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Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

This is a terrific essay from Helen Addison-Smith in The Overland, “Yes, men are better writers”.

Recently, I received an email from a literary publication asking me to comment on why ‘women are underrepresented in major publications’. Since I’m a single mother, working six days a week, and I wasn’t going to be paid, I didn’t respond. But I thought I’d reply here, so Overland will give me cash.

It’s simple, really. Men are published more than women because men are better writers than women.

Do I need to say that there are great female writers? Maybe I do, because you don’t know me, and I might just be a misogynist arsehole. And do I need to say that there are boatloads of very bad male writers? No, you can just go to your local bookshop and peruse the new releases to prove that to yourself.

‘Good writing’ does not emanate from the penis but it does emanate from material conditions. Writing takes time – great swathes of clean, empty time, unsullied by children or housework or deep worry about money or skincare routines. To be a writer is to be selfish enough to grab time and spend it churning words around, even though you are not getting paid very much, hardly anybody cares about what you’re doing, and even fewer people think that it’s any good.

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.. And I wrote a little about my observations.

But first, what makes the findings of the Westpac Report especially interesting is that this survey only looks at professional women and men with a minimum yearly income of $85, 000. In other words, these are Sheryl Sandberg’s women ‘leaning in’ and the men in the survey are those to whom they are leaning towards in the name of power and influence in the business world. Together, their attitudes are important signals about changing values in the corporate and managerial landscape when it comes to combining work and family.

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If sex is dangerous territory for memoir writing then it is surpassed only by motherhood. Mothering is so wrapped up in notions of sacrifice that it can scarcely sustain even the mildest critical eye without some controversy. Rachel Cusk, one of my favourites in this field, is completely vilified for her memoir writing. In fact, a scathing review of her latest memoir, Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation won Hatchet Job of the Year. Sometimes the criticism of her motherhood writing is about her taking domestic life too seriously; something that is notably considered “brave” when done by a male author.

But more often it is about Cusk being insufficiently cheerful about domestic life. In depicting herself as a mother in Aftermath, Cusk is devoted to her children but you are still invited to consider her selfish. Cusk describes an argument around shared parenting revealing her own monster. For Cusk to pursue her writing career, her ex-husband had given up his job and become a stay-at-home father. Now that they’re divorcing, Cusk is horrified to discover her rights as a mother aren’t enough to allow her primary care of the children. Cusk was roundly criticised for this moment in the book – oblivious, nasty and domineering.

But you only know this information because Cusk gave it to you. She realises her sense of injustice is perverse. She is exploring a wider point about how ill-equipped early attempts at feminist living are for the emotional bonds of motherhood. She is thinking not just about what the moment means for her but what it means for everyone else, too. If you think she’s selfish because of this anecdote I have to wonder how well you’ve received the gift of confession. Because personal writing, more than anything else is a favour of empathy.

From here.

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There are many interesting stories to be told about the experience of being a single parent, not least of which is being a single parent by choice, but the story I am interested in at this time is about suddenly being a single parent – about the transformation from partnered to single. When you go through a serious relationship break-up you are inevitably changed as a person. Some of that change is a kind of growth but much of it is loss, too. What happens when that self-discovery and reinvention is happening within the constraints of being a parent?

I interviewed three thoughtful, joyful friends about becoming single parents.

From here.

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This weekend we had a child to stay for a sleep-over and I am really a bit worn out and I wondered what we could offer in the way of fun things to do at our house. Because I can’t even get movies to play on the TV at the moment. And I don’t have the spare energy to figure it out nor the spare cash to pay someone else to figure it out.

But it was Anne Lamott who said something like you play to your strengths as a parent and this is what I’m good at… pulling unusual ideas out of my arse. So, I remembered an abandoned house I’d noticed on my morning walks and I asked the kids if they wanted to explore a haunted house and … bingo!

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Doesn’t it look like something out of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road?

“Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.”

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Back at my home..
I have exceptional taste, yes. I bought the arse tea cosy here.

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Last month my father came back to Australia and stayed with me for a week. He was exhausted on the first night and after he went to bed I stayed up and wrote my column at the kitchen table. The next night I was incredibly tired and he stayed up alone for the very sad task of writing his mother’s obituary.

He read that obituary at the funeral the following morning. His writing was beautiful. It was all about how accomplished and yet unappreciated his mother had been for her domestic talents. My column about being accountable one day to my children’s future therapist was published that same day, and in a way, I realised my father and I had both written about feminist motherhood.

Every time I look at my kitchen table now I remember how we both sat and wrote our words there, one night after the other.

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A doctor friend collects these little empty bottles from his surgery and gives them to me to use as tiny vases. Morphine and Ketamine can be the name of our hipster home decorating shop.

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Child neglect is filtered through a lens of bias that makes black mothers and poor mothers particularly vulnerable …all the more so when they parent in public space.

“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.” – Anatole France.

For example.

“Mother jailed for letting her daughter run free – at the playground” by Brentin Mock in grist.

For the Harrell family, going to the playground is a luxury. The adults who could afford to be there that day assumed that her mother’s choice was irresponsible. Given the girl is black, they may have assumed worse: Mom’s a crackhead? Prostitute? Whatever the case, the child’s answer, that her mother was at work, was not good enough.

The adult who snitched Harrell out made another assumption: that parenting means around-the-clock supervision of children, and anything less is uncivilized. It’s those kind of gentry values that the creators of city public park systems were trying to avoid. They wanted a safe space accessible to people of all classes and backgrounds to enjoy recreation. Instead, in too many places it’s become a place where black and brown youth are made to feel they don’t belong — and certainly not without supervision.

For example.

“We’re arresting poor mothers for our own failures” by Bryce Covert in The Nation.

You’ve probably heard the name Shanesha Taylor at this point. She’s the Arizona mother who was arrested for leaving her children in the car while she went to a job interview. Her story went viral thanks likely to a truly heart-wrenching, tear-stained mugshot. Taylor, who was homeless, says her babysitter flaked on her and she didn’t know what else to do while she went to a job interview for a position that would have significantly improved her family’s financial situation.

For example.

“My son has been suspended 5 times. He’s 3″ by Tunette Powell in The Washington Post.

For example.

“Stolen Generation survivor had a long journey to love and care” by Martin Hoare in The Age.

 

 

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my mama moved among the days
like a dreamwalker in the field
seemed like what she touched was hers
seemed like what touched her couldn’t hold,
she got us almost through the high grass
then seemed like she turned around and ran
right back in
right back on in

- Lucille Clifton

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