Dad like a Champ with this ‘secret’ formula. (You. Man. Do This).

This is it guys. This is the secret list you have been waiting for that will make you the ultimate husband, partner, significant other (and dad). It’s a list compiled from the secret and hallowed rants and vents that mothers share when you do not do these few simple things.

This list will make things at home better.

At the very least you will have a reference point when you are wondering why your lovely wife/partner/mother of your children is frustrated and sad (Have you not been doing number one? Shame on you!)

I’ve numbered them to make it easy.

You can cross them off each number at a time. Whatever works.

But this list will work.

Do them like a boss.

THE FIRST FIFTEEN SECRETS TO BEING AN AWESOME DAD

  1. Tell her she is doing a good job
  2. Help her to make time for herself
  3. Never watch her doing chores
  4. Give her a hug without her asking for it
  5. Recognise that raising children is a job too
  6. Realise that she loves the baby/ies, but sometimes she needs time to just be by herself.
  7. Make time to spend with her each week – even if it’s just an hour and a half to watch a DVD together
  8. Ask her what you can do to help.
  9. Organise date night
  10. Prioritise family time in the weekends.
  11. Surprise her sometimes with a sleep in. Coffee in bed for bonus points.
  12. If you see something she hasn’t gotten around to and you have a spare minute – just do it. (It means she won’t have to do it late at night and she might get to bed earlier (Win-Win! Wink-wink).
  13. Plan the occasional outing with the kids (preferably while the house is tidy) so she can have a precious hour to herself
  14. Tell her she is beautiful even when she has puke stains and fat pants on
  15. Make time to talk to her at night – some days it may be the only face-to-face adult conversation she has

NB: Note that none of this has very much to do with parenting of the actual baby/kids. Let’s just start here. It’s easy isn’t it?

Where did this post come from? Well, recently I read some ugly statistics about marriage and life after babies and how there is a general sense of decline in daily happiness and I thought, bugger that. There is an easy fix – and the main thing is starting with how everyone feels on a daily basis…. and this list will help.

What do you think? Have I left anything out? Mums? Dads? Your comments count.

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You know what I mean

Cave Babies Don’t Cry – Notes on Paleo Parenting

Cave Babies Don’t Cry – Notes on Paleo Parenting*

Plato's Cave theories might apply to parenting too...

Plato’s Cave theories might apply to parenting too…

Paleo diets we have all heard of, but what about Paleo Parenting?

Life lately has been a little fractious. We parents have been thrown a few curve balls that have kept us on the edge. We sleep on the edge of the bed, we sit on the edge of our seats, and our minds are on the edge of sanity as we think, ‘What next?’

We stare at each other, dumbfounded and surrounded by the flotsam and jetsam of a fast-paced life with kids.

Each time I find myself feeling frazzled, anxious and ‘over it’… there is a little voice in the back of my head that asks, ‘What would a cave woman do?’ I’m not sure where my cave voice has come from, but it is there all the same.

Most of my best parenting strategies have come from my grandmother’s generation (baking soda and vinegar for all cleaning, sunlight for getting out stains, homemade baking saving the day…) but what if we turn the clocks back further, much further, to be, like, Paleolithic?

Can we do without modernity, without expectation, without the mass ‘intelligence’ that is the internet? Could doing without the endless modern things we burden ourselves with potentially shine some new light on some of our old parenting problems?

Is Paleo Parenting the answer? I’m giving it a bit of air time.

On Philosophy and Feminism

I have struggled with my role as housewife. I left my job as a full time teacher to become a mother and I have resented the housework, the staying at home, the isolation and the running of the house that has become my new job.

I sometimes wonder if I would be happier if there was less expectation of me to achieve and more acceptance that being a mum/cave dweller is a full time job in and of itself. Pre-pre-feminism when women in the workforce were not even part of the equation.

Stop. Before you send a lynch mob – I don’t mean to abolish equal rights or to muffle any female voices, but it has occurred to me that IF I wasn’t so hung up on my own career and so caught up in what ELSE I should be then my role as a mother MIGHT be easier to accept.

Question: In a truly feminist household, who does the cleaning?

It still needs to be done and doesn’t it make sense that the person who is at home most should potentially be responsible for the lion’s share thereof?

My man can happily do the hunting because I am squeamish about killing things.

He can dig the drains because I am rubbish with a spade.

He can maintain the car because beyond tyre pressure and oil checks, I am less equipped to diagnose automotive problems.

He is stronger than me and he can do the heavy labour jobs outside while I take responsibility for keeping ‘the den’ clean and the babies fed and entertained. (see houseproud article here)

I have breasts…hear me roar.

