Many of us take on the dual roles of mother and businesswoman, and while we believe these roles go hand-in-hand, sometimes it feels like they compete against each other! And that’s when it’s nice to be reminded of just how well we’re actually doing (even when we can’t see it for ourselves). This article celebrates and honours the working woman, and features advice from exceptional mothers in the LH Agenda community. Enjoy, and keep rockin’ it, mama!Continue reading →
Do you ever feel that you give up yourself in order to give other things your all? When I became a parent, I already had deeply established ideas and values about parenting, none of which included prioritising my own health and wellbeing. I quickly realised that this approach wasn’t working. When I excluded my own needs, my relationship with my son and my work suffered as a result. I knew it was time for new strategies to stop me from being worn down by my responsibilities. The following habits allowed me to have a balance between my parenting and work life.Continue reading →
I had it all planned. I was going to get everything about being a mom right. After all, I had degrees in child development and I was also willing to consult the experts to make sure I was providing the most perfect, appropriate, nurturing environment for my children.
And then, my first colicky baby was born. And then my second. And then, a year later, I got divorced. My kids were high energy from the get-go, determined, tenacious, and it was all I could do to get to the end of the day some days. None of this was part of my plan!
Parenting is one of those uber-high-stakes areas where getting it wrong seems like the worst thing you could possibly do! The books, the coaches, the consultants abound for how to not mess up those sweet children of yours who may be keeping you awake, driving you nuts, rebelling against you at every turn, and so on.
So who decides what the ‘right’ way to parent is? How do you determine what is good for a child, a family – and often the least common denominator in the whole equation: you?
What if you and your children could actually decide that together? What if you know way more about what works for you and your family than any expert? And what if your children are actually the experts on themselves?
Here are 3 tools I have used that have totally changed my life as a mom.
Trust your gut
You know your children more intimately than anybody else! What may be good for one child may not be at all what is going to work for another child. You have an intuitive sense of your kids and your family that you may or may not be aware of. What if you could just trust it?
There were so many moments early on when I overrode my intuition to trust what an expert had to say about parenting. This pretty much never panned out. The last parenting coach I worked with had so many opinions about my kids and what I should be doing that I finally got fed up and started listening to me. Every time I got on the phone with her, I found myself bracing against her words. When I finally decided to let go and trust me, the change I was looking for showed up almost instantly.
Empower your kids
Do you hover over your kids – making sure that they don’t mess up their bodies or their lives? Do you see your role as a parent being one of teacher and caretaker? What if you could empower your kids to find out about the world by allowing them to make their own choices – and discover what happens next? When you allow your kids to explore the world in this way – you send them the message that they can be trusted to make choices for themselves. You also give them the gift of discovering life in a very different way than a lot of kids are given the space to. Your kids are experts on themselves. What if your job as a mom was to empower them to know that?
My youngest son was particularly fond of a certain swear word when he was quite young! I never told him not to say it, or that it was bad or wrong. I asked him questions like, “What would happen if you said that word at school? Or in front of grandma?”
He knew even at a young age that it would land him in the principal’s office or with a very unhappy grandmother on his hands… and he never, ever used it in those contexts.
Have fun, get help, and let it be easy
Parenting? Easy?!! For years, I thought that being a good mom was something I would earn by working, sacrificing, and struggling for my kids. There was one problem with all of that effort to prove how good I was – I hated it! When I realized that, I vowed to change it – no matter how ‘bad’ a mom I had to become as a result. With limited income, I hired somebody to do everything I didn’t enjoy. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, school pick-ups, even homework. My business grew instantaneously, I got a lot happier, and I started to thoroughly enjoy these two amazing kids I have. Since then, I have always had more quality time with my kids than most parents ever get. We have an extraordinarily ease-filled household, and we have a lot of fun together!
Are you willing to be so different as a parent that you do what truly works for you and your family? To me, the best parenting in the world is being present with your kids and facilitating them in navigating the world so they can find out who they are, and what works for them. If your family is enjoying themselves then you may have achieved what few people in the world actually have – and something I would propose is an aspect of great parenting: happiness.
Heather Nichols, MSW, is a bad mom, a movement and meditation consultant, tantra practitioner, somatic psychotherapist, entrepreneur and Being You Adventure Facilitator. She combines a master’s degree in Social Work with 20 years’ experience in the world of entrepreneurship and expertise in mind-body therapy to facilitate people toward a fuller, more joyful, experience of business, life and family. Follow @heatherknichols.
