At Home Mums' Blog

Take a light hearted look at the issues faced by mums home with the kids. Read some personal views on the challenges of raising children today, and the pressures mums face. My website - - has some more serious and hopefully useful stuff on all these topics. I'd love to get your comments and advice. If anyone out there can help this mum maintain her sanity, it would be much appreciated!

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Thursday, 26 February 2009

Four year old friendships

My 4 1/2 year old has gone back to pre-school this year to a new class, with new children. Her 3 special friends from last year have gone to school, and she's feeling slightly lost. And I feel for her. I think one of my concerns is that she is not going to be naturally outgoing and make friends easily, due to the genes. Neither Dad or I can claim to be party animals. In fact, since having children, we've been pretty anti-social in the precious time we have to ourselves.

At the age of 3 1/2 when she first started pre-school, Holly was still happy to play alongside other children. Parallel play, I think they call this stage. Over the last year, I have seen her develop friendships and learn to play with other children, and it's lovely to see. The downside now is that she's less inclined to play by herself and wants someone to play with her. Thank goodness for a generally obliging younger brother and neighbours with children the same age! She is also much more aware of specific friendships.

Her three special friends last year were boys, all a bit older than her, but relatively quiet. Holly is a trains and cars type of girl, not the fairy princess type, which meant they naturally enjoy the same toys. There's a middle ground developing, which includes playing mums and dads, tying up her hair and a drift towards skirts and dresses, but the favourite games still involve the cars and trains. This has been quite useful for Michael as second child and means our house is a haven of toys for boys.

Last year's play could be joint games, but could just as easily be friends playing alongside each other with different toys. Eight months later, Holly 'needs' a little friend to play with her.

This causes some distress when said little friend doesn't want to play the game Holly has chosen. Tears usually follow and I end up worrying the little friend won't want to come round again.

What I'm forgetting is that they forgive and forget much more easily than we do.

The first time Holly came home and told me her little playmate had said to her 'I'm not your friend', I was devastated for her, and tried to get from her why and what had happened, but she was pretty much matter of fact about it, and the following day there was no sign of any dispute. 'You're not my friend' became a regular with her brother and we've now moved to a more sophisticated level of 'if you don't do this exactly as I want, I won't be your friend'. This applies to me too. 'I'm not your friend mummy'. The power of friendships.

One of the old friends from last year dropped in with a birthday party invitation yesterday, and I swear it took the two children a whole ten minutes before they said a word to each other. And just as they got comfortable again, the friend had to leave.

Last year, as long as one of the three boys were there, pre-school drop of was okay.

Now, faced with a pre-school room full of kids who all look like they're playing happily together, it's daunting for her. I'd be the same. Go to a party now, and I've no idea how to break into a conversation. A glass of red wine seems to do the trick. Something to hold, and help you relax. But I can't really recommend that one to Holly...

I'd love her to grow up with the confidence to walk into that room and feel comfortable striking up a conversation, or joining a group.

Pre-school drop off have become harder again, but I bit the bullet early and enlisted some help from Holly's new teacher, explaining that she might be missing her friends. We are also sharing lifts with a new neighbour who just happens to have a child in the same class as Holly, who is outgoing and confident. She is now Holly's new best friend, and not surprisingly, Holly doesn't kick up a fuss for them at drop off. She reserves that for me!

The teacher also talked to me about making play dates after pre-school and encouraging friendships by catching up in our own time. I encouraged the friendships last year, inviting her friends for play dates and letting her go to the neighbours, and we had plenty of interaction with children her age. So now I too have to start again with a whole new set of mums who all look like they know each other, and you know what ? That's not much easier at 40 something than at 4!

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Monday, 23 February 2009

Managing children's behaviour - where to find help - Over 1.5 Million Book Titles

If your toddler or pre-schooler is displaying difficult behaviour, don't dispair, there is help out there. One thing you should understand is that they all do it. It is not just your child who has tantrums, whinges, beats up her brother, ignores your requests, forgets how to share and displays the same disruptive behaviour day afer day despite your efforts to change it.

I guess I didn't realise this to start with. I hadn't experienced the terrible twos, or understood that they morph into the trying threes and the testing, troublesome fours. It's a learning experience and until you have children, even if you work with them, you don't realise what's involved. The children save their worst behaviour for you, not for day care or the babysitter, and it's a constant challenge to deal with it and maintain your cool.

One of the easiests avenues for help is the local library or bookstore. I have two authors I recommend: Christopher Green, who wrote 'Toddler Taming', and Steve Biddulph, who has a series of books including 'The Secret of Happy Children', 'Raising a Happy Child' and 'Raising Boys'.

There are an awful lot of parenting books out there, but these are well written, with a sense of humour and real life examples you can relate to. They contain a lot of good advice, without preaching. They remain light hearted, and make it is easy to pick and choose the things that might help you in your relationship with your children.

Toddler Taming specifically addresses the issues of the toddler years, including sleep problems, toilet training, positive discipline, dealing with tantrums and sibling rivalry. Dr Green also looks at child care options and early learning for your child. The basic message is that in order to be an effective parent, you need to know what to expect and have the self confidence to get through each stage. He brings a sense of humour and common sense to day to day issues and hopes to bring the fun back into childcare.

