startup-593324_1280
,

startup-593324_1280

I took some time off recently, just a week, but it was a much-needed week of reflection and a break from the usual routine and from my computer screen. I spent time with good friends and family, and with my children. I had a child-free weekend doing adult things like only having to feed, dress and toilet one person – me. My best friend and I talked about a lot of things, including how and where our careers were going.

Career is one of those dirty words in a mother’s vocabulary. Almost as terrifying to say as “formula-feeding”, “born by Caesarian section”, or “crying-it-out”. And yet, career is not just a dirty word to mothers – when I was a young doctor starting out on an academic path, enrolling in a Masters, a clinical supervisor referred to me as a “career possum”. I always wondered if he would say the same thing to a male doctor, but I never got to ask him.

Let’s get this straight. My family is the number one priority in my life. Unequivocally my most profound and tender priority. My family is the blood running through my veins, the beat of my heart, the love of my life. Most of all, what I know in my deepest heart of hearts is that my family is made up of people, of fellow human beings, two of whom carry half my genetic information, who have my eyes, my smile, my hair. My family needs me, and I cannot be outsourced, replaced by someone else. I can outsource daily care for a number of hours a day, I can outsource cleaning and cooking, but I cannot outsource what I mean to them. I also need my family. We are a mutually connected and loving unit, often chaotic, mostly imperfect, but they are as inseparable to me as my breath is to my lungs and circulation.

My career is a different thing – I can certainly be replaced. Another GP, another researcher, another academic. Someone with exactly the same skills can slip into my seat and carry on where I left off. If circumstances ever meant I needed to throw it all in – a serious illness, for example – I would have no hesitation in leaving my laptop and handing over to someone else. My career is a thing, not a beautiful breathing living person with a heart, a mind, hands that need to be held, a soul that needs to be nourished.

So what does it mean to me then? Why do my children go to daycare, why am I not there at every 3pm kindy pickup?

To put it simply, my career represents my hopes and dreams. So I am disappointed, no, furious, when parts of “modern” society continue to insist that a woman cannot have a career and be a mother (or be a good mother) at the same time. I got these messages (along with other supportive ones) when I wrote a post about working and stay-at-home mothers. Some comments were: “Children should be brought up by their mothers”. “Childcare is simply barbaric”. “Mothers should be at home with their children”. “What do you think happens when you go off to have your career?” And recently I read a curious blog post about why daycare is bad for children and why working mums are the scum of the Earth. I was infuriated. Apparently if I am not there whenever my precious little ones fall over, I have failed as a mother because I am sending them a message that they are not worthy. Never mind that they run to the arms of their loving carers who are trained in first aid and hugs and who act as my “village”. I. Just. Can’t. Even. I have gone to great lengths to promote tolerance and mutual respect between mothers who choose to work at home or outside the home. I get worked up when I see women deliberately try to tear this down and inflame some kind of ridiculous “mummy war”. But I should stop ranting. And acknowledge others out there who are trying to do the same thing as I am – repair relationships, build tolerance, like this lovely blog post “We Are Not Rivals”.

Consider this. If a little girl says she dreams of becoming a scientist, or an astronaut, or a successful business owner, or whatever it is little girls want to be nowadays, who would dare take that dream away from her? Do we say to our daughters, that’s all well and good darling, but you know you wouldn’t be able to be a good mother at the same time, so you would have to stop once you have children, so why even try? And I am quite certain that we would never say that to little boys.

Is it because of the enduring image of the selfish career woman, daring to put her hopes and dreams above the needs of her family (which is clearly, to be slavishly present in their lives 24/7)? How dare a mother have her own aspirations beyond the family, to have needs of her own! Selfish woman!

Is it also the incredible demands of some professions, requiring long hours of “face time”, travelling, shift work, and inflexible hours?

I have heard, also, of parents putting their career aside for the preschool years and then aiming to revive it once the children are in school. While the 0-3 age is certainly an important time developmentally, childcare becomes a given (from 9-3) once kids are in school, and children are less physically demanding once they are in school, I get the feeling that the demands of parenting schoolchildren can be even greater, in some ways, than those of parenting pre-schoolers.

