Women and emotional health – lets work together


helpI’ve only had one mentor in my working career. When we got to the third session I veered off into private world territory and they quickly reminded me we are not hear to talk about that. Safe to say session four didn’t get a look in.

When Nicola Roxon was announced as the Federal Attorney General a while back I expressed my admiration for her via twitter. The only response I received was from a friend correcting the spelling of Nicola’s surname. Nothing worse than promoting yourself as a writer that cant spell.

When Nicola announced her resignation I took to my phone wanting to express the same admiration but I couldn’t find the words. There are a lot of old woman in shopping centres reminding the parents who wander around in a daze that they grow up too soon. That the time spent teaching them the little things will move past in a blur and we will find ourselves telling the next generation to slow down, it moves too fast.

Working Mums Masterclass announced their mentor list for 2013 and my little picture takes pride of place on that page. Penny, who owns WMM, listened to the career I’d had and the experiences I’d survived as a mum and asked me to work with mums, to promote good mental health and to explore the challenges of teetering on the edge of that old chestnut, the work/life balance. To be honest the balance isn’t possible. Not just because of the multitude of responsibilities that pull us in every direction but because the playing field changes on a daily basis. We can’t balance out what we can’t predict, all we can do is learn some skills to develop resilience, to look after our minds and to find ways to move forward.

For me, when I first became a mum the work/life balance was non existent. I worked and then looked after my girl. There was little space for a life in between that and to be honest it was my saviour. My chance to be in the workforce, to be more me than I could be at home, to earn and provide for my daughter and to feel good that I was achieving even if it was just writing policy documents that would never see the light of day.

Fast forward five years and the arrival of my son saw me playing a whole different ball game. Acknowledging the busy-ness of the kids, the need to reassess my career and the teetering across the slippery slope of change pushed me out in to areas where some days it was more life than work and vice versa. It suits me to mix it up. I’m not on the see-saw anymore, I think I’m on that thing that spins so fast it takes a day for your eyes to adjust.

Nicola’s heartfelt speech, her acknowledging about how much time would be lost if things didn’t change was comforting and sad at the same time. I did think for a fleeting moment  but she’s has given up so much because the work that would have been required to get to the role would have been immense but on the flip-side the option to do what you love and be home for the good stuff is just as valid. Its also her playing field now, not forever.

Reaching out to people who recognise what playing field you are on, what you need to keep you out there or conversely what you need to take a break is what mentors do. Work/life balance gets thrown out there in most articles about women and careers. Balance doesn’t have to be a dirty word, it can be the key to making choices you never thought you had.

Click here to make an appointment with me.

Have you ever had a mentor? Was it a positive experience? 


Frankie says…Choose Life (a guest post)

Lisa from Giving Back Girl responded to my plea that I was lost for words. Writing for uni and freelancing with tight deadlines can do that to a person. Im word spent.

Here she is talking about her space in between. I love her writing and I love that we have carved a friendship out of a chance meeting and a few online shenanigans. Follow her blog here or her twitter feed here,  or just send a big fat Like out to the universe if social media isn’t your thing.

And as Molly Meldrum would say…do yourself a favour (and have a read and share)


My mum died when I was 28, she was 55.  Hers was an unhappy life, and even though I like to think that she adored my sister and I, and would have walked over hot coals for us, I think she may have even been a little disappointed in us.  And let me just get the record straight, I loved my mum and would have walked over coals for her without flinching.  But this isn’t about that.  Or maybe it is.

I have a crazy-detailed memory.  My life memory is like a whole series of mini movies that I can replay at will, to see what I was wearing or eating or doing.  But there is a period of my life where my memory movies are dark, I don’t replay them often, perhaps when I’m with my sister and too many pinot gris’s have been consumed and we feel we need to talk about our “stuff”.  Because I saw things that frankly a child should never, ever have to see.  And I lived my life in a way that no child should have to live.  There was nothing sinister, just negative and destructive, snipping away at any chance I had of a normal childhood.

There was a period when my mum was in a hospital (I’ll pause while you fill in the blank about the kind of hospital it was) when my powers of memory decided that “no, this is not something we’re going to save”, and my memory thankfully deserted me.  I have no memory of that time, just an occasional bleep.  The power of my consciousness to protect me still intrigues me.

But what amazes me most is my adult reaction to my life, when I think back on it.  You see, I could have chosen to be a victim, to drape myself in a cloak of self pity, to wallow in my memories.  I could have let my childhood experiences shape my future, to manipulate my relationships.  I could have dragged it around all my adult experiences like an unwanted suitcase that you can’t get rid of.  I could have worn a name badge with a “Hi I’m Lisa and I’m damaged”.

