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Iso Birth

I have heard it said that the first few weeks of parenting feel like they are some of the most isolated weeks, due to waiting for immunisations, and waiting for parents group to begin.

Imagine going through pregnancy and childbirth without access to birthing classes, education sessions, local parent groups or even the ability to visit the local Maternal Health Nurse. Now add to that, not being able to take your partner to ultrasounds to see the baby, appointments to discuss the arrival or potentially even have a support person in the birthing suite.

I can tell you, the most isolated are the first few weeks. During a pandemic.

Due to the current pandemic, there are even less visitors allowed to come over, minimal face-to-face meetings such as Maternal Health Nurses, and for the most part, you are required to stay inside.

We have recently had our second child, born in a major hospital in the city. There were many restrictions, beginning with no escorts to appointments, and extending to all persons (even the mother) being screened upon arrival. One visitor/support person was allowed for the entire stay, so if I was to get sick, there would be no other visitors allowed. Luckily, I was allowed in the birthing room, although that was in doubt for some time. No one under the age of 18 (unless it was a parent) was allowed in either, so our first daughter was unable to meet her little sister until we arrived home again.

I thought that it was rather extreme, but then I stopped and thought about it. Imagine going through this as a single-parent, or someone with no support network. As a first-time parent, it must feel so daunting! Although in some ways, if it were their first child, they would not know any different.

We were lucky. After the safe arrival of our daughter, we were allowed to stay for 36 hours. Friends of a friend were first-time parents, and had twins. They were sent home after four hours.

Thankfully, we have had visits from a Midwife and telephone calls with the Maternal Health nurse, but compared to the first child, this is a far more isolating feeling. We are very glad that we are still in touch with our parents group. I cannot imagine going through it all, and having no local network of similar parents.

Friends of ours are expecting their first child in June. They have not been able to attend any classes, information or education sessions. There have been some YouTube sessions, but no easy way to ask questions.

And yet, with all of the uncertainty that surrounds everything in the world these days, childbirth remains a certainty. It will go ahead, no matter what.

With everything seeming so isolated and lonely, please know that it doesn’t have to be. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Zoom, SMS or even a simple phone-call can open up the world to you, albeit not as well as a face-to-face meet with a friend or relative who has gone through it all before. Yes, things are different, but it won’t be forever.

I recently learned that my grandmother spend her first few years living through the Spanish Flu pandemic. She was born in 1917, so her parents raised her through our last pandemic (and had six more children!). They did not have ANY of the connections to the community that we have, not even parents groups. They had books and candles. And we all know how fantastic that would be in current days… We are going through extreme times, but it could be much worse. And just like with the previous pandemics of history, it will pass.

So if you know a new-mum, a new-dad or even a parent of a new arrival to their family, perhaps reach out on social media, zoom or even the good ol’ phone (SMS only in case you wake the baby!), and check that everything is going okay. They might be very glad to receive contact with the outside world, or even have some questions for you!

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Fairy Tale World

If I were to tell you that we are living in a fairytale world right now, you would likely think I had lost my mind. But what if I told you that we are potentially living in a nursery rhyme?

Depending on who you ask, there is speculation that traditional nursery rhymes were originally created as an early form of news. In times long before Kindle, most of the commoners were illiterate, meaning that it would prove pointless to print a weekly newspaper (and a few hundred years too early, for a modern printing press!) However there were occasional tidbits of news that needed to be sent far and wide throughout the kingdom and be remembered accurately.

The perfect example of this is, the Bubonic Plague. When it first surfaced, people were confused and scared of this mystery disease. It would sweep through a village and indiscriminately claim a large number of lives. Trying to describe the effects and treatment would likely have been lost in translation, so as the theory goes, a song was created. We know it as “Ring around a Rosey”.

