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The eight things I’m most often asked about

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I get a lot of questions about my new foster caring life.  I thought I’d share a few  of the questions I get asked the most here. Keep in mind that every fostering experience is unique, so if you’re considering foster care, you may find that you go through something entirely different.

How long will she be with you?

I put my hand up for permanent care, so my little one is with me permanently!  That is, until she’s 18 – a legal adult.

Not every foster carer is up for permanent care. You can choose what’s best for you. You might care for a child for the short-term, until a permanent home can be found. You might take on emergency care, where you can get a call at any time of the day or night to care for a child for one or two nights. You might do respite care, which means you’re caring for a foster child, who is already placed with their foster family, for a night or weekend to give the foster parent/s a break. You might do long term care, for perhaps a year or more until the child can move back home with their parent/s or into a permanent foster home.

What’s it like being a mum?

Well, because Miss Joey’s biological family are very much in her life, I don’t see myself as her mum. She has two family members she calls mum already, as well as her previous foster carer. I’m her legal guardian and her carer. I wouldn’t want to replace her mums anyway. I want her to have a happy, loving, healthy relationship with them. However, if she does choose to call me mum one day, then I am ok with that. :)   Whatever I am in her life, and whatever Miss Joey chooses to call me, it’s a given that I will love, cherish and care for her just like a real mum.

Have you totally fallen in love?

No, not at first. To my huge surprise, I didn’t immediately fall in love with my little bundle of cuteness, cheekiness and attitude. It took a while, and the love is still growing each day.  But I knew it would get better, and it has. We were warned in our training that we might not always like a child who’s placed with us; behaviours can be challenging, personalities might not always mesh, they are likely to have a range of social issues and, of course, you need to grow close to someone to truly fall in love. Every child is so different and my little one is so very different in needs, personality and behaviours to myself so I have really had to work hard to understand her.

Was it difficult to become a foster carer?

I don’t think so. I had three, two hour assessment sessions with someone hired by my agency. We went through a huge amount of questions, some really personal and soul-searching, but I thought it was important for me to deeply consider whether I was really ready to be a foster carer, especially on my own. There were also two full-day information sessions which were very heavy, as we learned about abuse with examples, how abuse and trauma can affect a child, behavioural issues, the importance of respecting cultural and social differences and more.  There was plenty of legal paperwork, like getting the Working with Children certificate, police checks and doctor’s authorisation to release my medical records. In the end, I thought I would have been required to have more training but that’s all it took!

How long did it take for her to be placed with you?

Amazingly, Miss Joey needed a permanent home around the time that I signed up with the agency. It was perfect timing. The agency obviously had to wait until I’d finished my training and assessment, and was approved to be a foster carer.  Once approved, Miss Joey moved in about two weeks later. It was meant to take 6 weeks, with visits and overnights so that she could get to know me, but she needed to move quickly out of her previous foster home.

Do you have to own your own home?

No. I rent and that’s ok. As long as the house and surrounds are safe for the child, it’s ok not to own your own home.

Do you need to quit work to be a foster carer?

Because Miss Joey was old enough for child care, I could keep working.  I was able to go part-time for a few months, which was fantastic. I’d prefer to have her in childcare only two or three days a week. Fortunately, she loves it. I try to make up for it on weekends and before and after work. I’m lucky that I can make use of flexible working hours to try to ensure her days aren’t too long.

Sometimes, the child’s needs might require you to quit work or work part time. This story about needing to quit work for the child’s sake is really insightful and touching. I also love this post about a foster carer who realised she needed to be there full time for her foster kids.

Can you say no?

This is in reference to accepting a child being placed in your home. Yes, you can say no.  You can say no if you feel you’re not emotionally, or otherwise, ready after the last placement or if you don’t think you can handle the situation, behaviours and so on of the child who needs a home. Before you start fostering, you can discuss with your caseworker what kinds of situations you think you can handle, ages and gender you’d prefer and so on. When you have your assessment, this will also be discussed and your assessor will be happy to help you explore this.

Got any more questions for me?  I’d love to hear from you!  Leave a comment with your questions and I’ll answer them in a follow-up post!

