written by Sarah-Lee Patterson

I returned to work as soon as my 18 weeks of PPL were up. Not just for financial reasons but because I love my job & also because I knew my daughter (Parker) would thrive 110% better at Daycare, than she would at home with me. I do love being a Mum but staying at home & being responsible for my Daughters learning & development just wasn’t for me. It sounds terrible when I put that in words but I know I’m not the only one who worries about how much pressure that is felt to ensure you’re supporting your child in hitting their milestones.

I returned 3 days a week initially then gradually increased back to full time hours from there. In hindsight, I wish I had worked 3 day weeks until Parker was 12months old. Unknown to me, once Parker hit 7-8months old, I found that my life was a constant cycle of work, washing (to ensure there were plenty of fresh daycare clothes) & pureeing baby food. Especially because help at home was limited (my husband is out of town a lot for his job). This is when mild PND set in & I started to wonder what I was doing with my life. I had a discussion with my manager & it was agreed that I was able to work from home 1-2 days a week so I could keep on top of things. I feel really lucky to have had a workplace that supported this at a time where it could have gone the complete opposite way.

Everyone’s return to work situation is completely different – some will have more support at home, some will have less. But just know that there ARE other people in the same situation as you & everyone copes with similar situations in different ways. Talk it out with someone you feel comfortable with or your Doctor if needed & come up with a strategy to lessen your load. Both physically & mentally. I didn’t respond well to medication so a change in work/life balance was really only option.

Because I put Parker in Daycare so early & had friends going through the same battle of working out how to approach it after me, I often got asked my tips/tricks/hacks for starting Daycare & keeping on top of things, so here they are :

CLOTHING : Leave the cute stuff at home & keep it simple. In Winter, dress in bodysuits, trackies/leggings and sweatshirts. In summer, the same again but with short sleeves and shorts. We frequented the Warehouse, Kmart & even Baby Factory. They grow so fast that I used to buy things in a range of sizes. Especially if it was black or another dark colour with less chance of being stained by food.

USE THE DRYER : It’s my holy grail. If I had to hang every piece of Parker’s clothes out to dry, I’d certainly go stir crazy. If you insist on hanging out washing to save a few bucks on the electricity, use those offers of help to get it done.

PRE-PACK OUTFITS : If you’re OCD in terms of outfits that need to go together/colour co-ordinate, put together your baby’s weeks worth of individual outfits in plastic sleeves (I kept the ones that our cot sheets came in) or laundry delicates bags (which I used when she grew up a bit and her clothes were a bit bulkier), then in their own drawer or shelf. This makes for getting dressed quickly in the mornings & when Dad is there to help out with the morning routine, he doesn’t have the stress of finding a suitable daycare outfit either.

STOCK DAYCARE UP WITH THE ESSENTIALS : We would stock Daycare up with whole boxes of nappies, tins of formula and breakfast (Farex etc) so that all we needed to do was ensure there were a couple of changes of clothes & a sleep-sack in Parker’s bag each day. Then the addition of lunch once she started on solids. To make this easier, I would highly recommend finding a daycare that provides meals.

BULK MAKE FOOD & USE PRE-MADE POUCHES : Bulk make a weeks worth of puréed foods and pop it in Kai Karriers ready to go to Daycare for lunches &/or dinners. You can also do this for breakfasts and bulk containers of yoghurt. However, don’t feel guilty if you opt to send them along with pre-made pouches from the Supermarket. I did this a lot too to save my sanity and even now (Parker is 2) we still have a stash of fruit pouches in the cupboard and opt for yoghurt pouches for breakfasts or an easy snack.

DAYCARE BAG : You can use basically any bag – a lot of people use their nappy bags for the first little while. I invested in a Herschel bag for Parker last March and she has used it every day since. It’s still in great condition with no signs of wear. I highly recommend them. Also, Pop a wet bag in their bag for wet/dirty clothes (I believe most daycares are advising this now as they’re trying to go plastic bag free)

NAMING DAYCARE ITEMS : I went through the painstaking process of ironing Dymo name labels on all Parker’s daycare clothes. Realistically, this was more of a pain than helpful. Their clothes rarely go missing when they’re smaller as they generally have less changes of clothes. Name labeling is key when they’re transitioned to a toddler room though. Stuck on You labels are great but get the larger sized ones. Name all plastic surfaces with vinyl name labels – bottles, drink bottles, kai carriers & lunch boxes. I personally love using Vinyl Junkies. Their service is top notch and their labels last well too.

