Listen up: This is what helped me

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and the theme for 2017 is Listen Up! If you want to find out more or get involved, check out the stories, social media images, and events on the website.

It’s really hard to know what to say when someone you know is struggling. I’m not just talking infertility here, either. It’s hard to know what to say when someone in having a rough patch in a relationship, when someone is diagnosed with an illness, when someone is experiencing discrimination and harassment, when someone is dealing with loss, when someone is struggling with their mental health, when someone has had a traumatic experience, when someone hurting.

Emily MacDowell Empathy Card

Card by Emily McDowell

And the difficulty of finding the “right words” is one of the reasons that I really appreciate this year’s Infertility Awareness theme, because really the best advice really comes down to one word: listen.

But even though this advice is simple, it’s far from easy. And because one word doesn’t really cut it (or at least doesn’t make for much of an article), there are many people around who are telling us what NOT to say and what NOT to do. This advice absolutely has its place in raising awareness around many issues, and it can be very helpful. But it can also make interactions feel a little like a conversational minefield, where even though you’re trying your best you never know when you might accidentally offend.

Emily MacDowell Empathy Card

Card by Emily McDowell

If you’re supporting someone with infertility, the last thing you both need is to be second-guessing everything you say. So I thought I might share some of the things that have been helpful me to hear or read over the years.

Firstly, I want to reiterate that one-word advice, with a little addendum. Because, seriously, listening is the number one most important thing you can do. But for this to work, you need to also care about what you’re hearing and you need to listen to understand (it’s amazing how often we all listen to respond or to give advice or to correct or to judge – and I’m definitely including myself in that “we” too, this stuff is not easy!)

Emily MacDowell Empathy Card

Card by Emily McDowell

Secondly, I want to add two of my favourite articles. This first piece is about holding space. It focuses on the work of a wonderful palliative care nurse, but the advice holds up for so many areas, including the grief that can come with infertility. The second one is infertility-specific, and is a letter to family and friends of someone struggling with infertility. Not everyone will share the exact experiences of the author, but a lot of the feelings and advice she shares were very true for me and many others I’ve known in the same situation.

And finally, I wanted to give some credit to the amazing people who have supported me over the years by sharing some of the words and actions that have really stuck with me and eased the hurt of this hard situation.

  • One of the simplest has been just hearing “Ohh, that is so hard. Do you want to talk about it?” (and respecting if the answer is “no” or “not right now”).
  • And if this is followed up with a hefty dose of empathetic listening, and very little advice (unless explicitly requested), all the better.
  • I will always appreciate the heads-ups and private announcements I’ve received from friends before a public pregnancy announcement. When you’ve seen what feels like a million negative pregancy tests, a picture of a positive one can be a real punch in the gut. But with some preparation time, it’s always easier. A quick text or a little conversation aside let me process my sadness for myself before getting to the happiness for my friend.
  • And I also appreciated the addition of some rituals to the infertility process. Our society has many rituals that help us process sadness and celebrate happiness, but there aren’t really any that apply easily to the sadness of infertility. My husband and I had several little rituals with our “treatment days”that helped them to feel less terrifying, and even though the rituals were silly, they really helped. Another infertility ritual I’ve heard of (though it didn’t really work in my situation) is the “period party”, where every month that someone’s faced with the disappointment of yet another period, they drink wine and eat sushi (or similarly non-pregnancy approved options) with a close friend.  What a great way to add some fun to an otherwise shitty situation.
  • One of the only good things that came from my experience with infertility is that being open about it led others to share their stories. I was proud to bear witness to my friends’ struggles, and it was reassuring to know that I was far from alone. It’s easy to shy away from talking about things, but basically – don’t!
  • Everyone’s different on this one, but I loved to be included in kid-stuff when I didn’t have a kid (birthdays, baby showers etc.). When all your friends have kids, if you’re not included in the kid-stuff, it can feel like you’re not included in anything.
  • But equally, it’s great if not everything is kid stuff. I always loved having some time for a proper chat or some grown-up time. This is good for parents AND people struggling with infertility; win-win.
  • Overall, the message I most appreciated hearing was “you are strong and wonderful and important, and whatever happens here, you’ll still be a great person and I’ll still love you.”  I didn’t need a cheerleader – I was way too aware of the various possibilities to believe “don’t worry, it will happen one day!” and I just needed to know people were there. This is one of those things that I think we usually assume go without saying. But when you’re faced with judgement and sadness from so many sides, this is not something that goes without saying. I recommend saying it!
Emily McDowell Empathy Card

Card by Emily McDowell

And if all else fails, you really can’t go wrong with an Emily McDowell Empathy Card. (All images in this post are from her site). They’re pretty much great enough that I could have replaced this whole post with a link to her site. But that wouldn’t be much of a blog now, would it?

