Tag 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.

First World Problems and Maintaining Friendships

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Because it's all about Bella.

Because it’s all about Bella.

I really wish this was another one of those lovely letters mummy bloggers are fond of (and I’m quite partial to as well of course). You know the ones that start with Dear Bella and continue on to talk about how our little ones are the loves of our lives. Well before reading on, lets just assume that I heartbreakingly adore my child. And while we’re at it, lets also acknowledge that I’m about to go on a First World Problem rant and that I, nor my child is ill, we have food in the cupboard and small change in a porcelain pig on the night stand, placing us in the most blessed percentile on this known earth.

However……

I’ve been in the midst of a crisis of personal circumstance for a few weeks and I don’t think “the grass is always greener” argument is going to snap me out of it. It’s actually fair to say that after I physically recovered from having Bella, I’ve pretty much been stuck in a period of adjustment ever since. I have written about this before as I have tried to desperately explain to my friends how confusing it feels to love a child that well, sometimes you simply want to palm off for a night so you can go and pretend you still know what it feels like to be totally unencumbered from the weight of responsibility you were so totally unprepared for.

I know this sounds simple and I can hear a chorus of parents that have gone before me chanting, “suck it up, you can get back on the turps in a few years” but I feel like there are a few more layers on this.

You see, quite a few of my young silly years have been consumed with illness that you could say left me rather antisocial. Unfortunately, during a few of the years I really should have been spending my pay check on frivolous weekend drives to the beach, my then boyfriend (now husband) and I were worrying about my health. Yes, there were some great years but the time after we got married was devastating. I alienated myself from all of my friends, I gained over 35 kilos and most of our romantic encounters were spent playing cards on my bed in a psychiatric hospital. Even when I was well, it was always mostly the two of us.

I recovered from this as the lucky ones do and the past few years have been lovely. As soon as I lost the majority of the weight I gained and I finished the study which served to rehabilitate me into normal routines, I was pregnant with Bella.

Which was my choice.

Which was my blessing.

Which was my life long dream.

I just had never conceived that I would feel like I lost a part of my life and for some reason, it has started rearing its ugly head now. It could be because I am smaller or it could be because you want what you can’t have but I have other suspicions.

During those years, I lost a lot of friends. My fault. My disease. But having Bella gave me the real push to rekindle these friendships with girlfriends lost and it’s been great. Unfortunately for us, we have sort of missed each other in life timings. They don’t have kids. I do.

In the beginning I think I was kind of cool about it and really tried not to talk about Bella and asked about their dates or their boyfriends or their work but eventually I’m required to talk about myself and my contributions have become increasingly desperate as I try to convey the monumental change that occurred in our house, our relationship, our whole existence when we had Bella. Inevitably, I end up saying things like, “I need to go because if Belle falls asleep here, she wont nap later and I’ll be up all night which wont work cos’ we have music class in the morning”. And then I get in the car and I literally want to drive off a cliff because I AM THAT MOTHER.

Lately though, I’ve had a few conversations with some friends and people that frankly, I don’t even know that have left me retreating. Let me just say that I have NEVER said to anyone that is childless “you say that now but just wait till you have kids”. See, I know how patronising that is. How that makes you feel small. But I tell you what makes me feel small. Comments like,

“You really should just continue on living your life and take Bella with you”, or

“You need better role models to look up to that just take their kids everywhere”, or my favourite,

“You really need more couple time…to really connect”. Deep breath.

You know what peeps, please don’t even say “date night” around me. And I don’t really want to take my 15 month old out to a beautiful restaurant mid week. You know why? It’s got nothing to do with her, she’ll love it. She’ll throw food around, sleep all the way home and then party all night. But it will be a FRIGGIN NIGHTMARE for moi. And before you be helpful and suggest some “alone time”, now that our lifestyle has changed and the Toolman works rather gastly hours, I can’t really leave her at home during the week with him at all. I love that we live in a society where I can strap her to my back and bring her everywhere. I love that my friends think she’s really cute and never seems like trouble. I love that they love her.

And she’s not trouble and she’s not a burden. She’s just a child and as much as she is my everything, I’m not sure in hindsight that I had enough time to enjoy not being a sick person.  So I’m stuck in this limbo land where I need to get over what I feel I missed out on.

Most of all the point is that I have friends that for whatever reason like me and keep inviting me back and they’re the real friends you don’t often find that you can talk about horrible boils in horrible places with and not be the least bit embarrassed. I’m really lucky they’re there but unlucky they’re not there…you know, that place where you drive to each other’s house in your most glamorous track suit mid morning with a few kids in tow.

All in all, this isn’t about them, or Bella, or the Toolman. It might even be because I’m happy and in a good place I’m looking back over some of the years gone and thinking that sucked. It could even be that I have a child of my own now, I’m thinking more about myself when I was younger. That I could have been doing things that may have prepared me better for this time. Stories that I would have kept hidden from Bella; her mothers larrikin antics.

As I said, I wish I could have explained this in a loving letter but for whatever reason, I write it here instead for you all (mainly my mum lets be honest). One day she’ll understand how I struggled with early motherhood because I didn’t get drunk and silly enough in my early years.

And I’m guaranteeing that because I’ve been entrusted to raise her, that’ll make perfect sense….

