind off of your little one. That said, I haven’t yet returned back to work. I imagine I will be thinking of my baby girl while I am at work, but the busier I am, I know, the less chance I will have to miss her. Keeping busy will definitely be key.

Go shopping

A word of caution, retail therapy may not be the most ideal thing to do after dropping off your baby in childcare for the first time. Taken from experience, it is too easy to overspend in an attempt to feel better and distract yourself from missing your little one. Sure, it may make you feel great temporarily, but soon after, you will possibly miss your baby again and be back where you started, only with less money in your bank account.

Shopping for an actual purpose, your new outfit for when you return to work, for example is possibly the safest way to shop. If you’re like me, I ended up in the toy department, buying even more toys for my daughter’s upcoming birthday. Toys she possibly didn’t need. I didn’t mean to, but her sad little face when I dropped her off had me thinking more about her, and less about what I needed when I arrived at the shops.

Do housework

Ok, this one probably doesn’t sound like fun, but it is amazing how rewarding it is to tidy the house without having little helpers slowing you down. Starting with the toughest job, like mopping the floors, will be the most rewarding once it’s done. Mopping the floors with a crawling baby is usually rather difficult, as the sight of a bucket of water is very attractive to her, as is anything wet or clean.

Get some exercise

Exercise has been known to release and produce serotonin levels. Don’t just take my word for it, the following blog explains this perfectly: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201111/boosting-your-serotonin-activity

For me, my favorite type of exercise is exercise you do, without realizing that you are really exercising. Walking along the beach, taking in the beautiful scenery and getting some fresh air, not only is a great thing to do, but it is really relaxing. It is so much easier walking when you’re not pushing a pram up and down hills.

Dancing is also a great way to exercise. Dancing is fun, it boosts your mood and you can do it anywhere. If you’re really making the most of multi-tasking, you can do as I do, and combine housework with dancing. It’s definitely the most fun way to tidy a house!

Grab a coffee

Depending on how your week or day is going, you might find that having some quiet ‘me time’ is a perfect time to reflect and relax. Sometimes parenting can be so crazy, that drinking a coffee in its entirety, while it’s still hot and without gulping, can be an accomplishment. Taking some time out and drinking a coffee can seem like such a perfect thing to do. While you’re at it, why not grab yourself a treat to eat too. At least you won’t have to share it.

Meet up with a friend

It can often be difficult to catch up with friends, without having to plan it around the children. Often, my children tag along with me when I catch up with anyone. Meeting up with friends without children around can be a great way for you to have an adult conversation without worrying what the children are up to. That said, when you are sad and going through the first stages of missing your little one, you may find that all conversations revolve around your child, and how you miss them so much and can’t wait to see them again. A good friend will understand this and will no doubt try to take your mind off of your separation.

Pamper yourself

It is amazing how relaxing it can be to have someone take care of your needs for a change. Relax, get a massage, a facial, manicure, pedicure, hairstyle, whatever. Enjoy the time off and remind yourself that you deserve this. Whatever you do, try not to fall asleep. You don’t want to waste the precious time by sleeping.

Listen to music

It’s amazing how strange it can feel, coming home to a quiet home the first few times. Putting on some music, that isn’t targeted for children, can instantly be a boost and lift the mood. Music has an amazing way though of forcing you to remember events and periods of your life. Choose your music carefully, or else you could end up playing music that makes you think of your baby and before you know it, you’re missing them terribly and wanting to cuddle them again.

The happier the music, the better.

There you have it, a list of things to do help you survive the first few drop-offs. I hope you are able to cope with the separation and that when you are reunited with your child that they are so happy to see you and that you both share the best cuddle ever.

Enjoy your time. Try not to be too sad. Good luck.

Letting go of perfection

All my life, I have wanted everything I do to be perfect. If it wasn’t, I was never really satisfied. When it came to my work, I wouldn’t care if I had to spend longer working on something, just so long as when I submitted the piece for review, that the work was of a very high standard. If it wasn’t exactly perfect, I knew that within a few tweaks, it soon would be.

