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  • When there’s no substitute for doing the work

    I’m often bemused at what people expect from technology.

    Nothing works perfectly 100% of the time. Yes, I work in digital. No, I don’t know why that email isn’t rendering for this one individual, or why this YouTube view count is stuck right now.

    Why does Word crash sometimes? Why does Excel freeze? These things just happen, and there’s not always a tidy explanation.

    And tools can only do so much and take you so far.

    I think T had some unrealistic expectations about exactly what accounting software could do for him. It’s a programme/platform, not your personal CFO/accountant/banker/debt collector/analyst/money minion! And definitely around the effort involved in setting things up to begin with, in terms of configuring settings for business finances and all that jazz.

    There was a period of time at a previous job where I found myself having to constantly explain to people that [insert tech here] is not their silver bullet. Sure, there’s that lovely long list of dazzling features and benefits that promise to solve all your problems. But how well that can actually be applied to your circumstances and requirements is a different thing altogether.

    Sometimes it’s a manual process, to varying degrees. Sometimes there’s nothing else but to get hands-on and stuck in. Some things you’ve just gotta do things the good old fashioned way.

    Just like there’s only so far that visualisation, mindset and flow can take you, ultimately you’ve got to get yourself over the finish line.

  • An ode to the ex-flatmate

    It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.

    We set up the larger of our spare rooms on Airbnb at the start of 2017. Got our first guest, and then, boom – a friend of T’s needed a place to live because his flat was breaking up. So he moved in with us … just overlapping with our guest by a night.

    It was a truly ridiculous shuffle, moving him first into our small spare room and then over into the bigger spare room the day after.

    In terms of room size, location, general house amenities etc … our place doesn’t have a lot to offer so it was about branding on affordability and coziness rather than anything else. And combined with this mate’s financial situation, this was definitely more about helping out a friend than a money maker.

    Over the year and a half he lived with us (up until shortly before Spud’s birth) I would say we’d be lucky to have broken even with the extra bills and stuff given how much money we actually received. Again – preserving the relationship more than anything.

    On the plus side, which I frequently had to remind myself of!

    He was home a fair bit, which was good for the dogs. He was great with them and had always been their favourite visitor. Having him around was really helpful especially over winter when they started clashing more and were a bit of a handful sometimes. (Not to mention the time the fibre installation guy didn’t close the gate properly and the dogs got out early the next morning … after T and I left for work…)

    And he did help out from time to time in other ways around the house, doing a few handy things, helping with lawn mowing, providing tools, jumpstarting the car … He doesn’t cook so kitchen clashes were not an issue, and typically went to the laundromat to use the dryer there.

    Sans the money thing, it was fairly ideal.

    It’s hard to imagine what things might have been like in an alternate world. Would he still be our flatmate, if Spud hadn’t come along? Would he have quarantined here, part of our bubble? 

    Who knows.

    Have you ever had a flatmate more for the intangible benefits than the money?

  • We can’t get through hard times alone

    What is independence?

    Well, my first (short lived) counsellor last year definitely didn’t seem to rate being financially independent of your parents, even though this is key to my personal definition.

    But becoming a parent has totally shaken my perceptions of independence. It’s forced me to lean on others for some things, as Spud relies on me for everything.

    As my other counsellor (one I found personally, not through my EAP programme) pointed out, it truly does take a village to raise a child.

    I had no idea.

    Spud arrived early and we were SO unprepared. My mum announced that she would come around on her day off to bring food and watch the baby so that I could rest.

    And from them she unfailingly turned up every Wednesday, as well as every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Sometimes I would sleep; more often I’d get chores done, in an attempt to keep the house in a vaguely liveable state.

    That’s how it went. She would help clean, work on my garden, do laundry, buy groceries, even determine that we needed things like new curtains and bring some over. Play with Spud, try to teach him the alphabet, sing to him, hold him for naps.

    I don’t know how I would have coped without her support.

    I couldn’t have done it alone.

    I’m not great at talking about my problems, and that’s led to some serious stress and isolation. I think part of it is not wanting to burden others, a bit of pride, and internalising that typical advice of not hanging your dirty laundry out to dry.

