What a year! I know I say that every year, but 2020 was of course a very different one for me, as it was for most people. Before I get into the recap, I’d like to acknowledge that I have immense privilege – to live in a city that was affected far less by COVID 19 than many other places, to not be in a bushfire-prone area, to work in a job I can do remotely, to not live with fear due to the colour of my skin. The below might seem frivolous in comparison to the year that others have endured, but it was what I experienced and I still wanted to get it down somewhere, whilst acknowledging that just surviving was enough for many. I am very lucky.
Felix firsts – At the start of the year, Felix was 10 months old and crawling (enthusiastically), eating food (clumsily), and babbling (unintelligibly). It was a big year of firsts for him – first birthday, first steps, first words, first time experiencing so many things that being bigger, stronger and smarter allow him to. He can now run, climb, and very clearly demand what he wants. It’s scary and exciting, especially looking back on how far he’s come – he’s really become his own little person, cheeky, inquisitive and observant.
Pregnancy – In the first part of the year, I somehow went from not feeling confident about bringing another child into this cruel world to oh what the hell, to pregnant all within a month or so. Although this second pregnancy hasn’t been a piece of cake, I’ve been relatively lucky and we’re looking forward to meeting our baby in February 2021!
Returning to work / working from home – Our plan was always to tag team – I spent almost a year on maternity leave, then Jeff and I traded places and he spent a school year as the primary career whilst I returned to work. There was definitely a period of adjustment (mainly for me – working full time is tiring!), but we found our way and it was nice to dive back into work. Then of course coronavirus hit, lockdowns began, and almost our entire office became remote. Even after things seemed pretty under control in WA, social distancing in the office meant most of us worked from home at least half the time for the rest of the year.
This was difficult for many I’m sure, but for me with a great home study setup and childcare taken care of, it showed how well flexible working can work for my family. It was so nice to not have a daily commute, to be able to attend meetings remotely, and especially to come downstairs for lunch or snacks and say hello Felix and Jeff. It meant I got to witness so many more of Felix’s firsts and spend much more of the year with him. It was also very handy for disguising my pregnancy until I was ready to tell people. I hope that more workplaces embrace flexible working, especially for families, as a silver lining to the lockdowns.
Road trips – We had some small-ish holidays cancelled due to the pandemic, but still managed some local road trips once WA’s regional borders reopened. It’s always a bit chaotic with a toddler and a dog, but I do like us being all together, including Jasper. Visiting Dunsborough with another family (also with a toddler and a dog!) was a nice change from going alone, and saved some money on accommodation. Visiting Lancelin later in the year was a different spot for us, and we learned for next time to check the wind before heading to the beach to avoid getting sand blasted!
Animal Crossing – I know I wasn’t alone in indulging in some good old escapism in 2020, and Animal Crossing New Horizons came at just the right time. I spent a lot of time making my island and house look just right, and pretty much ignored other objectives. Part of me felt that I should have been doing something more productive with my evenings, but at the end of the day this was what I needed, and I was able to let go when my interests moved along. I have no regrets.
Art – I didn’t do a lot of creative things in 2020 (because of all the things above), but towards the end of the year I started feeling the itch to make things again. I had a painting class baby shower, attended a floral wreath workshop, and started doing still life challenges. This was partly inspired by the fact that these things will get a lot more difficult with a newborn, but I’m hoping to keep up with the digital art at least in 2021.
Photo books and wall art – I have so many photos that I’ve never done anything with, or only posted to Instagram. Last year I decided to make a photo book of Felix’s first year, and also make a wedding album whilst I was at it – something I’d put off for almost 9 years! I’m so happy with the result, and to finally have the photos in physical form. I also got some holiday snaps printed to hang in our house, and although it’s a bit weird seeing my face so big I love the way that the prints look.
Pantry organisation – When I told Jeff that putting condiments and sauces in our pantry on rotating trays was one of the best things I did in the year, he laughed at me. But several months later it’s still looking neat, everything is so accessible and it brings my pregnant and nesting self much joy every time I open the pantry, so there. I’ve made various little changes around our house, particularly the kitchen, to make things more streamlined (and cute) ahead of our family growing, so we can make this house work for us as long as possible.
Intentional purchases – I didn’t buy a lot in 2020, but there were a few things that I’m really glad I did. Solar panels felt like the right thing to do, and with so much time spent at home has been so worth it. A new TV and entertainment unit, upgrading from the one inherited from parents over 10 years ago when we first moved out. A wireless digital clock for my bedside table that only glows when tapped, so I can charge my phone downstairs instead of contributing to pregnancy insomnia. A new leather work bag, even though I won’t be working again for a while. A cheap but actually pretty decent espresso machine. A really nice and bushy Christmas tree.
Not a lot here, besides the general undercurrent of stress from the news.
Returning to work – I did have every intention of easing back into things, not taking on too much, and slowly finding my kind of balance. Somehow I ended up doing the complete opposite, and found myself with too much on my plate and flagging energy once I became pregnant. I’d find myself waking up in the middle of the night and lying there for hours, trying to solve problems in my head (I came up with some pretty good ideas too!). I think it was good for my career, and thanks to working from home it didn’t detract from spending time with my family, but there were definitely times that I dipped into burnout territory. I’ll have to be a bit more careful when I go back to work after this round of parental leave.
Pregnancy – This pregnancy has been the same in some ways – complication free and relatively painless compared to some friends experiences! But in others it’s been quite different: I’ve been much more sensitive to smells this time, and have far less energy. The latter could be to do with being a couple years older, as well as dealing with the high energy needs and patchy sleep of a toddler. I’ve been disappointed at not being able to exercise or do much at all besides work and spend a little time with Felix each day – last pregnancy I was very active, doing yoga and pilates until close to the end. It’s frustrating but not terrible in the scheme of things, especially as it’s now so close to the February finish line.
Thoughts for 2021
I’ll spend most of 2021 on parental leave with a baby and a toddler to look after, so my year will involve a lot of embracing imperfection and going with the flow!
This year I will: actually use the dishwasher. Pay professionals rather than trying to DIY. Not wait for a “decent block of time” to make art, just take what I can get. Write with whatever I have available at the time, rather than waiting to sit down at a computer. Take a nap even if there’s things to be cleaned. Dream about building a house, even if it might never happen. Not feel guilty about ordering takeaway. Ask for help. Not think about work. Have some boundaries, even with my kids. Observe and learn. Take walks alone sometimes. Sit outside with a coffee. Use those damn gifted scented candles that I don’t know why I’ve been saving. Let go of things that no longer serve me, even if I paid money for them. Hold onto things I haven’t used for a long time but would still like to, someday, even if they do take up space.