I’m sure your husband is lovely, but International Women’s Day is not about him.

In case you missed it, and I hope you didn’t, today was International Women’s Day.

My Insta and Facebook feeds have been filled with inspirational messages and images for and about incredible women doing spectacular work across the globe. It’s the one day of the year specifically carved out for us to say “thank you” to the women who inspire and educate us.

But in recent years I’ve seen a funny phenomenon happening. No, I’m not talking about the “But-When-Is-International-Men’s-Day” comments, because by now we all know International Men’s Day is held on November 19th annually. And hopefully we all know that men do, indeed, have a lot to speak out about. Such as the fact they face much higher rates of suicide than women, have a shorter life expectancy than women, have a 10pc chance of experiencing postnatal depression, not to mention the centuries of engendered toxic masculinity that systematically denigrates men who display emotion, who happen to be gay, or who choose to move into an historically female profession. The list goes on, so let’s talk about that more in November. Or even tomorrow.

Because TODAY is international Women’s Day.

A day for women.

It’s a day which serves a dual purpose. Firstly to recognise and celebrate the hordes of amazing women who fought tooth and nail throughout history in the battle for gender equality. There’s a brutal and disquieting history there – the women who led these movements were warriors, and many of them paid dearly for their part in the fight.

Secondly this day serves as rallying point in the continued campaign for equal rights, equal economic and political representation and pay parity. There is still much work to be done on all these fronts.

Which makes me wonder why, on this day of all days, are women choosing to dedicate today to the men in their life? This is the phenomenon I’m wondering about.

Have you seen it? This trend of women dedicating International Women’s Day to their husbands, partners, fathers, sons, brothers?

I see it happening – I see women I respect, admire and love doing it. But I can’t support it.

Here’s why I disagree with the concept of dedicating IWD to men, no matter how supportive or feminist he is.

It’s disrespectful.

It’s disrespectful to the women who came before us. Who endured incredible hardship and lack of agency. Who lived their lives as the property of men, and who never had the opportunity to dream of a life of freedom.

It’s disrespectful to the women who were imprisoned, punished, tortured, raped or even killed for daring to speak up, for daring to say “women are equal to men and we deserve equal rights”.

It’s disrespectful to the millions of women across the globe who, still today, don’t enjoy the same level of privilege that those of reading this right now, do. The women who are trafficked for sex, the little girls whose genitals are mutilated, who are married off as children to men thrice their age, the women who are prisoners in their own home as victims of domestic violence, the women who put up with sexual harassment in the workplace because they fear speaking up in workplaces still overwhelmingly run by men.

Celebrating women is not disrespectful to men. But celebrating men, on International Women’s Day, is disrespectful to women.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective:

Would you dedicate NAIDOC week to those caucasian colleagues you know are tireless supporters of Indigenous Australians?

Would you dedicate International Day of People with a Disability to the work of all those able bodied rehabilitation professionals who so valiantly work with people with disabilities?

No you wouldn’t.

Because you know it would be incredibly disrespectful.

So what makes THIS day different?

I understand why you want to thank your husband, your father, your sons.

I have no doubt they are wonderful, inspiring, intelligent men. So feel free, go ahead and thank them – tomorrow. Why can you not thank them on any one of the 364 other days of the year? What makes TODAY the best possible day to thank them? The day that you single them out, over and above all the amazing women in your life?

And have you spoken to them? Have you asked them how THEY feel about the fact that you’re dedicating International Women’s Day to them? What did they say? Is there anyone else they can identify who might deserve praise and acknowledgement today, before them? Have they posted on Instagram dedicating the day to YOU and your daughters, and thanking you for all you’ve done to further the cause of women’s rights? That wouldn’t be too much to expect, would it?

