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Attachment theory and attachment parenting are not the same thing.

I have received many comments as a new parent, so sometimes it is useful to separate the wheat from the chaff.

When I was in the midst of sleep regression, Soren had stopped sleeping through the day. I felt like a failure as a parent because the only way I could get him to sleep was by feeding him on the breast. When I’d gently place him in his cot, he would scream. Pat-shush didn’t work, we weren’t interested in co-sleeping, and lullabies were not helping us.

A few people blamed breastfeeding – apparently, he was using me as a dummy. The child health nurse suggested that ‘if feed to sleep works, keep going with it.’ So I would feed him to sleep, then be planted on the couch or the floor for an hour.

Another person suggested that I had cuddled my child too much and too often, causing him to lose his daytime sleep independence.

“That’s all that modern attachment parenting.” 

Except – it wasn’t.

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At the time, I was knee-deep in a subject of my masters degree that focussed on attachment theory in the context of healthy relationships, child abuse and neglect, and protective education.

Attachment parenting and attachment theory are two different things.

In attachment parenting, you are encouraged to co-sleep, do skin-on-skin, breastfeed for an extended time, and wear your baby.

I was never an attachment parent.

With that being said, I pat him to comfort him, I did 9 months of breastfeeding (until my hair fell out), and I cuddle him within his comfort levels. When he cries during play time, I pick him up – when he wriggles, I put him down.

These are natural behaviours. Soothing a child’s heightened emotional state and sharing in their happy state helps them to feel loved, safe, and secure. This is supported by attachment theory, long-term studies, and natural science.

It does not make a child ‘clingy.’

In fact, being securely attached to a parent is one of the most protective factors a child can have in developing resilience, independence, and positive long-term outcomes.

However, like anything, there are lots of ways you can achieve a secure attachment, and it doesn’t need to involve attachment parenting.

9 months on, I still respond to my baby’s cues and comfort levels in a way that makes him feel safe and he reacts positively to new situations, people, and settings, which suggests that he is securely attached. He has a safe base that he can return to in the face of threat or discomfort.

While some people may label this as ‘modern’ parenting, it is highly supported by science. Read more here

Interestingly, a securely attached infant is less likely to experience avoidant, insecure, anxious, or ambivalent behaviours when separated from their caregivers, which flies in the face of the assumption that responding to an infant’s natural needs will make them clingy.

The flip side, of course, is that I want my child to have power over who touches his body. At 9 months, it is just a matter of me reading his cues and body language, but in the future, I intend to teach him about consent – another way he can feel safe and secure.

Protective education (making a child the boss of their body) is the first way you can make your child a hard target for predators who are looking for easy targets who won’t tell on them.

It’s all a balance with the same end goal – making your child feel safe.

So what’s the difference?

Attachment parenting is a style of parenting that encourages maximum contact, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby wearing in the hopes of nurturing the parent-child relationship.

Attachment theory is the scientifically supported study of early relationships between children and their primary caregivers that focuses on a child’s innate need to have emotional states soothed, to be close to their caregiver, and to feel secure. It supports two-way interactions, appropriate responses, and the dynamics of early relationships that lead to a child feeling secure. Avoiding a child’s early attachment needs by ignoring them or only responding sometimes can cause a child to feel anxious upon separation, clingy, ambivalent towards their caregiver, and in the long term, poor at interpersonal relationships.

 

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No prizes for first place? Hogwash.

I was reading this article about schools going ‘reward free’ in the name of tackling a ‘lack of resilience’ in the up and coming generations.

As a teacher, parent, current over-achiever, and former under-achiever, I must respectfully disagree.

Let me tell you my story. When I was at my first primary school – a Catholic affair – I was labelled ‘the naughty kid’ from the very start. In grade 1, I started having horrific religious dreams about Jesus crucifying me, nailing me to the carpet, or calling me an evil child. My grade 1 teacher used to smack me and put me in the back room to get rid of me. By grade 3, my teacher made me complete my school work in the office and I had to stay back after school.

This was not violent behaviour on my part, mind you. Just impulsive silliness. Flushing apple cores down toilets, staying out in the rain, occasional backchat. Still, my education did not start off on the right foot. What I really needed was a firm teacher who could build a relationship and get inside my head.

Once I changed schools, I experienced that. When I did the wrong thing, I was reprimanded; but when I did the right thing, I was praised. My teacher believed in me and I improved out of sight.