Perfectionism also featured in my hobbies. It didn’t matter what it was, if I didn’t feel that I had nailed what I was trying to achieve, I wouldn’t let anyone see.

Since having children, I have learned that it is impossible to be a perfectionist. Aiming for perfection only leads to disappointment.

Prior to having had children, I would make plans for the day, and would know that I would be able to get everything done. I wouldn’t rest until I had achieved everything I had set out to do. Since having had children, I have realised that it is near impossible to get everything I want to do, done in a day. It could be that I still have a long to-do list. I might have to modify that so that it is more realistic. I’m always learning.

My biggest learning has been from prioritizing what is the most important in my life. Things that matter the most, I aim to do as best as I can. Things that don’t matter as much, I have decided, that I have to let go even more, of the high standards that I previously had.

What are some examples of things that are the most important to me? The most important thing to me is my family. I want to have quality time with the people I love. It is especially important as I face going back to work in the next few weeks. I want my girls to grow up and have happy memories of fun things we do together. As much as I would love to do everything in a day, and get everything done,  creating memories is what brings me the most joy.

Even parenting in general, I have had to let go of the idea of being perfect. Some days are tough. Some days are tiring and some days feel like they never end. For the toughest days, I have had to learn that it is OK to not do everything with my children that I would have liked to do. It is OK, if every once and a while we have a day off, just to do things around the house, with no plans made or intended activities and that we all just unwind and relax together.

When my first was born, I would feel guilty if I hadn’t danced with her, read her books, sung to her or played enough with her. I was worried that my sleep deprivation would get in the way of her development. I now realise I had nothing to worry about, and that she probably didn’t even notice. It probably made it more fun to have a break from everything once in a while.

For me, possibly the biggest source of frustration is the state of my house. I would love everything to be perfect and in its place at all times. It once was, before my eldest was mobile. I have had to let go of my desire to have a perfect house while the children are small. Sure, I love it when everything is tidy and put away. It unfortunately doesn’t stay that way for long.

Realizing what matters the most has helped me to determine where my energy is better spent. When I am with my family, they get most of my attention and energy. Having fun, and creating memories is more important to me than vacuuming or doing the dishes. Sure, housework does get done. I just prefer to do it whenever there are breaks in the day, or at night when the children are asleep.

As for my hobbies, I have definitely stopped being a perfectionist in this aspect of my life too. I don’t have time to make everything perfect. Even this blog, I have decided that near enough is good enough. If I waited until it was perfect, I might not ever publish a post, or the blog itself probably would never exist.

Letting go of perfection has meant that I have had to accept my standards are not as high as they once were. I can live with that. The benefits of letting go, for me has included lower stress and lower guilt (hooray for less guilt) levels. Like most things though, it is a work in progress. It is hard to change overnight. I still get frustrated, and when I do, I remember what’s really important in my life and my perspective slowly shifts back to my new norm.

Transitioning back to my work life

With less than a  month to go before I head back to work, I thought the best thing to do with my youngest, would be to transition her into childcare. For the next four weeks I am going to ease her into care, before the shock of me being back at work hits her and becomes the new norm for us all.

Today is her first day in care.

Dropping her off was filled with mixed emotions. The carers at the centre are extremely lovely, and my baby girl was in a good mood. From that point of view, everything was pleasant. For me though, it felt like such a loss. It’s the end of the beautiful time we have had together, where I have been her main caregiver every day of the week. Now, other people get the pleasure of spending time with my precious girl.

Support and well wishes from friends and family has certainly helped. I know that the long term benefits will be so positive for us all. I will no doubt write a future blog post on all the positives of childcare, based on my own experiences and of people I know. I’m sure there will be plenty of positive experiences to fill a page or three.

But today is tough.

I miss my girl. I am sure she will be fine and that she is having a wonderful time with her new friends, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t staring at the clock, or wishing time would hurry up so that I could see her and hug her again.