For UK readers, have a look on

For US readers, find Toddler Taming on

Steve Biddulph has written a series of books on how to raise happy children. I am currently reading 'More Secrets of Happy Children' and keep finding bits I can relate to. One of the big things is balancing 'Soft Love' - the ability to be relaxed, warm and affectionate, with 'Firm Love' - the ability to be kind but firm with children. He has a technique he calls 'stand and think' which is an alternative to 'time out' or a 'naughty spot', which enables the child (and parent) to resolve an issue without hurt, shame or fear. I'm going to try this with my 4 1/2 year old, so I'll let you know how we go!

Biddulph also says that raising little children is easier if you have a goal to aim for. Your aim is to produce, by the age of 5 or so, a civilised child who can go to school, stay at a friend's place, mix with other children and talk to adults in a comfortable way. They will still have lots to learn, but they will have moved to a level of understanding beyond the here and now and all about me world of a toddler.

Peronally, I have about 11 months before the first year of school, and I've got a hell of a lot to do! Luckily some of this comes naturally. Your child wants to be kind, friendly and co-operative, but needs help to learn how.

Persistence and good humour are what are needed from the parents. I have to say I struggle with this sometimes. What we also need is sleep and time out for ourselves in order to find that persistence and good humour.

Biddulph's books are all about communication - what we say and how we communicate, through words and actions, with our children, affects the little people they grow into.

To get a copy of Biddulph's books in the UK, look at

For copies from the US, look on

The Nile -Australia's Largest Online Bookstore

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Thursday, 19 February 2009

Or the patience of a mum

I realise today, I don't even have the patience I need for my own children. Specifically, I don't have the patience to deal with 'bad' behaviour. And it happens every day at the moment, say 20 times a day.

The two specific things are rough behaviour and basically just not doing what I ask.

My 4 1/2 year old is very rough with her brother. They play well together and have lots of fun, but it always ends in tears, generally because Holly has been too rough. She hugs him tightly round the neck, she pulls his clothes, she kicks and hits and pokes. She hugs him until it hurts and jumps on top of him. He bit her today, twice, and although he got told off, who can blame him, really?

We wrote some house rules with Holly's help a while ago. They include 'No hitting', 'No kicking', 'No biting', 'No pushing'. She knows them, and will happily remind Mikey of them when required. She is punished if she breaks a rule, through time out, or removal of TV rights or stories, which are two things that get a reaction.

But there doesn't seem to be any learning involved.

Then there's the doing what she's asked to. I ask them to come and sit up for dinner, Holly says no, therefore Michael says no. It's not like they didn't know it was nearly dinner time, or that they don't have to do it every day, but she seems to take a delight in basically just not doing what she's asked to. Maybe it's testing me. Let's see which of mummy's buttons I can press today. Which reaction will I get?

I plump for the, 'well I'm sitting down for dinner, if you want to join us, do', option. Followed by the 'if you don't come to dinner, there will be nothing else to eat for the rest of the day, and that includes treats' option. Michael, I can still persuade to the table. He is copying, not originating the behaviour, so his motives aren't as strong. Not that I really know what the motive is...

We went to the pool shop today, which has a nice toy area the children can play in while I get the water checked and buy the bits and pieces I need. The kids like a trip to the 'Pool Doctor', so we stayed a while, but at some point it was time to leave, and that's where the problems started. Tell me what I'm doing wrong? I gave them a five minute warning, and I know that they don't understand what 5 minutes means, but I then gave them a 4 minute warning, then 3 minute, then 2 minute, then 1 minute, then I told them it was time to go. And Holly said no, so I told her that if she wasn't going to come nicely with me, I would pick her up and carry her out. She didn't come, so I picked her up and carried her under my arm. She kicked and screamed and with one free arm clawed at my face and scratched me. I put her in the car and said no television for the rest of the day.

I'm seriously not sure how else I could have dealt with the situation. And the worst thing is, I feel angry and upset with my child almost every day, and unhappy that this happens.

So what am I going to do? I've decided I need a break occasionally. Specifically from the dinner and bedtime routine. Now all I need to do is find a great babysitter, or persuade dad it's his turn, and I can get an evening off. The sad thing is I've got no idea what I'd do! Time to find a girl friend who needs a similar escape plan....


Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Patience of a Saint

Patience and tolerance. Two virtues I used to have. But now, I'm losing them. Having children has eroded my good nature towards other people.

Patience is easy to explain. I have not had enough sleep for five years, so natural reserves of patience are low. I have two children who stress the remaining reserves to their limits, so I'm sorry, but there's not much left for outsiders. Actually, come to think of it, there's not even much left for the other half. (And doesn't he know it!)

You would have thought that having children would help teach you patience. But everyone has their limits. One of the things I find hardest is the total lack of urgency even when it's something they have chosen to do. All day they have been nagging me to go in the pool, so as soon as we're home, I switch on the filter, take off the safety net (highly recommend one of these even if it becomes a bit of a chore to take on and off), scoop out any leaves, bugs (and even bandicoots on one occasion), find the costumes, sun cream, hats, floats, goggles and miscellaneous toys required, and go to get them ready.

'Right, anyone ready for a swim??'
'Just a minute mummy.' 'We'll just finish our game mummy.'

'But I thought you wanted to go for a swim?'