A few years later, I still had behavioural problems but I had started to develop a talent for academia and sports. I played soccer and touch football skilfully, and competed in athletics and distance running, often making it to district and regional trials. I also achieved in the top percentiles for English and writing competitions.

Fancy that – a naughty child who is also academically skilled!?

Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn’t – but it didn’t really matter because at the end of the day, I was only racing against myself.

When I did win, I would get the chance to receive a medal or ribbon on assembly. For me, the naughty kid, it helped my teachers and peers to see another, more positive side of me.

In some schools I’ve taught in, there have been rewards days for behaviour, attendance, and effort. These are areas that anyone can achieve highly in.

I have absolutely no issue with seeing children rewarded for hard work.

For some of the children we teach, this may be one of the few things they can feel good about.

No-one is suggesting we should give out medals for last place – but a little bit of encouragement goes a long way in motivating some children. There are certainly some children who may only get their time to shine on the sporting field or in the world of academics, so it makes no sense to take that away from them.

When did we become such a nation of scrooges?

As a child, I received ribbons for places and medals when I won. As an adult, I still race against myself, I set the bar high, and I still have the box full of trophies and medals I received in some of my brightest days. I certainly don’t lack resilience.

Let the children celebrate their wins and support them through their disappointments.

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I just want my finishing medal and my beer, damnit!

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The joy of travelling alone

Ever since I can remember, I have had the travel bug. It probably started the first time I watched Madeline; I always had a deep desire to stretch my wings and walk on the roads less travelled.

As I grew towards my adult life, my parents encouraged me to ‘wait until I had friends who wanted to travel.’ As I started to meet new friends, I realised that our styles would be completely incompatible. My friends wanted to drink and party with Contiki, I wanted to travel at my own pace and to do so quietly.

When I was 20, I booked my first trip alone to Tokyo, Japan. My parents begged me not to go, but I did anyway.

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My only big mistake was that I nearly missed the flight back because I assumed a flight from Tokyo – Osaka – Brisbane started as a domestic flight, therefore, I only had to be there a half hour early.

Oh, well. I made it in the end.

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The next year, I took a teaching trip to Hangzhou, China and visited Beijing and Shanghai when I was done. After that, I thought I could conquer the world….

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…. then I visited India. At the ripe old age of 22. Probably one of my poorer life decisions, but I have no regrets.

I did the golden triangle – Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra – where I saw rats the size of cats, experienced real Indian accommodation ($7 a night and no running water), and had gastro out of both ends.

I also had a taxi driver who tried to scam me out of money after I’d run out, so I had to distract him and run into a hotel.

Smooth.

In 2012, I came out of a three year relationship so I spent the slush fund I’d had tucked away for a European jaunt with my ex and spent 3 months travelling in Greyhound buses on the west side of the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

Some highlights included couchsurfing at Richmond Arquette’s guest house, meeting survivors of Jonestown, and hanging out with lots of internet friends.

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Greyhound Buses – where hope goes to die

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Before I left, so many people got busy telling me why I shouldn’t travel alone, but I did it anyway. The only downside was when I got bronchitis in Las Vegas on New Years’ Eve and ended up spending it in Sunrise Hospital, Nevada. So many drunks.

Good times.

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Christmas Day was good, though. Spent the day skiing and nearly crashed when I stupidly took on the steep mountain.

Right before Soren was conceived, I travelled to Sri Lanka, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia on my own.

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Sri Lanka was an adventure from start to finish, with dirt-cheap Air BnBs, crowded trains, hot weather, and about 21km of walking most days.

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The high point was when Natalie joined me for Christmas and we spent the day surfing.

From there, I left my love and went for my first trip to the Middle East – Qatar.

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It was there in that dusty corner of the world that I learned the value of drinking tea, enjoying extravagance, and being left alone.

On New Years’ Eve, I boarded a flight to Azerbaijan. Most people I spoke to would raise their eyebrow and say, ‘Where the f#*k is Azerbaijan!?’

In case you wanted to know, it is part of the far-Eastern-European part of the world and a former Soviet nation. It is untouched by tourism, full of stray cats, and cold as anything in January – so much so that it started snowing flurries when I went for a run.  The highlight was definitely catching two buses to a place out of town and finding an eternal fire – very valuable in the cold weather. You can also buy 75c Russian vodka in the supermarket – also good for keeping warm.

From Azerbaijan, I took the no-frills overnight train to Georgia. It was somewhat confronting to cross a border in the middle of the night, especially when the uniformed customs officers spoke very little English.