Let’s get another thing straight. I enjoy my work. It brings me meaning, purpose, direction. I enjoy having goals to shoot for. I also enjoy providing for my family. I do not see why this has to be a dirty thing. Why can’t a woman find satisfaction outside of the home? There is mounting evidence that spending time in daycare is generally not detrimental to children’s emotional and academic development, and having a working mother may confer some benefits to children, especially for their daughters. I take pains to ensure that my children attend a high-quality centre. I am offended at the suggestion that they may develop behavioural problems because of daycare. They most certainly do not.

I do not spend my time attacking stay-at-home mums. I admire and love them as my dearest friends. They are simply mums just like I am. Why do some SAHMs, however, feel they must defend their decisions, the way I am having to defend mine?

But I am clear on this now. I won’t ever let anyone make me feel as though I should give up my hopes and dreams.

I will, however, make a pledge to make this work. Somehow, I will walk that tightrope of being engaged and present for my children and family, while striving for excellence in my career. There will need to be give and take from both – I cannot be at every assembly, I will not be able to be at the tuck shop once a week, my children will have to go to after-school care some days every week. In the same vein, I will not be at every conference, I will turn down some committee memberships, and some papers will have to wait while I have a holiday with my children. But I will be there, morning and night. I will be present on weekends with no covert emailing or working on the laptop unless it is an extraordinary situation. I also want workplaces and schools to buy into family and work-friendly practices. I will lobby for schools to give parents adequate notice before scheduling a Mother’s Day morning tea at the god-awful time of 11am with only a week’s notice, setting working parents up to fail immediately. I will encourage my colleagues and students to strive for work-life balance, not endless hours at the desk. And every night, bar unusual circumstances, I will sit down with my family to dinner, and kiss my children goodnight. Each day I hope to make my children understand that their mother loves them and values them above all else in the world, but that does not mean she has no responsibilities and no joy outside of the home as well. I will also somehow find it in me to demonstrate to my children that a woman, dare I say a parent, can work and raise a family with joy and presence. And if I can do this, I will be able to leave each morning and chase those hopes and dreams with a clear conscience and clean heart.

 

Share

CDC/ Amanda Mills acquired from Public Health Image Library (Website)
CDC/ Amanda Mills acquired from Public Health Image Library (Website)

Our very own Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has rolled out a community awareness program they have dubbed “The Good GP” aimed at highlighting the invaluable role that GPs play in healthcare. Which got me to thinking about the similarities between GPs and Stay-At-Home Mums (SAHMs). Don’t get me wrong, there are no “doctor wars” like there can be with the “mummy wars”, and I have the deepest admiration for my specialist colleagues and their amazing knowledge. I went to medical school with them after all, and count specialist physicians, surgeons, and anaesthetists among my closest friends. No, the problem doesn’t lie with doctors vs doctors, it is in the eyes of the general public and the government. Let me explain why GPs are a bit like SAHMs.

1. The work we do is underrated.  

Like SAHMs, it’s assumed that all we do is write scripts and medical certificates if you have a cold and we’re always late because we’re having a cuppa in the tearoom. “Oh, are you just going to be a GP?” I’ve been asked so many times over the years. “You’re not going to be a specialist?” Just a GP? I think. I can suture a wound, counsel a grieving widow, perform an eight-week baby check, screen for cervical cancer, diagnose a rash, reassure a worried mum that her child will recover from their virus, know straight away when I have to send a sick child to hospital, diagnose surgical emergencies, remove foreign bodies, manage an acute asthma attack and stabilise a patient who’s having a heart attack, drain abscesses, and treat all kinds of ailments from acne to depression to osteoporosis. The list is endless. Oh, and I can help my patients prevent chronic disease too. And most people aren’t aware that general practice is considered a specialty in Australia with extra training and high standards expected of our GPs. I should know as I’ve been a proud RACGP examiner for 8 years.  Just a GP? It’s like saying “Oh, do you just stay home with your kids?” (cue eye roll)

2. We are undervalued and underpaid.  

Unlike SAHMs we do get paid, but our worth has been significantly under-valued for years and things are getting worse. A four-year freeze on Medicare rebates has been announced, which means that by July 2018 Medicare rebates will have been frozen for a total of six years. This comes on the back of years of undervaluation of our services, and GPs had to fight hard to have a proposed further $5 cut to Medicare rebates overturned. Given that we are a highly cost-effective form of healthcare, this is an insult to the service that we provide, and it is expected that we either absorb this cost, which will prove unsustainable for most practices, or pass it on in some way to our patients.