 

 

17 simple, quick tips for saving

 

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It turns out that living in a two bedroom apartment near the beach in Sydney is a fantastic way to shock yourself into budgeting in a serious way. Sure, I could live somewhere cheaper to rent, but check out the pros: the greatest neighbours, beaches pretty much on my doorstep, fresh air, quiet streets (no rattling trains! no low flying planes!) and a light-filled, high ceiling-ed, wood floored apartment. Total heaven.

My apartment block has total old-school neighbourhood action: sharing home made cakes, ice cream and jam; minding each other’s gardens and pets while away; passing on clothes and toys that kids have grown out of; popping by for a glass of wine in the evening; babysitting each other’s kids; borrowing cups of sugar, bike oil and tools. I basically never want to move out.

However, in order to keep on living where I do, I had to take a good hard look at my total lack of financial nous. It’s just too easy in Sydney to spend a lot.  These tips might not be for everyone, but they’re a few little things that are working for me:

1. Track spending.

The idea with this is to see where my money is going by writing down, each day, what I’ve spent money on. It was easy to see where the big bucks were going, and cut out that spending, but I was still running out of cash before the next pay day. Within just a few days, it was obvious that the little things I’d buy here and there were adding up: lunches, afternoon snacks, impulse buys and cheap stuff.  No matter how cheaply the op shop or the discount store is selling something, if you don’t need it, you don’t need it.

2. Stop (the impulse buying), collaborate (with your goals) and listen (to your sensible inner voice).

First, as I mentioned above, a lot of my spending is (was!) on impulse buys – a dash into the bottle-o when I walk past on my way home after work, another book for Miss Joey at the discount book shop, a bottle of nail polish that catches my eye while standing in the queue.

Now I ask myself if I really need it: Couldn’t I mix in some nail polish remover to the half full bottle of my favourite nail polish that’s gone a bit gluggy?  Can I whip something up from what’s in the fridge rather than buy more groceries (the answer is almost always yes)?  Do I really need pears when there are bananas, oranges, apples and watermelon at home, even if I only feel like eating a pear? When it’s raining, do I really need to buy yet another umbrella when I already have four at home? Sure I’ll get wet, but a bit of rain isn’t going to kill me. Do I really need to buy that thing for the kid, no matter how cheap it is, when she begs me for it?

3. The wardrobe is full. Don’t buy anything that has to go in it.

I don’t need any more clothes. I really don’t. It’s cringeworthy to admit this, but shopping was, once upon a time, a fun thing to do on a weekend or an evening at home on the internets. What a past-time. There are so many better things to do with your time!

In light of my total lack of need for anything at all to wear, I’m pulling out the big guns and killing my clothes spending for A FULL YEAR.  12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. This is terrifying!  It’s March 1st today. Check in with me on Feb 28th, 2017 to see if I really did this impossible thing!

To remove temptations, I’ve unsubscribed to all the online store and fashion newsletters, I don’t visit their websites anymore and I don’t go window shopping. And I breathe deeply and ride the temptation like a good addict does.  Instead, I’m focussing on getting a high from watching my savings increase.

4. Eat my own food out of my own fridge.

Even the cheapest lunches ($5 banh mi, $7 salad, $10 bowl of ramen), twice daily coffees and 3pm sugar fixes add up.  It’s pretty rewarding to see how much more cash is in my purse at the end of a week, now that I’m bringing lunch almost every day, cutting the coffee to one a day and making my own 3pm snacks.  The bonus is, I’m eating much more healthily!

Then there’s brunch. Weekend brunch – any day brunch! – is the greatest. Because it’s so great, it used to happen at least two or three times a week in my old life. Not anymore. A four year old is completely underwhelmed by brunch and it’s just not enjoyable or relaxing taking her out. The result is up to $75 a week more in the purse.  That’s $3,900 a year. Hello, holiday cash! Of course, I haven’t cut out brunch entirely (that would be cruel) but instead of three times a week, I do brunch maybe three times a month. That’s totally acceptable, right?

I am pretty much forced not to be able to go out for drinks after work or out to dinner, since there is no such thing as the impromptu catch-up with friends anymore. Going out has to be pre-planned and organised well in advance, because as a foster carer, I need to use a respite carer or babysitter approved by my agency.  Sure, it makes life a little tedious and monotonous to be at home so much, but I tell myself this isn’t for forever and the one-on-one time with her, predictable routine and structure is just what Miss Joey needs.