In Georgia, I got a $50 tattoo and also ended up in a bath house after catching a random bus. I had no idea what was going on when the lady running it took me into a locker room and told me to ‘strip!’ I obliged, and she took me into an underground shower room filled with 20 other naked ladies, all different ages. The water came from the Earth and was boiling hot. In the corner, an elderly lady was being washed by her daughters with a rag on a stick. It was oddly beautiful. 

I took another overnight bone-rattler from Georgia to Armenia, where I finished my Eastern European jaunt. It was beautiful from start to finish.

Some people fear travelling alone, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. You learn to love being alone, and to solve problems independently. My goal was to get to 30 countries by 30 and 10 of them, I have done as a solo traveller.

No regrets.


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The best parenting advice.

When I first fell pregnant, I received so much well-meaning advice. Some people couldn’t seem to accept that when I said a particular idea wasn’t really for us, it didn’t mean it was a bad idea.

Take attachment parenting, for instance. Some families love bed-sharing, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing. For me, the idea of having my child attached to me day and night makes me anxious. Therefore, we’ve never used any of these strategies.

Horses for courses.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps” was another gem that also made no sense to me.

So – will the baby study when I study, or work while I work? How do I find time to do my tasks if I’m sleeping every time I catch 40 minutes?

I do want to share the best advice I was given, though, in the hope that someone else can use it.

Save up nappies/wipes and other consumables in the year before you have a baby.

8 months in and we still haven’t used all of our packets of wipes and we only ran out of nappies after a couple of months.

 Save up your baby’s 1st birthday items in the months before their birthday.

This saved us going out and buying packs of Batman plates, cups, and accessories all at once. Very useful.

Buy an umbrella stroller for overseas trips.

Enough said. 

Use Gumtree/Ebay/Buy swap sell for baby brand name clothes.

You spend so little and get so much!

Take time out for yourself.

Whatever that looks like –  it’s absolutely essential.

Most of the advice is chump change in the grand scheme of things, but these were my three most valuable pieces.

What were yours?

 

 

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That’s now how it was supposed to be – my experience of birth trauma

Before my birthing experience, my midwives asked me to draft a ‘birth plan.’ I thought the idea of planning something so unpredictable was completely absurd, so my plan was to take nothing off the table. In my head, I secretly wanted to give birth in a warm bath with nothing but a bra on, but this wasn’t to be.

On the twelfth day of December 2018, I decided I had been pregnant long enough. I was four days past my due date and becoming increasingly anxious about what was to come. The very next day, I went to the hospital. They felt my belly and told me the baby’s head was in an odd position, so an induction would be required straight away.

I hadn’t even brought my hospital bag.

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Nevertheless, they took us upstairs to the ward and inserted a balloon catheter, while I waited for labour to start. Many hours later, it had not commenced. My waters were broken under laughing gas – which was definitely the high point of my birthing experience. After, a hormone drip was injected and my contractions started.

I laboured peacefully for a few hours and dilated on schedule. After awhile, I requested an epidural to numb the intense contractions brought on by the artificial hormones. I drifted in and out of sleep for the next couple of hours, until the epidural wore off. That was when things started to get tricky.

The nurse observed that my dilation had regressed from 8cm to 7cm, his head was still displaced, and I was running a fever of 40 degrees. It turns out I had an infection.

At this point, the doctors called time on my “natural” birth and I hastily signed the consent forms for a c-section. The hormone drip was then removed. As they wheeled me to theatre, I screamed as I experienced a half hour contraction.

When I was on the surgical table, the spinal block would not go in. They explained the need for a general anaesthetic and before they injected the cannula, I yelled, ‘Don’t let my wife find out the sex of the baby until I’m awake!’ Then, it was lights out.

During the surgery, I lost 2.5 litres of blood and needed to be stabilised with tubes down my throat. Fortunately, he was completely fine throughout.

I woke some hours later, with a baby on my chest.

‘He’s perfect!’ I remember saying, as I blacked out again.

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When I woke the next time, his nappy was being pulled down in my face – the closest I came to the ‘it’s a boy’ moment.

In the days following the birth, I couldn’t get out of bed nor care for my baby as I would have liked. I needed a lot of assistance from nurses as I was on an anti-biotic drip and couldn’t get out of bed unassisted. It was awful to feel so helpless.

Being trapped in the house for six weeks also made my life difficult. In the early days, I caught a bus to rhyme time but felt so overwhelmed by the amount of people in the library that I sat outside in the park and sobbed.

