Sometimes, my kids are arseholes (even though I know they don’t mean to be)

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A couple of days ago, I was scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook feed, when I came across this article on Kidspot. Titled, “Why I hate eating dinner with my kids”, it seemed so mundane to me, and if it didn’t have over 100 lengthy comments from ‘concerned readers’ below it, I probably would have kept scrolling.

The article was pretty much as I expected. Woman spends heaps of time with her kids during the day, woman feeds kids dinner early so she can eat dinner with her husband, kids go to bed on time. No offence to the author, but in my mind it was pretty much a non-event. My first thought was who even cares? And then, I read the comments.

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Probably one of the least offensive comments on the Kidspot article

“I sometimes wonder why you have children if you have raised them to a point where not even the parents can stand to best[sic] with them…….”

“Wow! What a selfish women[sic]. You might have kids but I wouldn’t call you a mother.”

“Why have kids if you’re just so hung up on “me time”???!?????”

“So so SAD. Why have kids?”

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Except for when it isn’t family time.

This is a just a selection of the incredibly harsh, judgmental, holier than thou, comments on this post. To my immense surprise, it appears that random strangers are not only concerned about, but are actively and cruelly judging, other women for the way they choose to approach dinnertime. Now, I am far from perfect. However, I can honestly say that I have never, in my life, given that much of a crap about when and how someone else slaps a plate of spag bol in front of their small people. Not once.

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Possibly my personal favourite, because it includes the whole “childhood is fleeting” sentiment. We get it. They grow up.

Let me be clear. The only thing this woman did was feed her children at a different time to herself. She didn’t chain them to anything or beat them. She did not admit that she locks them in their rooms all afternoon. She didn’t say she starved them, or fed them only stale bread crust and water. She isn’t selling them to sexual predators online. She just doesn’t eat dinner with them.

I totally get where she is coming from. I really do. Because, sometimes, my kids can be arseholes, and I am not afraid to admit it. Sometimes, I can think of nothing I want to do less than spending time with my precious trio of little darlings. After a long day of crazy, I am the woman who is literally counting down the minutes until I can convince my kids to go to bed. On more than one occasion, my husband has turned the clock forward in the living room, in a desperate attempt to convince our small people that it’s time to go to sleep (unfortunately, this stops working the minute your eldest child learns to tell the time on her own watch).

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Why have kids? How about, none of your business?

If ensuring that her kids are fed early, and strictly adhering to a 7:30 “toys down” rule is what keeps this woman squarely in the middle of the sanity square in this hectic reality version of “Game of Life”, then I say more power to her. Personally, I rather like eating dinner as a family – perhaps because it’s not something I often get to do, as a shift working mum, who works mainly nights. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have other parenting hacks, that keep my own sanity somewhat in check.

My kids all know that they will not be partaking in activities that fall between the hours of 9am and 10:30am on a Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday: they will be in the creche while mummy goes to the gym. Sometimes, I barely workout at all- a lazy 5km run on the treadie, followed by a vigorous session of checking Facebook, and reading news articles, while I sit comfortably in a couch in the foyer. It’s my sanity saver, and I don’t plan to change it for anyone. Regardless of what they think of my parenting. I also endeavour to plan play dates at really fun play centres, instead of at home – quite frankly, they are less likely to tell me they are bored when there is a plethora of slides and shiny things to keep them amused.

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I wouldn’t call you a mother, because you do not eat dinner with your kids every night. I mean, you birthed them, raise them, feed them, but you are not a mother. Please.

I love my kids. I really, really love them. So much, that I have had to restrain myself from rage, when other children pick on them. So much, that even though I know intellectually that they are not the brightest, most amazing things on the planet, sometimes emotionally I am pretty sure they are the cleverest beings ever created. However, I’m human, and they too are tiny humans, and humans occasionally have a tendency to be arseholes.

I know they don’t mean to, by the way. I don’t always mean to, either. Sometimes, being an arsehole is as unintentional as the act of breathing. And admitting that they are arseholes occasionally doesn’t mean that I love them any less. If anything, when they are at their worst, I love them more. More, because despite bad moods, tantrums, lies, or entire cartons of eggs smashed to smithereens on the kitchen floor, my lap is still available for sitting in, and my arms still available to give hugs.

