Mama Bear One

“Mama Bear One, this is Mama Bear Two, check in”

This is how it is in my head, most days. No, that’s how it was.

I am Mama Bear One to a child who is growing up faster than I can handle, and I am Mama Bear Two to all the other aspects of life that need to be managed, tangled, assuaged and confronted.

Here’s the thing though, that I’ve realised during this self-enforced holiday I am sad to bid farewell to: Mama Bear One and Mama Bear Two need to be nicer to each other. In fact, they need to be the same person.

The duality that exists between being a parent and being a person is something I used to think I had snapped up and zipped in pretty well. I lived a very compartmentalised life, which saw me living it up in a number of ways but it left me exhausted. Talking with a friend this afternoon, I realised that I lived a lot of years on auto-pilot, and constantly forgot to apply self-care to my life. It’s no wonder to me now that, looking back, I was really very horrible to myself.

During the holidays, I realised that when Mama Bear One is in control, I am happy. I feel like I’m kinda winging it, but I’m happy. I love that home life we’ve created, and I live for those little moments where a smile spreads across the dinner table like spilt treacle. Slowly but significantly, and then it sticks.

When Mama Bear Two is in control, I’m a different kind of happy. I feel effective and aware of the world around me, even though it’s often not a very happy place to be in. It’s that which irks me, that keeps me compelled to do better, be better and… the thing I’ve realised is that I need to – again – redefine my own version of success.

For a long time, I used to think that Mama Bear One was a successful single mom with a happy kid, while Mama Bear Two was a career woman who was both committed and energetic. Living that life where the two had to be constantly maintained left me feeling particularly unsuccessful though. It stressed me the heck out to try and keep the two at good levels of success.

Finding and sticking to the place where I could feel successful took work. It took setting boundaries and sticking to them, unashamedly. It took, in large part, turning away from all my pre-conceived notions of Mama Bear Two’s success and focusing more on how and when Mama Bear One felt happiest. At some point, Mama Bear One had to win, otherwise I’d have lost all this magic forever. I’m glad she did, but in some ways I (selfishly) miss a bit of Mama Bear Two. She’s gone now, for good, but her ideas and busting-pokes-at-things have reapplied themselves to Mama Bear One’s life, which is how we ended up playing Speed Monopoly on Saturday evening and showcasing the best strategy for bankrupting your opponent to a ten year old.

Letting go of Mama Bear Two had to happen so that I could live a Mama Bear One life that wasn’t lacking, it was just expanded. Bashing down that mental wall – those compartments between the two – is something I had to do.

If the holidays taught me anything, it’s this: That stopping to gain some perspective is an essential part of this funny life journey, but when that train comes round to pick you up, it’s up to you how you choose to step on again.

My friend Stacey wrote this about her New Years Resolutions and having a theme for each year. For me, my theme is to let things happen as they need to. Things either fall in place or fall away and, while I can go out and get the things I want to have fall into place, what falls away needs to be left alone to live (weirdly, since consciously making an effort to apply this to my life, it’s happened more easily, more perfectly and ended up in really beautiful ways). No more energy wasted on trying to make things fit into these compartments I created. It is what it is, and what’s here is so damn beautiful, that I should stop and look at it now and then.




For Jane, on her Birthday.

In life, we get cheerleaders. We have to be our own on the way to finding our own troop of cheerleaders, but it’s true. Those mates who stick by you, and will go in to bat for you at any moment.

I realise I’m lucky. I have a crew I can call at 2am who will be wherever I need them to be, in a heartbeat and a skip jump. It is the same for them (and you people should know this) that if they need me, I’m there.

Jane 1

One of my biggest cheerleaders is someone who’s been in my life for a while but we’ve become quite close in recent times. We laugh at the same things, love to invest in each other’s daydreams and crazy-but-totally-doable ideas and we share the same set of principles when it comes to life. I know I can say anything to her, and it stays with her. But I also know that if I need a backup army, she’s unquestionably there for me with no qualms about it. Jane keeps her cheerleader pompoms for me, right by her side, all the time.

