Hey Realistic Mama's!!
Yep it's been a few months since our last chat but I have been working on a few children's books and an adult fiction, which I can't wait to finish and show off to you mamas.
I have so many stories and they will be shared over the months but I did want to start off with a feature mum because I absolutely love the mamas in my world and you need to see and read about the gifts and talents they have.
I think sharing all my friend's different stories can be so encouraging and inspiring to any mama that is dreaming big things but can't see passed her daily life with kids. The kid season is tough and exhausting but if you have aspirations in your life outside of motherhood then I hope these feature mum posts really encourage you to give it a go. I always thought I would never become a writer until my kids were older and completely independent but every smidgen of time I get to myself, I am writing!
So if you want to be encouraged and inspired today, meet my stunning friend Tamara! She is all things lovely and I love following her journey as a mum and Paediatric Occupational Therapist. She has also written the most beautiful children's book The Animals In Me, which you will find the link to purchase her book directly at the end of her interview.
Enjoy her story and buy her book! Us Realistic Mamas are big on mums supporting mums. It's what is so great about our community
Love ya xxx
Tell us about your work and how it inspired you to write your children's book?
I am a Paediatric Occupational Therapist at Aspect (Autism Australia) and work predominantly in schools. I have also just started doing tele-therapy which is therapy via the internet for families who live in rural and remote communities and have limited access to therapy. My role involves assessment and intervention of any functional activity throughout the day which may occupy a child’s life. The areas I cover may be fine motor skills, gross motor skills, handwriting, self care skills- toileting, dressing, eating, sleeping, sensory processing, emotional regulation and behaviour.
As my role is primarily in the school environment, I do a lot of work with teachers in helping children reach a calm/alert state for learning. This is where the inspiration for my book came from! I see many kids who require lots of activities during the day in order to remain focussed and ready to learn, these include gross motor activities, breathing and meditation techniques. We all have unique sensory systems and preferences. The hope for my book is that it could be a good starting point for discussions with kids to show them that our bodies hit different levels of arousal during the day and there are things we can do to change how we feel to suit the situation. I made it poetic with bright illustrations for maximum engagement and I hope it can enjoyed by many children.
So what do you do with all the free time you don't have?
Yes, what free time? I find myself working quite a bit these days, especially at night after my 2-year-old (Aria) has gone to bed. Besides that I do enjoy reading up on nerdy things like health, food, the latest research on anything to do with children and books by inspiring people like Dave Asprey and Robert Kiyosaki. I try to go for a run each morning because it really energises me for the day. I also used to dance professionally so I still attend a dance class every now and then. In addition to that I do like to cook and try out new recipes (people would tell you I’m a little obsessed with my Thermomix!). Lastly, who doesn’t enjoy binge watching their favourite shows on Netflix- I’m a bit of a TV junkie!
How did you see yourself as a mum before you became one?
Well I’m usually quite a calm person and had hoped I would remain this way as a mum. Some friends would say I am a calm mum so perhaps I give out that impression on the exterior but I don’t feel that way at all! I’m constantly worrying if what I am doing is right or wrong and also worrying about worrying! I’ll never forget the day we got Aria home from hospital and I was already panicking because we had to start tummy time immediately and I had to make a list right away of her daily activities. Not a relaxed parent at all!
I also felt like I would just love the stay-at-home-mum life and never want to work again. When Aria was about 8 months old I was just dying to get back to work which really shocked me! I just needed to find my identity again. Once I went back, I had such a different appreciation for my work and the families I work with as becoming a mother completely changed my perspective and increased my motivation to do good in the world. Of course I appreciate the days that I am at home with Aria and, even though it’s not for everybody, it’s made me a better mum having days for “me” and my work.
Can you give us three rules you made pre-mum that you have now broken? Have you stuck to any?
Well I can give you one rule I have stuck to, one rule I have somewhat stuck to and another I have completely broken:
1. Sleep- I know it’s controversial but I read the book Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall while I was pregnant. It’s definitely not for everyone but the book just resonated with me and made perfect sense. I felt strongly that a baby (and parents) should have good quality sleep wherever possible to support their development and I must say I have been quite strict on routine since very early on and continue to do so. Of course there are days where everything goes out the window and you do what you need to to survive, but in general, the routines in the book really helped me as a new mum to read her cues and recognise what she needs. I really feel that routine and structure help children feel safe and secure so I try to provide that wherever possible- and it makes my life easier knowing how to plan my day!
2. Screen time- Working in child development I know all the pros and cons of screen time. In general I have been pretty good at sticking to my rule of ‘no screen time before 2 years old’ but screens are EVERYWHERE these days and it’s so hard to shield our kids from them. Technology is the way of the future so we do need to embrace it in a controlled way. I do give Aria my phone or an iPad on long car trips or if I need to have a shower. She also knows every word to Frozen and Moana so she’s definitely had the opportunity to watch them a few times while I cook dinner!