    But I’ve learned I need to lean on my friends, to vent, and to gain perspective. When you’ve grown up with subtle dysfunction, it’s difficult to tell what is normal, what is okay, what is excusable. And to find groups where others are going through the same experience. It is so validating.

    I couldn’t have done it alone.

    The more I learn about business (I’ve been busy editing a string of ebooks for various coaches lately, and soaking up details from people I know IRL who run their own thing) the more I realise how crucial mentors and coaches are to success. People rarely, if ever, get to the top alone.

    And now, life in lockdown. We may be physically living in our little bubbles, but more than ever, being connected to others is vital.

    Here in NZ we’ve spent a month in lockdown, which feels like so much longer. Things will gradually ease in the coming weeks, but it’s clear it will be a very long time before life returns to anything resembling normal.

    I’m fortunate to have a fantastic employer and team – couldn’t have asked for better people to work through a pandemic with. If not for that, I honestly don’t know how I would have coped with a toddler at home, and everything else on top of that.

    How are you doing?

  • Confessions of an eco-failure

    I don’t mean for this to be the whatever the opposite of a humble brag is. I’m not here to revel in my terribleness.

    But I’m just not in a place to prioritise some things at this stage in my life – so here are my confessions.

    I basically don’t use cloth nappies anymore

    Life’s too busy now I’m working full-time. I hate to think how many disposable nappies we go through in a week – daycare changes him every 2 hours. Obviously we don’t see the full impact of that in our rubbish at home, so it’s partially a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

    Or cloth wipes

    Ditto the above.

    We’re bringing so much stuff into our lives that often winds up in landfill

    We buy secondhand, accept hand-me-downs and make do without wherever possible. But some things you just gotta buy new. Like a bottle brush – and the amount of packaging around that was insane.

    We go through a lot of gas drops as Spud has a sensitive/immature gut and ongoing digestive issues. Bottle, after bottle, after bottle, although at least those are recyclable. Ditto his formula cans. Neocate comes in tiny little 900g tins so we go through them fast.

    And my bugbear – paper towels. I never use them; T uses them constantly. It’s just not a fight worth having. At least they’re compostable.

    One cool thing about my workplace is there’s a soft plastics recycling bin. That said … I’ve often gotten lazy and take the easy way out of dumping wrappers in the normal bin that’s right by my desk. I should absolutely make more of an effort.

  • Online banking hacked? It happened to me

    There’s a special horror that comes with the territory of the violation of your personal spaces. If you’ve been burgled before, you know exactly what I mean. That crawly feeling; the knowledge that someone’s been inside your living room, kitchen, bedroom … looked around, touched your stuff, helped themselves to things.

    It’s kind of like that when you learn that someone’s gained access to your online banking. It makes you realise how fragile the building blocks that enable your daily life are. Just like in The Handmaid’s Tale, when women were suddenly cut off from their bank accounts and could no longer access their own money.

    As a sleep deprived parent, I barely registered the strange alert that a new device had signed into my internet banking. That notification came at a really odd time in the wee hours – but mornings are chaos at home, and this was over the New Year break, so honestly, the whole day was chaos.

    When I realised what had happened and saw the missing money, I obviously freaked out.

    Initially, the person on the other end of the phone at the bank sounded sceptical. Despite me explaining that yes, I used a unique password and no, it wasn’t written down anywhere or saved in any browsers; no, I hadn’t clicked on any links in emails and always type in the URL manually – it took quite a while for her to take me seriously. Frustrating.

    Fast forward a few days, and things got straightened out eventually. My cards and accounts were locked down and my online banking had a freeze put on it while I took my laptop to an IT dude for a checkup. My bank couldn’t recover the money from the receiving bank (presumably it was immediately transferred elsewhere), but I was refunded the lost amount.

    Does this make me super paranoid now? Ummm, yeah. Funnily enough, last year I interviewed for a job in the cybersecurity space. At the time, I talked about how it was a growing field that would be exciting to be part of, yadda yadda. (Here are some pretty terrifying stats on cybercrime – the FBI gets 900 complaints a day, and cybercrime costs the world economy nearly $3 million per minute. The mind boggles.) It didn’t really mean much to me personally, though.

    But an incident like this makes it real and brings it home. This stuff matters.

    Change ALL THE PASSWORDS

    For obvious reasons.