But I didn’t.

I chose to not let my childhood experiences have any impact or influence on my life, the life that I’m in control of.   They are part of me and always will be, but I have come out of this as a survivor, someone who has chosen a “happy life” and chosen not to be a victim.

I am not a victim, I am in control of what I choose to do with my childhood experiences.

And I choose to remember the good memories.

I choose to remember how clever mum was, of the shape of her fingernails, of how she loved when I got promoted in a job, of loved the weather, and watching big seas. Now I always pick up shells from the beach, because she taught me to do that.  I love that I share “Grandma” memories with my three young boys even though they never met each other, so I have given her a personality, quirky and a little kooky, which she was, and which my boys love.  I love that my eldest looks like me, and that I look like my mum, and that somehow we’re keeping that part of our gene pool going.  I know that my Mum would have been so proud of me for creating my beautiful boys, and for taking a gamble on a career path that she would have loved to have done herself.

My space in between is a little special, because even though I could choose to take on a role as a “victim”, I unconsciously wanted no part of that.  Maybe I was a little exhausted from it all, and craved normality and happiness, or maybe I knew how destructive that could be on all the things I wanted in my life.  And I think this choice has done something a little magical to my relationship with my mum.  I miss her dreadfully.  I love her dearly.  And I have regrets that we didn’t have a second chance at life together.



Saying no, to being a victim is a powerful thing. Having worked in the ‘victims’ field for eons Ive seen how the move away from promoting resilience, how buying in to labels, letting the world and all its darkness take you away from seeing the light is something that is not helpful.

I also like that through my blog I get to see the little bits of peoples lives.

What did you think of Lisa’s space in between…whats yours?

baby faces

I loved this list from the late, great Nora Ephron. I think I have seen ‘When Harry Met Sally’ 72000 times.

It got me thinking what Id put on my list. It got me thinking about the anti-bucket list I developed last year. It also got me thinking about the impact parenting has on me.

Its Red Nose Day today here in Australia. Chrissie Swan wrote a lovely, eloquent piece on what she remembers from being a kid when she first released that people sometimes lose their kids. I was watching a TV show last night and my girl was perched on the side of the lounge. How is it that there can be 3 other seats available but kids have to sit right ON you? The story was about a mum who lost her little boy to SIDS last year. My daughter sobbed for about half an hour after the story – she asked to go in and check on her own brother to make sure he was OK. I kept asking her to talk to me while also thinking why the hell did I let her watch with me – but like Chrissie said I dont know how you hide the world from your kids – do you shield them from it hoping to keep all the yucky stuff out or do you open it all up for them to peer in to. Being asked questions that start with ‘why’ mean that I always stumble for an answer, because after 10 years working in the grief world there will never be an answer for those questions. I talked to her about life and love and we made a list of things that we should be grateful for, the things that will stick out when we’re old and wrinkly, the things that wont even rate…it went something like this.

Wont miss

Waking up early for swimming


Homework (that was me)

Bad Coffee

Bossy people



Merit awards

Friends, best friends


Laughing  until your tummy hurts

Uno (or Unit as my girl calls it)


I calmed her down and she opted to sleep in my bed until I popped her into hers later on. I carried those big, lanky limbs out of my room, around the corner to her bed filled with 100 toys and tucked her in. The face still looks like the baby I used to stare out, like most mums I held my breath after both my babies had started sleeping through the night worried as I stepped in the room that something dreadful had happened during the night. I still check on all the kids at random times through the night. Watching. Waiting. Admiring (and secretly relishing the quiet)

You can donate to SIDS and KIDS or to River’s Gift or just raise awareness where you can. Cliched as it as, hold your bubs tight, talk to them openly and wipe away the tears when they learn that it isnt all rainbows. Im not sure if I tell my kids too much, I also know that I cant take away their empathy for other people. I figure its better to have it, than not.

Share this post if you think that coping with loss is about sharing the message.

Whats on your hit and miss list?


I am Julia Roberts…

In that movie Stepmom – except for the whole Susan Sarandon dying thing.

Ive been in a bit of a funk this week, all these thoughts swirling around my head about turning half way to 70. Yes, I have the tendency to catastrophize. Doesnt everyone?

I get stressed each May. Its a month of memories – some not so nice. I outrun them most of the time but then some days they catch up with me. I decided I was just going to treat today as a great day – I was going be grateful for my little family who made me brekkie, wrote me cards and let me sleep in…til 9!!!

