Sunday, 29 September 2013

10 things I don't have time for


Head massages, bra fittings, fitness consultations? You can keep your fancy made-up specialisations, just give me what I came for and let me get on with my life.

Some years ago a friend gave me a birthday gift voucher for a fancy salon/spa place.  I had a small baby and an uncooperative husband, so I had neither the time nor the opportunity for spa treatments. In lieu of using the voucher for a massage or a facial I thought I could duck in, buy some fancy expensive product they were pushing from their store front and get out.

My plan was thwarted by the salon "consultant" who simply did not trust me to choose the correct product without his "expert" help.  He insisted on "consulting" with me. He loitered with intent.

He asked impertinent questions that I could not answer adequately ("What skin type do you have? Do you use a toner?") He wanted to know the whys, where-fors and what-fors of what I was looking for. In truth, I just wanted to match the amount on the voucher to a product so my friend wouldn't be offended. I would've bought the pricing display banner on the counter if it had matched the amount on my voucher.

But I couldn't tell him that so I made up something vague about my serum needs and flyaway hair.

Every time I reached my hand out to touch something, he told me why it WOULD NOT be suitable for me.

In the meantime, my nine month old baby started making the seagull noise that he'd recently been experimenting with. 

It was a very loud and very sudden "ARRK!" noise and it had a lovely echoic resonance in the fancy pants marble-tiled salon.  He was really enjoying himself. I knew it was building to a crescendo and I just wanted to get out before he shattered the floor to ceiling glass with it (as seemed to be his intention.) But the consult guy wasn't reading the situation correctly. He simply would not let me touch the merchandise. I would reach out, he would block me or snatch the item before I could, then give me a lengthy presentation on it.

Finally, I was quicker than him and I grabbed something random and made for the sales counter. He  tried to grab it back, telling me it wasn't what I was looking for. We ended up in a sitcom-style tug of war over a jar of "Vanilla Face Whip", with him explaining curtly that it wasn't right for my skin type.

Then some pious ponce in a white cheongsam get-up came padding out in his slippers and primly asked me to "keep my child quiet" because there were people "back there" trying to relax.

OH REALLY!? Trying to relax are they? Well I'm trying to get rid of this stupid freakin' voucher someone gave me cos they mistakenly thought I had time to relax!!!

I eventually made it out alive, but in a cold sweat, minus the voucher and PLUS a bottle of something stupidly expensive called, "Cinnamon Hair Nougat."

My point is, there are some things mothers just don't have time for.  Here's the list.

1.  Fancy spa treatments as gifts. 

For all of the above reasons.

2. The head massage at the hairdressers

I know people who love this part of the hair salon experience. I do not. To me, it just prolongs the agony of having to lie with my neck jammed into the basin-crook while some 17 year old apprentice touches my head in all sorts of too-intimate ways. I also do not think it's necessary to wash and condition my hair AND rinse it off THREE TIMES! Surely once is enough. And don't bother trying to untangle those ends, I'm getting them cut orf!

3. Giving a detailed reason for why I am not buying that item I just tried on

Sure it begs the question, "What are you doing trying things on if you're so time-poor?" but sometimes there's a ten minute window between doing the grocery shopping and the school pick-up and if you play your cards right you can make good use of it trying on some stuff that you don't need.

While I am all for good service, I wish they would loiter outside when I am in the change room so that they can bring me more stuff while I've got my clothes off.  It's the sudden materialising outside the change room and asking the open-ended and leading question:  "How'd it go?" that I do not have time or adequate answers for.

Recently I encountered a particularly needy sales girl in Cue, she wasn't satisfied with, "Not quite right." And stood in my path, demanding to know, "What exactly wasn't quite right about it?" I wanted to tell her, "I'm sorry, I'm just not looking for this type of relationship right now." Because she reminded me of an ex-boyfriend who had once stalked me. 

4. A half hour consultation with a fitness expert about my fitness goals at the local gym

Just take my money, give me a swipe card or a key or whatever and let me use those fancy cardio machines. I don't have time for a 30 minute "consult" with my new "fitness director"  as part of the "new membership induction."

 I once thought it would be a good idea to have a personal trainer. Then I found myself standing in the weights room circulating a large 2 kilo disc around my head while a terse Yugoslavian girl counted off the rotations from one to 15. Then I went home and had to lie down for two hours, while this thought went round and round in my head. "I don't have time for this."

My fitness goals start and end with this: "To do up the top button on my jeans again."

