Rite of Passage for Girls

Anyone raising children may have across Steve Biddulph and his parenting books. His most recent book “10 Things Girls Need Most” lists key attributes girls need to help them navigate through the challenging stages of child to teen to young woman. The list is below:

1. To be loved & secure
2. To have time to be a child and a chance to be wild
3. To know how to make good friends
4. To find her spark in life
5. To have the love and respect of a dad
6. To have backbone
7. To be part of the women’s movement
8. To have a happy sexuality
9. To enjoy the support of aunties, wise women and experience a rite of passage to womanhood
10. Spirit

As I went through the list I felt pleased I could mentally tick off most of the list for my girls but when I got to “experience a rite of passage to womanhood” I felt a little stumped, how could this be achieved? Years ago, girls and boys experienced a debutante ball which was really their first public outing but lovely traditions such as this really seem to be a thing of a past. A rite of passage these days seems to be texting yourself naked at the age of 14 to your 16-year-old boyfriend (oh dear).

As I panicked a little it dawned on me my girls WILL experience this passage and they will do so through a dance sport they love; Physical Culture, commonly referred to as “Physie”. Having been a Physie girl from the ages of 4 – 11 years myself I started child # 2 a few years ago, she was showing a love for dance and after a year at a dance school was a little despondent. So, I thought let’s see if she likes Physie (why didn’t I think of that first up!) and she enthusiastically went along to her first class. I like the ethos of Physie in terms of its empowerment, discipline, acceptance of all and the fact it can be done until the day you die (if you able to still move your body to that day). I also like the “do your best” and “never give up” lessons taught, key mantras I chant at my children. Third year at it and it is her “spark”, she loves it and for me it affirms another thing to tick off that list. Child #3 has been showing an interest since age 2 and I started at Ladies this year so we are a Physie family!

I realised how blessed my girls are to have this sport as it really will help them navigate their way through the key milestones of their life and they will be supported and surrounded by women of all ages to help them. You see in Physie you start in the juniors age group (pre-school to 14 years), you progress to seniors and then you move onto the ladies. Each age group in many ways represents the stages of a female’s life. In this situation for each of those age groups you are with girls & women your own age but you also have girls and women a few years younger and older with you so while you may be looking up at a role model you will be looked at as a role model. It really is a wonderful environment. And while this is a sport which requires a bag of skills from musicality, poise, coordination, athleticism and team work, the key skill is applying dedication and practice. This is especially needed if you want to place at competitions. The overall focus though is being “the best you can be” (as opposed to “win, win, win”) and achieving goals through hard work. What a powerful message & learning for our girls in all aspects of life given the pressures they face from a myriad of angles in today’s world.

Our Physie club is Mount Ousley and we are fortunate in having “Miss Elizabeth Scott” as the head teacher, along with a mix of other incredible teachers who vary in age. My girls (and my son) adore “Miss Elizabeth”; she is patient, gentle yet firm, encouraging without pushing, sets high expectations, incredibly generous of her time and manages to get the girls to meet their goals with enthusiasm. In a nut shell she helps them to be the best they can be – a true teacher.

The ultimate in Physie is becoming a grand Champion Girl, an event which takes place at the end of the year at the Sydney Opera House. It is a truly beautiful night and the Opera House stage sets in motion many a dream for little girls. Big excitement in 2016 when the beautiful Kristen Scott (yes, Elizabeth’s daughter) performed and was named Champion Girl 2016. Child #2 was there and I thought her heart was going to bust with pride and love. I thought my heart was going to bust with gratitude knowing my little girls were surrounded by wonderful role models to help them navigate their years of female growth.

The sport celebrates its 125-year anniversary this year and it’s not hard to see why, it’s more than a sport, it’s a path of growth & support for Australian women from pre-school to senior age and that is a remarkable thing in today’s world. Maybe Steve Biddulph should add “join a Physie club” to his list of things that girls need the most!

My “Top Ten Benefits” of Physie for your girls
1. New friends
2. Physical Co-ordination
3. Musicality
4. Physical fitness
5. Confidence
6. Personal Grooming
7. Team work
8. Discipline
9. Commitment
10. Fun

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If you are interested in learning more about “Physie” go to http://www.physicalculture.com.au and find out where your local club is.

Note: Steve Biddulph’s books also include Raising Boys, The New Manhood, The secret of Happy Children.

 

 

Pre-school Party Planning

 

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Free babysitting for parents or just more hospitality for the hostess?