Call to the Church: A Mothers decision not to Baptise

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Having been raised a Catholic or as my Grandfather always insisted, a Roman Catholic, it has been a very considered decision that I have come to in choosing not to Christen Bella. One of the biggest misconceptions about me is that having turned my back on religion, I too have turned my back on spirituality. In actuality, I take them both very seriously. For this reason, I can’t in good faith (sorry, couldn’t help it), christen Bella knowing that I wasn’t 100% convinced it was the right path for our family.

In the past couple of days I have found myself thinking about this more and more as the new Pope is elected in Rome. Despite the fact that I no longer intellectually identify as a Catholic, the ceremonious grandeur of the robes and the smoke and St Peter’s Basilica has had me yearning that just like Santa, I still believed. I’ve even had a sudden urge to ring my family and ask them about it.

It’s a hot button topic, I’ll give you that. I too feel the sting of criticism when it’s not coming out of my own mouth when aimed at the Catholic Church. Unfortunately for me my own religious education was entrenched in so many misunderstandings, rules and anxieties about not knowing “the next line” in church that I’m pretty sure I missed the point. Ritual after ritual we were asked to complete, knowing little apart from the fact that we all “loved God”.

And that’s nice in a way because it makes you feel closer with those around you and it’s lovely to be part of an in-group where everyone knows the same language (think Hail Mary). I was even an Alter Girl which was fun I suppose but had to give it away because I couldn’t get my head around when to ring the bell. Especially because I was the type of little girl who wanted to get all these things right, I’ll admit this probably caused more anxiety in me than others. But still…

So about ten years ago, I decided the church wasn’t for me and stopped thinking about it. I got married (civil ceremony) and carried on with my life. But then a funny thing happened. I started coming back and talking with people who identified as being Christian. More and more, this idea attracted me. My husband and I tried a few different churches of different denominations with the main theme being Jesus himself. This appealed to both of us.

Being a Catholic and a Christian can go together…or they cannot. Certainly not all Catholics are Christians and vice versa. When the child sex abuse stories started leaking one after the other and I began talking with people who had been abused in the church, I pretty much closed the door. It’s very difficult for people to hear what I am going to say next because as Catholics you have invested your whole life in this religious belief or practice but I truly believe that the abuse within the church of young people has been systemic and that if the same practices occurred in any other organisation, it would be likened to a cult. This is especially upsetting and sad for the dear Christians who have dedicated their life to the Vatican.

Having this all pretty clear in my mind it surprised me that after having Bella the old beast started raising its head.  At one point I actually wondered whether Bella would go to hell if she wasn’t baptized? The Toolman and I started seriously talking about a baptism. Therefore, we were also considering what it would be like to go to Church regularly. And for Bella to attend a religious school. If one thing was made up in our minds, if we were going to do it, we were going to do it. No fair weather Catholics in this house, otherwise what the hell (sorry again) is the point?!

Well the point for many is that the Catholic Primary schools are often the best, have the most opportunity and are notoriously better than their state counterparts. The idea has even been introduced to me that I should just get over it and christen Bella so I can give her a superior education. This really concerned me. Of course I want the best education for her. Maybe we should just do it.

And then Tim said something that hit me sideways. Out of the blue he said, “If Bella isn’t a Catholic, can she go to a Catholic school?” (Bless his hippy socks)!

“Umm, no honey”.

“Doesn’t seem very Christian to me. I don’t want her to go to a school where all kids aren’t allowed to go. Doesn’t seem like a Jesus thing to do” he remarked casually.

I think it’s fair for a group of people who share religious beliefs to want to be educated under the same roof but my husband was making a good point and one I couldn’t ignore. As much as I want to want it for Bella, want her to feel the same as her cousins (because what kid wants to be different?!), and some Italian Roman Catholic part of me wants to put her in her Holy Communion dress, it still doesn’t mean that the Catholic ethos is right for our family.

And most of all I don’t want to be a Catholic simply when it suits me. For some it suits them in the night when they have a chat to God and it suits them at the dinner table when they talk to their family about Him. Or for some, it’s just because they want to be Catholic. Who knows? But we’re not really prepared to do any of that, so lets face it, it would just be about the school.

It needs to be said it has been difficult coming to this conclusion. There’s a psychological idea referred to as cognitive dissonance. Basically, it occurs when you hold two opposing beliefs, values or ideas that oppose each other. Often this is obvious when someone has held a belief all their life and in old age, when they have to face a new idea or reality, they become angry and just continue on with the old idea without examining it.

This is how I often think about religion. I truly want to be part of the group but I can’t put the abuse, the anti-same sex marriage and the dogma to the side to suit my desire to be part of an old tradition for traditions sake. And if Bella ever asked me about all this I’d find it too hard to explain away.

For these reasons, I truly resent it when people just brush my spirituality aside. My relationship with the church is complex and most importantly considered. I’m a Christian but no longer feel Catholic so am not really sure wher to turn? Who knows, I may return to it and sometimes, I even attend (always an Anglican church though) because we are all still searching for something. At the moment, as a family we are watching from afar.

Bella doesn’t mind. Tim doesn’t mind. And I’m convinved neither God and certainly not His Son would turn any of us down at the gates of Heaven. It’s the little Catholic girl in me that’s scared and imagining rows of women yelling Mia Colpa at the shiny gates.

Some habits die very hard.

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.