'Oh we do mummy, in a minute mummy'

And I look at the clock, see how long we've got before the whole dinner time and evening routine is due to kick start. Not long.

I briefly consider dumping the idea of a swim. They're playing so nicely. But the consequences will be unbearable, so I persuade them that if we don't go in the pool now, it'll get too cold, too late, too dark, and we'll have to wait until another day.

At last, ready. Or ready to get ready at least. And even then, it's hard work. I really don't want to be chasing children round the room with costumes while they dance and sing 'Nudie Dudie' at the top of their voices. And then there's the sun cream torture. It has to be done. Almost every day, it has to be done, but that doesn't mean they'll make it any easier for mum. So I need tactics. Make it fun, make it a job Holly can help with, with lots of praise for the best sun creamer. Let Michael have a go even if he only ever does his right leg below the knee and half of the floor boards. Or I can just pin them down and slather it on as quick as possible (oops, forgot I supposed to be being patient.) There's something to be said for all in one body suits that cover arms legs and require minimum sun cream...

So, swim suits on, hats on, cream on, goggles on, here we go. Well, nearly. First Holly has to get out all the chairs and line them up by the pool for her toys to watch us. And it's fun. For 20 minutes, then we get cold and come out.

And the whinging starts. I'm cold, I want an ice pop, I need to get dressed, I'm hungry. Wrap them up, sit them down with an ice pop, gather up toys and floats and goggles, pop some chlorine in, put the net back on.

Now let's see if we can have a whinge free shower before dinner...

And that just about takes all today's patience resources. Unless I get a reasonable night's sleep, there will be even less available tomorrow. Beware anyone who tries my patience. I have only enough for the children. I need to keep it for them, otherwise I will not be able to cope. I will disintegrate into a shouting, stomping mummy monster.

Tolerance. Slightly different. I find myself fiercely protective of my children and therefore intolerant of behaviour of others that affects them negatively, and yet I expect tolerance of their behaviour. After all, they are only little. My needs have also changed. In the car park, if I can get a spot close to the shops, I take it greedily. A shorter walk with two in tow amongst the cars, relieves a little stress. So, if anyone takes my spot, I curse (quietly of course). I never used to. C'est ls vie, I'd think, in a previous life, what's a few hundred yards matter? Now it matters.

Yet I expect tolerance. My child might run around like a mad thing, nearly knocking people over, but she's little, she's not doing any real harm. So, she's noisy, she has tantrums in public, she whines, she whinges, she dances, she chases her brother and has no sense of those around her. We went in a baby shop the other day to choose a present, and Holly could not resist looking (closely) at the toys on display. The owner seemed unhappy that she touched things, and I didn't like that. If you own a kids shop, you have to expect kids. Provide some toys they are allowed to play with and maybe you'll sell more.

Combine the two; patience and tolerance, and a lack of both, and even the cat suffers. This creature, who was my baby well before my other babies arrived, now annoys me enormously. He miaows loudly in the middle of the night and will try and bang the door down to get attention. I need my sleep; I feed him, a lot, and eventually resort to shutting him in the laundry. Instead of wanting him on my lap, I want freedom. I've had two little people clinging to me all day, I now need some space. Anyone want a cat, who probably just needs a bit of love and attention?


Monday, 16 February 2009

Mum's been got...again

Do your kids behave beautifully for other people, and become a nightmare with you? Do they get glowing reports from pre-school and school, only to turn into horrors when they come home, making you wonder if the school have got the right child?

This, apparently, is normal. From an early age, your baby will learn to push your buttons, and they will continue to push them for as long as they can.

You are programmed to respond to your baby. Remember those first cries, and how heart wrenching they were? The pin prick in the heel when they are a few days old, which made them wail pitifully, and made you breakdown completely; the first immunisations, where dad had to come along to comfort you, not the baby; their first bump or bang, which you actually felt for them. I can picture being in the supermarket when Holly was little and not being able to stand listening to her wailing one minute more, so I fed her, there and then, in front of the yoghurt section, with cameras looking on. It was either that or abandon the shopping, and you know how hard it is to get shopping done...

As they develop, they learn new tactics and at some point they realise they actually have some control over this. They can scream blue murder, and mum will come rushing, they can pester and pester and they learn which behaviour mum gives in to.

And then the language comes and it adds a whole new dimension to the challenge. They can whinge and whine and complain, and beg and plead and drive you completely insane.

So why do they whinge and whine when they get home? Because they can. Because only here do they feel they can get away with it. No teacher is going to put up with that behaviour. No teacher is programmed to their pain and sadness like mum is.

Hey, let's give them their due as well. They have been on their best behaviour for 6 hours, and now they need to let it out. 6 hours build up of worries and stresses and they turn into little whiners.

So what do we do? Firstly, we have to acknowledge what is happening. They are playing you mum, they have got you sussed and you are being taken for a ride. Not your beautiful child? No? Well, maybe only mine then, but she's definitely got me sussed.

I have to be strong and be firm and be consistent. I must switch off to all whinges, I must only respond to polite requests, I must be objective in my analysis of the breakdowns. Is this for real, is she tired, is she hungry, is she after attention, if I respond, am I setting myself up for a fall?