Listen Up!

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and the theme for 2017 is Listen Up! If you want to find out more or get involved, check out the stories, social media images, and events on the website.

Last time I wrote something for National Infertility Awareness Week, it was 2014. I was six months pregnant, equal parts excited and freaked out, and I very much felt like our whole messy infertility journey was behind us.

Three years later, I have come to realise just how wrong I was to think it was all over and done with. Because in the last three years I’ve learned a thing or two, and one of the big things I’ve learned is that infertility doesn’t end just because you get pregnant. Infertility doesn’t end with a healthy baby. Infertility doesn’t end when you have a toddler.  The effects of infertility may never end entirely.

And the thing is, I could have learned this earlier, if only I’d been willing to listen up.

I was in infertility groups with people parenting after infertility or suffering from secondary infertility. And despite everything they told me, despite me hearing their stories, despite seeing their sadness, my attitude was pretty much “Oh, piss off – I would give absolutely anything to be in your position. And you have the audacity to COMPLAIN about it?”

I understand why I couldn’t listen at that point. I was in the trenches, I was deeply sad, I was unable to see past my own grief.

But I was still wrong.  These people were struggling, and they deserved to have a place and a voice in the infertility community. They did not deserve to have their stories and experiences dismissed and ignored because of my perceived position in the “Pain Olympics”.  I can’t go back and change anything, but I can now add my voice to theirs (while also maintaining a whole lot of empathy for those who are unable to listen to me because of their own experiences).

So, if you’re in a place to listen to some stories and thoughts around parenting after infertility and secondary infertility, here goes. (If you’re not in that place, or you’re not comfortable reading or thinking about periods, this may be the time to bow out.)


In the early days of parenting, I had moved into a whole different trench. The endless slog of newborn life is hard. But the endless slog of newborn life while constantly thinking “this is everything I ever wanted, and everything we tried so long and hard for, I should be enjoying every moment” is even harder.

Once we were past the intense early days, I got more comfortable with not always feeling grateful. But then my hormones had a major change (or something), and every month for 8 months straight, I thought “either my period is coming back or I’m pregnant”. The answer was actually c) neither of the above, and going through that mindfuck month after month was the last thing I needed while also parenting a very active toddler.

Eventually my period did come back. And it even gave some indication of being somewhat regular. I thought that I was lucky enough to be one of the people with PCOS for whom a pregnancy “resets” some hormonal balance. I started tracking my cycles, and I was hopeful every month that I might be pregnant. But any semblance of regularity was short lived, and my lack of period was unfortunately not because of pregnancy.

Pregnancy announcements started to sting again. First pregnancy announcements didn’t bother me anymore, but with a friend group mostly comprised of people with at least one child, there was no shortage of second and subsequent pregnancy announcements.

And the questions stung too. “When are you going to get on with it and give her a sibling?” was just as hard to hear as “when are you planning to have kids?”, and a lot more people were willing to ask it.

The first time around, I could always distract from the pain with some “at leasts”. “At least I get to sleep in…” “At least I can still travel and hike and go out at night…” “At least I can enjoy some time to myself…” “At least I don’t have to clean up bodily fluids all day…” “At least when I tidy my house, it stays that way…” The second time around, there weren’t so many of those.

The first time around, I had time and energy for self-care. I could avoid kids entirely. I got enough sleep. The second time, not so much.

But at the same time, I had a distraction. A busy, cute, amazing distraction, who I am truly truly grateful for. I didn’t have so much time to wallow, especially when we decided to take on a huge move and a major lifestyle shift. I had a whole lot of practice in how to deal with hard stuff that I didn’t have at first.

And, probably most importantly, this time around I’m just more comfortable with leaving it unresolved. The difference between 0 kids and 1 kid is bigger than the difference between 1 and 2 (or more). Or it seems that way to me, at least. And that smaller difference means that I don’t feel so much like I need to KNOW RIGHT NOW what my life will be like. I can accept where we are a bit more without endlessly trying to change it.


Because that’s where it remains for us right now: unresolved.  I don’t know if we’ll ever have another kid. I don’t know if there might be a time in the future that I’m willing to try treatment again. I don’t know if we might foster or adopt or get pregnant without treatment. I don’t know if we’ll take a year off and live in a van and be grateful to be a small family. I just don’t know what life will bring our way.

