It was about Week Eleventy Billion of COVID-19 Lockdown, when the team at Scribe asked if I’d like to review a copy of Extraordinary Parenting by Eloise Rickman. (This is an affiliate link.)
My answer was a resolute and possibly-too-enthusiastic YES.
In easy-to-read, accessible language, Eloise holds our hands through parenting and home-educating with intention and connection in these extraordinary times. Her advice is practical and evidence-based.
I love that the overall tone of the book doesn’t feel preachy but empowering.
The overall takeaway is “You got this.”
There are a few points in particular that I love about this book.
This question. THIS QUESTION.
When I read it, it took my breath away. Reflecting on this question provides quite the glorious framework to begin thinking about how you parent.
I adore that Eloise advocates for rhythms over routines. This involves identifying your family’s needs and values and structuring your daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms to meet these.
AND HOORAY FOR PLAY! Eloise shows us how by simply observing our children at play we can deepen their learning of the world. Eloise maintains that you do not need a spacious home, your undivided attention, expensive toys and resources to educate your child.
To celebrate the publication of Extraordinary Parenting by Eloise Rickman, her team have given me permission to provide these printable resources to you. Included are some journaling prompts, some rhythm charts and this FABULOUS resource for those moments. You’ll also find a delightful nature bingo.
The year ends.
I start creating a family photo album, sifting through photos from the year that was.
What happy snaps make it into the hallowed photo album Hall of Fame?
Photos of birthdays. Christmas. First times riding bicycles.
The Big Moments.
As a parent, the photo album task is one that I commit to with a strange fervour.
We are the Memory Keepers.
Parenting is a roller coaster of contradictions.
Uplifting. Defeating. Joy-filled.
Days filled with memorable moments.
Days filled with mundane moments.
Whilst I love our family photo albums as a record of all the Big Moments, what about those in-between mundane moments?
Those fleeting, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, I’m-gonna-miss-this-one-day moments?
That moment when the sun filters through the back window, catching my golden-haired child as he is immersed in play.
I want to remember that.
The way my eldest arranges her “treasures” into seemingly haphazard collections. In her eyes, however, they are meticulously organised.
I want to remember that.
The way my babe vacuums down food despite only having one tooth.
I want to remember that.
The calm and chaos that bath time brings, signalling the march towards bed time.
I want to remember that.
The way our living space sometimes feels overwhelmingly overrun with little people, pencils, books, emotions and needs.
I want to remember that.
Those little everyday moments.Sharon Troy-Baldwin is a Sydney-based family photographer who offered to capture some of my family’s little everyday moments.
She offers “Day in the Life” sessions that document families just doing their thing. Living their lives. Dealing with the tantrums. Dishing out crackers and apples for the 65th time that day. Being audience to impromptu living room dance performances.
The best bit about the whole experience was that there was no “Look at the camera. No, just look at the…. where are you going? Hands away from your face! Please just smile.”
Completely natural. Unscripted. Unposed. No matching outfits. No forced smiles. Just us being us.
Colouring in our 17th Paw Patrol picture for the day (amongst other stuff.)
How does a shoot work?
The day before our shoot, Sharon and I had a quick chat on the phone about what to expect.
Sharon is super flexible and easy-going. Initially she offered to come and hang out at our place for 8 hours to capture our day.
However, we are still in the glorious season of life where my kids take day naps.
So we decided to opt for a 4 hour (ish) afternoon session, post-naps.
Capturing what happens here most afternoons- some play, dinner prep, bath time, chores, some TV time.
Nothing exceptionally glamorous.
What do you do?
You can choose to have Sharon follow you on a big day out, down to the shops or spend the day at home.
The emphasis is on your day simply being documented. We chose to hang at home because we do a lot of it, we’re really good at it and have you tried to get 3 little people out of the house?
Are these photos an honest depiction of our daily life?
Except for the fact that I did actually get out of my pyjamas, I brushed my hair and my house was a tad bit tidier than usual.
But this is not a photo session where you need to wear your Sunday best, have your hair done and a full face of make up on.
Sharon’s advice is to come as you are. (Although I made the executive decision that none of you needed to see me in my pjs.)
I adore the fact that I have photos of me putting laundry away whilst balancing a wriggling babe on my hip. This is our life.
This is absolutely an honest reflection of this season of our lives. But if anybody has tips on organising linen, please holler.
What’s it like having a photographer/paparazzo in your home?
In our pre-shoot chat, I mentioned to Sharon that our preschooler likes to be in charge.
READ: Doesn’t always respond well to instructions from people she doesn’t know well.
We had a formal photo shoot last year where the photographer issued instructions to Miss 4.
Miss 4 then refused to have her photo taken. Fun times. Those photos now hang on our lounge room wall and make us laugh.
It looks like Happy Families but the behind-the-scenes involved some painful parenting moments.
I wondered how Miss 4 would respond to someone on her home turf, taking her photo.
Miss 4’s response blew me away. I completely attribute it to Sharon’s gentle approach that put the preschooler at ease.