Yes, the support and advocacy of men is an important aspect of the push for women’s rights. And raising a future generation of males to be respectful and supportive of women is one of the most important things a parent of sons can do in our current day. But placing men on a pedestal for supporting women feels disrespectful – not only for women, but for men too. We shouldn’t need to laud men for being decent human beings. We shouldn’t need to heap praise on our husbands for doing their equal share of the dusting, or for doing school drop offs, or packing lunchboxes. We shouldn’t need to thank men for doing these things for us, because they ARE NOT WOMEN’S WORK. These are the tasks that are required to run a household and a family, and when a household consists of an adult male and an adult female, shouldn’t those tasks be shared equally, with both parties being equally as grateful to the other for undertaking their fair share part of the tasks require to keep a home?

We shouldn’t feel the need to mollify men on International Women’s Day. Because the men who “get” IWD don’t need appeasement – especially not today. And the ones who don’t get it… well perhaps they’re not entirely on our side anyway?

Meaningful Motherhood episode 6: Jess Caire

Meaningful Motherhood episode 6: Jess Caire

How do you think it would impact your family to spend one week of every month living in another state, away from your husband and children?

This is the lifestyle of this week’s Meaningful Motherhood podcast guest, Jess Caire, who lives in Queensland with her family, but runs her business in South Australia.

I first met Jess earlier this year when she interviewed me on a panel at a women’s business conference, and later featured me on her Conversations With Jess blog. So it was great to turn the tables in this interview and be able to ask Jess to answer the questions instead. I was super-keen to chat to Jess about her experience of living across two different states while raising a young family, but what I found through this interview was that Jess had SO MUCH more to say about motherhood, and how her various life experiences have shaped her parenting decisions.

In this episode we chat about:

* how Jess flipped her life from being the wife of a FIFO husband, to being the FIFO-er herself, and how this made life exponentially better for her, her husband and her children.

* her experience with postnatal depression and adrenal fatigue

* why she hates the phrase “work-life balance”

* the impact of social media and “comparisonitis” for mothers and the importance of letting go of perfection

*  how a life-threatening accident on the Kokoda Track last year changed her view of motherhood and life in general

* why slowing down and “making space”

As always, I’d love to hear what you thought of the episode, so feel free to let me know what you think. Don’t forget to share with anyone else you think might enjoy this episode.

Cheers, Sarah xx

 

Meaningful Motherhood Episode 5: What to do about the mental load of motherhood?

Meaningful Motherhood Episode 5: What to do about the mental load of motherhood?

Have you heard of the “mental load”?

If you’re a mother, chances are you’re already bearing the brunt of it, whether you know it or not.

Today’s podcast episode is out and I’m talking all about the mental load – what it is, but more importantly, what we can do about it.

Feel free to listen below:

If you don’t have time to listen to the full episode, here’s a few brief notes from what we cover in the episode:

What is the mental load?

The mental load is the name given to all those invisible mental tasks we undertake, on behalf of our families, to keep our household running like a well oiled machine. We’re not talking here about mopping the floors, packing school lunches and washing load upon load of laundry each week. Rather, what we’re talking about is all the stuff we keep in our head – such as remembering to sign and return excursion forms by the due date, thinking about whether you’ve got enough squeezie yoghurts to get through the week, and figuring out what Christmas gift to buy your children’s teachers. The stuff that Mums have running around their heads 24/7.

Even if we have partners who do an equal share of the practical house and kid work, it’s likely one of you has taken on the role of “organiser” and it’s likely that person is you – the mother.

It’s constant, and it’s exhausting. It’s also what can change our experience of motherhood from one that’s fulfilling, meaningful and enjoyable, to one that is frustrating and impactful on our wellbeing. It’s time for us to start offloading some of that mental load, for the sake of our own wellbeing, and that of our family.

This concept of the mental load isn’t new, but it’s something that has come to the forefront of our discussions recently, thanks to this cartoon.

However, what I’ve found is that so much of the discussion is, to be honest, a bit of a whinge-fest. Yes, it’s important that this issue is brought to light and discussed, but we need to do more than whinge. We, as women, need to have practical, actionable steps we can take to help ease this mental load.

So here’s the four steps I outlined that we can take to start addressing the mental load.

