Posted in Family life, Pop culture, Work

Seven ways to procrastinate

In this blog post I’m going to reveal a secret super power that I can no longer deny: the power to procrastinate, regardless of how fervently I attempt to focus on the task at hand. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m very good at procrastinating.

Last weekend I realised that I had two assignments due in within a week, and was struggling with one of them (which was affecting my ability to make progress on the other one). I had to take action, so I asked Tristan to change my Facebook password again. I haven’t logged on for a full week, and it’s been great. However, I didn’t factor in how determinedly I can find distractions when I really don’t feel like I’m making progress with my course work.

Here are my seven most recent procrastinations.

1. Planning my next hairstyle

My hair is very long – so long that my son diplomatically asked me if it might be time for a haircut. Upon reflection I realised he was right, so I’m having it cut tomorrow morning. This has given me a perfect opportunity to read numerous Buzzfeed articles about hair transformations. I’m think it’s going to be a ‘lob’ (a long bob, for those of you who don’t deal with abbreviations).

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2. Upping my selfie game

The Snapchat filters are an excellent procrastination tool, and if you have a willing young accomplice you can almost convince yourself that you’re not really procrastinating: you’re spending quality time with your children!

3. Checking out a style icon

While I was idling on Pinterest, continuing my hunt for my next hairstyle, I discovered Sarah Harris, the Fashion Features Editor at British Vogue. She’s in her mid-thirties, has never dyed her grey hair, wears a daily uniform of jeans or trousers, shirts or jumpers, and incredibly glamorous shoes, and is widely regarded as tremendously chic. I have become slightly obsessed with her, so I’ve whiled away many moments on her Instagram feed, waiting impatiently for her to update it with a photo of her soon-to-be born first baby.

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4. Reading Reductress

How did I not know about this website until a few days ago?! It’s a subversive feminist take on the kind of fake news that The Onion has produced for years. I absolutely love it and, for the past week, when I should have been tackling readings for my essays during my bus commute, I’ve delved deep into its archives.

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5. Devising elaborate reward charts

One of our four year olds has been particularly challenging recently (and by ‘recently’ I mean ‘for the past eighteen months’). It was clear that we needed to adjust our parenting style – and when you’ve got two assignments due within a day of each other, what better use of time than reading a couple of parenting books, designing personalised reward charts on Photoshop, shopping for stickers, stick-on jewels, and wooden letters to decorate with the stick-on jewels, and explaining the whole strategy to your husband, au pair, and children?

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Fortunately, the new reward charts have led to big improvements in the kids’ behaviour, which is just as well – my ‘no late night study’ strategy has fallen apart this week, and I’m not very tolerant of children’s tantrums when I’m functioning on four hours of sleep a night.

6. Borrowing library books

It’s important not to confuse this procrastination technique with actually reading books from the library. I mean, look at the stack of library books in my room at the moment:

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I handed in assignments both yesterday and this afternoon, and I’ve got another one due in next Friday, and another one ten days after that. I have no time to actually read much more than a couple of pages of a novel each day – but do I let that stop me from spending time on the library app, requesting books, and then heading to my local branch on the way to the bus stop? Of course not. How would I keep my bedroom looking so cluttered if I didn’t fill it with teetering stacks of books?

7. Breaking my toes

Admittedly, this is an extreme form of procrastination. It isn’t a tactic that I’d wholeheartedly recommend, but if you want to while away a couple of hours that could be spent productively, I suggest slamming the two smallest toes on your left foot into a bed post, necessitating a trip to the weekend medical centre to see if you need a moon boot. I’m a seasoned professional when it comes to breaking toes by slamming them into things: this is the third time I’ve done it in the past couple of years. But I’ve reluctantly accepted that breaking toes really isn’t a sustainable way to avoid studying (plus: ow), so I’ve celebrated the submission of today’s assignment with a slow, limping trip to Kmart and a $9 slipper purchase. They will serve as a quasi-moon boot, hopefully protecting my toes from further assaults (and the doctor was awesome, by the way… Him: “they probably are broken, but there’s nothing we can do about it, so just try to be careful”; Me: “awesome, thanks for that, let me pay you $50 for your stellar advice”).

