Archive for the ‘10 things’ Category

In the midst of everything I’ve been going through lately, thank you for reminding me why I started a blog…

This is a beautiful and timely response to receive to my long-running 10 Questions About Your Feminist Parenthood from Slow Growing.

(Can you believe that my 10 Questions have been going since 2007, have received a couple of hundred responses from all over the world from all kinds of feminist parents, and have by now, also been published by me in an academic book?)

5. Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?

The moments when I feel like I have failed most are when I haven’t done my best to act in solidarity with another mother; whether that be by listening well to a friend who is tired in her parenting, or supporting another mother in a tough situation in public, or by finding an authentic response to the suffering of women in other places. I feel this failure daily but I know that for me, and the work of feminism in itself, there will always be work to do and mistakes to be made–it’s a big world out there to respond to. So there’s got to be grace as well. Ultimately the work of feminism is a uniting work, one that illuminates and works through–and for–our deep inter-connectedness and dependence on one another. When I lose sight of that, that is when I feel I have failed the most.

6. Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why?

In the circles that I move in it can be difficult identifying as a feminist–this is mostly because I am not sure that my definition of feminism necessarily fits with the definition in other people’s heads. I think many people still think that feminism equates to hating men, or thinking that you have to run a successful corporation… but as you can see, this is nothing like my feminism.

Through my partner’s workplace and through our church life, I meet a lot of women from more conservative backgrounds who are often at home with their kids too. I wonder if they feel marginalised enough by the celebrity/corporate type of feminism, so much so that they choose not to identify with feminism altogether. I don’t know. I just know that I often feel misunderstood by this group, and misunderstood by some successful working mothers who don’t see the value of the care work I do, or the complexities of professional, cultural, and financial systems that make it hard for many mothers to work outside the home. However, it is never so difficult that I don’t identify as a feminist.  

There’s a lot in this response that I relate to, but particularly, her thoughts on vulnerability and connectedness. I love this latest reply to my questions, and thank you for keeping the 10 questions alive.

(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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One day you’re cleaning up your kids’ rooms while they’re away at their father’s and among their piles of mess you come across a list the two of them made and.. oof.. if you don’t just ache with longing for them then.


Writing lists about one’s family members is hereditary, apparently.

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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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This response from Eliza at tea plus oranges is such a considered response that it’s hard to imagine it was written with a sleeping baby on her chest… and reading it was a lovely opportunity to revisit those first early months of motherhood. All my love to new parents.

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

I’m interested to see how this will pan out. It’s something we’ve talked about a lot at various stages of our relationship, mainly in relation to balancing two careers. We met at uni as two ambitious law student types, and he fully supports the idea that I should be able to go forth professionally and do interesting, meaningful things in paid work, as well as being an available and attentive parent. However, there is an inevitable tension in trying to carve out an equal relationship in a non-equal society. “Lean in” feminism emphasises the need for a supportive partner; but the limits of individual action in working around structural problems also apply to the concerted actions of a couple. He wants to support my career, but doesn’t want to sacrifice his. That’s fair enough. Why should either of us have to? Why can’t employment conditions accommodate family life for both partners? Yet, they don’t. So we intend to find some way of realigning the division of labour once we’re through the early years of parenthood (in which I want to be at home with my babies). Watch this space.

He took four weeks’ leave when bubs was born, which was really really fantastic. I’m now passionate about the feminist importance of paternity leave. There was a revelation in that month – he “gets” household management now. Five years of living together, I’ve done more than half the domestic load, but since bubs arrived that has changed. All it took was four weeks in which I completely abdicated responsibility for everything other than breastfeeding… He’s back at work now, and while our relationship may look very traditional at the moment, in many ways it’s more equal than ever (we’re both exhausted). I’m really grateful to be able to spend a full year at home with bubs. In an ideal world, we’d have better maternity leave provisions, so that women’s ability to do this doesn’t depend on the work status of the father. In the meantime, I’m pretty glad to have a breadwinner spouse just now.

(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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Previous entries here. Feel free to skip these posts, they’re more a record for my kids than anything else.