But I do know that as I try to make peace with the way things are (for now), I’m going to make the effort to speak out a little bit more. Because stories matter, and vulnerability is powerful. And as I speak out a little more, I’m going to listen up a lot more. Because ALL stories matter, and I don’t want to lose sight of that.

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes

Sometimes I cook lots of vegetables and meals from scratch and new and interesting recipes and homemade bread.

Sometimes I make clothes and hats and art and cool projects.

Sometimes all our clothes are neatly folded and put away as soon as they’re washed and our laundry hamper is empty and our house doesn’t have any random piles of clothes and sheets floating around in various states of doneness waiting for the next step.

Sometimes I read wise books and clever articles and smart thinkers. And sometimes I even have smart thoughts and interesting conversations about them.

Sometimes our house is tidy and everything is put away and there are no toys strewn around the lounge.

Sometimes I stretch and practice yoga and do strength training exercises and take long walks.

Sometimes the dishes are all away and the benches are clean and shiny and the compost bin is emptied and the floor is mopped.

Sometimes I write, here or in my journal or on the mostly-abandoned novel that I still want to write. And sometimes what I write is actually good.

Sometimes our vegetable garden is weeded and tidy and the crops are harvested and used in our healthy dinners or blanched and frozen for later use.

Sometimes I write letters and organise thoughtful gifts well in advance of when they’re needed. 

Gratuitous picture of the sunrise from my sister’s deck.

But sometimes surviving a 12 hour work day (including stupid mistakes and interviewing two job candidates and ringing seemingly endless tour operators to arrange tours that then get cancelled) without shouting at anyone is enough.

Sometimes getting my kid to daycare with a packed lunch and picking her up on time is enough.

Sometimes a packet of soup for lunch and macaroni cheese for dinner is enough. 

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that these things are enough. 

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that I am enough. 

But, sure enough, I am.

And so are you. 

And sometimes we all need a little reminder of that.

Let’s see how far we’ve come!

We have a new receptionist starting in our team, and her first days were this weekend. It was a big weekend, and we had no other reception staff. Plus we had a Campground Kid underfoot (she started daycare this week, and after two days we’d already become accustomed to working WITHOUT a toddler). Plus one of our cleaners had to head to the hospital with her son this morning (thankfully he’s fine!) Plus we had a big bus group arrive earlier than expected and a bed cover that was pissed on and a whole lot of people checking out late.

All of which adds up to: chaos.

There were moments where I wasn’t at my very best, I’ll admit. But the biggest thing I took from the madness was a recognition of just how far we’ve come in the last 6 months.

And I’m not talking about physically (although this weekend also brought a reminder of that, in the form of this little video of our town in Brunei):

I’m talking about how much we’ve all learned and changed. 

It’s perhaps most obvious in the Campground Kid, who is now a confident and chatty two years and eight months, able to hold full on conversations and tell amazing stories. She’s got a magnificent imagination and has learned million little things about the park. The other day while we were having a swim she told me “I’ve just put a little leaf into the skimmer” (the skimmer being what most people would probably call “the filter-y thingy”, myself included.)  She is also a lot taller than when we arrived, which we know because she can climb onto all sorts of new places. 

Breakfast in the office.

In me and Campground Papa, the change is perhaps more subtle, but it’s definitely there. We have learnt new skills (he can maintain a pool, I can navigate our park management system like a pro, we can both fold a fitted sheet with our eyes closed); but we’ve also grown and developed as people. We’re both more confident, especially with making phone calls (although to be fair to Campground Papa, it was mostly me who hated phone calls before). We’ve learned to be more clear and vocal about our needs and how others could help us meet them. We’re better at prioritising and planning ahead. We’re more confident to just dive in and fix problems on the spot, even if they’re not problems we know how to fix. 

We’ve had so much change and craziness over the last few months that I hadn’t really stopped to consider these things, but seeing someone new trying to figure it all out is a great reminder of those first clueless days of nearly 6 months ago. And the fact that I am now entirely confident to recruit and train that someone new is a great reminder that I am learning and developing as a manager.

Even though I’ve come a long way, today was still pretty fucking hard. So now I’m going to put my feet up, and maybe have a glass of wine.

Cheers!

On “Strike”

It’s March 8th. It’s International Women’s Day. And it’s A Day Without a Woman. If, like me, you’re in New Zealand, you are quite likely only aware of one or two of those things. The Day Without a Woman hasn’t really made it big here. But in spite of that, I decided to participate and go on strike. 
It was easy for me to strike. It is my rostered day off work. My husband and I had no solid plans and he is more than capable of looking after our household. In fact, he is more often the one who does. Because of this, I actually asked him whether there was a point in me striking. But he quickly replied “yes, you should strike for everyone who can’t.” And so here I am, striking for everyone who can’t.

