Welcome to my first personal diary entry and update! I wanted to add this as a regular feature on Teaching Brave so I can share a little bit about my personal life and my health, my money updates, my parenting and co-parenting journey, a little bit about my professional life as a an Early Childhood Teacher and Child Care Director, as well as Teaching Brave updates!
My Personal Update
During September I ticked a few boxes health wise, including completing my 2 Pfizer Covid jabs (I was very lucky with very few side effects), a flu shot and a Tetanus/Whooping Cough Vaccine as I was due for one (usually every 10 years) and a very important one to have working with babies as well as with my pending visit to my sister’s place to meet my new baby niece, right after we are out of lockdown!
I had a routine skin cancer check, which I get every 3 months now since my Melanoma was removed. I have fair skin with freckles and moles and therefore am very vulnerable when it comes to skin cancer. I was very lucky that the melanoma in my arm was a Stage One melanoma and caught early as melanoma is an extremely aggressive cancer and can spread very quickly. On one of my routine checks, my doctor said he was concerned about some dark freckles on my chest area. I saw a dermatologist (who is more qualified to check for skin cancers than a skin cancer doctor, which was a surprise to me) and my dermatologist said she wasn’t too concerned and that it should be regularly monitored with checks and photos. Get your skin cancer checks guys! If it’s caught early enough, it won’t spread! Oh and it’s not just for those with fair skin by the way – one of my close friends has dark skin and very few moles and she also just had a Stage 1 melanoma removed.
I’ve been missing my family more than ever while in lockdown and my sister had a baby so I am yet to meet my new baby niece and I’m dying for a cuddle and a play! I have had to make do with photos and Facetime chats but as soon as Sydney is out of lockdown, I’ll be on my way over and that adorable little thing will be mine for the day!
During September I also had an appointment with a psychologist for the first time in my life which I was nervous about as I’ve always just ‘coped’ or ‘survived’ and counselled myself through some of the hardest moments in my life (relationship breakdowns, my son’s father leaving us, money struggles, work stress and grief). I realised that while I consider myself quite a strong, resilient person, it’s not a sign of weakness to talk to a professional about my mental wellness. It’s something I have encouraged friends and family to do when they have struggles, yet I have never done this myself. I have never suffered from clinical depression, anxiety or any mental health issues but as I get older, I start to realise that past trauma from childhood bullying may be having a significant impact on my life now, my relationships, my response to certain situations and events and that discussing this with someone could only be beneficial. I have to admit though, I did find this quite difficult considering I had never met this person and due to Covid, it had to be a Telehealth conference, rather than a face to face meeting. I’m not sure why it is now that I felt the need to seek out this help, but certainly the extended Sydney Covid lockdown (almost 4 months now) and a lack of ‘fun’ and social connection has most definitely been a major contributing factor.
While writing my article on ‘Bullying and Children’, I definitely started reflecting on my own experience being bullied as a child. I would often spend time alone at primary school with no friends as I was extremely shy. In high school I didn’t have any real friends until year 11 and 12 when I started to build a little self confidence. This was a very lonely time and I remember feeling very isolated, upset, withdrawn and insecure. At the time, bullying was not something that was talked about very often and so the behaviour I was experiencing may not have even been recognised as bullying.
I remember so called ‘friends’ running away from me to ‘hide’ so that I couldn’t find them and then just excluding me from any interactions. I remember being elbowed into a garden area accompanied by comments such as “Rubbish belongs in the dirt.” I remember comments about my clothes such as “Is that t-shirt supposed to have a joke on it? I’ll tell you what’s a joke – your face and body.” Why are kids so cruel sometimes? I was so shy I couldn’t have possibly done anything to annoy or offend them so I was simply an easy target.
I suppose reflecting on those experiences is why I feel so strongly about building self esteem and confidence in my son and why we have so many conversations about bullies, bullying and how to manage those situations at school. It’s also why I have felt so strongly about spreading awareness about bullying and resilience in children with my various articles. You can read my Bullying article here or my article on Building Resilience here.
I have definitely spent significantly less money while being in lockdown as I’m not meeting up with friends for meals or coffees, I’ve been doing more cooking at home, less shopping for clothes (as I’ve had nowhere to go!), I’ve controlled my online shopping, only getting essentials such as chemist items, some essential clothes for Andy and a couple of books (libraries are closed and Andy ran out of books to read!). I have continued to sell items online, from around the house but due to Covid this has definitely slowed down with people unable to leave their local government area, unless for ‘essential’ reasons. The items I have sold (some scarves, a couple of books, an Ipad cover, a wall hanging and some jewellery) have all been paid for online and posted out to buyers. Unfortunately I have also had some big bills this month including car registration, my strata bill, a $300 parking fine (ugh!), a car service and some other bills. Of course, none of this stressed me out too much as I now have a healthy Emergency Fund of $12,000 and fortunately I didn’t even need to touch it as the cash I was saving being in lockdown, as well as the few online sales covered these costs!