1. I got something really right with you recently. I don’t know if my parenting is getting worse of parenting successes are less obvious with older children but this kind of parenting certainty is a rarity these days. I don’t want to intrude too much on your privacy here but you were really experiencing some serious reluctance with school and you were a nightmare in the mornings before school drop-offs when I am at my most harried getting ready for work and you and your brother ready for kindy and school. I started to think you were just a very objectionable little person. But little by little I figured out how bored and disillusioned you were at school and I patiently raised it again and again with your teacher, who was excellent, and she moved you ahead with your school work but it wasn’t enough. Plus, you were having this super difficult time with some of the social dynamics you were quietly battling alone – I wish you’d known it was something you could talk about earlier rather than thinking it was something you had to figure out alone. And then this year I realised that a year of being patient was enough for us and I went and sorted things out with your principal and your new teacher and now you’ve been accelerated a couple of grades and moved up into a new classroom with another brilliant teacher. And it is like magic, you pretty much found a love of learning again and you’ve been motivated and enthusiastic about getting ready in the mornings (mostly) and it doesn’t feel like the whole family is falling apart every morning. I am very proud at how adaptable you’ve been with your new class. It’s a tough process and you’ve been very brave and mature about it.

2. You’re reading Judy Blume books because I recommended them and used to read them when I was a kid and you love them. It’s very gratifying for me. We don’t share enough of these common interests because you’re obsessed with a lot of pop culture that wasn’t my greatest love as a child – like Star Wars, though I do like how much you’re into the politics of Star Wars.  You finish the Judy Blume books in one sitting so I guess I will need to find new books for us to share together.

3. Your face is maturing and I feel like I am getting little previews of your adolescent features.

4. We have a very, very good connection when it comes to your emotional and social concerns. I can pretty much always figure out what is happening for you and to calm you with it and help you resolve things. When this happens I notice you will surprise me with tight squeezes for days afterwards and you will regularly stop to tell me how much you love me.

5. I accidentally humiliated you the other day. We were waiting for the doctor and you assumed my doctor was male and I teased you telling you that was sexist to make that assumption, and you were so mortified you hit me in the face with the magazine you were reading, which mortified me. The waiting room was full and everyone got to see how badly brought up you are. Then you cried loudly and indignantly and refused to apologise even though my eye was really hurting. But we made up in the car afterwards and you were right, I shouldn’t have teased you. Anyway, I am proud of you that you feel so strongly about not being sexist. You have incredibly strong ethics about social justice and hypocrisy – but not so much about violence with magazines.

6.  You like to write and illustrate your own children’s books. Your stories are always about cheekiness.

7. You are very gentle and loving and patient with babies and toddlers. Mothers with babies beam when you are helping them or admiring their babies.

8.  You’ve maintained your friendships with your male friends over the years just as well as those with your female friends. You’ve never felt the need to suppress those interests of yours that aren’t traditionally girly nor to hide your less conventional friendships from peers. You also intervene when it comes to bullying. The other day a mother came to thank me at school because her son had been held down and choked by another boy and she said her son told her you came along and physically freed him from the bully.

9. You are developing interests of your own that you research independently on the Internet. This is also worrying because I don’t always know what you might come across, even though your computer is locked down with some fairly tight controls. But you will take something of interest to you and run with it – children raised by animals, Korean architecture etc. Also, you will research pop songs you’ve discovered at other people’s houses and new dance moves.

10. You’ve stayed incredibly affectionate as you’re growing up. I don’t get to cuddle you enough though. But sometimes you will come to bed to sleep with me and you still snuggle right into me just as you did as a baby. I love when you come to my bed to read. When I am writing I will often find you in my bed reading a novel in the quiet. I like that you see my bed as this special place for reading.

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I used to try and do these four times a year, now I am pleased if I get to them once a year. Lauca just turned eight years old. (Previous ones can be found here). I always follow up the “10 things I enjoy least” with the “10 things I enjoy most” post just in case you think I’m a very negative person. 

1. Your argumentativeness. You know just enough to really be able to mount a good argument now against me and you don’t know enough to have the slightest bit of awareness about the limits of your knowledge. So, you think you’re absolutely right all the time and it is super tiring to argue with someone who has half-good arguments and the conviction of thinking she has fully-good arguments.

