Today’s guest post is from the gorgeous Tania McCartney. Tania is an author, editor, publisher and founder of well-respected children’s literature site, Kids Book Review. She is an experienced speaker, magazine and web writer, photographer and marshmallow gobbler. She is the author of the popular Riley the Little Aviator series of travelogue picture books, and is both published and self-published in children’s fiction and adult non-fiction. Tania lives in Canberra with a husband, two kidlets and a mountain of books.
I’ll never forget reading about a woman who said she refused to do more than 10 minutes of housework a day.
Okaaaaay. If she didn’t have a rat problem, I’ll eat my kitchen floor crumbs and I’ll also eat the kitchen floor.
Whilst I, personally, kind of insist on doing more than 10 minutes of rat-prevention a day, I am all for making it as effective as possible, in minimal time. I do, after all, have a job. Actually, I have two jobs. The first is the most important job in the world (yes, you know the one) and the second is my role as an author/publisher/editor/blogger/reviewer.
Many modern women have two jobs – okay… 100 jobs – but probably our biggest task of all is not only striking a balance with these roles – but striking a balance that actually, literally works – not one that you tell yourself is working or tell your friends and family is working, when in reality you’re just sinking into rat-dropping kitchen chaos.
The difficulty for many modern women is that we can ‘have it all’. We can be mums, housewives, travellers, friends, career women and actual real life, breathing women – all at once. And because we can have it all, we often choose to have it all? Why? Um, because we can.
I know I don’t need to go into why ‘having it all’ is making hot messes out of us all, so I won’t – but needless to say – the super mum concept is dead. No one believes it any more, and those who categorise themselves under this moniker are probably still sporting a hairdo from 1989. Admitting our limitations and demanding LESS from ourselves is the new black. Who wants a run-ragged, emotionally-wrought mother combing their hair in the morning? Not my daughter!
Shedding the superwoman cape
So, how do we whip off our super hero capes and embrace the new black? How do we reclaim our lives? How do we do less but reap more?
I think the first thing to do is to realise we are ‘enough’. And we need to remember that the best tasting coffee is the one well-brewed, not the quickie grains slapped in a cup and doused with boiling water. With the current resurgence in ‘slow’ – slow cooking, slow travel, yoga and meditation (all over again), handmade, tradition – women are embracing a way of life that centres on community and support, as opposed to competition and scrabbling to the top of the pile (to the detriment of others as well as the self).
Burnt-out mothers are rebelling. They are flinging packets of trans fat-laden biscuits from their supermarket trolleys and baking their own. They are embracing the power nap. They are understanding the need for time alone, time out, time for the self… beyond all the roles they perform for everyone else.
Are you one of these women? Or are you still yes-ing everything?
I’m getting much better at no-ing. I actually have no choice… it’s now part of my strategy for sanity. The other important thing I’m doing – and this is a biggie – is shunning the vampires. No, I don’t mean handsome men with sharp teeth – I mean the energy-sappers. The drainers. The users. The opportunists. The passive-aggressives. I’m actively nudging them out of my life – and boy oh boy – that nudge will change your life.
Organising and Planning
Another strategy I use for motherhood/work balance is organisation. I keep a daily planner on my desk and I note down even the smallest tasks I need to achieve. I keep my office orderly and have folders and places for everything. I respond to emails, bills, letters, requests, phone calls instantly, if not very quickly – and if I can’t get to them straight away, I at least flag them. The sooner they’re dealt with, the more on top of things I feel.
I also plan. A dear friend put me onto a great system where you grab yourself a yearly planner and plot your year, right down to weekends away, only – and here’s the rub – you do it backwards. Let me explain.
When I plot my year, I schedule in all work commitments first. Then I slot in the commitments the kids have, then the commitments our family has, then all the anniversaries and then lastly – the fun – the events, the shows, the travel, the holidays. But what you need to do is schedule the fun first. Do it all backwards.
This is hard to do! But the results will bring much contentment – so much to look forward to, so much clarity and dare I say it? so much joy.
In keeping with my feeling that a sense of community and support is so sadly lacking in our modern lives, I also make a point of reaching out for help, if needed. Again, this is often hard to do! but I commit to reaching out as much as I can. When you begin this process, you find others begin to warmly respond – and your support networks develop really quickly – a benefit to everyone, especially kids.