5. Hit up the local library.

With Miss Joey’s developmental delays, having missed out on so much in her short life, and speech problems, reading stories is crucial to helping her catch up. Naturally, I headed straight to the big online discount bookstores to stock up before she moved in.  A few hundred $’s later, you’d think we have an entire library, but not so. All of the books fit onto just one shelf!

Then I discovered our local library. I hadn’t been to a library for years! Ours also has a toy library (which doubles as a play room, despite all the signs not to play with the toys), a godsend on a rainy day when we go a little stir crazy stuck inside my tiny apartment.  Plus, it means I don’t have to find a way to fit more toys into my tiny apartment. It’s perfect!

6. Close down streaming video and music accounts.

This was a super tiny saving, considering most of these services cost less than $12 a month. But there is no point having a couple of accounts when one will do.

7. Freeze the credit card.

I read an article recently that suggested literally freezing your credit card: put it in a bag of water and keep it in your freezer. Hilarious! At first I laughed. Now I am seriously considering it.

Having said that, I have two new rules for the credit card: keep it at home, not in my purse, and use it only for big purchases, like dentist and optometrist bills, health insurance payments, car registration, UNHCR donations and Plan sponsorships. If the money ain’t in my bank account, then I just gotta deal.  I’ve found this change one of the most difficult (I hate saying no to myself and was used to spending whenever I felt like it) and still occasionally pull out the credit card.

8. Give up the drinking at home alone.

This tactic is about stopping the impulse wine buying as I walk past the bottle-o on my way home after work. Now, I may only buy alcohol for a Thing with friends, like dinner, cards night or a picnic.

9. Walk everywhere and ride the bike.

The walking bit is easy. I much prefer walking to the local shops for my weekend papers, bread and coffee, or strolling to the local beaches and playgrounds. Forget about trying to find a parking spot around here. It’s just not worth driving.

The bike riding …. well, let’s just say I have been putting this off far too long. Google Maps says that my work is only 10kms from home. I don’t believe it.  But I’ve just purchased a kids bike seat to attach to my bike, so I can ride the kid to child care and myself to work. It’s going to be totally do-able. I think. Again, it’s just a small saving of maybe between $30 – $40 a week on public transport costs, but it adds up. I plan on using those savings for a little holiday to Byron Bay.

10. Make friends with the op shop.

My local op shops are a frugal shoppers’ bonanza!  Gotta love an op shop in an affluent suburb.  I always visit op shops in regional areas, when away and on Sunday drives. You can still find real-deal vintage in these remote shops, as well as incredible bargains.

11. Spend less on holidays, birthdays and gifts.

Sure, this one makes me feel like a total Scrooge. This Christmas, I just couldn’t afford to spend as much on gifts as I used to.  The gifts I bought were cheaper, and there were less of them, but I tried to find other ways to give, such as baking treats. I also spent a lot less on groceries for Christmas lunch, and discovered that it was still delicious.

This Easter, we’ll dye eggs and decorate them like animals and maybe even try using lace for patterns. Reverse Garbage is a great place to explore for super cheap crafty bits and pieces. The kid doesn’t need a huge bag of chocolate. A couple of little chocolate Easter eggs, hidden around the garden for an Easter egg  hunt, will send her wild with joy and a mighty sugar rush.

For birthdays, I’ve decided to give Miss Joey just one gift of her choice; we’ll visit a toy shop where she can pick the gift out. It’s all about the memories and experiences, not the stuff, right? She receives so many presents from her family, as their way of showing love, that she doesn’t need more.

Birthday parties don’t need to cost a lot either. Miss Joey’s birthday is in the warmer months, so I plan to hold her party outdoors at the local park, where the kids can run around and messy games can be played.

All the typical party games don’t need a lot of spending, if any at all. Here are a million ideas which need nothing at all, or you can use things you already have or buy cheaply: water balloon toss, pin the tail on the donkey (if you just print out the pictures rather than buy the game), hanging donut eating competition, egg and spoon race, pass the wet sponge, cotton ball race, bean bag toss (fill cheap balloons up with cheap rice or beans), beach ball pass, bunny or frog hop race (and when the kids are older, sack and three legged races), tunnel relay, Mother May I?, What’s the Time Mr Wolf?, whipped cream lolly bob, statues game and follow the leader. Being outdoors, you could also invent a little obstacle course using the park features, have a lolly hunt and hold a scavenger hunt that requires the kids to collect things from around the park.

