Category Archives: Know Thyself

A day in the life of an introverted mum

I’m thrilled to be part of the Introverted Mom content tour, celebrating the release of Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy by Jamie C. Martin. Releases 7 May 2019. Preorder now and get a bunch of bonuses, and (if you’re Stateside) it’ll arrive in time for Mother’s Day.

Because I’m a mum to four kids, the youngest being just shy of 6 months old at the time of this writing, I’ve left this post till almost the last minute. So the best thing I could come up with is to write about an average day in our house. Which will change in another month because kids grow, seasons change, and nothing ever stays the same. But here’s what my life is like now.

Sometime between 7-8 am, I’m awake for the day while my night working husband keeps snoring away. Either one or both of my smaller boys (who sleep in our bedroom with us) has woken me up. I drag my tired self out of bed and change the baby’s nappy in the bathroom, at the same time trying to convince my two year old to wee in the shower. He eventually does.

Straight from there, I go into the kitchen, where the two year old says “something to eat, Mum.” Which is really code for “I want you to open the fridge so I can play with everything and ask you the name of everything I don’t know yet.” Sometimes, we manage to both agree on something he can eat before the fridge starts beeping that the door’s been left open too long. Other days, I shut the fridge before he’s decided and because he’s two, he has a meltdown.

I put the baby on the floor or in the high chair while I put the kettle on, and think about what I want to accomplish that day. Sometimes I do the dishes first thing in the morning if I’m feeling ambitious. Other days I make my cup of tea and sit at my computer for ages scrolling through Facebook because I’m just too tired.

My 7 year old usually gets up next. I say good morning, he finds his breakfast and sits down with a book to read. Out of four kids, he’s our only introvert. I call him a ninja. Sometimes I forget he’s there, he’s so quiet. Tell me how two introverted parents end up with THREE extroverted kids. While you’re at it, tell me how two introverted parents end up with so many kids in the first place!

Anyway. Eventually the oldest gets up. He’s 12. This is when I know I can go out shopping, or get some other stuff done that I can’t do while holding a baby. He’s pretty competent looking after his little brothers – a bit impatient, but he’s 12.

10 am and it’s time for the older boys to do their lessons. We homeschool, and they have a certain number of workbooks that they do on their own each day. Twice a week they do maths with their dad. Sometimes, as you’d expect, they complain.

Usually around this time, the baby goes down for his morning cat nap. He’ll sleep about 15 minutes in the Ergo – on my front if I’m sitting at my computer, or on my back if I’m working in the kitchen.

After the kids finish their lessons, which SHOULD only take half an hour on a good day, they usually go outside to play. The two year old goes with them.

Around 11 most days, my husband gets out of bed. We’re both night owls, which is why he chose to work the shift he’s on, but some days the wait to 11:00 feels like an eternity.

Let’s call today Tuesday. That’s one of the days he does maths with the older boys, and we usually don’t have to go anywhere. So after he’s up and about, and had his morning caffeine fix (not coffee or tea – Coke), they get their maths books out and talk about that day’s lesson.

Usually during the maths lesson, I need to get lunch started. And the baby wants me. And the toddler needs to be supervised. Sometimes it’s a struggle to keep everything in check. If the older boys are having a good day, they get through their maths lesson quickly. On other days, one or both need extra motivation. One boy in particular has a tendency to think everything is too hard and might try to avoid his work.

Lunch time comes around, and it’s also the baby’s nap time. As it always is when Mum wants to sit down and eat! I usually take him into the bedroom and lie down with him to feed him to sleep, then come back to my cold lunch once he’s settled.

Then hubby has to get ready for work, which means I’ll be on my own with them for the rest of the day. Yep, I get to do bedtime with 4 kids all on my own.

It isn’t always as bad as it sounds though. The older two can get themselves ready, and now that the baby has more of a routine, it’s just the two year old’s inconsistency that throws things into chaos. For now.

