Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gross Generationalisations

Apparently as a middle class Gen-X girl-lady, I have been sold a lie. I was told I could do whatever I wanted. As a young women living in a post-sexist society I could have it all. Our female teachers were all over us like a rash; a generation of women who fought to change the status quo heaped their victory spoils on to us young girls with our fluro socks and ra-ra skirts. Here you go, they shouted. You don't have to stay at home while your husband goes off to work and has all the fun. In fact, you must not! You must go to uni and climb the ladder and break through that glass ceiling. Do it for us! Show us that our battles were all worth while. You are just as good as them. You must compete.

But sadly the numbers just don't add up. Nobody really thought it through properly. To slum it round Europe, to get the 6 year degree, and to climb the ladder, you just can't even think about babies. To even contemplate marriage before you are 30 is considered weird and unhealthy. Mind you some of the more organised ones planned it all out to the month and made sure they were in just the right place at just the right time. These are the ones who also book their child into long day care the day after they are born, so that they can return to work 3 months after their vagina or abdomen is ripped/cut to shreds. And then of course if you were like me, at 17 years of age you chose a uni course that you thought might please the watching wise women folk. After a few years of stress and confusion you realise it was the wrong decision and so you go back to uni and start all over in the attempt to do something that you might actually enjoy (because you should). So by the time you are not even a quarter of the way up the ladder you suddenly realise that you have to have a baby and it has to happen now. 

Many of us are now in a weird place that we weren't really expecting. Recent results from a long term study by Melbourne Uni which has been following a cohort of people who would have finished Year 12 in about 1990, have found that "90 per cent of (the) men who had gained tertiary qualifications were working full-time in 2009 compared with only 38.4 per cent of women with tertiary qualifications. Women with tertiary qualifications were the most likely of any group (including women with no tertiary qualifications) to be not in the workforce". But what are your options? Pretty much no one regrets anything. I'm yet to meet a mum who truly wishes she wasn't one (we all have our daydreams mind you). I also haven't met a women who wishes she didn't go to uni and just got cracking on the baby making at 20. Many are almost truly happy and contented at home with the kids. But in the back of their mind lurks the post graduate degree half finished, or the promotion promised if they returned from maternity leave. Many of them have an obscene HECS debt that the government rubs in their faces once a year in a meaningless letter. Many of us work part-time and our work days are our "day off", much to the chagrin of our mothers. Many of us will go through a year or two or ten of utter lostness and emptiness, loving our children yet not knowing who on earth we are anymore.

What I'm suspecting is that what emerges on the other side of this weird and confusing place is what we have actually been waiting for. I really do think that for the Gen-X girl-lady, married, single, mother, childless, the best is yet to come.

Monday, July 26, 2010

At my house...

Who says you have to get out of your pajamas to have races down the driveway?

Friday, July 23, 2010


I can't stand boasting parents, but I really do just have to share the brilliance of my 4 year old. She woke at 4am again this morning and she happily stayed in bed until 6:30. She listened to stories on CD, played with my iPhone and drew...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Out of my mind

In my attempts to change the world I am sometimes a little bit over zealous in my ‘yes’ saying. Only sometimes though. I’m never quick to ‘yes’ when it comes to parties or camping or babysitting or marathons. But if it’s something that puts me in a position of authority/power/influence then I can’t help myself.

At the end of last year I nominated myself to be the Quality Assurance Coordinator on the Kinder Committee before my 4 year old had even had a single day of Kindergarten. And now I also find myself as the session rep for playgroup even though what I actually wanted to do was quit the group. Now I’m having sleepless nights because my little brain ticks over and worries about the details of pulling it all off without making a complete dick of myself.

I’m a huge believer in sustainability of sanity and lifestyle balance. I absolutely must have time in my life to stop and smell the roses (or at least, watch Masterchef) or I turn into a nut case. And yet I have dreams and abilities that I want to use and wow the world with. How do I do ambitious and mellow at the same time? It’s not a simple matter of trying to overcome laziness. Nor is it a matter of just getting more organized. It’s probably more about perspective. I think being able to step outside of myself more and be a little less emotional and internal about things is the key. At the risk of sounding weird, I find if I kind of move myself slightly out of my body, I feel like a slightly different person. It almost feels like when you lift your eyes from focusing on the computer screen to look up and out the window or at something on the far wall. As I lift myself slightly away from my knotted gut, my busy brain, my tight chest, I rediscover my capacity to cope. I remember I do have a few spare hours a term for the brief processing of playgroup fees and that in fact playgroup is a fantastic way of connecting with new people and helping others connect. I remember that I’m not alone on the kinder committee and that it’s actually fun and satisfying to be able to contribute to the life of such a terrific community organisation.