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Of course, what I should be doing is re-embracing the principles of mindfulness that I learned earlier in the year, avoiding the procrasti-researching I’m inclined to do when I don’t know what to write, and leaving my laptop on campus so I can get a decent night’s sleep…

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Posted in Family life

The only way is through

Recently I wrote about how it’s fine to find life hard when life is hard. I also wrote about how we’re all entitled to find our own lives difficult. Today I want to build on that by saying this: that the only way to deal with tough times is to keep going. Yes, this is a post about my own drama.

I’m finding life a bit of a struggle at the moment. One of my two gorgeous children is being extremely challenging, and has been that way for well over a year. It’s nothing major – just normal preschool boundary-testing stuff, but it seems to happen every single day, and I’m worn out with it. I’m finding it harder and harder to stay calm in the face of belligerent four-year-old provocation. On Saturday, when his behaviour forced me to follow through on a consequence that resulted in cancelling a planned outing with him and his sister, I really did get upset and fed up – but it’s actually quite unusual for me to lose the plot: instead, I feel like I’m just resigned to his behaviour (on Saturday it was because he decided that he would not brush his teeth – every day it’s like he chooses one stupid thing to argue about, and then will not budge, even in the face of treats being cancelled and favourite belongings being confiscated). And it’s just so frustrating that this lovely kid, who is so happy, cheerful, and fun to be around 95% of the time, keeps choosing to derail family life in this manner.

I’m planning to embark on a wholesale review of every parenting book I own, and several library books, to see if we’re missing any obvious strategies for dealing with tantrums and unreasonableness, but I’m not feeling very optimistic that I’m going to uncover anything revelatory. I wish I knew that we were terrible at following through on consequences, for example, so we could change our behaviour, but we do remain boringly consistent in our approach, and so I don’t know what to tweak in how we’re handling things. I know that he’s doing his ‘job’ as a little kid, and that our job is to reinforce the boundaries and ride this stage out, but it’s exhausting. It’s also starting to really upset his twin sister, who is mostly conciliatory in the face of his high-jinks (lots of “he’s just tired” comments when she sees that his behaviour is starting to wind us up), but who is clearly getting sick of the drama as well. It seems like, every night, my husband and I put the kids to bed and collapse. Here’s a recent photo of our family pedicure session, just to remind myself that we do have fun occasionally, and that life isn’t really the flurry of time-outs and tantrums that I sometimes fear it might be:

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Parenting challenges aside, I’m feeling very uninspired by my degree right now. I’m in the second semester of my third year, so only have one year to go afterwards, but I can’t wait to be finished. Although the four papers I’m studying this semester are interesting, I just can’t be bothered. There’s so much to read, and so many assignments to write, and my brain is tired (probably as a result of all that battling with the afore-mentioned four year old).

And I’m sick of living on one income, which is by no means a small amount, but which does not stretch very far at all after we’ve paid the mortgage and our au pair (without whom I couldn’t study). Before we had kids, and before we moved back to New Zealand, we had two good incomes – it was glorious. We’re amazingly lucky to have been able to last for so long on only one income (thanks largely to our habit of saving a lot of one of those good incomes, when we were both working), but the savings well has run dry, our childcare costs will increase next year, and it makes me tired thinking about how I’m going to have to balance our family budget. I can’t wait to be earning again, but to do that I have to finish my degree.

And here’s the thing: I know that dropping out of uni, sending my kids to live with their grandparents, and taking my husband away to backpack around Europe for a year isn’t really an option. The only way is through. We just have to keep dealing with these everyday parenting, university, work, and financial challenges. I know that everything will improve in time, but sometimes being a grownup really does suck.