Organised not OCD – The importance of a family budget

Here is the next instalment of my Organised not OCD tips and tools.  As I have said before, whilst it is not everyone’s instinct or desire to be organised, when you are a wife, mother and homemaker I believe you don’t have a choice to at least try some form of organised in your day to day life. 

Add working mother, business owner, host to an Au Pair or taking you kids to Day Care/School/Activities and throw you time into the mix, and your DEFINITELY don’t have a choice but to but to implement some organisation in your life! 

One of the top stressors in our daily lives is MONEY!  This is no surprise to you I’m sure and the effects money stress can have you on, your relationships and your family can be significant.  You may live in a single income family, a double income family and have other forms of income coming in.  You may be doing very well financially or you may have a number of debts and money concerns that are impacting your ability to sleep at night.  Whatever your situation, I believe it is important to have a budget for your family for the following reasons:

1) You have a realistic picture of the money coming in and out each month;

2) You can map out what bills require payment before distributing out the remaining funds in your pay check;

3) You have an understanding of what are need to have’s and what are nice to have’s;

4) You can set goals – this may be just for savings, for buying a house, for going on a holiday, for your children’s education etc;

5) You can take ownership of your finances and feel like you are in control instead of the other way around;

6) You can make the required changes that may need to be made to get back on track and make smart choices aligned to your financial situation.

Now I am not a financial planner by any means and this blog is not aimed at giving you financial advice!  I am simply sharing what works for my family and I and how we have benefited from this, especially when moving from a double income family to a single income family.

The key items we budget for on a monthly basis include:

· Telstra – Internet & Mobile Phones

·  Netflix

· Boat Insurance

· Boat Registration

· Boat Service

· Car Insurance

· Car Registration

· Car Service

· House Insurance

· Health Insurance

· Mortgage

· Rates

· Shares Account

· My Lady Pampering – Waxing & Hair

·  Husband’s Fishing Fund – Fuel and boat requirements

·  Doctor’s/Medications

·  Gifts & Unforeseen

·  Living Expenses – Food, Alcohol, Entertainment, Baby Stuff, Fuel, Pool Consumables

·  Savings

Yes there are a lot of items on our spreadsheet however it captures all of the important things!  We have the following bank accounts set up (jointly) in order to manage this budget:

1)      Everyday Living

2)      Planned Expenditures

3)      Payment Account

4)      Savings Account

5)      Child # 1 Account

6)      Child # 2 Account

7)      Credit Card

We set up automatic transfers the day after pay day each month that distribute the budgeted funds into each account and off we go!  I’m not saying we don’t have moments where we splurge a little or slip up, however we try and save those moments for when the bonus comes in each year!

Feel like you need to take back some financial control?  Why not give it a go!  What harm can it do?  It can be scary to action this and see where your money actually goes each month!

If you have any questions regarding setting up a family budget, please don’t hesitate to email me: hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.

Work-Life balance – Can you have it all?

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Do you want to know what I am loving about social media at the moment?  People are starting to share real stories about how they ‘really feel’ and what is really happening in their lives!  People are talking about how things can be hard, how times can be tough and how life can be beautiful and I think it is fantastic!

A topic that is very prominent in our media channels is work-life balance.  Work-life balance is defined as ‘the division of one’s time between working and family or leisure activities.

In this day and age it is sold to us that we can have it all!  We can have the career, the family, the dream house, the car, the holidays, the social life – if we want it, it is there for the taking!  But my question is at what cost? 

From the age of 19 I thought I my career was the be all and end all!  By the time I was 24 I wanted to be working in mining and making over $100k a year – check.  Then I  needed to be a Superintendent by the time I was 26 – check.  Then I needed to be happily married and working towards being a Manager by the time I was 28 – check.  But where was this balance I was also supposed to have?

Between the age of 20 to 28 I was focused on one thing – my career!  I was hard working, relatively good at what I did for a living and willing to give 110%.  I thought I had a great work-life balance and did manage to meet my husband to be, get married and have some fantastic holidays!

Unfortunately, what wasn’t coping well in the background was my mental health.  Balance does not only encompass spending time with family and having a break for a holiday to Coral Bay.  It also entails eating well, taking the time to rest, exercise, mediate, engage with family and friends, making time for your relationships and enjoying life. 

At the age of 28 I learnt this the hard way and was diagnosed with Anxiety.  I was that focused on my career I wasn’t looking after the things that are important like my own health and well-being.  I was working long hours, lacking sleep, stressing/living/breathing work and I didn’t even see it!  My health was affected in a major way and it was a huge shock to the system and a massive wake-up call that has changed my life forever (for the better I might add).

Now when I think about work/life balance and introducing a work element into the mix, I now I think of the following:

1)      What is it and why is it important?

2)      How will this affect my family and I?

3)      How will this benefit my family and I?

4)      Will taking on this extra task impact what is important to me and is it worth it?

What I identify as important:

·  Taking the time to go to a Pilates class, go for a walk, go out for coffee with a friend, have a remedial massage etc;

· My husband and my children (yes, I put me before them because if I don’t function how can I support and be there for them?);

· My extended family and friends;

·  My mental stimulation from work and feeling valued outside of the home.

I do believe you can have it all, but I think having it all comes down to what YOU define as ALL and what YOU define as IMPORTANT!  So go for it! 

It's OK to have 'me time'!

It has been a while since I have posted a blog and a lot has happened during that time!  One of the biggest thing that has occurred is the birth of my son Rory in January of this year (this is a picture of my now family of 4).  Having 2 kids, being a wife, running a household and running a business takes up all of my time as you can imagine!  However, recently it has made me think about ‘me time’. 

I don’t know about you, but when I say the words out loud I feel a bit guilty and a bit selfish.  I also think ‘how can I possibly fit in or prioritise ‘me time’ when there are so many things to do and so many people relying on me to get things done. 

No matter how full on our lives are, it is so important to take time out for yourself and focus on your own personal health and wellbeing.  How can we be the best mother, father, wife, husband, daughter, son, sibling, friend or employee if we do not look after ourselves first?

