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

Last year, my previous employer threw a very thoughtful, generous appreciation dinner for our creative leadership team. The dinner was scheduled for 6:30pm on a weeknight. I’m a single mom living in downtown Boston, which meant that I’d have to arrange for a sitter from about 6pm-midnight at $20/hour. Add in some Tasty Burger for my son and the sitter, her tip and Uber home, and this appreciation dinner was going to end up costing me about $200.

So when I received the invite, I couldn’t just check my calendar and accept or decline: I had to have an internal debate with myself about the pros and cons of going and what this dinner would cost me.

Was this dinner worth $200?

I relate to this so much from my days as a single mother. Dawn Bavasso’s “Expense policies are a woman’s problem” in the Medium. 

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Writing and children, particularly the toddler variety, are often seen as a bad combination, and in many ways this is true. There is the sleep deprivation, the lack of space, and the ‘million other things’ to do. But for the writer – be it of fiction, poetry or journalism, or in my case, all three – there are unexpected revelations. Your perspective changes – and while at first it may seem much has receded into the unreachable distance – there are, if you remain open to them, new stories and depths of understanding and empathy to tap into. My most recent essay in The Monthly, The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Julia the Gorilla, would never have been written if not for the excursions I took to the Melbourne Zoo with my boys. The essay was such an effortless pleasure to write, the story so extraordinary that Longform.org picked it up and it is now being translated into Spanish for the Mexican publication, Letras Libres.

It is as though my height has been altered, and from this different eye-level, I can see underneath things, stories previously hidden, tucked tight into shells.

On writing as a mother by Anna Krien in Writing Queensland.

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This is wonderful.

From Michele A’Court’s “Stop saying dumb shit, and other top tips for all the Kevins of the world” in The Spinoff. 

And why should you want to do all this? Because, just like you said, there are all these “talented, creative females” who spend a decade absorbing all that institutional knowledge, getting all that experience, who could go further and do more. And, let’s be honest, you’re tired of shouldering it all. And you drink too much and work too hard and miss out on the kids growing up and get depressed and have heart attacks and die earlier. Or you end up saying stupid things in interviews near the end of your career, and all anyone will say when they hear your name is, “Kevin?  Wasn’t he that guy who said women can’t be leaders?” and it won’t be an entirely accurate encapsulation of what you said but still, it’ll be what they say.

And that’s a tragedy, too.

 

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Just a quick reminder that if you like a little political economic theory and feminism with your motherhood you can…..

…..hear me speak on the Mothering Under Neoliberalism plenary panel at the Negotiating Competing Demands: 21st Century Motherhood Conference in Melbourne on Thursday 14 July, 2016. The panel includes Petra Bueskens, Anne Manne and Fiona Giles and excitingly, Andrea O’Reilly is the chair.

I’m going to deliver a paper called, “Do Economists Love Their Babies Too?” The other papers on the panel include, “Mothers and the Universal Basic Income”, “Lifters and Leaners: Neoliberalism and Farewell to Maternalism” and “Satisfying the Needs and Giving Pleasure: Breastfeeding in public as a slow food critique of neoliberalism”.

You can buy tickets just for the plenary panel if you prefer, but let me tell you that the whole program is really great and will be released shortly.

I would love to see you there.

 

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These are difficult questions for me to consider. I am proud of being a mother. I love my two children. I love them so much that it hurts to look at them and I am pretty sure they are the best, smartest, scrappiest, funniest boys in the world, and having them changed my life. My life before children was selfish and bland, all feelings and no grit, just a drifting miasma of mood. To go back to living like that seems like hell. I get annoyed when women’s magazines try to edit my motherhood out of my work. I get depressed when they won’t run a piece unless I take out any mention of my having children. I firmly believe that having children has made me smarter and better and more interesting, and fuck you to any women’s mag that doesn’t think so too.

And yet, I am profoundly unfree.

I have a ten-month-old and a three-and-a-half-year-old. The three-and-a-half-year-old goes to preschool for a good portion of the day, but the preschool isn’t state-sponsored, so it eats our entire childcare budget. That means I am home with the ten-month-old full time. This is a luxury. Many women would kill to stay at home with their babies. I am fully aware of this. I try to write when the baby is asleep. He sleeps for about two hours in the morning. Otherwise, throughout the day I do housework, cook, try not to go insane. My husband leaves at five in the morning and gets home at eight in the evening most days, so I am short on adult conversation or help. There is a deep, almost suffocating solitude to my days, and yet there is also the California ocean, the flowers, the breeze. It is lovely; it is intolerable; it is both.

I am tethered by many things: the baby’s nursing schedule, the three-year-old’s attention span. To read an adult book is out of the question. To sit quietly for a moment with no one touching me is out of the question. To poop alone is out of the question. Showering is something I have to ask my husband for time to do each night. A lot of nights I am too tired to even think about showering and I just go to bed dirty. I do not brush my hair every day because what does it matter if my hair is brushed? It is possible I am clinically depressed. It is also possible that taking care of small children is just really hard, and in the last six months we have had a move across country, a baby in the hospital for a week, and my new book come out. Maybe I am just frazzled and it will get better on its own. Or maybe it won’t.

From Rufi Thorpe’s “Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid” in Vela.

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No amount of multivitamins, yoga, meditation, sweaty exercise, superfoods or extreme time management, as brilliant as all these things can be, is going to save us from the effects of too much work. This is not something we can adapt to. Not something we need to adjust the rest of our lives around. It is not possible and it’s unethical to pretend otherwise. Like a low-flying plane, the insidious culture of overwork is deafening and the only way we can really feel better is if we can find a way to make it stop.

From Zoe Krupka’s “No, it’s not you: why ‘wellness’ isn’t the answer to overwork” in The Conversation. 

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I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this film, Stories We Tell since seeing it this week. Recommend.

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