Category: Diary

Time / Books

Time

I’m carving out more time for myself. One evening per week to work on my side project with a friend. One morning per week to be alone, out and about in the world, taking a workshop, or writing and thinking, or reading a book, or spending some time people-watching. (I missed people watching!) And one morning per week where my two-year-old goes to “occasional care” for three hours, while my baby has a nap, so I have an extra two hours then too. (Two mornings off! Oh my.)

I love love love love being the guardian and teacher and best friend of my two little kids, but I am definitely finding that having a spot of time away from them allows me to miss them and appreciate and love them even more – and to feel even more lucky and grateful to be around them everyday – and gives me more perspective and resilience to face whatever’s about to happen next. (Like the baby screech-crying from 4.30am until 7am this morning.)

So, time. There are four areas I want to work on this year with my precious, beautiful time.

 

    1. Projects – I have a side-project going on, so I’m happy with the progress on this one. It’s taking a long time, because I can only meet up with my project-friend once a week, but we’re getting there. We’ve designed half of the first product, designed the logo, and we’re putting together a MVP trial for 3 customers to get initial feedback and see if our idea is 👍 or 👎.

 

    1. Me Time – The two things I wanna do are writing and reading. (And for once, I’m doing better with reading than writing!) Also I love learning, so I’m always looking for little workshops and online classes and what-not.

 

    1. Dream Home – This is my worst area. I suck at anything to do with houses. Interiors, exteriors, all of it. We’ve saved a bit of money to just redo the kitchen sink and cupboards and put in a dishwasher (our house is old and those cupboards are falling apart), and I so much don’t enjoy that sort of task that I keep deferring it.

 

    1. Love – This is a continuation of my 2016 theme Beautiful Living, but renamed. I think I’m doing pretty well with my generosity, thoughtfulness, expressing my joy de vivre, and not being an under-buyer.

 

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Books

There are so many books that I want to read. The past 10 years (at least!) I’ve “wanted to read more books,” but have only ended up paying lip-service to that goal each year.

It’s so hard to maintain personal non-essential daily tasks when there are kids around – no kidding, I’ve tried to be super organised with my family and not forget things and not be late to things, and a pay-off is that I don’t get to shower everyday, and I swear I brush my hair once a week, if I’m lucky. Yup. I just can’t fit those things in too, while keeping everything else going smoothly. And you would think, brushing hair takes, like, two minutes, who doesn’t have time for that? But it all adds up. A bunch of tiny trade-offs are happening everywhere.

I digress! – books. Right. Well, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m enjoying reading books on the Kindle app. I thought I only liked paper books, with their paper-weight and individual character. I liked how different book designs and font faces gave different personalities to each book, and I liked how, if I was in chapter 12 and I wanted to go back to that description of that haunted house in chapter 3, I could easily find my way there, because I vaguely remembered the visual layout of chapter 3, and vaguely, the thickness of the read pages in my left hand at that point.

It took a while. But I’ve been finding it easier to actually read books with the Kindle app. I get a moment of free time here, a moment there. Using my phone or laptop, I can jump in and read a couple more pages, and I can read in the dark. I don’t have to remember to take a paperback with me.

Recently read:

 

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

This was an easy read, and interesting (as with everything, always, don’t read anything about it first!), but the characters didn’t quite click for me. I think some easy-to-read books potentially make great material for screenplays – I can imagine that in adding some other people’s takes on it, to life.

★★★★☆

 

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

I might have hated it 5, 10, 15 years ago, but this book popped up at the perfect time in my life. (One question I’ve had since my first baby was born: How on earth does anyone cope with anything bad ever happening to their baby. And that’s one of the many things this book talks about.) I loved it.

★★★★★

 

Refugees

The reality of refugee-camp life is steeped in the lethargy of a sluggish governmental system, the stagnation of lives lived with little sense of agency, and even less sense of daily purpose. I had imagined the waiting, fear, and uncertainty refugees in the camps might feel—but the degree of boredom, I had not anticipated. Stagnation damages people, I realized during my time at Malakasa: being stripped of purpose for such long periods of time, dependent on and subject to the whims of fate and those in the camp around you—it heightens the tensions between people over petty things; wastes people’s potential and education; encourages a sort of black market in things, if not bodies; and increases domestic violence.

