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.

Returning to work mantras

As my returning to work is becoming more and more a reality, a sadness of leaving my girls has started to kick in.

I am incredibly fortunate that when I do return, that I am able to return in a part time capacity. Fortunate, because I genuinely love spending time with my girls. I wish I could be with them all the time, but it isn’t possible for me to do so. Working part time is my best compromise.

I can’t help but feel sad at the thought of being away. The last twelve months have literally flown. I have loved my time off so much. I mean, some days have been tough, tiring and exhausting, but even on the toughest days, there has always been beautiful moments that has made everything worthwhile.

What helps me to accept my return to work, is all the positive mantras I say to myself.

  • By returning to work, I want to be a positive role model for my girls
  • I want my girls to know that when they grow up, that having children won’t mean the death of their career
  • I will make every effort to make my time with them count
  • It’s important for me to have a focus in life that is separate from my family
  • By returning to work, I will get to use my brain and have regular adult conversations
  • Time apart from my family will only help me appreciate them more
  • I actually love what I do. I studied and have worked hard to get where I am in my career. I don’t want to give it all up.

What mantras do you have? Do they help you to focus on the positives? Have they helped you?

I am hoping that if I say the above to myself often enough, that it will stop me feeling sad, and will help me to focus on the positives instead.

I love my family and I want them to be proud and know that their mum loves them, whether I am with them or at work.

 

Me time for the first time in a long time

Today, both my girls are going to get looked after by their grandparents for the afternoon. It’s the first time I have ever left both of them, and not had any plans. I know they will be in the absolute best care, as their grandparents love them so completely. It feels a little strange to be away from them.

Spending time apart is going to become a more frequent occurrence as I will be heading back to work soon. When I do return to work, I don’t want it to be a complete shock for my baby girl. I also need to get used to being apart so that I don’t miss my girls dreadfully too.

When my first daughter was born, I always imagined that separation anxiety only occurred with the baby. I was surprised that parents feel separation anxiety too. When my girls were born, I have always felt connected to them. Being apart is tough. I can only imagine that it is tough for them too.

My eldest daughter absolutely loves time with her grandparents. It’s the highlight of her day. I know my baby will love it too. She may not even notice that I’m not around.

After nearly 10 months of constantly being together (more or less), the question remains, what do I do with my spare time? It will only be a few hours. I can’t go wild. I have thought about getting a massage. My back and neck could really do with one. I could perhaps go to a café and have a coffee and eat a slice of cake without sharing it. Or, I could come home and do some housework. Housework with children always takes at least five times as long to get anything done.

What about you? What do you do when you have finally got some time to yourself?

Mindfulness from a child’s perspective

Prior to having children, I would fill my days and evenings up with so many things to do. I was always on the go. My life was a blur. In fact, at times, I would play the song by Blur, titled “Out of Time” to remind me to slow down.

It’s lyrics included the lines:

“And you’ve been so busy lately

that you haven’t found the time

To open up your mind

And watch the world spinning gently out of time”

I would listen to the song, and I would try my best to notice everything around me: the sunset, the weather, the day or night, whatever, and just relax.

Before long, I would fall into the same trap, and become incredibly busy again. Days, weeks and months would fly by. I constantly lost track of time.

And then my girls came along. I was forced to slow down. It was definitely hard at first. Hard, because I have always seen myself as a high achiever. It’s hard to go from achieving everything I set out to achieve, to feeling lucky if I managed to get anything done in a day.

But I did slow down, and I soon discovered (much to my surprise) that I liked it.

Slowing down taught me so much. It taught me that I could take time out, and that doing so, actually gave me more enjoyment and energy to get everything I wanted to do, done, and if I didn’t get it done, it wasn’t worth stressing over.

Slowing down allowed me to destress.

When my first child was a baby, she would pick up on my moods. She would know when I was stressing and trying to get everything done. She would fuss until I breastfed her. I could never resist her. I would stop whatever I was doing, and would go into her room, sit on a comfortable chair and feed her. She would cuddle into me, and whatever it was that I was stressing about would no longer matter. Even as a baby, she knew how to calm me.

As she has gotten older, and my youngest has been born, my life has become busy again. My children have continued to teach me to slow down.

Ways that my children have taught me mindfulness include:

Put down my phone

Putting my phone down and focusing on them, not only gives them my undivided attention, but it allows us to actually have quality time together.

Working in IT, and loving technology by nature, this one has actually been tough for me, as I always checked emails or messages constantly and would use my phone for various reasons. Putting my phone down and only using it at certain times of the day (nap times or if the children are happily playing or sleeping) has helped me to switch off. I’m no longer a slave to my phone.

Learning to put my phone down has also been good for when I am out with friends. People that are present in my life get the highest priority with my attention than those that are not. Emails, texts and phone calls can wait.

