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Archive for the ‘daycare’ Category

Here are two interesting contributions to the topic.

First up, this from author, Tansy Rayner Roberts. (I love this kind of post, where other feminists spell out for you the nitty gritty of their lives and how they make their decisions, it is kind of like when I wrote this):

So lucky to have sociable children, though! I have witnessed the pain and stress of parents who have to fight their kids (and their own overwhelming guilt) to leave them at daycare, and it’s dreadful to see them go through that. I empathise deeply.

As we figured out on our last budget, it’s a bit dicey as to whether we can afford that second day. But one is NOT ENOUGH. Our compromise was that I would try to contribute the equivalent of that one day in my occasional income over the year (the kind that arrives in random cheques, fits and starts). I always knew daycare was worth it, so never really paid attention to quite how much it costs, but we’re talking $3000 over the year for each day. So, um, yes. There’s another level of guilt associated with those days – I always feel the pressure to make them REALLY REALLY PRODUCTIVE.

That is what we call Useful Guilt.

This, by the way, is my own way of looking at the world. Other people can spend their daycare days however they like! Mother guilt is kind of a personal, specific thing. Like body image, it’s amazing how many women can be deeply critical of themselves and yet happily encourage others to not feel bad at all, without even noticing the disconnect.

I couldn’t attend my weekly Pilates class if not for the voluntary service of one of my parents. This is another common thread of modern motherhood – reliance on the next generation up for unpaid daycare and babysitting, in order for our own family to function. The upside of this is that my Mum and Jem get some time together weekly (and it’s an arrangement that doesn’t have to change during the school holidays, which is a major plus – she can just include Raeli in the morning’s plans). There are other direct benefits – Mum is flexible, so I can extend my Pilates class into getting other chores done, parcels posted, PO Box checked, and even having lunch occasionally with my honey. Plus she always does my washing up, and sometimes cleans the floor too. MY MOTHER IS AWESOME.

And then second up, this thoughtful article from writer, Amy Gray in Essential Kids:

Welcome to working mother guilt. The perception and regret that your work somehow impairs your child’s development and your ability to mother. That the best sort of mother is the one who stays at home or wends her every hour around her offspring’s critical development.  And everyone is in on the shame game.

Snappy articles grab snippets from studies, intoning that childcare stresses children, harms their immune system, impairs their learning ability or can cause behavioural problems. Presidential aspirant Rick Santorum claims women who enjoy working have been brainwashed by “radical feminism’s misogynistic campaign”. Beloved children’s author Mem Fox likened long day care for infants as child abuse. Basically: go to work and ruin your child’s life. Stay at home instead, you know you want to.

Just recently Gwyneth Paltrow advised Harper’s Bazaar that “I have little kids in school. I want to maintain my marriage and my family, so I have to be here when he (Martin) comes home.” Gwyneth is able to hold together her marriage and her family simply by being at home. Because apparently that’s the power of an A-list celebrity vagina: it’s karmic duct tape that keeps the universe together. Mine? Can’t even remind me to pay the gas bill. Useless Z-list vagina.

P.S. I apologise for contributing here with this post to the whole ‘working mother’ as a term for ‘paid for work outside the home mother’ thing, which obviously invalidates all the unpaid work that is mothering; we really need a better term that is also title-friendly.

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As I mentioned, I’m re-posting some of my favourite old posts here while I get through some other writing deadlines.  This one is from back when I was still in my first year of returning to work after the birth of my baby. It all feels like so long ago now. The post is about ‘working mother guilt’. And oh, the guilt I was experiencing back then, it was awful.

Reading this post now, some four years later, I can see how much I have managed to overcome that guilt. If you’re a new mother and you’re struggling with ‘working mother guilt’ then I hope that reassures you some – you will make it out the other side, it will get easier, you won’t regret everything. Although I have to be honest here, I am more zen about guilt now partly because my second child is a more settled child than my first baby was and separations for him aren’t nearly as difficult as they were for our daughter.

This post is about the rationalising you do when you’re trying to come to terms with mother guilt as a working mother. There are lots of thought processes you go through but a big one is telling yourself how something that is good for you is also good for your child. You say to yourself – my mental health is better when I get out of the house and work and being a healthier person is better for my child. You tell yourself that you’re being a good role model for your daughter. You might even suggest that your child gets some kind of buzz out of your work accomplishments. All of that is kinda true, but it sounds pretty hollow when your child is sobbing as you leave for work. This post is about reading another mother’s thoughts and feeling freed by her statement that sometimes you make a decision in spite of what your child would like, and that this is ok for mothers, too.
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When I pick Lauca up from daycare she very quickly proceeds to sum up the events –

Mummy work (said gravely). Now Mummy BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK! (said exuberantly).