IF I could get my head around all this philosophical stuff about the transition of a woman’s role as worker to house-keeper (which I still can’t most days), then potentially I would have less to fight about with my man. (It’s a recurring argument). I’m thinking aloud here – what do you think?

On Sleeping and Self Settling

A recent difficulty has been putting mister two to bed. He got a new sister nine months ago, a big bed and his own room around the same time. Before his little sister arrived, he went to bed and to sleep without any major drama. Now it is Drama Central.

He gets out of bed and cries. He clings to us and cries. He yells and cries. He hits himself and throws things and begs for kisses and more stories and cries. He slams his door and cries.

How does this relate to the cave?

I have tried closing the door. I have tried sitting on his bed with him. I have tried laying with him. I have tried telling him to stay in his room and I have tried growling at him with my stern ‘teacher voice’ (NOT to be messed with, excuse me).

But nothing has been working.

So, talking it out with my man, we tried to figure out WHY all this drama. To Paleo Parenting I turn…

In a cave he would probably just curl up in a corner near us and go to sleep, reassured because he could still see us. Reassured because he could see the flickering light of the fire (my cave picture is rosy isn’t it…) and reassured because he is with his clan and not outcast to his own separate den.

I’m not judging anyone for any kind of parenting or any sleep arrangements but we worked out that his performance was because he was not in the cave with us (so to speak) and he potentially felt insecure.

So, with Paleo Parenting in mind and listening to the cave voice, the last three nights I have kept his door wide open and told him gently (and repeatedly) to go to bed. He is not trapped in his room, he is not in the dark alone, the light from the lounge floods his room, he is nearby and he can still hear us, his sister is not stealing his place by the fire and, so far, my cave concept, appears to be working. Go figure.

On travel and trips

Last week I had my worst outing yet with mister two and it was entirely my fault.

I had a full vacuous 24 hours of solo parenting in front of me and I wanted to fill it with fun. Consequently I filled the day with errands and visits, with play grounds and activities and topped it all off with a late afternoon visit to a friend’s house to share Fish and Chips.

Mistake.

No nap + Big day + strange environment + interrupted routine + too many in/out of car dramas = MONSTER BOY

I don’t want to go into it but it was not fun.

What would a Paleo Parent do and how does cave philosophy solve this drama? It tells me to take life more slowly. Days don’t have to be filled with a hundred and one activities.

I rushed him and I overstimulated him and I overcooked him.

One trip would have been a big enough mission for a little cave boy’s little cave legs and little cave brain. We should have stayed near the den when his nap didn’t happen, we should have taken it easy and rolled the rock in front of our cave entrance and hibernated together in the cosy dark. The little monster may have still reared his ugly head, but I doubt to the same degree.

On babywearing

Where would I be without my babywearing devices?

Happiest is my baby when she is on me, with me, near me. It makes sense in a cave not to leave them on the floor or to sleep them far from you when lions and tigers and bears lurk about. (because we have those in nz don’t you know…)

To add to the ‘simple trips’ note above; if we wore our babies until they could walk, we would still only do short trips and potentially avoid the ‘overcooking’ of our children. (Doing too much in one day /venturing too far would mean that YOU would have to carry them back… so you only go as much as all of you can physically manage.)

Whenever I am in doubt or struggling with an unsettled baby, out comes a wrap or carrier of some description and I wear her. In most cases, this is the quickest way to calm her.

On baby food

Pre-blenders and pre-pre-packaged foods, what would you feed your baby?

When I find myself stressing about my baby’s diet, I try to keep things simple. She eats what I eat. If it is too tough, I pre-chew it for her.

Is that gross? Or is it just simpler than getting out a blender or relying on processed/packaged food stuffs?

Incidentally (factoid alert) the bacteria in your own saliva can actually help your baby’s digestion system. I read that somewhere… (glad I can read, let’s not go too ‘cave’ now…)

 

On maternal knowledge

How much do you rely on your mother for mothering advice? I call mine pretty frequently and it would be easier if she lived closer to us.

In a cave-dwelling society our mothers would be closer and knowledge could be shared more easily from generation to generation. We could have the village they say we need to raise our children.

Have you noticed that the passing down of knowledge from mother to daughter is not as natural as it used to be? We are having our babies later and later and the extended generational gap is making it more difficult for our mothers to recall what we were really like as infants. Their advice can be outdated and/or difficult to recall… Instead we rely much more heavily on the shared cultural knowledge of our contemporaries on the internet.

On play

Paleo parents would have to be creative. Rather than buy the latest toys, books and DVDs for children, parents would have to be resourceful and find things for their children to use with their imagination. A stick and some sand, some stones to stack or some leaves to sort would have to do.