I’ve been writing Young Adult novels since my first baby was born fourteen years ago. Her arrival was the impetus for me to commit to writing after years of insisting that I’d get around to it ‘as soon as I have time’ (ironic, since her blanket disregard for sleep meant that I had less time than ever). But the desire to write Young Adult fiction in particular came earlier. I can trace it directly to a novel called Feeling Sorry For Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty, which I read in my mid-twenties. It’s about a teenager whose free-spirited best friend has run away from home. From aged fifteen I was in such a hurry to grow up – or to get away from my story-so-far. Feeling Sorry For Celia made me stop dead in my tracks and look over my shoulder. This is exactly what it was like, I remember thinking. I was transported by a clever, funny story back to those intense, rotten, mystifying years. The time in between had sharpened my focus and I felt inspired to examine what I’d been so keen to escape.
Since then I’ve produced Young Adult novels and babies at a rate of two-to-one, and I’m pleased to announce the birth of my fourth, I Am Out With Lanterns (I’ll explain the unusual name in a moment). This latest novel, created during my first-born’s early teenage years, turned my thoughts to the concept of narrative power. As a writer, I start out as the one in control – my characters in a scenario of my making – but more often than not, at some point in the process, that control feels as if it’s been wrested from my grasp. If you’re a writer, you’ll know what I mean – if you’ve parented a teenager, this might feel familiar to you, too.
Parents start out with the ultimate narrative power. We choose their name, dress them, decide what they’re going to eat (well, we give it a red-hot go), and direct them on how to behave. Say please. Don’t touch that. Thank you for this Playdoh cake, that’s so kind. Better not put that up your nose, actually. You’re a very good girl. Uh-uh, that’s not nice. We’re so busy directing, but can we remember what’s it like to be directed so intently? I distinctly remember one visit to the ice cream parlour with my parents and little brother. I was just tall enough to see all the flavours; my brother, a head shorter, bounced up and down beside me. Behind us, as we gazed through the glass, my parents discussed how original I was for always choosing pistachio. I do? I thought. Mature, they were saying. I am? Well, that sounded like something I should definitely think about continuing. I suppose I must have asked for pistachio once or twice before this visit, I couldn’t remember – as far as I was concerned, all ice cream was delicious. ‘Pistachio, please,’ I said. Deep down I was thinking, does this mean I’ll never be able to order chocolate? Eager to please, I wasn’t just ordering ice cream, I was fitting into an appealing narrative in which I got to be some kind of dessert sophisticate. While it looked like I was making a choice, my parents were writing my story.
Fast-forward to being the parent; kids aged 14 and 11. One of our favourite dinner-table conversations opens with one of them saying, “Tell us what we were like when we were little”. Of course they have their own store of childhood memories, but nothing like my jam-packed vault, nor the clarity or perspective. I tell them stories in which they are naughty, because it makes them laugh (that time you convinced me the cat was up the chimney). I tell them about things they’ve survived, because it makes them feel brave – (that time you got lost at a street festival; that time a child sank his teeth into both of your chubby arms at an indoor playcentre). In my stories they are resilient, hilarious, silly, the centre of every tale. They soak it all up. I’m the one with the narrative, and they’re the main characters.
When I started writing I Am Out With Lanterns it was about two teenage artists, one powerful portrait, and a girl who didn’t realise she was somebody’s muse. As a teenager I’d been fascinated by The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and I wanted to explore the idea of a portrait influencing feeling and behaviour during those intense years. I was thinking about the concept of a muse – what it would be like to have one, or be one. What if your dad was a painter, and all he ever painted was you? I was thinking about self-portraiture, too, and from there ‘selfies’, our use of Instagram, how we mock young girls for their poses, and call them vain; the way we catalogue our children’s early lives on social media and a blink later give them lectures about privacy and online safety.
Then, in June 2016, news stories were breaking about high-school students running social media accounts consisting of photos of girls – images that had perhaps been shared with a (now ex-) boyfriend, or ones that had been taken without permission. Experts commented that this was part of the ‘fun’ for the boys who took part: the stalking, the invasion. Some of the girls were still in primary school. ‘Likers’ were encouraged to vote for the ‘Slut of the Year’. After an investigation a few male students were expelled.
A remark in the comments section stuck with me. ‘Boys will be boys’, one father insisted. And I thought, this is the terrible narrative we start feeding them from day dot: that there is inevitability to boys being abusive and disrespectful towards girls. We write it off as ‘masculine hi-jinks’. It’s natural, we tell them. ‘Boys will be boys’, subtext: it’s the girls who need to be careful. Such casually given, heavily loaded phrases are slow-drip toxic.