Today, Monday, we are back to pre-school, and Holly does not want to go. I don't think there's a real reason why. She was perfectly happy last week. She wants some sympathy from mum, she wants a cuddle, she wants mum to stay. Mum got frustrated with her not going to bed nicely last night, so she wants some extra attention.

So when I go to leave, she is literally clinging to me, and I have to request some help from the teacher to free myself. And do I feel good about this? No. I feel cruel, I wonder if she has enough friends here, if the teachers treat her nicely, if I've chosen the right pre-school. But when I take a closer look at Holly, she's enjoying herself. I've been got again.

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Sunday, 15 February 2009

Baby Thoughts...

My body is betraying me, and since it has a fairly close relationship with my mind, my mind is joining in to. I think it's something to do with not having enough to think about. Not that there aren't a hundred things to do in a day, but most of it, the washing, the cleaning, the playing, the cooking, even the negotiation and the desperate searching for patience, are all fairly routine stuff. The closest my brain gets to a challenge is doing the Sudoku puzzle in the paper while watching the kids in the bath. So, when it comes down to it, I have not much time to do anything, and a lot of time to think. And the thinking at the moment is about babies. (Don't tell Colin) We have decided we are only having two children as we are older parents (Having had my 41st, I am now definitely in my 40s...) and we don't cope with the lack of sleep as we might have done 10 years ago. There are also other factors such as the money required and the logistics of having three verses two, not to mention the strain it would put on our relationship to go through that baby stage again.

I have been fully on board with this since before we had Michael, but since weaning him off the boob, every month, like clockwork, my body reminds me that it is ovulating, and perhaps I should be doing something about it. It never happened like this before children. My periods were regular, but I used ovulation tests to check when I was ovulating, as I could never be a quite sure. Since babies though, I swear that at that same time mid month each month, my body aches for a day or two at just the time I think I'd be ovulating. For the most part I've just thought, how interesting, my body is telling me what's going on, but recently, it's got worse. Now I feel horny at the same time! So not only is my body telling me time is running out, here's the eggs, give it a go, but it's also saying, go on, here's your man, seduce him!

Colin's not going to complain about that, as I have to admit initiation on my part has not been a frequent event in the last four years, but if he knew the background he'd probably run a mile. Lucky for us, he's in charge of contraception.

I try and logic my feelings. We recently gave away all of our baby things and Michael is two and a half, so we've finished the baby stage for ever. I look in baby shops and there are such great things, which I have no excuse to buy any more. Also, I like my kids at the moment. They play well together, Holly can be caring and sweet to Michael and they have lots of fun. He's also at the great stage of language development which can be really cute and funny. So, I guess I'm just looking at them and thinking, they're not that bad, I could have another one of these.

The other thought is that I'm looking for a sense of purpose. I was talking to a friend about money the other day and how it would be easier if we had sacrificed a bit on location and gone for a smaller mortgage, and she pointed out to me that in a few years time I'll be earning again and it'll be easier. And I thought, oh yes, that's probably right, but what will I be doing?? I have no career plan, apart from looking after the kids, so maybe I'm thinking about babies because it prolongs that sense of purpose. Nine months with a specific goal in mind - to have a healthy baby, and then 3 years before they start pre-school where the focus is 100 percent on caring for my children.

But let's think about those nine months. I had relatively easy pregnancies, but even so, the thought of being pregnant again doesn't really appeal. Nine months of aches and worries, heartburn, breathlessness, clothes not fitting and trousers continually falling down, not to mention lack of sleep, the need to pee at least three times a night and the fact my bladder is almost certain never to recover. Actually the only positive I can think of is the boobs. Be nice to have them back for a little while...

So, pregnancy doesn't appeal, the birth certainly isn't a fun part, and the first 14 to 18 months are knackering, which doesn't do anything for my patience, sense of humour or sex drive.

I've done my bit with breast feeding and have no unfulfilled desires there, I have pureed enough food to last a lifetime and we're looking forward to a nappy free house in the foreseeable future. (How much does two and a half years of nappies cost....?)

And then there's the logistics of the whole thing. Who holds the extra hand, who carries the extra child when everyone wants a carry, who reads the third set of stories before bed, where does the third child sit when two knees are already taken?

Don't get me wrong, if I were 10 years younger, my response to this would probably be to start a round of gentle hints and persuasion with Colin. I admire the mums with three, especially those who maintain a sense of calm, but I set 40 as my own personal no go zone for babies, and I think I should stick with it. After all, instead of potentially straining a beautiful relationship and a happy family, my new found sex drive could make things a lot more fun, at least once a month anyway. Perhaps I should take up crosswords as well as Sudoku...

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Thursday, 12 February 2009

Sleep Deprivation

I'm tired. Everyday I wake up tired. No, let's get it right, I get woken up, tired. All those wise parents tell you about sleep deprivation when you're pregnant, but you never quite get it, until it happens.

And it's not just the babies. Last night my 4 1/2 year old woke up and ended up in our bed. The other half was in Melbourne with work, so I took the easy option and gave her his spot. I'm lucky with Holly - this doesn't happen very often.

Mikey, on the other hand wakes up almost every night, crying. If we ignore it, it escalates. If I go in before he's really woken himself up, I can settle him in a few seconds. But I've still had to wake up, and get out of bed, so the night is disturbed. I've tried doing it half asleep, ended up walking into the stair banister and had a bruise on my hip for weeks.

