Tag: perspective

To those men who defy the ‘father’ stereotype

To those men who defy the ‘father’ stereotype

I still believe that I am right. Okay, so granted that as an Aquarian, that is my default position… But I’m sure a lot of you intelligent people out there (yes, you) will agree with me on this one:

A while ago I got into a debate argument with a colleague about the roles of mothers and fathers. I was adamant that men can be as nurturing as women; that being a nurturing parent comes just as naturally to men as it does to women. I was up against the view that nurturing only comes naturally to women (expressed with some man-hating vehemence, I might add). I was – and am still – right. Obviously.

My brother and I are lucky enough to have been raised by two loving parents, both of whom were nurturing. Our dad was a hands-on, involved dad. Nappies, burping, rocking to sleep, etc. He did it all. And my husband is just as involved in the raising and nurturing of our little man.

There is a lot to be said for the way in which fatherhood is now perceived by society in general. Just yesterday I was chatting with a longtime friend about family life and she was relating how the men in her family, be they dads or uncles, play just as an important role in the daily lives of their kids. In fact, a lot of women relate these kinds of stories about their husbands and partners. The idea that fathers are there to provide financial support, discipline, and physical protection to the exclusion of all other aspects of parenting is just ludicrous.

So do I believe in ‘maternal instinct’? Absolutely. In fact, I was quite overwhelmed by the way in which it instantly kicked into gear after the birth of our son. But I also think that dads can have an incredible bond with their kids, and experience an instinctive nurturing and care for their little ones.

In some ways, I think that it’s more about personality than it is about gender. There are lots of women who choose to not have a family, and it’s hardly fair to say that that is ‘unnatural’. If you’re not the maternal type (whatever that is), that’s perfectly acceptable. In the same way, we should accept – and embrace – the idea of nurturing dads who defy those outdated gender stereotypes and shower their kids with love and affection.

So Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there! And let’s not forget those who have lost their dads, dads who have lost their children, and those men who are still yearning to become dads.

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Parenting, anxiety, and smudged nail polish

Parenting, anxiety, and smudged nail polish

It happened. There’s no going back. There are certain moments and events that change your life. Irretrievably.

No matter what happens from now on, I have been forever changed.

Exactly five weeks ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. We’re parents. To be honest, it’s still a surreal experience for me. I still catch myself staring at my son in a state of disbelief. In a good way. A great way.

They say that nothing can prepare you for parenthood. And yet, we still attend antenatal classes, download the apps, follow the blogs, etc. Does it prepare you? I think that selecting the correct classes etc for you can help to prepare you to a certain extent.

The thing that best prepared me for being a mommy? My journey through depression.

And no, I’m not talking about postnatal depression here: on the contrary, I have found the first five weeks of motherhood to be incredibly fulfilling.

So just how on earth did the most trying and devastatingly dark periods of my life prepare me for the most overwhelmingly poignant experience?

Ironically, my journey through depression (“through” implying that you can in fact reach the surface and gasp the fresh air) has taught me many invaluable lessons. Not only have I gained insight into my own psyche, for want of a better word, but I have also come to understand what kind of life I want to lead, and the best mindset and approach to realise this.

The goal-oriented, perfectionist, compulsive nature of my anxiety just doesn’t wash with the daily reality of being a mom. I sat down last week to write a blog post. I got as far as switching on my laptop. That’s it; no further. There is nothing perfect about parenthood. Nothing. I decorated the nursery exactly as I had imagined: a perfect replica of my vision. Two days ago I found myself moving furniture into the centre of the room so that I could wash off projectile pee from a large section of wall and nearby furniture. As for being compulsive, it’s simply not an option. Especially when you have a newborn who has a finely tuned sixth sense that wakens him as soon you step into the shower, pour a cup of tea, or apply a fresh coat of nail polish.

My resultant level of anxiety? Nada. Why?

Before becoming a parent I decided that I would try to be as mindful as possible. I decided that I would not set goals. That I would not entertain ideas about being a supermom. That I would adapt my days to my child’s routine to the best of my ability. That I would not read a single pregnancy or parenting magazine. That I would take each day as it came. That I would trust Mother Nature to give me sufficient maternal instinct to ‘wing it’ for the most part.

So far, I’m managing. Of course, it’s only been five weeks. I might be singing a very different tune next week. Or at three o’clock tomorrow morning. Regardless, my point is that depression and anxiety have provided me with countless opportunities for growth. Sure, I did not grasp all those opportunities. But I did take advantage of some.

It is this ongoing process of reflection and growth that I hope will stand me in good stead in this new stage of my life – smudged nail polish, tepid cups of tea, and all.