I know that many people genuinely cannot participate for any number of reasons. I’m not questioning that. But a lot of the objection to this movement that I have seen has focused on the fact that “it would cause a disruption.” And while I don’t claim to know the details of anyone’s individual situation, I would encourage anyone who sees the disruption as a reason not to strike to consider the fact that the disruption is exactly why we should strike. Without disruption, people will continue to ignore the facts. Without disruption, people will continue to ignore “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system, while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.” Without disruption, there will be no change.

The organisers gave three suggestions as to how women could participate in this action:

  1. Don’t participate in paid or unpaid work
  2. Avoid shopping, except for at women or minority owned businesses.
  3. Wear red in solidarity

I decided to give all three a go. There are no rallies or meetings or anything near me (rural New Zealand is not big on this kind of stuff, and I didn’t have the time to organise anything), but I didn’t want my version of the strike to be sitting around watching Netflix in my PJs all day, so I made my own plan. 

I fudged it a little on the first point of the plan. I feel like the mass non-participation in work of all forms is only truly effective when there is, you know, mass non-participation. Without the mass alongside me, I felt like there was an argument for doing a little bit of unpaid work helping other women and our community alongside some self-care. So my “strike” included:

  1. Sleeping in. I’m not doing this selfishly, I swear, but this part was pretty good. 
  2. A bit of Facebook slacktivism in the form of sharing links about the gender pay gap and the women who came before me in New Zealand feminism.
  3. Looking after my reproductive health by getting a check-up, and reminding myself how fortunate I am to have this care readily available and easily accessible. 
  4. Cooking and delivering a meal to a mum who needed a break, and who asked on a marvellous Facebook Page called Meals for Mum. (If you’re in New Zealand, you should join! You don’t have to be a mum to participate.)
  5. Cooking an extra meal, and dropping it at a community centre for them to pass on to a family in need. Campground Papa and The Campground Kid helped with the cooking and preparing too.
  6. Shopping at a lovely female-owned-and-operated gift shop (I got a pastry brush and some lovely cards, if you were wondering).
  7. Picking up a volunteer recruitment pack for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, who provide an excellent service all over NZ. I’m looking forward to getting involved with the organisation, provided my application is successful. 
  8. Wearing red 
  9. Writing this blog post while my husband prepares afternoon tea and dinner for us all.
  10. Giving myself a haircut (this one’s not really strike-related, just a bit of self care!) 
  11. Doing yoga while he puts our kid to bed and tidies the house.
  12. Reading about International Women’s Day and listening to the stories of women all around the world.

    In many ways, this isn’t too different to an ordinary non-work day for me. My husband often does the bulk of the house stuff. I’ve delivered meals a few times, and I’ve read about feminism and shared links many many many times. Because I’ve been home most of the day, there have been times that it’s hard to tell what is “unpaid work” and what is “spending time with my family.” I haven’t been strict about the delineation, and my contribution has definitely been imperfect. I also recognise that the movement as a whole is imperfect. Then again, I am imperfect and everyone is imperfect, so to expect anything different would have been foolish. 

    And even in imperfection, International Women’s Day and the strike have made me feel more intentional about my actions and more considerate of the ways in which I can both help and hinder other women. I have made new connections in the community. I have helped other women. I have taken the first steps toward being involved in a female-dominated and valuable community service. My husband has stepped up to the plate and considered the part he can play in feminism. My daughter has been well cared for while I did other things.

    So, personally, I’m calling this a big ol’ win. (And also a really lovely day!) 

    And, although I have some doubts, I will be following with interest as to how the larger movement plays out when the USA catches up to us here in New Zealand and gets to Wednesday. I hope that there is enough participation to make an impact. I hope that men and women both stop to consider the contribution women make to our society and whether they are fairly valued/recognised/rewarded. I hope that we, as a global society, see that while great strides have been made in women’s rights, our work here is far from done. I hope that people realise that we all have a part to play in creating a fair and just society. And I hope that we continue the conversation about how we can do that, whether or not the Day Without a Woman lives up to its name. 

    Negotiations

    The Campground Kid has recently started negotiating in a different way. It’s kinda hard to describe how it’s different, or why it even feels like a thing, but it’s totally lovely and hilarious.

    The lovely-and-hilariousness may not come across in words, so you have to picture this little face saying all the following very earnestly and  sweetly, with a little tilt of the head.