But before that happens, there’s the afternoon and the evening to get through. And I still, most likely, haven’t had a minute to myself since I woke up, unless I actually got to go to the toilet by myself. By this time it’s starting to show in my mood, if it hasn’t already been obvious. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) we have a convenience store right across the road (literally – our driveway and their exit almost line up perfectly) that sells chocolate. I have no idea how much money I’ve spent over there on Medicinal Chocolate in the last 12 years, but I’m sure it’s a lot.

(I was lucky enough to get on the launch team for Introverted Mom, so I’ve been reading the book before release date. I’m finding some strategies to get more time to myself throughout the day that I need to start implementing. Things like a mandatory ‘quiet time’ for everyone – but it’s hard to do in a small house, with so many kids, and a baby who doesn’t necessarily sleep at the same time each day.)

So the baby’s asleep, the older kids may or may not be playing on screens, and the two year old is probably begging me to watch The Wiggles. Because I need a break from the chaos, I let him watch an episode as long as he sits on the potty first.

If I’m very, very lucky, the baby will stay asleep through the Wiggles and I’ll get half an hour to an hour of (relative) peace and quiet in my office at the back of the house. I’ll sneak my chocolate, listen to podcasts, play computer games, or try to get some work done for a client.

If I’m very, very unlucky, the two year old will fall asleep watching the Wiggles which means he’ll be up late. My worst nightmare at the moment.

And now it’s dinner time, and kids are starting to get tired, and fight, and melt down over the silliest things. Because my husband works nights, we have our family meal at lunch, and usually leftovers for dinner. So the big kids grab their own from the fridge, one of us gets something for the two year old, and we sit down and eat.

After dinner, depending on what time it is, I’ll sit down and watch a TV show with all of them, or let the older three watch a cartoon while I get the baby to sleep. The 7 year old goes to bed at 9, then I watch something with the 12 year old and cuddle the two year old till he falls asleep. 12 year old goes to bed at 10, and if the toddler hasn’t had a nap, I’m finally free for the day.

Or at least till the baby wakes up for a feed.

My husband gets home anywhere between 10:30 at night and 1:30 in the morning. If it’s an earlier night, we’ll sit down and watch something together. If it’s one of the late ones, I might watch something by myself, or sit in my office and listen to podcasts till about midnight, when I go to bed myself.

Wow, I’m exhausted just reading that back to myself.

How and when do I get time to myself?

1. When the baby goes to sleep, sometimes I stay in the bedroom and lie next to him for a while, just to be away from everyone else.
2. I go for a walk across the road to get chocolate or peach iced tea.
3. I hide in the toilet longer than I need to be in there.
4. I stay up way too late.
5. I escape to go shopping while the baby’s asleep. At least I’m alone for the 5 minutes it takes to drive there!

I’ve pre-ordered the Audible version of Introverted Mom. That’s the best way for me to absorb new content at the moment. I’m so looking forward to that.

You can pre-order your copy from Amazon, Book Depository, Koorong in Australia.

It’s okay if you’re struggling

May and June are always hard months for me.

8 years ago this month, my little boy Ian was born. He died two days later from brain damage suffered during my pregnancy. I’ve changed a lot since then.

And every year, without fail, I have trouble keeping up with the duties in my business in the weeks leading up to his birthday. Blogging, client work, you name it. Sure, I do it – at least the most important stuff. But the joy isn’t there.

Yeah, it’s been a few weeks since I had a post up. It bothers me, but I just haven’t been in the right frame of mind to come up with new topics.

Last year, I even had a migraine over his birthday – my first one ever. It happened to start in earnest about the time my labor started, and finally eased up about 24 hours later, just after his time of birth.

Coincidence? I doubt it.

The point of this post isn’t to have you feel sorry for me. This is my life, and I accept it. The easy bits, the hard bits, and all the bits in between.

But it’s occurred to me that hey, this is predictable. This happens Every. Year. So maybe I should plan for it a bit better next year.

For instance, write up a bunch of blog content to schedule over May & June, so that I don’t keep putting off writing a new post when hard times come around. Maybe even get a few guest posts.

