Tag Archives: single parent

Being business like

A few weeks ago a recent acquaintance asked me if my ‘making ‘ was a business or a hobby. I have been pondering this ever since. A couple of years ago the answer was straightforward- business. I had a plan, I made enough profit that I had to pay tax and there was regular money making activity going on.

Then I had a break for over a year. Little income, no regular activity and no plan. Until 3 months ago when something clicked and I started making again. At first it was just making for making’s sake but it has grown again and while I don’t yet have a fully laid out business plan I do have some vague mental ideas about where I am going! Some of it is instinctual from my earlier time in business and some of it is aspirational because I continue to daydream that my life will magically change to create space for me to have time to be successful. A lot of it is held back by my pessimism/reality checks that my plans are so often undone by family life and my resultant mental health. So I ask myself, like a mantra, ‘hobby or business , hobby or business?’

Where does the line cross from one to another? For me I think it comes with making decisions about ‘making’ in a profitable, repeatable way. My crazy crocheted tea cosies where I create a whole new pattern for each piece? Hobby. I don’t recover the cost of time spent in making each piece if I apply a business model. But do I love making them? Yes!!!! Reusable tea bags? Business. Now that testing has finished I have a repeatable process for making, marketing and selling them.

All the things in between? Some land on the side of hobby, some cross the line to business. What to do with all of that? At this stage my approach is that it is all business. The unique, one of a kind, time intensive creations are attention getters that have a marketing function. The repeatable patterns that can be made in batches cover the costs of making the one off pieces. It all works together to fund materials, marketing and growth.

I also think that for me, thinking of what I am doing as a business helps to add a piece of self esteem back into a life where I previously self-identified as successful through my career achievements – a business is something that is about me, something that other people admire, something I can succeed at. (Because let’s face it, any judgement on my success as a parent and carer won’t really be known until they are grown and leading happy healthy lives!!)

The next hurdle is a mental one. I have products that are ready to wholesale so I can, in theory, start marketing them to retailers to stock. Gulp. But I haven’t. It remains on my ‘to do’ list. Why? Because the last few years have been so much like a roller coaster ride I have an ingrained fear that I won’t be able to keep any commitments that I make. Which begs the next question – why am I worried about letting others down? Do they really have high expectations of me or am I just setting my own bar too high and then self sabotaging so that I don’t reach it? Hmmmm…. self-analysis via writing this post indicates that I am, as usual, my own worst enemy!!

To shift myself fully into that business mindset it is probably time to write the plan down, instead of having vague aspirational thoughts and wandering around making stuff. Time to be a grown up, do the analysis and make a clear decision on business vs hobby. Wish me luck!

(In the background I have been playing with fabric combinations to make fabric insulated tea cosies- getting back to my happy place combining colours and patterns!! I have also been perfecting the cactus teacosy pattern!)

If you also ponder the line between hobby and business I would love to hear your thoughts !

Public lives and behind the scene

I have spoken before about the public face and private face of social media and how very few of us (including me) share the ugly stuff of life in all its rawness when we post. Every now and then I break the rules and share some of the gritty stuff, not as a cry for help and attention but as a way of letting other people who are also going through a hard time know that they are not alone. I have a safe space on Facebook in a group of parents who have kids on the spectrum, or with ADHD, or the myriad of acronyms our children are diagnosed with. It is wonderful to talk about school refusal, medication side effects, the latest broken appliance or hole in the wall (none for a while luckily!) with people who don’t judge or offer advice like ‘you need to be stricter’, or ‘you need to stop them manipulating you’ or ‘have you tried changing his diet’. But I don’t tend to post that stuff in the open.

Sometimes it is because I just don’t want people to know how hard life is, other times I don’t want to deal with their pity. Because one of the absolutely hardest things in the life of a single parent of kids with special needs is that there actually isn’t anything anyone can do to make it better. It is my responsibility and my joy and my burden. And it is exhausting and rewarding and draining and bloody hard work. And even though I really just want to run away and hide some days, I don’t. Because where would I go, and how much worse would things be when I got back?