If I’m not careful its a seriously guilt-inducing moment to end my day on.

Yesterday when I collected Lauca from daycare she was running around playing in a scene so much like one at home that I felt a flood of relief. She smiled when she saw me. She really is OK. Daycare is getting so much better as she is finally adjusting, and she may even have picked up one or two growth experiences from it. This week at work I also saw the successful completion of a project I commenced a year ago when I first returned from maternity leave. It has been the most satisfying experience at work for a long time. But I don’t want to give the false impression that everything has resolved itself neatly. I still feel torn on a daily basis about my decision to work outside the home part-time and my competing desires for career fulfillment and more time with my daughter.

I’ve also just read a fantastic essay written by the late Marjorie Williams (she died in her 40’s with relatively young children), called Mommy at Her Desk. Try as I may, I can’t find a link to this essay on-line so if you’re interested you’ll have to buy her book. The essay is about seeing a picture her young daughter has drawn called – “Mommy at Her Desk”. As Williams examines the drawing she concludes that while the drawing could be viewed as an affirmation of her daughter’s awareness of women’s lives, that they are more than simply mothers, that they also have pursuits entirely of their own.. it is more likely that the picture represents an accusation – that her daughter, in fact, resents the time her mother spends working at her desk and consequently being unavailable to her as a mother.

Williams explores an inescapable trade-off for women between career and family goals and her own battle with the guilt that manifests. Her discussion climaxes with the quietly devastating but strangely liberating line –

 “… I finally realized, my task was not to find out the one answer, but to learn how to live with the knowledge that in pursuing my work, I am in some degree acting selfishly.”

Maybe I never will resolve my guilt about being a working mother, maybe my family and I will grow through this stage of our lives before we ever sort it out. Maybe I have to suck it up, I’m a big girl now.

As Nora Ephron says (quoted also in Mommy at Her Desk) – Children would rather have a suicidal mother in the next room than a happy mother in Hawaii. But this doesn’t mean women shouldn’t ever be selfish either. Fathers are selfish at times and mothers should be able to be, too. Anyone experiencing resentment knows that selfishness, on occasion, can be a very healthy trait. It doesn’t mean that things couldn’t and shouldn’t change to make the work and family juggle less of a struggle carried by women and more one shared with men.. but it does mean I need to drop trying to make my decisions feel like they’re (deep down) my daughter’s wishes. You can spin the advantages to your children of working outside the home any way you like… but in the end it comes down to what you want out of life. My decision around how much I work outside the home reflects my wishes, not my daughter’s, though her happiness is a part of those wishes.

It’s important to face this head on and take responsibility for it because as Williams argues, one day my daughter may face a decision just like this and she deserves to know how hard it was to make and why I made the decisions I did.

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An oldie but a goodie. I wrote this post in a fury one evening and several days later regretted it thinking it was dreadfully self-pitying and boring and that I should go back and delete it immediately. I went on-line to find that it had taken on a life of its own since. Lots and lots of parents related very strongly to the post and it has since been re-blogged and linked to all over the place, again and again. I have even been notified several times that university lecturers have used the post as reading material with their students. Who knows what they were teaching them with it?

I think I learnt a lesson with this post, sometimes my raw feelings make for more truthful and more interesting reading. Of course, sometimes my raw feelings are utter shite to read, too, so one should not get carried away on one’s blog.  

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Why is the fertility rate across the Western world plummeting..? Ah, this is one clue.

Here is how I get to work and back:

  • Get Lauca up.
  • Change her nappy.
  • Make her breakfast.
  • Get self showered, dressed, hair and make up done.
  • Sometimes have breakfast.
  • Get Lauca dressed, hair brushed, face and hands washed.
  • Check Lauca’s daycare bag, he packs it the night before but he invariably forgets something.
  • Check I have everything I need for work.
  • Pack handbag, folio case, Lauca’s daycare bag, (sometimes Lauca’s sheets if its a washing week), my lunch bag and stroller in to the car (thank myself for being sensible enough to enrol her in a daycare with a chef so I don’t have to make and carry her lunch with us).
  • Get all our stuff and Lauca in the car.
  • Drive to the station and try to find a spare park.
  • Unload Lauca, stroller, handbag, folio case, daycare bag, sheets bag, lunch bag.
  • Clip Lauca into stroller, walk up to the train platform.
  • Buy a ticket, fold up stroller.
  • Carry stroller, Lauca, handbag, folio case, daycare bag, sheets bag, and lunch bag on to train.
  • Lay stroller in aisle-way to be cursed at later by other passengers tripping over it.
  • Get Lauca in to the train seat next to me, prepare for 30 min trip.
  • Feed Lauca (she is never hungry enough to eat much breakfast first thing in the morning).
  • Train fills up with people squished together and standing all over my bags and stroller.
  • Think about how Lauca is the only child here under school age but don’t wonder why – this is hard work.
  • Try and keep Lauca from getting bored and making too much noise, asking to get out of the train, or wiping food on people or seats.
  • Start reaching between people’s legs to collect our bags and stroller together before we get to our stop.
  • Give Lauca a pep talk about how to get off the train.
  • Scoop up bags and stroller and push Lauca along through the crowd of people squeezed together in the train.
  • Stop Lauca from falling out the train door, drop bags and stroller on the platform and reach for her as the train door closes.
  • Think about the minor miracle that happens every time we manage to get on or off a peak hour train together.
  • Set up stroller and clip  in.
  • Gather bags and find an elevator because we can’t get up the stairs with a stroller.
  • Find ticket and swim against stream to get through the one ticket gate that is large enough to fit a stroller through it.
  • Walk 15 minutes to the daycare.
  • Sign Lauca in, fold up stroller and put it away.
  • Put daycare bag away in her pigeon hole, get a tissue to wipe her tears.
  • Settle Lauca in, try and get her calm enough to stop crying, greet the carers.
  • Leave and walk 15 mins to work wondering why I have to start my day in heartache and he is oblivious.
  • Come in, sit down at my desk, feel hungry and wish I’d had breakfast, wish I could get to work earlier, feel exhausted, listen to inane jokes about my ‘long weekend’ (gentlemen, its not a long weekend if you don’t get paid for it and you don’t get to rest during it).
  • Then at the end of the day….
  • Wish I had longer to get the work done, instead finish work up in a mad panic and attempt to tell my boss telepathically not to stop me for a ten minute chat about work on may way out the door… I have stayed here until the very last possible second, I need to leave, now, right this moment, and collect my poor daughter from daycare.
  • Wonder why none of these men I work with have to rush out the door to pick up their children from daycare.
  • Carry lunch bag, handbag, and folio case and jog-walk 15 mins to daycare.
  • Collect Lauca and her daycare bag.
  • Check with the carers how Lauca’s day went.
  • Collect notes to parents from the pigeon hole.
  • Get stroller and unfold it and strap Lauca in.
  • Fill out any paperwork and pay daycare.
  • Sign Lauca out.
  • Rush 10 mins to train station, find ticket, cut across a steady stream of commuters to get to the only ticket gate to allow a stroller to pass through.
  • Get elevator down to the station and curse it for being slow – now I will have to go faster than a speeding locomotive to get us on the speeding locomotive.
  • Fold up stroller and give Lauca a pep talk about sticking with me while I push through crowds of people to get us on a train.
  • Carry handbag, lunch bag, folio case, daycare bag and stroller while trying to keep Lauca with me, and pick her up when she trips over and get on train.
  • Am offered a spare seat and must get Lauca and I settled in to it with all our bags and stroller on the floor among people’s feet without falling over as train jerks away from the station.
  • Try not to sweat on people, I am overheating from all the running to and fro.
  • Think about the minor miracle that happens every time we manage to get on or off a peak hour train together.
  • Chat to Lauca to keep her distracted as she starts to get tired, frustrated, cramped and teary – 30 min trip.
  • Get out of train, slightly less difficult as not as many people by the end of the line but still have to carry Lauca (too tired now to walk), a stroller, handbag, folio bag, lunch bag, daycare bag.
  • Unfold stroller and clip Lauca in, find car.
  • Get Lauca in the car, shove assorted bags inside, fold up stroller and put it in the car.
  • Drive home.
  • Get Lauca, handbag, folio case, lunch bag, daycare bag out of the car.
  • Get inside – unpack folio bag, lunch bag, daycare bag.
  • Starts the evening grind – dinner, bath, get toddler to sleep, clean-up etc etc.
  • Ask him to pack daycare bag for the next day.