Now if only someone would teach my simpleton cat to let itself in and out of the house I might actually get some sleep.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thinking Big

I was having a pre-bedtime cuddle with my 4 year old daughter last night and she must have heard me use a word that she liked the sound of. I heard her repeat the word in a whisper a couple of times, presumably to practice it or relish the feel of it in her mouth. And then she was silent for a good 10 seconds. She looked up at me with a smile and said, "Mum, I have talking in my brain!" I was halfway to diagnosing a schizoid personality disorder when I realised that she was talking about thinking.

There is so much about this moment that I love! It makes me wonder at the incredible development of the human brain. Before we have adequate language skills I suppose we "think" without words. Is there a defining moment when we make the shift from not really thinking to some other kind of thinking to verbal thinking? Was this moment for my daughter something completely new for her? What I love the most is that she showed the capacity to think about thinking. It's a type of metacognition and for me it was a little nugget of gold. My little girl is growing up. With that kind of wondrous change in my life do I really need any other?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday


Performance Review

I love my girls. They amaze me, amuse me, excite me and challenge me. But I honestly don't love much about being a mum. There have been many days when I have wondered how I will get through another day of the constant demands and the lack of personal time and quiet. I feel the burden of making good decisions and being strong in my discipline setting and facilitating healthy habit development of the girls. As a mum you just can't escape the awful truth that you are imperfect and that you can't create perfect kids. It's somewhat of a disappointment and an exhausting realisation.

The other thing about being a mum is that it's your job and yet it's not. You do actually work harder than any other job, emotionally, and physically, at least in my experience. You don't get paid much. You don't get to hang out with adults, at least not coherent non-sleep deprived ones anyway. You usually don't get a lunch break and in many ways you don't even get to clock-off. It just keeps on going. And you don't get a performance review, so you don't really know how you are going and where you are going. No one points out your strengths and no one helps you identify and address your weaknesses (except your own mum if you are so "lucky").

I have enjoyed the last few days of motherhood more than any others that I can remember over the last 5 years. It's not very clear why. It could be that the girls are aligning developmentally so that they can actually enjoy playing together, without me. It could be due to the fact that I have changed my work days so now I am not working on Mondays. But what I suspect it might be due to is blogging. Reading other mothers' blogs and thinking and writing my own is a bit like having a chat in the tearoom. Suddenly I not only feel more connected with the outside world, but my work as a mum has been granted some level of objectivity. Mums that blog are opening themselves up to an informal performance review. If you can see your role as mum more like a job then I think it helps you to hang on to yourself as yourself - a woman with skills and talents, dreams and ambitions, loves and hates. Knowing that what you write might be read by someone else in your "profession" allows a healthy self-consciousness and self-analysis that can lift you out of the isolation of home duties. It seems to be working for me.

Monday, July 12, 2010

At My House

At my house today we will be taking it very easy. My 4 year old woke at 2:45am and couldn't get back to sleep. This happens every now and then. She listened to a favourite CD... twice. She got into bed with me and booted Dad into her bed. She got up and watched Hooray for Huckle... twice. Finally, the cat vomitted on her when she tried to get her off her lap and the hysterics began... at about 6:30am. I dragged her into my bed and lay with her until she fell asleep. She still is now at 10am!

This would be fine enough but I could not fall asleep myself last night. Was awake still at 12.30 and must have fallen asleep before 1am. It seems I am having some form of midlife crisis. Plagued by questions that buzzed in my head all night... where will we live and bring up the kids? Who will we do it with? Why will we do it? How will we do it? Small questions to be dealing with at midnight on a Sunday!

Anyway, it is a beautiful sunny day and I don't feel like I had 3 hours sleep, yet. I have decided we will make lamingtons today. That was a much easier decision to make than all the others.

Lots of fun and mess made making chocolate and strawberry jelly lamingtons. Followed by "the best tea party ever!"

Thursday, July 08, 2010

TV Rules

If you can't find the self-discipline to floss your teeth regularly, meditate, or keep the herbs and spices in the right order, it pretty much only affects you. But when it comes to parenting, if you "can't be bothered" with something you are messing with someone's future capacity to function successfully in society. Let me illustrate.

