Goodnight, moon

In the great green room,
there was a telephone,
and a red balloon,
and a picture of
a cow jumping over a moon…

It is night time, so we have read Goodnight moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, to our daughter five times, or maybe more, if you count our recitals by heart (but wait, you forgot the toy house, my husband says, and he is right). It is like this most nights. She loves this book, the two kittens, the mush and goodnight nobody, because why not when s/he is always there? She has a special squeak for all animals, but especially the the kittens and the mouse. The bunnies standing in for humans get none, but why should they when they waste a perfectly good bowl of mush?

How great is my Friday night?

It all adds up…

I was walking to the shops one afternoon with my daughter, as I do, when I had a sudden realisation: if I had spent my life taking advantage of little chunks of time here and there to pursue my goals, I’d probably have achieved a lot more. Obvious, I know, but as someone who tends to want to enact major change in ideal (time-plentiful) circumstances, I’m going to take this as a kick in the ass from my brain. There are no time-plentiful, ideal circumstances (particularly not as a parent), but those ten-minute dashes and small daily rituals all have the potential of adding up to something fantastic.

I know I’m not alone in this. All those people in the States who don’t vote because their vote “doesn’t matter”… Well, it does matter. Everything we do matters. The impact may be small now, but in the long run, our actions become significant. They shape the world, and they fundamentally change us.

This is a very roundabout way of getting to a political message, but hey, that’s the way my mind works. If you’re Australian who is eligible to vote, I urge you to vote in the postal plebiscite when it arrives at your doorstep shortly.

I will personally be voting yes, because I strongly believe in marriage equality. As an immigrant to Australia, I have always been impressed by how willing most people here are to treat everyone fairly and equitably, and I see a yes vote as an affirmation of one of the best parts of Australian society. Hopefully, eventually, it will lead to an actual change in law. (Every little step counts, right?)

So much cooking

The freezer is currently empty, bar about 30 pouches of breastmilk and some frozen peas. This is a disaster in the making, because despite usually loving to cook, I can’t muster up the will to do it (and quickly) on weeknights. It’s too stressful. Whereas before figuring out what to cook for dinner was a leisurely activity, these days, it feels like a sprint up a mountain pass with three packs full of bricks on my back. All of this means that despite good intentions, my daughter now points to the microwave when she’s hungry.

At least she loves peas.

I don’t know about you, but when I first imagined motherhood, I envisioned cooking nutritious, beautiful meals for my little one, which we would eat at the dinner table, peacefully. I’m not sure where I got this idea from. Cereal boxes? Too many reruns of Full House when I was growing up? Usually, if we manage to get dinner on the table by 6, things are ok until, all of a sudden, they are not. Any later than that and the ok stage doesn’t last long enough for her to actually eat anything, even if she is sitting on my lap, which then leads to a scream filled evening and later on, nightmares for me about whether she’s getting enough iron.

Oh the joys of doing baby led weaning AND being a research junkie.

I started doing meal planning not too long ago. This used to be a thing I hated and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do. After all, who could possibly know what the want for dinner a week in advance? But now, it is magical because I don’t have to think when I get home. I have ingredients (the fewer, the better), a 3-4 step super quick recipe, and about 10 minutes. Brilliant.

This is how I discovered that I no longer have the capacity to make decisions by about 6 at night. I am already maxed out for the day, and probably have been for several hours by that point. Funny how that happens.

Anyway, all of this is leading to the fact that tomorrow will be a day of cooking. I can feel it (fingers crossed, pretty please). And tonight? One of blissful sleep, if I have anything to say about it.

(Given that we’ve had three wake-ups already due to molars, just like every other night this week, I am clearly delirious).

Torn in all directions

My daughter hasn’t wanted me to put her down lately. I get home from work and she clings on for dear life all evening and throughout the night, crying when I put her down to make dinner and, after bedtime, waking when I attempt to regain a little space of my own. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I love that she finds comfort in my presence. On the other hand, I’ve always needed some space of my own and am finding it difficult to fulfil this need.

This is one of the challenges I’ve found most difficult in becoming a mother thus far. My daughter’s persistent and communicative and very sure of her needs. My career (up until this point) has been all demanding. My husband, primary carer to my daughter most days, needs his space as well when I get home from work. And so I find myself torn: my own needs are often in conflict with all of these demands. I want to make everything better for everyone else, because I was brought up to put others’ needs before my own. If I do this, though, cracks begin to appear in my character; my resilience fades. In the process, my worst personality traits become amplified in all the caring for everyone before taking care of myself.

I want to provide positive examples of how to balance needs for my daughter, who will one day face some of the challenges I’m struggling to cope with now. She’s persistent and stubborn, is quick to anger and slow to forgiveness, and also needs her space–all characteristics I’ve been known to exhibit from time to time, to the point where, some days, I feel like I’m staring at a reflection of myself as I try to read my daughter’s anger. My poor mother. My daughter will survive as I did, but I’d like her to have an easier time managing these traits, so she can channel them into something positive. I guess I’ll have to figure out how to do that for myself first.

I keep reminding myself that these days are like these trips we used to take through the canyons of the Blue Mountains. You get through unworkable challenges with persistence, grit, and a bit of blood, only to find a view that makes it all worth it on the other side. We’ll make it, one slippery step at a time.

Meanwhile, in reality…

Academia is an odd place to exist sometimes. I am currently surrounded by a generation of people who have spent a lifetime working towards one goal, and a generation after that who cannot afford to do anything but be everything to everyone in search of a wisp of a promise of being employed a little longer, and one more generation still who has not yet caught on to the reality of the scheme. Is this a picture painted by cynicism? Or simply a realistic picture of what academia has become?  The number of people have grown considerably, but the size of the money pot has remained (at best) the same.

I leave in a week and a half.

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Quiet time

It’s Friday night and I am already in bed, listening to my daughter breathe rhythmically next to me. She’s never been a good sleeper. We gave up on the cot long ago, except as an extension to our bed, because at bedtime, she went into a panic whenever we would lower her onto her mattress. She preferred to be right up close to me, her fingers curled around my shirt collar–her way of keeping me there just for her.

Before she arrived, I never thought I’d be sitting here, watching an infant (now toddler) sleep night after night for over a year. But she was so persistent, so determined. Any attempt at sleep training failed, and honestly, can I fault her? We’re asking her to go against her instincts, to cooperate, and to abandon her persistence. I suspect these traits–so irksome now (or are they?)–will serve her well one day. Once we stopped trying to change her and simply worked on accepting things as they were, I stopped minding the arrangement. It may be unusual and it has taken some sacrifice, but it works for us.

If there’s a lesson in there, it is this: what works for you and your family may surprise you. Embrace what feels right, whatever it happens to be, and forget everyone else.