What about you? How were you when you dropped your child off for the first time? Did you find it tough too? What did you do to cope?

I have a facial appointment booked this morning. A treatment I had actually booked and paid for 2 years ago, but have never been able to go until now. I will make myself enjoy it. I will relax, but not too much. I don’t want to fall asleep, and when I pick up my girl, I will give her a cuddle and tell her all about my day.

Fingers crossed she hasn’t nailed walking.

Backing up precious memories

For the majority of people, the most important thing that is stored on their computer or smartphone is all of their precious photos. Nobody can ever foresee any disasters, loss or data corruption before it happens. The best thing to do, when it comes to protecting precious memories, is to back it all up on a regular basis.

The following post will cover some of the ways that you can regularly back up your photos and important data so that memories can always be saved and accessed whenever.

Data Storage 

Data storage is an easy way to spread the content that you want to back up, over multiple devices. Data storage can include USB sticks, memory cards, external hard drives, CDs or DVDs.

USB sticks, memory cards and external hard drives are the easiest way to back data up. Memory cards are used in cameras or smartphones, to store all photos and videos.

From the memory cards, data can be copied onto the PC. As memory cards are relatively cheap, I have found that it is best to keep the original copy of the image on the memory card. When the memory card becomes full, copy all images over to the PC, and keep the memory card with all of its images in tact. Then insert a new, blank memory card in the camera. By inserting a new, blank memory card, you avoid accidentally deleting any images or files that were not correctly copied over.

Images and videos stored on smartphones can be copied over to a computer, easily by connecting the smartphone to the computer by way of a cable. Once connected, the computer can detect the smartphone and the images and videos can be copied over. Once copied over to the computer, copies of the files can be made to another medium.

USB sticks are getting bigger and bigger in volume, with more storage being made available, despite the physical size of the device. USBs are great for making another copy of every file that is required to be backed up. As well as the memory card that stores the original copy of the image, the computer that has the second copy of the file, everything can also be copied over to a USB. The USB sticks, along with the memory cards should be stored somewhere safe.

Data corruption can occur on a device. A USB stick can suddenly stop working or become corrupt, losing all of the information stored within it. To be on the safe side, it pays to not only copy all files to a USB stick, but also to an external hard drive as well.

External hard drives are also becoming bigger in volume. It is possible to get 2TB external hard drives at a reasonable price. A copy of all files should also be made to an external hard drive.

External copies 

Making additional copies of the files on USB stick and external hard drive, and storing them externally, safeguards against any loss, such as fire, flood, or theft.

Additional copies of the files, stored on USB stick and external hard drive should be kept at a different location from the original files. An example of a different location would be if the files were kept with a close friend or a family member. This is actually good practice, to have additional copies made and stored at a separate premise.

Hard Copies 

Printing of photos can be relatively cheap, and will provide a physical, hard copy of your images. Generally, photos can be printed from several department stores that have a photo booth facility available. Photos can be accessed from memory card, USB or smartphone. The easiest method is generally from the USB. Prior to getting photos printed, it would pay to sort the photos out into appropriate folders. You may only want a collection of photos to be printed from a large collection. Separating the images first, makes it a lot faster for the photo booth to display the images and for you to select the ones you want.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is another option, and allows for images to be saved online, rather than on any particular device. Once uploaded to the cloud, the files can be accessed by computer or smartphone, with a valid login or password.

Cloud storage is generally free for the first 1-2gb of data, but then requires a subscription fee beyond that.

Examples of cloud storage are: Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive.

Frequency of backing up 

Depending on how long it takes to fill a memory card, you could choose to back your files up either by time, as in every few months, or whenever you fill up a memory card.

If you decide to back things up periodically, you can always set a reminder, or do the backups every calendar month, or at the start of every season. The frequency is up to you. Just think, that the more photos or videos you take, the more you have to lose if anything goes wrong with them.