3. We do our work because we love it.  

Most GPs I know speak of how much they love being a GP – the continuity of care, the relationships they build, and the variety of their clinical work which always challenges them. GPs feel passionate about caring for their patients – as can be  seen by the recent successful campaigns by the RACGP and AMA against the proposed co-payment, which doctors felt strongly about because it would compromise the care of our most vulnerable patients. This video created by the RACGP sums up the life of a GP and the rewarding journey we are on, which takes us through generations of patients. Yet, it can feel like a thankless job much of the time. Like being a SAHM.

4. It’s hard work and it feels neverending.  

Like SAHMs, we work hard. We see patients back to back, usually sacrificing on our lunch times (morning tea break? hah!) and there is a lot of unpaid work that goes unseen. Not only do we see an average of four patients an hour, GPs face an hour or two of “paperwork” after the end of the day – finishing consultation notes, writing scripts, making phone calls, arranging urgent specialist appointments for a patient with a serious illness, checking test results. Being a GP is exhausting which is part of the reason I had to take a sabbatical to finish my PhD – I simply cannot keep up the pace, plus finish a full-time PhD, and look after my children and myself.

There’s hope for the future though. The new Minister for Health Sussan Ley has announced a review of the Medicare Benefits system, which will be “clinician-led” which means she wants to talk to doctors. I applaud this and hope that with appropriate consultation, a new and better model of Medicare will emerge, one that rewards quality rather than quantity of service. I also hope that the community awareness campaign by the RACGP will lead to increased community engagement, and that together we can create a better way of providing services to our valued patients. At the moment both GPs and patients are frustrated at the challenges we face – I am well aware that patients are unhappy with lack of affordability and access to GPs for one. I constantly hear of how difficult it can be to get a timely appointment. I hope that new and innovative ways to revamp general practice will come from consultation with the community and other stakeholders, and policy-makers.

What do you love about your GP? What do you think we could be doing better? I’d love to hear from you, and also would love you to contact your local MP if you also feel strongly about the rebate freeze.

Share
,

By Flickr user vistamommy [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Flickr user vistamommy [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This is a difficult post for me to write, and I have put off writing it for far too long. Today is World Family Doctor day and it is time to put pen to paper. I have made the sad decision to leave the clinic I have been working at for the past eight years. Next week is my last clinic session at the Whole Health Medical Clinic. My family and I are moving to Sydney for a lifestyle change, to be in warmer climes and closer to the beach and surf, which we love. I am also taking a six month sabbatical from clinical work to concentrate on finishing my PhD. Juggling the clinic, a full-time PhD and a young family has taken its toll on me recently and I have to take my own advice and attend to self-care and self-preservation; my health and my relationship with my family has to take priority. I cannot replace myself at home but I can easily be replaced, I am sure, in the clinic. But in doing so, I am incredibly sad to say goodbye to my patients, and yet grateful for the lessons they have taught me.

So I just want to say, to my patients, even if you are not reading this: Thank you for the privilege of being your family doctor for the past eight years. Thank you for trusting a fresh young GP (not so fresh and young now!) with the care of your health. Thank you for the times you were patient and understanding when I ran very very late. Thank you for letting me into your lives, sharing your deepest secrets, so that I could better help you. Thank you also for taking care of me – for the kind inquiries as to how I was, the warm wishes and presents and cards when I left you for two maternity leave periods, the welcome when I came back. Thank you for the laughs together, and the times we cried together as well. A huge thank you for putting up with my frequent absences, and for the gradual reduction in clinical hours due to kids and then PhD. Thank you for “gas bagging” with me about kids, babies, parenthood and life. You have all taught me so much about life and medicine. Clinical life has been so rewarding and has given as much to me as I have to it.