Miss 4 was keen to show Sharon her room, her treasures, her favourite dresses, her dance routines.
The memories of this part of the experience are actually some of my faves.
Sharon really does a marvelous effort of putting you at ease.
You just go about your day and she’ll capture it. Simple.
I adore how our photos capture our story. Our everyday. Our love-soaked memories.
Sharon provided the shoot and images free of charge. All opinions expressed here are my own and honest. Cross my heart.
We choose not to share clear photos online of our eldest 2’s faces. Sharon takes exceptionally rad photos of visible faces too (just in case you were wondering.)
You’ve had minimal sleep. The kids want oats for breakfast, but there are no oats. You try to move through the kitchen but keep tripping over small humans tugging at your pyjama pants.
You feeling me?
This post came about after such a morning. And then some.
The baby would. not. sleep.
As the baby grizzled, the preschooler descended into a 40-minute tantrum about the socks she was wearing; apparently she really, really needed to be wearing the socks her brother was wearing. Meanwhile, her brother had grabbed a carton of milk off the bench. It then ricocheted off the floor, sending milk everywhere.
No use crying over spilt milk, right? Well, there is when it is dripping off the ceiling.
Once I had changed the toddler into dry, milk-free clothes, we attempted to go for a walk (to the shop for milk, because no milk meant no coffee for Mum). Mr Toddler Milk Man then proceeded to tantrum on the driveway because I dared asked him to use his own legs to walk.
I wish I could pretend that such a morning was a freakish, one-off event caused by planetary actions. Unfortunately, that would be a lie.
I have many mornings where it feels as though things and moods are spinning out of control, kind of like a Small Kid Snowball Effect — and then the vicious chatter inside my head starts.
“The day is well and truly falling apart. You may as well give up now. Is it nap time yet? You should have just given her the socks. Why didn’t you try and put the baby to sleep earlier? What was the milk doing so close to the edge of the bench?”
When that chatter starts, I know it’s time for something I like to call a “circuit-breaker.”
Something that can help shift moods, shift my thoughts and help me regain control of my day.
Here are five ways to turn around a Bad Mum Day when it feels as though things are completely falling apart.
1. Shake It Off
Tay-Tay was onto something. Music and cheesy dancing are an instant mood-booster.
When the bad moods are in full Snowball Effect, I put on some tunes, turn the volume up and bust some moves. All those schmaltzy greeting cards are right — sometimes you’ve just got to get your groove on and dance like nobody is watching.
Alternatively, I’m also a big fan of the old Car Karaoke session. After a fraught preschool drop-off last week, I got in the car, turned the radio up and belted out some power ballads. Other drivers may have been slightly alarmed, but I instantly felt better.
2. Get Outside
You can never underestimate the power of a change in scenery. Sure, sometimes it can be an absolute battle getting everybody out of the house (Driveway tantrum, anybody?), yet I’m always thankful for how a bit of fresh air and a hit of sunshine can really turn things around.
3. Embrace the Silly (AKA ‘Fake It Till You Make It’)
When you’re in the thick of a Bad Mum Morning, I know that acting like a goofball may be the last thing you feel like doing, but sometimes having a laugh is just what is needed to break the tension and dispel the bad vibes.
We embrace the silly at ours by talking in funny voices, making up our own language or “running around like maniacs.” (This is a game devised by the preschooler that simply involves running around the living room making loud noises.)
4. Get Creative
You know when you’re in a stressful situation and people advise you to “just breathe”? I mostly want to poke these well-meaning people in the eye with a fork when they advise that. (Not very zen of me at all.)
I’m well aware that connecting to your breath, and just slowing down, can help to centre you. To do this, I find a way to connect with my kids through being creative. It’s often something as simple as all of us sitting down at the table with paper and pencils. As we sit and draw and chat, we reconnect, our breathing slows and we’re ready to move on.
5. Scroll through your photos
Looking back over joyful memories can help to release lots of feel-good hormones into your system. So, even if your child is screaming like a banshee at this very moment, you can at least recall their more angelic, less-banshee moments and know that this will pass.
And if all else fails, I’m a passionate advocate for coffee and cake.
It’s midday and so far I have…
cut up 4 apples, washed 8 bowls, changed about 392 nappies and Mr 2 has gone through 3 pairs of trousers. (The kid would find a puddle in a desert. For reals.)
Mum life can get repetitive, no?
Then I remembered I once wrote an article about mum hacks to make life easier.
So here it is!
1. HAIL THE LUNCH BOX!
This hack was born when I found myself cutting up the eleventy billionth apple for the day. And it was only 11am. Day in, day out I was in the kitchen all day. Now, I set my kids’ lunch boxes up on the bench as I prepare dinner.
While I’m in and out of the fridge and pantry, I pop things into the lunch boxes for the next day. It’s like a 2-for-1 deal. I’m capitalising on time I would already be spending in the kitchen and setting myself up for the next day, meaning one less thing to organise during the morning rush. Even if we are spending the day at home, having a packed lunch box means that I’m not in and out of the kitchen all day. And it also equates to less dishes which is a massive win in my books.
