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Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

This is so clever, but go read the whole thing. “Woman Facts” at McSweeney’s by Sandra Newman.

Once women who lived unconventional lives were seized as witches and burned. Now people just say to them, “You look tired.”

– – –

Large numbers of women can be caught by baiting a trap with a crying infant. Though only one woman may fall into the trap, hundreds of others will gather to criticize everything she does with the child.

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This has been such a disturbing experience.

Recently, I wrote an article critical of Centrelink’s debt collection processes based on my personal experiences. That article is here. It was written with the intention of drawing people’s attention to how impenetrable the debt collection process can be and also, to encourage women to consider fighting against ‘sexually transmitted debt’.

Paul Malone, writing for Canberra Times, has since obtained personal information from my Centrelink file (I’m still not sure how privacy legislation allows this) in order to write an article about my story from the government’s perspective. The article is optimistically titled, “Centrelink is an easy target for complaints but there are two sides to every story”.

It seems the story most neglected is not the helpless ‘client’ of Centrelink, so often powerless in the face of an enormous bureaucratic machine, but the Centrelink machine, itself.

I am incredibly reluctant to go further into my personal details but here we are.

Among the problems I have with Malone’s article:

The agency says Ms Fox’s debt is a Family Tax Benefit (FTB) debt for the 2011-12 financial year which arose after she received more FTB than she was entitled to because she under-estimated her family income for that year.

As I outlined in my article, when your ex does not lodge his tax return for a year in which you received the Family Tax Benefit it seems your family income will be classified ‘under-estimated’, and consequently, you, who filed a tax return may be required to pay the tax benefit back. My article drew attention to the ways in which this can penalise women.

The original debt was raised because she and her ex-partner did not lodge a tax return or confirm their income information for 2011-12.

My tax returns were up to date before I learned of a Centrelink debt and said tax returns noted my new status as a single parent.

However, it is true that I filed my own tax return late that particular year, the circumstances behind this were subsequently shared fully with Centrelink. Given the nature of those circumstances, I am under the impression that my late tax return was forgiven. I will not be sharing those details, but I will note that the extreme sensitivity of factors considered by Centrelink for pardoning late returns includes such things as serious domestic violence and so, I would urge journalists to tread very carefully in this space.

Centrelink says that after Ms Fox notified the department that she had separated from her partner, the debt due to her partner’s non-lodgement was cancelled.

This feels somewhat disingenuous to me. The fine was finally cancelled by Centrelink after acknowledging that their previous decision to impose the debt on me had been a mistake. My notes indicate the process I had to go through took more than 12 months. That seems long to me, and arduous (it included insisting upon a review of my case) – it seems worthy of an article, which is why I wrote it.

But Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen says Centrelink made numerous attempts to get in touch with Ms Fox via phone and letter but many of these attempts were left unanswered.

During the process the department and I discovered they had old contact details for me. This has been a common story across many Centrelink debt stories with false debts escalating to debt collectors before people even realise they have a Centrelinke debt.

You would think a combination of my taking a day off work to visit Centrelink and following that, spending hours  on the phone with Centrelink, would be evidence of a desire to both understand the debts and to resolve them. That I remain, to this day, confused about elements of both is a sign not of my disengagement but of a very complicated, demoralising and problem-ridden process.

However, I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of a couple of individual Centrelink staff members. Due to an editorial decision about word length their supportive comments were not included in my article. But I would note that they sounded almost as sad about the frustrations I was experiencing with Centrelink as I was, and in the end I couldn’t help but think we were all trapped in a kind of maddening maze.

Thank you, also, to the lawyers who came forward with suggestions after reading my article. All my love to those who work in this system and who wish for the system to work justly.

Something is going very, very wrong in government policy at the moment. But I am filled with hope because it has also brought out some very, very good people.

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Whenever I see controversy over any ‘extended breastfeeding’ photos I think about the time I was breastfeeding my three year old and he came home from kindergarten saying he wanted to have his best mate for a sleep over and how it was going to be great because they could both have a breastfeed and then sleep in the bed with me …and, of course, it didn’t happen (are you mad?) but I laugh thinking about how much this conversation would kill the breastfeeding-haters dead. Dead.

Here’s poor old Tamara Ecclestone breastfeeding her daughter, like mammals do, and just blowing a whole bunch of tiny little minds in the process. Keep on keepin’ on.

(I wrote an article about my extreme breastfeeding days here, and also I used to collect glamorous breastfeeding photos here, and breastfeeding while getting shit done all over here).

(Thanks to Jane for the link).

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“Holy fuck. Our children!”

– Text message from another parent witnessing the disorganisation of her kid and mine in getting themselves to high school.

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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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