And on the rare occasions both kids sleep through, I inevitably have to get up for a pee, or the other half can't sleep and as I'm now programmed to wake up for every little noise, he keeps me awake anyway.

So, I should be used to interrupted sleep. What with the pregnancies, it's about 5 years since I went through the night. But it doesn't seem to work like that. At some point I've got to make up for lack of sleep. Maybe when they leave home. But, as my mum says, by then I'll have forgotten how to sleep anyway.

So for all those child free people out there, make the most of it! Treasure your sleep, and don't talk to me about lie ins. I'll just get cranky.


For more information on babies and sleep have a look at my website - At Home Mums

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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Earn money while you're home with the kids

In an ideal world I want to earn lots of money while still being home for my children. I have put an enormous amount of thought into this (after all there's a lot of time for thinking and not much time for doing when you've got a baby to look after) and I have to say, I don't have the perfect solution.

The main problem, which is blindingly obvious really, is that as a new mum you will have no spare time, and if you find your baby asleep for an hour, you will either need to join them for a nap or will have a list of a hundred things to do around the house.

I think, realistically, you should not be dwelling on making money for at least the first 6 months of your baby's life. You should just enjoy it, and look after yourself.

It is tempting to look at those work from home ads in the paper and think they're the answer, but really, if they don't tell you what you are going to be doing to earn all that money, are you really going to want to be doing it? And how many of them are purely and simply scams to get money out of you?

I've tried to be a bit more realistic. I'm not going to earn a fortune all of a sudden in the few hours I can spare, but I might be able to get some extra cash, which would be nice.

I've also come to the conclusion that if you genuinely want to be home for your kids, then you don't have enough time for a serious work from home business or part time work until your kids are at pre-school or school. Of course, there are compromises. We use Occasional Care one day a week while the kids are little. Other lucky mums out there have family who are also happy to help out.

If you want to be home, there are a few jobs that it is possible to do with the children. Family Day Care is one. If you love looking after the kids, then you can set up a Family Day Care business through your local scheme and look after up to 5 kids under school age (including your own) in your own home. This can be a serious business opportunity, but is also hard work. I know because I did it from the time Holly was 8 months until Michael was born.

Another option I can think of that would include the children, is pet minding. Other possibilities such as party plan businesses e.g.Tupperware or Nutrimetrics, tutoring, writing, editing, online surveys, transcription and telemarketing, definitely need some child free time. It may be possible to do this of an evening, but you need good sleepers and a lot of self discipline.

I have a friend who does hairdressing from home. She has a 2 1/2 year old and manages to work with her around, but a lot of her clients are mums who understand the interruptions, and she also swaps babysitting with a friend to allow her time for the business.

If you want information on any of these work at home options, and others, I have more details on my website under Work at Home - Career Options.

The idea I am trying, is making money through affiliate marketing, and this blog is part of that. As you'll see, I have Google ads on my blog. If you were to click on any of these ads, the advertiser then pays Google an agreed fee per click, and I get a commission. There are many other affiliate schemes out there, and I have more information on making money through affiliate marketing on my web site.

The ad below is another example. The Rich Pom has made a lot of money through internet based businesses and he has written a guide to how to do it yourself. I first heard about him on an ad on Mix 106.5 on the radio, and I had a look at his web site. I have to say I hesitated, but eventually succumbed to his sales pitch and bought a copy. I convinced myself it was research for my web site, but in actual fact, his approach is right. If you followed it step by step, or just took the basics, you could make money. I have the advantage that the other half already uses affiliate marketing on his web sites, so we have some knowledge of this area, but we have been able to pick up some marketing tips from the Rich Pom to help increase traffic.

One worth thinking about if you have an existing web site, or a topic you can write about that you think might have an audience out there...

The Rich Pom

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Monday, 9 February 2009

Being in control

'Time to brush your teeth Holly', 'Time to get in the car Holly', 'Let's go Holly'.

'Just a minute Mummy', 'I'm busy Mummy', 'When I've finished this Mummy'.

Now who does that sound like?? I sometimes think it must be hard getting their heads round why it's ok for mummy to be busy when they want something, but when we want them to do something, it's generally now. Establishing who's in charge in our house is an ongoing process, a battle of wills, and you can see sometimes that the kids just want to be in control. I can understand that, I want to be in control as well!

I think there are two things that help. They need plenty of warning, and we need to give some options, so they feel an element of control.

The other half has suggested we need to tell the kids what we're doing sometimes, rather than give them a choice. For example, if you ask Holly if she'd like to go to the beach or watch television, she'd choose the television. Yet if we went to the beach, she would have loads of fun. In this case, we need to guide her to the right choice, or put up with some resistance knowing it'll be alright when we get there.

With some of the little things though, choices are perfect. Do you want the green bowl or the orange bowl for breakfast? Would you like to wear the blue dress or the pink leggings and t-shirt? They then get the chance to make a decision, and for a moment, they are in charge.

Giving too much choice can make life harder though. If I ask Holly to choose what she wants to wear, she's faced with a whole wardrobe of options, and inevitably she'll pick something I wouldn't have chosen.

There've been a couple of times where she's emptied her money box and we've gone to buy a toy. Generally it's narrowed down to a train or a book or something specific, but even then, faced with a whole choice of trains, she struggles to make a decision, wants them all, and things end up getting fraught.