 

1: Acknowledge it

Start to become a bit more aware of just how much mental load you take on – you can even keep a journal for a day or two if you want

Chat to your partner/husband about it – explain what the load is, how much it’s constantly on your mind, and how it impacts your wellbeing.

Remember, this is just step one – you stiill have to take action – just knowing about it is not enough.

2: Offload what you can

Sit down with your husband (and kids!) and as a family, figure out how you can better share the mental load tasks around – in other words, delegate!!

Think about each of your individual strengths or circumstances and figure out what tasks could be offloaded, and to whom – don’t forget to offload age appropriate tasks to the kids. This also includes offloading some practical “work” tasks to others, to give you a bit more time to manage the mental load, if you’re not able to offload much of that.

What can be done together as a family? Maybe instigating a regular family meeting can help open the lines of communication, and take some of the responsibility of running the family away from Mum.

Remember – when it comes to delegation, you should “Expect More, but Accept Less” – so you can expect others to take on more of the tasks of the household, but you also have to be willing to accept that they might not do it as well, or in the exact same way as you. Just remember – “different” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad”!

3: Do less, and KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

Take some time to figure out if and how your family is over-scheduled. What can you remove from your week/month/yearly schedule? Where can you slow down and open up a bit more space for yourself.

Stop “should-ing” yourself into an early grave! Have a think about places where you might be placing too high expectations on yourself or others, and remember what’s really important.  Be honest with yourself – are there things you’re doing just for the sake of keeping up appearances, or maybe keeping others’ happy?

Perfectionism is not your friend – end of story

4: Autopilot as much as possible – don’t rely on your poor tired brain and do away with decision fatigue

Even after you’ve delegated, discarded and simplified, it’s highly likely you’ll still be left with a significant mental load list! Whatever you do, don’t rely on your poor, tired brain to do all the heavy lifting. Remember that routines and habits can be your best friend – having mundane tasks on autopilot actually gives you freedom.

Declutter, and make sure everything in your house has a particular spot – and make sure everyone else knows where that spot is.

Use calendar alerts to set reminders for anything and everything – eg. putting out the bins. This is one area where technology truly can be your friend!

So that’s it from me today. Don’t forget to find me through one of my social media channels, you can catch me on the Facebook page, join the Meaningful Motherhood Tribe Facebook Group, or find me on Instagram.

Is motherhood a soft skill?

Is motherhood a soft skill?

Do you ever feel that the concept of supporting mothers through motherhood doesn’t quite get taken seriously enough? That the people who choose to work with and for mothers somehow carry a little less weight, a little less credibility?

That personal trainers who choose to specialise in fitness for Mums are thought of as “Mummy trainers”, that lawyers who work in family law probably aren’t as smart as those working in international relations, that psychologists who support women through Post Natal Depression are “just a shoulder to cry on”, that a business coach who specialises in working with Mums who own a business is just a “Mumpreneur”, or that a physiotherapist who chooses to focus on postnatal rehabilitation probably couldn’t cut it in the sportsmed field?

I often feel there’s an undercurrent of this in today’s society – and the most frustrating thing for me, as an Occupational Therapist who works primarily with mothers, is the underlying assumption that there are better things I could be doing with my degree than “helping the Yummy Mummies”. Because the way I see it, this is the most important work I’ve done in my career so far.

At the beginning of my life as an occupational therapist, I worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation. My job involved supporting unemployed people with disabilities or injuries to find suitable and sustainable employment.

Part of the role was helping individuals figure out what their strengths were. This was often challenging, but at the same time immensely rewarding. Anyone who has been unemployed for a period of time would know how much it can impact your confidence and self esteem, and the people I was working with were often battling with the double whammy of long term unemployment and an injury which heavily affected their work capacity. Helping these people to identify their strengths was often difficult, because their confidence and self esteem had simply been eroded to the point of non-existence over a period of months, years, or even decades.
But it was always valuable work identifying strengths – because people always have strengths, even if they feel they don’t. Frequently we would classify these strengths into what we called “vocational skills” and “soft skills”. Vocational skills were those that were directly related to performing a paid job – such as does this person have a truck licence, can they use an excel spreadsheet, do they have a trade certificate? The soft skills were those skills or attributes a person possessed which weren’t specifically required for the job, but which would make them a valuable employee. For example – were they punctual, well presented, did they work well in a team environment, did they have a friendly and welcoming demeanour?