It’s never been so easy to learn

No matter what your reason is for wanting to learn something new, now more than ever, it is so much easier to be able to achieve. I remember watching the Matrix years ago and loving the scene where Keanu’s character inserted a chip and became a martial artist instantly. It makes me think that in the future we will have greater potential to learn new things, but for now, there are plenty of options available that don’t involve modifying the brain.

Working in technology, I am constantly having to ensure that my skills are up to date. There are several ways that I ensure my skills are relevant. Blogs and online books are my favorite way to get all the relevant information that I need. You don’t even have to be working in the technology field, whatever industry you work in, there are plenty of resources available should you start to look.

The following is a list of resources that I have used. Let me know if you have come across any others that you think are valuable too.

I use the following not just for technology updates, but also to learn new things. You can never learn too much.

Library 

By being a member of my local library, I not only have access to thousands of books, but I also have access to al of the electronic books and audios too.

Libraries within South Australia (SAPLN), all grant access to the online content. In addition to the online books, access to magazines is also granted. I personally love the magazines. The magazines that are available are the same ones that I previously used to subscribe to. I love that I can read them all for free.

In order to access the books or digital content, all you need is a valid library card.

Blogs 

I have been using blogs to keep my skills up to date for many years. In the technology space, there are plenty of blogs that you can read and subscribe to. By subscribing, you never need to miss a new post.

I work with Microsoft technologies mainly, the blogs that I follow are mainly from Microsoft, or some of the key developers.

To locate any blogs on a particular topic, all you have to do, is enter the blog topic and add blog in the search path, for example: neuroscience blogs. A list of blogs relating to the search topic will be displayed.

E-Books 

E-books makes it so much easier to be able to read, as you can carry a whole library of books with you, wherever you go.

My favorite technology books can all be accessed online from Safari Books Online. Safari Books Online is a subscription service that you pay for. The thing that I love about the subscription service is that, with technology books, most books become outdated rather quickly. Having access to the books online, means that you never have to worry about outdated books cluttering up your office space, and the books are always the most up to date and relevant at any time.

With Safari Books, you not only have access to electronic books, but also to videos.

Podcasts  

The easiest way to access podcasts is directly through your smartphone. Podcasts can be regular people having a chat on a particular topic, or it could be professionals covering a subject in greater detail.

Podcasts are free to download. Subscribing to a podcast means that you never need to miss out on an episode when one becomes available.

Courses 

Some universities around the world, now offer short courses that can be completed by anyone, at any age. The courses can be free, or for a small amount of money, can include a certificate on completion.

The courses can be accessed either by an app on your smartphone or from a website.

Examples of some of the sites that offer the short courses are:

Lynda.com has a subscription fee associated with it, but, if you have a library card within South Australia, you can have access to Lynda.com for free. For more details, just go to this site:

http://www.libraries.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=1602

Apps

Installing apps on your smartphone is an easy and extremely convenient way to learn new things. There really is no limits to the amount of information you can learn from new apps. Most apps have built in notifications, so if you want to learn something every day, you can be sent reminders.

In addition to all things technical, I love learning piano. There are apps that can teach you how to play. The app I use is called SimplyPiano. It tracks whatever I play on the piano with whatever I am supposed to be playing on the smartphone. I love it. Learning to play piano has always been something I have wanted to do, as is learning French, which I am able to do with the app Duolingo.

YouTube 

Finally, if you’re a visual person and prefer to watch videos when learning, then YouTube is a great place to start. Chances are, someone somewhere has already posted a video on exactly whatever it is you are wanting to learn. Best of all, it’s all free.

As you can see, from the list provided, there are ample opportunities for learning something new. It doesn’t matter if you are learning something for work, a hobby, or a special interest, anyone can learn something new, at any time. The positive impacts of learning are numerous, worthy of a blog post in its own right.

What are you learning? Is there anything you wanted to learn but haven’t? What is stopping you?

