The Super Average Mom

Figuring out mom-life one day at a time

A Real Gift

Today I waited until the kids weren’t around, until I was alone, and I cried. Really cried. Tears of gratitude. Because someone gave me a handbag. I know that make no sense but let me explain…

When I left South Africa I left many people behind. My mother, my foster sister, family, friends. And I left behind my domestic worker. I know many people who live in South Africa see their domestic worker as an employee, someone they see in passing and give direction to. But Lucy was not my employee, she was my friend that we happened to pay. Despite being miles apart in so many ways – age, culture, upbringing, language, income, race; Lucy and I saw eye to eye on so much. We would happily chat in the mornings, we would share stories and she would give me advice. When my first baby arrived she showed me how to rock him to sleep when he was inconsolable and would sneak in to check on me changing his nappy when he screamed blue murder. She watched petrified when I first used a snot-sucker on him, telling me I was going to suck his brains out, and then later calmed him saying “it’s ok mommy is helping you” when she saw it was safe. She brought me toast in bed when she could see I had stayed by his side the whole day and hadn’t eaten, not because I told her to, but because she cared. She was there when I found out I was pregnant with my second child, she held my eldest’s hand in the garden while I anxiously waited for the test to show positive. And she was the first person I told. She cried when I told her we were leaving South Africa. I tried to reassure her, I promised I would find her a new job and would send her money when I could, she lives off of the equivalent of about AU$15 a day, but she told me she was crying because she would miss us.

This woman, this amazing person who has lived through apartheid. Who didn’t receive the education she deserved. Who has lived a life of hardship and oppression but held no grudge towards me and the white privilege I grew up with. This wise lady who saw me as a person and I saw her. Who has so little money she struggles to feed her family. She bought me a gift, a handbag to send with my mother in law on her trip to see us in Australia.

I know she cannot afford this gift. I know she lives her life in donated clothes and does not buy anything for herself. This wasn’t just a gift, this was an act of pure selflessness. And in this crazy way it gives me hope for my home country. A country divided by racial tension, corruption, anger, violent crime and income disparity. Because from that country a friendship was born. And now two woman, one African lady in her fifties and one white woman in her twenties, love each other from across the world.

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The day I cried over a Dyson

I have two boys. Two small boys. These creatures are messy. And neither of them were in childcare yet so 90% of their mess was made at home. I somehow got it into my head that if I owned a cordless stick vacuum my life would be somewhat easier, and had been mumbling this to myself every time I vacuumed for months. I thought to myself that I could just whip it out, and like a magic wand it would pick up all that kiddie related mess in a second…with the added bonus that my youngest wouldn’t be pulling out the power cord mid vacuum every few minutes sending me into a ‘my child is going to die’ panic.

Hubby heard my case, our child’s safety and my sanity were at stake, and we set a budget…$100. We had just moved countries and money was tight. When we got to the store we quickly realised $100 would get one that struggled to suck up a feather so I pulled the usual mom-move, said I didn’t need it anyway, and I settled for a normal vacuum that was on sale. That vacuum was useless.

So, a year later, we decided to pop into Masters about 10 minutes before a ‘I need a nap’ melt down was about to ensue. Great choices I know. The store was going out of business, there was sale-chaos. Hubby was wondering around the cordless drill section while I chased baby who happened to wander into the stick vacuum section. The $500 solution to my mess problem was marked down to $210 and there was one left, on the top top shelf. While I stood waiting for a sales person to get it down, trying to hold onto baby who had now morphed into an angry octopus, another woman walked up. I phoned hubby and said ‘please come to the vacuums NOW’. Baby escaped and crawled under some shelving. I shook a granola bar at him trying to coax him out like a feral animal while my stick vac walked away with its new owner.

In the car on the way home I felt defeated. The constant mess, food on the floor and dirt really gets to me. $210 was a push, there was no way I was ever going to get a full priced one. Hubby was mumbling about needing a cordless drill. He started teasing me about being upset about a vacuum, that I had chosen my baby over a vacuum and that I had made the right call, and I told him to stop it. “I’m going to cry.”
And then I did.