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Essential life lessons from His Lordship

Essential life lessons from His Lordship

I think that these are the key life lessons that will lead to a happy life.

life lessons

In a very short space of time His Lordship taught me the following, all through leading by example:

  1. Choose to spend your time with people who love and accept you, and enrich your life.
  2. Listen to your body – get sufficient sleep to restore your energy levels.
  3. Practice portion control. It’s perfectly acceptable to leave food on your plate.
  4. Spend time relaxing outdoors in warm sunshine.
  5. Recognise that you truly deserve all the compliments and affection you receive.
  6. Only do that with which you are comfortable. If you feel uncomfortable with something, walk away.
  7. Learn to adapt to new environments in order to find out where you belong.
  8. If you need or want something, ask. You just might get lucky.
  9. Be patient. Better things are coming your way. Then, show gratitude.
  10. Make fun, play and exercise a regular feature in your life.

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Now, no-one is perfect. So although I have learnt a great deal from His Lordship, there are a few caveats that I also picked up along the way from his less-than-stellar examples…

  1. When giving someone a gift, make sure that it is something that they will like. Just because you think it’s awesome doesn’t mean that they will too.
  2. Certain health and hygiene routines are best done in private. Although we all appreciate cleanliness, we don’t always want to watch the process.
  3. It is not necessary to loudly announce your arrival. Every time.
  4. If you make a mess, clean up after yourself. Before someone else feels obliged to do so.
  5. You only have to be demanding once for people to change their perception of you.
  6. If you know that someone has a favourite chair in their lounge, don’t sit there.
  7. Even though you might consider yourself a foodie, remember that people are more important than food.
  8. Simply helping yourself to something without permission is not borrowing: it’s theft.
  9. If someone gives you a gift and you’re not sure what it is, remember that it might have uses beyond being food or a potential pillow.
  10. Standing motionless after you break wind is a dead giveaway.

What essential life lessons have you learnt?

Overcoming geese and other fears

Overcoming geese and other fears

I am afraid of geese. Seriously. It all stems back to an incident in Hyde Park, London when I was two years old. Unsurprisingly, I have no recollection of the event. But upon confessing this rather bizarre fear (especially because I never encounter any geese anyway), my mum recounted this event from my childhood. Freud would love this stuff!

You’ve got to admit this is terrifying!

I don’t have a phobia. Although I have discovered that it extends to other large birds with large beaks. Like the African grey parrot that used to wander around my mother-in-law’s living room. But then there are more serious fears – the kind that limit our development in life.

What is the predominant fear in your life that’s holding you back?  Failure, rejection, humiliation, or something else entirely? What’s that one moment in your life that you would ‘do over’ if you could?

overcoming fear and failure

In order to move forward, you have to place your fears and failures to one side. Like so many things (perhaps everything?) in life, it’s much easier said than done. But dwelling on current and past fears and failures will get you nowhere. It will just give them a more dominant position in your consciousness. Ironically, if you try to force these thoughts out of your mind, the same thing will happen. There’s a trick to this…

Although you cannot simply forget these things, you can choose to reconcile and focus. Accept that these things have happened, and that there is nothing you can do to change that. You cannot redefine the past. Reconcile yourself with these things, and accept that you can and must move forward.

It’s natural that you won’t forget your fears and failures – they will enter your thoughts. Take a step back mentally when these negative thoughts arise. See them as just that: thoughts. Remember, thoughts are not facts. Adopt a neutral stance, one of an observer who it neither critical nor judgmental. And then gently focus your attention on something else, something that is positive and rewarding.

overcome failure

We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all been paralysed (metaphorically) by fear. We’ve all failed at things. In this way, we are all the same. But here comes the difference: some people are crippled for life, whereas others bounce back. What makes a difference is choosing to place fears and failures to one side and move on, or choosing to be overwhelmed. The choice is yours.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your crazy (like geese) or serious (like failure) fears?

The scenes of poverty that challenged my belief in personal development

The scenes of poverty that challenged my belief in personal development

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel like a complete bourgeois hypocrite? I recently had one such humbling moment.

If you know me and/or follow this blog you will know that I believe a great deal in what I see as the necessity of self development. I’m all for personal development, finding one’s purpose in life, discovering motivation and inspiration, creating fulfillment, and the list goes on…

A few months ago my husband and I spent a couple of weeks traveling around South Africa. The last week or so consisted of a road trip from the west coast, following the coastline all the way back to our home near the east coast.

(Can I please just mention here that it was an actual bona fide road trip with stops along the way etc. My pet hate is when people say they are going on a road trip whereas they are actually simply driving from Point A to Point B without doing anything along the way apart from getting petrol and having toilet breaks. That is just a drive. A commute. Stop trying to make those ordinary journeys sound like exciting adventures worthy of an art film. Okay, rant over. Whew.)

So we were nearing the end of our road trip. Many people advise not to drive the last stretch, and to simply get in a plane once you reach a certain point. We decided to drive the whole way in order to see more of our country.

This meant that we drove through some very poor, undeveloped regions. As we drove along winding bumpy roads rife with potholes, we had to avoid hitting not only pedestrians but cattle, horses, donkeys, pigs, goats, chickens, and dogs as well. What we saw was people consumed by the need to survive.

I really saw how so many people’s lives are consumed by the basic requirements for survival. We drove past people carrying water containers and large bundles of firewood. We saw people tending to crops and looking after herds of animals. And this was not some rosy idyllic country scene. This was poverty.

