Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Being a mother is not the most important job in the world but...

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Let me start by saying I am NOT taking on Catherine Deveny. I.AM.NOT.

And these are the reasons why.

1. Because I really like and respect her [as a writer and particularly after seeing her on the SBS program, Go Back to Where You Came From] and 2. Because there’s no way I could come out unscathed... so I pick my battles. VERY carefully.

But her recent article {here} made me feel uncomfortable. Just a bit, but uneasy nonetheless. To be fair, I agree with much of what she said and I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with her assertion that being a mother is NOT, by any means, the toughest job in the world. It does not compare to many, many other far harder/tougher jobs performed throughout the world – whether you’re a working mother OR a stay at home mother or a guardian or a father or a carer. She is right and most of the mothers I know would also concur.

However, if I was taking Catherine Deveny on [which I am not], I would argue that it is MORE than just a relationship. It is certainly a job to care for your children. I have a relationship with my sister but I’m not listed as her ‘In case of emergency’ person. The person most responsible for her is. Her mother is. And her father.

Do mothers actually say ‘being a mother is the most important job in the world’? Sadly, yes some do. Some sprout it at school coffee mornings and playgroup and on social media to justify their own decisions, yearnings, sacrifices and losses. However, most [that I know at least] do not. 

In fact, the most common declarations I hear in my circle are:
“Being a mother is the most boring/relentless/exhausting/thankless/rewarding/mundane/gratifying/shitfully draining job I have ever done” And I would not be talking out of school to say that I have heard that all said over the period of one night with a group of mothers playing hookey with a bottle or 4 of sav blanc under their muffin tops.

I personally have said all of that. One trillion times. I have also said this. Being a mother is the most important job I HAVE EVER DONE. Because it is true. Because I have never had to run a country or be a judge or perform brain surgery or research a cure for cancer or counsel a child who has been abused. Because in my entire life, I have NEVER done anything more important than raising my kids. More stimulating? Sure. More respected? Probably. Critical to the bottom line of a business? Yep. Better paid? Abso-fucking-lutely. But more important? Not to me. Not to my husband. And not to my kids.

And this is where it all gets a bit grey for me. For... whilst I agree that being a mother [or carer or father etc, etc] is not the most important job in THE world, I believe that raising good people IS. Our children are the next generation of our world. They will grow into adults who will become the caretakers of our universe and our animals and our cultures and our history and the generation of children to follow. So with that in mind, ALL that are involved in this vital function of our future should also believe that it is, in fact, incredibly important. If there is a parent or carer or guardian [of any kind and regardless of how they came to be one] who has committed to taking their ‘job’ as the most important in their life, we should support them – NOT tease them.  Not try to ‘out’ them or ‘outdo’ them. 

It is our job, our responsibility and our obligation to do our very best to raise our very best.
Is it not?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Father Christmas Dilemma

Things I didn’t expect before I became a mum #698 - The Father Christmas issue is a big one when your kids are little.

In my family, we grew up believing that if we were good, all we needed to do was ask the big man for our gifts and they would appear... or sometimes not but we seemed to understand that Father Christmas delivered different types of presents to different kids. I don’t know how we reconciled that in our own young minds but we managed. Visiting him was a bit of a problem though and I’ve got a few teary photos on or near his knee. He’s weird looking and always so hot to sit on. Blegh. Nonetheless, it’s what we knew and I never thought twice about it. Until I had my own kids.

If I’m to be honest, which I promised myself I would be when I began writing, I’m not a big fan of Father Christmas. The whole concept just doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t like the idea that presents appear magically from a man my children have never met just because the day  [and tradition] says so. I don’t like that they go and sit on his knee and ask him for any number of gifts and they will appear, in exchange for some carrots and a glass of milk/beer.  I don’t like that there’s no-one to thank for those presents. And, for me, it’s not enough to just see them excited to open something up from under the tree. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-Christmas or anti-presents. I’m not the Grinch. I’m just not a fan of the big man.

So, this is how we do Christmas. 

As much as I don’t like the FC concept, I also don’t want my kids to be the ones to ‘bring down Christmas’ for everyone else’s kids either. This is how I compromise. 