In one of the newspaper reports, a mother commented: “I am still left with a little girl who is confused, who has had her innocence taken away from her and is embarrassed.” I couldn’t stop thinking about all of those girls – what terrible narrative they’d walked into, and how incapable we were as a culture of tackling the source of the problem.
From that moment I decided that I Am Out With Lanterns would be about how we all contribute to this toxicity. When someone says the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ now, hackles get raised just as they are if you say ‘feminist’ in certain circles. However, the drive to detox is by no means anti-boy – and nor is my book. It’s about widening the definition for boys – just as we’ve been doing for women for decades and still strive for – and confronting those behaviours that cause harm. My second-born is a son, and if anything’s taught me that boys need protection from toxic masculinity as much as girls, it’s raising him.
Perhaps more importantly, I Am Out With Lanterns is also about where empowerment can be found – for the girls who need it, and for the boys who defy a more traditional definition of manliness. It’s a story about perspective, the incredible narrative power that we have over our children’s lives, and of the teenage years when they take over. It’s about claiming, or reclaiming, yourself. As Frida Kahlo put it: being your own muse.
Who will read my book? I should think girls and women will, and that’s okay, for now. The book is pink, and we have a long way to go.
I promised to explain the unusual name. It’s taken from a letter written by the poet Emily Dickinson in 1855. She was writing to explain her feelings of displacement on moving house – being an anxious, home-loving sort of person. I am out with lanterns, looking for myself, she wrote to a friend. To me, it’s a perfect fit for Young Adult literature, capturing that time in your life when you’ve wriggled free from your narrator, walked bravely across the page, and turned it over to begin your next chapter.
Emily Gale has been involved in the children’s book industry for twenty years: as an editor, freelance writer, literary agent and children’s book buyer. Emily’s writing includes Eliza Bloom’s Diary (2014), Girl, Aloud (2009), Steal My Sunshine (2013), The Other Side of Summer (2016) and I Am Out with Lanterns (2018). In 2017 The Other Side of Summer was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and the Aurealis Awards.
If you were to ask any parent what they wants their children to be when they grow up, you’d likely hear something along the lines of “independent and happy.” All parents want the best for their kids, and that usually means wanting them to grow into adults who are thriving in lives and careers they can be proud of.
Nearly everything that parents do for their kids, from early childhood to young adulthood, has this goal in mind. This is where the term “preprofessional” comes into play.
We use this term at our camps and programs to describe children with a healthy balance of three essential requirements for an independent, happy life: experience, education, and attitude. “Preprofessional” goes beyond labeling children and teenagers as students, acknowledging the many facets they may have: athlete, home cook, enthusiastic networker, budding scientist, future entrepreneur, and countless other titles.
Developing a preprofessional mindset early on is important for children. They might already know the basics of what’s expected of them in the future, but they deserve a helping hand.
Mums (and dads!) play a big role here. Parents can help their children begin to think about how the things they discover or enjoy today could have a real impact on them in their adult life. While previous generations had more traditional careers, Gen-Z’ers are growing up in a different world — they crave independence, professional growth, and meaningful work.
The skills they will need to be successful as a college student and preprofessional will be different from the skills that their parents or grandparents needed, so exposing them to these skills early and seeing what they naturally gravitate toward really matters.
Turning a Child Into a Preprofessional
As you parent your preprofessional children, put the following tips into play to get them thinking the right way:
1. Explain how your child’s experiences are preparing him or her for the future.
Even an experience like babysitting the neighbors’ kids or volunteering at a community group’s event is a chance to develop people skills, use good judgment, and tackle challenges, but don’t assume your child knows that — to your child, it might just seem like a way to make some extra money or spend an afternoon.
Give them insider knowledge. You might say, “Remember how you calmed down the Smiths’ toddler when he was upset that his parents left for the night? Understanding and solving a problem like that can be difficult, but you showed real skill there — and that’s going to be essential to nearly every job opportunity in your future.” If you’ve had a similar experience at your own job and can relate, even better. Encourage these kinds of discussions while you have your child’s ear, being transparent as to why you wish you had been able to see things so clearly when you were his or her age.
2. Let them experience new things at their own pace.
What happens when you push an idea on your children? Often, they want nothing to do with it (and may resent you for pushing so hard). Practicing preprofessionalism should take place in a relaxed, organic way so your child feels free to explore many different interests and strengths. From summer camps to guitar lessons, make it a priority to find out what interests
your child, and allow discovery to occur.