I wish you all the best of health and many healthy and happy years ahead. I hope you will continue to try your best to eat well, stay active, and look after your mental health. I hope you will treat all family doctors as generously and warmly as you treated me. And thank you again, for everything.

Much love

Dr Carolyn Ee x

 

Share
Happy birthday to my princess. And hello to fondant cakes!
, ,

Happy birthday to my princess. And hello to fondant cakes!
Happy birthday to my princess. And hello to fondant cakes!

At the start of this week I wasn’t feeling very good about myself. I was facing a week of extraordinary juggling of roles and responsibilities, and to put it plainly, I was grumpy. Grumpy that I had so much on, grumpy, even, that I had said yes to some of the things I had. Let’s take a look at the week that was and how it went, because it’s clear from the title of my post that I found unexpected (or perhaps expected) joy in much of what I did.

Monday morning: Go to baking store with four year old. Spend $120 on cake making equipment for her birthday cake. Perhaps I should have outsourced? Never mind. Browsing aisles of coloured fondant and plunger cutters gave me so much glee it almost felt illegal. 

Monday lunchtime: Meeting with Kindergarten teachers about the nut allergy incident from last week. Get handed a bunch of forms to fill out. Brain explodes slightly, but am grateful for the opportunity to discuss this very serious issue, which has now been resolved. 

Monday afternoon: Submit journal article to none less than the Lancet (which has a 99% rejection policy). Get quite excited when I don’t get rejected within the first 3 hours. 

Monday evening: Frost first birthday cake, followed by work on conference presentation until 11pm. Exhausted. 

Tuesday: Clinic. Am grumpy because of impending teleconference at 7:30pm. Think of pulling out. 

Tuesday afternoon: Teleconference cancelled. Mood lifts! Text husband, who immediately suggests we go and watch the Avengers. 

Tuesday night: Go out for dinner and watch Avengers Age of Ultron, which was tolerable because of my favourite character Ironman was in it. Kids are with Mum who is visiting us from interstate. Eat a choc top. Bed at 12:30am. Yawn!

Wednesday morning: Parent helper morning at kindergarten. Bring birthday cake along. Four year old is very excited, says it is a “really special day”. Listen to some awful knock knock jokes. Learn some Italian songs. Four year old cries when I leave, makes quite a scene. Wonder if I have done the right thing.

Wednesday afternoon: Supervision meeting with my Honours student, followed by practice presentation for upcoming conference talk. Get lots of “feedback”. Realise I have to change half my presentation. Brain starts to throb slightly. 

Wednesday evening: intend to go for a run but am too tired. In bed when the kids go to sleep. Paper is still not rejected by the Lancet! Get a glimmer of hope. 

Thursday morning: Work on presentation. 

Thursday afternoon: Hairdresser appointment. Finish reading Brene Brown’s book. 

Thursday evening: Run followed by dinner and then frost second birthday cake which, to my relief, was a success. Fondant is easier than I thought to work with! Why have I not done this before? Consider offering to make birthday cakes for our our friends and family. Slap myself a little bit. 

Friday morning: Paper is rejected by the Lancet. Resubmit to another journal. 

Friday lunchtime: Give a tutorial. Thoroughly enjoy being around “young people”. Their jokes are funny! Feel a little bit young again. Also feel thankful that I had my grey highlights covered the day before. 

Friday afternoon: Home early to make decorations from fondant with my four year old, to put on the cake. The cake is finally done and all ready for the big party on the weekend! 

Well that was my week. Looking back, it was such a wonderful and full week, and I came out of it feeling really really good. Why? Because I had made the decision to make every single scrap of my day count, to spend it only doing things that were meaningful, rejuvenating, important, or that would make someone else important to me happy (or me happy). And the teleconference, for a voluntary position on a committee, was one of the things I had reluctantly said yes to but felt that I shouldn’t. Once that was taken out of the equation for the week, the rest of my week was authentic, honest and very satisfying, inasmuch as it involved jumping (leaping?) from one role to another.