    16807456_10154550436144983_4547124117884212660_n1

    “It’s Saturday because I NEED to watch a video”

    “No, because I’m only little so I need to do jumps, not tidy up.”

    “How ’bout we read the dictionary just one time before I get my nappy changed?”…. “No,  okay, how about just TWO more times?”

    “Okay, you go get your water. I will meet you on the couch for a story”

    “I change nappy and then I go to the trampoline. Okay, it’s a DEAL.” *shake hands*

    “Okay. How ’bout I have just one biscuit and then I watch Puffins?”

    “Can I have just ONE story before we go to the office?”… “Can you read it one more time, Mama?”

    “But I’m little because I don’t want to go to sleep”

    “Can you please just cuddle for one more minute?”

    “Okay Mama, how about you stay here and sleep and Papa comes to the lounge and reads me a story”

    (way more of that last one, please, kid!)

    She hasn’t quite landed on the meaning of “because” yet. But you can see all the pieces coming together and it’s amazing.  I mean, I know it’s just normal kid stuff and I only find it amazing because she’s my kid. But this is also my blog, so I can talk about what I want. And development of language and reasoning is one of my most favourite parts of watching this kid grow, so here we are.

    ***********************************************

    Sometimes, though, her “negotiations” are not so lovely and hilarious and it sounds a bit more like this (you don’t need to picture the sweet voice and head tilt anymore!):

    “NO, I DON’T WANT QUIET TIME, I WANT LOOOOUD TIME.”

    “BUT I LIKE IT MESSY”

    “I DON’T WANT TO BRUSH MY TEETH EVERY DAY”

    “ARGHHHHHHHHGAGHHHHHHHH”

    I suppose, maybe, just maybe, we’re straying out of negotiation with these ones…?

    Surprisingly enough, when we get into this zone, me reflecting her words back and saying “Okay, how about we brush your teeth just one time and then we go to bed?” doesn’t yield the greatest results.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have that cute face and head tilt down..?

    Seriously, though, usually these reactions are because she’s usually over-tired or over-hungry or over-stimulated, and any form of negotiation is pretty much pointless.  So we mostly listen, support, soldier on, and ride it out as best we can.

    (Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we stern-voice and eye-roll and grit-teeth and get frustrated. We do okay, but I don’t at all want to suggest we deal with all toddlerness with grace and goodwill.)

    ***********************************************

    The more this kid grows, the more excited I am for each next step. Not because I’ve heard three is easy (I’ve heard the opposite, in fact), and not because I want to get past this stage (it’s frustrating, for sure, but a big part of me is tempted to stay here forever – she’s hilarious and awesome and amazing), but because I just love seeing how that little mind works and seeing the milestones-that-I-never-realised-would-feel-like-milestones. I never ever thought I’d be so amazed by my kid weaselling out of tasks, but now that we’re here, my brain is all like “oh, LOOK at her figuring out logic and reason and how to make things happen”, and as completely ordinary as it is, I’m impressed.

     

    On Hobbies, Clubs, and Commitment 

    This weekend, our park hosted lots of guests from a car club’s Vintage Bike Rally. It was great for us, because they stayed all weekend, so we had minimal cleaning and laundry. And also because we met some great people, and had some cool bikes roaring around.

    dsc_0044

    And, although the weather wasn’t the best, it was also great for them, because they got to see old friends and meet new people, they got to see a new area of the country, and they got to spend a weekend doing something they love with other people who love it too.

    And I just kept thinking how cool that is.

    dsc_0030

    It has really made me want a hobby. A real, proper hobby.  (Not vintage bike restoration, though!)

    I have hobbies, I guess, in that there are lots of things I like to do, and I usually try to make time to do them. I think there are two problems, though:

    1. is that I have TOO MANY hobbies. I want to do everything, and I never manage to commit to one thing.
    2. is that because I never commit, they all remain individual.

    So, it’s not so much that I need a hobby. It’s that I need a club. I’m in Facebook groups for a couple of things. I have friends who do a couple of others. But mostly I just do things by myself, and never really feel “good enough” or “interested enough” to take any of them to the next level. So they’re fun, but none really give that sense of community.

    The closest I’ve come is being in choirs for most of my life. Last year was one of the first ever that I haven’t sung in a Christmas concert, and I definitely noticed the absence.  I LOVE choral singing, and I miss my choirs so much. But I’ve never really lived in one place long enough to really get properly involved. I’ve met great people, and sung great music, but I’ve always had to move on as we’ve moved away. I’ve got my eyes on a choir for a Christmas concert this year, but apparently it’s pretty popular, so I’ll have to wait and see how that pans out.