Giving warnings helps the children maintain some control as well. They have no real concept of time, so just because it's 7:30 and bedtime is always 7:30, doesn't mean they'll drop things on request and hop into bed. A 10 minute warning will help, then 5 minutes, then 1 more minute. Ok, so they don't know what 10 minutes means, but they do know that it means soon. Maybe a more specific approach would work better - one more story, or one more turn each, then we have a bath, go to bed, get in the car... or whatever it might be.

It's at this point that they start practicing their negotiation skills and you have to stand firm if you don't want to go through that negotiation every time.

My sister suggested an approach that works with her boys. If you bet them they can't do something, they'll rise to the challenge. I bet you can't get in that car seat before I get round to your door! I bet you can't get the the bathroom before me!

It didn't work with Holly. Her reaction is 'no I can't'. Girls perhaps, are more tricky.

I have found that counting to 3 is a good tool. 'You have the count of three to get in that bathroom'. Usually with an additional 'or else you won't be getting a story tonight' or some other threat I can follow through with. And somehow just starting to count gets a result.

At least it used to. The last time I used this approach, Holly told me I needed to count to 8....

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Saturday, 7 February 2009

Do I need more adult company??

My other half thinks so. He bases this observation on the fact that I had a 20 minute conversation with two Jehovahs witnesses who came to the door on Thursday, and I actually seemed to enjoy it. They came at a good time. We'd just got in from a walk, the baby was asleep and Holly was playing happily, so when someone asked me what I felt about the way mankind was treating the world, and what we should be doing about it, I actually thought about it.

I expressed my views, I asked them theirs and we discussed the issue. They presented their evidence, backed up with a number of quotes from the bible, and I played devil's advocate and asked some tricky, slightly risky questions.

Ok, so I could have phoned a friend, but just because my kids are having a good moment, doesn't mean my friend's are. When was the last time you had a twenty minute, uninterrupted two way adult conversation?? Also Holly has an inbuilt mummy's on the phone monitoring system which switches her into horror mode as soon as she realises I'm talking to someone else, and not her. So, I had my twenty minute adult conversation with the Jehovah's witnesses.

And you know what? I'd love to be as calm and self assured and confident in my beliefs as these two ladies were. But it just isn't going to happen. My logical mind can't quite get it's head around one faith/religion/ denomination being right, and all others having just missed the point somewhere along the way.

I believe in God. I say a little prayer for my two babies before I go to sleep (and I have recently added the other half in 'cause he felt left out). I don't often think much beyond that, mainly because it opens up too many unanswerable questions.

My partner and I have discussed how we would explain death to Holly and Mikey, not because we have had to deal with a berievement, but because we want to be prepared. My Thursday discussion actually gave me an answer I quite like. The Jehovah's witnesses believe that when you die, you return to the earth, to dust. But God retains a memory of you. It's one to think about...

Religion has also come up alongside the school debate. Where should we send Holly to school? Should we look at the Catholic school system, although we are not Catholic? Should we consider a Christian school, or should we go with the state schools? It's a tricky one. I liked the caring environment of our local Catholic school and I would like the children to have the basic ethical and moral education that seems to come in a religious school. We don't take them to church, but perhaps they should be given the education that allows them to make their own informed decision about their religious beliefs as they get older.

Yet at the back of my mind I just feel hypocritical. You see, if I had the conviction of those Jehovah's witnesses, life would be easy!

Back to Thursday. Holly came down and started trying to shut the door on us, then the cat started nosing round the shopping bags left in the pushchair. When they offered to help bring my shopping in, I declined politely and we terminated the conversation. It's one thing having an interesting debate with a couple of commited strangers, it's another letting them into your house. And my guess is they'll be back.

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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Making money and looking after the kids

I want it all! I want to be able to be home for my children, but I want to make some money. The transition from being a well paid IT Manager to being a stay at home mum has been a difficult one. The other half is the one who makes the money, I'm the one who spends it. It was quite a change suddenly not having my own source of income, and I guess ultimately I felt a bit guilty. Admittedly after 4 1/2 years, the guilt has worn off a bit, but it would still be nice to contribute financially.

So what are the options? With Holly in pre-school, and Michael in Occasional Care for 2 days, I have about... 8 productive hours to work in! Bit tricky finding a part time job that meets the requirements.

As the children get older though, part time work could be an option during school hours, allowing me still to be home when they are.

For now, there are some work at home options. When Holly was about 7 months old, I started a Family Day Care business through the local council family day care. I looked after up to 4 other children in our home for three days a week. That still gave me time just for Holly, and brought in some income. After Michael came along, it took a while to get back into the swing of things, and I haven't gone back to Family Day Care. It's still an option, if I can convince myself it makes sense financially and logistically with things like pre-school drop off and pick up.

There are many other work at home options, some of which you fit in round the children, some of which need evening and weekend commitments; Party Plans, Tuition, Internet based businesses, Life coaching, Telemarketing, Writing, Editing, Pet Minding, Translating, Transcribing and more.

What I'd be wary of are those adverts that say you can make thousands from home, but don't actually tell you what you'd be doing. In my view, if an advert doesn't tell you anything about what you will be doing to earn the money, it probably isn't something you would want to be doing.