So my reality for today is that while I am feeling particularly broken today there is always something to keep me going. Today I managed to get my boy to school for the first time this week and as I sat outside the school after dropping him off, waiting to see if he would run away in the first 15 minutes, so I would know whether it was safe to drive away I felt like crying. But then I decided to drive past Spotlight to see if they had any new colours of t-shirt yarn and found they had a sale on all yarn! A full basket later I was back to counting my blessings and remembering how privileged I am compared to so many others. Because shopping therapy had brightened my day. (Well – lifted it a bit anyway.). Then I then popped into an op shop and heard a well dressed young woman with three kids in tow explaining that she was there for the food bank because her husband had left and she had no money to feed her children. I would put money on the fact that she wasn’t advertising that on social media. And yet there she was, being brave and resilient for her children. Getting on with life.

My message in all this? You know that saying about not judging people because you don’t know what they are battling? It is a good one to hold on to and to practice. It doesn’t matter how people are dressed or where you see them shopping. You don’t know their story and you don’t know how much kindness they need in their life. Be kind, always.

As for me? Creating is my therapy of choice as you know, so I have been busy making things and trying to ignore housework. And drinking tea.

Un-jumbling my thoughts

This morning my car and camper trailer are being inspected so that I can transfer their registration to the State we moved to earlier this year. This means I am sitting in a very cold waiting room in a mechanics yard for an hour. After the chaos of getting all three children out the door this morning I am enjoying the peace (although not the cold so much!)

Peace means time to sit and reflect, and organise my thoughts. (If only I had bought a thermos of tea life would be perfect!). My thoughts are a bit jumbled and if course I need to work out why! I rarely air my dirty laundry on this blog, but today those stinky jeans and smelly tops might get a bit of airing as I share some of my thoughts on parenting and divorce.

I have had some challenging interactions with my ex-husband and his current girlfriend over the last couple of days and I think that is the cause of the ‘jumbling’. I have realised that I resent having to form a new relationship with her because he has started a new relationship. I didn’t choose to have her in my life, but because of his choices, I have to start the whole dance of explaining the background of why my children behave the way they do, interact (or don’t) with their father the way they do, are triggered by certain behaviours (no matter how illogical they are), and why even though he may be an awesome father in her eyes, there are aspects of our children’s care where we have very different views. It is one of those side effects of divorce that you don’t factor in (if you factor anything in.)  Whether she is a lovely woman or not, having to tiptoe through the awkwardness of not criticising this man she is ‘very serious about’ and not screaming  ‘open your eyes woman – do you honestly think it was all my fault, and all the fault of his next partner’ down the phone takes it out of you!

And there is the ongoing conversation with him about why I am being so selfish as to not be working full time in a public service job. If only I would do that ‘everyone’s lives would be easier’. The repetition of the same conversation, with no new understanding or recogition on his part about my role in supporting our son, and his bizarre accusations that he would be happy to pay child support to my father, but not to me as he knows that I ‘spend it all on fabric’ (yes – truly – he said that) are exhausting.  While the advice to ‘just not engage with him’ is sage, there are occasions (like last night) where talking to him about what is happening for our kids is in the children’s best interests.  Until he asks when I am returning to work because he is sick of giving me money.  (Of course he isn’t giving me money – he is contributing to the support of our children who live with me the majority of the time.)

This all makes me look back and wonder how I ended up here. How did I fall in love and marry someone who has such different views on life from me?  How did I hide the truth from myself for so long?  Why do my children have to suffer because of decisions that are beyond their control?   And there you have it – a jumbled mind.  Sigh.  Life is complex.  And the grief for the loss of what could have been is deep.