    And because I don’t want to put all my eggs in that one choir-basket, I’m going to start looking around for some other options too.

    dsc_0028

    This weekend has also had me thinking about the generational gap in joining clubs. I’m not saying everyone there was old… but I am also not exaggerating when I say that were I to go to that particular event, I’d be the youngest by a good twenty years. And in many of the choirs and clubs I’ve been in over the years, it’s been similar.

    So why don’t 30-somethings join clubs? Has it always been this way – only the older generations have time for clubs? Or is it more of a Boomers/Millenials difference? Are we all too busy with work and/or families? Will it change when I have a school kid? Have we all found “our people” on the internet instead? Or am I just missing out by not being sporty? Have I lived in the wrong places, or am I just too uncool to know about the right clubs? Are we all like me – too thinly spread and unable to commit to one hobby?

    I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I suspect it’s a bit of a mix of all of the above. And also that there are lots of different factors that contribute to each individual’s decisions. And also that people in different situations to me DO join clubs of various sorts (thus making my original question invalid).

    But the specific question/answers don’t entirely matter, because even if 30-somethings don’t join clubs (and I know that plenty probably do), I want to. And I’m going to make it my mission to find a club in rural-village-New Zealand that is a) active, b) fits around my schedule, and c) is something I’m interested in and where I might find a group of “my people”.  I think I’m probably on a losing mission here, but it’s worth a try.

    Does anyone have ideas on where to start? (again, definitely not vintage motorcycles, and definitely definitely not “Axe and Gun Club”, which is the only option that comes up for my location on Google 😳😳😳)

    The No Nap Kid

    As I mentioned in my previous post, The Campground Kid has recently given up naps. To be fair, it wasn’t entirely her decision, but when her 1 hour of sleep in the middle of the day started leading to her fighting sleep until 9:30pm, and still getting up at the same time in the morning, we decided it was time to call it a day on sleeping in the day.

    I was really worried about losing naps. After some pretty big nap struggles in her first year and a half, we were onto a pretty good daily nap routine. She liked naps. We liked to get a break. It was a win win. 

    Until it wasn’t.

    On a post about sleep, I couldn’t resist a picture of this sleeping cutie. Because 😍😍😍. (Also, this was before 6:30pm!!) (Also also, when does it become creepy to take pictures of your kid sleeping?)

    When the time came to cut naps, we were all ready, it was easy, and it has been great. Now, instead of tossing and turning for an hour and a half, it’s into bed, one story, and she’s gone. At 6pm. Ish. 

    It’s not all perfect, though. There are some not-so-great things about being a nap free time:

    • Not being able to drive anywhere in the afternoon without copious snacks and distraction techniques
    • Eating dinner at 5pm
    • 5:30pm meltdowns
    • There isn’t such a logical time for ME to have a nap on the weekend
    • Missing out on evening playground time
    • Having The Campground Kid at our weekly team meetings

    But there are some great things too:

    • Evening yoga and/or walks
    • Easy bedtimes
    • Getting our kitchen tidy before the office closes at 8pm (usually)
    • Sometimes getting to have grown up dinner
    • Easy bedtimes
    • More time for writing and reading
    • More flexibility for playground time in the day
    • EASY BEDTIMES

    And these great things definitely make up for the challenges.

      I’ve almost certainly jinxed myself by talking about bedtime. But seriously, it’s life-changing. 

      As with a lot of parenting things, I questioned and I wondered about dropping naps. I didn’t know if I’d know the right time. I didn’t know how it would go. But when the time came, it was obvious. There was no question that we were all ready. It happened quickly and easily. In fact, this is how many parenting challenges have played out.

      Which means it’s going to be exactly the same with toilet training(/learning), right? 

      Right…?

       

      A day in the life of The Campground Family 

      Note: if you don’t care about the details of our life at the campground, don’t bother reading. This is long, and it isn’t going to turn around to a profound conclusion, nor is it going to contain any wisdom at all. It really is just an outline of our daily routine. A detailed outline?

      6:30 (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) – someone gets up, often with The Campground Kid, and starts breakfast or reads some stories or mucks around on Facebook for a bit.

      7:00 – we eat breakfast, usually all together, but sometimes I’m a bit slow to get started (I used to be a morning person, but that’s certainly not the case these days).

      7:30 – someone starts work (usually Campground Papa, because I’m usually still in PJs; see previous item) by doing a walk around the park and then checking the tills and opening the office.

