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.
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.
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.
Once we got there, the conversation went something like this.
“Does the baby have closed in shoes?”
“…. 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
It’s been a little over a year since I published my book and released it into the wider world.
Writing a book before the age of 30 was a pretty major life achievement for me. It was one of my bucket-list goals.
I never thought my first book would be a childhood sex education resource! But it was such a worthwhile undertaking.
I wanted my son’s story to be filled with pride and openness. Even if he never shares that part of his life with others, I wanted him to know where he came from.
After all – donor conception is nothing to be ashamed of. Nor is infertility, IVF conception, or having two mums.
I wanted to write a book about my future child’s life and conception, even if it made people uncomfortable. I knew my child would deserve to know his story, whether people liked it or not. So I wrote.
The first draft was terrible. God-awful. Too many words, not enough story. Too much awkwardness.
So I went back to the drawing board and thought about what it was I was trying to do, and why? What would I want from a book like this, if I were purchasing it myself?
A narrative – to connect with a child at their level
A scientifically accurate explanation – no pet names or silliness around body parts and sex
Inclusivity – to see various reproductive situations represented, including insemination, and IVF
Cute illustrations…. of course
The thing is, I am not an illustrator – I just like writing. So I contacted Anil Tortop at Tadaa Book who illustrates in a range of styles, and once I had a draft I was happy with, we got started on bringing it to life.
I will spare you the experience of looking at any of my drafts, but understand that by the time the book went to publication, it was on version 18. Thank goodness for patient publishers.
When I looked back and stared at my creation for the very first time, I realised that I had achieved what I needed to.
It represents my child’s experience. Children benefit when they see themselves or people like them in books and other forms of media. Knowing their life is important enough to be represented bridges that divide between child and world – through that, they know they are not alone. The research in this area is preliminary, but ask any teacher to give you an anecdotal experience and I almost guarantee you they will have more than one. Children can’t relate with what they can’t see.
It normalises the idea of IVF, donor conception, and living in a same-sex family. If you try to teach a child about sex education but their conception has to be explained as an add-end, it sends a message that their differences can’t be talked about, or that it makes people uncomfortable. If it is seen as ‘just another method’ or ‘just another way to bring children into loving families’, this creates a sense of normal. Which is great, because I feel our lives are pretty standard, even with all the differences.
It casts my wife as a main character in the story of our child’s life. I want my wife to experience equality in all ways as a parent and if she is not a main character in the story of our child’s conception, then she becomes less important – she is as capable of raising our son as I am and gets the same sense of joy and challenge from him as I do.
It works towards making us ‘just another Australian family.’ I know we’ve got a long way to go with this one, but casting our life stories on the periphery (which they have been for a long time), makes us seem vastly different to other families. The more we are seen on the bookshelf, the more conversations we can start and the more we will become ‘just another character in the story of Australian public life in 2019.’
When I introduce the fact that I am in a same-sex relationship in conversations with new people, that part of my identity can sometimes take over. So I am no longer the friend, the colleague, the parent, the new acquaintance. Once I’ve dropped ‘wife’ into the conversation, I then get to field silly questions like, ‘Who is the man? How did you make a child? When did you tell your parents you were gay? How’s that weather…. etc.’
My vision is that when I introduce this part of my life, it doesn’t become my persona.
Yeah, we have a long way to go, but when I look at how far we’ve come, I have great hope. In order to get there, we need to start more conversations, write more stories, and send it all into the world!
Before we started our family, I absolutely lived for travel and also for my career. We are yet to venture overseas, but we did get passport photos for Master S this week, so that will be on the horizon this Christmas.
As for my career, my approach has changed as I am taking a break from the full-time teaching workforce. I now work from home as a writer. This gives me flexibility, but also some fairly unique opportunities. I enjoy it.
A few months ago, a professional in the area of fertility psychology contacted me to see if I wanted to share some of my own journey at a conference – to tell my story about why I wrote a book, both from an academic perspective and a personal one.
Clinical professionals benefit from hearing about lived experiences intertwined with interdisciplinary research, so I jumped at the chance to provide this.
