Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Actual real housewives - what my show would look like

I read on the news earlier that a new show, the Real Housewives of Auckland, is going to be on TV soon. Looking at the picture of the women and reading their bios, they don't seem like anyone I've actually met. Here are my suggestions about what should be on the show to make the 'real' in the title actually mean 'real':

1. One of the women would live in yoga pants and a Glasson's polar-fleece from the mid 2000s. Dressing up will mean wearing jeans that don't have a stretchy maternity band.

2. At least one will have had PND, or perhaps still does.

3. There will be a former career high-flier, struggling with adjusting to life in the suburbs. 

4. There would be someone who had always desperately wanted to be a mother, struggling with how the dream and the reality don't quite match up. At the very least, the dream is much less messy and doesn't cry when they are not allowed to throw supermarket oranges onto the floor. 

5. One will supplement a single income by cleaning other people's houses one morning a week

6. Someone will enroll their toddler children in activities every single day of the week as she gets lonely being home all day with nothing but a small person and a pile of dirty washing for company, but doesn't want to admit it so pretends all the activities are for the betterment of her offspring.

7. Someone who will constantly brag about how talented their children are. ("He's not throwing his food, he's experimenting with gravity - he's clever like that!")

8. Someone who will be a competitive martyr about how hard their life is.  ("You got four hours sleep last night? I've only had four hours sleep over the past month!")

9. Someone who is going back to work soon, and feels guilty. 

10. Someone who resigned from their job to be a permanent stay home parent, and feels guilty.

11. Someone who just feels guilty for no reason they can even articulate; the feeling of guilt just follows them around like a dark cloud. 

12. Someone who loves the social side of hanging out for hours at end, talking about which baby food is on sale and what brand of nappies to use. 

13. Someone who would rather stick nails in their eyelids than have the above conversation.

14. Someone who takes the children running in the pram because she's desperate to get back to her pre-child fitness, hates her new body, and misses feeling toned and fit. 

15. Someone who sees the above person running and feels bad because all she did that day was unload a dishwasher.

And lastly ..

16. There will be someone who is happy, loves her life, and wouldn't have it any other way, but is careful not to say as much to her friends for fear of sounding smug. 

Is there anyone I've missed? 


Monday, February 22, 2016

A messy house: time to bring out the big guns?

Given that my great de-clutter of 2016 was nearly two months ago, the clean shelves are starting to fill up with crap again. Slowly and sneakily, my things are multiplying to fill all available space. I don't know how it's happened. I can only assume that my items breed while I'm asleep or at work.  Either that, or the Cleaning Fairy's evil cousin, the Clutter Fairy, has paid me a visit. I curse that Clutter Fairy. Sure, she sounds much more fun than her nerdy clean-freak cousin, but still. I liked it much better when my shelves were clean, even though the smugness probably oozed off me like a bad smell, irritating everyone who crossed my path. Sure, my house looks better that it did in cluttered old 2015, but isn't exactly the same as it was in its 1 January 2016 glory either. 

Perhaps it is time to turn to the book everyone is talking about, Marie Kondo's book on how to de-clutter one's life? I'm not sure what she writes about, apart from only keeping things that bring you joy, and something about how to arrange your t-shirt draw so it looks amazing. So amazing, I imagine, that you wish guests would snoop through your drawers to marvel at your superior organisational prowess. 

Although by "everyone talking about it", I actually mean a few people online and at work, who told me about the book in the first weeks of January when we were all gripped with New Years Resolution-itis. 

I haven't actually read the book yet, but hear it's good. I've seen it in shops, looking all invitingly minimalist. I've even booked it at the library, although am 76th in line, so I may get to read it in time for my 2034 New Years' resolution. 

Maybe I'll ask the people who told me about it earlier in the year about it and see if their homes are still "Kondo'd". Maybe their homes are pristine, their lives transformed. Or maybe the Clutter Fairy has visited them as well, and their Kondo book is somewhere under a pile of plastic toys and old magazines. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Why I don't want to be a Tiger Mother

I read the famous (or is it more correct to say 'infamous'?) book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother not so long ago.  I'm sure you've heard of it: Amy Chua's articulation of why many Western parents are failing their children by being too soft. I suppose part of her philosophy is in the name; she's a self-described Tiger Mother, not a Rabbit Mother or Butterfly Mother. Tigers are badass and scary. The philosophy of tiger parenthood is as well - children have to study and work, but not play and go to sleepovers. They're not allowed to do subjects like art, and anything less than an A is not good enough. Participation couldn't be celebrated for its own sake: the only thing that matters is success. Being a Tiger Mother is, according to Chua, the way to raise successful children who aren't "soft and entitled".  Apparently Chua's two girls were brought up this way - they played their instruments for hours and hours, weren't allowed to go to sleep-overs, and were called 'garbage' if they failed i.e. came second in something, 

For me reading the book was like watching a bad reality TV show: watching someone live their life in a way I never, ever want to copy myself. I was appalled and enthralled in equal measure. Here are my biggest issues with the idea of tiger parenthood:

Firstly, who gets to define success? The whole time I was reading, I was struck with Chua's narrow interpretation of what success looks like. Academic success, getting a degree, getting to Carnegie to play your violin - these are only some markers of "success" in my book. There are so many other things that make for being a well-rounded person: resilience, empathy, social skills, the ability to not act like an a-hole in the workplace. Her daughters may have studied more by not going to sleepovers, but I wonder what other experiences they missed. 