Now, this is how he gets to work and back.

  • Showers, shaves, dresses.
  • Puts on a playschool DVD for Lauca.
  • Sometimes changes her nappy and sometimes makes her breakfast.
  • Makes and drinks a coffee.
  • Sometimes has breakfast.
  • Packs bag, gathers helmet and jacket.
  • Kisses us goodbye.
  • Rides motorbike 35 mins to work.
  • Parks motorbike and walks straight into office.
  • Then at the end of the day…
  • Pack up bag, gather helmet and jacket.
  • Ride motorbike home 35-40mins in worse traffic.
  • Park motorbike and walk straight in the house.
  • Kisses us hello.
  • Starts the evening grind – cooking dinner etc etc.
  • Sometimes packs daycare bag for the next day and sometimes complains that it is too hard and he doesn’t know where everything is.

Off the top of my head there are a few strategies that could make life a lot easier:

Flexible work arrangements to allow some work from home, or start and finish times outside peak hours. More jobs offering part-time opportunities and greater acceptability around men working part-time jobs so we could both be working part-time. More respect for part-time workers – we’re not paid for full-time hours so don’t treat it like we can stay back full-time hours. More funding for public service so peak-hour trains aren’t so cramped, and maybe even carriages with room to pack strollers away. Train carriages with ramps for strollers and hello, wheelchairs. On-site daycare centres at work. Greater expectations on men to take up more of their share of parenting responsibilities. Me, being a little bit less of a stupid martyr and negotiating a fairer division of labour with my partner.

But.

The very worst thing about this, the thing that is worse than living this insanity is that this gross inequality between men and women is completely silent. Some women know about it, I suspect these are the same women who offer to help me get Lauca on and off the crowded train (ie. older women who have raised children). But I’m pretty sure almost no men know about it, certainly not the man I raise our child with (though I’m working on it) and definitely not the men I work with. This endurance test of mine is not seen, appreciated, or valued. Were it not for my (almost) two-year old witness it would be as if it never happened. Maybe if it was acknowledged I wouldn’t feel so spent, though I’d still feel it was unfair. The truth is no-one wants to know about it. Who wants to take up any of the slack, to create solutions that share the burden and the rewards of working life more equitably? It is easier to let women keep carrying the load, silently, in the background, to keep the cogs turning. On a good day I have a satisfying time at work and it feels worthwhile, I don’t want to even talk about how hard it is on a bad day. (Now you decide we should write the submission in this other direction?! Why did I put Lauca and I through this struggle so you could change your mind at the last moment and make the last two weeks work of mine redundant?!)

It starts at home, as a mother you must fight for equality in parenting. You’ll probably never get it, but if you don’t at least try we’re all screwed.

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I had an epiphany while reading this charming little essay, Freer, Messier, Happier from Jeremy Adam Smith, and that is that the cobbled-together, barely-holding, constantly re-arranging care arrangements for our children that we have pieced together as working parents … are it. They are not temporary stages we are passing through on our way towards something permanent and stable. This messy patchwork of care arrangements – its favours and returned favours; its sick children one week and different working hour requirements the next – are how the modern working parent operates these days.

I keep thinking when are we going to get over this next hump and finally figure something out that is stable and simple and stream-lined with our care arrangements but actually no, this is it, this is functioning. And having had that epiphany, having adjusted my expectations, I think I would now tell other women considering a path of working-outside-the-home motherhood that this is ok, that if it works it works. Embrace the mess, keep going.

These trends have changed the way moms and dads relate to each other and to their children. As men lost the ability to reliably support families on one income, families responded by diversifying. Men have developed emotional and interpersonal skills by taking care of children—since the mid-1990s, the number of hours dads spend with kids has nearly doubled—and women have gone to school and to work. In the eyes of many couples, equity between parents has moved from a nice ideal to an urgent matter of survival.

Cross-posted at Hoyden About Town.

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(Cross-posted at Hoyden About Town).

Check out this intriguing article from The Economist – “The Gruffulo Years: A striking number of Britain’s senior politicians have young children. That is a good thing”. The world changes much more rapidly once its leaders are personally impacted by the same ‘small things’ the rest of us have long been struggling with.

