Archive for the ‘Work-life balance’ Category

This is me, shot by my favourite photographer, also me. As you can see my neck is not holding up well to the stress of the pandemic.

Ahem. Is this thing on. Hi. I’m not sure if you remember me but I used to work here ages ago. Then I left to write novels, which is what I’m still supposed to be doing but then there was a pandemic and the schools closed so now I’m an unqualified governess to two, shall we say, spirited children. I used to write a lot about them when they were little — their funny turns of phrase and how much they were teaching me as I muddled thorough early motherhood. But then they became bigger children, who can read and know what suing someone means, and I had to acknowledge that as such they had human rights, one of which was not to be mined for lols online by their attention-starved parent. That’s when the novels came into it. 

Right now I’m struggling with the fiction writing, even though I’ve got a contract for more books. That’s a pretty terrifying thought. So I thought that I might dip back in here and waffle on a bit while the Havers of Human Rights work on some literacy and maths on all the computers we own (I’m writing this on my phone). I’ll try to talk more about me than them and my goodness what a treat that will be for you all. 

A little catch up for the new kids: I’m Jess. I live in Sydney, with my husband H (that stands for husband, it’s not really his initial) and my children, known on here as May Blossom and Garnet. May Blossom is almost 11 and Garnet is 8 and a half. They are bright and funny and sensitive. 

H runs a business from home, and is a very equal partner in the running of the house and our life. This fact means that I have a great deal of help with my wifely duties (not THOSE wifely duties), so it’s long been something of a mystery to me that I find it so unbearably hard to do all the things an adult is expected to do: help keep the house tidy and clean, cook, keep on top of grocery procurement, keep everyone in the correct size and warmth of clothes, not cry all the time, attend to the health of two cats, be a reasonable friend and daughter and aunt and sister, keep myself fed and exercised, attend to general life admin. 

Last week I learned from a new psychiatrist that this is because I have ADHD. I am forty-two. You could have knocked me down with a feather. Then I would have lain on the ground staring at the ceiling rose for ages, and then googled what kind of feather it was, and then thought a lot about feathers and particularly about feather beds, and then spent some time recalling how interested I was in the bed fillings of the children in books I loved as a little girl. Laura Ingalls and Heidi both had hay-stuffed mattresses, which sounded cosy to me back then but which now I fear might be a bit prickly. I suppose it would depend on how thick the fabric they were stuffed into was. My parents had a mattress on their guest bed that was made of horse hair. Guests hated it. 

Anyway, ADHD. I don’t know. It might explain some things. I’ve never had trouble sitting still class or at work. I’m pretty bloody sedentary for a diagnosis with “hyperactivity” in it. I did very well at primary school. High school was harder, and I definitely daydreamed a lot more than I listened (because MY STARS the Peloponnesian Wars were really just stunningly uninteresting. So many islands. So many naval sorties. Herodotus can get in the bin.)

Apparently one symptom of ADHD is that you’re fine concentrating on things you find interesting, it’s just boring stuff that your brain will go to any lengths to avoid. I thought that was just how brains worked. I’m still not a hundred per cent sure it’s not how everyone is and it’s just the weak and pathetic who can’t force themselves to just get through the tough stuff. 

The doctor tells me that girls often manage fine with ADHD in primary school and even through parts of high school if they are quite smart (there’s a compliment in there somewhere), and it is true that once there was more required of me in life (what is colloquially termed “adulting” because what are the young people for if not the verbification of more or less everything) I started suffering from anxiety and depression. 

Long story short (‘SHORT?’ I hear you scream. ‘We might have to have a bit of a chat about the meaning of short’): I haven’t done my tax, I’m struggling to sit down and write my book, and I’ve just started on some ADHD medication this week. What a time to restart a blog! 

Now all that’s out of the way I will try to write more normal fun stuff for you every few days. Perhaps I’ll tell you about how H and I have been watching Line of Duty and now we amuse ourselves by speaking only in police jargon. Perhaps I’ll tell you about what I’m cooking. Perhaps I’ll talk more about Mattresses of Yore. If there are things you’d like me to talk about, leave me a comment on here or on Instagram. I love messages and comments. Mad for a chat, me. 

