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Archive for the ‘work and family (im)balance’ 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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Autumn has so far included:

my partner getting quite a bit of surgery

my daughter turning 12

weather too hot for autumn

floods

soup made out of anything left in the fridge

bike riding again, finally

him, oil painting

me, submitting an essay for a book

an engagement cake

the storm shall pass

preparing the kitchen garden for replanting

a new job, and having to take my kids to work for the day because my partner is re-admitted for surgery, and the 7 yr old getting lost after taking himself to the toilet while I am away at a one and a half hour meeting (I know!) and coming across a stately gentleman in the corridors and asking him where I might work and that man, of course, being the CEO, and him telling my son to go down there and hang a right.. and taking my kids home later that evening at precisely the correct time because by then my son was relaxed enough to flip the bird to himself in the mirrors in the elevator.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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I have this theory that when women have a decent stretch of maternity leave they return to work with this insight that life is not all about career achievement. That sounds like progress, except… oh many things.

And some time later, we enter this new phase when our children are older and at school and we are suddenly able to speed up our career efforts again. Life is not all about tending to others or how others perceive us, we find. It is really about self and how comfortable one feels about that.

This awareness haunts you, because it cannot just sit for another thirty to thirty-five years of working. Can it? What would the answer be in that case? I mean, it feels good to see things clearly but..

Men seem to reach this insight much later, much closer to retirement. If they’re lucky. Many more find it on their death bed when.. too late. It makes them restless, sure, but it doesn’t do this for thirty-five years of working and wondering like it does for women.

So.. I enjoyed this essay from Elisa Albert. She’s quite abrupt in “The snarling girl”in Hazlitt, as opposed to here in an earlier essay I admired, and possibly this is what made it controversial on my Facebook page. But anyway, it’s interesting to see how an essay on ambivalence about ambition and conspicuous success can provoke thought.

Here’s what impresses me: Sangfroid. Good health. The ability to float softly with an iron core through Ashtanga primary series. Eye contact. Self-possession. Loyalty. Boundaries. Good posture. Moderation. Restraint. Laugh lines. Gardening. Activism. Originality. Kindness. Self-awareness. Simple food, prepared with love. Style. Hope. Lust. Grace. Aging. Humility. Nurturance. Learning from mistakes. Moving on. Letting go. Forms of practice, in other words. Constant, ongoing work. No endpoint in sight. Not goal-oriented, not gendered. Idiosyncratic and pretty much impossible to monetize.

I mean: What kind of person are you? What kind of craft have you honed? What is my experience of looking into your eyes, being around you? Are you at home in your body? Can you sit still? Do you make me laugh? Can you give and receive affection? Do you know yourself? How sophisticated is your sense of humor, how finely tuned your understanding of life’s absurdities? How thoughtfully do you interact with others? How honest are you with yourself? How do you deal with your various addictive tendencies? How do you face your darkness? How broad and deep is your perspective? How willing are you to be quiet? How do you care for yourself? How do you treat people you deem unimportant?

So you’re a CEO. So you made a million dollars. So your name is in the paper. So your face is in a magazine. So your song is on the radio. So your book is number one. You probably worked really hard; I salute you. So you got what you wanted and now you want something else. I mean, good, good, good, great, great, great. But if you have ever spent any time around seriously ambitious people, you know that they are very often some of the unhappiest crazies alive, forever rooting around for more, having a hard time with basics like breathing and eating and sleeping, forever trying to cover some hysterical imagined nakedness.

I get that my foremothers and sisters fought long and hard so that my relationship to ambition could be so … careless. I get that some foremothers and sisters might read me as ungrateful because I don’t want to fight their battles, because I don’t want to claw my way anywhere. My apologies, foremothers: I don’t want to fight. Oh, is there still sexism in the world? Sigh. Huh. Well. Knock me over with a feather. Now: how do I transplant the peonies to a sunnier spot so they yield more flowers next year or the year after? How do I conquer chapter three of this new novel? I’ve rewritten it and rewritten it for months. I need asana practice, and then I need to sit in meditation for a while. Then some laundry. And the vacuum cleaner needs a new filter. Then respond to some emails from an expectant woman for whom I’m serving as doula. And it’s actually my anniversary, so I’m gonna write my spouse a love letter. Then pick up the young’un from school. And I need to figure out what I’m making for dinner. Something with lentils, probably, and butter. Then text my friends a stupid photo and talk smack with them for a while.

Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don’t care if I’m socialized to feel this way, because in point of fact I do feel this way. So! I am unavailable for striving today. I’m suuuuuper busy.

 

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And it was published in the Sydney Morning Herald

Have you ever run with a baby? You’re up, you scoop, you leap. Bone against bone, you and the baby in your arms knock against one another. But within two of your running strides, the baby knows to fold herself into you, she tucks under your chin and presses against your chest. Two strides, heart pounding, and you both find flight.

Babies must know, somewhere primitive in them, how to be held by someone running. Because two strides and the instinct awakens, they’re suddenly weightless in your arms, moulded against you.

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I love this article on middle age and why it is such a happy time, by Natasha Badhwar in live mint.

The belief that early youth is the peak of one’s life has been proven to be a fallacy. Now one feels far more productive, especially when one finds oneself managing so much more with much less effort. I write when I sleep, I raise children when I am away from home, I support people with just words. This is also when one realizes that this isn’t the peak either. There’s a lot more uphill ahead for us.

There are so many things that I still want to do. Thinking about doing them makes me as happy as doing them. I own my imagination.

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our society is currently gripped by a pervasive ideology of work. It is continuously preached to us as the pinnacle of human virtue. If you’re not doing superhuman stints at the office then something is wrong with you. And don’t even mention the word unemployed … that’s blasphemy.

The most worrying facet about the ideology of work is this: we are obliged to toil even when it’s not really necessary in concrete, economic terms. Appearing super-busy becomes more about fulfilling a societal expectation than doing something useful to society.

From Peter Fleming’s “The way to a better work-life balance? Unions,  not self-help” in The Guardian

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