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Archive for the ‘fatherhood’ Category

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Now, nine months on, my father has bouts of inertia, bouts of reluctant acceptance, and bouts of dotty but clear-eyed humour and calm, as he sits in his large room in his own recliner, with his pictures on the walls and his books on the shelf. He has lost all sense of the passing of time: everything and everyone that he still remembers – all the people, places, dogs and cats, dead or alive, near or far – seem to coexist for him in some perpetual Now. Occasionally he has no idea where he is, and gets volcanically angry when told that this is his room and he has been living in it for nine months. “Bullshit !” he yells, brandishing his stick. Once or twice I have feared that he was going to hit me. Another, darker fear I have is that, if he did hit me, the red mist would descend and I would hit him back. I am my father’s daughter, after all.

When I visit, two or three times a week, I pause at the front door and take a breath to face the possibilities of what I might find when I walk into his room, the possibilities of what I might have to do. I might have to calm him down, or clean him up, or close his eyes.

You should really read this. It’s “The limit of the world,” the Horne Prize winning essay by Kerryn Goldsworthy in the Saturday Paper.

 

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I don’t want this to sound like a gendered question, but you keep mentioning your kids, and so I was wondering if you felt that motherhood changed you as a writer.

I think it’s superuseful. I remember when I was pregnant with my first child: I was at a book festival and a writer of my own age, who will remain nameless, sat opposite me and said, “God you’re having a kid huh?” It was a man. He said, “I guess you’re going to lose a lot of time and you must be worried about falling behind.” I was about seven months pregnant, and I just had a sudden inspiration. I said, “Yeah I guess so” and then, “You must be worried about just a complete lack of human experience that you’re now going to be 40 and then 50.” His face went so pale. It was a wonderful way to frighten him back.

The honest truth is that Eliot wrote without children, Woolf wrote without children, Gertrude Stein, loads of people write extraordinary things without children so it’s not any answer. Every life that you live will give material for fiction. But given that I do have children, it is that experience of just the simple thing of seeing life in the round. It’s so dull to say that, but it is extraordinary to see your childhood replayed, refracted, to see yourself saying things your parents said, to be in this new relation to death.

When I think of writers, I really love someone like Ursula Le Guin, who had three kids and lived an entirely domestic life. I feel her children in those books, I feel that the weight of it, her experience of being a girl, a woman, a mother, an old woman, it’s almost overwhelming when you read her. I don’t know, when I read Woolf, I love Woolf and I love Eliot, but they remained young women their whole lives. That’s part of their genius. They had that pointed, critical perspective, which never faded. What I get from Le Guin, maybe because I’m now heading in the same way, is something I appreciate particularly.

From Zadie Smith in Salon with “Zadie Smith on male critics, appropriation, and what interests her novestically about Trump” by Isaac Chotiner. This is so, so good.

You said your concern was people, not politics. Does anything interest you about Trump, novelistically?

What interests me, which probably doesn’t interest other people, is the children. I’m going to talk in a generalization. When people are children of narcissists, and there are multiple children, they usually bond together against the narcissist. But when you have a lot of money, as Trump does, that seems to skew the whole thing. What I find so painful is the idea of children competing for the affection of a narcissist, whose affection they will never receive. That seems to me just excruciating. That’s what boggles my mind: Reading interviews with them where they boast about who gets to call him in his office more regularly or who saw him more than four times during their childhood. It’s so sad, that part. It’s slightly unbearable. Also because if the children don’t correct the narcissist, he goes to his grave never knowing. I think that’s the kind of man he is, right? He’ll never know.

I imagine Saddam’s kids, or Qaddafi’s, being the same.

But even with the children of a dictator there’s usually one who turns. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this. Maybe just to be told you are the prettiest is enough from this kind of parent.

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We are finally coming to a time when we understand that work life balance is vital (not just some soft issue mothers bang on about) and that workaholics are by and large a liability.. This is very good from Katharine Murphy with “The political life is no Life at all” in Meanjin. 

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The biggest problem with masculinity, Perry proffers, is that it’s based on a model that’s several thousands of years old, when survival depended on physical strength and male power. Or, as he puts it, “masculinity is to chase things and fight things and to fuck. Everything else is a bit of a mismatch.” This framework for men has remained remarkably persistent even as society has evolved past it, with modern jobs and relationships requiring a very different set of skills.

And what should masculinity evolve towards?

But simply by framing a repositioning of masculinity as a boon for men rather than a loss, Perry is doing something novel. “An emergent masculinity may be one that prizes tolerance, flexibility, plurality, and emotional literacy in the same way that strength, certainty, stoicism have been celebrated in the past,” he writes.

From Sophie Gilbert’s “The tragedy of men: In a pithy and insightful new book, the British artist Grayson Perry laments how ill-suited masculinity is for modern life” in The Atlantic. 

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Homeless fathers, fathers in incarceration…

“Fathers are important. I never had mine in my life,” he says. “I try my best to make sure she’s happy, well fed, and has somewhere to sleep until I get it all sorted out.”

 

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From “The secret to work-life balance: less work” in The Atlantic by Jenny Anderson:

One in five working moms say it’s not just difficult, but very difficult, versus 12 percent of working dads. And mothers are twice as likely as fathers to say parenthood has hurt their career.

But one group in the study appeared to emerge at least moderately content: moms who work part time. They’re more likely to take the juggling act in stride (only 11 percent of them say it’s “very difficult” to balance work life and home life) and they’re also more likely to be satisfied with the amount of time they spend with their children.

There’s only one problem with part-time work, in my experience, and that was the way in which my career completely stalled during that phase. In some ways this wasn’t a problem at the time because I had other priorities and I also managed to launch a writing career on the side during it all. But inevitably, I grew bored with the career dormancy and that boredom became a little damaging for me in the end.

Being back at work full-time I am well aware that work-life balance is out the window. And instead, I am running on the adrenaline of a challenging new role as well as the sudden thrill of being taken seriously again.

 

 

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