I am going to get a bit graphic here, but bear with me. One of the early telltale symptoms of the plague were large blisters or pustules, with a red ring formed around them. “Ring of Rosey”. The Plague doctors that were sent out to treat patients would throw wildflowers on the patients as a treatment (seriously, flowers??) “A pocket full of Posies”. If the cure did not succeed (highly likely) then the person would die. The body would need to be cremated to prevent further infection to villagers. “Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down”

There are many other examples of nursery rhymes being written to tell a historic story or to deliver a message. “Three Blind Mice” was written about three bishops who ignored the Queen’s beliefs, and ended up being burned at the stake. “London Bridge” is apparently about a Viking attack on a Bridge in London (an easy one!). “Mary Mary, Quite Contrary” is about Queen Mary, or ‘Bloody Mary’. Some of her many torturous devices were named ‘Silver Bells’ and ‘Cockle Shells’. The rest of the rhyme would indicate that she found an interesting fertiliser for her garden…

So with that in mind, and the way that the world is currently in lockdown, will the current events one day be sang to children as a lullaby or nursery rhyme? Will COVID-19 be almost romanticised and sterilised into an abstract little tune?

Just think, one day we could be a part of a nursery rhyme sang to our great great grandchildren, and all we had to do was sit on our ass and watch Netflix! Sounds like a pretty good deal, especially compared to Mary Mary’s pretty maids… 🙂

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Kurios

Today I did something that every kid has dreamed about. I ran away and joined the circus. That is not entirely true, however when one is almost a part of the production, lines are blurred. I am speaking of Cirque du Soleil’s latest show to arrive in Australia, “Kurios” and I can tell you, if you get a chance to attend, you will be in for a treat!

Upon arrival we were guided into the BigTop and up the steps into the stadium seating. Lighting was dim, but that only set the mood for the mysteries that awaited. The stage itself was intricately detailed, with beautiful ornate props and colourful floorboards. Above the stage, a steampunk clock frozen at 11:11, the wishing hour.

The lights dimmed. The audience was immediately whisked into a world of imagination and wonder. Actors in ornate and glamorous outfits began to tell the tale of an alternate past, in a place where wonders abound for those who trust their imagination. A scientist is convinced that somewhere, there is a hidden world – a place where the most fantastic and craziest dreams await.

The aviator arrives and with some assistance, takes his plane up and away, flying overhead and immersing the audience in the performance. What followed was an incredible display of acrobatics and imagination, involving a three-level balancing tower made of tubes and boards, all performed on a swinging platform that propels itself out over the audience.

Just when I thought I had this show figured out, everything changes. New actors, new outfits and a new soundtrack turned the mood from something close to a 19th century jazz bar, to an early 20th century swing dance. These performers must work out for at least 20 hours a day! The women were propelled up into the air, far above the other performers, but then caught by their dance partners with such ease. Then the men had their turn at defying gravity. Three men hurled another into the air, landing on the shoulders of another. Then another. A tower of three men reached high into the void above the stage! They made it look so effortless, that I considered giving it a go. Thankfully, I did not.

I don’t want to give too much away, but know that you will struggle to sit still, as your head and neck will be constantly looking from side to side, top to bottom, unsure as to what is going to happen at any given point. So much is happening at any moment, that everyone will see it a little differently. Perhaps that is the idea? To keep the viewer wondering, dreaming and imagining?

I have never been to a Cirque du Soleil show before, but now I feel that I need to go to all of them. The energy and wonder that these skilful performers deliver is nothing short of breathtaking. Whilst I wouldn’t take small children to the show, I believe this show would be suitable for primary-aged children and above. I only say this because, I would hate to miss even a second of the show whilst taking a younger child out for the toilet or a snack. People of all ages are welcome to attend!

With 47 artists and performers consisting of world-class gymnasts, acrobats, contortionists, puppeteers, yo-yo wizards, clowns, actors and musicians, the scientist’s steampunk world is turned upside-down as they are accompanied by an energetic gypsy jazz, electro swing soundtrack like no other.

Kurios is like no other Cirque show before it. For the first time, it is not under their trademark blue and yellow Big-Top, instead opting for a grey and white variant which ensures better energy consumption and more efficient heating and cooling. There are a staggering 426 props in the entire show, more than any other Cirque production. For the first time ever, when weather permits, three of the performers scale the outside of the Big Top before the show and entertain the waiting crowd below, complete with live music!

Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios opens in Melbourne March 12th at Flemington Racecourse. Bookings can be made at www.cirquedesoleil.com/kurios

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My childhood was not like most others. Sure, lots of people claim that they are different or special. But I am not saying that at all.

At the time, I thought that my childhood was like everyone else’s. As years went on, I realised that this was far from true. You see, I lived in a household of abuse. No one else knew, and no one else intervened. How did they not know? How did my teachers not realise that things were not okay at home? Simple. Mental and Verbal abuse shows no bruises.

As a kid, I witnessed physical abuse on other family members, as well as financial abuse. But no one outside of the house knew about it. In fact, even if we were to tell someone, I doubt we would’ve been believed. You see, my father was an expert at keeping up appearances. In public, he would charm teachers, smile at strangers and came across as a regular human being. Behind closed doors, it was a different story.

Seeing so many news reports about Domestic Violence, which results in one woman’s death per week on average, there is another side of it. Social Media and social commentary, with people asking “Why didn’t she leave?” or “Why didn’t someone stop him?” or similar. Every story is different, but in my circumstances, the financial abuse and control meant that, my mother was placed on an allowance, which was to cover all groceries, school fees, petrol, bills, clothing, uniforms etc.

Getting away can take more than money. It takes courage. Thats where the mental and emotional abuse comes in. Being told that you are worthless or stupid, being yelled at for dropping a fork in the kitchen, or closing a door too loudly, eventually you are treading on eggshells, and doubting your every thought and move. Knowing that a cupboard door being closed can cause an outburst certainly makes you think of the level of abuse that will result by an attempt to leave. Eventually you think that its just easier to learn where the squeaky floorboards are, and how to do everyday tasks in relative silence.

When there is emotional, verbal and financial abuse all weaving their sinister tapestry, then physical abuse is usually not required. Destroying someone’s soul ensures that they have no dreams or aspirations. They will not leave. This is what I witnessed in my home. People too afraid to voice up or to step out of line, in fear of the mere threat of physical violence. Although there was some physical abuse, it was not very common, but it was always in our thoughts that he was certainly capable of doing such a thing. That is an aspect of the emotional abuse. Controlling someone using fear.

In the end, it took more than two decades for things to change, though. Eventually, I stood up for my family. I built up my cache of evidence, hid it and left a copy with a friend. I then confronted the abuser. I was petrified, but I stood my ground. He was furious. I told him that there were copies made. He could not do anything to hurt me anymore. I showed him the door, and made sure it locked behind him.

Abuse of a loved one is never okay. If you cannot love them unconditionally, support their wishes and dreams or simply allow them to live their life, then you simply do not deserve to have them in your life.

Sadly, not everyone has this option. Not everyone is capable of standing up to their oppressor. It could be the fear of violence or even the fear of inadequacies, drummed into them by years of emotional abuse. As the news tells us, even after women get away, they are often stalked, tormented and occasionally killed for daring to want freedom from their oppressors. But for them to know that they have friends, they have support and they have reinforcements if they need them, can make all the difference. If you see something, say something. Ask your friends if they are okay. Strike up conversation with the distant mum or child at the playground or at school pick-up. A friendly face and someone to reach out to can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Sure, they might not speak out. I didn’t, and neither did my family. However, just knowing that there is someone to listen if I wanted to talk made a world of difference in my situation.

 

If you or anyone you know needs help:

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Hey Siri!

Everyone knows who Siri is.

Even those without an iPhone are probably familiar with it. We have all experienced “that guy” who uses Siri at a party to say something silly, tell a joke, beatbox or something equally hilarious but pointless. Lets face it, Siri is a party gimmick, right?

But did you know that Siri can also be very helpful for parenting?

No, no, seriously. Hear me out.

My little one loves listening to music, and I have even managed to get her into some ‘real’ music, such as the Beatles. Sometimes, as we are driving along, she has an urge to sing along to “Yellow Submarine”, but of course, it is illegal to operate a mobile phone whilst driving. Queue Siri. “Hey Siri, play Yellow Submarine album, by the Beatles”. It plays, she is happy, and my hands haven’t left the wheel. Everybody wins.