This can be hard to put into action and with a family, hard to coordinate but it is so important.  I thought I would share a few things I have done for me over the past few weeks that are helping to keep me sane and make me a better version of myself:

·  I have gone out to dinner with some close girlfriends and enjoyed a catch up and some wine!

·  I have taken the time to get a few remedial massages and see Karratha Physiotherapy and Pilbara Physiotherapy to focus on my post-natal care to get back into fitness;

·  I have attending a Meditation Workshop;

· As recently as today I went for a long walk and coffee with a girlfriend after placing my toddler in Day Care for the day!

You may have seen my Sunday night post about my focus this week which is ‘connection’.  For me this is connecting with my family, my friends my clients but also myself.  By taking time out for you, even if it is 30 minutes at the end of the day to read a couple of chapters of a book or have a bath, you are doing yourself a massive favour!

You are not being selfish, you shouldn’t feel guilty, you should feel proud of yourself for looking after your own health and wellbeing.  I would love to hear what you have done for yourself over the last few weeks! Feel free to share!

Organised not OCD - Cleaning Schedule

Here is the next installment of my Organised not OCD tips and tools.  As I have said before, whilst it is not everyone’s natural instinct or desire to be organised, when you are a wife, mother and homemaker I believe you don’t have a choice to at least try some form of organised in your day to day life.  Add working mother, business owner, host to an Au Pair and you time into the mix, and your DEFINITELY don’t have a choice but to but to implement some organisation in your life! 

If you read my previous blog about the family calendar, I also use this tool to write up my weekly/monthly cleaning schedule to have something to follow and tick off.  House work can become very overwhelming as it tends to be the last thing on our list after looking after the kids, outings, activities, meal times etc…  The problem with cleaning is, the longer we leave it, the worst it gets and the more overwhelming it becomes!  Where are the cleaning fairies??? Not at my house I can tell you that!

Keeping with my theme of identifying the benefits of having a cleaning schedule to assist you in being as organised as you can be, let me highlight a few key points:

·         I find cleaning the house can be overwhelming when trying to do everything all in one day!  The benefits of having a cleaning schedule is breaking up each task into days of the week so you are only spending small amounts of time each day cleaning as opposed to hours on end;

·         You remove the feeling of cleaning all day and wasting a weekend inside scrubbing floors.  If you space it out and get it done throughout the week, it has minimal impact on your rest and relaxation time (I’m pretending this exists for mums and dads);

·         By following a schedule, you don’t allow things to get on top of you.  It is so easy for this to happen weather you are a stay at home mum, working mother, or both, it can all pile up.  By taking it bit by bit and following a simple plan, you will keep on top of things (of course only until someone gets struck with a cold!);

·         By itemising each task; you can see how many jobs there are to tick off and also try to task assign some of these jobs.  You may have kids old enough to do some smaller chores, or husbands who are willing to help out;

·         If you are getting the kids involved, try and make a game of it or make it a little interesting.  Depending on the kids ages they may like a pretend mop or broom to ‘help’ you!  Get them to pass you the pegs when you are hanging out the washing, make outdoor jobs fun by cleaning the car as a family and gardening as a family;

·         Sometimes we need to see that we have achieved something each day!  By ticking off at least one household chore, you are giving yourself some recognition that you are not simply surviving in organised chaos.

Example cleaning schedule:

Monday: Clean bathroom/s & do loads of laundry

Tuesday: Clean kitchen & laundry

Wednesday: Dust, vacuum & mop

Thursday: No jobs!

Friday: Change sheets & do loads of laundry

Saturday: Outside chores if required

Sunday: No jobs!

I know this isn’t the most exciting topic, but these are the little things that I believe help with keeping on top of things!

If you have any questions regarding this blog, please don’t hesitate to email on hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Au Pair is home sick - what should we do?

For an Au Pair, the idea of coming to another country to live, work and explore is a very exciting opportunity.  Whilst an Au Pair has made the choice to travel, sometimes to the other side of the world, it can still be very overwhelming upon arrival.  Majority of Au Pairs that join us in the Pilbara Region are about to face the following:

·         Living in a town where English may be their second language;

·         Living out of home for the first time;

·         Living with a family they just met face to face for the first time;

·         Living in a house with a child/children for the first time;

·         Missing special occasions back home like birthday’s, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Christmas, Easter or family weddings;

·         Living away from their parents, friends and support network for the first time;

·         Moving to a climate with a very unique temperature of HOT 24/7;

·         Moving to a town that has a completely different culture to what they are used to;

·         Moving away from their creature comforts!

In light of this, it can basically be expected that at some stage during an Au Pair’s placement, they may experience feeling home sick.  Firstly, to all Au Pair’s – this is completely normal!  I still feel home sick and miss my parents from time to time and I’m a 31-year-old married woman with a child of my own!

As a Host Family, what can you do to support your Au Pair through this period?

·         Firstly, look out for signs – has there been changes in behaviour or mood?  Has your Au Pair withdrawn, become emotional?  Are they eating less?

·         Have you created an environment where your Au Pair is comfortable to come and talk to you?  This is really important.  Admittedly not everyone is a talker, however it is important to make your Au Pair feel comfortable to approach you if they are feeling home sick or to be comfortable enough for you to approach them and ask if they are ok;

·         Be understanding during this period – some people need some space as well to work through things.  Just let them know you are there if needed and don’t put too much pressure on them regarding their work;

·         Make sure you are including them in your family events and activities so they feel part of something, especially around celebratory events;

·         Encourage them to Skype, call and email their family members or even suggest sending them a surprise Australian themed gift pack!

·         Encourage them to engage with other Au Pair’s in the community.  Speak to your friends that have Au Pairs and arrange a BBQ for them to meet and connect.  Also suggest they like and interact on Au Pair groups on Facebook;

·         Remind them it is completely normal to feel this way!

·         Remind them that I am also here for any support as the owner/operator of Pilbara Au Pair Service.

Sometimes all people need is an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.

If you have any questions or comments relating to this blog, feel free to send me an email on hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au

 

 

 

 

When friends become family

Some snaps of my beautiful Pilbara Family x

Some snaps of my beautiful Pilbara Family x

If you have read my previous blogs, you may have come across my blog titled ‘Feeling isolated?  What you can do to help overcome it’. One of the key tips highlighted in this blog was treating your Pilbara friends like your family.  This tip is so important to me and in light of this, made me want to write a blog to share with you focusing on this topic alone.