I think he was in shock. Later he told me he had never seen me cry over a material object, but it wasn’t that. It was this ridiculous idea that my life might be just a little bit easier, just a little bit cleaner and less stressful, if I just had that magic cordless vacuum.

Once we were home he was furiously typing away and scrolling on his phone. A few minutes later he told me “get the kids, we are going to get you your vacuum”. I was sure he thought I was being stupid and we couldn’t afford it but it seems he took my perceived need that seriously. I told him ‘no’ but he had decided…”if there’s one thing I’m doing today it’s getting you that vacuum.”

It was more expensive than the one I had missed, but a better model and on sale. And on the way home I cried again. So often as a mom I put what I want last on the list, everyone else’s needs always seem more important than mine. I find it easy to let things go if the people I love are happier for it. But that day I cried over a Dyson, because in this crazy unexpected way my new vacuum cleaner was the most romantic, grandest gesture of love that I could think of.

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Help a mother out

I was at play group (surprise surprise). My social life is wild like that. My one and a half year old had decided to sit himself at a table with a group of kids for morning tea whose mothers I don’t know. They are all foreign, Russian I think, I have never heard them speak English or seen them chat to any of the other mothers at play group. Sort of a clique I suppose. But at my age I don’t have the energy for that kind of thing, and being a foreigner in a new country myself I have found other foreigners quite welcoming.

I turned to the closest women and asked if there was space for my son to sit there. She (kind of) nodded and they continued their conversation that I couldn’t understand. As they set out the food for their kids one of the mothers placed her coffee down on the kids table to put out a lunch box. Her child is at the grabbing age and in a second he had pulled the hot coffee towards him, spilling it all over his lap, the table, chair and floor.

And then everyone just stood there. She did too but I think she was in shock, it’s hard to react when it’s your own kid. But all her friends, the women I see her chat with every week, just stood there staring, and then returned to their conversation. And none of the mothers at the surrounding tables did anything either.

She started to clean the spill and I went to fetch wet wipes and asked if I could wipe the coffee off her son’s legs. She nodded. We cleaned up the mess while everyone acted like nothing had happened, the play group organisers eventually fetching a mop and bucket. Everything continued as nothing had happened and they returned to their conversation, discussing banana bread from what I could make out.

As we left play group she was sitting at the door and looked up and said “thank you for helping me”. It’s the first time I’ve heard her speak English.

This whole situation has me dumbfounded to be honest. Mothers have it tough. I know it because I am one. And other mothers know it too. You spend your day holding one while wiping another’s bum, juggling chores while attempting to half-arse a game, perfecting the art of doing things with one hand. As far as I know we are a tribe. Language, race, social status and age disappear when you have something so monumental connecting you. Little humans to keep alive.

We all know sometimes we need help even if we prefer to do everything ourselves. Sometimes a stranger holding the door for you so you can navigate a pram through is the biggest relief. Sometimes the mum in line who lets you go ahead of her or happily chats to your cranky child entertaining them while you wait is your day’s saving grace. We need each other because we are the ones who best understand. So don’t just stand there, help a mother out damn it.

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How to teach your kids not to share

I think it was Stephen Cobert who I heard say it, “the Muppets are radical Marxists!” I laughed at the time, I didn’t have kids then. But now it’s got me thinking…

Yes sharing is great, it is ingrained in us to teach our children to share, but we also live in a Capitalist society. Surely we have to draw the line somewhere?
We have a rule in our house – if you take a toy to a public play area you have to share it. Parks are for everyone, so if my kids take their toys along and leave them lying on the ground they are fair game. And they are pretty good about it.