I dont talk here much about my life as a step mum – its a private world full of contradictions, of highs and lows and its probably the hardest job Ive ever taken on – without even having a clue about how hard it was going to be. Its hard to split yourself between 4 people – 2 who dont understand my little quirks all of the time, 1 who is just a replica of me (and strangely has the same quirks) and a little man who donks everyone in the head with Thomas trains. He has quirks – we just haven’t claimed ownership of them yet.

This morning as I was swanning around in a haze of presents, FB messages and drop ins my phone rang and I missed the call.

When I looked back I realised it was my step daughter.

It was her call I had missed.

I rang her back and heard her little 12 year old voice on the end of the line, she cleared her throat and sang me happy birthday.

I think we’ll be alright – the 6 of us.

Im Linking up with Maxabella Loves 52 Weeks of Grateful this week…pop over here and read some of the other posts x



The backstory

image from here

I was reading an article while my boy slept on the backstory authors have in the process of writing a book. The little pieces that get you to the point where you are ready to begin the story-telling.

I can remember a few months back when I talked about people’s little bio’s. The little snippets of themselves they give in three sentences or less when they meet someone new. Im thinking of starting a new one as I discovered this week that someone typed into google ‘can a baby be born in space’ and found my blog. Astronaut is the new addition to my bio.

Both blogging and life often start with a backstory. A reason to explain where you are, how you arrived here and what you’ve got to say about it. I notice that most of the time when people start a blog its born out of something that happened to them that shapes them into the writer they are today. Some of the backstories come from places of trauma and sadness, of the need to overcome adversity or just an attempt to make meaning from their loss. Sometimes in the sharing of the backstory the unravelling of what brought them to that moment becomes clearer.

I was having a text chat with an old friend (because who has time to actually speak on the phone??) and we were talking about the over-sharing phenomenon that happens to certain people. Having a social work degree doesnt always extend to after business hours but the listening skills you develop mean that if someone is going to make a graphic disclosure about their backstory at the park, at the dinner party or waiting in line at the supermarket its going to be us. I dont have the heart to stop people even when Im late or tired or all full of other peoples stories. The backstory share is the challange of a kind face Im told.

I think when stuff happens that make life more difficult we tend to get frozen to that time. Its as if our lives become the before and then the after and the space in between becomes the material for the backstory that impacts on the stories we are telling now.

Does your backstory impact on the one you’re telling now? Do you share it with other people?


The Kings (and cherubs)

Some times I just dont get it. And by it I mean life. I dont understand why some people have to face so many heartaches and so many challenges. I was reading Naomi’s blog the other day and noticed a few people talking about Lisa King, so I jumped over to her blog and was struck by the beautiful picture of her with her husband and her four kids on the beach. I used to work with families who had littlies with disabilities – Id help out during arsenic hour with cleaning and dinner and baths and books. It was probably the most useful two hours of my day. Having kids of my own makes me remember those little families even more because my kids are healthy and well and yet I still struggle some days.

Lisa lost her husband Aaron last week, four months after she lost her 10 year old son Noah. In the blink of an eye he was gone and she has been writing and I guess wrestling with the reality of that moment in time ever since. She takes beautiful photos and has been recording the time since Aaron died for both herself and her three boys. One of the images was of her holding her husbands hand during her last visit to the funeral home the day before the service. I wept as I read her thoughts and I wondered how after years of parenting kids together how she would curl up in bed at night without the warmth of her husband beside her.

Naomi put out a call to other people who read her blog as so many wanted to help but didnt know how…in the week of collecting, the figure has skyrocketed showing that the urge we all have to help is so strong.

I often wonder when stuff happens how is the best way to help, the money, the thoughts, the food…they all help in some ways but I guess that stirring inside us to cry tears for people we will never meet is the most amazing part because it shows that you dont have to live next door to create a sense of community – caring can be done from afar.

Jump over here if you want to donate but also send your thoughts – it could happen to anyone, but how sad that it had to happen to her, again.

From tutus to two babes….a TSIB interview

Well! I’m having a bit of a run of goodluck with lovely people offering to be interviewed by me for a TSIB interview.

This week, just like last week, we have a blogger talking about her space in between. I actually got in touch with Amy about her call out for guest posts and then in a generous twist she ended up saying yes to having a chat about the impending arrival of a new bub to join her little (and big) man.