Struggling? You’re not alone.

My point? If you know there’s a certain time of year that you always struggle, don’t fight it. Plan for it. Get some stuff done ahead of time so you have less to stress about while you’re struggling. Outsource something. Drop something off your to-do list that isn’t urgent.

And stop beating yourself up for struggling. We all go through hard times. And you do what you gotta to get through them.

The joy will come back – it always does. It’ll just take a while, and that’s ok.

Trauma and personal growth

Seven years ago was the worst week of my life.

It started off promisingly enough, on the 31st of May, 2009. I was in labour with my second child. I’d had a rough pregnancy, and I was looking forward to it being over.

But when our son Ian was born at 8:40 that evening, nothing was as we anticipated.

He wasn’t breathing. He wasn’t moving. His heart was beating, but that was the only sign of life he showed.

By the time we finally got to sleep at 3 am the next morning, we’d heard the worst. He was brain dead, and had been for weeks. I’d been the only thing keeping him alive.

The weeks and months that followed were like a blur. Slowly I got back into some kind of a routine, but I wasn’t the same person I was before. I would never be that person again.

I had a lot of support through that trying time, for which I’m eternally grateful. But with some things, support only goes so far. You have to learn how to be a new version of yourself all on your own. And that’s hard.

I’m not saying all this so that you feel sorry for me. I don’t want pity. That’s not the point of this post.

These tragedies in our lives help to shape us. We can either become a better person because of them, or become bitter and angry.

And believe me, I’ve had my bitter and angry moments. But though the experience was horrible, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, it’s helped to make me who I am today. I’ve made friends I might never have made, because Ian was part of my life, be it for such a short time.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way, I wouldn’t have learned if it hadn’t been for Ian.

But I’ve noticed something when I talk about Ian. Something happens to people. They get uncomfortable. They change the subject. They say ‘oh, I’m sorry,’ as if they think they shouldn’t have brought it up. As if talking about it might be hurting me.

But if you’re one of those people who gets like this when someone talks about their trauma, I want you to think about this instead.

That trauma your friend is talking about has made them who they are. And to avoid that, because you’re uncomfortable, is to disregard all the changes that have happened in their life because of it.

So I would like to challenge you. Next time your friend is talking about a traumatic event in their life, step out of your comfort zone for a moment and let them talk. It’ll help them to get it out, and it’ll help you to know them a bit better.

Life begins at 40. But should it?

I’m turning 40 this weekend. The big four-oh.

Yep, it’s a big significant number. What makes it somewhat more significant is the fact that, since I was a kid, I’ve heard the phrase life begins at 40.

On the other hand, I’ve always thought that if life begins at 40, then you’ve wasted 40 years.

But as I get closer to 40, I think maybe both of those are true.

From the time we’re born, we’re told what to do, how to act, how to dress, where to go. Some of this is necessary – but some of it isn’t.

Generally, we’re not allowed to just be who we are. Our parents, our teachers, our whole society tells us we have to meet a certain set of criteria and live a certain way.

And it’s killing our individuality. It’s not surprising so many people have a mid-life crisis when they get to about 40 years old. We don’t know who we are anymore, because we’ve shoved ourselves down so far to make room for the person that the world wants to see!

We don’t even know who we really are till we get into our 30s.

Some of this, I’m sure, is because of time and experience. But I’m also equally sure that it doesn’t have to take as long as 40 years to work out what we really want from life.

Because when you’re told what to do all your life, you either get complacent about making any decisions at all, or you get rebellious and go totally against the flow. Most people fit in the former category, because it’s easier.

But if you’ve gotten complacent, you don’t have to live like that anymore.

Life begins at 40

Let’s make ‘Life begins at 40’ an outdated phrase!

Pursue what makes you happy, and not necessarily what feels ‘safe.’ If you want to be an artist, a writer, your own boss, whatever – don’t let the uncertainty stop you! Sure, having a 9-5 job is steady and reliable income, but is it worth it if you’re bored out of your mind?