Activities in nature are free and are often the most stimulating. Puddle jumping, stone throwing, sand drawing, leaf collecting, flower colour-sorting, stone stacking, mud smooshing, shadow making…

As an aside: Browsing pinterest recently I found a shaving foam painting activity. Armed with a can of shaving foam and a hose, I let my two year old paint on the windows and then wash it off. I supervised from inside where I was safe from getting squirted and it struck me that his little hand movements combined with the hand-prints he was enjoying making were not altogether unlike cave painting…

On isolation and the internet

I hinted earlier that housewifeliness doesn’t always suit me. It can be isolating being at home with children and the internet offers a sense of community in ways that could never have been imagined in the 1950s let alone in the Paleolithic Era.

What would Paleo Parenting suggest? See real people. I like to have people over to my cave. I like getting out of my cave and I also love returning to my cave by contrast.

In my experience, too many days spent ‘in the dark/trapped in the cave’ do not a happy mummy make. If you were to think about your home as a cave, would it make you more motivated to get out?

A daily walk keeps me sane. Seeing real people keeps my life real.

Philosophically, living a social life on the Internet is like being in Plato’s Cave.

I prefer to be part of the real world to help me to keep perspective.

On comparison and happiness

By extension, the internet must be responsible for an awful lot of unhappiness.

Social media is a highlight reel of everyone’s triumphs, holidays and heavily filtered versions of events. Do you think I want to share my worst moments for all to see? That monster boy I created didn’t get any mention…

We all edit our lives to paint a version of our world we are happy with others seeing.

‘Comparison is a thief of joy’ – Theodore Roosevelt

A Paleo parent would see a lot less of what other families are up to behind their door-boulders. Potentially then, could a Paleo parent be happier with less to compare their lives to?

What do you think? Are some aspects of ‘Paleo Parenting’ worth considering? Or should I crawl back inside my cave…

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

Kurt Vonnegut

* new term I invented just now

Thanks for reading This is food for thought anyway. Please click ‘follow’ (on the right) before you go and check out my little shop.

Mwah! Love Outie.

Slap, fire or hire? Why I want to slap my cleaner

washing lady

At the end of cleaning day, I look around my house and find myself weighing up the competence of the cleaner I am currently paying to clean.

I see missed spots.

“Gah, she missed those cobwebs”

“Sigh, she didn’t dust the side table”

“Grrr, she didn’t finish wiping the shower”

“Ugh, the vacuuming still has to be done.” (etc.)

This is why my cleaner is in the dogbox . She needs a bit of a slap (I wouldn’t actually slap her) but she needs a wake up call – because it seems like she isn’t taking her job seriously enough.

How can she miss so many spots? We pay her for two hours and that should be enough to dust, wipe, sweep, vacuum, mop, clean and scrub both bathrooms, clear bins, replace towels, change linen, make beds, clean the kitchen and fold the laundry shouldn’t it?

I expect a good job and that’s why I pay her well.

But she is clever and always has a good excuse. She even claims that sometimes there is too much grub and simply not enough time to do the job properly.

This is why my cleaner needs to be fired.

Yet I keep her on.

With a softer approach and in a calmer state of mind, I like this cleaner and would hire her above all others.

She gets on well with the kids, knows my house well, prioritises thorough cleaning of some areas over a half-ass overall clean and she really does do her best most of the time.

In her defense: today she has done a detailed job on the main bathroom, there are fresh towels and the bin liner smells like eucalyptus telling me that she cleaned IN the bin (woah!) She has folded the toilet paper so that it feels like a hotel, the mirror has no streaks, the bath is scrubbed smooth and is grime free. She has even disinfected the door handles and the light switch is squeaky clean too.

The kitchen is wiped and the floors have been swept and the second bathroom is gleaming everywhere except half of the shower which she apparently ran out of time for. The laundry is mostly done even if not all folded and there is fresh linen on the kids’ beds.

So which is it?

What will I do?

Slap her, fire her or hire her?

It doesn’t matter what I do – because the cleaner is me.

The thing is, I need to slap myself for being such a hard employer and having expectations of perfection when, let’s face it, two hours is not enough time to achieve anything close to perfection. I need to let myself go a bit and effectively fire myself. I need to hire a new version of me who can still try hard to get everything done who, at the same time, isn’t burdened by the expectation of being everything.

P.S. I pay myself for what I would pay a cleaner for the same job. I get some extra pocket money (staying in my pocket) AND I keep track of the time I spend cleaning as if I am on a contract so that I don’t spend too many precious hours stressing about trying to be squeaky clean. It seems weird but it works for me and stops me getting resentful of being undervalued for doing the dirty jobs.