MAKE TIME FOR YOU : Take a day off work every now & then just for you and don’t feel bad about it. Everyone needs this. In fact, I checked myself into a hotel for the night a couple of times just to get some rest without worrying about anything else.

ACCEPT OFFERS OF HELP & DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP : I had friends bring dinner over a few times. Not just because I’m useless at cooking when it’s just myself at home but it was also nice to have the company on those days. Also, I know personally that if any of my friends needed help folding their laundry, doing their dishes or vacuuming their house, I would happily be there for them. If anything, I’d make me feel good knowing that they feel like that can reach out to me for help. This goes for babysitting too! It’s not so daunting looking after someone else’s kid now that I’m somewhat “experienced”.

HIRE HELP : if finances allow, just do it. We had someone come to do the essentials for us for a few months last year & it was so good knowing that each fortnight, the kitchen, bathroom and floors were getting a decent clean. I would walk in the door with a feeling of relief knowing I could just sit down for a few moments without feeling like my house was a absolute sty riddled with germs. Of course the cleanliness didn’t last with a toddler but at least temporarily, I could breathe a little.

Once Parker was somewhere between 12-18 months, juggling things did get easier. She can feed & entertain herself (mostly) which means there is some room for getting housework done while she is occupied & I got a new job that allows me to work flexible hours so now I get home a lot earlier than I used to.

So, if you’re about to return to work or have recently returned & are feeling like everything is a bit much, remind yourself that the best is yet to come. You may feel overwhelmed at times but it will pass & it does get better.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with the whole parenting thing. I mean come on, who hasn’t? I think we all do at some stage or another – some are honest about it, some aren’t. I get comments all the time said to me or sly digs about those people who ‘share to much on social media’, who ‘have to tell the world about everything’.  Well, over-sharer? Quite possibly. But I definitely don’t tell the world everything. There is a lot you don’t know about me and probably won’t ever know.

I’ve been extremely slack on the blog front, life happened, kids happened, work happened. I’ve just been busy in general. For a while there I got so consumed in the online world, I let shit comments get to me and cloud my judgement. I wanted to stop doing what I was doing, all for the wrong reasons.

Well, life is still happening and I am still shit at making time for me as much as I try preach about how important it is. It’s a work in progress okay. BUT, I need to get back to writing, it helps me release and I get messages daily saying it helps you to so win win right?

I’ve been a mum of 2 for over a year now – what the actual fluff (see Mum, I can do it without saying the F word). If anybody knows where the past 12 months have gone then please holla atcha girl and let mew know cos I’m sitting here in disbelief that we’ve already celebrated Lily’s 1st birthday. I was so freaked out when I found out I was pregnant (yes, pregnant on my first child’s 1st birthday – am I mad?). I had huge fears about how things would pan out and how I would cope. I struggled with one so how on earth was I going to manage with 2? Well, I did. We got through and here we are, a year in and I am by no means going to say it was easy – it most certainly wasn’t. But I’m alive, and so are both the kids (and Reuben – just).

People often ask me what life is like with two kids. I don’t have a straightforward answer. It’s hectic, with one you can get away with distracting them and getting other stuff done, with two – you distract one and then the other goes in to pick a fight. So basically, there is a never a dull moment – for me anyway. Like everything in life, you find a way to get through, to manage – to get by. I can pop Lily in the highchair, give Baxter some toys and still get housework done. We chose to have the kids in quick succession which meant a small period of madness. Lily is 1 now and I think we are out of the really tough stage (for now), they’re getting along reasonably well (70%) of the time but don’t get me wrong – I know we’ve got some real shit times ahead of us. It’s all part of this parenting gig.

Looking at these kids when they’re playing nicely just makes it all worth it, all those shitty times are just forgotten about. I say to Baxter do you love Lily and he says “yes Mummy”. I die inside. He pats her head and gives her kisses. They’re really starting to engage with each other and get each other. He knows how to wind her up and she definitely knows how to wind him up.