In the dictionary, a family is described as a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not, or as any group of persons closely related by blood. 

Whilst this is the traditional view of what a family looks like, I believe a family is so much more than just blood relatives.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a beautiful, loving ‘traditional family’ in the form of my parents, my brother Matt with his 2 children, my brother Sam and his partner Mikala, my in-laws, my extended family, my husbands extended family and of course my loving husband and gorgeous toddler Stevie. 

Whilst I am blessed with this loving family, unfortunately we cannot always be together and do not live in the same location that allows us to interact with each other on a daily basis or lean on each other for support.  That is where your ‘Pilbara Family’ come into play!  I believe this is something special and unique in the Pilbara Community and feel blessed to be a part of it.

The bonds you form with people in this region, due to the remoteness and majority of people being in the same boat – living away from their families – is so special and unlike anything I have experienced living in other locations.  Sometimes you find moving to certain towns people can be ‘clicky’ and are happy with their own social group already.  This is definitely not the case here in the Pilbara.

I remember when I first moved to Tom Price, I was 24, single and moving to a remotely location without knowing anyone.  Within my first week of moving to town, I was already invited to the local pub for someone’s farewell drinks, had a couple of guys from work come over and help set up my TV and had been invited over to a girl’s place to make sushi and watch a movie.  I couldn’t believe how welcomed I was. 

Since living in Tom Price, I have resided in Paraburdoo, Karratha and now Dampier and have members of my ‘Pilbara Family’ in my life still to this day from each town.  Living in Dampier now, and seeing my Pilbara Family grow either from new people arriving in town or little bubbas joining their family, reminds me that even though we live away from our traditional family, we can still get the companionship, love, loyalty, compassion and friendship from the beautiful people we are building our lives with.

Each time we welcome an Au Pair into our lives our family grows even bigger.  It is a connection that can last a lifetime with your family and is a significant milestone in everyone’s lives – especially your child/children and your Au Pair’s. 

Open yourself up to the Pilbara Family that is out there waiting for you or remember to reflect on how lucky you are to be part of your current Pilbara Family. 

If you have any questions or comments relating to this blog, feel free to send me an email on hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.  

 

 

Quality time vs Quantity time

Stevie in the bathroom helping mummy get ready for work...

Stevie in the bathroom helping mummy get ready for work...

When I was considering returning to work full time and looking at what hours I would be doing in a day, I started calculating this time in relation to 1) the amount of time I would be away from Stevie, and 2) the small amount of time each day I would actually have with her.

So if she woke at 7am and I had to leave for work at 7:25am, that would give me 25 minutes Monday to Friday each morning.  If I left work at 4:30pm and arrived home at 4:37pm (yes, I was lucky enough to live a 7-minute drive from work), then I would have until 7pm with her, so that would give me 2 hours and 23 minutes.  So basically, from a week day perspective, I would be going from spending 12 hours a day (not including nap times of course) to spending 2 hours and 48 minutes a day with my baby.

Another realisation then hit me – I wasn’t the only person in the house wanting to spend time with Stevie when I got home from work – I would also have to share her with my husband!  Then of course someone had to organise dinner, put on a load of washing and deal with other factors that come into play when running a home. (On a side note, this is where meal planning really helps!)  I couldn’t even think about fitting in any form of exercise or activities that were just for me or my husband!

Thinking of the limited time I was going to be having with Stevie in the week was making me feel incredibly anxious about going back to work, but it also got me thinking – is it really about the quantity of time I am going to be having with Stevie or the quality of time we will spend together. 

I am happy to admit, whilst on maternity leave, most mornings waking up to Stevie crying or calling out made me feel exhausted and gave me that ‘here we go again’ feeling!  It’s not that I didn’t love her or that I didn’t want to get up to her, it’s just that as parents we always feel so tired and it always feels way too early to be getting up!  Gotta love sleep deprivation! 

I would get to Stevie and we would start our morning routine which would involve me feeding her breakfast then letting her play or watch Peppa Pig whilst I cleaned the kitchen, put on a load of washing, made the bed etc. During the day we would attend an activity, either a class or a play date, go home for nap time, then spend the afternoon having play time, tidying the house, preparing dinner and running errands.

By the time her daddy would get home from work, I would feel exhausted and hand her over so I could finish off dinner for my husband and I and prepare dinner for Stevie.  It was then bath, book and bedtime routine before collapsing on the couch! How much of this time in the day was actually quality time? We get so caught up in running a house, running a family and trying to keep on top of everything that sometimes we miss those special, quality moments that connect us with our loved ones.

So I made a promise to myself when returning to work – whilst I wouldn’t have the quantity of time I was used to with Stevie, I would try my best to make the time we had together quality time.  This might have meant that the bed didn’t get made each morning, and that dishes were sometimes left on the sink, but I got to read her one more story before heading off to work, I took my time brushing her hair, I would let her help me put my makeup on in the morning and would give her an extra-long cuddle.  Afternoons became about going for family walks or all jumping in the pool for a swim instead of simply jumping straight into household chores. 

By changing my way of thinking about our time apart and making the time we had more memorable really helped in reducing my anxiety and mummy guilt about being away from my daughter.  Whilst I now only work 2 days a week, I will try and keep myself in the mindset of quality time over quantity time each day – I don’t want to miss important moments or milestones because I am rushing or focusing on household chores!  Sometimes, it’s ok to let things wait. 

If you have any questions about Quality time vs Quantity time, don’t hesitate to send me an email on hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.

I’m about to move to the Pilbara as an Au Pair – what do I pack?

 

Getting organised and packing for your Australian Au Pair adventure is a very exciting time!  You may be unsure of what you will need in Australia to suit the climate, and may be torn with what keepsakes you want to bring with you to remind you of home.