12. Buy the cheaper options, use what’s in the fridge and stock up during the big sales.

I used to buy whatever fancy food I felt like eating, whenever I wanted. Not anymore, at least not regularly. Miss Joey’s childcare centre celebrates birthdays with a cake which the family brings in. I’d usually visit the cake shop with it’s amazing $40 cakes, but instead, we swung past the supermarket for a $4 cake. Four year olds can’t tell the difference.

Another cost cutting exercise is to cook with cheaper ingredients, like legumes. Hello, minestrone, chilli sin carne and black bean salsa! I found the Mennonite More with Less cookbook for only $1 – a price that is so incredibly fitting with the Mennonite philosophy of frugality. It was first printed in 1976 and it’s healthy eating advice is still completely relevant today.  It’s hard to believe that now, 40 years after this book was published, health experts are still promoting the exact same themes in this book – to “eat more whole grains and more vegetables and fruits, with less meat, saturated fat, and sugars.”

The Community cookbook is a favourite in my kitchen. It’s jam packed with utterly delicious vegetarian recipes, which are satisfying meals in one. I lend it to whoever will borrow it from me.

And of course, it’s a no brainer to use up what’s in the fridge and cupboard instead of buying more. Once I started paying attention to this, I was pretty surprised (appalled) to see how much food I was throwing out each week.

After Christmas, supermarkets have huge sales. I had no idea just how huge!  As I wandered the local supermarket halfway through January, I couldn’t believe some of the discounts and stocked up on things we use regularly.

13. Cut down on the glamour

Dr Spiller is my favourite moisturiser of all time. After more than 20 years of trying different moisturisers, I finally hit the jackpot. It’s perfect in Sydney’s slightly humid weather.  But when it came time to buy a new bottle, my debit card just couldn’t go there, so I breathed deeply, listened to my sensible inner voice and went a supermarket option. And I’m ok. So is my skin. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my favourite moisturiser next time.  I’m also being super careful about the amount of cleanser and moisturiser I use. I used to slap it on but now I use just the right amount.

Impulse make up buying, expensive shampoo, regular massages and the occasional facial have also been scrapped for using what I already have, doing my own pedicures at home and visiting my fabulously generous neighbour for free remedial massages! Win!

14. Grow your own veggies

Either grow them at home, or join a local community garden. Sure, there is a commitment involved. If you’re growing your own garden, it needs daily love and a working bee every weekend.  I’ve joined my local community garden, which requires members to attend the working bees each month, do composting courses and show up in-between the working bees to take care of the plot or plants that are your specific responsibility (mine is two olive trees). As a single carer of a small child, I don’t have much of a social life any more, so it’s not too difficult to make the commitment. Plus, it’s a fun thing to involve children in. Miss Joey helps weed, water and tend the plants, and she loves it. It might be a lot of work and commitment but home grown veggies taste SO much more delicious!

15. Do the free version.

Find free things to do for fun! We visit local playgrounds and water parks, kids bike tracks, the beach and farmers markets. We take our own balls and other toys to play with, since Miss Joey is crazy for throwing and kicking balls around.  Rather than buy from the market stalls or park kiosk, we always bring drinks and snacks from home. This also helps me feel like I’m doing the environment a favour.

Instead of joining a gym, I’ve found ways to exercise outdoors such as walking, yoga (using downloaded audio classes to follow along to), cycling, roller skating, hiking and swimming in the ocean. This is easy in Sydney, where the weather is beautiful and mild most of the year round, so that you can exercise outdoors even in the middle of winter. Let’s face it, a Sydney winter isn’t really winter at all.

There are plenty of free online classes, like yoga, pilates and HIIT sessions. From all the freely available workout information around, I’ve made up my own exercise plan, using a different set of exercises for each session.  The idea is to do at least three sessions a week so that I can be sure I get an all-round workout.