The comparative value of soft vs vocational skills has long been the subject of debate among human resource circles.

The irony is, while the soft skills are often thought less of, they are actually more important in a worker – because they better represent the true personality of potential employee. But because they don’t come with a certification or a parchment, they are often less valued and considered ‘nice to have’ but not as important as the ‘hard’ skills.

Sometimes I feel like motherhood gets treated like a ‘soft skill’ by our western society. Under appreciated and frequently disrespected.

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As a health professional working in this area, I’ll admit to initially feeling a little conflicted about choosing to focus my work in this area. How much support do Mums really need? Wouldn’t my time be better spent working with people who’ve had a stroke? Or children with autism? Or teenagers with spinal cord injuries? Or something else equally as altruistic?
Are mothers really in need of specialist rehabilitation or wellbeing support?

The short answer is yes.

When I began working with this population early in my motherhood journey I hadn’t experienced a broad range of the challenges and adversities that mothers frequently face. I had one lovely baby who fed well and slept 16 hours a day. I was truly blessed, I know that now. But around me I saw other mothers grappling with so many more difficulties than I had. Women struggling with postnatal depression, battling musculoskeletal injuries, raising children with life threatening illnesses or challenging behavioural conditions, or doing it all as a single mother. Often without much support, guidance or understanding from the broader community. The traits they demonstrated throughout motherhood included resourcefulness, negotiation, physical and emotional strength, resilience, amazing communication skills, delegation, scheduling, managing competing priorities – the list goes on. And sure – these skills too might be considered soft – but they’re not. Particularly not when they’re being implemented in the process of raising future generations.

It was then that I realised how much society treats motherhood as a soft skill. When in actuality – it’s one of the most challenging, multifaceted skills a person can possess.

From that point on I never again questioned my role in working with mothers. For me at this stage in my career, its where I feel I can have the greatest impact in my world, and the world that will one day belong to future generations.

So no, motherhood is not a soft skill. If you’re a mother please don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise. Whenever you start to feel disillusioned and perhaps unconvinced of the role you’re playing in this life, always remind yourself of the gravity of your role. You are creating, teaching and leading the future custodians of our world.

There’s nothing soft about that.

And if you’re a professional who supports women through the motherhood experience, please always know just how important and specialised your role is – don’t ever let anyone doubt you, your abilities, or your choice to work in this field.

Until next time,

Sarah

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What you should really spend your money on as a new Mum

What you should really spend your money on as a new Mum

Instagram has a lot to answer for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an Insta-fan. Between work and my personal life I actually have four different accounts, but that’s beside the point…

Because here’s my gripe. As a women’s health occupational Therapist who works primarily in the field of postnatal women, this is what I see:

Women spending a lot of money on cool, beautiful, on-trend stuff for their babies, and not a lot of money on their own wellbeing.

There I said it.

You may think I’m being harsh or insensitive, but I can guarantee you, there’s thousands of other antenatal health practitioners out there who agree with me. And we’re all wondering the same thing: “Do women truly value a beautiful nursery over their own health and wellbeing?”

I saw a Facebook post the other day which mentioned that the average cost of a wedding these days was $48,000. Forty. Eight. Thousand. Dollars!! That’s a whoooooooole lot more than I paid for my wedding nearly 8 years ago.

It made me wonder how much the average couple spend on setting up their home for a new baby – how much for the nursery, the pram, the car seat? Which is where my Instagram reference comes in. We see these beautiful nurseries, those gorgeous baby outfits, the extravagant baby showers – and we think we need them. Insta-envy is real – I know, I’m not immune. We get swept up in the romance of new parenthood, in the gorgeousness of it all.

