Archive for the ‘work and family (im)balance’ Category

Remember that whole ridiculousness when Meghann Foye said she wanted maternity leave ‘perks’ for those who don’t have children? And I wondered at the time would Foye feel at all comfortable trivialising bereavement leave or sick leave in the same way?

Anyway, here’s a lovely reply to that sentiment… all this grim loveliness.

Andrea maternity leave

This is maternity and paternity leave: a time of terror, joy, fear, wonder, pain, blood, and tears. A time of leaking breastmilk and sleeping for no more than two hours at a stretch. A time of your partner having to lift you out of bed.

In an era of highly curated selfies, it isn’t easy to show the world what we look like at our most raw. But we want the world to see us, and know us, like this. No, we wouldn’t trade a moment of it, and no, we’re not complaining. We are simply showing the emotional, painful, joyful, unreal realities of new parenthood. We’re doing the work of humanity, and we’re asking you to see and value that work for the beautiful mess that it is.

From “8 Honest, Raw Photos of What Maternity Leave Really Looks Like” by Jessica Shortall in Elle. 

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Even now, safely past all that, I am apprehensive about remembering just how exhausted and vulnerable I was. I can describe it no better than this: When you are a single parent, the home you build sits atop stilts and if the structure gets more than the smallest of shakes it begins to wobble in such a way as to pick up its own rocking momentum. A dangerously gyroscopic effect. In this way, even relatively moderate upsets can lead to a collapse in the entire thing.

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Andrea O’Reilly is the business. Here, below in the video, she is giving a talk on Matricentric Feminism at a conference in Rome.

Soon, Andrea O’Reilly is coming to Melbourne for the Negotiating Competing Demands: 21st Century Motherhood conference. She’s pretty much the queen of this branch of feminism and is responsible for huge leaps in my thinking over the last ten years. If you can see her speak it’s very much worth it. Buy a ticket, you can even get a day-rate ticket if you like. (The questions she is asking about feminism and our failure to properly include mothers around the 10 minute mark in this video are some of the big debates we’re having today).

Also, I will be on a panel at the Negotiating Competing Demands: 21st Century Motherhood conference with Anne Manne, Fiona Giles and Petra Bueskens talking about Mothering Under Neo-Liberalism. To say I am excited to be on a panel with these women, some of my favourite thinkers in the country is a huge understatement.


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Mamapalooza Festival 2016 – celebrating mothers in the arts – kicks off in Sydney shortly. Running from 14-28 May with film, stand-up comedy and bands, you can get more information by contacting mamapaloozasydney@gmail.com

Speaking of film, I have long wanted to see this one, the award-winning Who Does She Think She Is. If you’re in Sydney I recommend catching it as part of the festival program. And then telling me about it, because I was a guest speaker at Mamapalooza a couple of years ago but my budget doesn’t extend to getting to Sydney again right now.

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In 1974, the sociologist Richard Sennett worried that “the more a person concentrates on feeling genuinely, rather on the objective content of what is felt, the more subjectivity becomes an end in itself, the less expressive he can be.”

This quest to understand and cope with our own feelings and desires – the current term of art is “self-care” – can lead to what the writer Christopher Lasch called “pseudo-self-awareness”. It can leave us too preoccupied with personal satisfaction to see the world clearly. “The new narcissist is haunted not by guilt but by anxiety,” Mr Lasch wrote in his 1979 book “The Culture of Narcissism.” “He seeks not to inflict his own certainties on others but to find a meaning in life.”

In her 2001 book “Race Experts,” Dr. Lasch-Quinn (who is Christopher Lasch’s daughter) argues that the vogue for therapeutic self-help has steered the American left off course, encouraging well-meaning activists to push for sensitivity training seminars instead of real gains in racial and economic equality. The phrase “I feel like” is a mundane extension of this pattern, a means of avoiding rigorous debate over structures of society that are hard to change.

From Molly Worthen’s “Stop saying ‘I feel like'” in The New York Times. 

It must be said about Lasch that while he did highlight the importance of unpaid care work, he was not always so very popular with feminists for good reason. But I like the idea of pseudo-self-awareness. (And I love Richard Sennett).


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Here is my latest article for Daily Life:

And dependence is a funny word to use for older women.

By the time they are claiming the aged pension, paltry as it is, a lot of older women will have raised children, coddled a husband through his working life (that might seem harsh but, honestly, what would you call the fact that she, alone, washed and ironed all their work clothes, cooked the dinners and made him those daily cups of tea), maintained at least one deteriorating elderly parent, and had a hand in also caring for grandchildren.

These women have known some dependency, but you can see it was not all their own. The economy is built upon the toil of unpaid care, largely undertaken by women. That the provision of this essential care work leaves women financially depleted is evidenced by their eventual over-representation in numbers on the age pension, which the Treasurer has so sympathetically observed.

He notes the government pays for these women’s public healthcare, saying it as though governments did not raise revenue from their taxes. Which is interesting, because older women are contributing the fastest growing incomes to the gender income ratio. If women are to eventually catch up to men in terms of income and employment, it may be older women who get us there.

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I am so incredibly charmed by Overland‘s inaugural writer’s residency being offered this year to single mothers. 

If this is you, please please consider applying. It’s a wonderful opportunity including space, resources, money and an amazing mentor in Alison Croggon.

It’s based in Melbourne, so there is that to consider in applying but may many more writing centres in other places consider single mother writers as their pool for residencies in the future.  Because some of my very favourite writers have been single mothers. And I was a single mother and I know it is so hard to write on top of all that.

And basically, this is one of the most feminist gestures I’ve witnessed by a literary journal, go Overland.

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