16.  Change who you’re using for car share.

I was using Go Get.  Then I discovered Car Next Door. It’s cheaper, super easy to use and just as reliable and professional.

17.  Exchange kids’ clothes, books and toys with friends.

This is a no brainer and obviously mums have done this since forever and you are probably doing this right now.

What’s up next?

Still  on my list are those changes that require a lot of research and thought. Do I put more into my superannuation?  What about health insurance – should I change companies?Should I get a different credit card? Once I’ve saved enough, is it wise to invest in stocks? So many of all the questions.

Obviously, all these tips are no-brainers and most people are probably sensibly living like this. I wasn’t, though, and it’s amazing to see how much I can save by changing my spending habits in such simple, quick ways.

 

 

 

 

 

Bonding, attachment and <3

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If I think too hard about it, it all gets really weird in my head, this thing where I’m raising someone else’s daughter for them. We’re virtually strangers, with one very important little human that ties us together. Even though my little one can’t grow up with her biological family, it’s still really important for her to know them and stay in touch with them.

She’s very loved by her family, and although she has very little attachment to them, at least right now (although she does LOVE seeing them! hello, non-stop attention, presents and endless bags of chips!), I hope that she and they will develop a loving, close and stable relationship.  She can only see her family on the eight days a year that have been allocated for family visitation, and the visits last for only two hours. There are no phone calls, letters, emails or anything else in between.  That’s not much time in which to grow a relationship!

To help her family get to know her, there are a few little things I’ve started doing that I hope they appreciate and find useful:

a) print out all the photos I’ve taken since their last visit, so they can see what she’s been up to

b) make sure that collection of photos includes some of her playing with the gifts and wearing the clothes they’ve given to her

c) write out a little list of games  and activities she enjoys, toys she loves playing with, stories we’re reading right now, what she likes watching, her favourite things to eat, how her health and wellbeing is and how she’s doing educationally.

d) help Miss Joey make handmade cards and/or draw pictures for them

e) and, if I have time which I usually don’t, bake cookies or cupcakes with Miss Joey (& take photos of that!) to take along to the visits

This is such a useful article on why it’s so important for foster children to maintain contact with their biological family.  A quick snapshot from the article:

“It’s widely recognised that maintaining contact between children and their biological parents and siblings is the most important factor influencing outcomes for children in out-of-home care. This contact is a key factor in the development of children’s identities and resilience, and their perceptions of security and stability.”

 

9 gifts to buy when you have no idea

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It’s not easy to buy gifts for someone you hardly know, apart from who they barrack for.  And it’s especially hard when it’s someone related to the small person you’re fostering.  You want to get the gift right!

Actually, buying for the ladies in my little one’s life is easy – and heaps fun! Crazy nail polish, gorgeous lip gloss, scented candles, colourful beach towels, T2 teas … we could be here all day listing awesome gifts for mum and stepmum.

But dad and grandpa are another story. I have NOOOO idea!  My budget is about $30 per gift, and wow, it is HARD to find something that’s a) unique, b) not related to alcohol in any way at all – no bottle openers, chill bags, stubby holders, nothing (just in case there is a problem there), c) not chocolate and d) still high quality.

Here are nine gifts ideas that are a little different and could suit almost any bloke:

  1. An external battery for the smartphone. At $30, you won’t get a big battery, but that’s ok.
  2. Portable wireless speakers. Again, $30 won’t get you a quality brand, and the speaker/s will be tiny, but you can find some good-looking speakers at this price. It’s style over substance with this one. Hopefully the giftee likes your style. ;)
  3. Portable phone charger.
  4. Cooler/freezable lunch bag. There are some great bloke-friendly bags around!  Try stores like Howard’s Storage World, Adairs and Bed Bath and Beyond.
  5. Although I prefer to steer away from gift cards, I’ve decided that if I’m desperate, I’ll hit up JB-HiFi, a hardware store or Dick Smith Electronics.
  6. A small multi-tool / pocketknife kind of device, like a Leatherman. It’s going to be a minimalist gift at this budget but you can still get great quality.
  7. A printed photo of the little one, framed. I hit up op shops for photo frames; you can find brand new, still packaged frames for just a few bucks.
  8. Or a printed photo on canvas, unframed (unless you want to be spending a lot more than $30).
  9. A photo book.  You can even create and order the photo books and printed canvas online. Don’t even have to get out of your chair.

