This time, the burst of light and colour that is Shannon Wong-Nizic is gracing our pages. Shannon is a mum. A teacher. A blogger. I met Shannon when she started writing for me at Mumtastic and she dreams of being a published picture book author (and somehow I reckon she’ll get there!)
For a long time, I had myself convinced that I was a Jack of All Trades, Master of None. I dabbled. I liked trying new things.
After a run-in with an Art Teacher in Year 8, I concluded that I was not a creative being and for a good decade I believed this to be Truth. I’ve slowly come to realise, and embrace, that what I actually am is creative. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.”
Although I’m a primary school teacher, I have no particular training in any creative field. I just like creating stuff. I try to get creative with my kids on a daily basis and my blog captures our perfectly imperfect attempts at living a creative life. Picture books are one of my passions and I dream of having one of my manuscripts published one day.
I am unsure how this has come about but I have this innate belief that everything in Life will work out as it should. Perhaps it’s the eternally optimistic Sagittarian in me? Perhaps it was the way I was raised by a migrant dad and a country-girl mum who both worked exceptionally hard to improve their lot in life?
A friend once described me as “a walking contradiction.” At first I was a bit offended, but I the more I think about it, the more I get it. I love structure and systems but have this rebellious streak that craves spontaneity and going with the flow. I’m a homebody with a chronic case of wanderlust. I’m a social introvert. I love connecting with people but find social situations quite arduous. I’m ambitious but like letting things unfold at their own pace. I’m an organised procrastinator.
Meet my husband
I had just started working as a Tour Guide when we met. So for the first 18 months of our relationship we were long-distance as I toured around Australia. I give you full permission to roll your eyes, but right from the beginning, the whole relationship just felt right. What I immediately liked about Pete was that he was a Do-er. He would say he was going to do something and he would just do it. I was also struck by his confident ability to easily chat with anybody.
He is a Creative Director by day and a film-maker in his spare time. For a long time, he believed in my creative abilities way more than I did. So he is definitely my biggest cheerleader. He is generous, a Good-Times-Guy and an amazing father. Definitely a keeper.
And my kids
I belong to 2 small humans. My little girl is almost 3. Her ideal day would involve wearing a twirly skirt, eating a punnet of blueberries, covering herself in paint, going for a swim, visiting the dogs of the neighbourhood and topping it all off with a Peppa Pig marathon. She is fierce and funny.
Her favourite question is “Are you happy, Mummy?” which slays my heart. Every time.
Baby Bear is 1. He came into the world in the shower at home, landing in his Dad’s hands. He didn’t bother waiting for the midwife to arrive. And that pretty much summarises this guy – mellow and happy-go-lucky.
He enjoys putting everything in his mouth and not sleeping. I fear his teenage days as he is an absolute eating machine. This kid is pure joy.
Our home life
We live in Sydney’s Inner West. We take pleasure in complaining about our horrendous mortgage because that’s just what Sydneysiders do but we also can’t fathom living anywhere else.
We love living in the suburbs but being in close proximity to the city.
We love having access to museums, galleries and festivals. We also joke about how important it is for us to have access to Yum Cha and dumplings. I grew up in this area and always had a cast of friends that resembled the United Nations. I want that multicultural mix for my kids.
We decided to renovate whilst pregnant with our first child. Of course the renovations ran late, our daughter was early and she spent the first six weeks of her life sleeping in the bedroom of my teenage years at my parent’s place. Do renovations ever really end? It feels as though our house is a constant Work-in-Progress. We’re not sure if this is our Forever House but it’s an exceptionally happy place for now.
My work life
This year I returned to teaching part-time after a year of maternity leave. While I’m at work, the kids are looked after by their grandmas. We are exceptionally lucky to have this arrangement. It takes a village after all.
Even though I “only” work two days a week, I feel as though my workload has increased exponentially. The work required to run a household has not lessened in any way. So I have to juggle this with the fact that teaching requires a fair bit of planning and preparing. I often joke that I need a wife. Or a secretary. Or both.
A typical day in my life
On the days when I’m not at work, our days run like this…
My husband’s alarm goes off some time around 6:15. He has breakfast with our toddler whilst I desperately try and get a bit more sleep. I get up just before he heads off to commute to work.
I breakfast with the baby while the toddler draws or sticks stickers everywhere. I will usually unload the dishwasher and put on some laundry and then try to wrangle the kids into clothes. I always try to get us out of the house in the morning. Whether it’s to playgroup, dance class, the local park or the supermarket, it always feels like a bit of a victory to just get out of the house. Plus it also serves to wear the kids out for a nice, long naptime. (Ulterior motive!)
I try to get home for naptime as I did not get the model sleeping child who transfers from the car to bed without waking. If they fall asleep in the car, I spend naptime hanging out in the driveway catching up on emails and Instagram.
During naptime I try and do blogging stuff or lesson planning for work.
Afternoons are usually spent at home. Maybe we’ll walk to the park, but normally we do an arts and craft sessions at the kitchen table or play in the backyard.
Evenings are filled with lesson planning or blogging or Netflix or all of the above. Bedtime is usually 10.30ish which is when the baby generally will decide to wake up just as my head hits the pillow.
Our family life
Before Kids, I was the Queen of the To-Do List. Nobody could stand in my way from powering through my To-Do List. These days, I feel as though I spend a large part of my day getting children to sleep. We’re still at that stage of our lives where the day is structured according to naps.
On a good day, if both kidlets sleep at the same time, I may get a good 90 minute window to get ALL OF THE THINGS DONE. I sometimes feel like I’m in a constant battle against the clock. I’ve had to learn to streamline my To-Do List and really hone in on what I want to “achieve” for the day. As I mentioned before, I’m an organised procrastinator.
I love a good magazine. Frankie, Flow, Lunch Lady. Fabulous words and pretty pictures and I’m hooked. I love crafting. Anything. Everything.
Nothing relaxes me more than water but I’ve been very slack on the swimming front of late, so I really need to rectify this.
Being a teacher before becoming a parent taught me one important lesson: Kids are like parrots. Or mirrors. They will parrot things back to you that you’ve said to them and they’ll reflect your behaviour back to you. I guess my main parenting philosophy is that I try my best to model the talk and behaviour that I want my kids to possess: how to be polite, kind and respectful to friends, family and the public. I try my hardest to be consistent (although I’m a Work-in-Progress on this one!) Negotiating with a toddler is exhausting but I always try to offer choices that are acceptable to both parties so that she has ownership over how her day runs. And if it all falls apart, I just try to remember that tomorrow is another day.
I feel that the only given in life is that you are going to have to interact with people. So you may be the most brilliant surgeon or rocket scientist, but if you can’t communicate or empathise with people, then your genius is lost. I want to raise children with kind, considerate and creative hearts who have the social skills to connect with others.