If you can’t afford to quit your full time job, find another way to pursue your interests in your off time. Maybe you don’t want to make a business out of it, but life is meant to be lived, not just endured.

And, by all means, ease up on your kids a bit. They’ll only be kids for a little while. Let them enjoy it while they can.

Do you think life begins at 40? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Post a comment below. 🙂

Social anxiety and home business: you CAN do it!

People have different reasons for starting their own biz. Some get sick of working to line someone else’s pockets. Some want to be home with their kids. Others may have health or family issues that require them to be available at a moment’s notice.

Why did I start my own business? Because I have social anxiety, and if I want to work, I don’t have a choice.

Let me give you a bit of back story.

I grew up in the United States. I had various jobs there, in various places. Never had trouble getting hired for a job, even though I suffered from social anxiety and selective mutism.

Then I moved to Australia, and it was totally different.

Nobody wanted to hire me. Nobody. They thought my not speaking was just too hard to deal with – even if I could do the job!

I put my resume in at every employment agency I could find. And I can count on one hand the number that contacted me after. But as soon as they found out I couldn’t speak, they just didn’t contact me again.

I tell you, it was a serious blow to my confidence. I couldn’t understand why nobody would hire me – even for menial jobs like washing dishes or cleaning offices. It’s not like I was applying for jobs where I’d have to answer phones.

Eventually, one of the employment agencies offered me a job. But after a week, they told me the work had ‘dried up’ and passed on my case to a different office.

So I gave up on sending out resumes and applying for jobs through the paper. I resigned myself to never having a job in Australia.

I was able to get a couple of cleaning jobs through people I knew. The work was dull, but at least I was doing something, and earning some money, even if it wasn’t much. And I was never going to get promoted to anything else in either job.

Then, after my son was born, I started my nappy business. I realised that if I sold my products online, social anxiety didn’t matter. And so I started building my biz, and grew more and more confident.

Every sale gave me a boost. Even the little ones.

I realised that a home biz is perfect for someone with social anxiety.

It means I get to decide when – or if – I meet with people in person or ring them on the phone. And I can prepare mentally for it.

So tell me this. Are you, like me, frustrated at the lack of results in finding traditional employment? You don’t have to take it lying down.

Do you know you do good work, but every rejection and every time you only hear silence from employers, feels like a punch in the gut?

You’re not alone. And you don’t have to keep doing it.

If I can start my own business – an introvert, with social anxiety, and selective mutism – then so can you.

How to kill creativity

I’m participating in the Cheeky Visionaries Biziversary & Launch Party! Amanda Sue Howell’s business is turning 5, and she’s celebrating with the launch of 30 Days of Creative Abandon. 30 Days of Creative Abandon is a 30 day course created for makers, who are looking for new ideas to set them free from artist’s block!

Look, I’m going to be honest here. I had an awful time working out what to write for today. So I’m going to tell you about all the things that have been conspiring against me to stop me doing anything creative.

How to kill creativity

creativity and kids

My son’s birthday cake

  • Children. I have kids. Before I had them, I loved doing crafty things. Sewing, knitting, crochet, baking – those have been my mainstays over the years. After the kids came along, I slowly let my creative hobbies drop by the wayside. I found it nearly impossible to knit with a toddler around. Harder than trying to knit with a kitten in the house! But now that they’re older, that excuse is becoming less valid, and these other ones are taking over.
  • creativity and procrastination

    My son’s birthday present, finished just hours before he officially turned two.

  • Procrastination. It’s easy to want to do something, and then say ‘I’ll do that later.’ But later never comes, does it? There’s usually a deeper reason for procrastination. Figure out what it is and you just might get past it.
  • creativity and mobile games

    My boys in their stocking caps, made in between levels of Candy Crush.