      The other person gets The Campground Kid dressed, reads more stories, and gets ready.

      8:00 – The office is open. The Campground Kid and the home-parent usually join the office-parent not too much later.

      8:30 – we get ready for the day, which includes setting up folders and kits for the cleaning staff, processing online bookings that came through overnight, replying to online reviews and emails, and on weekends, cleaning the pool (that’s Campground Papa’s job when our groundsman has his days off). 

      9:00 – our first staff member arrives to start “stripping” the rooms (collecting laundry from vacated rooms). As laundry comes back in, we sort it and start the machines. Guests come and we answer questions, check them out, and make bookings at other parks.

      9:30 – If we haven’t had a coffee already, we have one (who are we kidding, we’ve definitely had a coffee already. But sometimes we have a second.) The Campground Kid gets cranky and has a snack or someone takes her to the playground or on some errands around the park.


      10:00 – The person who is in reception for the day arrives, and gets stuck into laundry, bookings, or whatever else needs doing. Cleaners arrive and start cleaning. On the weekend, Campground Papa goes to collect all the site rubbish, usually with a toddler in tow. I don’t do this because I don’t like driving nee vehicles and haven’t yet driven the little “tuk tuk” that he takes around.

      10:30 – We continue with laundry, we answer phones, and we help whoever comes into the office. Sometimes I have a specific task on my list to get started with, sometimes we meet with the owners, sometimes we take The Campground Kid for a play or to do some jobs around the park or the village.

      11:30 – We start thinking about lunch. Someone cooks/prepares; someone else covers the office while reception staff have a break. We fold laundry.

      12:00 – We all go and have lunch together and have a bit of a break.

      12:30 – The Campground Kid doesn’t nap anymore, so we try to convince her to have quiet time, with mixed results. Usually she shouts “HELP MEEEE” or “NO, I WANT LOOOUD TIME”, but will eventually do a puzzle or build something with magnatiles or duplo for a while. 

      1:00 – We’re back in the office most of the afternoon. The Campground Kid sometimes plays in the house. Sometimes we take her to the playground. Sometimes she plays in the office (usually jumping on laundry bags or hiding in a little cubby in the laundry or “checking people in”). Sometimes we’re busy and she shouts “up up up” over and over and throws tantrums and makes every childless person who comes into the office glad about that status. 

      1:30, 2:00, 2:30, 3:00 – Same as above. Bookings, laundry, checking people in, answering questions, trying to entertain The Campground Kid and also get our work done. Cleaners finish for the day, and guests start to arrive for the night.

      3:30 – Our laundry is usually done by now, and the van is packed with linen. It seems early, but we often start preparing dinner around this time. The Campground Kid sometimes helps with prep (she likes washing potatoes, watching what we do, and coming perilously close to finding any hot and/or sharp items), other times she prefers to watch Puffin Rock.

      4:00, 4:30 – Our busy periods are unpredictable, but this is often when campervans really start to roll in. Except over the peak of summer, we don’t have many forward bookings for campervans – people like to leave their plans flexible. We check everyone in, sell discount cards, and help people connect to the Wifi.

      5:00 – Dinner time! We all eat together, and catch up a bit (we see a lot of each other, but don’t always have much time to talk!)

      5:30 – Someone goes back to the office, someone else starts a bath for The Campground Kid. The home-parent whips through the bedtime routine (bath, PJs, goodnight to office-parent, teeth, stories, bed)

      6:00, 6:30 – The Campground Kid goes to bed and is usually asleep quickly (Thanks no naps!) On busy days, the bedtime-parent goes back to the office. On quiet days, they have some downtime (if it’s me, I do yoga or writing or go for a walk).


      7:00 – Our reception worker leaves, and office-parent is on their own. Or sometimes not. It’s not usually too busy, so this isn’t usually too hard!

      7:30 – We need to get ready to close the office. This means preparing signs for late arrivals, running reports, answering last minute questions and requests for change (for the laundry). 

      8:00 – We close the office (usually! Every so often the requests and questions just don’t end and we don’t manage to close until 15 minutes later.) Office-parent comes home, and we clean or do other chores or watch TV.

      8:30 – Often one of us will take the chance to some outside exercise (Campground Papa runs, I walk.)  Often one of us will do dishes. Sometimes we’re both so exhausted that we blob on the couch instead.

      9:00 – I go and start “the rounds”. I check the guest laundry, the toilet paper in the bathrooms, change towels in bathroom and kitchen, and empty rubbish bins. Campground Papa finishes the rounds by checking the men’s bathrooms, closing the pool, and closing the TV room.