Slow down and notice everything

Children never seem to be in a rush, unless, you’re at a playground or somewhere fun, and then they are constantly on the go. At home, they seem to notice everything, no matter whether they are inside or outside.

Australia is home to many different types of spiders. Some are harmless, and others can leave a very nasty bite. I am grateful to my eldest daughter for having the knack of always being able to spot spiders, particularly the nasty ones before my baby does.

When we are outside, everything has to be studied and noticed, whether it is the birds flying above, the leaves that have fallen down or the clouds that have formed in the sky. One day, my eldest was looking up at the clouds. I stopped what I was doing to join her. We both laid down on the grass, and when we looked up, there was a beautiful rainbow affect in the clouds. It was so lovely. Had I not stopped, I never would have seen it.

A whole new level of appreciation for art

Before children, my creative outlets were dancing, playing piano and photography. Photography, I would find particularly relaxing as it would always force me to relax, be calm and live in the moment. I have kept up my photography, for fun, as the children have grown.

Art, wherever children are involved, is generally incredibly messy. I can’t say I was ever a big fan of doing art with my girls when my eldest was younger, as, by the time I had gotten everything out, and everything was messy, she would be bored and I would spend longer tidying than we would ever do being crafty.

Now, as she has gotten older, art is something that we all seem to enjoy doing. Playing with color and being crafty has started to become something that is rather enjoyable. There’s definitely a lot to be said for the resurgence in coloring books for adults. Coloring is definitely a relaxing way to spend time being mindful.

Bubbles

Bubbles are one of those things that makes anyone, regardless of age, completely happy. I think I love blowing bubbles just as much as my daughters do. That said, only my eldest can blow bubbles. My baby would probably drink or spill the solution if she managed to get her hands on it.

Flying a Kite

I’d be lying if I wrote all about flying a kite and how that totally makes me feel zen like. I’m sure it does, or at least would do, if I only pulled out my (my eldest daughter’s to be precise) kite and flew it.

That’s the thing with parenting. There is never enough time in one day to get everything done. I imagine that flying a kite with the kids would definitely make me more mindful. It’s definitely on my to-do list. As is, attending the kite flying festival that’s held locally once a year.

If you have flown a kite recently, how did it make you feel? Were you super relaxed and aware of everything awesome around you?

What are some other ways that you have learned to be mindful? How have you learned to slow down? Or are you constantly rushing around, wondering how you will ever get everything done?

Learning to be mindful is definitely a work in progress. It is so easy to become completely busy and fill every moment of every day. If our kids can teach us one thing, it’s definitely to slow down and notice everything around us at any given moment.

 

 

 

 

 

Me before them

Having had my two girls later in life, I certainly have had plenty of time before I became a mum. Before becoming a mum, I was pretty much career focused. I didn’t leave having children until late because I was career focused. I was career focused because it was what I had. I had been with my partner for 8 years before I fell pregnant. He is a lot younger than I am. I waited until the time was right for both of us. I am so glad I did because having had my girls and the impact it has had on our lives, I realize how much better it is that we were both ready.

From a career point of view, I had all the time in the world. I had deadlines, as everyone has, but they never bothered me. If a piece of work didn’t get completed during the day, I could just finish it when I got home. I always knew I would get stuff done. I didn’t feel pressure.

Because I could finish work whenever (one of the joys of working in IT is that you literally can work anywhere), I was free to catch up with friends at lunch. Additionally, if I wanted to, I could stay back late, whether to work or to be social. Where I work, it had a pretty amazing social side. Before kids, it seemed we were always doing something fun after work.

When not working, I could go to the gym and exercise or, as I preferred, to go for walks along the beach after work. I was pretty slack with my gym membership. I would say that (possibly like most people), I would go regularly to begin with, but would start to slacken off, the longer I paid the membership.

Weekends were either socializing, or playing computer games. Since I was child, I had always played games. For me, it was nothing to spend a marathon session of 12+ hours in a day/night playing a game and really getting immersed in the atmosphere of it all.

I could stay up late, knowing that I didn’t have to be anywhere the next day. It was great, and the sleep was fantastic! I loved waking up feeling so refreshed and so rested.

The house was tidy.

Life was good. Life also became really predictable.

Soon, my life started to feel like a Monopoly board game for real. Pay bills, buy property, collect your wage (thankfully I have never gone to jail). Over and over again. I truly started to feel like my life felt empty.

And then my girls came along. Oh how my life changed! When my first was handed to me, I actually felt like my brain had been rewired. It was the strangest feeling. I went from being career focused to suddenly becoming so attached to this tiny creature that was so completely dependent on me. For the first time, I stopped obsessing about emails, computer games, TV, anything. All I could do was stare and hold her.