Kidspot comment 4
I count down school holidays. I thought that was normal. Also, there are other times when you can talk to your kids, you know – it doesn’t have to be meal time. My kids prefer to talk to me either while I am on the toilet, or while I am in the middle of a very important and lengthy phone conversation.

And, while I’m certain that most parents get as frustrated with their kids as I do, it’s not always something parents (mums especially) seem comfortable admitting. And I get that ‘arsehole’ may not be the word that every mother would use to describe their kids at their worst, but it’s as good a word as any, and I’m OK with it.

What I’m not OK with, is sanctimonious parents commenting on honest posts, with things like “I wouldn’t call you a mother”. I’m not OK with hiding behind a tiny profile picture, and ripping other parents to shreds, for things that are completely insignificant, which do not effect the lives of any other person in any negative way. I mean, come on, people! Eating dinner separately to your kids isn’t child abuse. It’s a freaking life hack.

DAN BLOG
Despite D throwing epic tantrums that can literally last 24 hours, I never get frustrated. Not once have I thought ‘fuck this’, and left him with his father while I go for a walk.

I would prefer to know people that admit that their kids piss them off sometimes. In a world of bogus social media posts, where every picture is filtered and every status is edited, letting it all hang out is often underrated. And, every time I see a perfect picture of a perfect person, with their perfect little #happymummy #perfectlittleangels #perfectlife bullshit, I vomit in my mouth a little. Because it’s not perfect. And I don’t believe you if you say it is. I am yet to meet one person, who, while up to the elbows in shit, covered in wee, and tripping over endless squeaky, slippery, sharp-edged little play things, can honestly say that it’s always fun, all the time.

If you are a mum who feeds her kids early , and has them in bed by 7:30, so you can drink wine, and shower without a captive and curious audience, more power to you! If the concept of dealing with your treasures alone all day has you racing to the nearest gym for a Zumba class and some adult conversation, preach it, sister! There is nothing wrong with needing a break, be it once in a while, or at regular intervals. I certainly need them. And I’m sure the mummy crucifiers who love to post their judgments on social media do, too.

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Despite it apparently being impossible, P and I make time to discuss things like school issues, despite me often not being there to eat dinner with her.

If you are a mum who likes to pretend that you have never ever been anything but a perfect, attentive parent, I have a challenge for you: be real. Let it all hang out once in a while. Stop vilifying women on public forums and on social media. I hate to get all biblical, but there is a parable in the Bible about a public stoning, where the big man himself challenges the crowd: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Regardless of any person’s opinion about religion, as far as life advice goes, this is pretty solid.

I worry that, by vilifying women for opening up about the little things, we are setting women up to be too afraid to open up when it comes to the big things. I know that if I were a mum who was struggling with the big things, like serious mental health issues, or domestic violence, I might find myself discouraged about reaching out if I read some of the snarky, nasty comments left by armchair warriors on social media.

JJ BLOG
Because he is two, J finds it fun to throw food, and smear dirt on things. But since I’m the perfect parent, this does not frustrate or exasperate me one bit.

So please, disagree if you want. Go for gold. I am more than happy to put myself out there if I disagree with someone’s viewpoint. But denigrating and abusing women for opening up about their lives is not helping anyone, and I doubt it ever really will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where is the outrage?

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In July, SBS program Four Corners lifted the lid on the treatment of juvenile offenders in detention in the Northern Territory.

A week ago, the media revealed details of thousands of cases of abuse against minors in the asylum seeker detention camps in Nauru.

At first, the social medias were awash with the coverage. People expressed outrage, people expressed disbelief, people debated the topic ‘If I ran the country,’ with passion and fury. And then, it was over. The issues, it seems, fast became yesterday’s news.

And, like so many times before, I found myself wondering, where is the outrage?

I mean, sure, there is some. Fantastic organisations like Love Makes A Way, Mums 4 Refugees, and Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance are staging protests and sit ins, and raising awareness – but I guess we expect them to do that, don’t we?

And yeah, bloggers like me are writing crappy little posts that nobody will read, and independent news outlets are still publishing articles. But who really gives a crap what a shitty ‘mummy blogger’ is writing? And let’s be honest, if you are reading articles published by news sites like New Matilda, or The Guardian, you probably already wear the title of “Crunchy Socialist Leftard*” with pride.