As Andy’s father and I are both essential workers, we have been sharing the responsibilities of having Andy while he is home schooling. Andy is usually with me 12 days out of 14 but during lockdown, Andy’s father and I have been doing more like a 50/50 share. This means I have not been receiving my usual child support payment from him. This does seem to even out though as while I’m not receiving the child support, Andy is with me less days during the week so I am saving on the costs of food for him, extra power and water costs which certainly add up. I am missing him more though while he is spending more days with his dad. As I live quite frugally however, I am still in front with regular child support payments as this accounts for an approximate $500 per month.
This month I tried out Dinnerly and Marley Spoon meal delivery kits! I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, evaluate whether this was really going to be a time and money saving exercise and I wanted to judge the meals! I ended up doing a pretty comprehensive Dinnerly vs Marley Spoon review article which you can find here. As an extremely quick summary, I found most of the meals really tasty and easy to prepare. It was definitely a huge time saver for me as it meant I didn’t need to meal plan or grocery shop for meal ingredients. This was a huge plus for me as a working single parent but in terms of cost, yes it would be cheaper to buy groceries yourself and do your own meal planning but like many things these days, you pay for convenience! Everything was very fresh though, and there were HEAPS of meal options. I also scored a pretty big discount for Teaching Brave readers so if you’re interested to give either Marley Spoon or Dinnerly a try, you can visit my review article here and click on the discount code links to redeem!
Andy has always received money from my father, Andy’s grandfather, for birthday and Christmas gifts for Andy, rather than actual gifts and this money was sitting in a savings account earning next to no interest so I decided to open up a minor account with Pearler on Andy’s behalf. I have my own investments through Pearler as well and I was excited to invest Andy’s money to see some growth as I don’t expect to allow him to access it until he’s at least 21. It has been a relatively simple process, though it is still awaiting final approval. All I needed to do was provide a copy of Andy’s birth certificate and I should be able to invest that money within the next week or so. I will provide further info on Pearler and opening up a minor account once it is all finalised but I plan to just invest his money into some more Betashares A200 ETFs, an Australian ETF which provides exposure to the top 200 companies in Australia. If you would like to try out Pearler, you can use my code TEACHINGBRAVE or click here and you will score a free brokerage credit worth $9.50. I’ll get a credit too so win/win! I am still fairly new to investing and as a lot of people say once they get started, I WISH I STARTED SOONER! I started with Self Wealth and still have some shares in there but I now have my Pearler account too.
While I only started calculating my Net Worth last year, this is now something I like to monitor. In June of this year, my Net Worth was $336,978 (+$42,021 since January 2021). I calculated my Net Worth again this September and it has grown to $350,425 (+$13,447 since June 2021) which I am so excited about! When I split with Andy’s father, I had no money. I was a broke single mum and I had to start from scratch. You can read my ‘Single mum’s money journey’ here. So to get to a position of having a Net Worth even over $100k feels like a huge achievement and I’m proud of how far I’ve come in the past 7 years! My Net Worth is mostly made up of my Super balance ($164,000), the equity I have in my home apartment, my Emergency Fund of $12k, the money I have in shares, my car and my personal belongings. I have NO consumer debt, only a mortgage. Do you calculate your Net Worth? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to know!
Parenting and Co-parenting
I know I’m not the only one to struggle with working and home schooling during lockdown but wow, this has been difficult. I’ve been helping Andy with school projects, trying to cast my mind back on how to do year 5 maths and assisting him with research. I am a teacher myself but this has certainly given me a renewed respect for his primary school teacher.
Co-parenting and sharing the responsibility of caring for Andy and home schooling has mostly been kept amicable which I’m thankful for as there have definitely been many difficult moments in the past where Andy’s father and I struggle to communicate effectively. We have both been relatively flexible and so I’ve been very happy to avoid conflict. Tom actually decided to dye Andy’s hair (purple and rainbow!) which I had a minor freak out over but soon realised I need to pick my battles and they both assured me it would be cut and back to normal by the time face to face learning resumes at school.
I was very happy with Andy’s NAPLAN results and explained to Andy that this was not too important but rather a snapshot at how he was progressing compared to his peers and compared to the nation. We didn’t focus on it too much as I prefer to focus on his individual achievements with less comparison but nevertheless I was proud.
Andy was ecstatic to finally have an outside play date! His mental health has been affected too while in lockdown as he has no siblings at home with him and he has been very lonely! Unfortunately the only way the kids have been able to connect with others is through online gaming which I’ve tried to explain to Andy is not normal or healthy to have too much of this and for this to be the only way of having social interaction. It has meant that Andy has seen a change in his friends’ behavior as well as feelings of isolation, loneliness and sadness. We can now see a light at the end of the tunnel and he has been allowed to have some play dates which have been so valuable.