    Turn on two-factor authentication

    I didn’t actually realise my bank now has 2FA enabled for desktop banking.

    Keep some money accessible at another bank

    Luckily I already had this in place, though I’m resisting the kneejerk urge to spread my (limited) money around even more.

  • All the times that traditional baby advice failed us miserably

    Baby Shoes

    Photo: Meagan  

    AKA: When to ignore traditional parenting advice and go against the grain.

    I’ve learned to take any advice about how to parent my baby with a grain of salt. My child is a happy kid, but he’s not exactly been an ‘easy’ kid until recently.

    It’ll all get better once he’s on solids (NOPE)

    People say solids help with sleep, because they stay fuller. Not in our case.

    Spud has always had a super sensitive stomach, and the more we ramped up solids the more haywire his sleep got. Solids meant more gas, more trouble pooping (getting backed up), and poops at random times (like the middle of the night).

    People say solids help with reflux. Nah.

    His reflux disappeared once we got on Neocate. That prescription formula changed our lives. He immediately started sleeping through consistently, his gastro problems stopped being an issue, and his temperament improved.

    But since starting solids, I think it may have resurfaced a little (certain coughs and grimaces suggest to me that there’s some nasty regurgitation bothering him) when foods irritate his system. If so, it’s mild, and nothing compared to his ongoing eczema issues – which are definitely linked to his diet.

    Feed them right before bed (NOPE)

    As mentioned above, his reflux made this a big fat LIE. We needed to ensure a fair chunk of time before that last feed and going to sleep. It was okay when he was brand new and tiny. But as he got a bit older, feeding him too late meant he’d just wake up shortly after falling asleep needing to spit up or burp. It wasn’t hunger disrupting his sleep; it was digestive problems.

    “I don’t need as much sleep; I’ll do the night wakings” (NOPE)

    Theory: Husband who needs less sleep will handle more night wake-ups

    Reality: Yeah, nah. It started off okay, but went downhill.

    Spud’s gut troubles (which were always at their worst in the wee hours) meant a lot of tough wake-ups at 2/3/4am. There would be no consoling him, really, during those hours.

    T had little patience or sympathy. He really only started taking the food intolerances seriously once Spud’s eczema got really bad (as in covering most of his back, among other body parts). His experience growing up with younger siblings/nieces meant he was convinced he knew all about baby sleep and that it was just Spud fighting sleep for the sake of it.

    I knew in my heart that Spud was in discomfort. It was in the way he arched and thrashed stiffly, cried shrilly while still half asleep sometimes, would calm after taking his gas drops or emitting a burp or fart, the bubbly sounds that sometimes came from his tummy. And therefore I would not leave him to cry it out generally (except on desperate occasions when I just couldn’t stay up with him anymore and would cry myself to sleep in the next room). This led to a lot of arguing at ridiculous times when nobody should be awake, let alone fighting with their partner. Frankly, it was fucking miserable.

    Everything is a phase – they’re always changing

    Babies are designed to keep us guessing. Just as I think we’ve settled into a routine, something changes, particularly around evening routines. It’s so hard to get the balance right.

    They say you can’t overfeed a baby, but I am certain he was overdoing it between solids and milk at dinner in the early days. When given finger food, he stuffs everything he can at once into his mouth and practically chokes himself trying to eat it all right then. He goes SO overboard. (There are also a few times, way back pre-solids, where I am convinced we overfed him and it led to absolutely miserable nights.)

    So he was definitely overeating for awhile; this kid is a champ eater and I wasn’t great at reading cues initially, I don’t think. Once I stopped giving him an evening bottle, that helped and he had much more settled nights.

    Then he went through a growth spurt and that topup bottle before bed became a necessity again.

    Now, he takes forever to drink that last bottle, rolls around and plays with it, and usually doesn’t finish it … so it might be time to phase it out again. Maybe this time for good – though I wouldn’t bet on it.

    I don’t want to jinx it, but things on the food front have been good lately, and aside from recent teething, so have the nights. But who knows – it could all change tomorrow…

  • What it REALLY takes to dismantle a lifetime of childhood baggage

    Right now, I feel like a hot mess.