When it comes to my work as an author, I try to strike balance by prioritising. I’m making a sincere attempt to cut down emailing time, to keep emails short and hit the delete button with greater frequency. I’m very active in the literary community, especially online, but I’ve had to carefully pare back the hours I put into promoting and fostering others in the industry. This is still a hugely important part of my life, to which I donate a lot of time, but I’ve learned I can’t be everything to everyone, and so have scaled this back considerably. And guess what – the world is still revolving!
I think this is an important fact to remember when we consider scaling back our blog posts or book reviews or generosity to the world… it will keep revolving without us. People will survive without us. A humbling thought.
The Whiz Around
As for housework – I mention this again because I KNOW you will suck in any tips you can get on this topic! – I have to admit to you that I actually don’t mind housework (stop snorting into your lattè!) – it’s rather the TIME it takes up that makes me so resentful.
Frankly, while I’ll rarely let my housework slip, I’m all for minimising the time I spend on it. So, I have a rather special strategy (soon to be patented) called the Whiz Around. That’s right. The busy mum Whiz Around. That’s the one where you suddenly look up at the clock and the kids will be home in 15 minutes and you’re still in your jammies because you’ve not even moved from the keyboard, not even once.
The Whiz Around is fantastic because it’s a WORKOUT. And it works. You just grab a washing basket, say out loud “on your mark, get set, go” and off you run. The secret is to keep moving yet maximize time usage by minimising back-tracking. Grab, run, do, tidy, fluff, straighten, pick up (oh, I hate picking up!), wipe. Do it in sequence, as you run.
Here is my Whiz Around from this morning…
Grab basket, line up at kitchen door, ready set go! Swoop past kitchen bench, grab Ella’s colouring pencils, maps, Riley’s teddy, measuring tape, tv guide. Swoop past coffee table to drop tv guide and straighten remotes, while I’m there, straighten cushions, fold throw rugs, pick up Pokemon cards, dash off to Riley’s room, drop cards and teddy, pick up his washing, make his bed, off to Ella’s room, drop pencils, make bed, pick up washing, head to laundry picking up iron on way as well as used coffee mugs from dining table, drop mugs in sink on way to laundry, plop kids’ washing into basket, put away iron, pick up kids shoes, football and off I go again.
It’s really that simple. But you must run. And do not be distracted by anything with fat and sugar in it as you pass the kitchen, and most importantly of all – DO NOT GO NEAR YOUR COMPUTER, even if you hear a ping in your inbox.
When you’re done with the Whiz Around, sit down, have a cup of tea and expect less from yourself. No, as much as I’d bloody love it, I can’t maintain a pre-Vogue Living Photo Shoot house if I want to finish my latest book. And no, I can’t have thighs like a fifteen-year-old water polo player if I want to finish my latest book. And no, I can’t have daily lunch with the girls nor braid my daughter’s hair before school every day nor nip off to Venice for the weekend if I want to finish my latest book.
But what I can have is a warm giggle at my imperfections. At my family’s imperfections and my inability to make life ‘perfect’. As my niece says, “There’s no such thing as perfect, Auntie Tania.” And isn’t the charm of anything in its imperfections?
So here’s to an imperfect motherhood/career balance, where we work hard, with organisational strategies firmly in place, yet we find time to relax. It’s a place where we expect less of ourselves, where we reach out for help, where we jump off the rollercoaster and take time to brew the coffee.
Oh – and we embrace the Whiz Around at every given opportunity. Happy whizzing!
Are you attempting to balanace motherhood with a career?
Tania’s newest book – Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne – was scheduled into an imperfect lifestyle that incorporated both lots of hard work and lots of time out. It was written in an imperfect house, with not a rat dropping in sight.
This post is part of a blog tour Tania is doing to celebrate the launch of Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A Journey around Melbourne. To see other fabulous posts like Publishing v Self-Publishing, Book Resources for Parents, Travelling with Children head to Tania’s blog – Blog Tour Schedule. And here is a little bit more info about her wonderful book:
Riley has discovered a wombat in his nanny’s garden. But why is this furry creature so grumpy? Join Riley and his friends from books one, two and three, as they zoom around the stunning sights of Melbourne in search of a wombat that simply needs a place to call home.
Featuring gorgeous black and white photos of Melbourne and surrounds, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat combines photos, illustrations, adorable characters, humour and an adventuresome storyline in a travelogue-style book that showcases Melbourne at its very best.Published by Ford Street Publishing.
Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A Journey around Melbourne
Tania McCartney, illustrations by Kieron Pratt
Ford Street Publishing, A$22.95, hardcover