GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT

Written by Jayne Flaherty

This is your ‘how to’ guide for getting your priorities straight and living your life to the fullest.

TEENAGE DREAM

Hi teenagers,

Don’t roll your eyes at me. This is serious. I’m here to give you some helpful advice and it will only take a second. Then you can go hang out at McDonald’s, check facebook or sulk in your bedroom. I’m here to tell you that everything you’re crying about at the moment will make you laugh in five years’ time. Every meltdown you’ve ever had will bring you joy later on. Unfortunately you don’t have the beauty of hindsight when you’re in the throes of teenage grief, but you do in your twenties! And, boy, is it a wonderful thing to know that most of the melancholy you experienced ultimately didn’t matter. Your parents were right about that one.

While I personally detested my teenage years, in some ways I wish I could relive them with the knowledge and understanding I have since developed.

It’s too late for me, but it’s not too late for you. A survey of Adelaide ladies in their twenties unearthed these gems to help you through your teenage years.

Follow these tips and get ready to feel intense nostalgia for this period of your life for, like, ever.

  1. Appreciate small things. Whether it’s having a computer, friends, a good supply of food, a bed to sleep on, a family that loves you, a decent education or simply being born in this world. Remember that the point of life is for you to enjoy it. Be happy and life will reward you.
  2. Choose your friends wisely. The truth is, you don’t need to be popular and have a gazillion friends to be happy. Friends are there to support you and lift your spirits. Be with people who make you happy and ditch the ones who don’t. Create a group of supportive, loving friends that you can stick with once you leave high school. And, whatever you do, express caution when coming into contact with the Queen Bee of your school.
  3. Get active. Join a sports team, go for a run, take your dog for a walk, do sit ups during commercial breaks on TV – anything! Just exercise! Having a healthy body leads to a healthy and happy mind, plus being confident in your appearance makes you more confident in other areas of your life.
  4. Do well in school. No matter how boring it is now, education will help you to become a productive member of society. Try your best, listen to your teachers, do your homework, study and get good grades. Doing so will help you get into a better course at university, which will enable you to get a great job in the future. School sets you up on the right track.
  5. Be nice to your parents and teachers. Remember, they’re there to help you be the best you can be. Respect them and value their opinions, even if they annoy you sometimes. Keep in mind that they do the things they do because they care about you and want you to succeed in life.
  6. Master the internet. Instead of letting social networking sites, such as Facebook and twitter, become the masters of your life, you should become the master of them. Learn to have power over Facebook so that you’re not at risk of becoming a victim, where you are so addicted that you can’t even spend time with your friends without checking your newsfeed.
  7. Do what you love. Adopt a hobby, be it reading, writing, sewing, singing, dancing, playing a sport, making pottery, etc. It will pass time productively and help you develop your personality.
  8. Be careful. No, I’m not going to rattle off a list of statistics on injuries and mortalities caused by drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. But I will tell you this – these things could ruin your life and make you depressed. Any true friend will not force you to do such a thing. Besides, no one likes a sloppy chick on a bender, and you don’t want to rock up to school on Monday and be the talking point of conversation because of your Saturday night antics.
  9. Take your time. There’s no need to rush into sex. Just because you think everyone is doing it, does not mean you should. If a guy won’t stick around because you’re not ready to sleep with him, then he’s not worth keeping.
  10. Be you. It might mean that you get made fun of by a few people that you don’t even like, but so what? You only get one life to live and you should enjoy it by doing what makes you happy, rather than trying to be someone you’re not.

THE ROARING TWENTIES

Being in your 20s is a crucial period of a woman’s life. It’s a transitional time when you discover your true self and really become a woman. It’s during these years that we find ourselves graduating from university, renting our own places, starting our careers and building new relationships, all while learning what it really means to grow up.

Between paying bills, early morning wake ups and tighter schedules, it can be easy to lose sight of having fun.

That said, your 20s are some of the most exciting years of your life: here’s some tips on how to maximise your opportunities and live them right.