Before you think about what you are going to need and what you would like to pack, I would suggest checking the available baggage allowance with your chosen airline.  There are different weight limits for International flights and Domestic flights.  For example:

·         A Qantas International Flight from Berlin to Perth allows one bag at a weight of 30kg per person;

·         A Qantas Domestic Flight from Perth to Karratha allows one bag at a weight of 23kg per person.

In light of this, you need to consider the following:

·         Is 23kg enough? 

·         Am I happy to pay for excess baggage?

·         Will I be purchasing anything in Australia that I will want to take home?

·         Remember that you may be planning to travel after your placement as an Au Pair – you don’t want to be dragging around too much luggage!

·         Are there things I can buy once I am in Australia that I don’t need to bring from my home country?

Once you have made these decisions, I would recommend packing the following items for you time in the Pilbara region (use this as a guide):

1 x pair of jeans

1 x pair of running shoes and/or flat shoes

2 x pairs of shorts

1 x pair of thongs

3 x t-shirts

1 x pair of high heels

3 x singlets

Underwear

2 x summer dresses (board shorts for men)

Travel documentation (visa,passport etc)

1 x Jumper (pullover)

Mobile phone and phone charger with International adapter

1 x Jacket

Ipad/Laptop and charger with International adapter

2 x going out dresses (going out clothes for men)

Minimal toiletries (you can buy this in Australia)

2 x pairs of Bathers (swimmers/togs)

Any required medication (make sure you have enough for the time you are away)

1 x hat

Camera and charger

It can be difficult looking at the minimal items in your suitcase but always remember, you can purchase any of these items in the Pilbara region and you can also post things home.  This can be expensive but it is an available option.

If you have any questions about my thoughts on what to pack when coming to the Pilbara as an Au Pair, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email on hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.

Organised not OCD - Calender of Events

Here is the next installment of my Organised not OCD tips and tools.  As I have said before, whilst it is not everyone’s natural instinct or desire to be organised, when you are a wife, mother and homemaker I believe you don’t have a choice to at least try some form of organised in your day to day life.  Add working mother, business owner, host to an Au Pair and you time into the mix, and your DEFINITELY don’t have a choice but to but to implement some organisation in your life! 

Everyone is going to think I am working for Kikki-K (I promise you I’m not), but about 4 years ago now, we were given a family calendar http://www.kikki-k.com/16-17-family-calendar-large-cute as a Christmas gift and from then have continued to purchase one every year!  It is kept on the back of our toilet door and our visitors often comment on what an interesting read it is when taking a toilet break at our place.

Keeping with my theme of identifying the benefits of using this as a tool to assist you in being as organised as you can be, let me highlight a few key points:

·         I don’t know about you, but unless I write it down, the likelihood of me remembering an appointment, birthday or social event is zero to none!  I have used different methods in the past as reminders such as recording it in my calendar on my phone, using my email calendar, writing it on a piece of paper, however I have found the best way to keep track of what is coming up is a calendar of events

·         The calendar our family uses gives you the option to right each family members name at the top, has a row for adding in birthdays, and enough room to record all of the important events that are coming up – this way you can keep track of what everyone has on and ensure you don’t over commit!

·         Keep on top of the start and finish dates of your child/children’s scheduled activities including start and finish times as well as the location

·         Look forward to up and coming trips away to Coral Bay and visits from family – it’s great to have a countdown going especially when it is something to look forward too

·         Do you ever get that phone call from your husband asking what is the plan for the weekend?  You sit there and think, ‘I know something is happening but I just can’t remember what it is at the moment!’  It is so easy to simply go and check the calendar and know exactly what is going on

·         Using the calendar isn’t only for highlighting events and birthdays.  Use it to plan out your house work for the week.  Monday – wash floors, Tuesday – clean bathroom, Wednesday – clean kitchen.  When you have such a busy and full on life, things like housework and day to day chores can get on top of you.  Plan it out and even assign different tasks on the calendar to other members of the family

·         If you are hosting an Au Pair, it is a great tool for them to refer to as a reminder for what activities are on during the week for your child/children.  They can also use it to update information on extra babysitting they may be completing or weekends away they have coming up.  This is a great way to make them feel part of the family by including them in the calendar of events

·         Feeling overwhelmed and flat out?  When you look at the month ahead in your calendar, it is a great opportunity to change some plans you have made or book in some family time or even alone time to give yourself a chance to breathe!

Some people may think that updating a calendar is just another task to add to a long list of things to do, but I can promise you if you try it out for a month it will help with the flow and organisation of your family’s routine.

If you have any questions regarding this blog, please don’t hesitate to email on hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.

Does my child want to go to the Au Pair over me?

I don’t know about you, but this was one of my biggest fears when deciding to host an Au Pair.  The thought of my daughter wanting to go to our Au Pair over me when she was sad, when she hurt herself, when she wasn’t feeling well, broke my heart!

It is not something you can be sure will happen, but it is also something you can’t avoid if it does happen.  These are one of the thoughts working parents face when making the decision to go back to work and host an Au Pair for their child care needs. 

I remember thinking, Stevie is going to be spending more one on one time with our Au Pair then me!  She is going to get used to having her around and I am going to be the guest in the house!  What if she thinks our Au Pair is her mum and not me??  All completely irrational thoughts but that didn’t stop them from flooding through! 

If we remove the way it makes us feel as parents and strip it back to the situation at hand, is it really a bad thing?  Yes, we always want our babies to come to us for comfort into the safety of our arms, but isn’t it awesome that they feel so comfortable with your choice in child care, that they rush to them for comfort and reassurance? Doesn’t this mean you have made the right choice and they feel loved and cared for by your Au Pair?

Whilst this can be a tough pill to swallow, and trust me, the first time Stevie went to our Au Pair over me (not that it happens very often to be honest) really did affect me.  I felt like she chose to be comforted by her over me, chose her love over mine, did this mean that she loved our Au Pair more than she loved her own mother??

Of course this isn’t the case!  As I have said before and will continue to say again and again, your child knows who their parents are and nothing can replace the love of a mother or father.   You have simply given them more people who love them and more people for them to love in their life and they access that depending on the timing and the situation. 

It is important not to make your Au Pair feel bad that your child may want to go to them over you from time to time.  Reassure them that you think it is lovely that your child feels so comfortable to go to them in a time of need.