– from These Dark Skies: Seeking Refuge on Europe’s Shores by Arianne Zwartjes

Modern Slave Owners

I appreciate this piece in The New York Times Magazine: White Debt by Eula Biss.

I don’t entirely agree with it; I don’t think it goes far enough; I don’t think it has the analogy quite right. But I appreciate it because it articulates some of my thoughts well, and it’s enabled me to articulate my own analogy.

From “White Debt”:

Hearing the term ‘‘white supremacist’’ in the wake of that shooting had given me another occasion to wonder whether white supremacists are any more dangerous than regular white people, who tend to enjoy supremacy without believing in it.

That’s it, innit. We are quite happy with the status quo because we’re all right. We don’t want our lives to be any rougher. (“We” being white people in the upper and middle classes.) We don’t really know where to begin with combatting mind-blowing inequalities around the world, so we plod on. We donate to charity sometimes. Then we plod on.

We are the lucky ones at the front of the train in Snowpiercer.

We are the lucky ones on the space station in Elysium.

We have clean water, beautiful spaces, lovely food, great opportunities for learning and growth and careers, access to health resources that often reduce pain/suffering, and we may even look more conventionally attractive (which helps with opening so many doors in life) because we can afford to fix our teeth, fix our hair, eat well, wear fashionable clothes.

Being white is easy, in that nobody is expected to think about being white, but this is exactly what makes me uneasy about it. Without thinking, I would say that believing I am white doesn’t cost me anything, that it’s pure profit, but I suspect that isn’t true. I suspect whiteness is costing me, as Baldwin would say, my moral life.

And here… is where my opinion differs from the author’s. I don’t see it as “debt,” I don’t see it as “costing me … my moral life.” I think it’s bigger and more immediate than that. Our privilege comes back to bite us in the butt all the time. And we’re so stupid, we don’t do enough about it.

We are the slave owners at the front of the train in Snowpiercer, living the good life and ignoring the humans – who we keep in squalor – at the back of the train. We are the lucky ones on the space station in Elysium, living the good life and ignoring the humans – who we keep in squalor – back down on the planet. And we expect that keeping those humans in a second-rate existence won’t ever affect us.

We are modern slave owners, pretending like it’s all OK that people who live in far shittier conditions than us make our clothes and build our iPhones. And we think that’s not gonna bite us.

There was that time my mum was threatened at knife-point, in a shopping centre car park. She screamed and the man ran away. But why was he threatening her with a knife? Because he was happy with his lot, comfortably paying off a mortgage on a nice little place in a nice little suburb, with a couple of happy kids and happy partner at home? Because he has the support that he needs in life, to get by?

It’s all our faults that he threatened my mum with that knife. If that man had the same white, middle-class, stable, comfortable upbringing that we had; if he had gone to a private school and university; if he had support and options and opportunities, what are the chances he’d be robbing someone at knife-point today?

Then there are the kids who have horrific childhoods, raised in a state of fear and violence, come to Australia and are outcasts – don’t speak the language, don’t have any support, don’t have any money or opportunities. They face heavy racism and classism, in every direction. Then, the upper and middle classes are shocked if these kids come into their beautiful neighbourhoods and try to steal a car. That scum, they say. Those animals. Deport them. 

It’s all our faults that these kids try to steal cars. We passively (by not giving a damn) or actively (by voting for people who reduce foreign aid and reduce support services) make their lives shit, and then expect them to suffer invisibly and in silence.

Then there are the hundreds of thousands of people, all around the country, who by fuck are annoyed whenever they see a refugee story on the news, or a family of migrants in their local shopping centre, because those people are taking their jobs, and those people are probably claiming welfare, and Why the fuck should our taxes go to them, when we can hardly even pay our bills – when we don’t have shit. And so the hundreds of thousands of people vote for the Liberal (conservative) party or One Nation or Family First, because those politicians promise things like: We won’t let them come in to our country and take your jobs. And then the Liberal party or One Nation or Family First gets voted in, and some people in the upper and middle classes say: Oh, what?! You are so short-sighted, you want fossil fuels and to privatise essential services and to ban refugees/migrants! 

