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Archive for May, 2010

I looked at my daughter today, a few weeks shy of her first birthday, and realised that she’s no longer a baby. She’s still cute as a button, still in big cloth-bum nappies, still breastfed … but she’s a child, not a baby. It’s not walking that brought me to this realisation (she’s not – although she can do the 10m crawl in record time) or talking (all of four words), but her recent behaviour refusing food.

At first I thought she was teething. So I did all the things that had worked before – only served her food that was cold from the fridge, used children’s panadol to help her sleep. And for a couple of days, that seemed to work. She began sleeping soundly again as tooth #7 poked its pearly tip through her top gum. But she was still refusing to eat any of her baby food – not the pink slop*, not the orange slush, not the brown sludge. Yet she would happily tuck in to her banana, sultanas, cheese, or toast.

I was a bit slow on the uptake. A heap of other mums had looked at me enviously when I said that Little Pearl was still eating from a spoon. They talked about how their kids would only eat finger food, or insisted on feeding themselves with a spoon. I registered what they were saying, but didn’t think any more of it. I figured I was just lucky – hell, I had to get lucky sometime.

But today, as I surveyed the breakfast carnage, I realised that my daughter was finding her independence too. Food is one of the few things a small child has control over, and she was telling me that she wanted to choose what to eat. Pink slop was not on the menu. It was however in her hair, my hair, all over her clothes and hands, my clothes and hands, my glasses, watch…

Little Pearl 1, Mama 0.

Little Pearl

Little Pearl at Ground Zero

Her behaviour has changed in other ways. Shrieking to be picked up. Resisting being put in the car seat, or cot. I am delighted that Little Pearl is discovering her own personality. The thing is, though, that a developing personality ain’t pretty. Babies – and small children – teenagers too, probably (actually, some adults as well) – are supremely egocentric, self-absorbed beings with little or no empathy for others and absolutely no understanding that other people exist for reasons completely unrelated to meeting their needs, wants and passing whims.

On the other hand, I’m fascinated by the choices that she does make as she becomes capable of making them. Who – or what – she chooses to crawl to, where she wants to explore, what foods she likes and what foods she doesn’t like. I have been very entertained by the struggle for dominance between Little Pearl and the Blue Cat. (I’m calling it even).

So, I’m not going to fight it any more. She’s not a baby any more, and naturally she doesn’t want baby food. Little Pearl has moved on, and is just waiting for slow old mama to realise and catch up.

My little girl is growing up.

*For the record, pink slop is very tasty raspberry & pear puree mixed with yoghurt and baby cereal. It also dries rock-hard…

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I love lists. My journal is full of them – my favourite books at different points in my life, writing goals, pros and cons for significant (and insignificant) decisions. But my favourite to look back on are my long term goals and aspirations – things like buy a house, or write a book, or get a promotion.

Writing down my goals is both useful and useless. Useful, because it gives me something to aim for, some direction. Useless, because within five years my life will almost certainly be on totally different track than the one I imagine for myself.

At thirteen, I never dreamed I’d leave home while I was still a teenager and make my own way in the world.

At eighteen, the wild child I was never dreamed I’d start a public service job in my early twenties, that would give me the opportunity to travel to other parts of Australia and ultimately lead to a successful management career.

At twenty three, I didn’t expect that in just two short years I would relocate to the other side of the continent with my boyfriend of twelve months AND my mother and father in tow. I’d moved from Scotland to Western Australia as a child and had no intention of ever leaving my beloved Fremantle – but opportunity and adventure beckoned.

At twenty eight, I had no idea I’d be married within five years – let alone trying to start a family. Children weren’t on my radar, and definitely not part of my new husband’s future plans.

And at thirty three, although we had then decided to try to have a family, it would never have occurred to me in a million years that I would give away my successful executive career to be a stay at home mum to my daughter – or that it would bring me the greatest joy and happiness in my life to date.

So I’ve learned it’s useless – but fun – to predict where I’ll be in five years. I hope that five years from now, I will have finished my current book, and others besides. I hope that my Little Pearl will be a happy, healthy six year old. Not planning any other additions to the family, but the last twenty years have taught me to never say never. I expect I’ll be back in part-time work – but I’m keeping my options open as to what I’ll do. And I don’t see us leaving Canberra or Australia any time soon.

I have a recurring theme in my journal where I look back and give thanks for the wonderful events in my life. Some parts of the journey have been difficult, some rewarding, all an opportunity to learn. If I had it all over again, I couldn’t change a thing – because everything that has gone before has led to the place I am now. A place where I think I might burst from joy each and every day. I can only hope the next five years brings more of the same.

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Following on from my previous post about resumes and job applications, here are my ten top interview tips:

  • When I call you to arrange an interview, don’t spend ten minutes with me trying to figure out which job this is out of the hundreds you’ve applied for. It gives me the impression that you’re not that enthusiastic about the job I’ve advertised.
  • Prepare to be asked about yourself. Interviewers often use this as an icebreaker question (along with, ‘Why do you want this job?’) because it’s generally regarded as an easy question. Not being able to answer ‘So, tell us a little about yourself’ does not leave a good impression. In fact – just prepare. Try to guess the kind of questions the interviewers might ask, research the job, and think about the answers you would give.
  • When asked about equal employment opportunity, it is best not to descend into a racist rant about why some minorities get a better deal from the government than others. Keep it for your weekly white supremacist meeting.
  • Dress the part. This should need no elaboration. Shower. Please. Interview rooms are small and we’re in close quarters.
  • Don’t insult the interviewers. Sounds obvious I know, but I recall interviewing a prospective graduate and asking a question that included passing reference to the manufacture of drugs (yes, it was an interesting job). However, that was obviously the bit that grabbed the candidate’s attention. He paused, thought about the question, then said, ‘Well, I’m a lot younger than you, so I’d know a lot more about drugs than you.’ It’s true he was a lot younger than me – I was all of 32.
  • When I ask you why you want the job, be realistic. Money is an ok answer as long as you also demonstrate some actual enthusiasm about the job or show that you’ve done some research into the functions of my organisation. But telling me that you expect promotion to the head of the multi-billion dollar bureaucratic organisation that employs hundreds of thousands of people within three years of joining as a graduate with no work experience except Maccas… yeah, right. That’s not ambition, that’s a total reality disconnect and your application goes in my ‘delusions of grandeur’ pile.
  • When I ask why I should give you the job, think about the answer. I interviewed two candidates for a promotion. Both were already part of the organisation, and each knew the other was interviewing for the job. When I asked this question, one candidate – a young graduate who had been with the organisation for just over a year – told me he deserved the job because ‘he’d served his time, and it was his turn for a promotion’. Now, aside from the small issue of something called the merit principle (which replaced seniority as grounds for promotion about twenty years ago), his competitor had been with the organisation for nearly ten years. Think logically, buddy.
  • Some recruiters conduct group exercises as part of an assessment centre. These exercises are theoretically designed to test your leadership and teamwork skills. Assessors watch you all the time. So an engineering candidate saying things like, ‘Give the chick the pen, girls all have neat handwriting’ does not mark you as future leadership material in my book. Did you even notice that I’m a ‘chick’, as you so eloquently put it?
  • The interview is not the place to vent about your previous employer. It does nothing to sell you to a new employer.
  • If you don’t understand the question, ask. If you don’t remember the question, ask the interviewers to repeat it. Take notes. Bring in notes – most interviewers will allow it, especially if you ask beforehand.

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