What about you? Would you clean or do your chores differently if you were paid to do them? Do you expect too much of yourself like me?

-Katrina (Outie)

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Outie – Life is supposed to be fun.

Houseproud House Cleaning Tips With A Toddler

I often pine for the delicious state my house used to be in pre-children – but I do get little windows of clean house that I like to enjoy alone before it all gets messed up again.

 

Image

 

The best advice I have for new mummies – is to do your chores with your babies so that you can rest when they do. I never did this with my son and raced around making myself miserable while he slept doing all my chores and never got a break!

I have only found the time to write this today because I have managed to get my cleaning done with both my babies awake. Now that they are both sleeping, I get to have some down time.

Here are some of my cleaning tips: (I also like to clean just before nap time so that all the activity wears my toddler out nicely. Hee hee hee he doesn’t know I am on to him…)

BABY

First make sure that the baby is changed and fed and safe from toddler terrorism. I like to wear my baby while I vacuum but I can’t really wear her when I want to clean the toilet or bend down for something. I use a baby bouncinette or I set her up with a play gym for the duration of my super-quick house clean. If she is not ready for a sleep, she just comes along from room to room with us.

 GEAR

This is my cleaning kit:

Bottle of white vinegar in a spray bottle

Bottle of 50/50 bleach and water spray

Spray bottle of water

Three cloths

An old tee shirt

Newspaper

Eco-store cream cleaning solution (like jiff)

 QUICK CLEAN UP

Involve toddler in a series of slam dunking ‘pick up’ activities to clear floor ready for vacuuming.

Use brush and shovel for fun ‘digger’ activity if you have lots of smaller toys.

SWEEP

Give toddler brush and shovel or broom to help.

VACUUM

Give toddler pile of books to sit and read in a special sitting spot. Wear baby to zen her out ready for nap.

Put baby down to nap and move on to other chores.

Sometimes I like to give my toddler some baking soda with a sieve to sieve baking soda over the carpet as a home-made deodoriser (he has fun and afterwards I get to ‘see’ how clean my house is).

BATHROOM/S

Occupy toddler in dry bath with bath crayons or give toddler bottle of water to spray around bathroom to ‘help’.

Spray toilet with bleach solution and leave.

Spray counters and mirrors with vinegar solution and leave.

Squirt jiff around toilet and quickly scrub bowl.

Run shower and swap toddler’s water spray bottle for vinegar spray bottle.

Scrub shower while in shower with toddler. (this is my shower) ‘Rub out’ drawings as part of cleaning method – get them to help by spraying vinegar.

Leave plug in shower for toddler to splash in bottom (if it’s a bath one like our one) while quickly wiping vanity down.

Use newspaper to polish mirror.

Polish taps with dry t-shirt.

Wipe down all surfaces. Finally wipe toilet and throw first cloth away/in wash.

Take wet toddler with you to do bedrooms.

BEDROOM

Dress wet toddler and chuck wet towel in laundry.

Strip beds and make tent with dry laundry for toddler to play in. (roll up and make a round ‘nest’ or hang over couch cushions to make a hut)

Add teacups for tea party.

Play ‘red rag to a bull’ or ‘whoosh’ toddler with sheets.

Put toddler on bed to jump and ‘help’ tuck in sheets.

Put toddler in duvet cover and carry around for a while like a mad santa.

Put duvet cover on duvet.

Finish making bed/s.

Use second cloth to dust surfaces in bedrooms and move to kitchen.

 KITCHEN

Set toddler up in high chair with pre-nap snacks.

While they eat, spray counters of kitchen with vinegar.

Boil kettle for coffee.

Empty dish washer while kettle boils.

Wipe all surfaces and load dish washer. Turn it on.

Polish taps with dry tee-shirt.

Make coffee.

Clean up toddler, wipe high chair and put to bed.

 

Relax with coffee and enjoy your down time.

 

OK. So I didn’t wash the floors yet. But that one has to be done when the toddler is out or asleep otherwise the slippery floor is dangerous…

And this way I get to have some me time in my lovely clean house. Even if it is only clean for me to see.

 

And finally, four small confessions:

Sometimes I scrub the toilet and leave the soapy stuff in the bottom so that my work can be ‘seen’. This is my ‘thank you prompt’.

Sometimes I fold the toilet paper and pretend I am in a hotel.

Sometimes I skate on the floor with wet towels soaked in detergent when no-one is around as a more fun way to mop.

I pay myself to clean the house instead of paying a cleaner so that I feel more valued and do a better job. (So I keep the money that I would otherwise pay a cleaner – that’s paying myself!)

 

How do you manage your chores with children?

Love Outie.