Another amazing feat is when driving, I can make a call or even send an SMS, all without removing my hands from the wheel. “Hey Siri, send a message to Mum… I am getting Pizza for dinner tonight!” Message sent. I tell you, it is addictive!

Try this one, next time your child is misbehaving. “Hey Siri, set a reminder to write a letter to Santa”. Reminder set, and child occasionally becomes an angel.

Now with the latest iOS update (iOS 13 or later), there is another app called “Shortcuts”. Paired with Siri, this app is the ultimate in getting stuff done. With some tweaking and fiddling, a ‘shortcut’ can do almost anything. For example, I have one set to activate seven different alarms for each morning (I am NOT a morning person!) so instead of setting them all, then deactivating them all every single day, I just say “Hey Siri, its bed time”. My shortcut activates, alarms are set, screen dims, DND mode is activated, volume lowers and Low Power mode is activated. In the morning, I say “Hey Siri, I’m Awake”, and the alarms are all deactivated, and everything else is reversed. Saying “Hey Siri, Let’s do this!” gets my workout app open, music open, playlist pumping and DND mode on”

A great one to set up is “Hey Siri, Say cheese!” and the camera will take a photo. Perfect for those who want a selfie but have arms that are too short…

If you are a tech-head, Shortcuts can also control your AppleTV or other ‘Smart’ devices in your home, such as lighting, Power Points and Sound Systems. Imagine saying “Hey Siri, I am almost home!” and having it turn on the lights, heating/cooling, TV or favourite playlist (Or simply activate the coffee machine so it is ready when you get home!) An app that can literally make you a coffee for when you arrive home… We are in the future, folks!

There are so many things that this app can do, and is limited largely by your imagination and needs. But for the technophobes or those who do not want yet another app, simply having Siri pull its weight and send an SMS, email or make a call is surely a helping hand at times.

But making Siri beatbox is still fun sometimes…

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Super Dad?

As a stay-at-home dad (SAHD), there are quite a few things that are a bit different for me, compared with a stay-at-home mum (SAHM). Some things are are simply waiting to catch up from 1970s, such as changing tables in the mens toilets. Often, I will have to use the disabled toilets to change a baby, which then inconveniences the disabled community, or in some cases, I have had to change a baby on the grass in a playground, or even on the floor in a restaurant when given no other option by management. One such venue, upon being asked why there was no change facilities that I could use, replied with a smile “just hand the child to its mum, and you are off the hook!” I doubt that it would be acceptable to change a nappy during a boardroom meeting, but thanks.

One of the other hurdles, and this is a big one, is public perception. I have lost count of how many times I have been asked “Are you babysitting today?” or having a stranger talk to my infant and say “Is silly daddy babysitting today?”. Heaven forbid that my child is crying in public, as then I am met with “Silly daddy needs to take baby back to mum for a feed!” or “Your child is hungry, don’t you know that cry?”… even though it had been 10 minutes since her last feed and we were waiting in line for medicine, as she was sick – the reason she was crying!

But even with the public perception that apparently ‘dads are incompetent’ or that we simply ‘babysit’, even though for anyone else it would be referred to as ‘parenting’, I have noticed something else. The level of standards is far, far lower for dads.

The other day, whilst doing the groceries with my child, I had a lady approach me and say “Wow, you are doing the shopping? I wish MY husband would do the shopping! What an amazing dad you are!” Now, I am sure it was meant as a compliment, but it felt condescending. I told my wife later on, and she replied “I have literally never been congratulated for doing the shopping”. This was not my first time.

I have actually been congratulated for several difficult, complicated and super-human feats, such as:

  • Doing the Groceries
  • Doing the Laundry
  • Changing a Nappy
  • Doing the Dishes
  • doing the Laundry
  • Playing on the playground with my child
  • Packing a Lunch
  • Purchasing new clothes for my daughter
  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Walking
  • Crossing the Road
  • Carrying my child as she sleeps

All seem to be rather normal things, at least, if they were done by a mum. In fact, for most SAHMs, this would be a standard day at home. For a SAHD however, it’s like the Academy Awards.