    I have a bunch of childhood memories that I’ve held, but never connected to who I am today and how they shaped and influenced me.

    In going to therapy I started to realise just how deep a lot of this stuff ran. How family dynamics affected me and continue to affect me. How much healing my wounded inner child has left to do.

    Kids are sponges, soaking up everything around them. What’s explicitly said and what’s implicitly modelled. They pick up on the smallest of things, often subconsciously. And even throwaway remarks can resonate for a lifetime.

    Clarity comes with time, and I’m finally beginning to come to terms with my childhood baggage and try to dismantle those unhealthy patterns.

    Becoming more comfortable in my own skin

    I feel like I’ve had self-consciousness and self-esteem issues since about age 8 or so. Part of that is no doubt linked to the challenge of moving to a new country and being an outsider. But part of this also ties back to messages I received about my looks and talents.

    For example, I’m never going to forget being told that I wouldn’t be “pretty anymore” once I got glasses. Or all the commentary on my classmates’ looks, or celebrities’ looks, and especially in regard to certain Asian features.

    I think it’s fair to say I may also have had a love/hate thing going on with femininity. It still makes my blood boil to recall being told that “girls don’t play soccer”, but perhaps subconsciously this may have influenced my rejection of certain “girly” things. I used to take great pride in not learning to cook. In identifying with being a guitar player and listening to rock bands and avoiding chick flicks/lit/pop music. This has swung back a lot in recent years and now I fully embrace whatever I like, regardless 🙂

    Learning to speak up

    I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, but I never felt I could contradict my parents. On the rare occasion that I did, it didn’t land well. On the last occasion, it led to me moving out at age 17.

    I also have serious issues opening up and talking about problems. My family would either not talk about things at all, or talk about things like marital problems that they shouldn’t have revealed to their child. I think this feeds my instinct to clam up and my default is just not to talk about any issues EVER, I struggle so hard to literally get the words out, and in tough times I just become a waterfall of tears.

    In trying to analyse this, I’ve realised that I’m reluctant to say anything if it may hurt someone and if I don’t see any possible positive outcome coming out of it.

    In a work context, I struggle to voice my opinion, fearing I’ll sound stupid and that my thoughts aren’t valid. Yet over and over I get beaten to the punch by other people and I’m trying to just bite the bullet and get in early. I also have a deep belief that I’m not an ideas person – where that came from I don’t know exactly, but it must stem from somewhere.

    Feeling responsible for anyone and everyone

    Being on the receiving end of info I shouldn’t have been told was a burden. Hearing things I shouldn’t have been privy taught me to take other people’s crap on as well as my own, and be overresponsible. I felt helpless as I couldn’t do anything about those things as a child. And now as an adult I’ve been overcompensating and going overboard in the other extreme direction. I couldn’t fix those things for my parents and now I suppose I’m making up for it by taking on and fixing every issue that comes into my orbit.

    I have a pretty bitter memory of an afternoon where I was made to lie still and quiet in bed for what felt like forever, with mum and my baby brother, because he wouldn’t nap otherwise. I was 8 or 9 and resented every second but didn’t dare move. We lived in a shoebox, basically, and anything I did anywhere in the house would’ve been too loud. Little things like this stick with you, teach you things about the way you’re supposed to be.

    My chronic indecision

    I didn’t ever try to trace this back to anything, until I recalled to my counsellor a period in time where I regularly accompanied my dad to various religious groups/meetings etc as he looked to figure things out and find his tribe.

    “That must have been so confusing for you,” she said, “not knowing what to believe.”

    While I’d never thought of it that way, I can’t argue with that. Therapy’s been awesome for shedding light on things, giving me perspective, and making connections I never would have otherwise.

    Since then, I’ve made another connection: to the time I was told “Decide who you want to live with, because tomorrow we’re getting a divorce.” What an impossible choice for a 7-year-old.

    Now what?

    Not withstanding, I still love them, seek their approval, know they did their best, pity them in some ways. I know they’ve only ever wanted the best for me and would never mean to hurt me.

    They moved our entire family to another country and built a new life here. That takes incredible strength.

    I have to learn to see them as complex humans, who are right about some things and wrong about others, with strengths and flaws … learn when to listen to them and when to listen to myself … and how to reconcile the best and worst of them, with the best and worst within me.