When you have young children at pre-school you inevitably find yourself attending 3, 4 and 5-year-old birthday parties on the week-end. While at first this seems exciting, (let’s face we are a tad relieved to know our children are liked and invited to a party) but once you attend a few the novelty can wear off and there are always the questions “can I just drop off?” or “do I need to stay?”

I found myself attending a pre-schooler birthday party recently. It was the longest 2 hours of my life. It was a great party for little people but being a Saturday and with a list a mile long of things to do I found myself watching the clock and counting down every minute until the cake was cut and the lolly bags were handed out. You see I am not the most extraverted person, in fact I am quite introverted. I am very good at conversation and can converse with just about anyone but I am just not one of those people that bursts into a party of unknown people thinking “yeah, great, look at all of these new people to meet”. I am quite the opposite… anyway I digress, the point being at most pre-school parties, after pleasant exchanges such as “Hi I am Jo, what days do you drop off” the conversation dries up. For some reason, I find pre-school parent relationships somewhat different to primary school parent relationships…I put it down to different levels of involvement & attendance or maybe its just my natural introversion.
So what are the rules when it comes to parents at pre-school parties? Having three children and having attended & hosted a few parties below are my pre-school party etiquette tips.

1. Note your expectation on the invitation
For any pre-school party, make a note on the invitation if you are happy for the children to be dropped off and then picked up or if parents are welcome to stay. This sets the message that it’s okay for parents to have 2 hours of free baby sitting.
Some children are still uncomfortable leaving their parents as it is a new situation so expect parents to stay, especially for parties under the age of 5. Ask parents to let you know when they RSVP if they will be staying, so you know how many parents in addition to children will be in attendance. Parents can be a great help with party games & depending upon the number of kids you have the more parents the better.

2. Note a start and finish time on the invitation
Be sure to list a start and finish time on the invitation. 2 hours for small children is ample time for a home party, but of course it all depends on the type of party you are having. If I have a mix of family, friends and pre-school friends I tend to put a start and finish time on the pre-school friends but then leave it open on the family and friends invites. Overall, remember little people are not like adults mingling around drinking sophisticated beverages discussing Sydney’s house properties, they are kids that will be hyped up on the red cordial you give them and after 30 mins you will be regretting that 4-hour party time you stated. It also sets the expectation for parents.

3. To feed or not to feed the parents?
Food & drink. Lots of options for party food for kids but when it comes to parents should you feed them? I love to feed people and my husband always accuses me of having too much food but I don’t care, I dread the thought of people leaving my home or a hosted party not feeling nurtured with food. It’s the ultimate in connecting with people so I say “feed the parents”. Yes it can be more work and cost but depending upon what you are serving the children make up an extra platter for the adults. Keep it simple and include platters of simple sandwiches, slice, fruit or chips & dip which can be served, helps break any silence between parents. Alternatively set up a table specifically for adults and when they arrive advise them they are welcome to help themselves to the dedicated table of food and drinks. If you are holding the party over lunch time people will be hungry and there is always that awkwardness for the parents who are starving and trying hard to not get busted eating the little frankfurts from the kids table! Tea and coffee is always welcomed, you may even want to offer some wine and beer BUT do so with responsibility because you don’t want to be stuck with 30 pre-schoolers all night because Mum or Dad were too smashed to drive their kids home.

4. Cake time
Blowing out candles and cutting cake normally signifies the end is near for the party so do this in the last half hour of your party time. Parents love a piece of cake so be sure to bake (or buy) a cake which caters for all. No one likes to miss out on cake.

5. Enjoy!
Before you know it, you will be hosting 18 year old birthday parties which comes with a whole host of other expectations (smashed preschool parents will be nothing in comparison to the 18 year old’s) so enjoy entertaining your little people, their friends and their parents because the “Princess” parties will be over and gone before you know it!

 

Gwinganna

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Looking for heaven on earth?

Being a spiritual person I have often wondered what heaven would be like – I always seem to envisage a very white, light space full of white robed people but apart from that my vision is vague. Do you eat, who are you with (I worry many of my friends maybe somewhere south), do you sleep?, do you watch re runs of biblical stories on TV?

Recently I feel I just experienced what heaven would be like (or at least what I hope heaven is like) here on earth. You see I just attended a 2-night week-end retreat at Gwinganna. Gwinganna is designed “to help you create resilience in your health & wellbeing with the potential to transform your life, mind, body and spirit” Sounds powerful doesn’t it? Well it is!