A few weeks back my son took a digger along to the park. Someone wanted to play with it and he kindly handed it over, he was more interested in climbing. But about half an hour later just about everyone had played with his digger except him, and he wanted it back. He went and asked the kid who had it and when he said ‘no’ my son’s friend (he could learn a thing or two from her about assertiveness) said ‘its his he wants it back’ and retrieved it for my son. The kid’s mom saw this and stepped in saying ‘he’s playing with that now you can have it when he’s done’.

Wait a minute. Yes we like to teach our kids to share but as adults would we consider this normal? If a stranger wanted to borrow our car would we be ok with it? If we said ‘no I need it to get to work’ would a ‘you’ve got to learn to share mate’ be acceptable? I’m really non-confrontational, I wanted to say ‘let him have it for a bit’ but the mom in me knew that this was unjust for my son. He had shared well, he did not know the kid, and at the end of the day it was his. After an awkward silence she mumbled about not knowing it was his and relented. I felt awful but my son looked relieved.

The situation reminds me of another maybe 8 years ago when my own mother had just started fostering a little girl. She had walked into a store’s play area with a box of those things you throw and they pop. Two boys had approached her and demanded she share with them. Growing up in a children’s home she was no stranger to asserting herself and told the two much older kids ‘no’. They raced to my mom shouting ‘she won’t share with us’ beaming with entitlement. My mom, in her years of experience mothering, didn’t miss a beat telling them ‘she doesn’t know you, she doesn’t have to share’! I didn’t have kids yet but I instinctively knew something big had just gone down. Our little girl who didn’t have anything of her own at that time, who had to share everything, needed to know that it was ok not to share more than those boys needed what she had.

With so much parenting advice out there you would think that we would have all the answers. But real life isn’t written on paper. Sometimes you have to listen to your gut, go against the parenting advice en-vogue, and do the non-p.c. thing. Sometimes you have to admit that just maybe the Muppets are radical Marxists.

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Na-na why don’t you get a job?!

At play group today I blurted out “I’ve got a bloody bachelors of commerce degree” whilst singing an off-tune nursery rhyme that they had changed the words to in order to make it a game. It’s not that I think I’m above it, it’s just that in that moment, walking around in circles dragging a cranky toddler, trying to squash the new words into the old song, playing a game that he didn’t understand, my life seemed ridiculous.

I’ve had a 90’s song stuck in my head. It’s by the offspring and it goes ‘na-na why don’t you get a job’. I guess it’s because for some reason my stay at home mommy-hood has been on my mind and a few months ago the issue came to a head.

As I pulled into my drive the stay at home mom next door stepped out of the house. She looked fabulous. Hair and make up on point, clothes clean and ironed and not built for a trip to the park, sunglasses, jewellery…no kids in tow. Her youngest is just a few months older than my youngest. He’s started play school and she told me she was on her way to a job interview. And then she said it. “I just can’t stay home like you do, I don’t know how you do it, I’m bored”

Bam there it is. The thing no stay at home mom wants to admit. But now I want to shout it. Yes I’m constantly busy. Yes I don’t have a moment to myself. Yes I am bloody exhausted. But I am so. damn. bored. I think some of us feel it but don’t want to say it because society already has a stigma that stay at home moms are lazy or don’t have the ability to hold down a job. So we talk about the million unseen things that we do and how busy we are but no one adds ‘and I’m bored’.

You see once long ago I wasn’t a stay at home mom. For a short while there I was a fashion designer and slightly interesting person. But I gave up having a career right now to be home with my kids while they are still small. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to get involved in ‘the mommy wars’. I know some moms have to work. They need to to provide for their families. And I know some choose to for themselves, so that they can give the best part of a happy person to their children when they get home. Everyone does what’s best for them. But I chose to stay at home.

I love my kids. I love being there for the milestones and little things. But let me tell you, staying at home is not for the mentally weak. No, stay at home moms are a tough bunch of women. Some days we do not want to play blocks or dress up. Some days we don’t want to make another uneaten lunch. Some days we want to have conversations with adults that doesn’t involve poo talk. We want to talk shit.