Returning to work the first time was such a shock. Prior to going on leave, hardly any of my workmates (mostly males) had children. When I returned, it seemed most had also had babies too. The dynamics in the office really changed. Suddenly any random chats by the coffee machine were in regards to our children and not what we got up to on the weekend.

My working days reduced from five per week, to three days. I wanted to spend as much time with my girl as possible. I was so happy and grateful that I even had the option of returning part time.

The biggest shift in my working day, came in the amount of effort I spent, trying to get everything completed within the day. I never worked so hard and remained so focused all day long before. I had to. I knew that when I got home, my baby girl would be wanting all my attention. I worked harder than ever before. I also think that having spent a year off with my daughter, I learned to multitask. Being able to go to work and focus on one thing, actually felt good. It was amazing how rewarding it felt to complete something. Not to mention go to toilet on my own!

Socializing is definitely different since my girls came along. Instead of late nights out, drinking with my friends, my preference is catching up for a coffee at a café nearby. Play dates and days out with my girls are how I tend to spend my days.

I have given up on ever having a gym membership. I spend most of my time running around after the girls. That said, in an attempt to get fit again (‘move it before you lose it’ is my inspiration), I have started exercising when the girls have gone to sleep. If I have any energy left.

My house will probably be tidy once the girls are teenagers (or not). I can live with that.

Oh and sleep, what’s that?!? Past Facebook posts where I brag to myself about how well rested I was, make me cringe. At least I slept, once upon a time. I will sleep again. I’m pretty sure of it.

Before my girls came along, life was predictable. Life was fun but life wasn’t complete. Since my girls came into my life, my level of happiness has increased significantly. Life is unpredictable and sometimes chaotic. It is definitely exhausting, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I much prefer the new version of me. Debbie Version 2.0

 

 

Countdown to the end of my maternity leave

Almost a year ago, I commenced my leave. I had approximately 7 weeks leave prior to my one year leave-without-pay starting. At the time, it felt like I would be on leave for what would feel like forever. I have been fortunate enough to be able to take as much time off as I was able. It’s something that I really do appreciate every day. But the time has definitely flown. Now, with only 3 months left before returning to the workforce, it feels like  I have no time left and that the remaining time will be over in a blink.

I’m determined to make the most of the time off. I want to treasure this time, as I know it will be the last time I have any extended leave booked.

Before going on leave, I had so many plans in regards to what I expected to achieve while on leave. I had raised a child already, surely adding another to the mix couldn’t be that difficult?

My partner purchased new laptop for me. A gift I really wanted, as I was convinced I would have plenty of time each day to ‘nerd it up’ and ‘get my geek on’ by doing everything technical, so that when I returned to work, I would not only be able to keep up with technology, but would be completely ahead of the curve ball.

With my laptop all shiny and new, I had made a list of all the books I was going to read, and all the technologies I would master.

And then she was born. All that mattered was feeding, loving, and nurturing her, all the while, ensuring that her big sister ‘s life wasn’t impacted too greatly and that they would form a bond together that would last a lifetime. No pressure.

All things technical was instantly swapped with all things tiny. My priorities shifted completely.

I can’t even say it was the first time it had happened. It shouldn’t have been a shock. Prior to my first being born (literally days prior), I had signed myself up for a bunch of courses I thought I could do with all my ‘free time’. A previous avid gamer, I would spend my weekends playing video games. Prior to my first being born, I bought a lot of games I was convinced I would play. Those games, now 5 years old, still remain wrapped in their plastic.

I should have known better.

With only three months to go, the question remains, will I spend the time learning frantically all the new technology trends before heading back to work, or will I take time to smell the roses, enjoy all the baby cuddles and make the most of being needed so intently?

What did you do while on parental leave? Did you achieve everything you set out to do? Or like me, did priorities change the instant you held that beautiful bundle in your arms?

 

 

In the beginning

Everything that is new, has a beginning. Every idea, every thought, every journey. For me, this blog, this entry, is the beginning of what will potentially be, something that I hope will be inspirational, not only for myself, but for other people all over the world.

You see, I love to learn and I love to be inspired and grow. I hope that through my journey, that I can inspire and grow others along the way.

My desire for a work, balanced life has come from having two beautiful girls that I treasure. I love my time with them and would love to make the most of our precious time together. I also want to be a role model to them and to let them know that I can be a great (not perfect) mother and that I can still achieve whatever I set out to. I want to inspire them.

Along the way, I plan on asking (interviewing) other people on how they are able to achieve a work, balanced life. I work in the IT industry. It will be fascinating to find out what it is like for other parents, working in other industries. Do they get support to raise a family as well as grow their careers or are they forced to work 50+ hours per week?

I hope you will join me on my journey. I hope we can inspire each other to learn and to grow and to also take time out, in order to enjoy time with those in our lives we love and care about the most, while fulfilling our own needs.