Today is her birthday. Jane. Happy birthday you little legend. Thank you for teaching me to: Not Care About The Things That Are Not For Me; for showing me how to Ditch Guilt and for being a solid support when I’m doubting myself. You are a treasure and a giggle, all rolled into one. You are compassionate, kind and the good kinda crazy. You know the type – the one that puts passion first, and follows through, every time. You are astute yet aware at all times of other people’s feelings, and you’re never, ever one to pull someone down when they’re kicked. It’s you that lifts people up, even on their worst days. Nothing deters you when you have set your focus – it’s incredible to witness.

I am so lucky to know you, you funnywonderfulwoman.

Jane 2

Never change.

Here’s to an amazing year ahead, and may that light of yours shine brighter than ever before.

I was going to insert a bunch of terribly embarrassing photos of you here, but I think we’ve had enough of those recently so I stuck to the good ones 😛 

A Decade | Dadadadadad

A decade. The way it rounds up in my mouth as I say it, seems far too clean a manner with which to describe the sheer void that it implies. Ten whole years without you, that have seemed to flit right by, like some sort of exuberant insect with wings.

When I think about it, you’ve missed some really good stuff. The best stuff, perhaps. Not to belittle the childhood of me, but the adulthood, I’m finding… is where I think you would’ve enjoyed the most. All the parts that have been hard work and tremendous…and the sections that have been simple and sweet.

Then there’s also been the stuff that has made me mutter ‘I’m glad you’re not here to see this’. The little parts or news stories that made me burrow my chin into my chest and go ‘nobody should have to deal with this, and I’m glad you’re not here to.’


But that’s not about this. This is about what it feels like to not have had my dad for a full decade.

No annoying phone calls, no fights, no disagreements over me pushing the boundaries. No foot-stomping at each other. Nobody to fight with me over my work – and demand to edit me before I hit ‘send’. Nobody to tell me in simple terms over tea at 3am, that I’m totally full of rubbish and need to wind my neck in. I need that sometimes, and you were the best person to lay it all out for me. I have needed that level of perspective that swarmed out of love for me, so very often. It is a cruel relief that I have had to learn to do it for myself. But it wasn’t without a bunch of learning that you and I both never wanted me to have to do.

This is about how it feels to not have you to whine to, or worry with. That’s the thing about our family – we don’t worry alone. We eat, we plan and then we worry. It’s something so delicately imbued into the very nature of our life operations that… the moment there’s something to worry about, I instantly think “what should we eat?”

You’ve not met my dog. As pathetic as that sounds, you would’ve loved his exuberant yet gentle (at his convenience) nature. You would’ve had him paced in five minutes, and he’d have curled up next to you like a fluffy puppy, just waiting to be preened. You always had that way with animals, and I wonder if Pingo and all the others are with you now.

You’ve not been here to see me living in my dream homes, nor in the not so dream homes. I’ve done my tax returns without you. I’ve navigated relationships with my bank manager without you (although, to be fair, someone once helped me at the bank, because I mentioned your name and she remembered you with fondness… possibly the only time I’ve ever been able to play the ‘my dad’ card… you’d never have let me get away with it were you alive). I have drawn up and negotiated contracts and signed forms and done all these adult things… to the point where people come to me to help them with all these adult things. That used to be your job, Dad. But where does the shoemaker send her shoes to be fixed? I am that shoemaker now, and sometimes, I do just want you to fix my shoes.

Your grandchildren have grown up. To them, you are a picture on a wall, or shared over the wires. You are an actor in our storylines (and oh my word how much I just know you love that), a page in their books. You’re a listing on their family tree school projects. But the legacy of you is so much more than the Pritt-Sticked-Bio we put together. They do know that, I promise you. They know of the texture of you, and I’ve shown them where they look like you, or how your resemblance shines in an expression that passes over their faces.

But it is in my parenting that I find you, just like how I discover my mother within my own voice. The first time my kid tells a joke she thought up herself, or blurts out a rhyme…I hope you can hear that. I hope so much that you can see. She has your toes, and that funny little gap in her teeth like you too.

You left at the precipice of what I like to think was the explosion of the Internet. Almost every time I log on, think up some pithy status update, or click ‘like’ on some hilarious meme, I wonder how you would’ve responded to this gigantic online world. I’m almost certain you’d have immersed yourself in it like I have. Like you’d be there with me, and we’d tag each other in tweets. Oh my god I wish I could tag you in my tweets.

