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Archive for the ‘work and family (im)balance’ Category

One way to counter this has been to attempt to recuperate the supposed vice of idlenessto hymn napping, daydreaming and sheer zoning out. Samuel Johnson is sometimes counted among the champions of faffing, perhaps simply because of the name of his essay series The Idler. Yet he looked sternly on occupying oneself with “trifles,” as he describes his dilettante friend Sober doing in one of those columns. The guiding principle of The Idler, as Johnson described it in the farewell essay, was to encourage readers “to view every incident with seriousness, and improve it by meditation.” So meditating seriously is not idleness.

On the other hand, Johnson noted sagely in an earlier entry, one can be idle while appearing anything but: “There is no kind of idleness, by which we are so easily seduced, as that which dignifies itself by the appearance of business and by making the loiterer imagine that he has something to do which must not be neglected, keeps him in perpetual agitation and hurries him rapidly from place to place … To do nothing every man is ashamed and to do much almost every man is unwilling or afraid. Innumerable expedients have therefore been invented to produce motion without labour, and employment without solicitude.” Does this not perfectly describe our modern saturation in fatuous busywork?

 

“Against the insufferable cult of productivity” by Stephen Poole in New Republic.

Thanks to @10rdBen for the link.

And …

“Feeling what you feel is an ability that atrophies if you don’t use it.”

“No time to think” by Kate Murphy in The New York Times. Thanks to Lori Day for the link.

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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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I wrote this column in response to my editor asking me if parents like me, who write, worry about what my children’s future therapist will think about my parenting and articles:

One does not like to dwell on permanent damage inflicted by self on children while one is tending to the work and family juggle. But guilt, like a fear of the dark, is something I have discovered you can’t really afford as a single parent. Anything that must be dealt with alone in the middle of the night should really be rationalised away as a priority. I have stopped fearing parenting mistakes the way I once did.

Possibly that means I make them at double the speed, though I doubt it. My parenting has generally been considered and kind-hearted and it has probably finally acquired something resembling competence. Though notably, I am also not seeking perfectionism in my relationships these days, least of all with my children.

I have begun to see the pursuit of perfectionism as stifling, distancing, a removing of oneself from the messiness of connection. So, it’s not that I don’t make mistakes. I am certain I make many while attempting to avoid others, but it is that I have faith in myself and my children to deal with those mistakes as they become clear. Well, I very nearly have that kind of faith, anyway.

And I interviewed Courtney Adamo, the mother who was banned from Instagram for posting ‘semi-nude’ photos of her toddler in this column.

 

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I was sent this book, Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics edited by Margunn Bjornholt and Ailsa McKay for consideration… and having now read it I can say it’s terrific. If you’re interested in feminist economics, and I know you are, then this would be a very useful book to start on. (Available here from Demeter Press).

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Or perhaps you’re wanting to read about mothering and neoliberalism? (I’ve also been sent this book, Mothering in the Age of Neoliberalism edited by Melinda Vendenbeld Giles for consideration and it looks very promising, but I’ve only just started it). Available here.

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Demeter Press needs your support to survive and these books are currently on sale for 50% off.

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My latest article is here – I was so damn excited to interview Antonella Gambotto-Burke, who I’ve admired right back since Lunch of Blood:

What would a celebrated writer known for tackling themes as dark and intriguing as suicide, addiction, sexuality and celebrity culture make of something as supposedly tame and ordinary as motherhood? Antonella Gambotto-Burke’s latest book, Mama: Dispatches from the Frontline of Love is part advice for new parents, part a call to arms for change and part memoir.

As you may expect from Gambotto-Burke, while the book includes a banana cake recipe it is far more interested in discussing the bewildering and consuming aspects of motherhood. Such as, how motherhood shatters the myth of independence core to modern womanhood, the unexpected passion of maternal love and the dizzying introspection mothering stirs in oneself.

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Not so much the wolves of Wall Street as the insecure and a little bit lost..

Ezra Klein: My big takeaway from your book was that Ivy League graduates aren’t going to Wall Street because they love risk and want to make a ton of money. They’re going because they hate risk and are terrified about what to do next and Wall Street has figured out a way to calm their anxieties.

Kevin Roose: Wall Street invented this new way of recruiting in the early 80s. Before that they hired like any other industry. If you wanted to be a banker you applied for a job at a bank and they hired you or they didn’t. But in the early 80s Goldman Sachs and others figured out they could broaden their net and get lots of really smart people if they made it a temporary position rather than a permanent one.

