A Tale of Lockdown – Fantasy vs Reality

Elissa Johnston A Tale of Lockdown

Another lockdown, Mummy thinks. We can do this, in fact it will be a fantastic time. Two weeks we can cherish as a family and the two boys will bond even tighter, playing together like cherubs in an Italian garden.

It’s day two and Mummy muses on what to do. She wonders around the house, opens a cupboard and her eyes flick over the forgotten bubble machine. She smiles. 

Mummy checks to see if it work, and it doesn’t. She turns it over and changes the batteries. It still does work. Oh, that’s it, her husband returned flat batteries to the battery box instead of disposing them in the bin. Mummy tries another round of batteries (and safely places the flat ones in the rubbish) and voila. The machine is roaring.

Picking up a bottle of bubble solution, Mummy takes it outside.

“Look boys.” Says Mummy.

“Bubbles!” Says Boy One (the eldest).

The bubbles start to cascade into the air and the boys run around clapping and poking and laughing. Mummy thinks what an ideal Insta-worthy moment. She ponders where her phone is. Because of course Mummy should capture this sacred time as a record of when she (briefly) nailed Mummy life. We will send the picture to Daddy, she thinks. He is stuck at work as an essential worker and it will brighten his day to show him we miss him and what a shame his is away from this magical bubble wonderland.

But before Mummy can retrace her steps to locate the phone, Boy One insists he wants his own bubbles.

“Ok.” Mummy says, thinking more bubbles can only add to the utopia.

After a few minutes Boy One is making his own bubbles. Boy Two watches on and quickly decides Mummy’s bubbles are not the superior ones. He waddles over to Boy One. 

Mummy has a sense in the pit of her tummy that she should separate the two. But as usual, Mummy ignores that inner wisdom and instead chooses the convenience of not getting up from her chair.

Boy One yells at his brother. Mummy sighs and stands up. Boy Two reaches out for the bottle of bubbles that Boy One holds. Boy One snatches them away, ensuring as he does that he tips a little onto the deck in a very deliberate manoeuvre.

How conniving we can be at the tender age of 5, Mummy thinks.

“Boy Two spilt my bubbles.” Declares Boy One. He holds his head high and stares at his Mummy, demanding justice.

“Boy One, I saw what you did, you tipped those bubbles out.” Mummy says.

“I did not.” Says Boy One.

Boy Two reaches again for the bottle, but Boy One is too quick, he steps back, and while eyeing down his brother, tips the remaining solution onto the deck.

A string of profanities enters Mummy’s head, but she is strong enough not to let them escape her lips. Instead she throws her hands into the air.

“That’s it. No more bubbles.” Mummy says, hoping the authority she doesn’t have is coming across.

“That was Boy Two’s fault.” Boy One cries.

Mummy puts her hands on her hips, about to correct him when she watches Boy Two walk over to the puddle of solution and slide around before falling over.

Mummy groans. She wonders why she dressed him in his good green corduroy pants when they are in lockdown and going nowhere and will be seen by no one. Silly Mummy, when will she learn.

Boy Two trips again and Mummy scoops him up. She places him on a clean section of the deck and reaches for the hose. She begins to hose off the solution.

“Yay, muddy puddles!” Says Boy One. He jumps right into the water and begins bopping around. Boy Two toddles over and they are both laughing and clapping. Mummy returns the hose in defeat. She eyes the surroundings and deems it safe.

“Ok, but when you are ready to come in, you are using a towel and taking your pants off.” Mummy says, her inner voice noting more washing. 

Mummy enters the house, grabs an old towel and returns, laying it at the back door. She checks on the boys.

Boy One is roaring with laugher as he lades up the soapy mixture in his hands and rubs it onto the head of Boy Two.

Mummy screams. She bursts the door open and snatches up Boy Two. She runs her hands through his fine hair and a trail of slimy bubbles sticks to her hand.

With a painful moan, Mummy goes inside and proceeds to clean up the hair of Boy Two with a handful of wipes because Mummy doesn’t quite have the energy to bath him at that moment. She strips him off and dresses him, again, in more casual, hand me down clothes.

Heading back outside, Boy One has now taken a few of his clothes off and is rubbing bubbles up and down his legs and arms. She calls him, takes off the remaining clothes, wipes him with the towel and sends him to his room to change. She looks over at the carnage. Mummy wonders why she bothered in the first place. She checks her watch and is horrified to discover the entire ordeal only lasted fifteen minutes. And worse, it is still morning. Mummy locks the back door. She wonders whether it would really be so bad for the boys to have some screen time.

How to Successfully Finish A Course (when you have young kids)

Last month I received the email that said, “Congratulations, you have successfully completed your certificate IV in Life Coaching.” The relief was huge, yet the sense of achievement was monumental. There were times when I wasn’t sure I would finish and frankly, didn’t want to. Yet I kept at it and can say with confidence it was worth it. Studying is challenging at any stage of life, but when you have young kids at home with you it is (a lot) more challenging. But it can be done and you can be sitting proud at the end of achievement, skilled up and ready to embark on a new career. Here are my top tips on how to do it.