It’s nice to be back. 

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Like sorting Lego into colours, listing your worries makes you feel like you’re making progress. In both cases this is an illusion.

I’m supposed to be revising my manuscript. I’m supposed to be making the characters appear at the right times and the jokes be funny and the poignant parts be more plentiful and the scenes that don’t carry the plot forward be gone. But I can’t because I have too much panicking to do.

When I get like this, my first instinct is to panic at other people. Those in prime position to cop the panic are H and my Mum. I’ve panicked quite hard at them over the past few days and they’ve, in one voice, said ‘make a list of all the problems’ and ‘take the list to your counseller and stop banging on to us’. Obviously they said this in a nicer way.

What they probably really meant was ‘make a list and publish it on the internet, so there is a permanent record of your lunacy’, so that’s what I’ll be doing this morning.


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Curious George is a movie that can penetrate even the most noise-cancelling of headphones. Writing a novel in the same room as a four-year-old watching Curious George is not in my top 10 productivity tips.

It’s been a long time between posts here on Life With Gusto because I’ve been devoting my writing hours and, frankly, all my jokes, to this novel I’ve been working on. That seems to have paid off because a very nice fiction publisher at HarperCollins has acquired it, and its younger sibling which is currently only a gleam in its mother’s eye, for publication.

This is a dream come true, as I say in the press release they sent out today*, only slightly marred by the fact that I now have to do a huge amount of work. Now don’t get me wrong, I love hard work. Mad for it. It’s just that up until now I haven’t had to juggle a whole lot of it with those attention-sapping, disrespects of deadlines and creative process known as my children. But everyone else manages it and so will I, and I’ll complain about it extensively here on the blog.

The news of this book deal has been received with great excitement by almost all my family and friends, with the notable and vocal exception of Garnet. To be fair though, he’s been really sick the past couple of weeks with influenza, which is currently tearing through our community. (more…)

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FullSizeRender 3Last week, for the first time, Garnet asked me what my job is. It’s a wonderful moment when your child starts to show an interest in you, as a person.  I told him I am a writer and an editor. He then asked what an editor is. I told him an editor helps other writers make their writing better.

But I’m confused, because although I think that’s what I said, what he seems to have heard is, ‘I am a Lego Detective. I can find any piece of Lego, anywhere in our house or car. I only need three seconds to do this.

‘I am also the repository of knowledge of the whereabouts of everything else we own. I keep track, at all times, of where the extra lid to your new water bottle is, which I last saw when you took it out of the room I was in five days ago. I am a tracking system for the black button that fell off your old raincoat and which you now treasure. (more…)

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IMG_3819Isn’t that a cheery and not at all daunting start to the year? I’ve made it to my new office. I’m sharing a space with a photographer and a winemaker. What could possibly go wrong? This amazing photograph (by Toby Dixon) hangs just outside my cubicle, and I’m going to think of him as my boss. He doesn’t look like the sort of person you’d want to disappoint. I’m pretty sure he would not approve if I spent today tarting up my very stark, white cubicle. Even virtually. Pretty sure it wouldn’t wash if I spent a few hours idea hunting on Pinterest and Instagram. He expects a certain typing speed from me and if I slow down I will have some explaining to do.

This morning was officially the second day I was to leave the house and come here to work on the blog and other self-directed (aka not-yet-existent) writing projects, but I didn’t make it yesterday. I had some very important life admin to attend to yesterday, namely getting my hair and my face sorted out. And Garnet needed a new scooter helmet. He wanted one that was orange and had an elephant on it, but the best I could manage was yellow with monkeys. He took it well, the little trooper. I figure if I am going to abandon him to a babysitter all day, the least I can do is offer adequate head protection. Not that he will have it on when he randomly smashes his head open, because that isn’t how it works. I know all about random head smashing, you see, for I am now the mother of a scarred child.