Whenever it happens now, I just think ‘at least this is making her feel better – it is obviously what she needs right now’. Kids do know how to pull at your heart strings and I am still convinced that sometimes Stevie does these things on purpose to punish me for leaving her!  I am sure this is all part of my mummy guilt psyche though haha.

Whilst jealousy is a normal emotion, it is a wasted emotion and can do more harm than good to your own well being.  Try to look at these occurrences in a new light and remember, you are their mummy or daddy and they will always want you.

If you have any questions about jealousy – does my child want to go to the Au Pair over me?  Feel free to send me an email: hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.

people’s perception of working mothers who have an Au Pair

For some reason, we are a society that LOVE to judge each other on the parenting choices people make with their children starting with breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, controlled crying vs attached parenting, co-sleeping vs sleeping in their own cot, and of course stay at home mum vs working mum (the list could go on and on and on!)

Whilst I can appreciate everyone has an opinion on each of these topics, there is a difference in having your own opinion and making judgement on someone else’s personal choices.  I personally couldn’t breastfeed my daughter due to a tongue tie and remember feeling so nervous about pulling out a bottle to feed my baby at my first mothers group meeting.  I shouldn’t have felt bad about this!  I was still nourishing my baby, however I know people judge and as a first time mother, I felt very vulnerable and uncomfortable bottle feeding my baby.

For working mothers, the judging eyes start all over again – not only are you going back to work, but you are then put in a position to choose a child care option for your child. This is a topic EVERYONE seems to have an opinion about.  I am sure we have witnessed, experienced or heard statements such as:

  •  I would never go back to work full time, why even have a child in the first place!
  •  I don’t know how people put their children in day care 5 days a week, they are basically being raised by someone else!
  • I think it’s selfish that she wants to go back to work, she has had her time, it’s about her children now.

Why do we want to judge each other like this?  We need to be supporting each other and appreciating that every family is different and children are all raised in different ways - that’s what makes people unique! 

As you know, my preferred style of child care is hosting an Au Pair.  This works for our family, my daughter and our lifestyle.  It is interesting to hear the comments that people make regarding what their perception of hosting an Au Pair is like.  I have had comments such as:

  • It must be great to have help 24/7
  • You have a permanent baby sitter!
  • How great to have a live in cleaner
  • How do you trust your husband with a teenage girl living in the house?
  • Are you worried that your daughter will get close to your Au Pair and want to go to her over you?

Whilst having help 24/7 would be amazing, this perception is not reality!  Hosting an Au Pair is similar to day care hours. This is what my working days look like with our Au Pair (we have a shared Au Pair arrangement with our Au Pair living with us full time, and looking after our daughter 2 days per week):

Working Days:

My day starts with Stevie waking me up at 7am (sometimes 6:30am but that’s ok)!  I change her nappy, we have cuddles and I get to watch about 3 – 4 episodes of Peppa Pig (lucky me!);

Our Au Pair comes in at 7:30am and takes over from here – she organises breakfast for herself and Stevie and gets her dressed and ready for the day;

I have until 4:30pm to work from home, do my housework (so much easier to do on the days I don’t have Stevie) and a few shop runs;

Once 4:30pm comes along, I get my baby back – Our Au Pair will go to the beach with friends, have Skype dates with her family or chill out until dinner is ready at 6:30pm;

When her daddy comes home we go for a walk as a family.  Whilst I finish dinner off, he feeds and baths Stevie and we complete our night time routine;

Our Au Pair has dinner with us, we all do the dishes and then watch a bit of telly together – that’s about it!

When our Au Pair works with our shared family on the other 3 days of the working week, we will see her for dinner on 2 of the nights and that’s it!  On the weekend, if we happen to require a babysitter we provide notice and book her in, and of course pay her for the additional hours.  Otherwise we offer to include her in any activities we may have on as a guest, not for looking after Stevie. 

It’s great to have another member of the family, but it is important to understand hosting an Au Pair is not like having a full time babysitter or someone to do your housework unless you are prepared to pay additional money for this service.

So to the people that may assume that families that Host Au Pairs have a 24/7 live in nanny, I can assure you that this isn’t the case.  This isn’t to say our Au Pair doesn’t let Stevie sit on her lap when she is eating dinner, that she doesn’t read her a story on the weekend when she is in the lounge room, she loves our daughter!  But this isn’t an expectation, this is a beautiful benefit of hosting an Au Pair.

If you have any questions regarding dealing with people's perceptions of working mothers who have Au Pairs, don't hesitate to email me on hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.

Feeling isolated? What you can do to help overcome it

Whilst there are A LOT of positives about living in the Pilbara, there are times you can feel very isolated and some days alone.  From my experience, when residing and working in Tom Price, Paraburdoo and Dampier, I know many families that have struggled with the challenges that can come with living in a remote town.

Majority of people are away from their family and friends, have moved across the other side of the Country in some cases to towns that don’t offer the same services that bigger cities offer, and dealing with the sometimes tough living conditions that the Australian outback can throw at you.

 For a number of families, the Pilbara town you live in is a temporary location, a 2 – 5-year stopover, before moving to your dream location.  You are up here to do the hard yards, make money and set yourself and your family up for the future.  For other families, the Pilbara has become your home and you couldn’t imagine living anywhere else! (This is definitely the case for my husband!) haha

No matter your reason for being here, you will have tough days where you lose sight of your goals and find it very difficult living in a town that is reading a temperature of 42 degrees outside, whilst you have 2 kids running around the lounge room making a mess as it is too hot to go outside!