Attending my “Health & Wellness” week-end I really did not know what to expect and in all honesty I was a tad apprehensive. While I didn’t expect anything I came away feeling very rested, not just physically, not just mentally but spiritually and the reasons were simple….

For 2 days and 2 nights I was with a group of people who no doubt were attending the weekend for a range of different reasons but with a common thread of the need for rejuvenation & “time out”. The process for rejuvenation was established from the onset with our orientation. Our amazing Duty Manager explained there was the need for people’s privacy and by that we were instructed that the week-end wasn’t a team building, networking function, but instead a week-end for people to “just be” with no pressure to do or act in any way. It was also established that all mobile devices, computers etc. were to be placed in rooms and out of sight of guests. It was amazing how these two simple points alone made a difference & why when I finished the 2 days I felt I had experienced something very special.  In addition to the lack of digital distractions I found a number of other reasons for this being so heavenly…

Everyone was present: while we had a schedule, it wasn’t so scheduled that we didn’t enjoy the “here and the now”. We had time to enjoy our meals, we had time to talk and listen, we had time to “just be”. There was no busyness, no distraction. There was no photographing of meals and posting online, there were no selfies, with filters being applied to post on Instagram, there was no capturing of the moment in a physical sense which meant it was captured by our hearts, minds and souls. “It was real”.

No judgement: There was no need for discussion around who you were in terms of what your profession was, where you lived, how you lived, there was no judging, no competing just complete acceptance, because you didn’t have to be anything to anyone. To “just be” in a competitive world with so many demands and expectations was to feel free.

No need to be vain: With a mix of activities and spa treatments guests were either in active gear or bath robes. There was no concern for how you looked, whether your hair was perfect and your make up on. There was absolute delight in seeing someone float back from a spa treatment, dazed, oily hair, blotching skin, with looks of extreme serenity. For me personally there was a real sense of happiness in not having to worry about whether my frizzy hair was done. If you saw my mop of curls you would understand this sense of joy. There was also “natural” beauty & glow from the team of Gwinganna, not one bit of botox or filler in sight just beauty as the result of nourishing ones body in the most organic way possible. Wonderful living examples of how beautiful our body’s can be physically and mentally when we look after them.

There was positivity and so much care: The Gwinganna staff were incredible; caring, gentle, positive, inspirational, yet professional souls. All focused on nurturing each guest and you could see there was a genuine care not only for guests but for each other.

No media: No TVs, no newspapers, no social media feeds meant there was no news (had my husband been there he would have been jumping the gates and heading to the nearest pub for football scores). Having a break from the reminder of the evils of the world in the form of terrorism, child abuse, general violence and hate was in a word AMAZING. Without the saturation of news and social media streams it is how I imagine a world at peace and it was truly peaceful to have a break from so much sadness which streams into our world every day.

Dreamtime: Dreamtime is allocated time in the afternoon and where beauty health and healing treatments take place. Not just pampering to help with tired skin but treatments  ranging from an energising facial to Reiki all designed to be body & mind restorative. Being treated at Gwinganna with one of their very talented therapists is akin to being touched by God himself.

Surroundings: Gwinganna is set in the Gold Coast Queensland Hinterland, naturally beautiful. It rained during my visit but a bout of sunshine during a morning bush walk was enough to showcase the natural surroundings which served as a reminder as to what a beautiful world we live in. We were told to not wear perfume so in essence we could inhale our surroundings and breath in nature.

Many of the people on my week-end were returning guests and at the start of the week-end-end many couldn’t really articulate why they kept coming back; the common response “it just makes you feel good” which I couldn’t quite get my head around. I mean I feel good after a spin class or a few glasses of wine… having been, I can see what kind of “feel good” it is.  It is physical, mental, spiritual rejuvenation and any place that can do that is the closest thing to heaven on earth. I will return…

For more information visit www. Gwinganna.com.au

 

Rawness of Emotions

178My children are amazed at how easily I can cry, it can range from movie watching (who doesn’t cry in “My Girl” when Vada says goodbye to Thomas at his funeral) to watching a re-run of Cathy Freeman winning the 400m gold at the 2000 Olympics. I mean, I can cry singing the national anthem at my children’s school assembly. When we watch TV or a movie and there is a potential “crying” moment the kids all pop their heads up from their cosy positions and ask “are you okay Mum?”. Quite often I get a little defensive and tell them to get back to their popcorn, other times I just let the tears flow…