Also, if you are paying to find out how someone else got rich, ask the question, do they make more money from telling me how they got rich, than from the actual underlying business idea?

Having said this, there are definitely some genuine options for working from home, and some of the advertised schemes can make money, just maybe not the millions the advertisers claim to have made.

This, for example, is my attempt to make some money through Blogging. As you'll see, there are Google ads on my Blog. If a reader clicks on one of these ads, I get commission. This is called affiliate marketing, and is not just used by Google, but by many other organisations. It is a way of advertising where the advertiser does not pay unless someone looks at the ad, or in other cases, actually buys something. In this latter case the referring web site owner receives a commission on a per sale basis.

The challenge for me is to get enough people to come to my Blog, to make it worth while.

If you look at my website, you will find much more detail on the different work from home and part time work options available, including making money through affiliate marketing.

Let me know what you think!

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Manners please

How many times today have I said, 'and what do you say...?' or 'where are your manners?'? I lose count. Please and Thank you. We teach them early, and they are such beautiful words to hear, they change the whole sentiment behind a sentence and yet they just don't seem to stick in a four year old and a two year old's mind.

'Get me a drink mummy'. 'I need something to eat mummy'.

I beg your pardon??. Please get me a drink.

Ok, ideally it would be 'please may I have a drink', but let's not get ambitious.

Manners are so important, and yet they don't come naturally. We are going through a phase of really having to work on it at the moment and sometimes I despair.

Do they not realise the power of these words? They make mum feel less like a slave. They make us feel proud. They make other kids' parents think how nice and polite your child is, they turn bossiness into reasonableness, they get a positive response and make everyone feel good.

We were at a sausage sizzle at the weekend and one dad asked his other half if she'd like a sausage. She said yes and a few minutes later he brought back the sausage with all the trimmings. Not a word of thanks. My instinct was to say 'and what do you say?', but I guess some adults lose their manners on occasions, and the familiarity between a couple probably allows this. Had it been me providing the sausage, I'm sure the thanks would have been there.

So we have to remember to be good role models, and I think in our household we generally are. Probably over the top at times, but we've just got to persevere.

On Sunday evening, Holly was having a treat which she spontaneously broke in two. 'Would you like a piece of chocolate?', she said to Michael. 'Yes please' he said. And 'Thank you', he said as it was handed over. 'You're welcome', said Holly, and we applauded. Perhaps the message is finally getting through.

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Monday, 2 February 2009

The demise of a Mothers' Group

My Mothers' Group is breaking up. We are no longer one, but many. It has splintered and split, and some are taking it badly.

This breakdown started over a year ago and our babies, who brought us together in the first place, are now 4 1/2.

The latest example is an invitation for New Year's Eve, that went to some, but not all mothers, with a footnote saying how the invitees were those people most important to the host. How do we, the non invited, know? Well, some of the girls aren't quite as loyal to the breakaway group as they might like to think.

And at least one of the non invited is hurt, quite rightly so, as New Year's Eve invitations have been to all, in the past, and she doesn't understand why one person should choose to split a group.

I'm lucky; I can take a step back from this. We moved away 2 years ago, so my catch ups with the group have been limited and, although I'm pretty sure I would not have been included in the special sub group for New Year's Eve, I can tell myself it's my decision. I've moved on.

So is this inenvitable? For the lucky few, Mothers' Group survives the distance. The kids are pictured together in the local paper at the age of 18, next to a photo of them as babies at their first get together. For most of us, let's get real!

Mothers' Groups are a fantastic idea, a great way of meeting other mothers with babies the same age. They provide support and a social outlet for mothers who might otherwise feel a bit isolated. An informal way of getting and giving advice, swapping stories and hopefully making friends. But let's face it, we, the mothers, did not choose each other. We were put together by the midwives from the clinic and it was up to us what happened after the first few weeks. Bravo to us I think, that we have survived this long.

Personally, I have never had any conflict with another mum in our group, but I've never quite felt I've fitted in. Our priorities in life are different. The restaurants they choose to have mothers group dinners at are too expensive, their kids have been on the waiting list for private school since birth, holidays and facials, the latest purchases and fashions are a major part of conversation, and they spend too much on our kids' birthdays. It just isn't me. I can't justify spending over $100 on dinner with mothers' group when I don't even do that with the other half. And spending money on nice clothes is not a priority when you spend half your time on your hands and knees and have a permanent shoulder decoration made up of baby vomit, dribble and whatever we had for lunch.

Anyway, I digress. The point is, you can't expect a Mothers' group to last for ever. People are bound to form friendships within the group. Some take their kids to the same activities and see more of each other. Some of the children end up at the same pre-school, some live round the corner from each other and meet at the park. The kids start kindy, the mums start going back to work and schedules just don't work anymore.

And in reality it's not just the mums. Frankly my kids are less interested in catching up with the mothers group than I am. They don't want to play with kids they haven't seen for 6 months. They'd rather play with each other or the kids next door.

So, it is time to let go. Friendships change over time, especially in these early years. The kids determine who you meet, through pre-school, play groups, swimming lessons, kindy gym, dance or what ever you have in their busy little schedule. If you're lucky you'll find someone you click with and another frienship will begin.

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When should my child start school?