It was then that I felt so incredibly humbled. I’ve always known that I am fortunate to not live in poverty. But I suddenly realised that something like personal development, something that I see as a necessity, is actually a luxury. If your every waking moment is consumed with tasks and chores that are focused on looking after your basic needs, the idea of ‘working on yourself’ seems so embarrassingly bourgeois.

I don’t think I will disregard the notion of personal development. But I now see it as a luxurious indulgence. Because, after all, I now have a completely different perspective as to what really constitutes a problem in life.

I’d love to hear your views on this topic…

Will you please quit pouring that green goop over yourself?!

Will you please quit pouring that green goop over yourself?!

In my last post I confessed to starting to go organic and natural. It’s not an obsession by any means. Promise. It’s just about trying to eliminate physical toxins such as harsh chemicals from our home. Despite what my Pinterest boards might seem to be proclaiming, I am not trying to be a domestic goddess.

It’s really made me start to think about toxicity in general. And not just slimy green goop that’s stored in dubious barrels.

eliminating toxicity

 

You might remember that I also wrote a post on emotional toxicity. Basically what I was trying to say is that being negative towards others, being unduly critical of others, gossiping, etc all just adds to the negativity in your own life. Plus, you pass that toxicity onto others. And nobody needs green goop of any shape or form in their life.

But there’s something else to consider. In some weird slimy version of the vaguely recent ice bucket challenge, many of us seem to pour toxic goop all over ourselves. And it is also a viral sensation.

Sure, by being negative about others we are encouraging negativity in our own lives. But all too often we assume unnecessary blame, feel inappropriate guilt, wallow in self doubt, and subject ourselves to undue self-criticism. Do you pour this green toxic gunk over yourself?

You are who you are.

And who you are is enough. 

I think that it’s time to take a more zen-like approach to life. Accept life for what it is. Accept others for who they are. Accept yourself for who you are.

I’m not trying to suggest that we should never try to improve. What I do think, however, it that constantly focusing on the future and trying to improve encourages us to be negative and critical about our present circumstances. It also prevents us from being mindful of the present and accepting ourselves with loving kindness and compassion.

Let’s face it: we all need a little love, kindness and compassion in our lives. Let it start as an inner personal phenomenon because your internal world ultimately determines your external reality.

I’d love to know your thoughts about eliminating the toxicity from your life?

The real truth about creating new habits

The real truth about creating new habits

I initially thought that the title of this post would be ‘Create 7 Habits in 7 Days’. Clearly I was feeling somewhat overambitious that day. Let’s just say that I put the ‘C’ in OCD.

One night when I was plagued with insomnia, I was reading through various blogs. (Just so you know, it’s a great habit to read blogs. Nothing like a bit of shameless self marketing thrown in here and there…) Anyway, the point is that I came across a post that was all about using a checklist to develop new habits.

new habits

At first I thought it sounded a little twee. But I never can resist a list. Or an opportunity to use colourful pens. Or an excuse to start a journal of sorts.

Now I must mention here that the post did argue the logic and merits of focusing on developing one habit at a time. I decided that I would work on seven. Simultaneously. Like I said, I put the ‘C’ in OCD. So my checklist looks something like:

  1. Wake up on time
  2. Go to gym
  3. Use Pomodori (learn about the Pomodoro System here)
  4. Meditate
  5. Plan meals for next week (More than a serious rut, my cooking is in a bottomless crater.)
  6. Buy groceries accordingly.
  7. Do some crafts on Friday.

(In hindsight I see I forgot: 8. Get a damn life!)

So out came my once-forgotten journal and my stash of pens. I selected seven different colour inks for no reason other than I thought it looked pretty. (Now who’s being twee?!) I created a weekly checklist where I could keep track of how efficient I was being in adopting these new habits.

My idea of heaven…

At first I thought that, like so many simple ideas, this works. It’s ridiculous how much I love ticking off items on a list. Now I may not be Catholic, but I did experience some guilt when items were not ticked off for the day.

And then life happened.

It’s so easy to plan something, like a list of things you want to incorporate into your daily or weekly routine. But I find that we often plan in a vacuum. We forget that things happen. Errands need to be run. Interruptions occur. You get distracted. You get tired. You discover a concussed baby monkey in your garden (true story). A cat moves into your home. The cat takes over your life for the first week. You have to hire a carpenter to install a cat-flap. You need to take your cat to the vet. You get the picture.

But I do think that using lists and checklists has its merits, especially for the conscientious types. (That’s me. Oh the shame!) If nothing else, you start developing systems, and I always think that systems deserve more focus that goals. Because with the right systems in place, you will achieve your goals as part of the process.

And what is life, if not a long-term process during which we’re trying to achieve fulfilment? Be mindful of the systems you create in your life, because they will ultimately determine your happiness. And happiness should always be the ultimate life goal.

I’d love to hear about your successes. How have you managed to adopt new habits?