    Now it’s up to me to learn to identify and state my needs, to set boundaries, to focus on myself and do my best to model healthy behaviours for my kid. To literally and figuratively look in the mirror more often and more closely. To feel, process, and release all the baggage stored in the mind and body. however long that takes. I’m making that commitment now and for the rest of my life.

  • Here’s how much my maternity leave cost me

    how much my maternity leave cost me

    Can you imagine a guy telling his colleagues that the thing he’s most looking forward to in the new year is starting a family?

    I’ve seen this happen (incidentally, he a) left for another company early not long after, and b) is now expecting a baby too – but that’s by the by) and you know what, that really stunned me.

    I cannot ever, EVER imagine saying the same thing as a woman. It seems too great of a risk.

    I saw a tweet ages ago that went something like ‘in the old days, men could say they needed a raise so they could start a family”.

    I suspect if a woman were to pull that the reaction would be quite different. Even though if she was the breadwinner, she would need that raise WAY more than any dude in the equivalent situation.

    Who earns what matters. Here’s why

    For those who say it doesn’t who matter who makes more…

    • Let’s say he makes $40k.
    • She makes $80k.
    • The time she takes off results in a loss of 2/3 of the household income.

    If we reverse that….

    • He makes $80k.
    • She makes $40k.
    • The time she takes off results in a loss of 1/3 of the household income.

    I’m terrible at maths but even I can immediately see that’s there’s a huge, gaping difference there.

    Because yes, she’s going to need SOME time off to push a mini human out of her body and recover from that process … even if they elect for him to be the primary caregiver.

    I guess ironically, at some income levels this matters less. If you’re making a much higher income, your surplus makes it easier to save large amounts to cover those months you won’t be earning for.

    But for your average middle class couple, this is a pretty major consideration.

    How much my maternity leave cost me

    I was uber fortunate to have a very generous employer – the company I worked for while pregnant offers 3 months of leave at full pay.  (I’d still be there were it not for the mass layoffs that took place shortly before I was due to return to work.) That’s super rare, and they were definitely a market leader in regard to this benefit. Very few companies here offer any paid parental leave at all, much less at full pay and for that long. Most people only get the 22 weeks worth of paid government leave that clocks in at something like $480 a week post-tax, maximum.

    I wound up taking about 7.5 months off, which included the 3 months of paid parental leave, and another month of annual leave that I’d saved up.

    That meant 3.5 months of lost income from my day job, which adds up to over $15k of takehome income.

    Add to that over $3.5k in missed superannuation contributions (between my contributions and employer contributions – again, my old employer was very generous on that front) plus any gains that amount would have made in the market.

    All up, my brief (by NZ standards) parental leave meant I lost out on nearly $20k. And if I’d worked almost anywhere else, that amount would have probably doubled, as I wouldn’t have benefited from any fully-paid leave. Straight up, I wouldn’t have been able to take that much time off to stay home with Spud.

  • What I’ve learned from a year of navigating the NZ healthcare system

    My experience of our healthcare system to date has been pretty dang limited. The odd GP visit, gyno/birth control stuff with Family Planning, etc.

    Since Spud came along, that’s changed. Now that he’s in the picture, I’ve dealt with specialists for the first time ever, and leaned on our mental health services, along with the day-to-day stuff that every baby goes through.

    Free healthcare and resources for children is a blessing

    I’m so glad to be able to take Spud to the doctor as often as needed and not pay a thing for appointments or prescriptions. To be able to call Plunketline any time of day or night for advice. Money shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to any child’s health.

    Perhaps most of all, I am so grateful to have been able to access prescription formula that finally resolved Spud’s reflux and other digestive issues, and to be able to feed him in the way he needs. It came rather late, but better late than never. The alternative would have been living off a tiny handful of foods and being miserable; having a somewhat restricted diet and a somewhat unhappy baby (and thus an unhappy me); or possibly sourcing elemental formula some other way at a cost of hundreds of dollars a week. Food intolerances, get f-ed!

    But it is very, very hard to get taken seriously

    I’ve learned the hard way that I need to be an advocate for my son. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and know when things are not right.