Baxter is a mini Reuben and Lily is a mini me. It’s scary but its Karma at its finest, haha. I see us in them and it scares the shit out of me.

I am glad we chose to have the kids close together (18m gap). The stages are familiar with us and we haven’t forgotten about the tough times. Our theory was, ‘do it quickly and get those initial shitty times out of the way’ – they’re gone, behind us and gosh it feels good. The first 12 weeks is still hell but a different kind of hell because we remembered what it was like as we’d not long done it. We clearly remembered what tactics worked with Baxter and tried them on Lily.

The kids are actually different, Baxter was SO chill, almost too chill. Lily is so full on – all the time. Is really rough with Baxter (the me in her, haha). She climbs, jumps and squeals and the kid has no fear – none of which we experienced with Baxter. He has totally had to up his game now she is walking and trying to rule the roost.

Baxter is now in Kindy 3 days per week and is thriving, best thing we did for him (and lets be realistic, for us too). Reuben is a stay at home Dad still so having B in Kindy 3 days allows him some 1 on 1 time with Lily which he really enjoys.

The wolfpack is complete with no additions in the foreseeable future. I am content with the kids. I am still working on myself and managing my anxiety + depression but to be honest, I don’t think it will ever be gone. It’s part of me, its who I am and some days are shit, other days I am on top of the world.

Here’s to another year…

To the boy who made me a mum,

You turned my life upside down.

You showed me that there were far more important things in life than what I was currently prioritizing.

You brought out strengths in me that I never knew I had and discover weaknesses I never knew existed.

You made me realize I was focusing on all the wrong things in life and that it was the small things that really mean the most.

You’ve made me cry, you’ve made my laugh and you’ve made me yell.

You have the most amazing personality and you have such a kind heart.

You inspired me to start this blog and help so many people.

You saved me.

The moment you were put in my arms, I was overwhelmed with emotions. So much love, and so much fear. I was so scared because this whole motherhood thing this was new to me. I was so scared of not being a good Mum to you. I got post natal depression and I cried a lot. I would sit there and look at you, and cry. I was so scared that I was failing you because I wasn’t coping. The first few months were really difficult for me, coming to terms with such a big adjustment, my hormones were all over the place and I was discovering a new side of myself.

You are such a good big brother (most of the time) and these days when I look at you I am so proud of how far we have both come.

We are gonna move mountains together kiddo 

Firstly, thank you. Words alone cannot express the gratitude I have for you. 

You’re a Midwife, a Mum, and a damn good friend.

You made me see a strength in me that I didn’t know I had. A strength I didn’t even know was possible.

You reassured me that everything was going to be OK and that I could do this.

You let me ask all the ridiculous questions I had including a late night text freaking out because my poo was black (thanks iron pills). Questions like “what if I don’t know I am in labour?” haha, how fucking naive was I? You know alright…

You helped us in ways you will never even know. Pre and post-birth.

You’ve never questioned our decisions and you’ve always supported us 100%. I start to ramble and you stop me and remind me that our decisions are exactly that and I don’t need to justify myself.

You’ve been totally honest and straight up with both Reuben and I when we needed it most. 

You made us see sense when we were in a sleep deprived state and it was all getting a bit much.

My midwife is also a personal friend, I was always a little worried her seeing me at my most vulnerable (and seeing my lady bits) but honestly, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. She is a total champ and I don’t regret my decision even when she challenges me – generally for my negativity and crap attitude (and I thank her for it). She was well aware of my past mental health issues and was so amazing seeing signs of PND early on with Baxter and jumping on it straight away, educating me and making me see that it’s far more common than we realise and there is so much help and support out there. She made me feel confident in talking about how I really felt which in turn has allowed me to help others going through the same thing by speaking openly in my blog about my struggles.

Her love and support throughout the pregnancies/births of both Baxter & Lily is something I will be forever grateful for.

You know who you are… thank you doesn’t seem like enough.

18057083_1313091305393642_5427747711100726190_n

Jess asked me to write about how it felt to become a grandma for the first time.  I was honoured to be asked to write this for her (and you all).