Where are the ‘regular people’? The bus drivers, bartenders, bank tellers? Why is there not a placard in the window every middle class family house, protesting these events? Why are the streets not filled with ‘everyday people’, objecting to a system that is allowing the abuse of small children to continue?

These questions are rhetorical, of course – I understand, that it is far too easy to look away. It’s too easy to get busy, because life is busy, and the kids have swimming lessons, and there are lunches to pack, and there is work to be done. I get it. I’ve done it. Correction, I do it. Far too often.

I also understand, that it is really easy to ignore it, because it feels so far away. It feels like my kids will never be strapped to a restraining device, or stripped naked and left in a cell. It feels like my kids will never experience war, and poverty, and extreme conditions that would leave me with  no option but to risk everything, and seek asylum in a country across the sea.

And, you know what? They probably won’t. My kids, and if you are as white and middle class and lucky as me, your kids, will probably never know what it’s like to live in a war zone. They will probably never know what it is like to be sent at 11 years old to a correctional facility. But there is no certainty in life.

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The Rights of The Child. That means any child. Not just your child.

If it were my child locked in a cell for days, and then gassed with tear gas while playing a game of cards, I would want outrage. Not just for a few days. Not just on social media. I would want outrage, and vocal objectors, and protests. For weeks. Until the voices were heard, the laws were changed, and the guarantee was given that it would never happen again. To any child.

If it were my child, trapped in a detention camp on a desolate, poverty stricken island in the middle of fucking nowhere, drinking bleach, drawing pictures of death and despair, telling welfare workers that they want to die, I would expect nothing short of riots in the street. My child, incarcerated indefinitely despite committing no crime. My child, who by sheer misfortune of skin colour, religion, or place of birth, was trapped in a situation where their life was at risk. My child, screaming in fear every night. My child, being assaulted by the ‘professionals’ employed to protect them.

If it were my child, I would hope that you would have enough empathy and compassion to look past the colour of their skin, the religion they were born into, or the manner in which they crossed the ocean. That you would remember the UN Convention on The Rights of The Child, and protect my child from abuse, and situations that could harm their development. That you would fight for their right to play.

These children in juvenile corrective facilities. These children in tents on a barren island. They are not my children. But they are someone’s children. And that someone probably wants their child to live a long and happy life, just like I do.

So, let’s get vocal. Let’s be remember that their children are no different to our children. Let’s not get too busy, or complacent. Let’s get outraged.

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The awesome Mums 4 Refugees, peacefully displaying their outrage. Photo courtesy of Mama Shaz Photography

 

*Still my favourite internet insult. I would happily wear this on a badge with my name on it, for the rest of my days.

 

Confessions of a shift working mother

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I have been a shift worker for the majority of my adult life. I have worked weekends, Christmas day, New Years Day, all the days. When the rest of the world is celebrating, odds are, I’m celebrating in a different way – usually with penalty rates and some kind of DIY “bring a plate” buffet. 3am Christmas ham and fruit cake? Yes, please!

Coordinating shift work with regular life is complicated. So, when you add a bunch of kids who rely on you for their survival into the mix, it stands to reason that the complication gets more……complicated. And dealing with this complication often requires various strategies and coping mechanisms that may not be understood by the ‘real world’. So, in the interest of understanding and acceptance of those of us who do strange things, and make little sense, I thought I would take the time to explain the good, the bad, and the crazy of shift work and parenting combined.

You know that mum dropping her kid at the school gate in ugg boots and pyjama pants? That’s me.

Maybe I have just come home from night shift. Perhaps I am about to go back to bed to get ready for a a night shift. It could even just be the fact that I, as a shift worker, get on average 2 hours less sleep in a 24 hour period than  someone who is not a shift worker. Whatever the reason, I am dressed like I cannot be fucked because I am tired. You may even find me brushing my daughter’s hair on the side of the road, outside school, while dressed like this. When you are living on as little sleep as I often do, things like tidy hair and de-stained uniforms become “optional extras”, not schoolyard necessities. If you happen to get close enough to my car, you may find that my younger two kids are also still in their pyjamas. They are probably not fed. They are probably patiently waiting for me to drive through, or by, their “mum can’t be fucked” breakfast location of choice.