But you are no longer here. For a decade, you have not been here. I find myself yelling at people in my head to love their parents, and soak up the times where they drive them round the bend. To love every second, even the hard ones. But I know that not everyone had my Dadadadad, so it’s difficult for me to reconcile my longing for you, with his or her legitimate incapability to love the moments that will be gone too soon.

I am forever a part of you, but for ten years now, I have been apart from you. And somewhere, in the recesses of my memories, you’re stoking a winter fire in our fireplace, and doing the word puzzle with mom. You’re doing what was called pulling the drain in our house (something I just learnt how to do, yesterday, myself, on my own. Thanks to Google. I’d rather have called you, Dadadadad). You’re writing and bashing the keyboard just like I do (I learnt this from you. I cannot unlearn it). You’re asking if the kettle is broken, and you’re walking down the passageway singing.

You are still strong and building things that work, but you have to fiddle with them – Jenkin jobs (they say that women end up choosing men who are similar to their fathers. Oh how I wish you’d met P. In this respect, he is so like you, it’s frightening. There are other characteristics. Sometimes I think you sent him. I’ll never really know).

You are a light that never goes out, Dadadadad, even though you’re ten years away.

I miss you forever.

Book Review: I Am Pregnant – Dr Dumani Kula

First off, don’t be alarmed (haha), this really is a book review, and not an announcement. It’s also not a sponsored post, but some rather lovely folks sent me a copy of this book to review. It’s one that’s got me thinking a lot over the past few days, since I immersed myself in the text. Here’s my take on:
I Am Pregnant by Dr Dumani Kula.

I Am Pregnant 1

My kid just turned ten so my memories of pregnancy, while burnt into my brain and life, are not as bright as they once were. I’ve probably forgotten about the cankles and the weird cramps that would wake me at 2am. But in reflecting upon my kid’s tenth birthday, the memories of giving birth and all the things that led up to her emergence into the world came flooding back. A dear friend has recently added a son to her family, and it reminded me so much of how the journey towards life is filled with hope. Dr Dumani Kula has related that wonderful, and sometimes tumultuous, story of pregnancy to business, in a new book. I took some time away from my screen to read it.

I Am Pregnant 2

Dr Kula
But before I get into what I think about this enchanting book, I’d like to mention something. The author, Dr Kula, before he began his career in business and worked his way up the ladders of Discovery Health, was a medical doctor. You might think – what the hell does a medical doctor have to think about business? But, really, I want you to put that coffee pot on and let it percolate for a while. Here is a man whose career at one time focused on enabling, sustaining and aiding life. In that case, what better person could there be to write about the life of a business, and especially the beginning of it?

Mentionable Quotes
The thing I’ve enjoyed the most while reading this book, is how Dr Kula’s encapsulated such important concepts in a succinct way. Here are some of my favourite lines:

“The stages before, during and after childbirth are, in many respects, indicative of the journey one has to go through to conceive, carry and deliver dreams and life aspirations”.

“The mark of champions is not always about being the absolute best, but about pushing through the worst, even when all else says it is time to throw in the towel. As for the woman in the labour room, pain is a signal of the concealed greatness that is about to be revealed.”

If you are not mad enough to get out of the rut it is quite possible that you will remain in it.”

A relatable tale
As I read each chapter, I’ve been really enthused by how Dr Kula draws distinctive parallels between a baby’s development, pregnancy and the evolution (and possible obstacles within that!) of a business, but reminding us that life works on cycles, not just a linear pattern. Dr Kula also brings into the story reflections on other business leaders and their practices or approaches, mentioning the like of Steve Jobs and some rather important historical events. There’s also my all-time favourite quote from Victor Hugo included in this book, but I’ll leave that up to you to discover (it’s something my Dad was always determined to distill within my character).

But it’s not just about business
I love the way Dr Kula captures key concepts and makes them relevant for almost every sphere of life, even moving beyond the realm of business. At the end of each chapter, he summarises with key points to remember, and I found that quite useful and reflective to experience as a reader. But it’s Chapter 7 that is my favourite – “Leaving a Lasting Legacy”, because it’s something I am a deep believer in, and I’m not alone in that perspective.

But I’ve said enough for now! Here’s how you can grab a copy of this great book for yourself: