Looking back at June, a clear theme emerges – letting go. At the start of the year, with my son settled into school, I decided to pivot towards more paid work. I told everyone I know that I was looking for contract or freelance work. I crossed my fingers and hoped some work would trickle in. Well, there’s been a steady stream. It caught me offguard. I still consider myself a stay at home mum who works a bit on the side. Well, that was until this month, when some crunching of the numbers revealed I was working virtually full-time and pulling in pay cheques equal to my husband. It isn’t a blip – I’m a working mum now and there had to be changes for that to be sustainable. I couldn’t add in more paid work without letting other things go.
What’s simpler – picking up your phone and ordering a pizza, or making dough, then kneading, proving, shaping, topping and cooking it?
In comparision to our convenience society, the make-it-yourself ethos of the simple living movement is the antithesis of simplification. However, the judicious addition of a little bit of DIY to your life is worth the effort as:
- it’s a counter-weight to the norm of consume, consume, consume
- you can’t beat the satisfaction of making something yourself, and
- it gives you a real appreciation of what goes into making things.
There are so many ways you can get a dose of DIY – cooking, crafts, gardening. One I recommend to everyone is making your own household cleaners. It’s something we all use regularly and they’re surprising quick and easy to make, plus they’re better for the environment and a money saver.
I’ve been making most of my own cleaners for over a year now. You can find good recipes on the internet and buy most of the ingedients you need from any decent wholefoods store, but I buy mine from Figgy & Co. Not because they’re cheaper (they’re not), but because they have great recipes. Ones that really work for my household. I’ve written a post over on their blog where I share how I got started making my own cleaners . If you’re curious about making your own cleaners, but a bit unsure, head over and check it out. If you’ve got any questions, ask away. While I’m not enthusiastic about cleaning itself, I’m very enthusiastic about cleaning recipes.
Busyness – occasionally it’s is unavoidable, but mostly it’s a state of our own making. You don’t sit down and think to yourself, “I want my day to be so frantic I’m bent over in pain at 3 pm cos I haven’t had a chance to pee” or write on your list of goals, “Life so full, catch-ups with friends must be scheduled two months in advance”. You don’t have to. Busyness creeps up on you and is the result of a myriad a small, everyday decisions. In fact, it’s so insidious that unless you take intentional steps to avoid it, busyness weasels its way in as life’s default setting.
That’s my experience. I took a big intentional step to get out of the rat race. I quit my job. Rather than being a mother and a worker, I became just a mother. Problem solved. Except it wasn’t.
At high school, I wore a uniform. It was hideous. An itchy brown jersey, yellow polo shirt and a brown box-pleat skirt. Maybe it was the height of style in the 70s when the school opened, but definitely not in the 90s when I wore it. At least we all looked hideous together. I remember my glee on the last day of school as I dumped the old thing on a desk in the school office and told them to pass it on to someone else. Finally free.
Back then, I didn’t appreciate the freedom that a school uniform gave me. Four years of freedom from deciding what to wear to school, trying to keep up with trends, arguing with my parents over what was appropriate, and spending my babysitting money on an extensive wardrobe. While my school uniform was terribly ugly, it was also beautifully simple. Twenty years on, I’m grateful to that gaudy uniform for making my teenage years simpler.
Each day, we face so many decisions. The vast majority of them are inconsequential, yet they add to our mental load. Simplifying everyday activities, like dressing, is easy, with a great payback in terms of reducing your mental load.
I’ve got 46 minutes before it’s time for school pick-up. Before I head out the door, let’s see what I can tell you about what’s going on for me right now.
This month was a bit of a milestone. I got my first gig consulting in the not-for-profit sector. This was a milestone in two ways:
- I secured my first ever client (I’ve since completed the work. They love it, I loved it – success)
- It was a significant tilt into paid work, I had a few wobbles, but I didn’t sink.
It is spring, the days are getting longer, I’m enjoying my evening beach walks and I feel great.
Noticing how great I’m feeling now, I realised, I hadn’t been feeling so great through winter. Nothing was bothering me in particular, I just felt a bit flat and unmotivated. I was stuck in a rut.
Fortunately, a change of season was all I needed to switch gears and feel excited about life again. Lucky me. Lifting yourself out of a rut isn’t always so easy. If you’re searching for help to get going again, I’d like to point you toward three books I found really helpful when I felt blah and lost.
Each book guides you through a series of actions to reorientate your life. What I really appreciate about all three books is the emphasis on experimentation. Each offers some general principles along with a range of bite-size exercises designed to get you trying new things or thinking in a different way, rather than a blueprint to be followed.
“Help please. I feel like I’m a total failure. With working and trying to keep on top of things at home, I feel like I am dropping the ball all the time. Does anyone else feel this way? What is wrong with me? How do you mummies manage it all?”
So read the plea from a fellow mum. I could relate. Three years ago, I could’ve been the one posting this in the local mum’s Facebook group. I was giving it my all to be a good employee and a great mum, but I didn’t feel like I had a decent grip on either role. Life was a blur of one narrowly adverted minor disaster after another. I was a crap friend and a bitch of a wife. As for anything else, there wasn’t room, that would all have to wait for “someday”.
I was totally overwhelmed by my life. I had never worked so hard to fail so miserably. And not just miserably, spectacularly. Sobbing-loudly-at-my-desk-a-colleague-bundling-me-into-her-car-to-take-me-home type spectacularly.
What advice could I offer this fellow mum to helpprevent her becoming a burnt-out mess? Over the last three years, I’ve learnt a lot about how to live a full and meaningful life and push your limits without pushing yourself over the edge.