The other question I have is - does pushing kids even help them? Some kids respond well to being pushed, some don't. Some kids who are pushed by their parents make it to great career heights, and some live their entire lives feeling like a disappointment and a failure. Besides, what happens if you try your very hardest and still don't succeed? Character is formed by failure as much as success. I want my kids to do their best and to achieve something that brings them joy, but I don't want them to feel like they have let me down if they choose to be penniless poets instead of astrophysicists or the like. 

Lastly, it's not rocket science to say that different kids are different. Some might want to play the violin, but some might be better suited to maracas and a conga line. I don't see how any one-size-fits-all approach is a good thing.

I'm glad I read the book - it was interesting, as also a good reminder at the value of not giving up on things too quickly. But, tiger motherhood isn't for me. I don't agree with it, and I am glad my own  mother wasn't one. After all, I used to love sleep overs. And to me the idea of depriving a pre-teen of all of those gloriously scary ghost stories you tell at them is just too cruel to comprehend. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

What Bowie gave my children

I'm probably one of millions of people around the world listening to David Bowie this week.

I'm not eloquent enough to even try and imitate the many obituaries and articles written on the subject over the past few days, but will say this: I am very pleased to live in a world where such a kooky, unconventional person was celebrated, and now is universally mourned. I am grateful to Bowie for paving the way in this regard, and teaching us that there is no "normal". 

The other day, my son (4) was looking at the Bowie CD. Our conversation went like this:

Son: "Is that man wearing ladies' clothes?"
Me: "Yes." <Braces self for big serious conversation about how you can express yourself how you choose and so on>.
Son: "Ok." <Shrugs> "Can I have an ice-block?"

To me, that's the gift that really matters. 


Things I've found while de-cluttering

After applying my de-cluttering Rules of Engagement, my husband and I took to the various portals of junk around the house with bin-bags and boxes. It was quite an exercise. Remember Mary Poppin's bag, that can hold anything? Turns out my wardrobe was kind of like that. Who knew?

The process of decluttering went like this: Stage one - this is fun! Stage two - this is boring and dusty, can I stop now? No I can't, because the house is a mess. Must ... keep ... going .... Stage three - all done. Yay!

I love how less cluttered our house is now*. We sent over a car full of stuff to a charity shop, and filled three bin bags with rubbish. I also found some very odd things and totally useless things in the process. Here's a sample:

1. Four broken handbags. Why I kept them I do not know; they were all too broken to use. Note to self: do not hoard broken handbags in future. Second note to self: look into buying better quality handbags so first note to self can be ignored. 

2. A ticket to the Great Wall of China, kept from a visit I took there in 2010. This was hard to get rid of, but it's not like I need a ticket to remember how totally amazing the Great Wall was.

3. A giant umbrella someone gave me 5 years ago that was still in its plastic. Hard to throw out, as the inner hoarder whispered: "But what if you neeeed it?" Be silent, inner hoarder, I thought. If I decide I need an umbrella (unlikely, Wellington is far too windy for those), I can always buy one.

4. My son's first shoes. So little, so cute! I am totally keeping those. How could I not?

5. A onesey my son wore a few times, although I can't actually conjure up a specific memory of him in it as it was during the Foggy Time of Newborn-ness. One for the charity shop.

6. Some cooking oil two years past its expiry. Sigh. Third note to self: use foodstuffs that I buy.

7. My dad's hand written speech that he delivered at his sister's funeral. One for a wee cry, then keeping in the forever box.

8. A self-published novel written by someone I don't know about a topic I have no interest in. Another one for the charity shop, although based on the quality of writing on the blurb I don't expect it to fly off the shelf.

9. Four containers of unused moisturizer or the like, all gifts from people I don't know well. Fourth note to self: probe into why they all think I need nice smelling things and try not to get paranoid.

10. The back of my wardrobe. Yay!

Now my house is less cluttered (almost)*. What I need to do now is think about how best to use the wardrobe that is like Mary Poppin's bag for good rather than (cluttered) evil. And think about note to self number five: never, ever let it get so cluttered again.


*Except for one cupboard of cluttered doom. That can wait for another day. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

12 days sugar free! (And why I'm keeping it a secret)

I am now 12 days sugar free. Woop!

