Friday, November 08, 2013

Stay-at-home-mom, bullied at bus stop

The headline was enough to grab my attention. I was willing to jump in and defend one of my own. What kind of person bullies a SAHM?? The article was written by Jessica Stolzberg for Salon on Nov 7th.

I read the article and found...very little bullying. What I found was a huge chip on the shoulder of the author. I read a story of an over defensive reaction to one woman’s inquiry. Perhaps the tone of the question was wrong but bullying with a question? That’s a bit oversensitive. I think the real bully is Stolzberg, and she is bullying herself.

The author and I have something in common, we both have issues with being a SAHM. We both have feelings of guilt that we aren't working and contributing to our full potential. How we deal with that guilt is very different. I have felt the weight of explanation as to why I'm a SAHM of school age children. When someone asks what I do all day I do not interpret their inflection of "Can I ask what you do all day?” as an attack. Like Stolzberg I became a SAHM out of necessity, not choice. I would love to be in the workforce building a career and working with other adults. However I'm not the main breadwinner and my husband has the opportunity to earn a large salary in a major company. His job is demanding and requires travel. Traditional marriage roles came into play and I took on the role of full-time homemaker and full-time parent to our two children to allow him the chance to be fully be engaged in his career*. I was frustrated at first, feeling like I had to take the back seat to his career to become a housewife.

Don’t think for a minute this doesn’t jar with my feminist ideals on a daily basis. I also had a mother who worked full time and tells me how I “Lucked out” in my situation as a SAHM. Always toned with dash of jealousy and a pinch of disappointment. How hard she worked to give me education and opportunity and I chose motherhood and wifely duties. It’s like she’d birthed me right into the 1950’s she’d been emancipated from.

Here’s a fact: Feminism was fought to give women the choice; the choice to have a career or family or both. There should be no judging for which path we choose. We make these choices because we now have the freedom to make them. I am grateful that one day I can still go out and work and have a career - our lives are not on hold or interrupted because we are now being responsible for raising children, even if they are teenagers. Equally we should not judge ourselves harshly for choosing the traditional path. Being mother, partner, wife, supporter is not going backwards. It is selfless in face of the opportunities we could have to be the support for our loved ones so they can grow and develop.

This is not something to be ashamed of or made to feel lazy for choosing. Stolzberg and I have a job that is 24 hours on call. We are at the immediate disposal of the family 24/7. All the jobs a parent does, all the jobs of home management and organisation. We are the personal assistant and representatives of our family.  No one judges the fireman as lazy because they’re not fighting fires 40 hours a week and only a moron would think a fireman does nothing in the hours between fires.

Stolzberg doesn’t need a ready answer or excuse when someone asks her what she does for a living. She doesn’t need to feel guilty for not earning a wage. She doesn’t need to feel second class to career women. Doing these things perpetuates the lie that SAHMs aren’t valuable or worthy. I’m glad she has a large group of friends who support her because it sounds like she needs them. But really what Stolzberg and what other SAHMs need, is to give themselves credit for the work they do. To understand that those women who have to work full time and don’t get the level of quality time with their kids as we do, probably feel a lot of guilt too. Perhaps they’ll act out and it’s reactionary and in no way should have an effect on how we feel about ourselves. And if the other woman is a genuine nasty person who judges SAHMs as lesser beings who are lazy for not having a career then really, she’s the one we should be feeling sorry for. She’s not being valued as a parent herself or feels being a parent is unimportant because she’s lacked good role models. Who knows, it’s her problem.

SAHMs are not the norm anymore. Being available for our families 24/7 is a luxury that we should be thankful for this chance; grateful that we have this unique opportunity. Many families do not get to have this precious time with their kids. We should embrace this time to be with our children while they’re young because they’ll be adults and on their own before long. I don’t want to be looking back on this time thinking I should have been with my kids more. You can’t get this time with your kids back. Someone who thinks staying home to raise the kids, even when they’re older, as unmotivated has some serious issues; but their real issue isn’t with the parent, it’s with themselves.

 *He is not a bastard for this, by the way. He’s hard working, devoted and loving and has his own guilt issues about not being as available for the family as he’d like to be.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

P(ost)MS, it's a real thing too.

It's that time of the month. It's that time when I feel like jumping off a cliff. Like drowning in the bath. Like walking and not stopping and until my knee bones hit the pavement.

For decades there's been articles and talk about pre-menstrual syndrome. I don't have that. To be honest, those days before my period are the best. I suddenly wake up, become organised, energised. I'm the happiest and most alive that week before my period. No I get post-menstrual depression. About 6 days after I finish the clouds descend. I can't think straight, I can't remember what I was doing. I get headaches and nausea. Then the worst days hit and I'm consumed in a fog of misery. An all-out pit of depression worse than I've ever felt. I know it only lasts a couple days. I've documented my moods on my phone diary for a couple years now - well ever since I got an iphone. I noticed the trend. Sometime after menstruation but before ovulation I want to run away and hide from the entire world.