  • Focus only on what is next. It is easy to become overwhelmed with coursework, and all that needs to be completed. Keep your focus narrow and only on what needs to be done next, the next report, assignment, lecture.
  • Schedule your study time. Live lectures/webinars are in our diaries and so to should the rest of the study. Turn up to your study ready to learn and to get it done. If it isn’t scheduled in as an appointment that must be honoured, it will never happen.
  • Be flexible. Everyone has a lot going on in their lives, so be gentle on yourself with study. If you need to call it a day, do so, if your study is interrupted, come back to it later. Even ten minutes adds up to progress.
  • Have a return date. Most courses now are flexible, understanding that life happens. When you do need to step away from your study, set yourself a return date. Even if you have to push that date out further, it will stop you drifting indefinitely.
  • Get support. It takes a village to raise a child and support to finish a course. Whether partnering up with another student to keep yourselves accountable or talking with your partner to plan your schedules to factor in your study time, you will need support. Even putting the kids in daycare one day a week to have uninterrupted study time. Take a look at all your resources and pull support from them. You are never alone.
  • Celebrate each win. Every pass, and each progress step completed, celebrate. Pop open bubbles, watch a movie, whatever works for you, do it. And when you do, take a moment to review your progress and pat yourself on the back for how far you have already come. Seeing your accomplishment to date is a great motivator to push you to keep going.
  • You can do it. There will be times when it will seem overwhelming and that the course will never end. But when you cross that finish line you will be so proud that you did. When you feel down and want to throw it away, remind yourself of all the reasons why you wanted to study the course in the first place, and all the wonderful benefits you will experience when you finish.

Do you need a cheerleader to help you pursue your passion projects? Check out my coaching page and book into a FREE consultation.

10 Things No One Told Me About Having A Second Child

motherhood, writer, mum life, parenthood, elissa johnston

It’s been over a year since we became a family of four (yep had a covid baby). I knew it would be an adjustment but I had no idea just how different life would be. Here are the ten things that no one told me about having a second child.

1) It is not twice as hard. At times it’s more like 100 times as hard. There is one of you and two of them and they both have different schedules and routines. It’s at this point you understand the meaning of juggling act. 

2) Getting organised. Just when you thought you had your mum life together, baby number two arrives to show you how unorganised you are. The chaos that descends upon life requires a complete reorganisation and tighter routines (even for those on the free ranging spectrum).

3) Guilt. Oh, the sheer pain running deep into the heart of the mum of more than one. You realise so much of what you did the first time around was totally unnecessary and you won’t even entertain the idea of doing them again. Then the guilt creeps in that this child is missing out. You try to remove that guilt by saying that your second child has an instant friend (see point 8).

4) You only have one body. It’s not something you thought of until both kids decide to burst into wailing tears in different rooms. You will scoop them up (with a jarring pain to your back), yet they will fight each other for sole custody of your lap which in turn keeps the tears flowing.

5) Be prepared to be late (at least in those early days). Getting one kid ready is super easy, even when they decide to play stubborn and have full blown meltdowns. But two is another level challenge. Particularly when one child is ready and as you get the next prepared, the first child gets unready. It’s like the kids are in cahoots together.

6) Comparing. We say we won’t. Yet even as early as the birth story, the comparing starts. Of course you will be mindful not to make such statements within their earshot, but to your partner and anyone else who will listen, you will note the large and minute differences between your children. It’s ok, everyone does.

7) You realise how far you have come as a parent. You still don’t know everything, but you do know some things. You parent with a quiet confidence having been there done that. You’ll find first time mums seeking you out with their infinite questions and it’s your turn to place the reassuring hand on their shoulder telling them they are doing a great job.

8) Instant friend. Unlike your first who only knew mum and dad, this kid gets a sibling. From that first day they have a playmate. It doesn’t always work out, but when it does, it offers you a brief reprieve. Your firstborn interacts with their new sibling as a child, not a parent and sometimes that is all the baby needs.

9) Sibling love. Nothing prepares you for those heart swelling moments when the baby laughs at their sibling (before you) or when they save their biggest smiles for their big brother. And equally when you vacuum the house and your eldest steps in front of the baby on the floor declaring loudly “don’t hurt my brother”. It’s so beautiful it hurts.

10) Love does multiply. It is difficult with one child to fathom how you could possible love another. But when that second child comes along, love multiples and you love them just as much as the first. Even with all the changes and the second upheaval of your life, you wouldn’t change a thing.

When Will Someone Say Yes?

“It is fresh, face paced and I would like to read it to the end.”

Late last year I entered the first part of my manuscript into a competition. First prize included a large amount of cash plus the writing currency needed to attract major attention from publishers. I had almost forgotten about the competition until the results found their way into my inbox. I was not a finalist. Disappointing, but the news did not sting. I already have experience in rejection. I looked closer at the email and to my surprise the judging notes were attached. Feedback from people inside the industry. A pot of gold. With a quivering hand I opened up the document. 

From this mystery panel of judges I scored 100%, 92% and 65%. I was close, so much they issued my work to a 4th judge. I pictured this judge as a woman, sitting down at her desk, sipping milky tea, glasses sliding down her nose. Her forehead is ceased as she reads through my work, turning pages with dry hands. She decided I would not be a finalist. “I did not feel any connection to the characters nor investment in the storyline.” Ouch. A simple no would have sufficed.

There was a book I read last year, it ended up being a bestseller. It seemed everyone was raving about it. I went and purchased my own copy. I sat down with my coffee and creased my forehead. I found it difficult to get through the pages. I stopped at page 30. Maybe it wasn’t the right time to read it. Yet a month later I picked it up again and gave it another shot. No. I wanted to throw it into an open fireplace. With that book, I did not feel any connection to the characters nor investment in the storyline. 

That is the painful yet wonderful thing about books. No book is universally loved (or disliked). Some are loved more than others, and every book will receive harsh criticism from the readers who didn’t connect with it. 

I have gone back to my manuscript from this process with hope. I scored well from two judges, with comments full of praise and encouragement and a desire to read more. It has reminded me that I simply need to find the right person. The person who will love my book and who has the power to replicate it in a way so readers, my readers, will discover it and hold it in their hands, enjoying the work I have created. I have been reminded this work is worthy, but it wasn’t the right time. Maybe tomorrow will be, or next month. I don’t know when someone will say yes to me, but I have faith that they will, and until then I will keep searching for my cheerleader.