This is why many feminists have argued hard that senior women should stay in the workforce even after becoming mothers; it is important for some decision makers to be mothers and for them to know exactly how much family unfriendly work practices hurt parents/carers. Only if you’ve felt the anguish yourself – of a meeting running so late that you missed the chance to see your unwell baby before the nanny put him to sleep for the night – do you push hard for earlier meeting times, or so the thinking goes. And only then is it possible for the secretaries, who lack the power to change things but who also attend your late afternoon executive meetings (as the note-takers and coffee-makers), to join you in getting away at a reasonable time. Otherwise their babies are stranded too, though probably at a daycare (clocking up fines for late collection by their parents) rather than at home with a nanny.

But, you will note in this article in The Economist that all the senior British politicians mentioned as successfully combining political life with the parenting of small children are men. You could conclude that this is not a very promising sign for women; it isn’t great. However, more and more couples today are genuinely attempting ‘shared parenting’ and that means more fathers are aware of and motivated by family needs. For instance, you don’t have to be ‘equal parenting’ to know how important parental leave might be. Much of the support I have received for my own ‘work and family balancing act’ has come from my bosses – they’ve all been men and they’ve all been fathers to young children. It helps. And this is what that article is arguing.

A centrist Conservative MP makes a matching observation about the youthful circle around Mr Cameron. The Tory party of ten years ago was slow to grasp the importance of social policies. For today’s leadership, children are the “ultimate nudge”, he says, a reference to the Cameron camp’s zeal for “nudging” people into changing behaviour. At its simplest, parenthood exposes even the affluent middle classes to public services, from hospitals to day-care centres or libraries. Despite (mostly) shielding their children from press attention, all three current party leaders claim inside knowledge of the National Health Service and the strains of balancing work and family life…

… With close advisers, the Labour leader has pondered the politics of parenthood: does it make people more conservative, by which he means competitive and sharp-elbowed? Or perhaps (Mr Miliband hopes) parenthood induces empathy and trust, as even flinty individualists find themselves grateful to nannies, doctors or the BBC, with its wholesome children’s programmes…

.. Daily exposure to innocence matters. Parenthood can lead to smugness, but also humility. All parents soon realise how much of child-rearing is improvisation, tempered by exhaustion. Political parents learn that ideology is not everything… The world looks at once kindlier and more fragile with small children in it, and essentially optimistic. In these austere times, that is a source of strength.

(Thanks to Christopher for the tip-off).


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Sometimes you can look so truly fragile, Lauca.

I forget, and my heart breaks all over again. Because you are such a feisty little soul. Even your disintegrations are acts of will.

Remember when you cried on every drop-off? Remember how for years you always had to bring a soft toy with you? Remember the times you forgot your soft toy and you made me turn around and drive home and I had to call in sick for work because you were completely undone by then?

Probably not.

Anyway, you ‘graduated’ from cycle 1 at your Montessori preschool today. I was very proud and you were mostly nonchalant.

(You. Have. Come. So. Far).

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Here is a piece on well-known attachment parenting site, peaceful parenting from Dr George Wootan that would have French author, Elisabeth Badinter raising an eyebrow and “I told you so”-ing at us all.

Right off the bat Dr Wootan warns us that this will be contentious and he is not wrong, though you would have a hard time seeing that from the comments the piece has generated, which are largely in full agreement with him, in spite of the difficulties many are encountering living his one-size-fits-all parenting approach. Dr Momma’s peaceful parenting is not for the half-arsed. So, Dr Wootan’s  rule on the temporary separation of toddlers from their mothers is as follows.

A mother shouldn’t leave her child until about the age of three, when he has developed some concept of time. You’ll know this has begun to happen when he understands what “yesterday,” “tomorrow,” and “this afternoon” mean, and when your child voluntarily begins to spend more time away from you on his own accord.

Wootan is at least specific, none of those wishy-washy statements about ‘as best as you can manage’ or ‘what works for you and the baby’. No, Wootan means you can’t leave your child at all until they are three; and no, not even with a loving grandparent, trusted babysitter or the devoted father. And no, certainly not so that you may return to work  (unless your job is the kind where you can sneak out briefly during the toddler’s nap, but then Wootan warns, nap times can be unpredictable and who is to say this isn’t the day when your toddler will wake up a little earlier than usual from their nap? Play it safe, don’t go). Let’s face facts – you either really love your child or you don’t.

However, I believe that many women return to work not out of necessity, but because they (or their spouses) want to maintain the two-income lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. These parents need to do a little soul-searching about what they really need and not sacrifice their child’s best interests.