2. Hassling you about some of your eating habits and then worrying about whether you’re getting old enough now that hassling you about eating habits could cause eating disorders.

3. When you outsmart your little brother and let him know about it, for the fun of it – kinda cruel. When you do this in the car when I am racing to get you two to school and kindy and me to work.. it is the very last thing I need.

4. Knowing there are quite a few after-school activities that you would like to be learning and that would be really good for you but not having the time or the money to let you do them – violin, piano, rock-climbing, circus, Spanish etc. (You’re young, there’s still plenty of time).

5. How you finally figured out that I have not been putting pocket money aside for you each fortnight after all when I said I was and nor have I even been keeping a tally of it. The pocket money conspiracy gig is up – it was a good couple of years while it lasted. You really had no idea about the value of money, it was quite liberating.

6. You sneaking out of bed in the early mornings while I am still asleep to hack your way into your computer so you can play computer games on school days, and how it makes you tired and grumpy because you’re not getting enough sleep and how I half-wake when you do it but I don’t stop you because I want to keep sleeping.

7. Your Courtney Love melt-downs, which happen a lot less at the moment. I think a lot of this has been sorted out by taking the leap and letting you accelerate a couple of grades at school. (I worry that we’ve created a bit of a role for you at home that you will feel the need to stay with. And I think we would do well to emphasize your emotional resilience more with you rather than your highly strungness, but your father calls it delusional thinking when I try that).

8. You’re very untidy, you don’t take care of your things, you never know where you last put something, you often delay getting ready until the last minute. We keep saying we’ll figure out a system for you so you can fix this but it never seems to happen with you. That last one is probably my fault, anyway, because I say we’re about to go and I don’t always stick to that. You don’t work well under pressure either – so if I start to get really tense about the fact we’re running late somewhere and you’re still not getting ready and I tell you in a particularly cranky way that time is running out? You just collapse in a heap of wailing and I end up with more work to do and less time to do it in, because now I have to get you ready as well. In general, I lose my temper a lot more with you than I would like to be doing and in a much less decent way than I would like to be doing.

9. You still want to keep collecting stuffed toys. You still aren’t great at putting yourself to sleep. You will happily do sleep-overs though, so that’s something.

10. I still don’t get nearly enough time with you in a one on one way. I still find myself missing our old closeness.

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I think a pro-feminist man can probably say nothing more honest about his feminism than this: “My feminism is awkward. My feminism is a bit abstract, but so is my life.” I love that – because if a man is not finding feminism a bit of a struggle then chances are he is not being all that self-examining about it. That line was a favourite from the wonderful response by Not Unimportant to my 10 questions about your feminist parenthood.

The blog, Not Unimportant is written by Cameron Mann and it is a lovely, introspective blog which also very often covers parenting from a feminist perspective. Incidentally, the last pro-feminist man to tackle my 10 Questions was Jeremy Adam Smith and if you would like to see more about pro-feminist dads then you can read about his response here.

Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist parent? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist parent?

Compromised feminist? Entirely. Frequently. This makes spotting and calling out sexist assumptions in me and in others a continual activity. As much as my ego can handle it, I invite others to point out and critique my failures.

There is no way to get all the sexism out of my head all the time. I learnt not to see sexism long before I learnt to see it. I strongly believe that what we learn first has a stronger hold than any subsequent correction (which is why I am concerned about feminism and gender and my preschooler son). A habit of carelessly using he/him in cases of unknown sex is probably the least of it.

Policing media (books, music and movies) is terribly hard work. I can’t find the energy to block Cinderella out, so basically hope that Abby Cadabby introduces variety. I am quietly confident that since my wife and I have made it to feminism through a less politically correct time, the attitudes to the content are more important than the content itself.

The arrival of gun play really forced me to accept that my son was going to be as gendered as anything. So, I don’t fight the gender nearly as much as I fight the universalising traps and the dichotomies. Just because he’s running around with a group of boys pretending to kill with finger guns that go ‘pew-pew-pew’ doesn’t mean that it will interest all boys, or interest only boys or interest him always.

(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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