MoT loves all Mums – what flavour are you? (Pick as many as you feel best describe you): Part-time working mum, writer mum, Autism mum, and generally, a busy but tired coffee-drinking mum.
Which Mum badges are you qualified to wear? (Again, pick as many Mum badges that you have earned based on stages you have survived!): My son is six now but he’s ensured I’ve earned quite a few Mum badges in his life: the reluctant-to-sleep stage, the reluctant-to-wean stage, the very messy eating which progressed to extremely fussy eating (even developing into me becoming one of those mums who will cut and decorate fruit and vegetables into cute animal shapes and faces to encourage him to eat them.) One of the hardest to earn badges was the being a mum with a one-year-old who had to have lung surgery – the surgery went well and he had to spend a week in hospital recuperating so I became the mum who can contort herself into weird yoga positions to breastfeed him while he had drain tubes and IVs in him. Later I became a frequent visitor to the A&E and doctor with a dare-devil toddler, and an Autism and nonverbal-preschooler mum which meant my life became very busy with speech therapy, music therapy, play therapy, occupational therapy, reading every book I could get hold of about autism and going to ASD parenting courses and learning a lot and meeting lots of other amazing Autism mums. Now I’m happily wearing a badge of pride in my son loving going to school. He makes me smile every day.
List three things that have changed since you won a Sir Julius Vogel award for the 2012 Best Collected Work. I’ve become more confident about telling people I’m a writer. It also helped that my picture was in the local paper when I won the award with my husband so lots of people discovered that I’m a writer if they didn’t already know. I used to feel like it was quite a secret part of my life where I was working away on something for many, many hours but seldom talked to anyone about it. For all the positives though, I still get nervous. I have my first solo book coming out this year with Paper Road Press. It’s a very different book from Mansfield with Monsters – a blend of historical, romance, comedy and mystery, inspired the works by Jane Austen and the Sherlock Holmes stories.
I got invited to attend a fantastic writers’ festival in Auckland last year to talk about Mansfield with Monsters which was amazing. I found the prospect of talking as a writer to an audience rather daunting but it turned out to be a fantastic experience. It had the added bonus of getting to meet lots of New Zealand writers that I really admire and listen to their talks as well. It was inspiring to listen to their wisdom and advice.
I’ve felt that my goals and priorities have solidified for me. Before Mansfield with Monsters was published I was a determined and enthusiastic writer but I also had insecurities and self-doubts about what I was writing. I was so focused on the dream and goal of publication that I didn’t think about whether I was enjoying what I was doing – I felt like it was something I had to do, had to achieve. Once I had achieved that goal and was lucky enough to get good reviews, I felt more validated as a writer and the process of writing itself became the main goal. Writing for me became more about having fun and working on something creative to make me happy rather than fulfil a childhood dream of becoming a ‘real’ author. I also realised that the while the success of the book was a ‘dream come true’ for me in many ways it wasn’t the idealised dream of being a writer that I had imagined when younger. I didn’t become rich or famous and my life didn’t really change at all. The night of the Sir Julius Vogel awards helped demonstrate that to me. My husband and I had planned to leave my son with his parents while we went to the awards ceremony in town but my boy was clearly just too clingy and tired and it wasn’t going to work out. We decided that I’d go home with our son and my husband would go to the ceremony solo. However, in the confusion I forgot to take my keys with me so I went all the way back home to Kapiti only to discover that I was locked out of our house with our son in the middle of the night. I ended up breaking into our house in the dark and climbing in through toilet window (which my little boy thought was a hilarious adventure) and got a text from my husband that we’d won the award as I was clambering inside. I realised no matter how many wonderful things happen, there’s always going to be a sizeable amount of chaos and unexpected hurdles along the way.
What are your words of wisdom for fellow MoTs on jiggling the juggle? Do your best everyday and don’t be too hard on yourself when things go wrong or you don’t manage to do everything on your “To-do” list. I’m a big believer in making lists. Make sure you make time for yourself – go for a walk, catch up with friends, read a book, have fun being creative, sleep, whatever you enjoy doing for yourself and not for your kids or your job or anyone else. It can be hard not to end up spending all your time doing things for other people but no matter how busy life gets, taking some time out to do something for yourself is worth it. Even if it’s just a five minute walk around the block.
What three words would your friends use to describe you? Creative, caring and kind.
What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was very young I wanted to be a secret agent, super-sleuth like Sherlock Holmes (I spent a lot of time as a six year old running around with a magnifying glass looking for clues for a good deal of imaginary jewel thefts) or Wonder Woman. Once I matured enough to reach the realisation that I lacked the requisite bravery and super-powers for those career options it was a mostly either a vet or a writer or a vet by day/writer by night.
What is your biggest fear? Death itself has been constant lurking fear for me my whole life, and since I became a mum I’m probably more afraid of my son’s death than my own. My son was born with a cyst in his lungs which had to be monitored from the first prenatal scan onwards. He then had to have lung surgery when he was only one year old so I’ve spent most of my time pregnant and as a mother fretting about him which probably exacerbated my natural tendency to worry. I’m quite a worrier by nature and tend to get freaked out imagining lots of worst-case-scenarios that would hopefully never happen. One of the aspects of his autism is that he didn’t speak a word until he was nearly five so any time he started crying or was unwell I couldn’t get him to tell me what was wrong or what hurt. I had to rely on detective work and intuition to work out what was wrong and we’ve been frequent guests at the doctors and A&E. My boy is like a pro at going to the doctors now and I know the medical receptionists well.
I’m also quite prone to nightmares and I’m afraid of lots of other things too: spiders; dark, confined spaces; drowning; heights – I even get scared on big drops on roller coasters and log flume rides.
What is your favourite thing to do on Sunday? Sleep in (when my son lets me) and make a nice, leisurely breakfast with freshly brewed coffee. I really like to spend Sunday afternoons doing something fun and outdoors as a family whenever the weather permits – we go for a walk in the bush, go to the beach or visit the Zoo or the park.
What embarrassing incident have you never gotten over? There are almost too many to choose from! I have a knack for tripping up, walking into things or embarrassing words tumbling out of my mouth in social situations before I can stop them. Probably the embarrassing experience that traumatised me the most was back when I was in intermediate and a friend of mine asked out a boy I had a crush on my behalf. He loudly rejected me and then proceeded to go over his reasons for this rejection in humiliating and not-exactly-flattering detail to all his friends. I was teased and tormented by them for weeks.
Life is good when….the sun is shining, my friends and family are around and we’re laughing and relaxing and we’re looking forward to a delicious meal. I know there’s no work ahead of me that can’t wait until tomorrow and the only thing left to do that day is have fun and then go to bed with a good book and sleep. A glass of wine doesn’t hurt either.