Category Archives: Raising Daughters

The Work in Question

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Because I'm not yet sick of this.

Because I’m not yet sick of this.

 

My old boss and I are in regular contact as we share a mentor-mentee relationship and have done so for some time. I called her today to discuss a small matter which I had volunteered to do some months ago, only taking a couple of hours of my time. In talking this small task over with her, along with the resignation of another staff member, she decided to offer me a day of work a week. She joked that it was my fault; that I was convincing her through our conversation that she needed me on her team for the next six months to help organise a conference in the organisations name coming up in October.

I’ve been offered work a couple of times since I went on “maternity leave”, which later turned into “your position no longer exists in the organisation”. Whilst I wasn’t happy that I seemed to singlehandedly close a whole state branch of this important foundation during my lead up to leaving, I was glad that I never had to have an awkward conversation with my mentor, telling her I didn’t want to go back to work.

Both times I was offered something in the past, there was no way I could have possibly even contemplated it. But today, the offer of a day a week, for reasonable pay, doing something that I could feasibly achieve seemed tempting. Having talked this whole matter over with the Toolman, I’ve come to realise the temptation has a rather sad genesis.

You see, the modern mother likes nothing more than to ruminate on her choices, her parenting style, how and why she’s chosen a particular enrichment class for her child and how every little move she makes has the potential to completely ruin her child for life. This is delicious fodder for her contemporaries of course whom, depending on their nature, may or may not use all this as an emotional weapon.

In the last few weeks, I have become so excruciatingly self-conscious about these choices and have seemed to find myself in the emotional firing line for “not working”, I’m tempted to take the work simply so I can feel more comfortable in social situations.

Now that Bella is approaching 16 months, it seems I am out of the comfortable timeframe where simply being with her is acceptable. I’ve heard it all in the past few weeks, from the innocent “What do you do with your days” (picture the high rising tone and head tilted to the side), the angry “some of us have to work you know”, to the assertion that any woman staying home with her kids is “coping out” from the real world and hard work (yes, I nearly choked too).

Most of these types of pieces written end in a line about how we are all simply doing our best, how the sisterhood is dying, how we should really just support each other and ultimately leaves you wanting to run topless into a hairy arm pitted group hug….for about 3.5 seconds. The only problem being, these one liners are NOT WORKING. We’re all insecure, most of us have retractable claws ready to launch and most tantalising, are usually re-enacting the most violent Tanantino in our minds driving home from these encounters.

I’m not actually considering this job because I want the stimulation. Quite frankly, who works for an hour a day? We all know that won’t happen. It’ll turn into three or four and becasue I know my old boss it will become a few days a week. I’ll be bouncing Bella on my knee while she plays with my iPhone so I can draft an email to someone I don’t know. I don’t want to do this more than I want Bella to have my attention.

Now I know what you’re thinking. I can see those claws stretching the skin on the backs of your hands already ladies. Yes, I have the luxury of not having to work. I do, I’m very lucky. But just as a side note, if you want to see our camping holiday plans and my weekly food budget which sees me travel to no less than four outlets for my shop to save $50, I’m more than happy to share it with you. So the choice for us, which is a good choice I admit, is how much we want to enjoy all that requires monetary resources I could bring in and how much we want Bella to stay at home with me. We have found something that works for us, right now, in this stage of our life.

Everybody weighs this up in the end. For some families, all people in their family have to work to get even the basics and this must be really, really hard. Many people I know only need one person to work to get the basics plus a little luxury. And there’s a lot of people I know who have families where both parents work because they require a lot of luxury. And there are even some families where everyone works just because they darn well want too. I take issue with wrapping all of these into the “we have to work” bundle and “you don’t” scenario, resulting in those at home feeling like they have to somehow apologise for their good fortune but also their sacrifices.

But because it’s a tricky balance and we’re all working for different things, I have long despised the implication that mothers who stay at home with their children may not sacrifice their own creature comforts, like a haircut, to be with their children. And obviously I see red when it is implied it’s a cop out!

It’s for all of these reasons, I considered taking the job. I’ve considered it so I feel I have more social currency, so that I can feel part of the gang, so that I have a story about my day that means something to everyone else and not just me (I’m now fully aware that Bella mastering the art of climbing the couch has a negative value on everyone else’s radar), so that I have something else to write about here for heavens sake. I’ve considered it all night, fuelled by the feeling that I should be ashamed to be at home with my daughter, not proud that it’s possible. Embarrassed that I “don’t want more” and defeated when people comment that “your husband can afford it”, like I’m a silent witness to our financial success or failures. In a culture that celebrates being “busy” and equates this with being fulfilled and successful, it feels as if being at home is a failure.

But if I’ve learnt anything over the years, it’s this: Nobody makes YOU feel anything. If it’s in there somewhere, it’ll come out if someone tickles the right spot. Maybe it’s time I acknowledged that a part of this does embarrass me; that I enjoy my days and for the most part, don’t have to worry. Perhaps I could feel more comfortable if I was struggling, if I was trying to juggle work and my daughter.