But we find ways to cope in the isolation where you are never alone. We find creative outlets, projects, volunteering, other moms. Not because we have the time but because we need something of our own. For me right now it’s writing. Sometimes my head gets so full of useless thoughts I need to dump them on paper. Other mom’s have asked me how I find the time to write but I don’t find the time, I have to.

So here I am, a stay at home mom, just throwing it out there…I’m bored. But na-na I won’t get a job (yet).

Santa Clause is coming to town

He’s making his list, he’s checking it twice, he knows for damn sure all the kids have been naughty and made mommy cry at some stage during the year. But hooray Santa Clause is coming to town and we have less than 2 weeks left of threatening our kids with ‘no gifts I’m calling Santa’ before the gigs up.

I have a problem though…does Santa bring all the gifts???

I have a very inquisitive three and a half year old. He has ALL the questions. I have bought his Christmas gifts and wrapped them before the malls get insane and I lose my Christmas cheer and have to resort to spiked egg nogg to enjoy the season. They are all labeled ‘from Santa’ because I assumed between the ages of 3 and ‘Santa’s not real and I hate you all’, that’s what you do. Until granny threw a spanner in the works and said she’s giving me money to get a gift on her behalf, don’t care what, just put my name on it. When I said everything’s coming from Santa she said she’s sure I can make a plan.

So the story is Santa brings you gifts if you’re good. Because it’s Jesus’s birthday. He’s happy we are sharing Jesus’s birthday, kids love to share birthdays. But then granny and grandpa and this one and that give you gifts too. So even if you’re naughty you get gifts from the people who love you because we love our kids, even when they are naughty. Maybe I’m over thinking things here but I feel like I’m losing my leverage (and some of the magic that goes with a fat flying stranger delivering toys).

To make matters worse another mom told me all the gifts shouldn’t be from Santa because some kids are less fortunate and they may wonder why others got more from Santa. Apparently it’s one small gift from Santa and the rest from family. What the what? When I was growing up my parents weren’t rolling in it but I wasn’t comparing gifts, I thought those kids were just better behaved?! Maybe I’m a grinch but it’s all a little too P.C. for me. Life’s unfair kids will find it out eventually. Either way some are getting more than others. It sucks but the story isn’t going to change that.

So hubby has a plan and I think It’s a good one. Santa brings you gifts. But granny ‘requested this for you’ because she loves you and thought you would like it. Problem solved (I hope). I’ll be over here drinking my egg nog.

10 things my kids would rather play with

When a friend told me her toddler chewed the toilet brush handle I didn’t even flinch. It was probably the brush too, that’s about right. While the people at Fischer price probably have some impressive qualifications in toy design and undoubtedly spend hours thinking up ways to both entertain and stimulate the growing mind, they’ve got nothing on the home section of Kmart. So if you’re having a new baby think of this list as ‘the real baby essentials list’ and if you have a child that’s mobile, well no need to hang your head in shame – we’ve all been there.

1. An old dirty shoe. Shoes are wonderful things. The flat rubbery kind are great for teething on (move aside Sophie le giraffe) with the added bonus of good bacteria and crunch (read dirt). Slapping them together provides music and teaches them to cross the midline, an important developmental millstone. Trainers have laces which, although pose a strangulation hazard, pulling at them is great for fine motor co-ordination. If your boy is trying to walk in your sparkliest heels he’s practicing gross motor development and balance. He’s a future ice hockey star!

2. The toilet brush. Aah the toilet brush. Probably the most bacteria infested item in your home. It truly is disgusting. And extremely texturally interesting to a child. It’s the wonderful combination of a brush and a stick to wave and often there’s the added benefit of spraying water around if you shake it. Children are drawn to these. I have a suspicion they are just trying to get to us.

3. Tuppawear. Not only do these store food, they give you an opportunity to cook food too. What child hasn’t happily unpacked the tuppawear draw while their parent cooked dinner?! There can be a pile of toys lying on the floor but tupperwear is the toy of choice. It’s great for musical self-expression – you can bang it or put things in it and shake it. Or you can throw it at your parent.