But we don’t need that stuff. Your baby doesn’t need a $50 teething toy or a $200 tutu she will throw up on within 14 seconds. What we really need is to look after ourselves. And not just in a “popping-out-for-a-coffee-and-a-pedicure-mummy-me-time” kind of way, but in a “considered-practical-meaningful-evidence-based-longterm-wellbeing” kind of way.

So it makes me wonder – what would it take to convince women (and men) to take at least part of the money they might otherwise spend on beautiful baby stuff, and instead invest it into their future physical and emotional wellbeing?

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Those of us who work in this industry see the difficulties (and oftentimes devastation) that pregnancy and motherhood can wreak on a body and a mind.

We KNOW for certain, that our services can help. We see the life-altering loneliness of disconnected mothers, the silent shame of incontinence after birth, the unresolved trauma of a labour that didn’t go exactly to plan. We see all that. And we want to help. We know we can help. But we need you to pay for it.

It’s as simple as that. There’s not a single women’s health practitioner I know who wouldn’t gladly run oodles of free workshops, classes and sessions if she could. That’s why so many of us have blogs, YouTube channels, and free resources on our websites,  But the truth of that matter is that many of us are self-employed, or work in small private practices, and the reality of running a business is that you have to charge for your services. We have to charge to pay rent, pay for supplies, pay for our extensive clinical training, and of course pay ourselves a wage – because we also have families to feed and mortgages to pay.

And this is why we get frustrated. Because we know women need help, but we continually see them spending money on other things – other than their own wellbeing. We see women paying $1500 for prams, but not $500 for a hypnobirthing program. We see women buying $300 nappy bags, but not investing that same amount of money in a few physiotherapy sessions to help restore their pelvic floor function. We see women spend hundreds of dollars per term on baby swimming lessons or gymbaroo, rather than spending that exact same amount on a postnatal yoga or pilates class.

And it breaks our heart.

Truly it does. Seeing women neglect themselves and their own wellbeing is one of the biggest frustrations of our jobs. We don’t want to see you in pain. We don’t want to see you hiding indoors due to postnatal anxiety, or shying away from jumping on the trampoline with the kids because your pelvic floor can no longer handle the task.

We want you to be strong – physically and emotionally.

We want you to be a confident and connected mother – able to take the challenges of motherhood in your stride, to celebrate the joys with fervour, all the while knowing that your body and your mind remain resilient and capable of carrying you long into your future.

We know you can only do that if you’re well. And that, potentially, means you coming to see us.

It’s our job to convince you that we can help you, but it’s your job to invest in your own wellbeing.

Here’s the question I want you to ask yourself:

“Do I really value a beautiful Instagram-worthy nursery over the long term wellbeing and function of my own body and mind?”

I say this with love, because I truly believe it – but your money is better spent on supporting your wellbeing as a mother, than it is furnishing your nursery with pretty things.

I get it. I know how exciting it is to create the perfect nursery theme, to have all the latest baby gadgets with all the bells and whistles. But at the end of the day, they don’t compare to you being well, with you being emotionally resilient, with you avoiding a lifetime of incontinence.

Here’s something to consider:

If you choose the Boori Urbane Noosa Cot for $399, over the Boori Pioneer Cot for $699 – you would save $300 – that’s three one to one sessions with a Women’s Health Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist.

If you choose the Baby Jogger City Mini GT for $799 over the Bugaboo Chameleon 3 for $1519 – you would save $720 – that’s 12 weeks of personal training sessions with a womens health specialist PT.

If you chose a Collette Pocket and Zip Baby Bag for $79 over the Mimco Splendiosa Baby Bag for $299 you would save $220 – that could buy you four weeks of professional housecleaning while you spend that first month getting to know your baby.

Finally, just remember this – within a few years all those baby blankets will go to Vinnies, the cot and the pram will be sold on Gumtree, but that body you’re inhabiting? That’s going to be with you for a lifetime. Invest in it wisely.

Until next time, Sarah

ps. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article – comment away or email me at sarah@bloomwellbeing.com.au

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