It's not been easy. In fact, some days it's been really tough, and I have felt like a rage beast. But, I am getting there slowly and surely. Irrational rage and cravings aside, I do feel better. Every single day I find myself in at least 2 situations when 2015 me would have reached for the sugar-laden goodness, and every day it's hard to get through that moment. But, nothing beats ending another day with the thought "I did it!" 

I also feel smug and proud that I have lasted this long, although of course I keep that to myself. In fact, apart from a few people in real life I've decided to keep this sugar-free malarkey a secret. Why?

First, no-one likes hanging out with that person who says "oh no I am on a diet" when they are about to eat a giant slice of cake. I don't want to kill anyone else's buzz: this is for me, not them. I also don't want to look like a crazy faddish dieting person, the "new year new me!" cliche. The fact I probably am a crazy faddish person by doing this is besides the point. I also don't want raised eyebrows when I start eating sugar again. Of course, one day I will. In fact, that day may be sooner rather than later. I just want to be more moderate when I re-introduce sugary foods, and hope that the pavlova habit has fallen by the wayside. Not to mention the dreams about pavlova. 

It's surprisingly easy to fudge not eating sugar. I may be the centre of my own world, but other people don't seem to notice. A simple "no, thanks" when offered food is enough. No-one says "why?" and I've only been in one situation when someone else has put pressure on me to eat (delicious looking) cake.  This particular person is someone who, I suspect, feels less guilty about their own eating when they see others eating badly themselves. I just had to be a little firmer, ignore my watering mouth, and change the subject.

So, 12 days down ... here's to at least 12 days more! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

De-cluttering your home: Rules of Engagement

Have you decided to start the New Year with a cleaner home?

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to de-clutter my house. Get rid of junk. Actually have some spare cupboard space and be able to find things that are A) what I am looking for at the time, and B) not covered in dust at the point of retrieval. Or even worse, mold. Or mushed up food. Or some other substance that I dare not give the sniff test.

I'm ready to de-clutter.  Rubbish bags? Check. Fabulous plastic containers from the Warehouse that are both see-through and stack perfectly? Check. Dozens of Huggie Nappy Boxes, AKA the only good thing about having had a child in nappies for the past 4.5 years? Check. Corner of the garage earmarked for things to go to the Salvation Army? Check.  Motivation? Um .....

First, I need some rules of engagement. Terms of Reference for de-cluttering. A criteria that I set to enable me to make tough decisions about what to keep, and what to move on. Otherwise, I'll end up keeping an entire box of bubble-wrap just in case I might need it one day. Otherwise, I'll never throw out that manky stained t-shirt that someone gave me as a gift in the late 1990s.

So, I've decided on the following Rules of Engagement:

1. The 6-month rule

Have I used the item in the last 6 months? Can I, right now, think of a specific time I will use it in the next 6 months? If the answer is no, get rid of it.

2. The soppy rule

Does this have sentimental value? If so, is it unique? If it is a manky old t-shirt, would a photograph of it suffice to tick the 'awwww I remember that' box? If it has no sentimental value or a photograph would do, get rid of it.

3. The tragic demise rule

If I were to die and someone in my extended family were to be sorting my stuff, am I embarrassed about the idea of them finding this object? If the answer is 'yes' - and it's not something that you actually use - get rid of it. The tragic demise rule is also useful for helping decide where to de-clutter first - which part of my house would I be the most embarrassed about?

4. The when-my-kids-are-old-enough rule 

Is it an expensive item that you really do hope to use one day once the kids are older? If yes, keep it. This rule covers all of those items of my footloose and fancy free days like tents, backpacks and bedrolls for hiking, One day, I tell myself. One day ...

5. The affordability rule

If I get rid of this thing I never use now and I decide in a year I did want it, can I afford another? If yes, and the object doesn't meet any of the other criteria, get rid of it. Adios, massive unused umbrella and the rest of your ilk.

6. The storage rule

If you were to move to the other side of the world, and all of your stuff had to go into storage, would you want to store this item for 5 years? If not, get rid of it. I wish I had used this rule when I did move to the other side of the world, and came home to a storage box filled with yucky old towels and old clothes that I will never wear again.

7. The memory rule

When you stumble upon an object, do you think:

A: "I'd wondered where you were"; or
B:  "I'd forgotten about you."

If it is B, get rid of it.

8. The manky rule. 

Even fabulous things with massive sentimental value go manky sometimes. If it's gone manky, get rid of it. Take a photo, then say your fond farewells. I know, this is hard to do. One of my favourite dolls from my childhood now looks like she has caught a face-eating infection while in storage. Sob. But, there is no point in keeping her, not really, sad as it is.

So, there are the Rules of Engagement. Now, time to get started ...