As always I need to balance all of this out with the good things in life. On Mother’s Day my boy, who had a bit of a rough morning before he came home to me, curled up on my knee and fell asleep for over an hour.  Honestly, it was the best gift!  None of my kids have done this for more years than I can remember.  To just sit and hold my usually wriggly, jiggly son, breathe in his soft boy scent, feel his warm skin and his gentle heart beat, was a gift that I cannot measure.  My girls made me cups of tea, gave me big hugs and spent time talking to me. I am truly a lucky parent.  The simple things in life bring so much joy.enjoy the simplethingsinlife|a little bird made me

Now my car and trailer have the all clear, I am heading home for a warm cup of tea and to sit in front of the fire to defrost while I catch up on bookwork, and, although I have no answers to my rhetorical questions, my mind is less jumbled.  Thanks for listening to my brain dump.  I hope that your week is not full of jumbled thoughts, and that you have moments for quiet reflection on the good things in life.

 

The holiday is over. The chicks are back in the nest, ready to return to school tomorrow. While I am delighted that they are back, healthy and happy, I did like my little break while they were away! The chance to only worry about me was truly like a holiday. So today we are back to the usual Sunday night routine. The eldest chick has baked cookies for their morning tea at school this week, the clean laundry pile is threatening to hide half the family room, and I am turning my head to the week ahead and trying to recall what I want to share about the week just past.
One thing that I can report is that we have returned to Geocaching after a long, unintentional break. I introduced one of my colleagues to it a couple of weeks ago. He took his family away on holiday and found 23 caches in one week. After one year we were only sitting on 46! Being the competitive creature that I am…..that was enough to spur me on. So while on the road trip to collect the chicks yesterday we found three (and searched in vain for a fourth). Today we went for a walk, with some friends, up the mountain that we live on and found three more. Given that there was a threat of snow and the temperature didn’t get above 6 degrees C, you might start to get a picture of how determined I am to keep ahead of him!! We haven’t stayed true to our aim of achieving 365 this year, but staying ahead of him should keep us going for a while! One of the caches we found yesterday was a delight. It contained ‘licences’ including the laminating pouches for them. The chicks are so proud to now be licensed as follows:

I do hereby grant myself permission to use multi-million dollar military satellites to find hidden Tupperware.  Furthermore I certify that this license is issued in accordance with no known legal requirements in any jurisdiction whatsoever.  This license expires with its owner.

My plan for the time while the children were away was to sew, sew, sew. Although I don’t regret the things I did do (a story for another day) I didn’t get to sew very much. So I set myself a target, (and told my Facebook followers to make myself accountable) that I had to make one colourful bag this weekend. I have done it! And once again I feel like my groove is coming back as a result!

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The return of my chicks has been a little confronting in some respects. I have debated writing about this for a while, but think that to not do so leaves an unexplained gap. Everything in our life is so intertwined and so much results from the issues of my chick, that I think it is better to write about it than to not.

Having a diagnosis for my chick with ‘issues’ just before they went away means that I have had time to think about the implications, to research the options, and to contemplate it all in isolation. It also meant that I have had time to doubt the diagnosis, to think that maybe we (me, teachers, doctors, etc) have all been over-reacting and that I haven’t tried enough, or used enough strategies, or been a good enough parent, or, or, or……… But upon their return, with my eyes wider open, I can see that the professionals are right. My boy, who I describe as all boy, who is always on the go…..is really always on the go. He climbs the door-frames, can’t sit still on the couch, can’t play without talking non-stop, can’t shift his focus to listen to me, including to stop stepping out in front of cars on the road. He gets one idea in his head and can’t be shifted from it, and he moves, non-stop, even in his sleep. My boy, my beautiful boy, who comes into bed in the morning and answers my question of ‘what are you doing’ with “Coming to sleep with you Mummy because I love you”, my boy who loves hugs, and animals, and his family and his friends, my boy has Attention Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder. There. I have said it out loud.

I love him. I love him with my whole being. But he exhausts me. And I am still not sure how I have managed to care for him for nearly 7 years without realising that this was more than a behavioural reaction to his father’s absence, or because I work full time, or because he went to daycare, or because he has anxiety issues, or because his diet needs improving, or, or, or…… That this is biological, and not a minor glitch.