For time like these, I implement the following to help me overcome the feeling of isolation:

1.      Build yourself a social network – get out there and make some friends.  There are many avenues to meet people in our Pilbara towns which include:

a.      People at your work or your husbands work – suggest a BBQ

b.      People at your kid’s school or day care – suggest a play date

c.       Social Media – each town has a Facebook Page specific to that area.  Post on there about being new to town and wanting to meet people

d.      Depending on the age of your children, join a mother’s group

2.      Plan a trip out of town every 3 months – this is probably the most important lifesaver for our family since moving to the Pilbara in 2009.  My husband and I have a rule – we will get out of town every 3 months.  This doesn’t have to be to Perth or too far down the road, but a long weekend in Coral Bay, a camping trip at the Islands or a stay at the Eco Beach Resort in Broome really refreshes you!  Trust me, you come back ready to take on anything!  And if after 1 week you are overwhelmed again, you can start the count down for the next trip you have planned in 2.5 months ha-ha

3.      Treat your Pilbara friends like your family – we are all in the same boat!  I can honestly say the friends we have made in the Pilbara will be some of our best friends for life.  They really do become your family and it is so nice to have people to rely on.  I have friends bring me soup when I’m sick, look after my daughter for me if I have an appointment she can’t attend, who I feel comfortable with to sit in front of in my PJ’s surrounded by mess in my house and have a cry – because that’s what friends are for! (You know how you are guys)

4.      Participate in local sporting activities – If you ask my father, I am probably one of the most uncoordinated people in the world haha.  That didn’t stop me from joining a touch football team in Tom Price or mummies netball here in Karratha.  Joining a sporting group is not only great for your fitness, it is doing something for you and meeting new people.

5.      Attend events that the community host – Our shires and local business do a fantastic job of ensuring there are events on in our local communities from markets, to concerts, race days and more!  When something is on in town, make sure you attend!  It is always fun and a great way to meet other members of the community and participate in what is on offer. 

6.      Make your house your home – Majority of families live in a company house.  Whilst this is a great financial benefit for living in the Pilbara I hear so many people say ‘when I get my next house’, ‘I’m not buying a couch to suit this house as it isn’t mine’, ‘this house isn’t decorated to my taste but it is just a company house’. I must admit, when I first moved to Tom Price I had the same outlook… I put in cheaper, minimal furniture and really gave it the ‘transit house’ feel.  This is the quickest way to feel like you are living in someone else’s house and not in your own home.  Get comfortable!  Decorate your place with your things, surround yourself with family pictures and art work, make it really feel like home.

7.      Don’t live each day as if this part of your life is temporary… This is your life, live it! So many people say they are up here to save and to reach their goals.  This is a fantastic place and opportunity for it, however you can’t stay sitting on the couch watching Netflix every night and counting down the days until you are back living on the Sunshine Coast because then you can start living and having fun.  Start now!  Don’t waste any time to live in the moment and enjoy each day.

8.      Be honest with your partner and family and friends back home about how you are feeling – It is ok to be honest with your mum when she calls you and asks how things are going.  Bottling up your emotions will only make you feel worse and let’s be honest, putting on a brave face can be harder than just having a good cry and moving on.  Talk about it with your support network, get some strategies in place and move forward.  You never know, a family member or friend may even jump on a plane and come up and say hi!

9.      Utilise Skype and Face Time to stay in touch with Family and Friends back home – I thought one of the hardest things about having my first baby whilst living in the Pilbara was being away from my family and friends to share the precious milestones with.  Thanks to technology it isn’t anywhere near as hard as I thought it would be! We Skype Nanny and Poppy every second day and have started an ICloud share album to post daily pictures of Stevie to see how she is growing and developing.  The family love it!

10.  Remember that it’s ok to have a bad day!  You would have them even living in a city with your mum residing 15 minutes down the road.  We are only human.

If you have any questions about feeling isolated and what you can do to help overcome it, don’t hesitate to email me: hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.    

What can I do for fun in the Pilbara?

When people first arrive in a Pilbara town there are a number of initial thoughts…. Where the hell am I? It’s the middle of nowhere! It’s soooo hot…. And of course, what do people do here besides work and sleep?

I am sure you have heard the saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’- well that sums up initial impressions of the Pilbara perfectly!  We are not in a major Capital City, we don’t have huge shopping complexes, large indoor cinemas, access to Broadway shows, constant concerts or millions of fine dining restaurants.  We do however, in my opinion, have so much more on offer than that! 

1)      Camping – roll out a swag and sleep under the stars!  Enjoy roasting marshmallows around a campfire and share stories with friends and family

2)      Fishing – The Pilbara Region boats some of the best fishing spots in the world!  Whether you are interested in recreational fishing, game fishing or simply catching squid or crabs, this is the place to do it!

3)      4-wheel driving – We are surrounded by red dirt and a terrain that is perfect for 4-wheel driving adventures!  If you haven’t done this before you have to give it a go – so much fun!

4)      Water Sports – Not available in every Pilbara town but will only be a short drive away.  Try Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Kayaking, Jet Skiing, Diving, Spear Fishing and snorkelling

5)      Prospecting – Whilst the gold rush is long and gone, there are still traces of it to be found in our beautiful region.  Go on adventure and see what you can find

6)      Walking Adventure Trails – We are surrounded by famous National Parks and breathtaking landscapes.  Dedicated walking trails are mapped out all across the region.  Grab a map and start exploring.

7)      Pannawonica Rodeo – Interested in a weekend of entertainment with bucking bull competitions and horse shows?  Attend the annual Pannawonica Rodeo!  You can even camp of the Rodeo grounds! Fun for all ages.

8)      Horse Race Days in a number of Pilbara and Kimberly Towns!  Every year there are a number of race days across the region.  Go place some bets, get dressed up and enjoy some champagne!

9)      Events that come to our towns or hosted by local businesses such as, The Fenacle Festival, The Melbourne Comedy Festival, Red Dog Relay, Beats in the Heat Music Festival and much more!

10)  Weekends away to Coral Bay, Exmouth, Gnaraloo Station, Broome, with many more stunning places to explore! I encourage you to google these places – trust me, what the look like in the pictures is exactly what they look like in real life…. paradise!

Get outdoors!  See what the ‘real Australia’ has to offer!  You don’t want to come to Australia and experience things that you can see in any capital city around the world, you want to come and experience things unique to Australia’s outback and culture. 

If you have any questions on what you can do for fun in the Pilbara, feel free to contact me: hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au. We hope to see you soon!

Organised not OCD – The benefits of Meal Planning

This weeks meal plan!

This weeks meal plan!

When asking people who know me well to describe me, a word that continually comes up is organised (ok some people describe me as having OCD but I’m sure they are just joking). 