Humans require food. Without food we die. So a good parent who does not want their child to expire desires their child to eat. So a parent with a child who refuses to eat what is supposed to be the "best" food, at the "best" time sitting at the "best" place would understand the temptation to let their child stuff their mouth whilst under the trance of the (whisper) television. If you don't have a child such as this, you will be appalled at this point and will probably never come back to my blog, except to show your other perfect friends what bad parents actually look like.

Anyway, I decided that maybe it was time to crack down on this practice. I was having flash-forwards to images of my grossly obese girls at 24/22 years of age watching whatever the equivalent is of Twilight in 2030 on the couch with a plate of rice cakes, cheese sticks and Tic Tocs. Not to mention how sick I was of crumbs on the floor. So I reintroduced the rule of no food in the lounge room which, as I explained to my 4 year old, I had forgotten about... "silly Mummy!", I said with a forced laugh.

It's working out great. Now they get exercise too as they run back and forth from the kitchen table to have a bite and then run back to the TV. Genius parenting.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Bright Spark

Ok. This is post number four. Things are looking pretty good so far. Probably helped by the fact that I have absolutely nothing to do at work at the moment.

I think it might be good to bring a little light into this self-indulgent, serious blog. So I will attempt to include some self-congratulatory posts celebrating some of the changes that I do make. This will remind me that all is not lost and maybe even provide others with some helpful ideas.

So today's Bright Spark is about rice.

Well it's about more than that. My four year old is a VERY fussy eater. She slept at her cousin's house on Saturday night and I found myself excited about cooking dinner because I wasn't having to think about what she might actually eat. It was quite a confronting realisation that I have let her dictate meal times (among other things) in our house. So I decided that once a week I would cook something that did not meet her exacting standards. She doesn't have to eat it, but it will be put in front of her with no alternative.

Anyway, last week I cooked rice - something she would not normally touch. I jammed it into some shape cutters and guess what - she ate a whole gingerbread man of rice! Ahh the joy that rose in my chest....

PS I have now also tried it with couscous - looked great! But they still didn't eat it. Oh well one out of two is not bad.


We have a savings account that was once enough for a house deposit. As the house price balloon has floated upward and out of sight, we are left standing gazing longingly into the sky, with nothing to do but spend our savings to ease the pain. Every month for the last two years I reckon we have had to dip in to that sacred account in order to maintain our "extravagant" lifestyle. Today I have created a new budget for the new financial year. I'm going to try and actually keep a weekly record of expenses to try and keep our spending under control.

As much as I love a bit of a project, doing the right thing with money is not a strength of mine. Being a true blue middle class Gen X-er I haven't had to fight for a whole lot to date. It was easy enough to get into Uni and not hard to get my first, second, third, or fourth job. So reining in my spending feels inhibiting and boring and not at all fun. I've even tried hard to find an iPhone App that will magically make saving money as easy and fun as Paper Toss. I guess I just need some good old fashion values. Now where did I put those....???

I could have a lolly-jar style guess the number of times I have created a budget and then failed to stick to it competition. Lots of people could enter and none might even win. It has been many, many times. But maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time the reality of the sinking dream of home ownership as I approach 40 may be enough to motivate me. Maybe it needs to be something else.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

I want to change the world

I have a theory that we are all born with a desire to change the world. We are made with a little black box that is embedded deep somewhere, protected from the world. Its job is to propel us to invent, create, make. It is the magic seed that progresses the human race. It is the source of radical advocacy, social justice, education for the poor, gender and race equality. It can be credited with world records, award-winning novels and films, and the contents of the world's best and worst art galleries. Sadly it can also be thanked for mass murder, domestic violence and slashed train seats.

I was going to be a lawyer and fight the good fight. I was going to write a novel. I was also going to change the culture of schools in the northern suburbs to ensure that all kids learned to speak and read. I was going to introduce the teens of Kew to Jesus and turn their priorities up side down. I was going to listen to and comfort and heal the depressed. I was going to be an awesome mum who understood her own limitations and those of her children but loved them regardless.

At some point in everyone's life the little black box is exposed. Someone finds it. And what they do with it pretty much determines what it is used for into the future of the bearer's life. Is it scorned and shamed? Is it tarted up and worshipped? Is it held and honored? It might be found at 6 months, 12 years, 23 or 38 years. It might be buried on discovery or removed or deactivated. It might remain dormant and then rediscovered at a more conducive time. Perhaps it can even just tick away over a lifetime, melding with the tick of the heartbeat and pulse.

Without it a human is either boring, mean, or dead.

"What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him." Viktor Frankl