So, after struggling for 20 months, he has started on the prescribed medication today. I was so scared. I thought it would change my boy and stop him being the boy that I know and love. But I need to give him a chance to sit in class for a whole day. To not be labelled the ‘bad’ kid. To learn and succeed. With much trepidation I started……….and nothing happened!! We are starting on a low dose and building, in accordance with the doctor’s instructions, so I expect that there will be some gradual effects. However after being so worried and feeling so guilty and alone this morning, it was almost a disappointment that there was no effect! Talk about a very silly mother! I will persevere and keep loving him and advocating for him and trying to balance his needs against those of his sisters who have suffered so much as a result of the issues we have faced over the last year or two. And I will keep sewing, and making things, and staying as calm as possible. He has a long life ahead of him and we have much to do in order to ensure that it is a good and happy life. I predict many, many bags being sewn over the next few years!!

This week starts off with the hope of things to come, of great opportunities, of colour and creativity, and of love and strength. In other words, back to normal in the nest! I hope that you have a wonderful start to your week, wherever you are.

Little joys and cake

My children will be home in a couple of hours. Hugs and excitement and piles of dirty washing will abound! So I am enjoying my last few moments of peace and looking forward to the love that will run through the airline arrival gates. I have friends who say ‘You must miss them so much’ when they are away. I do. But it isn’t an ache-that-can’t-be-filled sort of missing, it is the quiet gaps that highlight their absence. I have had four years to get used to them being absent for a few days or a couple of weeks at a time. I know that when they are with their father, or their grandparents, they are loved, cared for, secure in their place in the world and as safe as they are when they are with me. Instead of being sad I get to just savour a small piece of time for myself. The change to proper autumn weather has meant lovely colours, crisp mornings, and a snuggly bed, all of which has added to that feeling of having a little bubble of time for me.

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You would think that after four years I would be good at arranging to fill the time when they are away with all the exciting grown up things I miss out on when I am being a full time single parent. Wrong. While they have been away I have had one lovely dinner with friends, and have done nothing else social! I have started watching a DVD of the TV series ‘Revenge” that a friend lent me, which gave me time to crochet and build on my afghan, but that is about it in terms of being wild and crazy! I am okay with that though. I have put in 10 and 11 hour days in the office to catch up on some big issues I needed to work on, I have sewn, and have tried to get a few credits in the sleep bank! So I think I have used my time well, and am ready to face the return to their routine, school, winter sports, pottery classes, running club, medical appointments, lost lunchboxes, etc!

I had a little bit of joy yesterday when I won the ‘tastiest cake’ competition being run in my office as a fundraiser for Legacy, a charity that supports families of our defence services. I made a Raspberry Ripple Cake – a recipe I found in a magazine 10 years ago that has never failed me (well – except the time when, sleep deprived and pregnant, I put bicarb soda in by mistake). I was so excited to win (a gift voucher for a cake decorating shop) that I announced it at my team meeting – talk about immodest!

So – I thought I would share the recipe with you.

RASPBERRY RIPPLE CAKE
 300g frozen raspberries (thawed slightly)
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
 125g unsalted butter, softened
 1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
Icing
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 cup icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 23cm spring-form tin.  Place raspberries in a bowl and lightly crush them, reserving a  tablespoon of their juice to make the icing.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.  Cream butter and sugar in a separate bowl, and then stir in eggs.  Gradually add dry ingredients, alternating with the sour cream, mixing  well after each addition.  Spoon about a third of the cake mix into the tin, then spoon over half  the crushed raspberries and any remaining juice. Repeat with the next  third of the cake mix and the rest of the raspberries, and then top with  the remaining cake mix.  Bake for 50 minutes – the cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the  centre comes out clean.  Allow to cool before turning out and icing.  To make the icing, add the melted butter to the reserved tablespoon of  raspberry juice. Slowly stir in the sifted icing sugar until the icing  is a nice runny consistency and spoon over the cake.