Over time, I experienced quite a lot of distress over how it all went down. At first, I felt like less of a woman because people would say to me, ‘Well, I knew someone who laboured for 36 hours with their first baby.’ Or they would talk about how few interventions they’d had with their own births, like all of this is the high watermark of womanhood.

I grieved everything I missed; the ‘it’s a boy’ moment, the cord being cut, seeing the placenta, hearing him cry, and experiencing the first breastfeed. Any time I hear about someone else’s “natural” birth, I get triggered, knowing I will never experience this for myself.

I struggled through the first few weeks of breastfeeding, desperate to hold onto the last lingering shred of connection I had to a natural birth of my son.

It sucked. Knowing I would never give birth again also didn’t help.

But in the months following, I have reflected, contemplated, and grown through all of this. I realise that births happen in many different ways and what was completely unorthodox was still beautiful, in that it brought life into this world.

I am no less a woman because I was induced, used an epidural, or because I had an unconscious c-section birth. Although I am grateful, my birthing experience was devastating, scarring, and isolating. Being able to make sense of it takes away some of its darkness.

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I’m going back to work.

Before Master S came along, I stuck it out in an environment that diminished all of the self-confidence I had built up over the years of coming out and living as a gay woman.

“Happiness doesn’t pay the bills,” was my mantra as I worked to burnout, from the discomfort of the closet I’d worked so hard to come out of years earlier.

I saved almost every cent, desperate for the privilege afforded to few in this modern world, the opportunity to be a full-time stay-at-home Mum.

I eventually moved on, with the view to achieving a better work-life balance as I approached parenthood. It turned out to be an excellent choice, and I started to really enjoy my career.

After S was born, I was so excited to do Baby Rhyme Time, playgroup, and trips to the park.

It wasn’t until about five months in that I started to feel an intense boredom, restlessness, and loneliness that I couldn’t seem to fix.

Playgroups I tried in my local area seemed to be populated by nannies and hired help, or Mums who wanted to complain about their husbands in a communal echo-chamber.

Holy shit, it was depressing. And after awhile, something had to give.

So I went back to work.

Just two days a week, and only on a casual basis. The first day I dropped him off, I couldn’t believe how free I felt. I also noticed how much more effective I was in the classroom with organising instructional time and managing difficult behaviour.

When you’ve left your baby in daycare to work, you really do mean business when you get into your flow state.

When I picked him up after a day in the classroom, I had missed him, but I could see how much he was getting out of the extra socialisation and time out of the house. I was actually benefiting from the insignificant things I had taken for granted, like lunchtime banter with other adults.

I felt like a human again.

I refuse to buy into the outdated notion that a child needs their Mum home 100% of the time in order to grow up healthy and well-adjusted. It suits some people and benefits some families, but it’s not for everyone.

To the contrary, I think a little bit of space in the early years can deliver amazing benefits for a developing child, if it means the Mum is happier.

Not every mother is cut out for the full-time, stay-at-home Mum life, and that’s okay. 

It’s high time we stopped assuming that what suits one family or individual is automatically going to suit another. It takes all sorts to make up this weird and wonderful world we live in.

 

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Not everyone you meet is a narcissist.

Whenever there is a mental health awareness initiative, it is all about informing people that many people have struggles with depression and anxiety.

This awareness is a good thing. It is working to end the stigma around mental illness.

However, this should extend to helping people become more educated on the workings of the mind. Too many people are quick to self-diagnose, or suggest diagnoses to others.

Similarly, the way people use diagnosable conditions as adjectives doesn’t help.

Think….. ‘That’s so OCD/ASD/you’re narcissistic/you’re delusional/you’re so bipolar!’

At times, I’ve been guilty of it. I’ve thrown the word ‘sociopath’ around a few times, but now that I know better, I can do better.

The truth is, we can all be self-centred. Many people like their living space to be ordered. We all have social struggles. These traits can exist in healthy individuals as quirks, or they can exist in a collection with other traits that form a diagnosis.

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However, these traits in isolation do not make a mental health condition.

Narcissism in particular is one that gets thrown around an awful lot. I’ve noticed it on Pinterest and in a number of Facebook communities, where people describe their ex, their mother, their siblings, their dog, as a narcissist. There is coaching on how to deal with such people.

All without any formal diagnosis, mind you.

Narcissistic personality disorder affects only a very, very small sample of the population. It is very resistant to treatment and can be devastating for the person who has the disorder.

Throwing the term around to describe every person who has taken a selfie, behaved selfishly, or been unfaithful in a relationship does not help the people who struggle with a very real, very misunderstood mental condition.

