Monday, September 03, 2012

Super Speed

Life is on super-speed at the moment.

Parenting Avery is fantastic, but challenging as always. Yet again I thank my lucky stars (and good taste in men) that Himself is such an amazing co-parent. He gets up with Avery every morning, does the lion's share of the bedtime routine almost every night and comes to my rescue when things are tough. Which lately, thanks to my new diagnosis (I've now been told I have an Auto-Immune Disease rather than Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and have therefore started a whole new round of testing and specialists to get to the bottom of what is going on, along with a course of steroids) has been frequently.

The John Marsden Prize for Young Australian Writers closed this week, so I have hundreds of entries to process and read. Things at Express Media generally are pushing along quite quickly. I feel like I haven't achieved anywhere near as much as I wanted to this year. We have powered through Write Across Victoria, National Young Writers' Month, launched the New Voices Series, run a 6x6x6 event, The Pun/Buzzcuts for MICF in Melbourne and other Buzzcuts in Perth, Canberra and Adelaide, Signal Express for Emerging Writers' Festival and the Signal 37 program and our usual Voiceworks, Under Age and Signal Express publications.

I've been writing about Big Brother for The Flack, who are kind enough to publish my weekly rants. You can see everything to date here: 1, 2 and 3. I have submitted a proposal to contribute to a book in the coming months. I was asked to be Lip's feminist of the week, which is lovely, and I look forward to seeing my contribution on the site in the coming weeks.

Then, in launching what I was thinking of as a small sandpit to do some writing in, it seems some friends and I have created something that people are very engaged with. Limited News went live on August 21 and the positive feedback just keeps coming. It's a joy to have something you have put your hard work into be received so well.

Writing more, rather than just facilitating other people to write, has made me realise how long it has been since I've been doing anything creative. Must try to achieve a better balance on this front.

On top of that, I have been producing my friend Andrew's show for Melbourne Fringe Festival. If you like political cartoons then maybe you should come see First Dog on the Moon in How to Draw Cartoobs and Other Typos. It's over a month until the show starts and opening night is already sold out, plus half the season... so you know... get on it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Why yes, I do still find the kyriarchy tiring.

Maintaining the rage still makes me tired. This post from Mel (which you should read. It's awesome.) made me think about why I selected this title for the blog. Way back when I started it, I was starting to solidify some of my political beliefs. I was starting to be exposed to the academic aspect of my own personal politics, and to make a more concerted effort to live those politics in my own life. I did have  sense though, that these politics were tiring. That it was hard to go about living your life and also examine and critique as you did so. The more I saw sexism, misogyny, unchecked privilege, homophobia, racism, xenophobia and all those other pesky hatreds we encounter in society, the more it became overwhelming to think about them and deal with them.

I have had people comment that to say you aren't 100% read and raring to fight these ills wherever you find them is somehow a betrayal of liberal ideology. Fuck that. Sometimes I just want to watch a television show without bristling at its depiction of women. Sometimes I'd like to go about my grocery shopping without witnessing casual racism. I'd love to go to Christmas lunch without having to listen to homophobic hate speech. Unfortunately, I don't have that option. I deal with all of these things on a daily basis, and it is bullshit. And while I applaud those who can maintain their rage at all times, I'm just not sure it's healthy for me. I think sometimes, for my own sanity, I need time-out. For that reason, I've created communities and enclaves in my life where I am sheltered from the hate speech and the offensive behaviour. I've surrounded myself with like-minded people, who I can let my guard down with, safe in the knowledge that they aren't going to turn a conversation about artichokes into a tirade against boat people.

I still maintain my rage. I haven't given in to the status quo. I also haven't retreated from the world entirely; I try to bring my politics with me wherever I go, even when they won't be popular. But yes, it's still tiring. It is tiring to exist as a woman in a system where you are devalued, silenced, marginalised and actively despised (that's capitalism for you). It's hard to be a mother and negotiate raising your child not to buy into those systems of oppression. It's tiring to feel like you have to be vigilant at all times. So yes, maintain. But also, be weary of it all. It's not a betrayal.

Monday, July 02, 2012

I'm normal.

I don't think breastfeeding my child has made me a Supermother. I don't think it makes me special. I don't think it means I'm better than other mothers. I think I'm normal. It is normal to breastfeed your child. It is normal to allow your own body to do what it is biologically designed to do. It is normal to respond to your child's requests for nutrition and comfort by providing nutrition and comfort.