Another little highlight was a lovely evening of reminiscing with my sister, her husband, and friends online after we learnt that a house that we had lived in while we were studying at University had burnt down (which was sad as it was a lovely Federation cottage, but not too bad as no one was hurt).  My parents owned it when we lived there, but we shared it with friends, and it remained as a rental for some time after that, so there were many years of great stories to share.  As my brother-in-law said – it feels like yesterday, but it was 25 years ago.  So nice to have a trip down memory lane with so many laughs (many at each others expense!)

I also managed some sewing – some pencil rolls and an art folder as part of an order for my sister. Once again I was reminded of how much I find sewing to make me feel good about the world. How lucky am I?

 

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To add to my list of joys, today is a public holiday, ANZAC Day, and I have tomorrow off work to spend the day with the children, so I have a four day weekend!    Time to play, sew and prepare for the return to school.

I hope that you have found some little joys in your week so far.

The weekend report

Small bits of crafting in between the weekend plans saw a library bag for a friend’s daughter who has just started school, and a handbag for another friend who wanted one for a friend’s birthday.

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Lined in green gingham

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Lined in white and red dots – the brief was red after all!

I enjoyed  both projects and had pangs of wanting to have more time to sew……partly because I was also struck down with a virus that saw me spending several hours sleeping and then resting earlier today, which meant there was a bit of Pinterest surfing going on.  So many ideas to be gained from just looking at one site, so little time!

I can report that the trip to the Royal Canberra Show was a success.  Despite the threat of rain, it didn’t.  The children were remarkable in their good behaviour, and managed their budgets very well.  No one asked to go on the rides, and the animals were the agreed highlight.  They all had one sweet treat each and didn’t ask for anything else – and were respectful to each other and to strangers.  I was so proud of them!  We spent quite a bit of time in the “Harvest Hall” looking at the cooking competition entries, the fruit and vegetable sculpture entries, and the cake decorating entries.  A work colleague had entered the cake decorating and won for her cupcakes (the most amazing baskets of fruit and vegetables and eggs etc) and had second place for her cake (a “Hootabelle” cake).  The children were thrilled to see something made by someone they know (or who I know and therefore has some context for them).  They have all started planning their entries for next year!

We also spent time in the craft exhibition hall (of course) and enjoyed looking at the competition entries there too.  The artist in residence started planning her sewing entries for next year after seeing the children’s section.  We also had a lovely experience when looking at the model airplanes.  There were two retired men at a table, with model planes set out in front of them.  The boy asked if he could buy one and I was explaining that they were for looking at when one of the men said “You can’t buy one, but you can have one for free”.  It turns out that they were part of a deceased estate of a very keen model builder and his wife had asked that they be given to children…..so these men sat there for three days giving them to each child who expressed an interest in the models.  So touching in these days of consumerism.

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Today’s sudden illness was a great reminder of the wonderful support my friends give me.  We were meant to be going to mass for the artist in residence to have her commitment mass for her first communion.  Half an hour before it started I was dressed and ready to go, but knew that I couldn’t do it.  I had a list of friends that I knew I could call to help, and the third call saw success.  She felt very special having a one on one trip to church with a friend of ours, and I got to sleep.  I have reflected all day how lucky I am that I have friends that I can call when things like this happen – life as a single parent would be so hard without that backup.

Unfortunately as I am only just beginning to perk up this evening I had to make the call earlier in the day about whether I could go to the concert tonight.  The fact that I am typing this and not grooving in the aisles to the dulcet tones of Neil and Paul will tell you the decision I made.  Luckily I was taking a friend as a birthday present – and his wife was able to step in and take him instead!  (She is not a fan so she really is taking one for the team!)  So instead I will get an early night after preparing the house for the week, and hope that I wake up tomorrow full of beans and ready to go again.

I hope that your weekend was fruitful in the ways that you needed it to be!