From what I understand, the diagnostic criteria is actually quite stringent, as such that your average self-interested type generally falls short.

We are talking about less than 5% of the general population.

Conversely, certain traits are common across disorders. So, just because someone has cognitive empathy, lacks affective empathy, and falls somewhere on the Autism spectrum, does not mean they are also a psychopath and a narcissist.

I guess it’s all about understanding nuance, which humans struggle with.

You can be socially awkward, but not ASD. You can be detached and limited to cognitive empathy, but not have a personality disorder. You can be nervous, without having clinical anxiety.

That is not to minimise people’s experiences, but not everything needs to be pathologised. Self-diagnosing and the diagnosing of others using speculation and Doctor Google only begets fear, ignorance, and the prevention of recovery.

The person you are struggling to deal with (including yourself), probably isn’t as disordered as you think they are – and if they are, it’s best to get some formal clarity from a psychiatrist or someone equipped to make a judgment.    

That is the only way to work towards a better understanding.

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Can’t see the fun for the dysfunction

I really enjoy baby activities.

We love rhyme-time, home sensory activities, and playgroup.

By far, though, my favourite is baby music class, which we do every Thursday at Hush Little Baby. Sometimes, people ask me if I’m trying to get him into music so he can become a musician. Like… in a band. Never mind that he’s not toilet trained.

While it’s a lovely thought, I think we spend too much time desiring lucrative ‘returns’ on what should just be pleasurable investments.

I take him to music class because it gets us out of the house – a dual benefit for our mental health. I take him because his eyes light up when we sing, I get to learn all the songs, and all of this focussed, attached time is good for our bond.

It is also known that music aids in the development of speech, language, and positive mental wellbeing.

Music makes children smart – but that should come second to the fact that it’s just a lot of fun. You don’t need to be a prodigy to enjoy any of it, either.

I think this may be some of the reason why some people resist exercising so much. Because society has always placed a value on exercise for weight loss, people are not taking it up for the enjoyment, thus, they do not stick with it…. which is counter-intuitive.

What this signals to me is a broader attitudinal problem where some of us can’t seem to separate activities from outcomes. Although I run purely for enjoyment, I have been guilty of this outcomes-based thinking in many other areas of my life – particularly study and work-related tasks.

This is why, at nearly 30, I still get hung up over paragraph indentation before I can even start the damn essay.

That’s a problem.

I don’t have any real solution, except that I’m going to start painting and journalling and cooking more because these are things I can do just for the sake of it.

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Namaste.

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Just because it’s chaotic, doesn’t mean it isn’t amazing.

Before we had S, Natalie and I both said that our child would fit into our lives, as much as possible.

For us, that means dinners out, running events, furthering our respective careers, and travelling.

Pre-baby, my style of travel was haphazard. I have run away from a crazy driver in India, walked 5km up and down cobbled roads in Armenia with 20kg of luggage, and partied with strangers in Las Vegas.

We are NOT this haphazard with a baby. A simple weekend takes a lot of planning, but it is a LOT of fun. With a bunch of checklists, an excellent time can be had.

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Family holidays are fun. 

At times, though, you just mess it up. Monumentally. 

For Easter, we decided to cocoon ourselves as a family. Recovering from birth has been a rough ride and the idea of some time in a peaceful place appealed – so we booked a BnB not far from Brisbane, but away from the hustle and bustle.

Our little boy was yet to meet a farm animal. So…. being in a secluded area… we thought we would take him to a farm.

We found a ‘farm rescue’ online and booked 3 x tickets – one ‘unemployed’ (yes, that’s the baby ticket) and two ‘student tickets.’ Let’s not talk about why we have student cards.

Anyway!

Once we got there, the conversation went something like this.

“Does the baby have closed in shoes?”

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“…. he doesn’t walk, but yes.”

“But you’re wearing thongs.”

So, my wife, in her infinite wisdom, had turned up to a farm, in thongs.

No thongs, no entry. No worries! Mate…

So…. I started the farm tour, baby in tow, sans wife. She went back to the BnB to get shoes (an hours’ round trip)…….

Far from being a tame petting farm as I thought it may be, it was a bit of a bush walk.

Bush walks are just fine, but I can admit that carrying a 9kg child with some incline gets old pretty fast.

As a side note, a sanded stump is actually a great place to breastfeed a baby. Nice and stable. Better than the seats in some of the parenting rooms I have used in shopping centres.

Fortunately, he is the chillest babe you will ever meet, so none of this bothered him.