I did have a bit of a shock this month when I took Andy to see a specialist at the children’s hospital regarding his hormones. I clearly specified to the doctor that Andy was anaphylactic to peanuts, cashews and pistachios and yet this doctor actually wrote a prescription for Andy for a hormone containing peanut oil, instructing for this to be injected straight into his muscle! I didn’t realise it contained peanut oil until I had filled the script and if I hadn’t looked carefully at the box, this would have been injected and could have killed him! I was very surprised and raised it with the doctor who was very apologetic and told me he would research for an alternative medication. Let this be a reminder – be an advocate for your child’s health! Check, double check, ask questions and be alert. This had the potential to be a fatal accident.
It has been a challenging month at work too! There has been a LOT less children attending due to Stay at home orders but there has also been a lot less staff members too! I have had some staff members who have been reluctant to vaccinate too so these people have been unable to work their usual shifts and have been instructed to stay at home until such time as they do vaccinate, since the government brought in mandatory vaccinations for all teachers and early childhood educators. Some staff have had hours cut but the Covid disaster govt payment has helped many staff members.
I have continued to learn and do relevant training such as updating my mandatory Child Protection training to ensure the protection of all children within our service. I have done some webinars on supporting the transition to school during Covid, as well as some courses on Behaviour Management and Developmental Delays. You can read my article on Global Development Delay here.
I have booked our Steps Vision Screening for the end of the year, a bulk billed vision screening program for all pre-school aged children who are 4 or older, I have liased with our local primary schools to discuss the transition to school program and to give some insight regarding the children who are enrolled with us who will be attending those particular schools next year. We have started our transition to school statements for those children as well and continue to discuss School Readiness with our families as necessary as we implement our School Readiness program.
We have had many families confused about child care fees and have been misled by government announcements to the effect of “Child care centres can now offer free child care during Covid.” While last year, the arrangement was very different and child care centres were receiving significant government support to be able to offer FREE child care during Covid, this year, it has been left up to individual providers as to whether they want to offer this to their families who are staying home, or not. If they do this, there is little support by the government and this ends up coming straight out of the pocket of the provider. Therefore there have been centres who have not opted to do this at all, there have been some giving discounts to families and some that have offered the free care, to those families who have remained at home. This has not been made clear to many families by the government so there has been a general assumption that child care should be free if children are staying at home. Our centre has been providing significant discounts but this varies per family, depending on their CCS eligibility. The government has also allowed for further absences beyond the usual allowable 42 per year, due to stay at home orders. You can read more about the absence rules here.
Teaching Brave Update
Some updates for TeachingBrave:
I have been excited to do some rebranding and get a new logo designed as well as a new colour palette for social media! The response has been positive and I think the logo fits the Teaching Brave brand and what I’m all about, much better than the old logo. I was fortunate enough to have plenty of feedback from the Instagram community helping me to vote on several logo options. If you are one of those people, THANK YOU!!
I have also had some significant increase in blog traffic which is super exciting! Keeping track of this with Google Analytics has been invaluable and helps me to analyse my content and gives me so much motivation to keep creating new content!
I have been cutting back on the amount of time spent making Insta reels and TikToks and while I know many of these have been well received so far, they can be very time consuming and this meant less time spent on getting quality articles out and more time on social media. I think the balance was wrong so I’m trying to make an effort to put more time into the quality articles for this blog and for social media to be secondary.
I am still working my way through the Digital Investors course by the eBusiness Institute. I have already learned so much from these videos and it is fascinating to me to learn how much you can make from building, buying and selling websites! I enjoy adding value to my TeachingBrave website and I can’t imagine ever selling it but building websites and monetizing them is something I have a lot of interest in and building passive income to reach Financial Independence is something I am working towards. I love my job as an early childhood teacher and child care director but I would love to have the option to cut back on the hours and do this on more of a part time or even casual basis in the future. I feel like building the skills I’m learning through the eBusiness Institute will play a large role in me being able to achieve that. CaptainFi has an awesome review of the eBusiness Institute which you can find here.
Thank you SO much to each and every one of you who have supported me, the Teaching Brave blog and my social media posts on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok. I only started Teaching Brave a year ago and I feel so lucky to have connected with so many amazing people and inspiring accounts and blogs. I have so many plans for Teaching Brave and I have enjoyed sharing information on various topics as well as learning from others and gaining inspiration.
Please let me know if you have any article ideas for me or if you would like me to cover anything in particular surrounding early childhood related content, parenting or co-parenting, or money related content.
This September diary and update was something new for me and if you stuck around to read it all and enjoyed it, please let me know! I feel like I tapped into my inner courage to share so much of myself but I enjoyed it! Watch out for next month’s update and thank you so much for reading! Drop me a comment in the Comments section below, I would love to hear from you! Please also subscribe to Teaching Brave to receive regular updates to your inbox. Thank youuuuu!! Lizzie. : )