It goes without saying that a handmade card is also a really nice touch – the scribbled pictures, messiness and handwritten name make it all the more personal and special.

If you’ve got any suggestions and ideas, let me know in the comments. Is there anything you do to help make gift giving that much more personal and genuine?  I’ve got a lot of years of gift buying ahead of me; I need all the inspiration I can get!

Never stop reading

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Somewhere, somehow, I once heard or read that it’s important to read stories to children because it helps to develop their vocabulary and speaking abilities. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I like to think it’s true. Besides, how great is reading!

When Joey moved in with me, she’d only started speaking about two months prior. So, her speech was very delayed for a three year old – she was just like a 1 year old learning to talk. She also has a speech disorder, so that, combined with the delayed speech, makes her very difficult to understand.  She finds it really frustrating when people don’t understand her, and if she’s tired, that can lead to a tantrum. The joy.

So what better way to help improve her speech and vocabulary than reading her books! (well, obviously speech pathology helps too! we’re seeing the most wonderful speech pathologist each week, who not only helps with Joey’s speech but also gives me fantastic parenting tips because I have NO idea what I’m doing here; I just love her).

Thanks to the internets, it’s a little too easy to buy books and I may have overdone it … I figure that as she grows out of them, I can pass them on to my nieces and friend’s kids. That’ll help with the tree-killing guilt. :) But I must start visiting the local library, too.

The website I ordered from oddly sends books one by one, so Joey and I would come home each day to find yet another small cardboard package on the doorstep. How exciting!

Well, it was exciting for me. Not so much for Joey. She played with the advertising material in the packages and completely ignored the books.  I don’t think anyone had read her stories before. She didn’t know how to sit still and listen, concentrate for that long or follow along with the story. I’d have to read the book over the top of her while she chattered away, asking a million questions that were usually completely irrelevant.  I think it was her way of causing distraction because she didn’t understand and couldn’t follow along with the story.

Eventually, I worked out that I needed to point to the pictures as I read, so that she knew where we were up to in the story and could follow along more easily.  To hold her attention, I put to use my “incredible” acting abilities for characters’ voices and sound effects.  I hope it also entertained the neighbours; my small apartment block is not very soundproof and one story has a very noisy, screeching monster which Joey and I like to imitate…  Sorry, neighbours!

But what a difference persistence, “incredible” acting and three months makes! She even begs for more stories (although I suspect that’s also because she’s trying to avoid bedtime). She is now also able to choose books for bedtime stories herself. Which isn’t always a good thing. It usually means the same story every single night for one or two weeks.

In addition, her vocabulary and speech has improved so much. We can almost have a conversation these days.  She has more words to use so can be more expressive and specific, enjoys copying me when I use new – and impressively big! – words and can put together simple sentences. It’s not at the level of a typical three year old, but compared to three months ago, it’s pretty amazing.  I’m hoping that by the end of the year, she’ll have almost caught up.

Joey also (finally!) listens the whole way through with just the regular amount of toddler interruptions.  She’s even recently started looking at books all on her own!  As a life-long book lover, that just thrills me to bits. Sometimes she likes to read me the story, and I know I’m biased, but it is the cutest thing.

I’m always on the hunt for more books, so if you’ve got any tips, let me know!

It’ll all be fine

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You imagine to yourself, pre-child, what life is going to be like when she moves in but of course, as every parent could have told me, it NEVER turns out like you think it will.  And of course, you have so many plans for how you’ll raise an active, healthy, smart and stylish little human. Sugar free, veggies with every meal, no pink clothes, minimal tv watching… ha! WHAT was I thinking?! Those good intentions all went out the window pretty quickly…

As well as being this impossibly incredible parent/foster carer who is always patient and never tired or grumpy, you decide that your life shouldn’t be dictated by this cute little human and hope that you’re going to be able to keep some semblance of a normal life. But what even is normal?