Apart from movies and sporting highlights many of my tears are the result of my children. Sure, tears sometimes because I am just so bloody tired and overwhelmed at parenting three children while managing a career, while juggling social calendars and keeping myself looking half fit and healthy but tears mostly because parenting makes you feel raw, raw with emotion. I remember reading an interview with Nicole Kidman after she became a mother for the first time and she spoke of the rawness she felt and I thought what a perfect way to describe the feelings of being a parent. From the minute you hold that new baby it’s like your skin has been pulled back and whether something joyful or something heart breaking happens the intensity is so much greater because of that rawness, and the roller coaster of rawness never stops…

My 77 year old mother often states, it doesn’t matter how old your children are your heart will always be breaking or busting for them. Great, a lifetime of rawness!

Child # 2 is a “Physie” girl, so I spend a good part of September to November crying as she competes. I cry when she starts marching (because I can’t believe how she looks beyond her eight years when she holds her head up and starts stretching her long legs around a community hall). I cry when she places (complete joy, goal achieved), I cry when she doesn’t place (complete heartache, goal missed). I cry when the other girls place or don’t place because I feel the joy or disappointment of their families. I just cry….

Late last year I cried with child #1 when he missed out on a place as school captain / vice captain. He is a laid back kid, easy going, likes to stand at the back. I refer to him as my flat liner as normally he shrugs off a loss or something he has missed out on. So to see him so disappointed and upset was in all honesty a bit of a shock, I knew he was keen for the role but I really underestimated just how much it meant to him. This time I didn’t want to cry but how could I not, that good old rawness.

Maybe others aren’t as raw as me, I quite often refer to my husband as a robot (with a heart) as he is so objective and practical which balances me well. Having completed Myers Briggs personality profiling I know I am at the extreme end of being a “feeler” and I feel confident that even if I never became a parent I would still be raw. Whether I am shedding a little tear or crying a bucket load, I embrace it because to feel the pain of peoples hurt and disappointment is to also feel the sheer joy and happiness of their achievements and that is what I call living.

The Dress Love Affair

I have a confession.

You see I have been having affairs for many years, most of my life really, my husband knows about them… and it all began at the age of 8 with a blue and yellow dress and a shop called “Dolly Girl”.

My rampant affairs are with beautiful dresses. I fall in love with them and then I’ll do anything to get hold of them. My first level of excitement when I get a beautiful social invitation in the post is the opportunity to wear a new dress. I’ll blame my Mum for the affairs. You see it all began as a small child, to this day one of my greatest memories of my childhood was shopping with Mum for a new dress for an occasion. We would head to our local Westfield where there was a shop called “Dolly Girl” and I loved it. The occasion could vary, it could be a wedding, special birthday, school dance. I can recall all the moments of going through the racks, the trying on and of course the wearing. Those dresses are seared into my memory forever. To this day, a beautiful dress is still my greatest indulgence & one of my greatest pleasures.

On a recent work trip to LA I did some outlet shopping and I came across this amazing dress from BMCGMAXAZARIA. As I gazed across the room, there it was, long, flowy, pleated, touch of lace, shoulder bearing, a beautiful blue. It seduced me like a handsome and charming man but I resisted the temptation and left the shop. Of course, I ventured back, telling myself I really don’t need a new dress but what’s the harm in trying it on. Of course when I tried it on  it was nothing but pure love and even better it was on sale (how could I resist?)…..it felt like magic when I wore it to a wedding a few months later.

Pleated dress
Of course, like all affairs they have their consequences…

For all the money I have spent on my affairs over the years I could have invested in a lovely little beach house on the NSW coast, but instead my kids need to be content with the local creek and park for fun during the school holidays. I have also needed to physically expand my wardrobe to accommodate the dresses because even when the affair is over I find it impossible to completely discard them, how can I when they have given me so much happiness. The worse impact of all has been what I call “red carpet syndrome” (I think it’s a condition most women have but many have failed to diagnose). You see this condition is the fear of wearing the same dress more than once and someone noticing. Social media has compounded the condition. Many a conversation has been had with my husband discussing the reason I need a new dress, my response mostly being  “because I have already worn the other 20 in my wardrobe…. once”.