  1. Learn how to manage your budget. Most women start taking care of their own finances at this age.   Learning how to manage a budget for rent, groceries, utilities, while also setting aside a little ‘fun money’ and savings can be difficult, but this is the time to nut it out and establish some good money habits.
  2. Interview like a boss. Your 20s are a prime time to start your career and interviewing well is a key component to this process. Even if you don’t land a job right away, if you are a good interview it can make a big impact since companies will often remember you months (or even years) ahead when another position arises. Interviews are also important for networking purposes and building relationships across the business world. The bottom line? Take advantage of every interview now as it may lead to opportunities in the future.
  3. Keep your skin young. While your skin might look great now in this post-acne and pre-wrinkles era, your 20s can determine what your skin will look like in your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. To keep wrinkles and damaged skin at bay, it’s important to always wear sunscreen. Yup – always! That means during winter too. Another ‘must’ is washing your face every night. Going to bed with your makeup on not only clogs pores, but it dulls your complexion and causes dryness and wrinkles. No thank you!
  4. Cherish your friendships. These years are usually filled with a lot of dating, a lot of love, along with a lot of time mending broken hearts. It’s important to realise that guys will come and go, but a solid group of girlfriends will be there to help you through it all – forever. The lesson here? Don’t forego important friendships in lieu of a relationship. Good friends are hard to find and, if you ask me, losing a bestie is harder than losing a guy.
  5. Dress to impress. At this point in our lives, we have fully grown into our bodies… which means there are no more excuses for trying to squeeze into that mini skirt you wore in year 12. It’s time to accept your body and all of its beautiful assets by dressing accordingly. Find out what kind of jeans are right for your figure, what dress size is more appropriate for your shape, and embrace what you are working with.
  6. You are what you eat. Let’s be honest: you eat pure crap. I know you think you’re young and healthy and none of it matters. But it does. Every bite or binge drink you take matters. You’re forming bad habits that your 30-year-old self is going to struggle to break later. Just stop and eat well. Please?
  7. Don’t make the same mistake twice. People often say that your 20s are a time to make mistakes. But what’s important about this is not the act of actually making the mistake itself, but rather learning from the lessons these mistakes teach us. Don’t get down on yourself that the mistake happened… instead, take it as a lesson learned and promise yourself it won’t happen again.
  8. You don’t always have to be right. With the confidence that comes in our 20s, sometimes it’s hard to know when to set your stubbornness aside. It takes a lot of biting your tongue to learn this lesson, but you don’t always have to be right. “Your 20s are a time to learn when it’s okay to stand up for yourself, but also understand the moment when you just need to back away,” says Psychologist Moira Shanahan.
  9. Take a compliment. Confidence is the key to taking on the world as a 20-something. Part of that confidence is knowing when to take a compliment. Accepting a compliment unveils your confidence and comfort in your own skin. That kind of self-assuredness can do anything from land you the perfect job to the man of your dreams.
  10. Don’t lose the child in you. You grow up a lot in your 20s, but you’re still young enough to have fun and bring out the little bit of kid that’s still left in you. You’ll have plenty of time to continue to grow up, settle down, have children and worry about spending too much money. So go have a crazy night out with your girlfriends, get set up on blind date and be weird and goofy. These are the memoires you’ll cherish when you look back on these years.

THE BABY YEARS

Joy, excitement and unfathomable love? These are the new-mum emotions you’re prepared for. Identity crisis? Not so much.

“The best example you probably have of what it means to be a mum is your own mother,” says psychologist Moira Shanahan. “And even if you had the greatest one in the world, there are bound to be things you don’t want to do just like she did, which can leave you feeling guilty and anxious about the choices you’re making as a parent.”

These days, many mothers now work outside of the home, children participate in a host of activities and spending quality time together as a family may not happen every day. While motherhood faces new challenges in today’s society, the rewards remain unchanged.

Here are a few humble tips and ‘it-worked-for-me’ wisdom from some Adelaide mums on how to manoeuvre through the parenting rat race and come out the other side with only a few gray hairs, a slight muffin top and a smile on your weary face.

  1. Set realistic expectations. Many women enter motherhood expecting everything to go smoothly – the house is always clean, the perfect little baby sleeps through the night, and every day is filled with sunshine and happiness. Once you let go of unrealistic expectations, your life as a mother will get much easier.
  2. Be consistent. Remember that your job as a mother is to care for and nurture your children. Their job is to test your limits. If you learn nothing else as a parent, learn to be consistent. Contrary to popular belief, children relish and seek out boundaries. When they have the knowledge that a certain action they might take will bring out a specific reaction in you, child rearing becomes a bit easier.
  3. Listen. There is a difference between hearing what someone says to you and really listening. Take the time to listen to what your children and your spouse say to you. You will have happier relationships with them because of it.
  4. Keep a sense of humour. Writer and humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “If you can laugh at it, you can live with it”. Very little ever goes as planned when raising children. Accept that and learn to laugh at the things that happen rather than let them get to you.
  5. Make time for yourself. Many mothers struggle with just getting through the day as an endless supply of chores clamour for your time and attention. Take time every day to focus on you. That could mean a phone call with a good friend, a catnap, or simply surfing your favourite website. Mother and author of Raising Happiness, Dr Christine Carter, wrote that “It isn’t just worry about our children and endless housework that makes us anxious and unhappy; it’s that we aren’t actually having fun anymore”.
  6. Participate. Too many busy mothers get through the day by skimming the surface of everything that needs to get done. Learn to let the little chores go and actively participate in your child’s day and your marriage.
  7. Learn patience. We’ve all heard the saying ‘patience is a virtue’. Well, patience is more than a virtue for busy mothers. It is a necessity – an invaluable commodity that can make or break or day. When the unexpected happens, learn to take a deep breath, count to ten and smile. Your family will thank you for it.
  8. Let go of the guilt. Whether you work outside of the home or are a stay-at-home mum, motherhood provides plenty of opportunities for guilt. Do what you can do and leave the guilt for where it belongs – indulging in little guilty pleasures like a big packet of Haighs frogs or a manicure.
  9. Forget perfection. You don’t have to be a Suzy homemaker to be a good mum. Learn to distinguish between what absolutely needs to get done and what you can let go of, or you may be setting yourself up for failure.
  10. Stop and smell the roses. Slow down a bit and take the time to appreciate what you have. Motherhood is messy, inconvenient, trying, self-sacrificing and hard, but it is also the best thing you will do in this life. Savour the moments, even the difficult ones, because one day you will look back and these days will be gone.