  • Mobile games. Oh dear. Do I really want to admit to how many hours I’ve spent playing mobile games in the last week? Let’s just say it’s been excessive. It’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re staring at your virtual farm. Those kinds of games are fun, but I’m not sure they’re helping me to be creative with anything other than extending my tablet’s battery life.
  • creativity and apathy

    This afghan took me six years to finish, because I lost interest in it part way through.

  • Apathy. Sometimes you just don’t care enough to create. Fine for a little while – everyone needs a break sometimes – but sooner or later you’ve got to get back on that horse. Humans are creative by nature. And there are HEAPS of ways to be creative. My husband writes computer programs. My older son builds with Lego. My younger son loves music. Find something you enjoy and start creating it!
  • creativity and insecurity

    I’d love to do pottery, but I’m afraid I’d mess it up!

  • Insecurity. Feeling like you’re not good enough leads to procrastination and avoidance. But creativity isn’t necessarily about being GOOD at something. It’s about making something and having some fun.
  • creativity and duty

    The nappies I used to make in my handmade business. Over five years, my feelings on sewing went from love to hate.

  • Obligation. When I had my handmade business, I started out loving what I did. And then over the next five years, that love was replaced by duty. I felt like I HAD to sew my nappies so I’d have something to sell. Doing something because you have to, not because you enjoy it, is a sure fire way to kill any enjoyment that might have been there. Just think about doing the dishes. Laundry. Cleaning the toilet. Do you enjoy those? Most likely not. Because you HAVE to do them.

So those are my major blocks to creativity. What are yours?

Who are you?

I’ve started and restarted this article so many times that now I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.

Who are you? On the surface, it looks like a simple question. But it’s loaded. Oh boy, is it ever.

How you answer that question may depend on who’s asking. I know it does for me.

Have you ever asked yourself that question? Who are you, really?

This is a post that’s been brewing in my mind for months. I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about introverts. And hey, I’m an introvert, so I’m kind of interested in these introvert articles! It’s nice to finally see people saying that IT’S OKAY to be an introvert, to prefer time on your own, to not have time for small talk. But this post isn’t about introverts. It’s not about extroverts. It’s about knowing yourself, and allowing yourself to BE yourself.

I’ve seen a lot of articles, too, about just being you, and making that you-ness part of your business. And that’s all well and good – IF you know who you are to begin with. If you don’t know who you are, how you tick, and why you tick the way you do, chances are you’ll end up trying to be someone you’re not. And you’ll be miserable.

All of my life, I have struggled with social anxiety. As a child, it took me ages to get comfortable in a new situation, particularly when that situation was thrust upon me suddenly. For instance, if someone I didn’t know walked up to me and asked me a question, I froze. If someone I knew asked me the same question, I didn’t have a problem.

Most of the messages I was getting from people said that what I was, was wrong. I should be more sensitive, more outgoing, more fun, more fill-in-the-blank. This only exacerbated the underlying social anxiety. I shoved that part of me down as deep as I could, only to have it surface at the worst possible moments.

As soon as I started to acknowledge that the anxiety was a part of me, a funny thing happened. I started to cope a lot better in new situations. When I recognised my own quirks for what they were, I was able to make allowances for the extra time & effort it would take to work through them. These days, my anxiety episodes are few and far between. I know I’ll most likely have this for the rest of my life, but as they say, knowing is half the battle.

Part of what helped me along in this process was when my husband introduced me to something called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). By answering the questions in the test, I found out my personality type according to the MBTI. I started to read up on my type. I learned which of my traits were due to my personality, and which ones weren’t. (For what it’s worth, I’m an ISTJ.)

The MBTI has been infinitely helpful. I understand myself – and others – a lot better. I don’t automatically assume that someone’s being a jerk if they don’t do what I expect, or what I think they should do. Well, okay, I’m human, so sometimes I do. But when I stop to think about it for a minute, I realise there’s often more to it than what meets the eye.

So here is my challenge to you. Get to know yourself this year. I mean, REALLY know yourself. It will be uncomfortable. It might even be painful. But trust me – it’ll be SO worth it.