Cristy Burne


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The struggle to juggle; the joy of letting go

I was never turned on by recipes and shining bathrooms.

Dishes were washed once a day, clothes about once a week. I unearthed the vacuum cleaner at most twice a year. When bored of cooking the stand-by spaghetti bolognaise, I’d toast a cheese sandwich or eat out. I was too busy to feign interest, too interested in other things. I was focused on drafting queries, selling articles, going diving or mountain biking or planning trips… I wondered how other people could be so interested in cook books and tupperware.

But oh, how the un-housewife-ly have mutated.

Farewell to the otherly me

I am now a stay-at-home mum. I am stripped of many of the things I used to care about (work deadlines, work politics, work earnings, work) and must fill my days with something else.

Of course Fergus is a big (and delightful)(and gifted and talented)(and did I mention lovely?) part of that something else. But in the hours when he’s playing, it’s easier to be hovering and hoovering than furthering the strategic planning of my business empire.

I’m not moaning about staying at home. It’s an enormous privilege to be here to see Fergus smile and struggle and spew and grin. But I do lament the loss of the otherly me, the me who worked hard at school and university to create a career I loved, the me who was good at her job.

My (short-lived) valiant attempt: Super-Mum

For the last couple of weeks, since arriving back in Australia, I’ve felt the loss of this otherly me quiet keenly. I guess I half-expected life would return to ‘normal’ now we’re not jet-setting around the world on a never-ending honeymoon.

But there is no normal now. Fergus is rubbish at mountain biking and scuba diving and he’s certainly not conducive to the completion of any task requiring more than 45 minutes of my undivided attention.

For a while I tried to deny the change. I tortured myself trying to juggle my old life and my new life and I got more and more tense and felt more and more boxed in. It really wasn’t working. (I scored “8” on the post-natal depression questionnaire and was too scared to ask “out of what?”)

So this week I’ve given up.

Choosing to drop the ball

This week, I’ve ditched all thought of returning to work or spruiking for freelance contracts and instead I’ve embraced Being A Mum. I decided not to feel guilty that I was staying home and not contributing to the household income and not growing my career. Instead I took Fergus to Rhyme Time at the local library and we sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with all the actions. And I vacuumed the house. And today I actually opened a recipe book AND cooked something from a recipe!!!

And you know what?

It tasted good! All of it. Fergus loves Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The house looks great without dog hair everywhere. And although I won’t cook chicken broccoli casserole again (perhaps a little bland), it was kind of fun to prepare and I felt kind of proud to serve it up to my in-laws (who thought it was very good :-)).

So now I’m beginning to understand why people take so much care in their cooking and pride in their homes. It’s not scuba diving or mountain biking, but it is fun and delicious and satisfying. And, lucky for me, most of it takes less than 45 minutes of undivided attention 🙂

And the funny thing is, now that I’m not stressing about how to fit so much in, I seem to have more time. Hopefully, all going to strategic-business-plan, I should begin a weekly Fergus-free writing slot, starting next week (no really! starting Tuesday, I promise!). I’ll miss Fergus for the few hours that I’m neck-deep in words and plots and imaginary adventures, but all that stuff is a part of the otherly me that is too precious to give up completely (and plus I really need to get a move on with the next Takeshita Demons book!).

I bite my thumb at physics

And as a final thought: it’s a real bummer that women have to choose between family and career, it’s really rotten and a mean trick. I know there are other ways and exceptions and all that, but for the most part “1” (family) + “1” (career) just cannot equal “2”.  Bollocks to you, physics!


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Snugglepot and Who-dlepie?

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May GibbsYou know how sometimes you have a belief in something, a something so basic it helps you make sense of the world…

Well don’t count on it.

The awful truth…

I’ve just had a tiny faith ripped away, a belief so set-in-concrete I took it for granted, something that needed no champion because it was so blindingly obvious.

Or at least, I thought it was.

This thing was my belief in the global love of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

***Never heard of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie?
Read on because you’re missing out!

I have always assumed that everyone must know of May GibbsSnugglepot and Cuddlepie. Such a fabulous wondrous storybook must surely have sailed through the hurdles of culture and language to be loved all over the world.

This was certainly the case for us. My sisters and I grew up on a green New Zealand farm, far from the sunburnt country of my Australian mother’s childhood.

But never too far: Mum always read to us of naughty koalas, bad-tempered puddings and, of course, brave and hilarious and exciting and utterly delightful gumnut babies.

Snugglepot and Cuddle-who?

But…at a writers’ event in the UK, I realised (right in the middle of my talk) that when I spoke of big bad Banksia Men and Little Ragged Blossom, no one had the foggiest idea what I was talking about.

And the attendees weren’t just ordinary people; they were librarians! And still they had never heard of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie!?!

Surely not???

I was dumbstruck, dumbfounded, open-mouthed, gob-smacked.
What’s going on!?!?!

As kids, alongside our Australian and New Zealand adventures we’d also read of Paddington Bear and Peter Rabbit and Ratty and Mole and Winnie the Pooh; surely British kids must have been reading of the Muddle-headed Wombat and Mrs Snake and Mr Lizard and Bunyip Bluegum and the Noble Society of Puddin’ Owners?

And so the question:

What’s with this one-way flow of stories, UK people? I thought we were part of the glorious Commonwealth, and that having the Queen on the back of my pocket money meant she was looking our way, at least occasionally.  (What’s it like in the US? Anyone there heard of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie?)

When our kids grow up and get backpacks and working holiday visas, they’ll be cruising the world and experiencing new places and meeting new people. Why make them wait till then?