Take a break and if, like Amy, you’re about ready to pop eat some snacks and put your feet up. Here she is…

Ames…tell me a bit about you

I’m a stay at home mum to lufflump, who is turning three this year, and ready to give birth to sesame hopefully around her due date in early March. I live in Brisbane with my boyfriend, the mister, who works in hospitality while applying for the air force.

You’re coming up to the end of your second pregnancy. I remember before having my second babe that I was fine until the home stretch when I suddenly remembered about the birth…how are you managing?

So far this pregnancy has been so different to my last breezy pregnancy where I often forgot I was actually pregnant. I can’t wait for it to be over but at the same time I’m petrified about having a newborn and a toddler around the house. The birth doesn’t really bother me as I know the feelings after birth so will be using that as motivation to get through it all nicely. All babies are so different but I’m hoping that sesame will be a happy baby like lufflump was, that’ll make it easier to manage two children.

What about that space between your son going from being an only child to a big brother. Are you sad about what that means in terms of you having to share yourself with another small person?

I’m sad as this was an(other) unexpected pregnancy, we wanted to wait until lufflump was in prep (two years away) until we had another baby. At the same time though I’m excited. He’s at the age where he is happy to help, can to an extent but still wants mummy time. I’m an only child so never had to experience my parents splitting their time with someone else which I think will make it difficult and scary for me to do with lufflump and sesame. Everything in life is a lesson though and I think the mister and I will work together to learn what works best for our family.

If you could go back in time and tell the childless you what you’d learnt from being a mum would would it be?

Sleep! Sleep is precious, do more of it. Take long, hot showers. Pamper yourself often. All those things taken for granted that are such luxuries now.

What are you looking forward to the most.

Meeting sesame, getting to know her, watching lufflump be a brother, having a newborn in the house and watching the mister’s heart melt again.

Thanks Amy….Amy has a lovely blog that you can visit here. I can remember when my little girl (who was almost 5 when her little brother arrived) became a big sister…she struggled for the first few months and would pretend that she couldnt remember what his name was. Once he got a bit more interesting, she became a bit more interested. A bit like life (or relationships!!) but it all worked out in the end.

Pop back and read some other interviews if you’ve got a few seconds!

Have they eaten you alive??

When I started to think about the space in between as a mum it got me thinking about the gap between leaving your old life and introducing yourself to the big goopy mess of your new one – a life that involved large handbags full of mismatched baby socks, wet wipes and rescue remedy…for me that is, not the baby.

I was reading an article about the disasters that strike when you become a new mum, and it reminded me of the urgent sensation I lived with in those first few weeks willing myself to make it to six weeks – for me the mythical six week milestone was when breastfeeding would get easier, when disjointed hours of sleep would settle down and when I could work out how to make life normal again. The writer* spoke about the trauma of ending up in hospital at that miracle six week stage with a burst caesarean scar and a misplaced nipple shield. The part that stood out for me was this…

After a week in hospital, endless drips and managing a baby quite distressed from the antibiotics in his system, I was discharged, even more uneasy than the first trip home from the maternity ward. I sat on the front fence of the hospital waiting for my husband to locate our car. The breeze was warm and the street front alive with pedestrians fixed on their own agendas. I suddenly experienced deep pangs of jealousy for women in high heels click-clacking the pavement, even the taxi drivers meandering through the heavy Sydney traffic. Echoes sounded of a Gwen Harwood poem I studied once at school about a mother, sitting in the park with her daggy clothes and her three children, when she has a chance meeting with a past lover. Her past and present worlds collide. Identities lost. Opportunities missed. Things left unsaid. When he leaves, she is nursing her child and To the wind she says, ‘They have eaten me alive.’

…and thats when it struck me, the space in between is the space new mums have to navigate between packaging up and storing away their old lives (I often fantasise that mine is in a giant space bag, sucked dry by the vacuum cleaner) and acknowledging, no admitting, that their new lives are filled with a whole different kind of crazy. I’d forgotten the gripping fear I felt when I too stepped out of the hospital 48 hours after having my first child, I was scared to rejoin the world…the sun seemed brighter that it had been two days before (although I had lost my favourite sunnies as I walked into the maternity ward – actually I think I had flung them across the garden mid contraction).

Watching people get on with their lives became a past time I embraced after the birth of both my babies – so on those days when it does feel a little too much, when it feels like your old life is lost in translation, perhaps embrace a little of Gwen Harwood and just whisper ever so quietly at those passing by that they too ‘have eaten me alive’…


*the writer was my sister…nothing like a bit of cross promotion!

PS for mums struggling with their ‘new’ lives pop over to Gidget Foundation for some great resources if you need to reach out