Hire a parent

Today, I was looking at LinkedIn, when something caught my eye. A person had written a post on how they had hired a lady who had been out of the workforce for six years, due to her being a full time stay at home mum. The person writing the post, said it was an excellent decision to hire her, as she was an excellent fit for the company.

It got me thinking about the many ways I have actually improved as a worker since having my children and the skills I have developed along the way.

Multitasking   

As a parent, you constantly have many things on the go at any time. It always pays to remember exactly where you got up to with any task.

In the workplace, anything can interrupt your train of thought, a phone call, an email, someone wanting help. Being able to switch between whatever you are working on and the task at hand, and then resume where you left off is an excellent skill to have.

Focus

Being able to focus on one thing at a time, for long periods of time is something that has definitely increased since having children.

Attention spans of children is generally rather small. The window of opportunity to be able to focus on something usually only happens in small amounts. In the workplace, being able to focus is actually a real joy to any parent, especially if they can get their work done without any distractions.

Organizational skills 

Playing outside all day as a child and coming home when it got dark seems to well and truly be a thing of the past. Now, more than ever, parents have to organize how a child’s day is spent. Play dates are no longer spontaneous, but are carefully planned ahead of time, as are daytime activities and any trips together as a family.

Being organized at work is key to being able to get the most amount of work done, in the best time possible. Knowing what needs to be done and when is crucial for any job.

Time Management

Getting anywhere on time with children is a challenge in itself. It doesn’t matter how much time you have to get ready, there is always a crazy rush at the end. In fact, I have always found the more time I have to get ready, the longer everything takes.

Arriving on time, anywhere, always fills me with a sense of accomplishment. Prior to having children, I always aimed to be on time, but now, now it is even more important and even more of a goal. It’s like something I have to prove to myself. I can do this! I can get where I need to, when I am supposed to.

Conflict Resolution 

It doesn’t matter if you are working with difficult people, or separating children from fighting over a toy, knowing how to achieve peace and handle conflict resolution is key.

Prior to having children, conflict resolution wasn’t even something that bothered me, or I had to think about. Since having children, I realize the best way to handle conflict resolution is to think fast, quickly separate warring parties and find ways to keep everyone happy.

Communication  

As soon as I became a parent, I felt like I had joined a sort of group. It didn’t matter if fellow parents had completely different backgrounds, age, how many children, career, stay at home, whatever, we all bonded over the fact that we had children the same age and were going through whatever challenge came from having children the same age, at the same time.

Through parenting, I have found that I can communicate with anyone and everyone. Mind you, after caring for children all day, communicating with adults comes very easily. Perhaps too easily.

Resilience 

Resilience is a skill that is really encouraged from kindergarten onward. A child breaks something, or plans change, and if they don’t have resilience, the child falls apart and the day is ruined.

Knowing that children model their behaviors on their parents, I have realized that I have had to become more resilient myself. In the past, if I had broken something that I really loved, I would be really upset. Now that I have a little audience, watching me, I have realized it’s probably best not to overreact and to deal with any losses calmly.

Resilience in the workplace is also important, as often things won’t go your way. Someone could get a promotion you had wanted, or your job could change that is not to your liking. Being resilient means that you are better able to bounce back and turn any negative situation into a positive one.

Learning to be resilient as a parent has meant that resilience in the workplace is a lot easier to achieve.

Change Management 

Parenting is constantly changing. Take having a newborn for example, as soon as you have found a way to shower in peace while your baby is happily sleeping, they learn to crawl and suddenly everything in your house is dangerous and showers are something that has to be carefully planned.

Children are constantly changing and the way you are required to parent them, constantly changes too.

Change management is the skill of being able to accept that change is inevitable and to embrace it, rather than fight it.

Working in the technology industry, the only thing you can count on, is that change is guaranteed.

So yes, in summary, I totally agree that parents should be hired. Parents that have stayed home looking after children, have gained a whole swag of skills. They might have been out of the workforce for a period of time, but in all honesty, I can’t imagine a tougher, more demanding boss than a hungry and tired toddler. At least the working hours are a lot less in the workplace.