This is probably the right time to admit that not only am I an attachment parenting type – our children are co-sleepers, including the older one who is now five years old; I breastfeed the toddler; and we have more slings than vehicles in our house – but for the record, I am also a mother who works part of each week outside the home. I have been separating from our toddler since before he was a year old. And to be perfectly honest, Wootan’s advice doesn’t really rattle me. I have done my share of soul-searching over the last five years about being a working mother and I feel confident that our decisions have been good ones, and what’s more, that the children are ok too. But I know Wootan’s position will distress many other women in my position; I know a few years ago it would have thrown me for a loop. And while I am sure Wootan is a very caring doctor, anyone who makes a statement like that, about how women should live their lives, deserves a little scrutiny.

Wootan is aware that his advice might be restrictive. Helpfully, as father of eleven and grandparent to twenty-one children, Wootan offers a suggestion from his own experience on meeting the specifications of the no-separation-until-3 rule.

In our family, we have found that many events that would require leaving our baby or toddler at home are the ones that we don’t particularly mind missing.

Sounds a little isolating. Well, for the mother anyway. Presumably  Wootan, as the father, still managed to attend plenty of events without the children, allowing him to pursue his career as a doctor, health writer and attachment parenting guru. Still, don’t bother talking injustice here, you’ve already been trumped, because everybody in this discussion on peaceful parenting is talking about the needs of the child.

Let me submit to you that the need for mother is as strong in a toddler as the need for food, and that there is no substitute for mother. When he’s tired, hurt, or upset, he needs his mother for comfort and security.. If he scrapes his knee, or gets his feelings hurt, he can’t put his need on hold for two hours until Mommy is home, and .. even Daddy – just won’t do as well as if Mommy was there.

Dr Momma likes to use ‘all caps’ when she refers to what babies NEED in her comments on this piece, just in case you didn’t get the memo about how your own considerations are really about something a little less worthy. Because really, aren’t your ‘needs’ more ‘wants’ than ‘NEEDS’?

But our struggles (in society and with ourselves) does not change a human baby’s NEEDS. And in infancy, no one else can meet these needs perfectly like Mom can. If we elect to bring a baby into this world, then we certainly should think ahead of time about how we are going to meet the needs of this new little life.

This is all very well, babies and toddlers do have needs, but I am yet to see a definitive study on exactly how often and for how long separations of a toddler from a mother can be deemed psychologically safe. Certainly there are studies about attachment disorders and critical stages of development for babies and toddlers, and studies abound about the essential need for a primary attachment (which incidentally can be someone other than the mother), but where is the conclusive study to support Wootan’s blanket statement about separation? None are referenced in the piece on peaceful parenting and as far as I am aware, correct me if I am wrong, Dr Wootan is not an expert in attachment disorders, rather he is specialising in.. nutrition.

Dr Wootan and Dr Momma, when advocating the rule of no-separation-until-3 are both envisioning a terribly privileged home – a home where every woman is partnered and every partner earns sufficient income (and health benefits) to support an entire family; one where no mother or partner has a life-threatening illness and no siblings have serious disabilities; one where women exercise full control over their reproductive choices; one where there is no violence in the home; and one where women are homogenous beings biologically destined to be prefectly suited to the demands of attachment parenting.

To be fair Wootan does allow one exception.

I would not argue that a mother who must work to support her family is doing less than her best for her children by working.

Really? Because Wootan sounds awfully unyielding throughout the rest of his piece, and if there are degrees to which it is alright for toddlers to spend some time apart from their mothers then why make the blanket statement in the first place? And if there aren’t degrees to which it is ok for toddlers to be temporarily separated from their mothers, if we really know it to be that bad for young children, if we see it as akin to  these children being without food (as Wootan says in his piece ), then why is it good enough for the children of poor families? The bigger question is why isn’t Wootan directing his pressure towards those institutions which have the power to change the circumstances of poor mothers instead of generally guilt-tripping women?

Don’t get me wrong, it is my belief that the workplace has exploited a lack of awareness of children’s attachment needs to escape an obligation to shape working conditions around the lives of mothers and children. Bring on the information, promote the findings, support stay-at-home parents and legitimise their choices, and rally for those parents heartsick over the inflexibility of their working lives. But leave the blanket statements prescribing exactly how mothers should parent behind. Attachment parenting needs feminism because without feminism women’s lives have a tendency to be decontextualised and devalued, and that isn’t good for mothering. Mothering is an act that occurs in a relationship, with all the compromise that implies. It is not the subjugation of one’s needs entirely for the benefit of another. It is not an act of guilt. It is an act involving sacrifice not martyrdom. It is an act best performed by someone empowered.