When Natalie got back, she told me she’d bogged the car in the parking lot. When I finished rolling my eyes, I passed S to her so my arms could have a break. I thought that having a sit would be a great idea.

WRONG!

I got bitten by ants. So many ants.

After that, we decided to bail, because the hill to the sheep enclosure was beyond us by this point.

All was not wasted, though. He saw animals. We told him great stories about what we were looking at. The cuddles were great, and the smiles. He loved our commentary.

And like always, he was just pleased to be there. Such a happy baby. 

As we drove back to the accommodation, we realised that I had failed to book the whole weekend and we were meant to be checking out.

Thank goodness for gracious hosts who let us stay the extra night at a discounted rate.

As we walked up the stairs to our room, we laughed and laughed. We messed up, we under-estimated the activity, one of us arrived in thongs, and I screwed up our booking.

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But you know what? It was all completely okay.

If our holiday had been perfect from start to finish, we wouldn’t be sitting here laughing right now. S would still be yet to see a cow, a pig, a chicken, a duck….

We had fun, we made memories, we did something new…. but most importantly… we laughed. And laughed and laughed and laughed and swore, and then laughed again.

I am SO glad we did it. And I am thankful for the recommendation.

There is a lesson in all of this.

Chaos is more fun than perfection. You can do anything with children if you accept that. If you really want something, you’ll go up and down the hills, through the mud, under the fence…. whatever it takes. 

This is a lesson I needed, as I approach my first big deadline with a tiny human.

I hope that as our little boy grows in this crazy adventure called life, he maintains our sense of fun and resilience.

 

 

 

 

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LGBTIQ+ Inclusion – The Power of Conversation

Conversation is both powerful and simple. It allows us to share ideas. In the workplace, almost everything rests upon it – not just talking about work, but sharing workplace banter and building personable relationships.

I feel like part of living and thriving in this modern world is about how to have better conversations. 

I’ve worked in a lot of places – schools, universities, community organisations – and one of the easiest ways for me to determine my longevity in a workplace is for me to listen to the staffroom conversations.

“Well you’re there to work anyway, why does it matter? Just don’t talk about your personal life while you’re there.”

Whether people agree or not, people do bring their personal lives into work. I have lost count of the amount of wedding video snippets I’ve had to sit through at work meetings, or the conversations I’ve been privy to about people’s married lives.

Many of us don’t want to air that, but it would be nice to be able to say ‘my wife’ without fearing discrimination, or risking professional limitations. You can choose to share less, but it is hard to sit in the staffroom and be completely private when everyone is having rich, fun conversations about what they know and who they know.

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“But what about the anti-discrimination act? You can’t do that nowadays!” That is the usual response I hear when I express that we have far to go. 

While there may be protective laws, imagine how limited they are in short-term contracts. Your job is not secure and someone above you will decide if your employment becomes permanent. If they have a bias towards the LGBTIQ+ community and they know you identify, they can simply say you are no longer required.

This fear can lead some people to lower their participation in aspects of workplace life in case it accidentally leads to coming out. So – less banter, conversation, or after work drinks. It can be hard, especially because people like to get to know new employees.

This really limits the benefits of organic, collaborative relationship building.

Always having to watch what you say can also lead many people to experience stress and anxiety. The cumulative impact of this can lead to lower performance and a higher likelihood of moving on. This can be bad for business. High turnover is expensive and it looks bad.

The way some large organisations are addressing this is through LGBTIQ+ inclusion and diversity training. The idea behind this is to help workplace teams become more informed about gender and sexual diversity. This often includes describing lived experiences, terminology, and how to have more appropriate conversations with others. Most importantly, how to be an ally at work.

You’d be surprised at how much more comfortable it can feel when you see a rainbow lanyard or sticker sitting on somebody’s desk – you know that if you were to mention a same-sex partner or provide your preferred pronouns, you’d be safe.

Through doing this, the idea is to foster inclusive workplace cultures, where awkward conversations and assumptions will become less common. Sometime, it’s not the outright homophobia that people struggle with, but the low-level awkward conversations.

LGBTIQ+ inclusion programs address some of this by showing workplace teams how to use appropriate, inclusive language. It is useful when this rests upon a good working understanding of lived experiences in the community and a rich discussion on the various identities – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer – and how people may relate to them.

We can all benefit from learning more – even if we’re all over this inclusion thing. 

Trying to do less of ‘that’s so gay’, assuming someone has an opposite sex partner, or using an inappropriate pronoun once a preferred one has been expressed, can help everyone find their place.

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