EMPTY NESTING

It’s amazing really. One day you’re tucking your little ones into bed and then the next day you’re helping them move into their new homes. Where did that time go? If you’re a seasoned mum who woke up one morning and suddenly wondered OMG, how did I get here?, you might just be experiencing the effects of an empty nest.

To summarise it simply: not only is your nest empty of your children, but you’re now feeling a perpetual emptiness or loneliness associated with that. You may be feeling anger, bitterness, regret, disappointment, guilt or feelings of abandonment or loss. If left unchecked, an empty nest parent can experience anything from depression, weight gain and illness, to a reclusive lifestyle, loss of self-esteem or identity, and divorce.

Consider the statistics on the subject: In Australia, nearly every third marriage ends in divorce, and for empty nest mums, that rate increases 16% the first year after the children have left. It’s as if some mums have, in a sense, lost or buried themselves in their own nest, or have abandoned it altogether.

It’s during the empty nest years that feelings of regret may haunt some mums. The child is pursuing his/her dreams, while the husband is still active in the career sphere, but life is now different for those mums whose world centered around raising their kids.

“For many of us in our late ‘40s and early ‘50s, we’ve reached our peak in terms of our most important life’s goal, which was to raise our children,” says psychologist Moira Shanahan. “We’ve prepared them to do everything, to learn how to live successful lives, but we forgot to prepare ourselves. We didn’t put a little on the side just for us, and as we watch the rest of our family pursue their dreams, we regret that we didn’t pursue our own.”

So if you’re nearing the era of empty nesting, consider these tips to readying yourself for what’s in store:

  1. Be prepared. Plan ahead of time and prepare for the unexpected. Maybe it’s grief, maybe it’s joy; you may actually experience the opposite of what you thought you would. Whatever it is, welcome it! It’s okay as long as you acknowledge your feelings by talking about them or writing them down.
  2. Let go. Don’t be afraid to let your children go and help them become independent young adults sooner rather than later.
  3. Get moving. Don’t mope and get out of the house – literally and figuratively. Plan day trips and start projects.
  4. Try something new.Now’s your chance to try on a new identity. Buy an outfit you wouldn’t normally wear and go to places you wouldn’t normally visit. The point is to push past your normal way of doing things.
  5. Focus on yourself. Start talking about YOU! As mums, we’re always in the habit of talking about our kids and their lives. Shift the focus and talk about yourself more often.
  6. Make new friends. Depending on when your children leave home, your friends may or may not be empty nesters. Seek out people who make you feel good about yourself or challenge you to try something new.
  7. Get healthy. Mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Your mind, body and soul all interact with each other, so make sure to work on each aspect of yourself on a daily basis. Now that your kids aren’t living at home, take advantage of it! Try doing one thing every day that improves your wellness. Since you’re no longer running the kids around, run yourself around instead (or walk really fast at least).
  8. Get creatively courageous. Make a bucket list and starting ticking it off. Visit museums and galleries, travel, take a cooking or art class, train for a marathon or walk the Kokoda Track. Try things you always wanted to do but never had the time or money.
  9. Laugh. There are so many physiological and psychological benefits from laughing.
  10. Rekindle passion. For your spouse, for your life and with yourself. Fall in love all over again and, if empty nesting is concerning your spouse, start with simply scheduling a date night.

But, first thing’s first, walk into your child’s empty room and give it a makeover. Turn it into a room that embodies one of your passions, whether it’s fitness, fashion, crafts, reading or whatever. It’s time to plant new seeds in your nest and learn to fly again.