From the moment we knew we were going to be grandparents, both Kevin (Dad) and I were excited and instantly got how our friends have felt over the years when they got the exciting news they too were going to be grandparents.

I went crazy buying stuff and Jess had to tell me to calm down. Baby was going to be here for along time and I should pace myself. To be honest it was little stuff as Jess and Reuben had everything under control, and Baxter was never going to able to wear it all!

The nine months waiting for Baxter seemed to take forever. When Jess called to tell me her waters had broken we were up the coast visiting my parents. We bade them a hasty goodbye to get closer to town, knowing it would take a while for things to happen. We weren’t needed of course but we wanted to be close.

Reuben was great at giving us a running commentary via text and invited us into the hospital once Baxter was born. Kevin didn’t need a second invite. We were in the car and hospital bound pretty quickly.  We were suddenly but not so suddenly grandparents. The older generation just like that! Older and wiser! Nope, not really, just Grandma and Grandad.

Baxter brought us all instant delight. He was a bubbly, giggly baby from the get go.  He can light up a room and make us feel young again. We see him often but never enough. I, like grannies before me, bore anyone who will listen on how fantastic our grandson is.  Yes, I am one of those grandmas.

Baxter learnt pretty quickly if he comes to Grandma and Grandad’s for tea there is always a bath afterwards. Now Baxter gives us the hurry up at the tea table and once let down from his chair he runs straight into the bathroom to get Grandad to run the bath.

I get the drying and dressing chores. This means I get to smother him in baby powder and give him his first freshly washed & dress hug. I love it.

I know there is going to be two soon and there will be some changes, but I have enjoyed the past 20 months of having him around.

Grandchild number two is almost here. Another week (hopefully no more for Jess’ sake) and we will have “grandchildren” and not just a grandchild. It sounds like so many.

I can’t wait to meet our newest member of the family. Princess Bemrose is just over a week from arriving and I know Baxter is going to be a cool older brother.

Over the past four years Kevin and I, along with other members of our family, have spent quite a bit of time assisting our parents who are either ill or ready for the next phase of their lives in care. I recently lost a stepfather who was in our lives for 40 plus years. Whilst I was at the hospital during his last couple of days, a visit from Baxter still managed to put a smile on our faces. Kids have the ability to make any challenging situation more bearable.

It is also good to see Jess and Reuben parent. I am proud of all my children. I am especially proud of the mother Jess has become. To see her go through motherhood is a privilege and I am very aware that not everyone gets to see their children having children, so I try not to take it for granted. Jess is doing a wonderful job and she doesn’t see what I see in her. Baxter has the ability when we are tired or stressed to make us look at things a little clearer and remind us at times not take things so seriously.

I couldn’t imagine life without Baxter in it. I feel very lucky to be his grandma. Love you Baxter.

I have spent a couple of hours with Baxter this morning whilst Mummy was at the midwife. Gosh these little humans can eat! Half a banana, a piece of a hot cross bun, a packet of raisins and some cheese. Balanced diet right?

Jess asked me to comment on her blog and what I thought about her oversharing at times.

I admit that I find it very difficult at times to read the blogs Jess writes. When she is open about her depression it makes me sad that she often doesn’t talk about it with us, and when she is at her toughest point she deals with it herself. I understand why but as her mum it is very hard. I respect Jess’s decisions and she always makes the right one for her and her family.

It is great to see her succeeding and her blog has been posted in so many different publications. It is good to know that Jess is helping others to open up and talk about their feelings as well, and to acknowledge that at times being a mum is hard. But it’s a full-time job and what job isn’t hard from time to time? The good times outweigh the bad and she has such a positive attitude. I always wanted to write, so it is good to see Jess getting on with it and owning it.

I struggle with some of the negative comments people write about Jess or her lifestyle. I am grown up enough to know you can’t be out there in the big wide web without being trolled, but some of the comments are vile and no one deserves to be treated like that. It’s these times I wish Jess wasn’t online but that feeling passes and she tells me not to read the comments. I read the positive comments that people are finding some of the blogs very helpful with pride. That makes it worthwhile.

Jess, you’re doing a great job.  Now about your swearing… LOL.