When I mention that I am going to have a nap, and you say “Omg, you’re so lucky. I wish got a day nap!” I want to punch you.

So Rissa, any plans today?” “Oh, not much, I’m working tonight, and dad has a bit of time so I might get a chance to grab a quick nap. Other than that, y’know the usual. Mum stuff.” “Wow, you are so lucky. I never get to have a nap in the day!”

Seriously, STFU. Not kidding. That nap? That nap you are jealous of? That is the only sleep I will get in 24 hours. 45 minutes sleep, for an entire 24 hour period. And that’s if I get the chance to nap. And if my body allows me to sleep for the brief period that someone else is around to watch my kids. Studies have shown that the effects of prolonged periods of wakefulness are comparable to the effects of alcohol on the body. That nap that you covet is the reason I will get home safely tomorrow.

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When you tell me I’m lucky for getting 45 minutes sleep in 24 hours, I feel stabby.

“Oh, bummer, you’re working? Can’t you just skip it? Just take the night off, they won’t mind!”

Thank you for your kind invitation to {insert any random social event here}. Sadly, I am working that night, and I cannot make it. No, I can’t just “skip it.” I can’t just “come home early”, either. I probably can’t get a swap, and even if I could, I probably couldn’t find the child care to facilitate the swap anyway.

People seem to find it surprising to discover that shift work jobs are real jobs, too. We do real work. We have real hours. Real requirements. And we really, really need our sick leave, since our risks of certain health issues are higher than the general community. I can’t skip my 12 hour Friday night shift for your housewarming any more than you can skip your Wednesday work day to go out for pasta and cake with me.

If I had a shiny dollar for every time I have had to explain to a person that my kids can’t do this activity, or go to that camp, or participate in that mind numbingly boring enrichment activity due to my working hours combined with the fact that my other half is only one person and can’t be in two places at once, I could probably retire, and I could take my kids to the damn event. Seriously.

Seriously, what do people think I am doing? It’s not a hobby. I’m not spending my evening learning to scrapbook. It’s not soccer training. It’s a real job. I don’t rock up when I please, and go when I fancy. And, I promise, there are many ways I would prefer to spend my night. In fact, the list of those things is so long, it would rate a whole other blog post.

Childcare stress is a real thing.

I understand – it’s a real thing for many working parents, not just shift workers. But the thing that makes the stress even greater for many shift workers, is the very nature of the work we do.

Take, for example, my own role. Most people in my role work 12 hour shifts, in a mix of days, nights, and occasional afternoons, on a rotating roster. The shifts are in blocks of 3 or 4, and cover all days and all nights of the week, over a period of time. There are no specific days days off, and no specific days on. If you are wondering how many places will provide adequate, affordable care for this kind of roster, I can tell you that in my experience, the answer is very few. So shift workers are left with a few options:

We can pay for a full week’s care, every week, even though we only need a few days. While this would have been in the realm of affordability with 1 child, as a parent of 3 it becomes prohibitively expensive. I actually did the maths today, and putting all of my kids in child care and after school care for full weeks all year would cost 2/3 of my take home wage. That’s with the $7500 rebate per child applied. I am on a pretty decent wage, far more than many of my shift working friends, so I could only imagine how difficult the cost would be for shift workers in other industries.

We can hire a nanny, or get an au pair. And for some, this is a fantastic option. I looked into a nanny, but soon realised that my kids would still need to go to some form of pre-school- so I would be forced to double up on the cost of child care, which made it about as affordable as the first option. And an au pair is lovely, but when you have 3 kids and 2 adults living in a small house in the suburbs, there really isn’t much room for a live-in carer.

We can wing it. Use up every favour, every piece of good will, with every friend, neighbour, and random acquaintance we happen to have. A few days child care here, a grandparent there, a friend over there. In my experience, this is the most common option. It’s one I have had to use for years. And it isn’t always the best option. I regularly go to work after taking care of the needs of 3 small people from 7am in the morning. On many occasions, I have been awake for periods of 36+ hours at a time. It’s awful, those prolonged periods of wakefulness. Around hour 24, you cease to feel human.