And then I had a thought about the women who truly have no choice in the matter. That are working their elbows to the bone while their kids are in care because they have no one to help them and have an overdue electricity account. Given the choice, I wonder what they would choose? I’m embarrassed to think…

No doubt I’ll continue to think about it all night. To glorify the “busy” life and appreciate the quiet one. I’ll be thinking of the women who said you can have it all and its fabulous, and those that said you can have it all but not at the same time.

Most of all, I’ll be thinking of Bella and these years, these ‘good old days’ that I’m in right now and what I’ll want to remember most.

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Raising Healthy Girls and the Diet Trap

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Bella out with her friend Ninja: Making health and exercise part of our life

Bella out with her friend Ninja: Making health and exercise part of our life

“Bread goes straight to the hips Bella” my friend caught me saying this morning.

“I thought you weren’t going to talk to Bella like that” she said. Busted. Big time. There I was perpetuating the generational cycle again. Message given: bread bad but delicious, therefore should be eaten in large amounts behind closed doors in a binge like fashion. Not to mention the message about a woman’s hips needing to be a certain shape.

Those who have followed this blog will remember my entries about weight loss. What I have failed to mention here lately is that since Bella was born I have been trying to shed the weight that I gained whilst pregnant.

Let me recap quickly for you. 2007: got married. 2008: became depressed and spent the best part of 18 months rotting away in a psychiatric unit trying to recover but nonetheless, gained 40 kilos in the process (talk about “blowing out” after marriage right?). 2010: got well on the road to recovery, jumped back into life and started down the weight loss path and lost 30 kilos by Christmas 2011. 2012: carried Bella to term and somehow managed to put it all back on.

Now I know what you’re thinking, why did I do it to myself again? Well I can honestly say, I had no idea it was happening. I didn’t own scales at the time and as my big belly grew, the fact that my ass was growing at the same time seemed to elude me. Sure, I couldn’t fit into my clothes but wasn’t that a product of the pregnancy? Apparently not.

So a couple of months after having Bella I procured some scales and was absolutely astounded to see that I had gained over 25 kilos. No, it wasn’t fluid and she was a few months old at that point so it definitely wasn’t her. It was just fat. Friggin fat..again! Deep breath.

Before I fell pregnant I was ten kilos away from my goal weight which by the way was not thin but very comfortable. Having Bella has just put a little stumble block in the way of returning to that goal. The good news is that I have managed to lose 22 of those kilos since that dreaded day on the scales a few months after she was born. But I now have to finish what I started in 2010 and lose that extra ten and get back into wedding dress shape.

But I’m so darn tired of it. I’m tired of this being an issue and I’m tired of being in the proverbial no man’s land when it comes to shopping (every other size 16 woman on the planet knows what I mean when I say this!). But most of all, this little problem needs to be nipped in the bud quick sticks if I’m to set a great example for Bella.

Just to be clear, the example I’m aiming for is not to be thin and beautiful. It’s to be healthy and happy. I’m a short woman so pushing 80 kilos around is not healthy and it certainly ain’t happy. So for the last six months I’ve been pushing the pram up and down hills, over creeks and under bridges. I even went to a Zumba class for seniors last week for heaven’s sake (which by the way was delightful)!

But all that aside, as well as the self-ingratiating sentiment that by doing all this I am somehow being a good mother, I went along this morning and managed to demonstrate that I really haven’t got the picture yet.

So how do we raise these girls of ours then? I read a quote from Kate Winslet that said “As a child I never heard one woman say to me I love my body…no one woman ever said I am so proud of my body. So I make sure to say it to Mia because a positive outlook has to start at an early age”. This quote had quite an effect on me and for some time I tried to follow suit. I started small and told Bella that I really like my fingers and then slowly ventured up to telling her I liked my tummy.

But it felt weird and it went against everything I have been taught about modesty. Perhaps it isn’t right to raise a little girl who goes into interactions with other little girls talking about how beautiful she is anyway? But mainly, I’m not a liar and my stomach resembles more of a circus act than anything else. Like the rest of me, it’s just hanging around waiting for the plastic surgeon to arrive.

Perhaps the best thing is to not mention anything at all; not food, not my fingers, not even my curly mop which Bella seems to have been blessed with as well. Maybe by some sheer luck of the draw she will be a confident little girl despite all the images she sees in the media and her mother’s venomous dislike of her body. But I doubt it.

I fear it’s my job to do this one thing right. And all I know right now is that it starts with those hills and that pram and the last ten kilos so that Bella only knows a mother on the beach who is bouncing around in all her stretch-marked glory with confidence, rather than hiding under an oversized caftan. And while I’m at it, there’s only so much holding-the-camera-above-your-head-whilst-simultaneously-pulling-your-chin-out-and-placing-your-hand-on-your-hip can do for the Christmas photos. Perhaps if I’m happy though, she’ll know no other condition but to be such.

With some embarrassment I’m owning up to my folly during pregnancy and making the public resolution I made here some three years ago. This weight has got to go.

So all together now, collective sigh….Here’s to 2013 and lacy knickers.

P.s. G-srings, boxers, briefs, (new addition of Spanx) and nudies also welcome.