This is the new normal, in which:

  • you never get the kid’s laundry done often enough (this kid is so messy that she has more outfit changes a day than a Kardashian), so to keep the wardrobe stocked for these multiple outfit changes, you take anything that looks clean and doesn’t smell too bad back out of the laundry basket.
  • you’re ok with having a shower every couple of days (well, in winter anyway)
  • beach swims take care of the kid’s evening bath
  • because this little human is extremely fussy about food, meals tend to be sourced primarily from the protein, grain and dairy food groups. You begin to experience daily intense cravings for salads and vegetables.
  • bribery is way cool, you decide
  • you become the world’s leading expert in negotiation skills
  • when you win a war of wills, you do a happy dance which you’ve choreographed specifically for being a winner, text your girlfriends and say over and over to yourself “I won! I won!”
  • you never have the energy to make yourself dinner after a full day of work and child wrangling and delivering dinner to the child, so toast, cheese, dips and crackers becomes your staple evening diet (while you’re still desperately craving those veggies and salad)
  • that thing where you said you will never eat what the kid doesn’t finish – well, that sure changes
  • your coffee intake doubles, and on some days, triples
  • your alcohol intake drops almost completely, except for those nights where you totally NEED a wine; then you accidentally have three or four glasses and get sloshed because you’re out of practice (but that’s ok, because you NEEDED it).
  • you will find yourself eating at Macca’s again, 24 years after you last went anywhere near the place, and you will actually think to yourself in horror “That wasn’t too bad.”
  • the morning bus becomes a perfectly acceptable place to finish putting her shoes on and brushing her hair. Sometimes, even to completely dress and feed her.
  • you realise that your life revolves around her; there is no more you; you are the Borg.
  • you discover how incredibly kind, generous, thoughtful and helpful perfect strangers are, as well as your own friends, family and colleagues

In the end, my new life motto for child raising is “whatever works!” The kid is alive and well. That’s enough for me. I should pour myself another glass of wine to celebrate.

Props to all the single parents

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Bone tired. It really is a thing. I always thought it was just a saying, but now I know it’s a saying based on fact.  When you are so utterly, completely, totally spent, you can feel the exhaustion deep into your bones. I can’t even describe the feeling, but it is SO intense.

The first four nights after Joey moved in, all I could do was lie on the couch, staring at the ceiling, sapped of all energy, right down to the inside of my bones. Forget about laundry, vacuuming, washing the dishes or even trying to communicate with other humans. I nodded to myself as I lay there, thinking “It’s true. Bone tired is a Real Thing. Who knew?!”

Well, I’m pretty sure all the single parents know about it. Hats off to all the single parents out there. You guys are AMAZING!!  I knew that taking care of a child was going to be tough on my own, but unless you’ve been there yourself, you don’t truly KNOW-know it, if you know what I mean. Now I think I’ve got an inkling. It’s only been three months, so obviously there is a lot more to find out! But I do know now: Single parenting is seriously hard work.

For starters, you’re ‘on’, 24/7.  It is never-ending. Even in the middle of the night, I feel like my nerves never completely relax – I’m always on alert.

The demands and needs of a child are constant, except when they’re asleep (and how great is it once they’ve gone down for the night?! Now I know what all you parents were talking about with such joy – that time in the evening that’s ALL YOURS after the kids are in bed!! I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN)

I didn’t quite comprehend how much my life would no longer be my own life; instead, life now completely and fully revolves around a small child. Day in and day out, it is just her and I.

There is no one to take over when you need to step outside for a breather during a tantrum. There is no one to take over at the beach, when you’re bored out of your mind with tossing a child into the water over and over and over and over… and over. There is no one to help out during the evening routine, so that the nights end up blurring into each other with mind-numbing sameness.

Sometimes you just want to talk – to debrief at the end of a day, but it’s just you and the cat sitting there on the couch, and she’s not a great conversationalist. She IS a great cuddler and listener, though, and also enjoys ice cream.

Luckily I have wonderful, brilliant, fabulous girlfriends who put up with my incessant over-sharing.  Without them, I’d go mad (although perhaps I’m driving them mad). The bonus of doing it on your own is that you don’t have to share your Maggie Beer burnt fig ice cream with anyone (except maybe the cat)!! :) (this has resulted in a LOT of ice cream being eaten on my couch; if anyone has any recommendations for amazing ice creams other than Maggie Beer, word me up, because I’m so ready to diversify)