I feel like I am giving an Oscar speech now, because I cannot do this juggling without flexibility. The nature of what I do is not time-based but outcome-based. This makes my week very flexible, apart from my clinic day, and allowed me to take two hours off to volunteer to sharpen pencils at kindergarten. Of course it’s not about sharpening pencils but about doing something that meant a lot to my daughter. But yes, thank you flexibility, and may you grace the work weeks of everyone else.

I also cannot do this juggle without a healthy disdain for meals that require hours of preparation. Meals this week consisted of baked salmon (in the oven and off to the gym!) and tacos with grilled pork and guacamole. In the big picture, time doing things I love is more important than spending hours in the kitchen, but I still do pump out home-cooked meals for every single weeknight.

Thirdly, sleep. I skimped on it for the first two nights and started to feel pretty grizzly. Then amazing after catching up on sleep. Sleep is the working mama’s secret ingredient.

Fourthly, fun and self care. Respect for the “date night”. Making the time in a busy week to get my hair done. I’ve given lip service to self care before and this week I had to force myself to pay attention to it (or rather the state of my hair forced me).

And lastly. The realisation that I am juggling very very good things and even things that bring me joy. Sitting in on an kindergarten Italian lesson and laughing at four-year-old jokes? Joy. Making birthday cakes? Joy. Even the tutorial, tacked on to the end of the week and seen as yet another time stealer, was joyful because I was teaching, and because it was fun. So I am filled with joy and gratitude, on this Saturday morning, for the week that was. An amazing week of work and love. And choc-tops. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a birthday party to organise :)

PS. Sunday evening. Party was a success. I cannot believe she is almost five. They do grow up fast… after the toddler years :)

Share
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stella12/7491105384/
, ,

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stella12/7491105384/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stella12/7491105384/

When my daughter turned four, I asked for birthday gift ideas. One was for a fairy door. A miniature door attached to the wall, where imaginary fairies emerge from. Given she is a huge fan of fairies in general, I went with this idea. Instead of ordering a $35 door marketed as a fairy door, I thought I would order a dolls house internal door (a hack I read about on the internet). I found a dolls house store on eBay and ordered a white wicker outdoor chair, a door knob, and some adorable accessories like a tiny broomstick, but yep, you guessed it, I forgot to order The Actual Door.

That was nine months ago.

Since then, “Order door” has been on my to-do list, but it has consistently made it to the bottom of the list below “Pay car insurance bill” and “Fill out kindy forms”. In other words, it became non-important, non-urgent. Time and time again that door order was bumped right to the bottom while I swashbuckled my way through a year of being a full-time PhD student, GP and mama. I wrote papers. I organised workshops. I took my kids to the dentist, allergist, and cardiologist. I analysed data. I did Christmas. And that fairy door was faithfully transferred from one list to the next, never quite making it up there. Until today.

Last night I awoke suddenly to a realisation. My daughter is going to be five soon. Before I know it, she will be six. Then seven. Then a teenager. Slowly, and yet not slowly enough, she is changing. She says Sesame Street is boring. She only wants to play with her friends (not me). She spends a lot of time alone in her room playing by herself. Life isn’t going to stop for us – the dentist appointments (sadly) will continue, the bills will keep coming in, my career will continue to burgeon and demand my attention. I will have school lunches to pack, recitals to attend, pap smears to get done (yay!)

One day I might wake up and it might be too late for that fairy door. That tiny piece of wood with six panels will only be that to her – a piece of wood. Not a magical doorway into fairyland and her imagination. That poor neglected door might finally arrive, if I ever get down to the bottom of my to-do list (it’s like the laundry – virtually impossible to clear) and she might not care a hoot for it. Non-important and non-urgent. But today, it went to the top of my list. Important and Urgent.