I do think many women who breastfeed feel that it is worth celebrating. I do. I feel that the various challenges I went through to keep offering my child the most natural food I could was often tough. It took dedication. It took a vested interest. It would have been easy to give up, especially once he was old enough to sustain himself on food. But I didn't. I didn't give in to the stares or the general feeling that actually, displaying my breasts in public was rude. I didn't let the unwelcome sentiment that breastfeeding is somehow icky become the defining factor in whether I breastfed. So yes, I have pride about my breastfeeding. I celebrate it. I feel that as much as it is natural and normal, it is also worthy of some self-congratulation.

Avery and I have passed the magical two year mark of our breastfeeding relationship. I was determined to feed him for two years, as per the recommendations of the World Health Organisation. Now we've reached that goal, I'm open to what the future holds on this front. There are various reasons (health related) that I might have to wean him before he loses interest in breastfeeding, but we'll deal with that if it happens.

My feelings about my own breastfeeding have nothing to do with any other mother and her feeding choices. I don't think I'm better than them because I was lucky enough to have factors that added up to a successful breastfeeding relationship - a supportive partner, a good lactation consultant, literature that informed and supported my choices, the Australian Breastfeeding Association magazine and support line, other breastfeeding mothers to talk to, legal protection of my right to feed in public, encouragement from nurses to get Avery feeding within 10 minutes of birth (despite my c-section), immediate supply after birth - all of which allowed us to manage challenges as they occurred and overcome them.

I think every mother should have the same support available to them. That's my position on breast vs. bottle. Every woman should be supported to do what is normal and natural. Breastfeed her child. If she is unable to do so, that doesn't make her less of a mother. It doesn't mean she is poisoning her child. It means that she had to seek an alternative.

You know what that means? There is no breast vs. bottle debate. There is just the fact that we need to feed our children. And that we do it as best as we can. I consider myself a lactivist not because I believe all mothers should breastfeed and if they don't, they're a failure. I'm a lactivist because no woman should feel that breastfeeding is icky, or that breastfeeding in public is wrong. Because when it gets hard women have no idea what to do, and there is nobody there to guide and support them. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge

This year I'll be tracking my reading via Goodreads again, which I found really useful last year. I love being able to look back over what I've read, or see recommendations from other people. Last year I set myself the goal of reading a book a week (which I thought I would manage easily), but I didn't come near it. I managed about 26, which I was quite shocked by. This year I have set myself the same goal again, a book a week, but I'm also really looking forward to participating in an extra challenge.

The Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge has been created in response to much of the conversation in 2011 about whether the publishing/writing/reading community in Australia is supportive enough of women writers. I wholeheartedly agree that we have a huge amount of work to do in this area, so I'm pleased to have something concrete to commit to in order to make sure I keep paying attention to reading and discussing the writing of women in Australia.

I'm all set to do the following:

Franklin-fantastic (read 10 and review at least 4 books)

I'm already underway, having used the recent Writers Victoria library clear-out to pick up some titles by Australian women. My first was Gaby Maher's The Undewharf. I like it a lot, and will try to get a review up for it shortly. It was published in 1995, which really surprised me as it seemed quite contemporary.

You can join in by tweeting @auswomenwriters and posting links to your reviews or discussions using the #AWW2012 hashtag.

Monday, January 02, 2012

2011 In Brief

For the last few years I have completed this same set of questions...

1.What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

Juggle parenting with working a day job (as in, not freelance work from home).

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I wanted to "Get healthier, enjoy Avery, aim for balance, don't be harsh on myself if/when I don't achieve it." This certainly wasn't the year of health. Himself, Avery and I spent more time sick than I could have imagined. I do think I enjoyed Avery, especially after going back to work, which gave me back some space of my own aside from mum stuff. Which I guess answers the balance question. I'm not sure that I took it easy on myself when I didn't quite manage to juggle everything. I think I should keep working on that as a resolution for next year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My friend Katie and her partner Faith welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their family. There were also women I hadn't met yet who were giving birth to children I now know and love (the children and the women!). Finding mother friends who are very much on my page and creating a community has been pure joy.

4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What countries did you visit?

None. I am heading off to the UK in March this year, so at least I will finally be able to say yes to this question for 2012!