It’s all our faults that people vote for politicians who are short-sighted and lack wisdom.

It’s all our faults that terrorism happens. Whether the person is mentally ill, or has been messed-up and isolated and radicalised, or comes from a country where they have nothing. That’s all on us.

It’s all our faults that fake news became a thing. “The average monthly salary in Macedonia is $371.”

The health and happiness and fortune of our [household/street/town/city/country/world] is only as healthy and happy and fortunate as the unhealthiest and unhappiest and least fortunate among us.

It’s not going to make our lives more shit by redistributing some of our middle- and upper-class wealth. We have to lift everybody up. It will make our lives better too.

The best thing we’ve got in place is tax, and look at our attitude towards that! A little bit of our money is redistributed to help the unhealthiest/unhappiest/poorest, and we get stingy and mean, and try desperately to avoid paying it. We hate it, we resent it. How dare my hard-earned money go off to dole-bludgers and welfare cheats and no-good druggies and hobos. 

How dare I be forced to share my money with people who weren’t born into a nice white middle-class family like me. 

We’re so stupid.

We should re-name tax. We should love tax. We should have an opt-in public leaderboard showing which people offer to pay MORE tax than they have to. We should have a public leaderboard showing which companies avoid paying tax, and which companies offer to pay more tax than they have to. We should have a government website celebrating the work of tax – showing what it’s paying for, and who it’s helping. (All of us.)

We should lift up our slaves and give them money and opportunities and rights and their freedom.

AND YET.

Guilty white people try to save other people who don’t want or need to be saved, they make grandiose, empty gestures, they sling blame, they police the speech of other white people and they dedicate themselves to the fruitless project of their own exoneration.

What can I say to that?

This blog post is a small empty gesture?

Hey.

Worry

On the nights when I’m not soooooo tired that I fall asleep instantly (not because I have babies – they sleep fine, but I’m a night owl, it’s my own fault!), I lie in bed for a little while with my eyes closed, waiting for sleep. On those nights, my heart always breaks a little for something in the world. I guess I have a moment of worry. Sometimes it’s for my babies, thinking about how they might get teased one day and wanting to protect them from the pain that comes with being teased. Or that they will get sick one day, or have a car crash, or whatever tragedy might occur, and I worry about that. Sometimes it’s for all the people in Australia who haven’t got enough money or enough opportunities because our society/culture/system maintains strong inequality, and the inequality gap is widening every year. Sometimes it’s for the 1,250 legal refugees that Australia has tortured for three years. Sometimes it’s for the people worldwide who haven’t got enough money or enough opportunities. Sometimes it’s… anything else I can worry about. There’s a lot.

Last night I was thinking about the refugees. Thinking about, if I was in a camp with my kids, how every day in that camp would essentially be a day stolen from our lives. Every day is a day that has been killed and taken from you. Politicians on salaries of… what, $200K, $300K, $400K a year? Plus all their perks… who knows what their lifestyles are like. Rich politicians are torturing legal refugees.

And now – it gets even worse – it looks like the Australian government is handing these 1,250 people over to the American government, who will apply their new “extreme vetting” and then most likely send those poor, poor people back to the countries they tried to escape from. It is horrific.

I do not like my government. They are cruel and ridiculous. Have you ever watched Parliament Question Time, where a brief time in parliament is televised? Where these jokers on salaries of god-knows-what laugh and joke and mess around, booing and hissing and taunting each other, like they’re in an olden-days pantomime? I don’t understand how they’re allowed to do that. Can you imagine being at a work meeting in an advertising agency, or in a bank’s corporate head office, where the senior staff are jeering, booing, hissing, and talking over each other? They’d be fired in two shakes. I don’t understand. It’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes – everyone is allowing the politicians to act like clowns, like it’s normal, and nobody is reacting to it properly – with disgust and anger.

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I wish it was a rule that politicians had to live on an average person’s salary for at least 3 months before they could gain any kind of senior position in politics.