3. The third rule I had was that I would be available to my child and paying attention to her constantly. Well with all the things that need to be done around the house so everyone can eat and stay clean, of course this was always going to be broken! I do try to set aside time every day where I will be on the floor playing with her however I remember one of my Community Health Nurses saying that you need to give kids time to practice what you have taught them. Independent play skills are a really important thing for them to master so that makes me feel less guilty when I need to do some washing or clean the bathroom.
What do you love most about being a mum?
I just love how rewarding it is seeing how they grow, develop and learn and knowing you have had such a profound influence on this. We are at such a cute age now (2.5yo) and am constantly entertained by the funny things she says and the way her little brain works. Also, who doesn’t love the cuddles and affection they give you!
What are some of your challenges as a mum?
The biggest challenge I have as a mum is balancing my time between doing the things that need to get done and spending enough quality time with Aria. Having constant mum guilt about what you should/shouldn’t be doing instead of doing this or that seems to be the new norm. I try as much as I can to be present with Aria when I can- even if I dedicate 20 minutes here and there just forget about everything that needs to be done, put the phone away and focus only on her. This seems to relieve the guilt somewhat! It’s also been challenging balancing a career with being a mum, especially when the emails and workload doesn't stop at 5pm. I do try to separate work and home life (until Aria goes to sleep) so I’ve had to take my time management skills to a new level.
Who are your mum people and how have they influenced you as a mum?
I’ve been very lucky to have family close by to support and help out where possible. I don’t think I could have done it without them and I commend people who don’t have the same support I do. I was reluctant to go along to mother’s group at the community health clinic as I had surprisingly heard some stories about these groups but it was absolutely the best thing I did! I made friends there that I still have today and it was so great having people there to support you who had babies of the same age and were doing it all for the first time also. I would encourage anyone who is a first time mum to go along and try to connect with other first time mums- there is always someone who has an idea to try when you feel like you are going insane! I also have a few friends who have older kids and I have loved watching and learning from their parenting styles and seeing how their children develop into little adults.
Can you share some tips on how to be organised for your week and day while juggling work and home life?
Well I’m really lucky that I have great family support and a husband who is very hands on and flexible in regards to his schedule so I do have a lot of help. I think the one thing that most people find difficult to organise is food for the week. I will usually meal plan at the beginning of the week and also do some of my shopping online. There are things I like to buy from the specialty shops so I do that once a week. When I cook, I always make too much and will freeze meals into containers for nights when we don’t have time to cook or for lunches.
I also like lists and have a million going at any one time in the notes section of my phone. Whether it be a list for the day, Christmas presents, things to do around the home, books to read etc, I always feel a sense of achievement when I can cross things off each list. It also takes the pressure off when you write it down the moment you think of it rather than trying to think of everything to add in one sitting.
Lastly I do try to separate work and home life as much as possible. I went through a stage of thinking I would be able to do work from home while Aria was playing in the lounge room but for me it DID NOT WORK! She was constantly asking what I was doing, wanting me to play with her, I would lose my train of thought, feel guilty for neglecting her (as mothers feel constantly) and would feel defeated for not completing my work and not giving my all to her. From that point I decided I would either do my work at work, at home when she is not there or when she is asleep. Mothers are great at multitasking but we also need to recognise our limits!
Tell us a mum moment of yours (funniest, grossest, sweetest etc)
I already have quite a few in my first 2 years so I can give you a funny, gross and sweet story.
The first one that comes to mind was a day where I took Aria out for lunch on my own and decided to swing by the beach spontaneously on our way home. I hadn’t packed any swimmers so just took her shorts off so she could put her feet in. I had her shorts and shoes, my shoes, wallet, phone and keys in a pile on the sand which I thought would be far enough out of the water zone. Next minute of course a massive wave comes along and sweeps up all of our stuff along with Aria! In the moment I somehow turned into an octopus and developed superhuman strength to somehow rescue Aria and all of our belongings. I even found my buried keys and somehow my phone still worked after being submerged!
My second story of course is a poonami story. You haven’t lived as a mum until you have had to deal with a poonami in public! We were at our local RSL and Aria was about 12 months or so. She was sitting in a high chair and I smelled the familiar whiff. I pulled her out and the sight was just so horrendous I actually had to put her back in. We ended up picking up the whole high chair and carried her in the high chair to the bathrooms, passed all the poor people eating their dinner. We got quite a few stares but you have to laugh in those moments!
Lastly I have to give Aria wraps for how sweet she is in general. She is very intuitive and aware of others feelings at such a young age. She loves to give cuddles and is constantly asking us if we are ok if she can sense the slightest bit of upset! My sister is having a baby and it’s so nice seeing how affectionate she is with the bump already. She will rattle off the things she is going to do with the baby once she gets here- “I’m going to share my toys, read her books, change her nappy, give her a bath and push her in the pram.” Being a 2-year-old she has to add a few “poos” and “bums” into that sentence but hey, the sentiment is there!
How can we be buy your book?
My book can be purchased on iBooks, as an eBook for Amazon Kindle or as a paperback on Amazon. Search the title The Animals in Me in iBooks or Amazon.
iBooks Link - The Animals In Me
Amazon Link - The Animals in Me