In our household Father Christmas fills up their stockings with lots of little presents. He gives them balls and books and lego and textas and cds and dvds and card games and anything FUN that will fit in their Christmas stocking. Not all at once of course – but those are the sorts of things that FC brings them. I act just as surprised as they are when they open each one up exclaiming ‘isn’t he clever to know what you like??!’ and other things like that. It really is a lot of fun and the boys love it. Under the tree they will find clothes from us [we always got clothes for Christmas and I've carried that on] and maybe something special like a new pool toy. Then, each Christmas, Mark and I buy them ONE BIG present to share from us. Things like a remote control racetrack or a high-end basketball ring. This year we’re planning on giving a soccer table. We like to give things that encourage them to play together, without a screen even though they ask, every year, for a wii, playstation, bla bla. We’ve got another couple of years’ resistance in us – I hope! 

So, when the BIG ONE comes out and they unwrap it, Mum and Dad get the big hugs and thanks and gratitude. They understand that it hasn’t arrived magically, out of thin air, from some man that they don’t know. They see that the work that Mum and Dad does results in special things for the family and we talk about why we gave it to them. We tell them that we thought about it and remembered a time that they played with one somewhere else and loved it and so we saved up and bought them one. Not in a, ‘this is a learning experience’ kind of way, but in a ‘we’re really happy that you like it’ kind of way. The way we do as grown-ups when we give presents to friends that we’re excited about... wait – do you do that? I do. As soon as I see the recipient like my gift, I get all gushy and tell them why I thought they’d like it and how I had find it online or I just saw it in the shop and HAD to buy it for them. But maybe that’s just me!

Is this the right way to do Christmas? I’m not sure, but I think we’ve covered our bases. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. One of the great challenges of parenting is compromising what you once believed to be unwavering values in theory for the reality of life.

How do you do Christmas and how do you handle the FC situation? 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Warring Women versus The Sisterhood

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We are one bitchy, judgemental lot aren’t we?

Every day I read social media updates about mummy wars and women criticising each other for choices made and clothes worn and parenting decisions and food choices. Blogs and articles are constantly being written by women imploring other women to stop judging each other. To give a sister a break. To stop being such bitches. Our own focus on women as crap people is relentless. The negativity that we are imposing on ourselves is endless. It feels like we are all beating the same self-deprecating drum in an effort to show how evolved we are.

And it is true that we are judgemental. Many of us measure our own performance and, sadly, self worth by how we see everyone else is performing or coping or falling apart. It’s not new. We’ve always done it only now, in the information era, everyone knows about it. We used to just bitch behind each other’s backs. Now we post status updates and share articles in a passive aggressive attempt at saying “I’m doing a better job than she is.”

So now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me remind you of something very important about us 'warring women'.

We are a sisterhood. And just like sisters, we are able to bitch and insult and fight and disagree until one of us loses our shit and then we’ve got each other’s back.

Yesterday, I saw three separate women unexpectedly and spontaneously burst in to tears. They all went from smiles to sobs in less than 60 seconds. Each time they were surrounded by women they knew. Each time they succumbed to their emotions because they felt they could. And each time the women in their vicinity moved in with a speed and purpose that only other women understand... because for all our bitchiness and comparisons, we get it. We are all struggling. When we see a sister crumple under her own pressure we are fundamentally compelled to support her. When we see another woman struggle to fight her demons we stand behind her, next to her and many times in front of her. I see women rally for each other all the time. I see it online even more than I see the apparent war of women.

My sisterhood is strong and incredibly valuable to me. It is rich and full of women who represent so many different walks of life. It is diverse in age, culture, politics, religion, sexuality and geography. 

It is my anchor. It is my constant. 

I was raised by a single mum who had an amazing sisterhood. It is in her battlefield that I learnt the lessons of womanhood. It is through her and her friends that I learnt to gather my own army. Watching my mum and her friends navigate life together is where my awe of women began. In fact, from my view point, watching them around the dining room table making cups of tea and smoking cigarettes as they swapped stories and ear-rings, it was almost magical

To this day, I find magic in my friendships. My sisters have single-handedly healed gaping holes in my heart. They have saved me a million times from a million different tragedies. They have stood by me through fist fights [real and metaphoric] and I have seen my joy reflected in their eyes and heart  time and time again. I have a friend that calls me crying often and by the end of the conversation, which is sometimes only 5 minutes long, she’s laughing. 

That’s magic. That’s powerful. THAT'S what women do.

And if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “What are you talking about? I don’t have a sisterhood!” then you’re probably a man OR you haven’t met the right women yet. 

Do not despair, sister. Start close to home and gather your army and in the meantime stick around... 

I’ve always got room for more in mine x