(Thank you Hunter for the article tip-off).

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The retrospective collection: biggest hits, sentimental favourites, and experimental B-sides.

blue milk started as a New Year’s resolution.

Very oddly this became my all time most viewed post.

I wrote about how much I hated Bratz dolls. They don’t even exist now.

I had a rough first year of motherhood.

I didn’t fit in.

We found parenthood.. weird (very weird).

And tried to figure out what kind of parents we were.

We moved out of the inner city and into suburbia.

I really struggled with combining work and family, and especially daycare. I struggled with a lot of guilt. And that struggle went on and on.

I discovered that I was supposed to be aspiring to yummy mummydom or Über-mumming or a cocktail version of slacker mummy.

We got our life back together, had sex and stuff.

But lost any sense of cool. And we changed as a couple. (And yet were pretty happy).

I found camaraderie by whining on the Internet.

Having a child re-defined my identity and my feminism.

Then I discovered that there were books out there about this identity and feminism stuff and how it all related to motherhood, and I loved them so.

I enjoyed motherhood too, I just didn’t feel the need to write about that part as much.

Maybe I enjoyed motherhood too much because I became the Go To Place on the Internet for Sexy Breastfeeding Stories.

Then I learnt a lot about toddlers. A lot. In doing so I learnt about myself too. Like, I am actually quite patient.

I thought a lot about the way the world views mothers, and I rolled my eyes a lot.

I got a particularly big fright when I realised so much of the world has such big fucking hang-ups about breastfeeding.

We went on to have a very shitty year, and survived.

The sexualisation of children blew my mind some.

And what to say about sex therapist Bettina Arndt, well quite a bit actually.

I got ever so tired of the martyred mother thing, though I fell for it more than a few time myself.

Motherhood had changed everything about the other most important relationship in my life, the one with my partner. But I didn’t write about that terribly much for the sake of his privacy.

Every now and then we thought we got the hang of this parenthood gig, and then not so much.

Eventually we were no longer novices with babies, just complete dills for every other stage.

We re-visited the work and family arrangement quite a bit.

It took a while to make friends in suburbia.

But mother friends are what makes the world go round.

Sometimes life was just life happening slowly and lightly. Sometimes hard and fast.

I thought about things other than motherhood from time to time too. But mostly it was all still about feminism.

I began to understand that some people hate mothers. Or hate children, which is pretty much the same thing.

And that ‘sexism‘ as a word doesn’t even begin to cover the way we treat childhood, such is the bombardment of patriarchal brain-washing that we undergo. And having a daughter forced me to confront body image issues.

I watched fatherhood from the outside and found it to be very different to what I was going through. He and I tried to have an equal relationship, but we haven’t got there… yet.

Motherhood helped me understand pretty much everything better.

Again, I wondered about the work and motherhood thing. And I got really angry about the fight for maternity leave.

I wrote what became a meme about feminist motherhood, and feminist fatherhood.

I took my first trip away from my child.

I became fascinated in the confessional power of posts about parenting meltdowns.

Then, we got our comeuppance as pretentious hipster parents when our child learned to swear.

We grew a vegetarian, like us.

We took a trip to North Vietnam with our toddler.

We found vulva pride! It was part of an obsession with body sovereignty.

And on top of all that, we got a cat.

Our toddler grew into a little girl, a beautifully willful little girl.

I started reviewing books on here.

I took our daughter out of daycare after a long battle with her anxiety and put her in a Montessori kindergarten instead. It turned out to be the best decision ever.

My feminism evolved and I started thinking, reading and writing a lot more about racism. And queer politics too.

I also started writing for Hoyden About Town, and I was pleased as punch, though not terribly prolific.

I was invited to do a PhD and was awfully tempted until another dream came true and took its place.

And mended my broken heart.

We discovered we were having a boy, which is probably good for blog material because I have been a little focused on the girl side of feminist mothering issues.

But that news also brought its own issues for my fear and loathing of the patriarchy.

I freaked out about birth, again.

I explored intuitive eating with children and managed to take offense and give offense.

If I thought pregnancy was exhausting the first time around that was nothing compared to being pregnant AND also the mother of a small child. All the same, I might love being pregnant.

I got a lot of advice about baby-carrying slings and if you are looking for one, then here.