5. Lengthy accommodation check-in processes

After you've spent six hours in a car with three children and a dog, you get to reception and you just want the number of the cabin, some fresh milk and the key.  But they want you to stand there while they draw on a detailed photocopied map of the caravan park with a highlighter and mark with an X all the notable facilities and their operating times. I know it's helpful in theory, but if you just give me the number of the cabin, I'm sure I can figure it all out. Also, I'm not concentrating any more and I can't figure out which way is up once I walk out of reception and try to follow the highlighter line you have just drawn on the "not to scale map with no north point" for me.

Some hotel receptionists also give a very long explanation of how the fob works for the carpark, the opening and shutting times of reception and how to make the power come on in your room.  Again, not listening.  All I'm hearing is, "blah blah blah blah fob reception elevator carpark fob blah blah blah." I suggest a printed hand out with all the required info would be a better method for weary travellers.

Also, "How's your day been?" is not a suitable question when people have just bedraggled in from a six hour cross-country road trip with three children. Answer: hellish.

6. Professional bra fittings

I know this is a thing now. But I do not have the time to have some old lady touch me up in the change room. I know my size, I just want to grab four of the same thing in white, black, beige and pink and GET OUT before one of my kids puts a size FF bra cup on his head as a joke.

7. Butcher chit-chat

Truth be told, sometimes I LOVE having a chat to the butcher about what I'm "going to make with that."  Other times, I just want to grab my kilo of sausages and make like a banana before I get arrested for leaving my kids in the car outside the shop. (For the record, my kids are all over the age of 10, but you never know when some do-gooder is going to show up and call the cops.)

My butcher doesn't seem to read my mood very well, he's curt and disinterested when I'm in the mood to give expansive marinating details then all chats and "I'll just trim this up for you," when I'm trying to dash in and out without stopping.

8. Entrees followed by mains

Can't you see I've got kids here about to knock their drinks over?  Just bring all the food at once and we'll be out of your hair in under an hour. All of it. At the same time. Including dessert.

9. Leading questions about loyalty cards, Flybuys, rewards programs and department store credit cards

NO! I don't have one. I don't want one. Just crack on with the purchase and let me get out of here! Lately I have taken to shutting down the solicitous "Do you have a Myer One card?" question with this: "Oh no, I'm not allowed to have credit cards."  It makes things so awkward that the salesgirl puts her head down and goes at double-time to get the crazy spendaholic out of the shop before I lunge across the counter and try to take a fistful of dollars out of the cash register.

10. After hours door knockers

I appreciate what you're doing (unless you are a Jehovas Witness) but I don't have time for the pre-amble. What are you offering? What do I have to do? Where do I sign? Keep things short and sweet people, there's a zoo going on inside my house and I need to stay on top of it. I don't have time for the fancy schmancy schmaltzy sales pitch about how everyone in my street has just signed up and how much savings it will net "as evidenced by this graph." Tin tacks, people, tin tacks.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

How to make near enough parenting, good enough.

If you think you've dropped the ball on motherhood, here's how to make near enough, good enough and practise the art of "motherhood triage." 


With so many balls in the air, is it any wonder women have to occasionally drop one to ensure they catch another.  Some people, (i.e. television and radio host, Amanda Keller) call this “good enough parenting.”

To illustrate her point, Amanda recently related the following example of good enough parenting to Adam Hills when she appeared on his show, Adam Hills Tonight:

"... I'd be lying on the couch and one of (my kids)... would say, "Can you peel me an orange?" and I'd say, "Oh, just have a biscuit.''"

Amanda had just cleverly “triaged” her motherhood priorities.

1. the importance of lying on the couch for another 15 minutes uninterrupted.
2. the importance of the small child having a nutritious fruit snack as opposed to a sugary biscuit.

If you are not familiar with the term “motherhood triage” here is a definition:


Moth•er•hood tri•age [noun] 1. The process  of determining the priority of mothering tasks depending on their urgency.  2. [see also] good enough parenting *

In this scientifically proven** article, I will give you 10 examples of how you can triage motherhood and make your life easier.

But let’s start with Amanda’s case study, which coincidentally is the first rule of motherhood triage.

1. A child’s right to a nutritious snack takes a back seat to Mum’s right to have a few moments of shut-eye or horizontal rest-time.


Amanda, like most exhausted mothers, ranked the nutritious snack for her child option below her need for rest.  Because sometimes it’s more “urgent” in the wider scheme of things that Mummy gets a little bit of rest; otherwise later on, when Mummy is at the end of her tether she may just do a Mummy Mouse and eat one of her own babies in a rage. Nobody wants that.

The second rule of motherhood triage applies to things left on the floor.