4. Fragile glass bottles, bowls and vases. Once again I think they are just messing with us here. What better way to get your mom to scream than pick up something glass. It’s just funny. Plus it inevitably results in a game of catches.

5. Toilet paper. This is great stuff for unrolling. Unrolling is generally followed by tearing, which is an important skill they will need when they start school. Bet you didn’t know taking them to the toilet with you was school readiness preparation?! As they get older toilet paper is great for imaginative play and dress up – ghost, mummy…the possibilities are endless!

6. The broom. Swinging around a broom while walking is teaching them balance. If they have a sibling they are probably learning combat skills too. Added bonus – the valuable life lesson of learning to clean up after themselves.

7. Power sockets. Turning these on and off is fine motor development. Light switches teach cause-effect relationships. Oh and why would people put holes in the wall if not to try poke things into them? Scratch that, best get a socket protector.

8. The phone charger. My kids love this one. It’s a strangulation hazard so it scares mom plus it’s great for pulling, biting and wrapping. But if you intend to charge your phone in the future maybe hide it.

9. The bin. Yay for bins. They are full of dirty mushy stuff you shouldn’t touch. Think of it as a disgusting textural tub. Added bonus if it’s a pedal bin because what kid doesn’t like making things slam with their feet?!

10. A box. This is widely acknowledged by parents as the best toy. Ever. Climb in it, put things in it, push it, draw on it. Never mind the toy that came in it. Empty box equals hours of fun.

Well there you have it. Consider your Christmas shopping done! You’re welcome.

The mommy melt down

It had been a loooong night. Thanks to the joys of co-sleeping my youngest had woken me several times to give me a love-head butt, once to the nose. I woke up with a banging headache and couldn’t breath through what I’m sure was dried blood. Hubby cheerfully exclaimed ‘I managed to get him back to sleep last night’ and I snapped back ‘what do you want a thank you?!’ We’ve been together 10 years now, hubby can spot the verge of a mommy melt down from a mile off. He sprung into action and took the kids out so I could have the morning off.

I go to a play group where one mom in particular seems on the edge of a melt down, every week. She miraculously arrives with 4 kids bathed, dressed and in one piece at 9.30am. It all goes down hill from there, or so I assume, because every week I see her dragging those 4 kids out of play group early screaming (and I mean screaming) ‘get in the car you kids don’t listen to me we are never coming back to play group again!’ Next week – same deal.

I applaud this mom. Every week she comes back. She does it again. She could stay home and turn on the TV but she drags herself and her crew out of the house and tries once more. She may feel like she’s not doing the best job,standing in the parking lot loosing her cool, but I hope she knows the moms around her aren’t judging her. I just wish she could have some time for herself.

If ever someone mentions to me a mom losing it with her kids my first question is ‘Does she have support? Does she need a break?’. Kids are tough, even at the best of times. They require all of you when they are small. I’ve heard it said a million times but I’m going to say it again here…moms need breaks. When you are tired and you never get a moment to yourself patience can quickly diminish. Small defiances, little mistakes and endless nagging can mount up to something more than you can handle. It’s impossible to give of yourself when there’s nothing left to give.

On my day off I went against my initial instinct, clean the house, and used my morning to shop (read actually try on clothes without small people opening the door and exposing me to passers by). I bought my first bakini in 3 years, I must have lost my damn mind, I blame the freedom. I had a cup of coffee while it was still hot and actually got to eat my biscuit. Oh and I bought craft supplies to make my boys personalised Christmas teddies, I suddenly missed them and wanted to do something special. Because I was no longer on the edge of a mommy meltdown and once again had something left to give.

Why I’m grateful for whining

I have a 3 year old and, let’s be real, they do a fair bit of whining. Most days it drives me a little crazy, I’ve lost my cool a few times and shouted ‘that’s enough now stop it’. I’m an only child, incessant noise can slowly get to me.