Urgent because time is passing as I busy myself with the tasks of raising a family and building a career, as we see birthdays, Christmas and Easter come and go each year like the ebb and flow of an unceasing tide. Tree goes up, tree goes down. Presents are wrapped and unwrapped. Each year marking a little bit more of a loss of this precious time, when imagination is at its peak, when my little girl starts every sentence with “Pretend I am…”

When will she stop pretending? When will she no longer believe in fairies and unicorns? I don’t know. But I don’t want to be too late.

So today, after taking a pause in the middle of writing yet another paper, I ordered the fairy door. And two tiny cat bowls (fairies have cats, don’t they?) A miniature pink mail-box, where she can put a tiny note to the fairies in. And a side table to go with that white wicker chair. (I almost ordered a set of four little celebration cakes and a miniature flower pot but I sensibly stopped myself).

Any day now, that door will arrive in the mail. We’ll paint it and put it up on the wall together with the fairy’s chair and table. And she’ll wait each morning to see what the fairy has done overnight. Eventually she’ll get bored of it and it will be forgotten. But not before I’ve had the chance to enjoy, to fully embrace, the marvel of childhood. The simplicity, the innocence, the beauty of this short time, before the fairy doors and unicorns and dolls and teddies are given away and packed in boxes and my children emerge into independent adults who no longer believe that fairies exist.

So much of child-rearing is important but not urgent. Today I learned that much of it is more urgent than we think. Over in a heartbeat, they say. During the long difficult baby and toddler months and years, this seems ludicrous, but the older my children get, the more I am appreciating it.

Important, and Urgent.

Share
time
, ,

Well good morning! It’s the first day back at work for many of us. I hope that you’re all feeling ready for the week! Today I’d like to share something that one of my lovely followers posted. I do not know the source of this piece, but if you know, please let me know so I can attribute it correctly. It’s a poignant reminder of how precious every day is. Enjoy x

Imagine that you had won the following *PRIZE* in a contest: Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400 in your private account for your use. However, this prize has rules. The set of rules:

1. Everything that you didn’t spend during each day would be taken away from you.

2. You may not simply transfer money into some other account.

3. You may only spend it.

4. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for that day.

5. The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it can say, “Game Over!”. It can close the account and you will not receive a new one.

What would you personally do?

You would buy anything and everything you wanted right? Not only for yourself, but for all the people you love and care for. Even for people you don’t know, because you couldn’t possibly spend it all on yourself, right?

You would try to spend every penny, and use it all, because you knew it would be replenished in the morning, right?

ACTUALLY, This GAME is REAL …

Each of us is already a winner of this *PRIZE*. We just can’t seem to see it. 

The PRIZE is *TIME*

1. Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life.

2. And when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is not credited to us.

3. What we haven’t used up that day is forever lost.

4. Yesterday is forever gone.

5. Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time without warning…

So, what will you do with your 86,400 seconds?

Those seconds are worth so much more than the same amount in dollars. Think about it and remember to enjoy every second of your life, because time races by so much quicker than you think.

So take care of yourself, be happy, love deeply and enjoy life!
Here’s wishing you a wonderful and beautiful day. Start “spending”….

https://www.flickr.com/photos/zoutedrop/2317065892/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/zoutedrop/2317065892/

“DON’T COMPLAIN ABOUT GROWING OLD,
SOME PEOPLE DON’T GET THE PRIVILEGE”.

Share
pixabay.com
, ,

pixabay.com
pixabay.com

I don’t know if you were the child’s father; you could have been his step-father, uncle, or nanny. But I’m going with the most likely thing.

You were pushing your toddler son on the swing when we came in. You saw a mum and her two preschoolers. My daughter got on the only remaining empty swing and my son, a toddler too, started to fuss. Normal sibling behaviour. I’m so used to their fights and wasn’t the least bit concerned, but I saw you look at us and immediately you said those brave and inflammatory words to your toddler. I shudder even now when I think of the horror that comes with that phrase.

“How about you give someone else a turn now?”