Then I got so, so, so pregnant.

And finally had a baby.

The second time around with a baby wasn’t nearly as hard, though some of the rocky terrain was familiar.

I still fretted about juggling my career and children. And our daughter made lots and lots of craft.

I kept the blog going this year with a new baby and a kindergartener, but only just. Although, I did manage a spot of activism off-line. And a couple of times this year I actually managed to finish a post on something vaguely feminist (and even once about sex).

I mostly sat in awe of our ability to create an easy baby (relatively easy anyway), and the joy that is watching your first little challenge turn out to be so damn sensible about all this change.

I got to interview Yoko Ono, for a second.

And I was happy, very happy with my adventures this last year.

……………………………………………………………………….

(Hmm. I can’t believe I have been blogging long enough to do a retrospective, but there you go).

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Leave a draft post long enough and the discussion will move on entirely from your half-completed thoughts and you can scrap the entire piece. So without further fuss, and while the baby is reluctantly occupying himself in the playroom, here is my quick response to all this:

Several questions hover, largely unnoticed over the discussion that has emerged around this thought-provoking article by Gaby Hinsliff, where she wonders if a majority of mothers, like herself, would now be happier at home.

  • First of all, why is Hinsliff’s very interesting story being turned into fodder for the ‘women can’t have it all’ campaign? Having it all doesn’t necessarily mean at the same time. Surely? Careers can ramp up and slow down at various points. Career changes, study breaks, caring responsibilities, the pursuit of passions/hobbies/charity work, health problems etc. Why is the question of whether women can combine demanding full-time careers with motherhood so focused on a short-term view (ie. can they make it to the top while also getting a baby from zero to five years old)? Why aren’t we instead looking at women’s careers as lifetime works and then evaluating whether we can have it all?
  • Why are we still allowing anyone to entertain notions that a woman like Hinsliff is a traitor to the feminist cause for leaving her job? With or without a child her job sounded unsustainable.

And if there wasn’t enough time for him, there was less for me. Sunday newspaper life is relatively relaxed early in the week, frantic at the end: I might be in the office on a Friday until 2am, snatch three hours’ sleep before the baby woke, then put in another 15 hours’ work. On days off I still dragged myself out of bed at dawn, not wanting to miss any more of him.

  • Also, why do so many continue to see Hinsliff’s decision to leave a full-time job (admittedly an amazing one) as opting out of the workforce? Hinsliff doesn’t identify as a ‘homemaker’, her career change is simply a move towards a more flexible job, in this case, freelance and home-based. She has also explained that part-time work was available if negotiated at The Observer but that it would also mean downgrading the job. The bigger question is why aren’t there more meaningful part-time jobs around for parents and non-parents alike?
  • And yes, there is a sizeable group of mothers (and fathers) who would be happier at home with their children than trying to combine both work and family life. We should start talking about that more too, but let’s not fold the rest of these problems in with that discussion.

Download the Radio National interview with Hinsliff on Australian ABC radio here. Also, check out Hinsliff’s blog used to be somebody for more as her adventure unfolds.

(Thanks yellow_ruff for the tip off).

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Something I’ve noticed since being on maternity leave? How differently I respond to any ambivalence Lauca shows towards kindergarten. When she gets a little teary or reluctant about going to kindergarten these days I just don’t feel that kick in the guts that I used to feel when I needed her to be there so I could get to work. Mother guilt, I got it.

There are a variety of factors at play here, it is not just about work, but I’m pretty sure that some unresolved feelings about leaving my child in order to work remains a major one.

I haven’t read this new book by Ellen Galinsky, but I would love to – Ask the Children: The Breakthrough Study That Reveals How to Succeed at Work and Parenting. What do you learn about balancing work and family when you interview thousands of children from different ethnic backgrounds on the topic?

Noted work-family  researcher Ellen Galinsky overturns accepted thinking on quality vs. quantity time and many other guilt-inducing “myths”, reveals children’s one greatest wish for changing how work affects their parents’ lives, shares relationship stories of how families stay close, and outlines a brilliant new set of operating principles to navigate work-family challenges, including: Proven tactics for enhancing life at work; Ways to de-stress at work and at home; How to encourage family communication-and what to say to do once you have your child’s attention; How to decode the messages your children are getting about the world and work; Simple family traditions that foster well-adjusted children; And much more.

And here is an interesting interview with Galinksy on her research. (Loved her terms ‘focused time’ and ‘hang-around time’).

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