But the other day something changed. We were driving back from the petrol station and my son was whining because he couldn’t fit his ice cream into a pouch of the hanging organiser by his car chair. ‘My child is lucky he even HAS an ice cream and he’s still whining’ I thought, ‘this is ridiculous’! But then it occurred to me…my child is whining because we are blessed.

I’ve never lived in poverty but I spent the first 27 years of my life in a third world country. I grew up in privilege but was constantly surrounded by people who were unemployed and couldn’t afford to feed their families. Im not talking about people struggling and not being able to afford nice things, people literally have nothing and little hope of change. Social welfare is nonexistent. Basic necessities like running water and electricity are not a reality for everyone. Every second traffic light is littered with people begging at car windows.

I’ve spent time in children’s homes there and you can be damn sure when you give those kids an ice cream no one is whining. Oh no those kids are ecstatic. They are fighting their way to the front to get theirs in fear they won’t receive one and will be quietly eating it as fast as they can. They are grateful. You’ve made their week!

The thought hit me like a ton of bricks. I am lucky my child is whining. He is unhappy about something so minor because he has never gone without. Yes we do say ‘no’ to him, I don’t want to raise an entitled brat. We aren’t rich, but he has no idea what it is to not have enough. To go hungry. To suffer.

So today, and hopefully in future, I will try to remember that my child is whining because we are blessed. We are so lucky. Today I am grateful for whining.

Even hippy moms lose their shit

I follow a few parents on Instagram who could be labeled as ‘alternative’ if you’re into labelling. I’m usually not one to compare my life to the glossy edited pictures people carefully curate and post, I know that’s the best bits of their lives and it’s not real every day, but of late I’ve found myself lusting after a certain lifestyle.

I picture my boys and myself living ‘away from it all’. We grow our own fruit and vegetables and happily spend our afternoons picking and cooking what we’ve grown. We spend our days splashing in rock pools and waterfalls and picnicking in forests. We read books under the stars with our flashlights and make fires. The boys play happily together while I sip my herbal tea and write. It all seems so peaceful, I would be so relaxed and happy.

The other day I took my boys to a theme park ‘farm’ with their granny who is visiting from overseas. We had fed the animals and seen some horses and the kids were quietly sitting under a tree eating their lunch. Across from us was another family having a picnic. The mother was dressed in a beautiful flowing floral skirt and boho top and had long natural hair. I thought to myself she looks so chilled. So peaceful. I bet this is one of the women behind those baby-wearing veggie growing forest adventuring feeds I long after. And then it happened…

Her eldest was playing in some sand and had started throwing rocks down a drain, my son had joined him. She told her son to stop and he ignored her and continued. I called my son back to me and she told her son to stop again. He continued. And then she was screaming ‘stop it I told you listen to me’ at the top of her lungs. “She obviously has a temper problem” granny commented. But I’m sure she doesn’t. I’m sure her kid has been defying her for most of his 4 years of life, as most kids do, and she had had enough. I think she was having one of ‘those’ dreaded days. I’m no one to judge, let the mom who has never lost her cool throw the first metaphorical stone. No really, please do. I would love to meet this saint of a woman and her angel children, I could learn a thing or two.

But for the rest of us mere mortals I realised something in that moment. I realised that even if our dinner is made from lovingly home grown organic veggies my kids will probably still refuse to eat it and throw it on the floor. I will still have to clean it up. Even if I have that beautiful hand-made mandala picnic rug my kids will still squish their lunch into it. Even if we spend our days exploring forests I will still be saying ‘stop’, just it will be to prevent them from falling down a cliff instead of off of a jungle gym. They will still argue, except it will be over the same stick instead of the same toy.

I’ll never stop trying to make things better for my kids, never stop striving for my funny kind of ideal. But the truth is the background in the picture might be pretty but kids remain kids. The scenery may change but mom-life is just the same. And even hippy moms lose their shit.

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