So they created the two-and-out program. The idea is you’re there for two years and then you move onto something else. That let them attract not just hardcore econ majors but people majoring in other subjects who had a passing interest in finance and didn’t know what else to do. People now think going to a bank for two years will help prepare them for the next thing and keep them from having to make these hard decisions about the rest of their life. It made it like an extension of college. And it was genius. It led to this huge explosion in recruitment and something like a third of Ivy League graduates going to Wall Street.

EK: Wall Street seems particularly good at both valuing the skills and managing the fears of liberal arts majors. A lot of kids graduated with a degree in sociology or English literature and feel they don’t know any skills that will help them get a job. Wall Street both seems to see the value of that kind of learning and see how to position themselves as a kind of continuing-education program.

KR: It’s amazing. They have turned investment banking into this two-year bootcamp for adulthood. They teach you to make powerpoint slides and Excel spreadsheets. But if you ask the banks what’s interesting is they see this as a labor advantage: they can get not only the smartest econ majors but the smartest history majors. Lloyd Blankfein was a history major, for instance. And they view this as a source of prestige. They’re not just getting finance-minded kids but they’re getting the smartest kids from all fields. That lets them broaden their intellectual inputs. A history major might have different perspectives on a trading desk than an econ major.

More of Ezra Klein interviewing Kevin Roose in Vox.

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This is a very interesting reply to my 10 Questions About Your Feminist Parenthood over at Meet Jesus At Uni. It touches on Tamie’s Christianity and her combination of faith with feminism as well as her experience of being a white woman living in Tanzania.

One of the things that stood out for me in reading her response is how culturally-bound some of our experiences of the patriarchy are while others are universal.

8. If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?

My husband is also a feminist, a true partner and advocate for me, just as passionate as I am about feminist parenting! Our situation at the moment is more flexible than it would be if we lived in Australia. The lines between ‘work’, ‘home’ and ‘social’ are much more blurred in Tanzania, and particularly in our role, living on campus at the university where we work. That means we haven’t had to deal with issues surrounding maternity leave and housework in the same way we would in Australia; the structure of society has given us more room to job-share and to parent together.

 

(You can find all the many other responses in this series here. If you’d like to respond to these questions yourself you can either email me your answers and I’ll put them on blue milk as a guest post or you can post them elsewhere and let me know and I’ll link to them).

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My latest article is here:

So, when I found out about mothers’ groups I came to them with some desperation. There I discovered other women like me — sleep-deprived and confused by our new lives – we were as fragile as our babies. During such times in life you either make the best of friends or the most peculiar and transient of acquaintances. You are open and lost offering something between possibility and flight to those you encounter.

We had big new identities, these women and I, we were mothers now. But we didn’t yet inhabit those identities. We simply sloshed around in them like liquid insufficient to fill a bucket. Our lack of structure and integrity made us terribly vulnerable. If someone was blunt or even mildly critical about our parenting we were devastated. We were so recently arrived and incompetent that we became disorientated by anyone with a strong position or a new theory. It wasn’t just the blind leading the blind, it was the blind and opinionated leading the blind.

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I don’t really know what I’m saying with this – uh, it was different back then? But also, I suppose, that it’s ok for your children to fit around you sometimes rather than the other way. I’m not particularly susceptible to guilt about how my children spend their holidays: I mean, I’m here most of the time aren’t I? Quality be damned. But it is hard not to succumb to the sense that you should be constantly laying on a smorgasbord of age-appropriate and improving activities, when in fact, some of the best and most enlightening times of your childhood can be neither of those things. I felt a lot closer to my father – who could be a rather distant, intimidating figure on the end of the phone from York – after those strange, chaotic weeks. I liked how we’d hop on and off the 52 bus, or drop into Patisserie Valerie to buy croissants on grey summer London mornings with that particular smell of warm city dirt and diesel. I loved our skiving saltimbocca lunches and I liked discovering him in that other, adult context, at home in the big, glamorous city and at home in his work. I liked to see him being impressive, concentrating, or laughing, pink cheeked and tipsy with Casper on his shoulder. You discover your parents in another light in those moments: I remember too, opening the front door at home to my mother, joyfully staggering drunk having just been awarded her PhD. It’s instructive, important, sometimes slightly shocking, to see their life beyond you.

Oh this is lovely, sense-making writing from Belgian Waffling.

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