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Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

Poems like “You Kindly” capture two brilliant paradoxes that run through Olds’s work. They give the impression of being wildly personal, even as the experiences they describe—in this case, the erotic union of spouses—are common. And they break with the female-confessional tradition as represented by Olds’s predecessors Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, who used their poetry to rattle the bars of the cozy middle-class matrimony and maternity that they felt imprisoned them. Olds found a path to her own radical artistry by championing the domestic everyday. Breastfeeding a baby; coaxing a sick child to take his medicine; drinking wine on a summer evening with your husband as a comfortable prelude to sex. These are ordinary moments, the kind most of us, if we are lucky enough to have them, wash down life’s drain. Olds rescues them from obscurity by paying them the close attention of her verse.

From “Sharon Olds sings the body electric” by Alexandra Schwartz in The New Yorker.

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We Alone

We alone can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.
Feathers, shells
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.
This could be our revolution:
to love what is plentiful
as much as
what’s scarce.

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In the subtropics, around the middle of summer things start to die in the heat so Christmas is a strange presence in the season, although I guess not unlike Christmas being situated in the dead of winter in the northern hemisphere. Because the season of summer is not associated with new life here, but rather with the onset of destructive storms, bush fires, drought, and burning sun. Kitchen gardens are largely left to rest. The weeds grow furiously but otherwise everything feels very slow in the humidity.

Storms signal Christmas is coming and the garden succumbs to the mix of overgrown and death.

For me, the foods of summer are all Mediterranean, Mexican and Asian and seem to come in the colours of Christmas. And we eat out in the garden unless the mosquitoes are terrible.

My favourite part of Christmas is all the spontaneous socialising. Friends who message you to tell you they have two Cabernets and are waiting out the rain in a quiet corner, so hurry up and join them in the bar… and other friends who invite you and your kids to swim in their pool and share pot luck dinners together, and friends who beg you to be invited over because their kid is going spare and they want to talk and laugh with you, and all the playfulness and, the exposed skin and lying under a fan even, the goddamn craft (which now includes sewing by my kids).

And this year it included for me a writing deadline for (hopefully) another book anthology next year.

Previous views of December here:

2015

Interestingly, I didn’t post photos in 2014.

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

I love to see what December looks like in your part of the world, so if you care to, leave a link to your own December photos in the comment section.

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Spend it on mental health, according to this very interesting policy research. In terms of government expenditure, it is both super cheap and leads to super impressive outcomes.

What gives you best future outcomes? Spending money on the mental health of mothers and schooling systems that focus on the emotional health of children (especially in high school).

(And I suspect some of the income inequality effects in this research are crowded out by work intensification lifestyle effects).

 

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Good arguments here from Cristy Clark in Overland as a response to Deveny’s ‘financial abortion’ article.

To start with, this argument completely ignores the rights of the child. According to articles 7–9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children have the right to know and have a connection to their parents. Exceptions are provided for situations where ‘separation is necessary for the best interests of the child’, but a man’s desire to avoid child support payments doesn’t qualify. Even in cases when separation is warranted, it is rarely permanent in nature, leaving the door open for personal growth and renewed connection.

But the main problem with Deveny’s argument is that it buys into the neoliberal narrative of individual choice by completely ignoring the broader structural issues that fundamentally constrain women’s choices. The reality is that too many pregnant women already face a stark decision to undergo a medical termination or to risk a life of increased poverty and structural discrimination. While some women will opt to have an abortion (which, by the way, is still a criminal offence in much of Australia), termination should not be the only available option for women to avoid systematic disadvantage.

Just as we should fight for the rights of those women who want access to safe, accessible and affordable abortion, we should also be fighting for the rights of women who instead choose to carry their pregnancies to term. If not, we are punishing women for not having an abortion when a man wanted them to, and that reeks of the kind of coercive control that has no place in the feminist movement.

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This article by Catherine Deveny on the ABC called “Financial abortion: Should men be able to ‘opt out’ of parenthood?” is infuriatingly limited.

I have recently come to the conclusion that, as a feminist, I support men being able to opt out of fatherhood early in a pregnancy via what is known as a financial abortion.

I believe a woman should not be forced to become a mother any more than a man should be forced to become a father. If a man has not said, “I want to have a child with you now-ish”, it is fair to assume he doesn’t, and therefore should be able to legally withdraw from becoming a parent.

It would also be less traumatic for children, and more empowering for women.

A financial abortion (also known as a paper abortion or a statutory abort) would essentially enable men to cut all financial and emotional ties with a child in the early stages of pregnancy.

Men can ‘opt out’ already. Don’t have sex with women, get a vasectomy, take lots and lots of responsibility for contraception. Oh.. you mean not that kind of “control over reproductive choices”.

Men can have more control than they do currently over whether parenthood happens (see my paragraph above), but just like women they don’t have full control over conception. Pregnancy is not something you can ‘make happen’.. you can provide circumstances that will facilitate pregnancy or which won’t… but conception is a biological action that happens outside of women’s and men’s control. We all need to carry responsibility for that.

It is not something one can ‘opt out of’ if you, like me, happen to enjoy the act of putting sperm near eggs inside women’s bodies.

What certain men are seeking to ‘opt out of’ is not whether parenthood can occur, it is the responsibility of parenthood. How very user choice, what part of reality might possibly be missing from this?

The parent with the ability to decide to carry a pregnancy to term (or not) is the one whose body has a foetus inside it. If we lived in another reality where men could choose to carry a foetus in their body to term then they could opt out of doing so.. and I am sure many women would be content to concede that right to men.

 

And of course on the wider issue of opting out, as someone said on my Facebook page, is this…

“In practice men do have this choice: courts won’t demand men conform to care and contact agreements & DHSCS has a poor record of enforcing compliance with child support assessments/ agreements. Women’s access to abortion remains practically constrained and single mothers a group at high risk of poverty – these remain the bigger issues than further expanding masculine financial & paternal discretion.”

 

 

 

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It is another common assumption that a single mother is a woman who puts her sex life ahead of her social responsibility. Manipulative or sexual, she exhibits either too much self-control or not enough (what is never mentioned in relation to teenage pregnancies is the possibility of child abuse and rape). Behind the idea of maternal virtue, therefore, another demand and/or reproach. A mother is a woman whose sexual being must be invisible. She must save the world from her desire – a further projection that allows the world to conceal from itself the unmanageable nature of all human sexuality, and its own voraciousness. Even in the years leading up to the 1960s, when there was more sympathy for the predicament of single mothers, the basic assumption was there. ‘Innocent’ girls could get into trouble and deserved understanding ‘provided that they did not flaunt their transgressions’. Nor is the childless woman immune from sexual taint. ‘Surely,’ one journalist said recently, expressing a common attitude to the declining birth rate in 21st-century France, ‘a woman who refuses to be a mother enjoys lovemaking rather too much?’

In this context, ancient Greece and Rome are again refreshing. Cleopatra, deemed the most desirable of women, was the mother of four children, one, she claimed, by Julius Caesar and the three youngest by Mark Antony, something most representations of Cleopatra conspire not to remember or talk about (no one I have mentioned this to had the faintest idea she was a mother).

From this amazing essay, “Mothers” in the London Review of Books by Jacqueline Rose.

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