A friend of mine recently told me that her daughter might be refused care at her school’s local OOSH, because my friend is unable to get a letter from her employer specifying the exact times and days she works. She explained to the care provider why she can’t do this – she has no exact times and days. The explanation was met with little empathy, and a fair amount of disbelief. Which is shithouse, because we aren’t lying when we say we cannot provide such information.

Our mum guilt is intense, and we will do stupid things to alleviate the guilt.

“Please, mum? Please?

This is the sound of my eldest child, desperately wanting to go straight from her soccer game to a school friend’s birthday party. Which is fine, except for two things: firstly my son has a soccer game at the exact time the birthday party starts, which means that someone will have to take him there, and stay at the game with him. Secondly, I will be finishing work at 7am, and going straight from the train station home to pick her up and take her to her game. Which means that the only way to get her to the party, is for me to just keep going, despite desperately wanting some sleep. Mum guilt guarantees that I will do it.

Shift work means that I miss things that other parents take for granted. Last year, despite swapping from an afternoon shift to a morning shift, skipping my break so I could leave a little early, and driving for 1.5 hours through Christmas party traffic, I missed my daughter dancing at her dance school concert. I also missed her singing at her school Christmas concert, the kid’s Christmas party thrown by my work, my daughter’s first goal on the soccer field, the first time my son stayed on the field and actually kicked the ball, instead of sitting on the grass and saying “I’m too tired” over and over again.

I know that all parents, especially working parents, miss stuff. But shift work parents are more likely to miss the big stuff. Like watching their kids open presents on Christmas Day. Watching their kids walk across stage to receive awards. Seeing their kids win grand finals. Because important stuff like that happens with most people aren’t working. And shift workers don’t often work like most people.

Shift work mum guilt means that I stay awake when I really need to sleep, so my kids can have the opportunities that other kids have. It means that I watch crappy, grainy phone footage of my daughter dancing, and overload her with “guilt donuts” when we drive past Krispy Kreme on the way home from the concert I missed. It means we rely heavily on friends and family to provide the opportunities that our crazy hours prohibit us from providing ourselves.

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Filter free, sleep free. What happens when guilt gets in the way of sleep.

When all else fails, beer is the answer.

You know those Friday nights. The ones where you are home, the kids are home, and all that you are waiting on is your partner, so that you can rely on each other. Since it’s Friday, the kids are simultaneously tired, irritable, and excited – so they are jumping between joyfully using the couch as an indoor recreation centre, and squabbling to the death on the floor. As your partner’s usual arrival time passes, you yourself become irritated, and you send your partner a passive aggressive text about punctuality and parenting responsibility. He texts back, not five minutes later, obviously confused by your frustration – he’s at a work do, remember? He told you 3 weeks ago? It’s in the calendar? There is free beer, fancy food, and we both agree that nobody should say no to that combination? Dammit.

Beer is the answer. It’s not always the answer. I actually rarely drink at home. These days, I rarely drink at all. But those nights suck big hairy balls, especially when you have had 3 hours sleep and are barely a functioning human. So beer it is. The kids get juice, I get beer, and screw dinner, we are ordering pizza. Fuck the rules. And, when I am tipsy enough, we may form an air band, and use the coffee table as a stage. And dammit, the partner type person better be bringing home some goddamn fancy chocolates, or some of those awesome cream puffs you buy in Chinatown, because when rules be damned, rules be damned.

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are good things, too.

It really isn’t all bad. None of us would do it if it was.

I get paid pretty well for what I do. I mean, we aren’t living in waterfront luxury, and I don’t drive a giant Range Rover. But my wage is nothing to be sneezed at, and it’s well above the average wage of a working mum in Australia. If my husband lost his job tomorrow, I could cover the bases (just) on my wage alone.

Also, working 12 hour shifts means that I only have to go to work 3 days a week. My full time job is only three days a week. And sure, it feels like the shift is never going to end sometimes, but I only have to get up, get dressed, and get into work mode 3 days out of 7. And the rotating roster, while impossible for childcare reasons, means that I get really long weekends – 6 day weekends, 5 day weekends. So I pretty much end each block with the kind of long weekend most people look forward to for months.