*shiver*

Predictably, your toddler said NO! NO! NO! You then tried to explain why he should give someone a turn, but the NO’s got louder. So you took him out of the swing and tried to distract him on another piece of playground equipment but he was having a minor tantrum by then. (I say minor because my son has been having tantrums that are worthy of an Oscar, and your son’s tantrum was definitely minor in comparison). My daughter had agreed to give her brother a turn, and had run off somewhere else, and I tried to tell you to put your son back on the swing. But you marched off with him, and we heard the whining and complaining get softer and fade away as you disappeared around the corner.

I wanted to say thank you for doing what you did for us today. You didn’t have to – you could have pretended you hadnt noticed we were there, or that a sibling fight was breaking out. There are no playground rules, just an honour system. But you chose to risk a toddler tantrum. You chose to break the relative peace of your day because you clearly wanted to teach your child to share, to take turns, to be mindful of others. It’s something that nobody tells you about – the anxiety of playgrounds. A parent pushing their child on a swing – what could seem more carefree than that? Yet behind this apparently blissful facade is the nervousness about needing to teach an underlying set of values. Sharing. Not being violent with other children (I was the nervous mum when my son got off the swing, as he started playing near another toddler and I was hoping he wouldn’t push or shove the other little boy).

Empathy for others. Being unselfish. Having boundaries. Patience. I was all ready to teach my son yet another lesson in patience, and then my daughter a lesson in sharing with that swing. But I didn’t need to.

I saw your face as you left. You looked worried, cross, irritated. Maybe you were tired of the umpteenth tantrum that day. Maybe you were worried that your son was never going to be able to share. (He will. Trust me). Maybe you were worried about being judged for having a selfish toddler (which is an oxymoron – all toddlers are incredibly selfish. And no I wasn’t judging you.) Maybe you had other things that were on your mind too (don’t we all?) But I really want to say thank you, for being a dad with principles, for not being afraid of the wrath of your toddler. For teaching your toddler playground etiquette. I know there are so many dads and mums like you, all trying so hard to do the right thing, all risking a tantrum so you can teach your children how to get along with others. All carrying that playground anxiety. Thank you. I wish I could have empathised with you about toddlers and their behaviour. I wish I could have reassured you that it does pass, it’s just a phase, and that I understand. I wish I could have conveyed to you that we were going to work it out between the three of us, but you were too worried about your son’s behaviour.

And that makes you a really, really good dad. I hope you know that.

Share
,

Do you have a sedentary, desk-based job like I do? Do you suffer from neck pain and stiffness? Chances are you’re like me – always battling neck tension and its inevitable consequences. My recent adventures in physiotherapy, as a result of my hip, have led to some very positive outcomes, including redesigning my workstation. My physiotherapist worked out, very cleverly, that part of my hip problem was from stiffness around the gluteal region which was indirectly related to my stiff neck. When she treated my neck with gentle manipulation, my hip was more flexible. The next step was to correct the postural problems that were affecting my neck for the 35 hours a week that I spent at the desk.

The Problem
I work from a laptop, which is apparently one of the worst things to do. The screen is far too low, causing the neck to bend forward, which results in neck strain even after a short period of time (e.g. half an hour). Any forward-bending work like reading a book will also result in the same problem. Hunching over the iPhone while on public transport exacerbates the problem. Have you ever noticed the posture of everyone on a tram or bus? Of course, we can’t simply blame our digital life for this, because reading a paper book or newspaper will essentially cause the same posture.

The Solution

I had to raise my laptop screen to eye level, so I investigated laptop stands and bought this awesome brushed stainless steel foldable stand from JAS PRO. To kit out my workstation properly, I also needed an external keyboard and a mouse. Here’s my new workstation now:

photo-2I’ve noticed a huge difference with raising the laptop screen, and am trying to minimise use of my iPhone at other times. Taking regular breaks from sedentary work is also helping, and whenever I can I look upwards to stretch my neck – at the ceiling or at the sky, depending on where I am. I’ve also attempted to reposition my chair so that my elbows, hips and knees are all at 90 degree angles. Here’s a useful article on office ergonomics, which can help guide you as to how to pimp your workstation.

 

 

Share
,

)

In 2012 I was nominated as an “Early Career Researcher” speaker at a colloquium to celebrate 150 years of women in medicine at the University of Melbourne.