    I am thankful he does not have anaphylactic reactions to anything. However, this has made it difficult to get his issues taken seriously. Skin, gut, poop, and temperament symptoms just aren’t as compelling, even though they are still horrifically distressing for us. And through social media I’ve seen much more harrowing stories of other mums struggling to get the medical attention their babies deserve.

    I’m so glad I opted to get health insurance for him, as I think trying to navigate the public system and get referrals would have broken me. I’ve seen stories of mums with much worse problems struggle to get their babies seen. At least I was able to just book in direct with specialists and get Spud in that way.

    Mental health matters and we need more in this area

    I’m stoked that mental health is getting more funding.

    I have been so grateful for the services I’ve been able to access when I was at breaking point.

    I’ve used the free 1737 helpline, and had someone sit on the phone with me while I walked and breathed and tried to reorient myself for close to an hour.

    I’ve been able to make use of free counselling sessions at my local women’s centre.

    I used my work EAP services before my redundancy went into effect, although I found that particular counsellor … not the best.

    While I had to pay to see my doctor to rule out post natal depression, they were pretty clear to me that I should come in any time to talk and that subsequent appointments could be covered under mental health funding.

    (It’ not PND. What it is, was situational stress and external factors, and actually serious marital issues – an ongoing story for further down the track. Bit frustrating to be treated like a hysterical woman, to be honest.)

    Social media is a lifeline when all else fails

    Social media has been a double edged sword during this time. An addictive time waster? Absolutely. But also a source of support from all corners? 100%.

    Support from people I know and people I don’t. My work crew (the four of us who popped out babies within a month of each other). My friends who had kids before I did. Members of various Facebook groups going through their own stuff, sometimes similar issues, whom I learned a ton from, and felt a bit less alone in the process. When I was losing my mind trying to figure out Spud’s food issues with little support from T. Exhausted from dealing with a baby who wasn’t sleeping, was super unsettled, had chronic gas, constipation, and eczema.  He’d be up at night crying, inconsolable, and I’d be crying along with him. He couldn’t sleep because of his digestive issues and I couldn’t do more to help (and worst of all, was the cause of those issues via my diet). Lately, his sleep’s been pretty haywire and I think it’s because his eczema is getting out of control. Right now it covers almost all of his back, and I’m going to try book him in with a dermatologist who comes highly recommended in a local eczema FB support group.

    Overall, I can’t really complain too much. I’ve managed to get us enrolled at a doctor that is literally around the corner from home, and we’ve had a good Plunket nurse though that will be changing next year. I’m sure I’ll have more to say as we continue to navigate vaccinations, dental care, vision checks and more!

  • All the baby gear I’ve scored for free on Facebook

    All the baby gear I've scored for free on facebookLike every other human on Facebook, I have mixed feelings about social media. Particularly since managing social media has been part of my job in almost every role I’ve ever held.

    But it has been a godsend since having a baby, and here’s why.

    I’ve been the grateful recipient of so many freebies that have saved me a ton of money.

    Here’s a list of everything I can remember that I’ve received:

    • Reusable cloth nappies
    • Hanging storage racks for nappies/toys
    • Baby books
    • Bags of toys
    • A change table
    • A bouncer
    • Bedside drawers
    • Curtains – that didn’t fit and that I regifted
    • A few tins of Neocate – the biggest game changer of all. Dairy-free, amino acid formula for which there’s a high bar to get a prescription (though some doctors may be more sympathetic than others). I was then able to say to our specialist, we’ve tried a few cans and it worked wonders, please prescribe it for us. More on our feeding journey and transition to formula here.

    How to get free baby gear on Facebook? Easy. Any parent-to-be or new parent should join their local Frugal Mumma and Pay It Forward groups sooner rather than later.

    I’ve learned about free playgroups, free counselling sessions, and discounted classes on Facebook. Going to therapy is a topic for a whole other post, but I’ve been having so many breakthroughs and working through so much childhood baggage.

    On top of that, I’ve found so much value and support in various Facebook groups. The dairy-free breastfeeding group. The fussy baby group. The Sleep Store group. An NZ due date group. And more!

    Yes, I’ve wasted a lot of time scrolling aimlessly through Facebook in search of freebies, as well as more generally. But overall, it has hands-down been a net positive for me during the past year.