I have always been someone that loves order, and to be honest, having a plan in place seriously relaxes me!  I can appreciate this isn’t for everyone, and sometimes I do envy the ‘take each day as it comes’ approach to life…. even though it gives me anxiety!

Whilst it is not everyone’s natural instinct or desire to be organised, when you are a wife, mother and homemaker I believe you don’t have a choice to at least try some form of organised in your day to day life.  Add working mother, business owner, host to an Au Pair and you time into the mix, and your DEFINITELY don’t have a choice but to but to implement some organisation in your life! 

I will be covering off on some simple organisation tools in my blogs under the ‘organised not OCD’ banner, that I use in my day to day life, in order to share some tips that may assist you and your family.  The first topic I will be covering is The benefits of meal planning.

I have been writing a weekly meal plan for at least 5 years now.  Every Sunday morning, I sit down after breakfast with my meal planner pad and my shopping list notebook and get to work!  I flip through my recipe folder that has all of the recipes of I pulled out of magazines over the years, look at some of my favourite recipe books (I am a HUGE Donna Hay fan!) and ask for requests from the family.    (In case you are reading this and wondering what meal planner I use, I love the Kikki-K planner: http://www.kikki-k.com/a4-meal-planner-pad-love-food, however you can also get some awesome planners at K-Mart for only $3.00 http://www.kmart.com.au/product/kitchen-meal-planner/876311)!

I write out a meal option for each night of the week and write up my shopping list to ensure I have all of the ingredients ready to go for each meal.  I have a rule for week night cooking – no meal should take longer than 30 minutes! 

I also include breakfast items for the week i.e.: cereal Monday – Friday and Bacon and Eggs on weekends, as well as lunch and snack ideas such as shaved leg ham for sandwiches, fruit, chips, and yoghurt.

Living such a busy lifestyle, I find the benefits of meal planning to include:

·         Coming home from a busy day and not having to think about what to cook!  I just check the meal plan each morning, take the required meat out of the freezer to defrost in the day, and get cooking when I get home;

·         By ensuring I pick recipes that only take 30 minutes to cook on weeknights, I know I am not going to be spending wasted time and energy in the kitchen when I could be spending time with my family;

·         It helps you stick to a budget – I don’t know about you, but if I went to the shops every day to buy items for dinner that night, I would always come home with extras things I didn’t need.  This all adds up!  By doing a weekly meal plan, I only need to go to the shops outside of my Sunday shopping routine when I need more milk and bread.

·         Ensures your family are eating a balanced diet and stops you from resorting to takeaway more than you need to.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good takeaway dinner – McDonalds and Dampier Chinese would have to be my favs!  However, this isn’t always the healthiest or most affordable option when consumed multiple times a week.  Add a treat night to your meal plan on a fortnightly or monthly basis, but try and stick to cooking things at home that your family will enjoy!

·         You get to try new recipes!  It does help that I enjoy cooking, but I must say I love trying new things and serving them to my family to enjoy.  Ok so they don’t always turn out, but I believe food is love and brings people together and it is a great thing to show and share with your children;

·         You don’t waste food!  You are not buying items you don’t end up using as you are only purchasing the ingredients you need for each dish that week;

·         Don’t feel like Chicken Schnitzel with whole potato, sour cream and a cob of corn tonight (my all-time favourite home cooked meal!), swap your Monday dish with your Thursday dish – all the ingredients are there!

·         Makes your grocery shop so much easier and more organised!  You are not aimlessly roaming up and down each isle and putting things in your trolley that you don’t need.  You have a plan, you have a list – make a game of it – try and see if you can get through your entire shop without adding anything extra in your trolley.  Hard when shopping with toddlers trust me! 

·         When your partner calls and asks you what’s for dinner and can he have a mate over, you can easily check the planner and see what’s on that night and if you can stretch it out to feed a few more people.  I always tend to cook for a family of 8 but am only feeding my husband, our Au Pair, my daughter and myself so this is never an issue in our house J.

Why not give it a go!  Here is a photo of my meal plan for the week.  I’m no chef, it’s not fancy, but it makes me feel organised and on top of things which I believe is the key to obtaining balance in a crazy life!

If you have any questions regarding meal planning, please don’t hesitate to email me: hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.

Sharing your living space with another person

One of the most common questions I get asked from people regarding the hosting of an Au Pair is ‘how do you handle living with someone else?’ This was definitely a question my husband and I asked each other when we were considering hosting an Au Pair as a child care option. 

For a lot of families, including us, has you residing in a humble 3 bedrooms, one-bathroom house.  If you are a family of 2 parents and 2 children, this space feels cramped all ready, let alone introducing another adult into the mix! 

Space isn’t the only concern families have however… People like their privacy, they enjoy their own space and alone time, and they worry about how the dynamics of day to day life can change and impact what has been working well in the household to date.

From my perspective, it is about changing the way you view this situation and look at why you are considering hosting an Au Pair in the first place – you believe it is the best child care option for you and your family!  Here are my top 5 recommendations to consider when you are contemplating the question ‘how do I share my living space with another person?’

1)      This is not a permanent decision!  You are not deciding to live with another person forever! This is for a placement period of 6 months!

2)      What can you learn from this experience?  Trust me, as the adults of the house we have learnt a lot so far such as the importance of sitting at the dining table as a family for dinner each night.  Before hosting an Au Pair, my husband and I would put our daughter to bed, get dinner sorted and sit in front of the TV using the coffee table to balance our plates.  Since having an Au Pair, we enjoy our evening meal together at the table and actually communicate and enjoy our meal!  We have learnt how to share our space, it’s ok for someone to sit in your place on the couch every now and then!  We have learnt how our parents must have felt when having a young adult in the family home (let’s just say the phone is always glued to them haha) – a taste of what’s to come!

3)      What can your child/children learn from this experience? I don’t know about your kids but my daughter LOVES having people over!  It’s like a constant source of entertainment!  Your children get to experience what it’s like to have an older brother or sister, having a roommate, and it is a great opportunity to teach them boundaries and the importance of peoples personal items and space.