Exercise doesn't work. It'd fine for health and everything else but not this hormonal rift. I'm like a goldfish, what was I saying? Dreadful. Hopeless. Cannot contemplate work or dare be accountable for anything. I worry about driving.

A spoon falls on the floor and it's as if the world conspires against me.

I know it's ridiculous! I know having those feelings or thoughts is silly. There is an over reaction to some things I do have to talk myself down from. Doesn't mean I don't feel the full force of those emotions, regardless.

I spend half the month dealing with and the aftermath of this event, and the other getting ready for it. Doctors aren't helpful, there's nothing really that can be done apart from using a low dose oestrogen therapy which isn't recommended because of the high risk of breast cancer my family history poses.

It's at its worst today. Cannot speak, cannot feel close to my family, cannot wait for the minutes to tick away until I can go to sleep. Can't cook. Can't clean. Can't shower. Can't move. But I do if I have to, I mean I did drop off and pick my daughter up from school. I smile, I talk. I put on a mask and walk among them. I did my volunteer time with the class literacy group. I feel on the edge of crying, screaming, vomiting but do none of these.

It's only a couple of days.

Eating my weight in tryptophan.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Edited seven pages and panicked; where's the next two chapters?
I wrote those.
I remember writing those.
Why aren't they here?

Could I have written them in my notebook and completely forgot to type them in? Think think think!! I was in the cafe, old people kept asking me "What are you typing?" I complained inwardly about how people should fuck off and mind their own business and I bet if I was a man they'd have assumed I was working and not have bothered me but because I'm a woman they had to query what I was typing as if it was any of their fucking business and what I was doing was of no importance!

Then I pulled out my notepad. Ah, the notepad!

OK, where's the notepad?

Not this one. No. Nope. How many of these fucking things do I own? 6. found it the sixth time round. Then for some reason, I'd started writing at the back of the notebook. I'm not left handed; I have no idea why I would do this but I nearly put it down and went looking for more when I thought to flip it over.

Eight pages of notes and beginnings.

Seems I've been replaying these conversations and mechanics over and over in my head so much I thought I'd actually typed them into a form of draft.

I have not.

Although relieved they are not lost, and that I have a clear path to go down, I am disappointed to find I'm not as far forward as I thought I was.

Still a step forward. Will also begin to consolidate notebooks and label them to save me having that panic again. No more hoarding stationary!!
Just a small rant.

I hate bad commercials. I hate them mostly because they think we are so stupid we won't call them out on their bullshit. We really need to let ad agencies know when they've failed. Do they really think we don't question their strategy. Don't answer that. I'm aware that a proportion of society are TV drones and don't question anything, otherwise alex Jones wouldn't have an audience.

This is a new ad that annoyed me this morning;

Not only do they twist a mother's guilt of providing good nutrition for our kids, they play that we could be causing malnutrition. For kids who are choosing not to eat healthy food. This is a behaviour issue, not a systemic lack of a food source. Parents shouldn't cave in to the "won't eats". Mothers despise throwing out perfectly good food. The waste of money, effort and lack of appreciation. Yes I'm sorry but Moms get pissed off that folks won't eat the food we cooked. We would rather be doing something far more fun, like reading a book, than cooking for a bunch of unappreciative whingers. That said, all the stuff thrown away could have been used as leftovers.

It's the insidious threat of malnutrition that stings the most. If someone has a kid that genuinely hates all food and/or gets gag reflex or reflux from eating then in those rare cases a supplement could help. But not for every kid! Just make your kids eat. Be sneaky, pureé everything, they'll never know. Trust me. Or, I don't know, expose the kids to many different types of foods and then remember which ones they liked and make those things more often?

Then, to top it all off, Sustagen is Nestlé product. I don't want to go into a secondary rant about the evils of Nestlé in the third world where real malnutrition is real problem.

Point is, the ad is so easily talked away, so quickly dismissed that it seals for me never buy a product from them. Any parent who thinks giving kids a glass of high sugar vitamin water instead of real food is a moron.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Writing progress/avoidance day three...

It's the weekend and everyone is home. I can't possibly write because the second the laptop comes out and they hear the sound of typing, I have an audience.

My eldest daughter, who at 13 (Can you believe she'll be 14 in three weeks) has "too close" syndrome. She cannot not touch me or be exactly in the place where she causes most frustration. She has zero awareness of being in the way. I have worn out the soles of sneakers just from stopping short to not run into her. She has no concept of personal space. If I'm typing, she's sitting there touching me in some way right next to me. If I'm at my desk, she will be in the same room breathing.

Don't I sound mean, complaining of my lovely daughter breathing? Friends! Darth Vader would Force-choke himself if he had to stay in a room with this extremely loud breather. It's nose breathing, it's mouth breathing, it's both at once! If she's got her headphones on (Which, is always) she also mutters in loud whispers, thinking she's talking in her head but She. Is. Not. Who could concentrate under those conditions?! OH and just try telling her to go away. The guilt; it is thick and sticky, just oozing with adolescent rejection.