2.  If it is not sharp, dangerous, toxic or some form of excrement (human, canine or feline) just keep walking.


For instance: when I was pregnant with twins, I noticed a black sock on the floor in the hall.  Being an expert in motherhood triage even then, I quickly ranked the urgency in this order:

1. The importance that I keep moving towards the front door and get to where I was going.

2. The vague visual displeasure of a random black sock in the hall.

I walked past the sock.  I continued to walk past that same sock every morning, every day three times a day and every evening on my way to bed. That was 10 years ago in a rental home two suburbs away. As far as I know, the black sock is still there.

Because notwithstanding the fact that if I had bent over at that point in my pregnancy I may have “timbered” onto my head,  IF I bent over to pick up every little thing that ended up on the floor in our house, I simply would never, ever get anything else done.

Tidying a house where children are living is not only thankless, it is a slippery slope to a day spent cleaning the house properly.

Which brings me to the next rule of motherhood triage: when you get to the point where you do actually need to pick a few things up …

3.  With regard to housekeeping: a veneer of cleanliness is all that is needed.


Contrary to beliefs on housekeeping dating back to the 1950s, cleanliness is not next to godliness. Cleanliness, in relation to family homes is merely an unobtainable concept designed to make women feel inadequate.

You can give the impression of cleanliness very quickly by going around the house with an empty laundry basket and just chucking every bit of clutter and crap straight into the basket: don’t sort clean clothes from dirty ones, don’t carefully return things to their rightful place, just use your whole arm, sweep it across the dining room table and ignore your kids when they wail about the elaborate Lego City that you have just felled in one clean swoop.

Do a quick wipe of the toilet seat using a large wodge of clean toilet paper, maybe tip a gallon of bleach down there if you have time, pull the shower curtain across to hide the ring around the bathtub, tidy a few couch cushions, dump all the dishes into the sink and cover them with soapy water as though you are in the throes of performing an important soaking task.

You have now achieved a veneer of cleanliness and you are ready to receive guests.

If the mess is really bad, choose one room of the house, just bulldoze every bit of mess and clutter in there and shut the door on it. When guests come, tell them someone is sleeping in there.

Triage ranking:
1. The importance of people thinking you are clean and organised.

2. The importance of actually being clean and organised.

The next rule of motherhood triage relates to a mess made on the floor versus continuing an important conversation.

4. An unholy mess on the floor is worth two coffees and a catch-up with your friend.


For instance: one morning my best friend came over with her kids for a “playdate.”  We gave the kids a big bowl of popcorn, turned on ABC Kids and ensconced ourselves at the outside table with our coffees for a much-needed catch up and gossip.  About 10 minutes in, when my best friend was telling me a particularly juicy titbit about someone we went to school with, her eldest child came running outside with (what he considered to be) an important newsflash.

“Mum! Sam spilled the popcorn and now it’s all over the floor!”

We looked at each other. We craned our necks to look inside and assess the damage, there was indeed popcorn blanketing my living room floor. The rest of the kids remained still and silent and glued to the telly. My friend looked at me. I shrugged.

“Nyah, skate on it for all we care,” she said.

And we continued our conversation.

Triage ranking:

1. The urgency of hearing the end of the anecdote your friend is telling you.

2. The urgency of cleaning up the mess the children have just made on the floor.

(This ranking also applies to telephone conversations.)

In a similar vein is my fifth major rule of motherhood triage …

5. Children playing nicely should be left to their own devices.


Whether they are cutting each other’s hair, eating Play-Doh, painting the walls with finger paints, drawing moustaches on each other with an indelible black marker pen, soaking each other with the hose in the middle of winter,  ask yourself this question:

Are they playing nicely?

If the answer is, “yes.” Leave them to it.

Triage ranking:
1. The urgency of securing 30 minutes of peace where there’s no fighting

2. The urgency of whatever weird stuff they’re doing being stopped

And finally, here are five more quick rules of thumb you might want to consider next time you are triaging your own household:


6. Snacks before dinner are sometimes an unfortunate necessity.

7. A child dressed like a homeless person is better than being late for an appointment.

8. Screams when you are in the shower should only elicit your response if accompanied by the words “(insert name here) is bleeding.”

9. Arguments over who wants to watch what on the television and who “always has the remote control and won’t let us watch what we want to watch” are not important enough to adjudicate with conscientious parenting, lessons about cooperation and long-winded lectures about being considerate of others.

Just tell them to sort it out themselves or you’ll pull the plug out of the wall and watch them find the meaning of cooperation.

10. Dessert is a carte blanche affair as long as children help themselves.

* Source: The Edible Garbage Dictionary, 1st edition, Penny Dreadful Press, 2013
** Scientifically proven by the Edible Garbage Institute of Self-important Parenting Science