The week before Christmas we flew to Perth, waking up at 4 am to get our flight. By the time we made it to the apartment we had rented in Fremantle, it was 12 hours later and May Blossom rather desperately needed the toilet. So H dashed inside with her, leaving me in the cool air-conditioned car with a sleeping Garnet. About thirty seconds later H was banging on the window of the flat, trying to raise my attention. There was a look of terror on his face. And there was blood. (more…)

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May Blossom at work in her office.

A month or so ago we let May Blossom watch Singin’ In the Rain. We were on the hunt for a movie that wouldn’t frighten her, and that seemed to fit the bill. What I didn’t know at the time was that I would then spend hours every day afterwards explaining the finer plot points to her: why Kathy hits Lena in the face with a cream pie. Why Don Lockwood is trying to escape from his marauding fans. What fans are. Why it’s funny that Lena has an ugly speaking voice. Why the policeman makes Don stop singing in the rain and go home. Why Kathy’s job is to jump out of a cake and dance. It’s endless. She particularly likes the big song and dance numbers, though she is pretty disapproving of much of what goes on in the tribute to slapstick, ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’. ‘That’s not very safe’, she says every time Cosmo dances on top of a piano or runs up a wall. That makes me laugh more than the slapstick itself, which is good because not much has been making me laugh lately. (more…)

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This is not strictly relevant to the following post except that it sums up better than any other photo I have how today has made me feel.

H and I went to the movies with just each other today and it was amazing and there was no toddler and we ate a giant bag of Maltesers and sat in the dark quietly for two hours mesmerised by a film that was in French of all things and even though on the way there we worried a bit about that because it meant we would have to keep our eyes open the whole time and not have any microsleeps it was fine and the film was amazing and the people in it were adults and they were funny and clever and handsome and the music was brilliant and the scenery was too because it was filmed in Paris (more…)

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My little family is about to take a little break. Not from each other, but from the city and work, from battling for parking and crowded living in a flat, from barricading our kid into the ungated backyard using a line of bins to stop her escaping onto the road while we hang out the laundry. H has resigned from his job and he will start a business of his own in one month. So for a month we are going to be all three together, mostly away from home. Thinking about this makes me feel excited and relieved and calm  at the same time. (more…)

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Today is a day when I was supposed to do lots of things. They involved complicated childcare arrangements and people rearranging their days to help me and upheaval aplenty. Due to a minor medical test I was supposed to fast for six hours from 8 am until 2 pm. I was meant to go see a potential kindergarten for May Blossom. I was meant to call the electrician and the plumber and maybe look at air-conditioners and chore chore chore chore chore. Added to this, May Blossom had her 12 month vaccinations yesterday and I’m pretty sure they injected her with a new drug called Overproof Awake, plus a dose of Summer Cold and a little Kickwiggle serum. No one slept last night. Panadol was no match for May Blossom.

Fortunately, Other Jess turned up this morning with a tub of vanilla ice-cream and the words ‘iced coffee’ on her lips. I cancelled my doctor’s appointment and wrote myself an excuse note. (more…)

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May Blossom reads Dear Zoo

In Dr Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg, a bird called Mayzie grows tired of sitting on her egg. She wants a break, a vacation, to fly away free. She has kinks in her legs from sitting on the egg, day after day. I defy any parent to tell me they haven’t felt that that at some point during their child’s gestation or babyhood. As wonderful and amazing as May Blossom is, and as much as I adore staying home to look after her and raise her, I’ve had more than a few metaphorical kinks in my legs in the past year.

Being a responsible bird, Mayzie doesn’t just abandon her egg, but waits until a suitable babysitter fetches up. It’s Horton the Elephant. He’s reluctant, on account of being a massive elephant and having low self-esteem, but Mayzie convinces him he’s up to the task. Only then does she shout ‘Toodle-oo’ and flutter away to Palm Beach, where she can drink cocktails and flirt with cabana boys and read thick paperbacks with young women’s faces in three-quarter profile on the covers. What a bad mother. That’s what Seuss implies, anyway. But how does he know what Mayzie has to go do? Sure, maybe she’s off to have fun, but maybe she is working. Maybe it is her job to travel the world and review resorts in Palm Beach. It probably isn’t, but you never know. No need to wear such high-waisted judgypants, Seuss. (more…)

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