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

Better health. I would like to shake off this permanent aching and fatigue so I can be more present with my family, friends and work.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

January 20, 2011. Celebrating my child's first birthday felt as much of a milestone for me as it did for him.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Heading back to work for another organisation (rather than freelance) part time. I love my work at Express Media and I'm so glad I found this position by serendipity. I wasn't looking for work, I happened to see the job at just the right time, I was lucky enough to get it. In many ways this job is a result of all the hard work (most of it unpaid or poorly paid) that I did in my twenties before CFS kicked my arse. At my sickest it seemed like all the networking, all the connections, all the projects had been for nothing. I'd faded from people's radars and while everyone else moved on with successful careers I was left behind. This job is my opportunity to return to the industry I love with even more purpose and hopefully a more balanced approach to my career.

9. What was your biggest failure?

If there was one, it is probably managing my health. Although honestly, I do believe that with all the bugs Avery bought home from daycare this was less to do with management and more to do with bad luck.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes. I would count this as another year of managing CFS, though certainly not at the same level I once had to.

11. What was the best thing you bought? (was bought for you)

Best thing I bought was lots and lots of books by Australian authors. It has been good to get stuck in to some more challenging reads.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Himself, without a doubt. As I've headed back to work he has taken on a massive workload with Avery, dealing with almost all night waking and early mornings by himself. Without all of the hard-slog parenting he has been doing I just wouldn't be able to work. On top of that, he has also been dragged all over town for openings, launches and various work functions despite the fact he would rather be at home on the couch. My parents have also been ace, picking up Avery from childcare at least once a week, minding him when I have work functions to attend and generally making life with a one year old much easier.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

There have been times when members of our family probably deserve to go in this category, but let's not go into that.

14. Where did most of your money go?


15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Avery learning to communicate with us, first with sign language and then with an ever-expanding list of sounds and words. It's pretty freaking awesome.

16. What songs will always remind you of 2011?

I don't know that there is one.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i) …happier or sadder?


ii) thinner or fatter?

Fatter. CFS and my own poor health management are to blame.

iii) richer or poorer?

Probably about the same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?


19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Lying awake at night unable to sleep while my child and partner slept soundly around me.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Christmas Eve Eve with dear friends celebrating the festive season and Himself's 30th birthday. Christmas Eve cooking and dropping food to Himself's family in preparation for the next day, then eating dinner and watching Christmas movies with Clare and Holly (Avery's non-godparents). Christmas morning at our house with my parents watching Avery enjoy opening his presents and playing with new toys. Late morning at my great aunt's house with some family, the rest of the day with Himself's family. I did fall asleep late afternoon and wake up in the early evening to find I had missed most of the day, but it was still lovely.

22. Did you fall in love in 2010?

Yes. With wonderful women and their children, who I am lucky enough to consider my village.

23. How many one night stands?


24. What were your favourite TV programs?

It was such a good year for TV. There was Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, more Doctor Who, a lot more Midsomer Murders, We Can Be Heroes, Treme, Friday Night Lights, Misfits, Fringe. So good.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?


26. What was the best book you read?

Collectively, A Song of Ice and Fire. Individually, A Pocketful of Eyes by Australian author Lili Wilkinson. I just love her writing. Highly rated were also The Hunger Games trilogy, Truth by Peter Temple (another Aussie) and Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten (yet another Aussie).

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Oh dear. This question brings home the woeful lack of new music I have welcomed into my life. I think my greatest musical discoveries were actually rediscoveries. Things I have loved for a long time and now share with Avery. We sing a lot of Queen (especially Bohemian Rhapsody), The Ramones, lots of Muppets songs (particularly Mnah Mnah) and plenty of Beatles.

28. What did you want and get?

A fulfilling job that didn't take me away from Avery too much.

29. What did you want and not get?

Nothing really... if I had to find something I guess it would be travel.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?

It was pleasing to see the conclusion of Harry Potter, but the one that will really stay with me is Black Swan. I didn't understand why people were talking about leaving the cinema feeling so overwrought. Then I saw it. I get it now.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I don't remember! Ah crap. I turned 31 and I think I was too distracted getting ready for Avery's 1st birthday to really care about mine.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

An extra day in the week. Or more sleep. Yeah, actually, more sleep would be like an extra day in the week.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Try not to get food/dirt/mystery objects smeared all over yourself before you leave the house for work.

34. What kept you sane?

My mum. Himself doing so much to keep us floating while I got back into the working grove.

35.Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I managed to tick one thing off my Bucket List this year by seeing Alan Davies perform stand up live. He is still top of my list for potential future husbands.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Apathy. I saw a lot of it this year and it makes me as annoyed as ever.