So, we committed to the just-over-an-hour schlep to the Gold Coast, knowing we’d have a three-and-a-half-month in tow.
And we decided to make a weekend of it.
This is how it all went down….
The week before the conference was scheduled, I organised Granny-Care – my mother – to come over and help with Master S while I packed, ran errands, and organised our food for the weekend. Going anywhere with an infant is certainly an exercise in organisation!
I made list upon list upon list. I cooked and created snacks and meals, packed in an insulated bag. I realised that the car would be so full…….. and the bags would be heavy. But it was worth it, because we had a nice dinner when we stopped en-route for a breastfeed.
We arrived at the Gold Coast at about 8pm on the Friday night. It all went well. Master S even slept in a strange cot, in a strange room, in a strange place…..
When I arrived at the conference on Saturday, I was included in the whole event. I was able to spend time in conversation with fertility psychologists and other professionals in the field from around Australia. This included many rich conversations with others about resilience, early disclosure for donor-conceived children, and ideas around donor anonymity. I also had the privilege of hearing a presentation by a donor-conceived adult – it was fascinating to hear of her journey.
All of these conversations reinforced the importance of what I advocate for – early disclosure for donor-conceived children, with a range of resources to suit unique family needs and structures. It also enabled me to tell my family’s story of life, and I have so much pride in that.
On Sunday, we spent time as a family – my favourite part of the whole experience.
Before I had Master S, people loved to tell me about how my life would change so much. They seemed smug about it, how I would feel limited – how I may even fail to achieve my dreams.
I have found the opposite is true.
I manage my time better because I’m completing tasks around a tiny human’s napping schedule – I have mastered the art of writing 100 words in 12 minutes (yeah… cat naps happen) and also the art of accepting that some days are more limited on productivity than others because once he’s awake, I am present with him.
The real ‘fire-cracker under my butt’ in using my time wisely is my baby boy.
I keep on going, because I want to contribute to the world he is going to inhabit. I want to be a role model for this child who is watching my every move in this world.
Most of all, I want to model pride, passion, and the pursuit of dreams.
I think that’s worth working for. Even if I get distracted a lot.
Anyway, play time is fun.
Until next time…. I hope to tell you more about the journey of writing my book!
Far from the modern grind-til-you-die attitude, gotta-have-it, spend, spend, spend mentality, I believe that the easiest way to become your richest self is to live below your means – and to acquire less. After all, the greatest assets are time and opportunity, not material belongings.
On this parenthood journey, I want to provide, but also to raise a child who is resourceful, ethical, and an environmental steward.
Not an easy task, but parenthood isn’t.
In the spirit of consume-less, recycle-more, save-more-money, I want to share my experience with Containers for Change. Everyone seems to have an opinion on this newfangled scheme.
Queensland recently launched Containers for Change to address the low recycling rate. Did you know that around 3 billion beverage containers are discarded every year and they are the second most littered item? Crazy! And kind of shit when you consider that we should theoretically know better in our age of information.
The way it works is that you sign up online, receive a personal code, and take your empty beverage containers into a depot, preferably in a reusable bag to reduce waste. The depots are quick and effective and will put your empties into a box, count them, and deposit the money into your account.
In drop-off locations, it can take awhile to receive a refund due to differences in collection and sorting times. I find that the depots are the best and easiest. Feedback from others has revealed that some of the sites work differently and are nowhere near as effective. Hopefully, this will be addressed.
Funnily enough, I don’t drink many bottled beverages. I believe that helping the environment is best achieved by reducing one’s consumption (e.g buying better/less.) So how do I generate recycling, to earn the refunds? And what am I spending it on?
Glad you asked. Since giving birth nearly a month ago, I have started to walk around the neighbourhood again. I start my morning by expressing milk and then setting out for my walk while Natalie and The Boy are still snoozing.
I take an enviro-bag and keep my eyes peeled for discarded empties. My route covers a walking path behind The Gap High School, and sometimes if there are empties close to the fence line, I can poke a stick through and retrieve them.