I understand that positive reinforcement can deliver change, and that perhaps a pat on the back occasionally can help see repeat behaviour, but imagine if the tables were turned. Imagine a SAHM was doing the groceries with a child in-tow. A strange man came over and said “Well done to you for doing groceries! What a superstar you are!” I am sure you see my point.

So why is the bar set so low for dads? Is it because society sees us all as Homer Simpson-type persons? Or that so many dads do so little? (and this is by no means an attack on those hard-working folk out there!)

Do we congratulate women for mowing the lawn? Or for being in Bunnings? So why should men need to be congratulated for doing the groceries? Do single men sit at home and starve these days?

Perhaps it is that society is still rather headstrong in their stereotyped roles for parents. Mums should stay home. Dads should be the breadwinner. In an ideal world I think both would happily stay home.

If you do feel the need to congratulate a SAHD for doing something, make sure it’s something monumental. Something that you would be proud to be congratulated for yourself. Like diffusing a public meltdown with calm and rational conversation, wiping a child’s runny nose on the first attempt whilst they are passing by on the swing, or loading the shopping into the car whilst wrangling three screaming kids and a sleeping baby.

I will be sure to do the same if I see you out and about without your cape, too!

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Life of Dad

Woe is me. Life as a SAHD can be a lonely one.

You see, when all babies are born, and Council send out a letter to arrange a local support network, it usually fast becomes a ‘mums group’. This is fine, unless the Stay At Home parent is to be the dad. For the first bit, my wife attended their catch-ups, but when it was time for her to return to work, I felt that I didn’t know them very well. I certainly did not have their numbers or even social media.

For the first few months, things were rather daunting. I seemed to be all on my own (with my daughter, of course!) I attended various free events – sing-along at the library was a favourite. But any time I tried to initiate conversation with the mums there, I received a cold shoulder. They were inter group, and seemingly had no room for anyone else. The same thing happened at playgrounds. I would start small-talk with a parent, but often was ignored. After a while, one starts to take things personally.

Now, I understand that ‘mums group’ discussion can be rather descriptive – lactation, women’s health issues, libido etc. (or so I have been told!) and I can understand that many women do not want men around when this stuff is discussed.

After a while, my craving for adult conversation became an issue. The people behind me at Coles hated me, as I would chat with the checkout staff for far too long, or I would go to the library and chat with the librarians. People that are being paid have little ability to escape…

The dads that I have met out in the big scary world are all rather good at looking after their kids. Most even enjoy it. But usually if you see a dad with a child at the playground, he will be alone, as we are not often invited to the mums group. We lack that tight network that so many of the mums take for granted. Not having this network can make things a bit scarier or daunting. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a #notalldads type of post. I am not crying about the inequality toward men or anything like that. Although it would be nice if there was an organised dads group set up somewhere.

Dads are also rubbish at organising things with each other, as stereotypically, we do not talk about our emotions, fears, doubts or worries, which means such a group would either be rather quiet, or the topics would soon turn into more blokey-type questions.

I only have seen one local dads group in my area which I have not joined as they only seem to meet at 6pm on weekdays, and it always revolves around drinking beer. *sigh*. Apparently men cannot be doting dads without highlighting their masculinity with a beer-drinking event. Having the events at that time specifically excludes the children, as it is nearing their bedtime (which I enjoy doing!), so I am unsure what the point of it all is. Get drunk whilst maybe talking about my kid?

Instead, we make up our own games. I often take my daughter out on exploring adventures, discovering new parks, playgrounds or hidden wonderlands. I love being a dag with her and spending time with her. We have been on nature walks, bug-finding and beach adventures. We have read books in the Botanic Gardens, ridden our bike to nana’s house and fed the seagulls. I have shown her rock pools, found crabs in the sands at the beach and picked native wildflowers to take home for mum. Occasionally I will arrange a meet with a few of the mums, but generally it will just be us.

Perhaps if you see a dad out there with his child having fun, exploring the world or simply sitting there under a tree reading a book, invite him over to your mums group!

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