37. Who did you miss?

Lots of friends from other states and countries visited Melbourne this year, so there has been a lot less missing than most years.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

A group of women I now meet weekly that I didn't know this time last year.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011

The work you put into your career will pay off, even if it takes a while.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

There are times life will rattle your bones

And will bend your limbs

But you're still far and away the boy you've ever been

So you bend back and shake at the frame

Of the frame you made

(But you don't shake alone)

Even thought this is a song about a parent watching their son, Avery, head off to war (something I never want to do with my own Avery) it is essentially about watching your children grow up and away from you. This year has been one where I've had to take some of those first steps in letting go. It seems too soon.

41. What was your favorite moment of the year?

Hearing Avery say 'Mumma'.

42. What was your least favourite moment of the year?

Probably one of the many nights I realised it was only a couple of hours until I was due at work and I hadn't slept yet.

57. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2011 and change what?


58. What are your plans for 2011?

Travel to London, spend time in my excellent communities (both the writing/arts one and the natural parenting one), improve my current health situation, enjoy our home life more with the dogs, puppies, chickens, veggies, native garden and family.

Monday, November 07, 2011

What does co-parenting look like?

I've been having a number of interesting conversations lately about the difficulties of co-parenting. I define co-parenting in our household as being the commitment to both sharing the responsibilities of parenting relatively equally. That is to say, while we don't methodically divide tasks down an invisible middle line, we do aim to divvy up the work of raising our child so that there is a shared approach to the overall tasks required to raise him. It is also our desire not to fall back on the usual gender divides when allocating or assuming responsibilities.

The conversations have revolved around how difficult it can be to aim for a co-parenting model. How much discussion, negotiation, arguing and confusion it can lead to. Sometimes, some fellow crunchy parents and I wondered, wouldn't it be easier to have simple boundaries to follow? To accept that there was a set of tasks (in most cases probably defined by gender norms) that fell to one or the other of you, and that was that. Well, yes and no. Perhaps it would define things more easily, but would we like the division?

Here's what the split of parenting/household responsibilities looks like at our house. It should be noted that some of these tasks are undertaken by the other person (sometimes quite often), but that around 80% of the time the person listed is the default person for this task. Also, this isn't how things have always been divided. The lists looked quite different pre-Avery, and certainly they looked nothing like this when he was under one.

  • Daily morning routine, including getting up to Avery, feeding him breakfast and getting him ready for daycare
  • Packing and unpacking daycare bag
  • Walking Avery in and out of daycare from the car
  • Attending to Avery during night waking
  • Market shopping every fortnight
  • Preparing food for us and Avery
  • Washing nappies and laundry, hanging/drying/folding
  • Packing/unpacking dishwasher and hand-washing dishes
  • Vacuuming house
  • Daily cleaning routines (after Avery's meals, food preparation etc)
  • Putting out rubbish, recycling and compost scraps
  • Mowing lawns and general house maintenance
  • Attending to Avery's needs when we are out and about
  • Being a stay-at-home parent two days per week
  • Breastfeeding
  • Arranging who is picking up/dropping off Avery from daycare
  • Making sure we have milk, baby-wipes, nappies and other assorted baby supplies
  • Creating a household budget
  • Tracking and managing finances including paying bills, setting aside savings and managing insurance/rates/registration/mortgage/tax
  • Arranging assistance when we need babysitting and/or time out
  • Making doctor's appointments and taking Avery to doctor/maternal child health nurse
  • Manage calendar, including arranging social outings and organising various appointments for family or Avery (car services, birthday parties)
  • Plan holidays and/or family outings
  • Manage family/friends birthdays including buying presents
  • Reading up on Avery's milestones, stages and development, then attempting to apply appropriate parenting techniques and ideas for our family unit
  • Researching decisions on childcare, schooling, extra activities (music classes, baby gym, swimming etc)
  • Initiating discussions and negotiating decisions on feeding/sleep/behaviour boundaries and routines for Avery, then policing said routines
  • Finding and maintaining relationships with a group of like-minded parents and children to provide Avery with a positive community to grow up within
  • Major household item purchasing
  • Purchasing clothes/shoes/sundry for Avery
  • Bathroom/toilet cleaning
  • Spring cleaning
Roughly put, I would say I'm responsible for the research, planning and 'big picture' stuff. Himself is responsible for the implementation of the day-to-day stuff. He gets sh*t done. When I'm stressed or tired I find it very difficult to push through, where Himself can go on and on and on despite his own exhaustion or workload. We're a good team that way.