The younger daughter (recently 9. She was 4 months old when I started this blog) is better at the personal space and happy to do her own projects but she's full of chatter and questions and stories and fidgeting and girlyfungoodness.

"Look at this Mum, isn't it great I've got plenty of pink," (she's making a cross stitch rainbow)
"Yup, doing great. Stitches look awesome." and they do from the quick head turn I give her.
"Yeah I think rainbows are better this way with the red on the bottom because then the purple is on top and i like purple better but pink being the best colour has to go on the absolute top and where exactly is the ultraviolet? It's like purple but Ultra Purple!!" Oh My I Love You But Shut Up!!!

Yesterday I'd planned to go into Melbourne for some yarn shopping but as I was blow drying Shorty's hair I saw lice. That was my entire morning shot as I treated and conditioner combed out both kids. Head lice is epidemic here. It's never a matter of If but When. We've managed to go six months without an infestation, and I caught it early enough that only Shorty had them and in few numbers.

Then we went to the stores for some camping clothes for the kids who have school and Girl Guides camps coming up. Waterproof boots; well actually I got them snow boots because they were awesome prices and the kids seemed to love them. Some fleeces, gloves and a warm sleeping bag to share as their camps aren't on the same weekends. It does get cold here in Winter but rarely snows where we live and at the coldest times, maybe get a frost.

Fill in the other hours with cooking meals, doing laundry, wiping counters and sweeping floors, buying beautiful yarn online and the day is gone.

They go to bed at 8 and 8:30 even on the weekends, mostly because they love to read in bed and hate what we watch on TV. They can mutter, breath and distract each other in their bunk beds. That should be a good time to write, right?

Saturday night is CSI night. I still had to conditioner comb out myself in case I had nits. (I did not, which made me feel guilty that I don't cuddle my kids enough. I do honestly, too close syndrome aside, cuddle my kids daily.) Then watched about five minutes of CSI NY and was hit with so much tired I just went to bed with a book, The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones, and was asleep before 10. On a Saturday.

Today is Sunday but it's also the last Sunday of the month which is when my Victoria knit&crochet group meets in the city. Shorty and I will be heading into Melbourne and spending the day with about 20 chatty ladies all obsessed with yarn and sharing projects. I tend to get home in time to make dinner.

Having done this post, I will now spend one hour on the story before having a shower, combing through my hair for nits (It becomes a paranoid obsession) and then hitting the trams.

So far this week I've re-read four pages of what I'd written back in November and edited it a lot. I'll continue with that this morning.


Sat down to begin some work on the story. within seconds Shorty was on the couch nearby showing off her new boots, stretching, yawning exaggeratedly and then creeping closer until she was leaning on the arm of the chair and reading over my shoulder.

Sassyface walked through. Paused behind me, walked back. "When you leaving?" "Ten thirty. Why do you want to come?" " boring." Then she walked in a circle of the hallways and came back. "Yeah ok. I'll go." then she walked to her music station which is behind my chair and began to practice her trombone.

Husband walked through (We had a minor tiff earlier) and he kissed me on the head, walked through the room, back the long way up the corridor to the kitchen and finished making his coffee. Then he came back into the room and sat on the arm of the sofa and watched me. I now had a child and Husband watching me while I try and type while a trombone parped behind me.

I fucking quit after managing 15 minutes!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Challenging the Crows and temptations...

I'm trying to write. I struggle with extreme waves of self doubt and avoidance. I avoid writing my story so I can do other things. Worthy things. All the while feeling guilty for not facing up to those "Crows of Doubt" that pick and peck at my confidence.

In facing the fact I'm becoming a career procrastinator I'm writing a list of things I do to avoid facing my fears and writing the story I really want to write. Face up to it.

Confession. Accountability.

I've not written for the past two weeks because my friend asked me to help her organise a fancy morning tea for the Australian Cancer Council. I may have thrown more effort into the charity event than was really necessary, but it was for charity and we raised over $1000, so that was ok, right? I've had a touch of a cold that required me to be in bed with a book at 9:30 every night.

Just today, May 24th, 2013

  • Examined my feet for blisters that may have occurred because I wore heeled boots yesterday.
  • Spent a lot of time encouraging my daughter to count out change for her lunch money. So long in fact we were nearly late for school.
  • Facebook.
  • Breakfast.
  • Decided it was time to clean all the pots and pans.
  • Had a long shower focussing on a moisture treatment for my hair and a salt scrub for my skin. Both treatments were made by me.
  • I managed to edit one page.
  • Coffee break.
  • Facebook.
  • Moved the living room furniture to clean out underneath them all.
  • Conversation with Husband (Who now works from home)
  • Watched the news on the ABC because it's the best quality news.
  • Straightened all my crookedly cut toenails.
  • Watched a cooking show and then emailed the show to ask what brand of frying pan and chef's pan they use because they look really effective. Also commented on how they made an interesting interpretation of Boston Baked Beans and told them what ingredients they missed (namely the bacon)
  • Blogging this list.
It's not even Noon yet.