      9:30 – We are finally off the clock. We watch TV (currently: rewatching The West Wing) and Facebook. I write my journal and sometimes knit.

      10:00 – We should probably go to bed. We never do.

      10:30 (or later) – We go to bed. We read. We sleep. 

      And then we start it all over again!

      Budget cut

      “Why would someone move back from making big bucks overseas to live here and work more and make less?” I’ve been asked this question once, and kinda-nearly-but-not-outright asked this question several more times. And the answer is basically: we love New Zealand. But from the way it was asked, that wasn’t quite what they meant. To get more specific, yes, this change involved a pretty decent drop in income. But even if we just focus on money (which ignores the multitude of reasons we made this choice) it’s not really that simple. Our overall household income is less, even with both of us working now, we pay more tax than we did in Brunei, and we work many more hours for less pay. At the same time, we pay less in household bills (rent, power, phone etc.), we still don’t have to pay much in the way of childcare, and we have less free time to spend money. 

      But the biggest reason that the income drop hasn’t been so bad is that it’s so much easier to be frugal in New Zealand (for us, anyway). We’ve definitely had an adjustment period as we get back into the rhythm of frugality, and there are still plenty of things I’d like to change, but our lifestyle here lets us do several things that help us save money compared to our lifestyle in Brunei:

      • Shopping at op shops. We LOVE op shops. You may call them thrift shops or secondhand stores or junk shops or something else entirely. But whatever you call them, we think they’re great. The Campground Kid doesn’t get any new toys except at Christmas and birthdays, but she occasionally gets a book or a toy from the op shop; I have found some of my favourite clothes in op shops (though it’s a lot harder now that I’m fat!); and there’s no better place for cheap craft supplies. Plus, it’s really satisfying to find a great bargain.
      • Having a vegetable garden. In Brunei we pretty much just had concrete around our flat. It was a bit miserable, and it made it impossible to garden. Now we have lots of space, and big raised vegetable garden. We learned from previous mistakes and kept it pretty low maintenance, but we’ve had a near endless supply of silverbeet, spinach, zucchini, lettuce, and herbs. And we’re pretty excited to see capsicums growing on our plants and passionfruit and feijoas coming through on the vine/trees that were planted before we arrived. It takes a bit of work, but we have so many fresh veges, and have even managed to stock up our freezer a bit. Speaking of which, next on the list is…

      Vege garden haul

      • Having a deep freeze. Our tiny little freezer in Brunei was always crammed full, just from our weekly shop. Now we have a big chest freezer, so we can buy meat and veges and bread and other staples in bulk when they’re a good price and freeze them until we need them. We always have food available, and can keep a decent stock of easy-to-prepare meals on hand, which saves money on takeaways. I didn’t realise how much I had missed having a big freezer until we had one again.
      • Driving less. In our new job, we almost never drive during our work week (except driving 3 min down the road on the days The Campground Kid goes to hang out with a child minder). I drove a lot in Brunei, so this is a nice change. It probably doesn’t save us much actual money, though, because petrol is more than three times the price here 😬😳😮. I do miss 53c petrol!
      • Wearing a uniform. We both wear a uniform five days a week now, which a) makes it very easy to get dressed in the morning and b) means I hardly need any clothes. I tend to be someone who has too many clothes (waaay too many), so this probably hasn’t even reduced my wardrobe to normal, but it’s definitely reduced it from totally over the top. Baby steps, right?!

      Bonus points: our uniform is awesome.

      • Taking fewer holidays. We were in Brunei for a limited time, so very much felt like we needed to see as much of the area as possible. This meant lots of international holidays (and we still didn’t manage to see even close to everything we wanted to!). And even though Southeast Asia is cheap, international holidays still put a dent in the budget. We have less time and less drive for holidays now – we’re homebodies at heart – which saves us a lot. We also have a caravan now, so we anticipate most of our holidays being campgrounds, which are a little easier on the pocket. It will definitely be a change from the fancy hotels we quite often stayed at in Asia, but it’s a good change.

      Coming home and making this change was NEVER about the money. At the same time, we didn’t want to be constantly scrimping and saving and worrying about money. Before we moved, I did worry that this would be the case. But, so far, it’s not at all. I think if we’d gone from similar job/lifestyle to similar job/lifestyle and had this same pay cut, it would have been quite a shock (we would still have done it, but it would have been hard). But because we changed EVERYTHING, the change in budget has been pretty low on the list of changes. By living a little more frugally, saving in some important areas (RENT), and staying at home more often, it just hasn’t been a big deal. PHEW.