4)      This is a cultural exchange programme!  What an amazing opportunity to experience how other people live day to day, what they eat, what they find entertaining, what is ‘the norm’ in their household.  It is amazing to see how some of us are so similar yet so different at the same time! 

Our lovely Au Pair Pia cooking us a German feast - she hates cutting onions haha!

Our lovely Au Pair Pia cooking us a German feast - she hates cutting onions haha!

5)      Still worried about the space?  Here are a couple of options/ideas for you:

a.      Whilst it can be a little crowded at times, it is not like everyone is always at home together at the same time!  We live in a busy, social society and are always coming and going.  With the room you provide your Au Pair in the house, ensure there is a TV/DVD player so they have the opportunity to escape and have their own time which in turns, give you time with your immediate family;

b.      Treat them as a member of the family!  It is amazing the shift in your thinking and approach to having an Au Pair reside with you if you treat them as part of the family.  Don’t treat them as a guest, be yourself and enjoy the experience;

c.       Set some guidelines and boundaries.  Think about how you can make it work for you and your family.  Do you want to ensure you have some private time with your partner on the couch at 9pm each night, then talk about this! 

d.      Do you have space on your property for a caravan?  Another option can be to look at accommodation options on your property for your Au Pair so you each get your own space;

e.      Can you build a granny flat? This is what my husband and I did.  We converted our carport into a granny flat with a room, kitchenette and bathroom.  This not only adds value to our property, but also provides our Au Pair with their own living space.  In saying that, we still hang out together in the afternoons, eat dinner together as a family and watch MasterChef in the lounge room!

I’m not saying there won’t be teething difficulties for both parties, sharing your space with anyone can be a challenge (I struggle with my husband at times haha!).  I can honestly say though, I enjoy having our Au Pair live with us and feel we grow every day from the experience.

If you have any questions in regards to sharing your living space with another person, please feel free to send me an email: hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.

Suffering from the Mummy Guilt’s?

I still remember the restless night’s sleep I endured after making the decision to return to work following the birth of my daughter Stevie.  I accepted a full time, Monday to Friday role, when Stevie was 11 months old and I still think it was the hardest decision I have ever made. 

I experienced so many different emotions and differing levels of anxiety at the thought of someone else looking after our daughter.  How could I possibly trust anyone to look after her the way I do?  How will they know what she wants and needs when she can’t even talk yet?  What if something happens to her when I’m not there, it will be all my fault!  Is the money really worth it?  Why am I doing this, and so on and so forth. 

When I was offered the opportunity to return to work after taking 12 months’ maternity leave, I was lucky enough to be offered a promotion and a pay increase, which, after almost 12 years in my field, I thought I deserved and worked hard for.  As a first time mum, I found it really hard to admit that the opportunity excited me!  What would people think of me…. Choosing to go to work whilst someone else looked after my child… That is when major mummy guilt set in!

Returning to work in any form brings out the mummy guilt monster, and also raises the most important question – who will look after my child when I am not there?  My husband and I had discussed child care options when we were pregnant and always agreed that if I was to return to work for 3 days or more, our preference would be to host an Au Pair.  We didn’t feel comfortable having our daughter in day care 5 days a week and disturbing her routine when this was a choice we were making.  This is not to criticise families who have chosen day care as an option, I know a lot of families that have and their children love it!  This was simply our personal choice.

The first few weeks were the hardest… Leaving the house in the morning to my daughter crying and pulling at my legs for me to stay… I was heartbroken!  For a period of time there, both of our days started in tears!  My mummy guilt’s eventually became slightly worse as I was actually enjoying being at work!  How dare I enjoy myself when I am away from my daughter whilst someone else is looking after her!

Whilst all of these feelings are normal, us mum’s need to stop being so hard on ourselves!  We shouldn’t feel guilty for supporting our family financially, we shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying being the person we were before we added mummy to our role description, and we definitely shouldn’t feel guilty and think we are negatively impacting the health and well being of our children! 

What we should be thinking and what I told myself is this:

I am a positive role model for my daughter;

I am not negatively impacting my daughter and let’s be honest, how old were you when you remember your first memory… I was about 5 years old;

I am teaching my daughter independence from her parents;

I am enriching my daughter’s life by exposing her to other cultures and people who love her (our Au Pair’s);

I will not worry about what other people’s opinions are as we have made this choice for OUR family;

I am supporting our family financially so we can set up children up for the future;

I will focus on measuring the quality time I have with my daughter instead of the quantity.

All I can say is it does get easier!  You will still have your tough days… I think the toughest one I had was the first day Stevie waved ‘bye bye’ to me smiling and ran off as if this was the norm.  The mummy guilt monster came back with a vengeance – she doesn’t love me anymore, she doesn’t need me anymore!  None of this is true of course… Your children will always know who their mummy is and how much they are loved.

Welcome to Pilbara Au Pair Services!

Connecting families, Au Pairs and the Pilbara.

I am very excited to officially launch Pilbara Au Pair Services and share information with you on up and coming services that will be available very soon!  I am very passionate about my family, living in the Pilbara and utilising an Au Pair for my own child care needs.  I hope you join me in my journey and benefit from what Pilbara Au Pair Services has to offer. 

On Monday 6th June 2016, I will be open for Au Pairs to register for a Full Time or Shared Au Pair Placement.  To celebrate the launch, any Au Pair that registers in the month of June will only have to pay a $50.00 AUD registration fee!  That is a $300.00 AUD Placement Fee saving!

Pilbara based families will also be able to access my Additional Services option from the 6th June 2016 which will allow me to support you with assistance and support of you have engaged an Au Pair outside of an agency.

On Monday 4th July 2016, I will be open for Pilbara Families to register for a Full Time or Shared Au Pair Placement.  Families can continue to express their interest to me via email.  

Effective Monday 1st August 2016, I will be offering a Babysitting Service!  Allow me to coordinate a babysitter for your night out through an Au Pair in our Pilbara Region!

And last but not least, on Monday 5th September 2016, I will be launching its After Hours Service to support families who need assistance with pick up and drop off to day care and school due to work or personal commitments.

For further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at hayley@pilbaraaupairservices.com.au.