Unfortunately this partnership can sometimes feel like Himself is doing everything, because the things he does are visual, obvious and easily recognisable. The stuff I do often happens behind the scenes, and can be easily missed if you're not looking for it. It feels like I carry the weight of our responsibilities on my shoulders alone sometimes. I feel like I need to always be 'on', or something will fall through the cracks. As Blue Milk so eloquently (as always) put it

All the work of getting it to happen, getting it to work, and keeping it running smoothly is done by mothers. It seems ridiculous – two people working, two people are parents – the organisational workload should be shared, but that isn’t how it happens. I am torn between fighting to get some equality and conserving my energy to deal with making what actually happens work.

If Himself needs a break, he can get out of the house for the day and leave all of it behind (perhaps this is not how he feels, but it is how it seems to me). I carry the worries with me. Have we got milk for Avery to take to daycare the next day? Did I remember to buy my mother-in-law a birthday present? Have we paid our bills? It's hard to turn off my mind and escape from these things. I feel like I need to be thinking ahead at all times, ready for what is coming next. If I don't, we'll fall in a hole or miss something vitally important.

And is it all worth it? Yes. Although sometimes, particularly in the early days of Avery's life, it didn't feel that way. It is hard to constantly negotiate, and to consider who is doing too much/too little. I often find myself feeling ripped off, but wondering where exactly this dissatisfaction comes from. I also find myself feeling vaguely guilty that I don't pull my weight more around the house. When we sit down and discuss the balance between us, we usually realise that I don't want to do any more of the day-to-day cleaning and household tasks, and Himself sure as hell doesn't want to be responsible for budgeting and scheduling our life. These tasks are allotted in ways that play to our strengths. So why do I feel that way?

The upsides of all this negotiation are clear, though. Himself has a great relationship with Avery. The only thing I do for Avery that Himself cannot is breastfeed. He comes to each of us equally for comfort, or to play. Their relationship is one of the most wonderful things to witness. If I need time out there is no need to explain Avery's routines, Himself has it covered. If I want a bag packed for Avery when we are going away, Himself knows what clothes fit and what he will need away from home. I don't worry when I walk out of the door, I always know Avery is in good hands. All these things make it abundantly clear that we are managing, for the most part, to co-parent and both take relatively equal responsibility for Avery and our family life together. Which matters because I want Avery to see that this is possible, that it is worthwhile. Looking back on thoughts on this issue from before Avery was born, I'm happy to see that we are on the right track. He deserves two parents who are equally involved in raising him.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Maternal desire

There are so many things that have astonished me about my body since becoming pregnant, right through to having an almost two year old that I am still breastfeeding. Right up there is the fact that my idea of maternal desire, that is, the biological and hormonal longing that I experienced before Avery was born, doesn't abate after you have had a child.

For many years, as I have discussed previously, I wanted to have a child. Intellectually, it was a choice I made for my own life that felt right for me. Luckily, the person I fell in love with felt the same way. That all sounds simple and logical, doesn't it? Perhaps, but below that level of rational thought was another driver. One I could recognise as hormonally and biologically driven. I wanted to have a child. I ached to. At various points in my life, regardless of the suitability of time/place/partner/situation, I wished I could fall pregnant and have a baby. The logical part of me would recognise that the answer to this desire was "not now", but that didn't take the ache away. I used logic to bury it, and hoped that the time/place/partner/situation would be right soon.

I suppose I always assumed that the conclusion to this desire was having a child. There you go, you've done it, you have a child and the biological need is fulfilled. Realising mere months after Avery was born that this wasn't the case was a shock. I found that even through my initial horror at the idea of having another child, some days I would find the familiar emotion creep up at me from nowhere. Rather than the answer to this desire being "not now", it was "but we already did that!" Unfortunately that didn't stop the existence of said emotion.

And no, this isn't a convoluted way of telling you I'm having another baby, or even contemplating it. It's just something I haven't heard discussed before. I suppose when I heard women talk about wanting other babies I thought they meant it was something they had decided on a logical level. I didn't realise that they were talking about this desire being as strong for the idea of having another baby as it was for having the first baby. Our biology is a source of constant fascination to me. As is the idea that we think we have moved past these primary urges.