This is a question that most parents face in the years before school, and there are numerous opinions and articles out there to help and confuse you.

So what are the facts? Children start school once a year at the beginning of the new school year. In NSW the cut off date for starting school is July 31st, so if your child is going to be five before July 31st, then they are eligible for school in the previous January. If your child is born between August and the end of January, you have no choice; they will start school at the end of January after they are 5. You are the lucky ones.

The other law in this country is that all children must start school before they are 6 years old. This law is enforced, but the eligibility is not, so there is the option to hold back children born in February to July until the year after they turn 5.

What does this mean? It means that in one intake, there could be children as young as 4 1/2 and some who are nearly 6. This makes it hard for both the teachers and the children.

Confusing? I think so, especially as private schools and Catholic schools are able to set their own rules. The Catholic schools in our area have a cut off date of May rather than July, which has the advantage of reducing the age range in a class.

As someone who grew up with the English system, I always assumed Holly, who has a July birthday, would go to school at 4 1/2, which is the usual starting age in the UK. However, having looked at the schools locally, and attended all the open days, I realised that no one in our area sends their children as young as 4 1/2. If I were to send Holly to school now, I would be putting her at a major disadvantage socially, especially amongst the girls. There is an element of innocence lost between the ages of 4 1/2 and 6 and my baby does not need to learn that the hard way.

So what are the arguments for sending a child to school early, or holding them back?

I always thought that starting early would be beneficial, as it is known that between the ages of 3 and 6, a child is most open to learning and learns at the fastest rate. I was concerned that my daughter would outgrow the learning opportunities at pre-school and become bored and ultimately not take advantage of this 3 year window! In reality, learning is not just about reading and writing; at this age, they are continually absorbing information and learning though experience. Not necessarily learning facts, but learning how to cope with situations, learning how to relate to people, how to work and play with others, how to negotiate and express themselves.

Numerous people have told me to think about the other end of school. If she goes early, she'll be 15 when all her friends are 16, she'll be 17 when they're 18. She'll be looking to do things earlier, like drive, and drink alcohol. The counter argument is that you end up with school children in their last year who are all able to drive, and to drink, and therefore get distracted from the academic task at hand.

If the government enforced the cut off date for starting school, there would be a maximum age gap of 6 months and questions of friends being so much older would not be relevant.

Personally I think it's more about the here and now and whether she's ready. Who can predict what will happen in 12 or 13 years' time?

So why do people hold their kids back? I think the main reason is to try and give them an advantage, or at the least, not leave them at a disadvantage with their peers. If Holly were at school today, she would find it hard work to concentrate for the time required. Holding a pen and writing without getting frustrated would be difficult, and having 5 days away from home would be a shock to the system. In a year's time, hopefully Holly's fine motor skills will have improved and she will be physically more ready. Also, I hope she will be more confident with other kids and adults and will need less support socially from me.

So I think I would be putting her at a disadvantage if we sent her to school now. But do I think she will be at an advantage academically if we send her next year? I'm not sure, but I do know I was influenced by hearing that the schools test the children's skills when they start, and also hearing from my neighbour that kids as young as kindergarten are rewarded for academic success. How can a 4 1/2 year old possibly compete with a nearly 6 year old in reading and writing?

The latest study from the US said that the middle class trend of sending children to school later does not have an impact on academic outcomes later in life. i.e. there is no advantage or disadvantage academically if you start school earlier or later.

In the UK, the first year of school involves quite a lot of play and is a gentle transition from pre-school . Here in NSW, school is definitely learning not play. I'm not saying it can't be fun, but perhaps the UK system works for a younger starting age, and a slightly older child would be more ready for the Australian system.

If you attend a school readiness presentation, you will find they look at social skills, practical skills and academic skills, and in reality the first two are the most important.

Your child does not need to be able to read and write before they go to school; they will be taught those skills at school. They ought to be able to count to ten, or eleven, or more, and really understand what those number mean. e.g. can you pick out four grapes for me or count how many chairs there are round the table. They need to be able to at least recognise their name, if not write it and ideally recite the alphabet.

By practical skills, I mean things like going to the toilet unaided and wiping their bottom without help from mum; being able to change their clothes and put their shoes and socks on; being able to open a lunch box without help, and manage belongings without losing them. It's important to understand the differences here between pre-school and school. At school, your child will be expected to be much more independent and ratio of staff to children means they cannot provide the assistance they get at pre-school.

Social skills are probably the most important area to look at. Is your child ready emotionally to go to school? Do they separate from mum ok? Can they communicate with adults, and do they socialise well with other children? Have they (largely!) outgrown the tantrums? Can they sit still and listen and concentrate for an extended period of time?

Ultimately this has been the main driver for our decision. We have been presented with all the arguments for starting at both 4 1/2 and 5 1/2, but in the end, given what everyone else is doing, Holly's social readiness is the key thing.

Given what everyone else is doing.... if the majority of people sent their children in the year they were eligible, Holly would be at school now. So is it all about peer pressure? I'd like to hope not.

I have talked with numerous people about this topic, and there are a lot out there who have worried about their decision or who are still debating what to do. However, of those with kids at school, there are very few who regret the decision they made, whether their children went early or late. I think this confirms the fact that we all know are own children, and ultimately when it comes to decision time, we will know what's right for them.

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