To be perfectly frank, food is my main parenting strategy. I highly recommend squirreling snacks away wherever you can. In your handbag, the pram, the car… because you never know when you might be faced with a hangry kid or just want to enjoy a cup of coffee while it’s hot.
2. Pack the bags
I still have two kids in nappies so having a well-stocked nappy bag is imperative to any outing. This learning comes after one too many public nappy blow-outs and not having spare changes of clothes – have you been there?
Once we’re home, I try to re-stock the bag so it is ready for the next outing. If I’m in Super-Organised Mum Mode, I’ll even load all required bags into the car the night before we have to go somewhere. Because trying to get a preschooler, a toddler, a baby, a baby capsule and all the related bags out of the house is not a pretty sight. In fact, it usually involves Shouty Mum making an appearance.
I’m also a big advocate of the Car-drobe. Having spare sets of clothes and nappies in the car, for those “just in case” moments.
3. Laundry like a boss
I’m slightly embarrassed to share this tip with you as it makes me sound like a total loser, but I try and hang my laundry on the clothesline in sections according to family member. So my son’s clothes all go on one side of the line, the baby’s clothes go on another and so on and so forth. This means that when you take everything off the line it is already sorted. Extra points if you fold as you take items off the line.
I’m also working on the habit of putting a load of laundry on at night, so that it is ready to hang out first thing in the morning. I am the Queen of “Hang-On! We-Can’t-Leave-Until-The-Washing-Is-Done.” A toddler waits for no laundry.
And we all know that when a washing machine displays one minute left on the load, that this will be the longest minute ever experienced.
4. Everything has a place
It really is mind-boggling how having kids means more stuff. And all that stuff needs a place to live otherwise it feels like you are drowning in all. the. stuff. (Shopkins, I’m talking about you.) If everything has a place, and the kids know where those designated places are, then cleaning up is much quicker.
5. Be prepared
I started to take note of the times when I found it tricky to get things done because my kids were bickering and melting down.
It was generally always after breakfast as I attempted to get the day underway and always as I tried to prep dinner.
So now, I try to embrace my inner-Scout, and be prepared with simple activities to keep them entertained during these tricky periods.
I often heard people raving about meal planning and wondered what all the fuss was about. Then I tried it.
Meal planning really is a game-changer. It means one less decision in a day already filled with a bazillion decisions. It also means less food waste as you can plan based on what is in the fridge.If you’re a clever cookie, you can cook double batches and freeze a serve which is a massive time saver.
7. Make the bed twice
I love it when my child wets the bed in the middle of the night and I have to change the sheets. Said no mother ever.
Here’s a hack to make changing sheets in the dead of night a little easier.
Make the bed as usual with a mattress protector followed by a fitted sheet. Then put a second mattress protector on top. Top this mattress protector with another fitted sheet. Then if your little love wets the bed in the middle of the night, you just strip off the top fitted sheet and mattress protector. The bottom fitted sheet and protector means that you don’t have to fossick through the linen cupboard at 3am for a new sheet. Hopefully, this will minimise the amount of time you spend awake and out of bed.
8. Pick your battles
My preschooler had a forty-minute meltdown this morning over socks. Socks! After making peace (and soothing my nerves with coffee), I realised that I had prolonged the situation by refusing to back down. I probably could have avoided the battle by choosing not to engage.
A wise teaching colleague advised me once that you have to pick your battles. Otherwise you spend all your time battling and nagging and cranky. And ain’t nobody got time for that.
It’s okay to let some things slide.
9. Back yourself
This point comes courtesy of my mum. (I got to point number 8 and ran out of ideas. So I did what I always do when I need advice. I asked my mum.)
She often marvels at how parenting seems to have become more complicated thanks to social media. We are bombarded with information, studies and Photoshopped images of what parenting “should” look like. Be open to other opinions but don’t compare yourself to other parents. You’re doing things your way. You know your kids best. Trust your gut and be your own biggest cheerleader. Just do you.
(Thanks, Mum. I apologise if I ever had tantrums over socks.)
We’re all in this together. So please please please feel free to share your hacks that make mum life a little bit easier.
Like attracts like, right?
As a teacher, I am surrounded by teachers. Many of my friends are teacher-y types.
My sister-in-law and two besties work in Early Childhood settings.
We frequently discuss the topic of school readiness. (This makes us sound like seriously boring people. But, really, you want us at your dinner parties. I swear you do.) On occasions, I’ve presented talks on school readiness at their centres.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with BioGaia
That smiley little face up there belongs to my third babe. Don’t let looks deceive you. She has the amazing ability to go from happy to super A-Grade cranky in the space of 0.03 seconds. It’s quite a sight to behold. Being my third bub, I feel much more confident in dealing with this crankiness (and the ensuing crying) when it strikes. But I distinctly recall when my firstborn baby would start crying for no apparent reason and it was like playing a guessing game.