Over the years I have tried to end the addiction to the affairs but decided there was nothing to be achieved by denying myself something which makes me so happy. So instead I have developed some strategies to help manage the affairs. They are below:

1. Hire
If you love to wear a new dress for every occasion, and you are especially drawn to designer pieces then hire. It might feel like a false economy spending money on a hired dress for the races but it’s not really if you spend $800 on a dress that is never worn again. Great sites include: glamor.com.au and styletheory.com.au

2. Lend
If you can’t overcome the wasted money feeling of hiring dresses, then find a way to make your dresses available for family and friends (maybe don’t charge them if you want to stay friends) but at least know you are getting some quality use from the dresses and your family & friends will love you for it.

3. Rotate
If you buy well, beautiful dresses can be worn for many years. Store them and then pull them out, it’s like being gifted with a whole new wardrobe of dresses.

4. Style Differently
Wear them differently; different shoes, bags, earrings, hairstyle will all give life to you dress. It’s like reigniting the affair.

5. Sell
This may be a challenge if like me you love your dresses too much. But it will free up cash for other dresses (or savings for that holiday house!)

5. Swap
Swap with friends / family / associates who have similar obsessions and affairs.

6. Donate
Share the love. There are plenty of women in the world who could never wear a beautiful dress let alone own one. Make a point each year of donating a dress to a worthwhile charity. This could be a great work dress or a beautiful ball gown. Whatever the dress, donating will allow another woman less fortunate than yourself to share the experience.

Final bit of advice
Embrace your obsession. If wearing a beautiful dress elevates you to feel you can take on the world then go for it (you will just have to forget about that holiday house)

Inspirational Mums

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Who offers the greatest inspiration to our kids? Working Mum or Footy Star?

I’d of put money on the footy star…

My primary school aged son was recently asked to participate in writing a bio on someone they found inspirational in the community. Naturally I assumed one of those well know footy players would have been on the list. Or a much loved teacher. The school principal perhaps? Or a grandparent? Or his Dad? The school priest? Or even Chris Martin (my son is impressed with the musical talents of the Coldplay front man).

But no.

My son opted to write about me. Me! But why me? Aren’t I the constant nag in his life who monitors all of that screen time? Well the crux of it is, he appreciates the role I play as a mum who has a full time career, the juggle of the 2 roles and the persistence to make it work. Most importantly my mantra “never give up” resonates strongly with him.

A snippet from the bio he wrote:

“The greatest lesson I have ever learned is from my mum. She taught me to never give up and try my best always…

…Mum inspired me by the way she continues her life with three children, a busy job and when she stays up late almost every night doing her job.

I love my mum the way she is”

I share this because as a woman, mother and parent there is always that angst at striking the right balance between raising your family while still pursuing a passion for learning, income earning, career growth and just overall personal achievement. My ambition has always been about a journey of self improvement, a test of how far I can push myself, never settling for mediocrity, a love for learning and focusing on what more can I achieve & pack into this brilliant life. If I am honest it has never really been about conquering the corporate world. And for my son, from a young age, he has known no other mother other than the one that goes to a paid job each day.

There are plenty of experts with advice on who makes a better mother; the stay-home versus the go-to-work Mum debate we have all read about and probably even weighed in on. But who is right? Well, there is no “right” way to be the “right” mother.

An inspirational mother, a role model mother, is one who figures out what is best for themselves, and then makes it work in collaboration with their partner & family. It’s not to say this doesn’t involve some compromise, there has to be compromise, it’s about being ok with the compromise.

My career has enabled me to get to a stage where I can work with flexibility and I am pleased to see so many companies offering “work from home” options. Companies where there is a culture of flexibility, an agile environment, the ability to work remotely and where work life balance is not lip service but real culture. At the moment I can duck off to a morning school assembly with freedom and the knowledge that I am trusted to get the job done. And for my children they get a real buzz from saying “hi” to work colleagues on Skype when I do my evening calls with the London colleagues. It’s not to say getting to this point was a walk in the park. It took persistence. Faith in the unknown. A bit of risk. Figuring out what was right for me as opposed to what was expected and of course “never giving up”.

So to those mums who are working at a career, at home or on maternity leave contemplating the “right” decisions, just remember you can be a form of inspiration to your children, especially your sons by doing what it is that is “right” for you. That is the greatest inspiration and parent leadership we can offer.

It goes without saying I am beyond proud that through my sons eyes I am an inspirational person in the community – that trumps any other career reward or achievement to date.

Note: Working Dads are just as inspirational but I’ll leave it to a working Dad to post!