And, for all the things that everybody else gets to see, and I have to miss, there are things I get to do that many other parents don’t get the opportunity to. I can put my hand up to be a classroom helper, and help out with things like excursions and carnivals, without taking precious leave to accommodate it. I can pick my eldest up from school early, leave the younger two in day care, and take her out for a sneaky mid-week hot chocolate and fancy cake day. I can make it to specialist appointments and surgeries without eating into my carer’s leave.

My rotating roster blocks, and the 5 and 6 day periods of leave that go with them, mean that if I play my cards right with the leave rosters (everything is a roster when you are a shift worker. Pretty sure there would be a toilet roster if they could possibly organise it), I can get nearly 3 weeks off work for the price of one week’s leave. So I have enough leave for both a fabulous holiday and a few weeks bludging about the house. No matter what your profession, there is something really beautiful about leaving your place of work, and knowing you will not have to enter it again for over a month.

So, there it is. It’s good sometimes, and sometimes it sucks a whole mouthful of dirty dog’s balls. And, for the foreseeable future, it’s my life. I hope, if you are a shift worker, you read this, and smile and nod. And, if you are not a shift worker, perhaps it will help you understand why so many of us appear incapable of making sense half the time. Or at the very least, perhaps you might look away, the next time you see a sleep deprived shift worker, on the side of the road, frantically grooming their 7 year old with spit and the sleeve of their bathrobe. Because it may not make sense to you, but at that time, in that parent’s fuzzy, hazy eyes, it makes sense to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Know Thyself

 

PERFECTION

It may be a surprise to many of you, but I am not perfect.

[stunned silence]

I’ll give you a minute or two, to get over the shock. I understand that this might be hard for those of you who were completely convinced of my ultimate state of perfection. However, as I think self honesty is one of my better characteristics, I feel it is better that this revelation is out there, in all it’s glory, to be digested and debated for decades to come. I am an imperfect being.

I happen to be a bit of an optimist when it comes to humanity, so I tend to believe that a person’s worst traits in some situations, can be their asset in other situations. That doesn’t mean that these bad traits are likeable. I am sure that some of mine are barely tolerable in the eyes of many. Actually, I am positive of this, given the amount of people who have pretended not to know me in social situations, unfriended me randomly on the social medias, and anonymously and abusively private messaged me on the internets.

In the interest of knowing thyself, I have been taking a good hard look at my imperfections of late. And I thought it was time to share them with the world. Well, some of them. Some, such as my habit of farting loudly when I wake up in the morning, and the fact that I occasionally forget to wear clothes when I walk into the backyard to get something off the line, are probably best kept as dirty little secrets. Oh, wait. Whoops!

I talk. A lot. And very, very, loudly.

When I was a kid, my grandfather was fond of telling me that I could talk underwater, with a mouth full of golf balls. And, a bad case of glue ear left me a little deaf for a while, when I was about four. On top of that, I was always “that weird drama kid”, so I was taught by professionals to project my voice, and I took to it with gusto. These forces combined, making me both very talkative, and very….. projected.

Verbal diarrhea is a specialty that I am not always proud of. There are many occasions, more than I could even begin to count, where I find my mouth moving, my voice box working, and my brain, which is screaming “Please! Please guys just shut the fuck up already!” is being completely ignored. I have given far too much information to bemused call centre staff who are clearly only interested in potentially updating my private health insurance. I have meandered into random and bizarre deep and meaningful conversations with a random middle aged drug addict, who appeared to be more interested in trying to obtain my credit card from my clutch, than listening to my life story.

I’m pretty sure the ability to verbalise my every thought is a genetic trait. My mum is rarely short of something to say, nor is my father. Family meals in our family are rarely a quiet affair. And, there is an upside to being a family of over-talkers: we never have the problem of awkward silence. Sharing a family meal with my extended family is never quiet – it’s a constant, loud hive of voices. We talk over the top of each other (another fault, but I feel it is encompassed here). We shout at each other, even when we aren’t mad. We cut off the sentences of others, through sheer enthusiasm to be heard. We would make an epic reality TV show.

In fact, it’s a positive of being talkative, period. When situations are awkward, and the silence is not comfortable, my superhuman powers of chattiness go into overdrive. Subjects are changed in seconds. Attention is diverted almost instantaneously, from awkward to “WTF is Rissa blathering on about, now?”.