On the way, there is a creek that collects the occasional empty can. I have no issue with getting my feet wet to swipe them – the obvious benefit is that this is removing trash from a natural habitat.
On my way back, I go past the shopping centre. There are spots where employees sit for their smoko. One guy has the same iced coffee every day and leaves it on top of the bin. I swipe it (and then use hand sanitiser.) Occasionally, he’ll still be drinking it when I walk past. I lay low and resist the urge to say, ‘You done, or…’
His trash is my treasure. 10c, ka-ching! Waste not, want not.
Then, there is bin diving. I don’t feel comfortable digging through bins at random homes, but given that I live in an apartment block, I can often collect other people’s empties if I ask.
As for the money? We deposit the refunds into an account we started before our son was born. The magical trash collections will go towards what we already put aside to allow him to be debt-free and educated in the future.
Obviously, the scheme isn’t perfect and it is far from a catch-all solution for waste, but if it encourages people to recycle and pick up litter, then it is a step in the right direction.
And it’s putting The Boy through college. Win-win.
As an adult, my excitement towards Christmas has been limited to one of two activities:
1. Teaching my students how to make crafts for loved ones
2. Pressing all of the toys at Kmart and then walking away, creating an annoying canon of Christmas carols
I also work with my loved ones (my parents and my wife) to throw together some donation baskets for various animal rescues and family charities. Other than that, I tend to leave the country, so I miss a lot of the Christmas hype. Being grown-ass adults, we also don’t bother with gifts.
As a child, I had a few short, sweet years where I believed there was a Santa Claus. I eventually had doubts – after all, why would an altruistic flying dude with a sack fail to address world hunger if he could deliver a bunch of stuff to kids every year?
I also questioned the plausibility of the physics, but it was good fun while it lasted. One of my best memories was when my brother and I received a game to share – Key to the Kingdom. Best 1990s board game, ever. Also, when we received a Yo-Ho Diablo, also to share. I can never remember having as much fun with a toy as when we took that bad boyinto primary school and showed off all our tricks.
Santa must have known how much we wanted those particular toys…. right?
Now that we are about to give birth, I am noticing that there are two distinct teams – Team Santa and Team Critical Thinking. The former love to take their children through the Santa stories, leaving carrots out for the reindeer. They’ll claim that at least one of the presents beneath the tree has been delivered by Santa. The latter consider themselves to be critical thinkers and shun the idea of propagating any ‘lies’ with their children because they want to foster intellect in their progeny.
Excuse me while I vomit.
While these types wish to endow their child with thinking prowess, they fail to acknowledge one vital caveat; there has been limited research to support their assertion. That is to say, their rejection of Santa Claus on the basis of it disrupting critical thought development is mostly anecdotal conjecture. To which I give a resounding…. citation required.
You would think that the first place a critical thinking parent would go to form their views would be research, but peer-reviewed articles to support the Anti-Santa viewpoint largely do not exist – like Santa himself.
What does exist is a significant body of research on development that points to the unequivocal benefits of pretend play and imagination. Children who engage in this form of play by themselves and with others develop a greater capacity for cognitive flexibility and creativity.
Busting the Santa Myth using burgeoning critical reasoning skills actually paves the way for cognitive development that will later be beneficial for persuasion, problem-solving, and innovative activities (like robotics!)
It is generally a short-lived myth, but while children believe, it can provide magic and positivity – from the sharing of stories, the anticipation of writing letters to Santa, and the excitement of receiving a gift. I personally draw the line at using Santa to control behaviour – be good or you won’t get anything from Santa! After all, managing behaviour is the job of parents – but there are no clauses in the handbook that say you need to use Santa in that way, and it probably won’t do any lasting harm.
Once the child begins to work through the myth themselves, that is when the real magic begins, because you can then appoint them as Santa’s Helper – a child who has figured it all out themselves, but who has a special role in protecting it for younger siblings and friends. Children who have lived Santa’s magic might relate to keeping it alive for others, but children who have always heard the Santa myth shunned will likely struggle to develop this empathy.