That said, don’t expect every avenue to be “the one” for your child’s future. Plant seeds here and there, and see which sprout. Not all the seeds will take root; that’s to be expected. If you send your child to coding camp, and he comes back without an ounce of interest in computer programming, it was still worth the experience. Exposure is the goal, not proficiency. Be patient, viewing this as a journey you’re supporting, not a destination with a deadline.
3. Approach learning proactively.
Ask any educator, and he or she will almost inevitably tell you there’s a lot of back-end work that goes into the activities created for students. The same goes for learning at home. If you approach learning activities halfheartedly, they might not resonate with your children.
However, if you plan these activities deliberately and proactively, there’s a much higher chance your kids will connect with them and get excited about them. For instance, instead of deciding on a whim to go to the art museum, take the outing to the
next level by looking up what’s on display and asking your kids to seek and find certain paintings. Preprofessionalism doesn’t come out of nowhere; it happens because you make it happen.
4. Go into new experiences with your head held high.
In no thesaurus is “new” synonymous with “scary,” but sometimes, it’s easy to feel that way—and that goes for kids and adults alike. However, this attitude teaches kids to fear the unknown rather than explore (and conquer) it.
Parents are in the perfect position to model behavior that doesn’t back away from new experiences. The next time you’re out to eat, try a dish that’s new to you, and encourage your child to taste it, too. When you’re at the neighborhood pool, a school function, or your tennis club, introduce yourself and your child to new faces. Learn phrases in new languages, read books together on a subject you know nothing about — the possibilities are endless! Eventually, your children will be leading the way, forging their own paths to new discoveries — and new passions.
Right now is a fun, exciting time to be a parent, and it’s never too early to treat your child like the independent person he or she will be someday. The world will demand more from this generation than any before it, so make sure your kids are ready to rise to the occasion.
Steve Robertson is the CEO of Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs (JKCP), an organization specializing in youth-to-adult programming that turns curiosity into passion and skill. Steve has been with the company for 18 years. In this role, his primary responsibility is to cultivate a culture that results in memories lasting a lifetime.
When 5pm strikes, it can be mayhem if there isn’t a meal ready to rock and roll by 6pm! Preparation is the key ingredient in a successful meal planning strategy. To be ahead of the game, aim to plan ahead by at least a week, if not two. If that’s not possible, or plans change, you can fall back on these quick and easy recipes using ingredients you may already have on hand!
You can be ready to whip up a meal on the fly by simply assembling the following ingredients:
- Legumes (eg: chick peas, beans etc..) that have been soaked and boiled for 10-15 minutes
- Marinated chicken tenderloins in zip lock bags (stored in the fridge, frozen) with either honey soy, tarragon & lemon or sweet chilli
- Washed and pre-sliced salad or vegetables that can be stored in plastic containers
Now you’re ready to go when the “What the heck is for dinner?” moments hit you!
Everything you can do in advance can help ease your stress and increase your productivity in the kitchen. Those pre-sliced veggies, chopped salad, and legumes? Add a basic on-the-spot salad dressing (a drizzle of olive oil, crushed garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some salt & pepper) and you’ve just created a tasty tossed salad! The marinated chicken tenderloins can be seared in your grill pan, cooled slightly, and chopped to create the perfect topping for your salad.
Pre-planned grilled chicken & salad
Time: 15 minutes
Cost: $16.49 (Chicken $10, Dressing $3, 1 Cucumber $1.49, 1 Mixed Salad 200g $2)
Keeping a few “Pantry Essentials” on hand can also help inspire delicious dinners on a moment’s notice:
- Ready cooked brown rice packs (or legumes)
- spring water tuna
- sundried (or fresh) tomatoes
- lemon juice
- olive oil
Add salt & pepper to taste, and voila! You’ll have dished up an amazing tuna and rice recipe that took 90 seconds to cook in the microwave!
Time: 5 minutes
$18.50 (Rice $1.50, Large Tuna can $6, Olives $4, Sundried Tomatoes $4, Cucumber $2, Parsley $1)
For more daily inspo and info on how I manage to keep fit and healthy, come check out my IG page @1danistevens or visit DaniStevens.com and grab some affordable healthy recipes and ideas.
Featured photo credit: Panama Supermarkets 2 via photopin (license)
Motivated to share her lifestyle transformation with the world, Dani loves to help others reach their personal goals for healthy living! You can find her offering words of wisdom, great recipes and other health and fitness inspo on her website, gorgeous pics on Instagram, and sharing the love however she can!
She is also the First Australian Food Blogger to join Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube network!