I have a a pretty full-on personality.

I am extremely extroverted. Not just a little bit extroverted, or extroverted when it suits me, or extroverted when it suits you. I’m on, all the time. I literally have no idea how to stop it. It is not always my intention, but I have a tendency to dominate conversations, and attempt to steal the show in social situations. When I am aware of it, I try to stop it. I will actually walk away from a conversation, pretend to go to the bathroom, or occupy myself by arguing with someone who is wrong on the internet, in an attempt to remove myself from a situation where my extroverted nature is going into overdrive.

I have had people tell me that they found me intimidating when the first met me. They have interpreted my extroversion as arrogance, and decided that I am actually an arsehole. One of my favourite people in the world could not stand me when we first met. When I first started my current job, a coworker submitted a report about my personality, and labelled me an arrogant, opinionated, know it all (the exact words used). Note, my work ethic and ability were not the problem. It was my personality.

The thing is, when an extrovert is nervous, or uncomfortable, or in a challenging situation such as, oh, I don’t know, starting a terrifying new job where they are surrounded by people who are often a little arrogant and confronting themselves, they are likely to become more over the top. Being “out there” is a coping mechanism for people like me. When the going gets tough, I am more likely to cover my terror with false bravado than I am to flee the situation in tears. I cannot tell you how much I wish that I was not this person, at times. But other times, it is a benefit. To me, and to those around me.

When a situation is genuinely dangerous, or stressful, or upsetting, my personality means that I am often the person who can hold it together. I can make terrified children laugh, I can confront people who are hurting or offending others without hesitation. As much as I am a massive pain in the arse, I am also a handy person to have around if you need someone to stick up for you, defend you, or fight for you. I often become the accidental spokesperson when things go wrong, purely because I am the one who’s natural instinct is to keep talking until it is all sorted. Which is probably a big part of what loses me friends. But, if you can’t see past the bravado, and recognise who I am behind it, I guess it’s your loss as much as it is mine.

When the going gets tough, I crack jokes.

I guess it goes hand in hand with being an blabber-mouthed extrovert. And I will say upfront, that it is a habit that has gotten me out of trouble on quite a few occasions. When I am under emotional stress, when the world is falling in on me, when people around me are on the floor in tears, I often find myself desperately grasping for the funny side of life. Anything. If it makes me giggle, I’ll probably say it.

The problem is, while those who are near and dear to me recognise this as a coping mechanism, I can understand that it can occasionally seem insensitive to the uninitiated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pole dancing at funerals, or slapping pies into faces during serious arguments. The truth is, I struggle with displaying emotion. I struggle with admitting I am sad, and I find grief really tricky to deal with. So when I find myself backed into a corner of overwhelming emotion, I tend to find myself avoiding it with humour.

It doesn’t work, by the way. All it does is delay the inevitable tears, leaving me as that weird, puffy eyed, red faced lady, who is crying into her husband’s jacket long after everyone else has shed their tears and moved on. And, to my horror, it usually draws attention to me while I am bawling like an idiot, at one of the few times in my extroverted life that I have no desire to be the centre of any attention, in any capacity. So it is basically an epic fail. One that I am destined to repeat possibly for the remainder of my life. Or, until the dementia sets in.

Well, I guess that’s it. I mean, I know I have many, many many more faults that I could admit to. I’m a plethora of irritating habits and random tendencies, same as every other person I have ever met. These are the ones that I seem to get pulled up on. The ones that I know I have to be aware of. I’m not in the business of hurting other people, I don’t want to cause them unnecessary distress. So these are the ones that I try to keep in check.

There is a massive upside to being a chatterbox, extrovert, scary situation dodging, wannabe comedian. It was summed up pretty well by my husbands best friend, the best man at our wedding, and someone who I have always had complete respect and admiration for. In his speech on our wedding day, he described me as “the kind of person who will instantly be your best friend, and she means it.” The fact that he, as an extreme introvert, was prepared to speak at all, was pretty damn awesome. The fact that he could see the good side to all my faults, even though we are such opposite beings, was even better.

rissa shots
Despite popular opinion, this is not a portrait of perfection.