While I was incredibly honoured to be nominated, I was somewhat in a panic when my nomination was accepted, because I was newly pregnant – and my presentation was scheduled for 4pm, which is the time of day I usually prefer to be horizontal, and preferably asleep – not presenting to a discerning audience of high-achieving female researchers and scientists!

I made it through the presentation though I was very nauseous, exhausted and generally feeling vile at 8 weeks pregnant. I come on at 9 minutes 13 seconds to talk about “building a bridge between Western and Eastern medicine”. Enjoy! :)

 

 

Share
image
,

imageI wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago about being grateful. It’s so easy to talk about, but harder to walk the walk isn’t it? This week has been filled with the usual challenges of being a working parent – sick kids, disrupted sleep, very early mornings. “Be grateful… Be grateful” I mutter to myself as I struggle to keep my eyes open at 9pm while cleaning the kitchen. My husband and I have had to share the multiple days of unexpected childcare with two kids sick in succession and this means work that goes undone, papers that aren’t written.

Then, as though the Universe was anticipating what I needed, three things happened across my awareness, giving me a profound reminder of what really matters.

A young patient of mine was suddenly diagnosed with cancer, likely terminal.

I watched the movie “Gravity” (Warning: Spoiler alert coming up!) and Sandra Bullock’s character Ryan Scott said, in a flat voice, “I had a daughter. She was four years old” and then gave the news that her daughter had suddenly died. There was no need to say anything after this point. Every single parent was imagining the torment, the grief, the world coming to an end. “Tell her I found her red shoe,” said Dr Scott later, and I cried and cried. Such simple things, the daily things, the tiny little details of our lives, carry so much meaning.

The poignancy of the little red shoe
The poignancy of the little red shoe

Then this morning, I saw a young man who was blind, crossing the road. That struck me most of all. I can see! I can hear. Walk. Hold things with my two hands. Go to the toilet on my own. Etc. The list rolled on and on. And as I walked home, chastened by my epiphany, I realised that I get so caught up in life’s unimportant details and sweat the stuff I cannot change. Am I missing out on life by feeling overwhelmed by the busy-ness of it all? The bath times, the bedtimes, the messy meals accompanied by bribing of my fussy eater Star, the drop-offs, rush to pick up, rush out for a run, rush back for a shower… Even the midnight calls, the early mornings sitting bleary-eyed on the couch with an irritatingly chirpy baby… All this is life. My kids are still very little and they need me in very demanding ways. One day they will wipe their own bums, dress themselves, feed themselves, learn to read. I’m so fortunate to be an able-bodied mother who can see, hear and touch her children and pick them up when they cry. The sheer joy of every moment has eluded me for the most part. But I’m trying. And the reminder that every day could be my or someone else’s last, without our knowledge or control, has sunk in. For now.

This doesn’t mean I’m buying into mother guilt. I acknowledge that it’s human and even healthy to feel this way. But I’m building my self-awareness and trying to move out of unhelpful patterns of thinking.

I’ve been listening to the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” audiobook. Yesterday I heard Covey talk about the Circles of Concern and Influence. The Circle of Concern includes those things in our life we have no control over. The weather, our boss, illness, the time our kids wake up, a dented car bonnet, government policy, foreign exchange rates. The Circle of Influence refers to the things we can change, such as our attitude.

Proactive people expand their Circle of Influence. Reactive people complain endlessly about the Circle of Concern. Guess who is happier and gets ahead in life?

So this week, I’m expanding my Circle of Influence. Instead of being grumpy about having to stay home again because of a sick toddler, I’m enjoying his irrepressible antics. And my Circle of Concern is shrinking. This doesn’t mean I’m turning into a Stepford Wife. I’m just trying to find a better way. Suppose my children were taken away from me tomorrow, or my sight, or my ability to walk. What can I do different today? And it’s working, it’s actually getting easier. You can change your habits. But you have to relearn your lessons every day. I’ll end with my new version of the Serenity Prayer. May you always having too many blessings to count :)

serenity prayerPhoto credit: By Robert Whitehead (Danielle & Lilliyan Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Share