I have met many families who squash the Santa myth before their child is ever able to believe. Far from developing critical thought, what tends to happen is an uncomfortable sense of intellectual and moral superiority from the mouths of babes.
“Only BABIES believe in Santa Claus. You must be STUPID.”
You can imagine how pleasant these children are.
I received the short-lived joy of Santa as a child. I am critically rigorous of any viewpoint as an adult, to the point where it annoys the people who love me because I won’t accept any poppycock at face value. That is to say – yep, I’m not fun at parties!
Yes, that is an anecdote with a sample size of 1, but I think you’ll find the rigour of figuring Santa out is more beneficial for a child than begrudging them the experience in the name of ‘critical thinking.’
Let them eat cake – and leave some out for the big guy, too.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, or whatever you relate to! May this season be a time of safety and love for you and yours.
When I first became pregnant, the most immediate thing I noticed (after the initial celebration) was the amount of advice I was given. People who know me well, gave me incredibly pragmatic advice – which kinds of baby outfits are best for nappy changes, how to sterilise and soak a cloth nappy, where to go to get a car seat fitted, among many other practical strategies. These were useful and I took note of all of them.
The next most frequent topic was antenatal classes. Advice was clearly divided into two very firm positions; some people had left these classes in tears, and others told me that they were an absolute must. So I did some research, and many of the hospital-provided programs didn’t appeal to us.
The most concerning thing for us as a same-sex couple was the discussion of sex and contraception, which I felt was irrelevant to us. I also worried about this being a safe space for our family. Although most people are quite inclusive, particularly around where we live, I had heard about same-sex couples feeling very uncomfortable in some of these spaces. So I let it go. We didn’t sign up.
My pregnancy massage therapist, Blossoms and Honeybees suggested that we should opt for an active birthing class with Liz Lush (Mummy & Co), a physiotherapist in Brisbane. It seemed to focus more on the labour and empowering the support person with a toolbox of skills to use in pain management.
Far from being an uncomfortable space, Liz took us through exactly what labour would be like – how it starts, how it progresses, and what can be done at each stage. She also spoke about the various interventions, when they are used, and how to advocate for or against certain procedures when there is an opportunity for choice.
After this, Liz took us through specific strategies that could help distract us from pain. We practised these while tightly holding cubes of ice (because although it’s nothing on labour, it gives you an idea of what your tolerance levels are for certain kinds of contact during feeling of pain.)
Through this process, I was able to establish that I really do not like close contact when pain or discomfort is at a peak, but I do like heavy pressure on my back and stomach in between. Liz showed us specific ways of achieving this and which massage strategies would provide me with comfort. My wife was then able to attempt it and receive feedback on her technique. Overall, I highly recommend receiving pregnancy massage from a specialised therapist, which I plan to blog about next time, as well as shopping around for birth preparation classes. Everyone does it differently and gets different results, but we were very happy with the care we have received from both Blossoms and Honeybees and Mummy and Co.
Now…. along with all the useful strategies we learned… we also had the opportunity to learn some Pinterest-worthy mantras for birth. Normally, I dismiss a lot of #inspo as platitudes and fluff, but you’d be amazed at how powerful words of affirmation are when you’re about to embark on such a primal journey! It is pretty miraculous, what we are capable of…
This coming week, IVF turns 40. It’s hard to believe that such a delicate, yet widely used technology could have had its beginnings in the 1970s – but alas, the first IVF baby was born on July 25th, 1978. Can you believe it?
Not only has the technology come a long way, the attitudes of the general public towards conception via assistive reproductive technology have progressed. Although some people are still uncomfortable with the idea of human eggs being fertilised outside of the body, sometimes with donor sperm, this reproductive technology has made it possible for millions of people to become parents who may not have been able to otherwise, and many people support this. Even with some of the medical complexities at play, IVF can still be a successful and accepted treatment.
To celebrate, I am offering a 10% discount for purchases of my book, One in Many Millions, until the end of this week. Use the code ‘ivfjourney’ at the checkout.