Imagine Turnbull or Trump on an average Australian/American wage for 3 months. Woo, boy!

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I hope, in the future, when I am working for a dollar again, that I can help the world somehow. There is so much pain.

Saturday Mornings Off Work

When I was pregnant with my first babe, I met up with a female entrepreneur who has two children.

She asked me the same question that many people ask, when you’re pregnant: “How long until you’re back at work?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

I didn’t have any friends with babies, and didn’t have any other experience with babies in my past. I had no idea – completely, no idea – what it was like to be a mum/parent/guardian/carer, or what it was like to be around babies or children. It was like I was about to take a new job with the XYZ company, and my job title was Junior X, and I had no idea what the company was like, or what the role really entailed – the only thing I knew was that it involved babies/children, and that many people who had tried that job at the XYZ company said that they liked it, and some stayed on full-time, although some decided to work part-time after a while!

“What was it like for you,” I said.

“Oh, for my first child, I took about nine months before getting back to work,” she said. “My second child, I went back to work after four months. I couldn’t just be sitting around at home. I needed something to do. I wanted to get back into it!”

I liked how this woman came up with business ideas, here and there, and worked on them – and sometimes they failed, sometimes they succeeded. I thought that maybe we were similar.

“Oh, well, maybe I will be like that,” I said. “I can’t imagine being OK with sitting around at home, either. Maybe I’ll get back into it after four months too.”

//

It’s been over two years. Here I am. At home with the kids.

I had my first full day off work from the XYZ company on January 15. I went to a French music festival with my sister (So Frenchy, So Chic. Super fun.) I missed the little babies and felt gooey inside thinking about them, but it was a small personal shock to admit that it was my first real day off in two years.

I had a chat with my partner yesterday and asked for Saturday mornings off. I don’t know if that’s mean of me or not. He has to work from Monday-Friday, then comes home to his other job of carer in the evenings, and then he’s a full-time carer on the weekends. I don’t know. Anyway, We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I will feel too guilty and I’ll stop after a few goes.

Gender Neutral Baby

Wanting to raise a child in a gender-neutral way is tricky. I guess I should have known. Of course it would be tricky. I was daft!

My first little gender-bias jolt was in the first month. I was a bit blue during that time, and I didn’t have some natural “motherly instinct” to talk or sing to my newborn. I would put music on, so we weren’t hanging out in silence, but I wasn’t chatting or singing to him. That felt stupid. It was like he didn’t even know I existed, so why would I sing or talk to him? Then one day, I was reading a study about the differences between girls and boys, the way that they are raised and treated, and how it affects them, and it mentioned that people talk to newborn girls more than boys. Oof! I had already been guilty of that. Even though it felt stupid and embarrassing, and I still felt sad, I forced myself to talk and sing to him.

Then, the clothes.

I didn’t want to dress my baby boy in blue – then we received a million gifts when he was born, and they were mostly blue baby clothes. It felt ridiculous to put them all aside and purchase “unisex” baby clothes.

I occasionally purchased items. It wasn’t too difficult to find baby clothes that were colourful but not overboard “girly” (frills and stuff).

  

 

 

 

As my bub got older, it became harder, though. Toddler boys’ clothes are 80% blue, grey, black, and in the 20% that’s left, there’ll be things like a red T-shirt that has a huge grey shark on it, or a green T-shirt that has little black digger trucks on it. Y’know?

Whoa, what a difference if I looked in the girls’ clothes section! Aqua, pink, red, orange, yellow, sequins, silver, gold, lime, peach, purple… so many fun colours, and even more than that: fun pictures! A yellow and green pineapple on a navy-and-white striped shirt. A pink ice cream on a light blue shirt. Red bunnies on white pyjamas.

My bub didn’t yet recognise a picture of a dinosaur, or a digger. But he loved ice creams, and fruit, and biscuits, and teddy bears, and bunnies.

I tried, here and there, to buy some clothes from the girls’ section. There were no pyjamas with bunnies on them in the boys’ section. There was no T-shirt with an ice cream on it in the boys’ section.

 

(And boys’ shoes are the worst. Navy, navy, navy, or black. Or some black with that navy? If I want something colourful but still kinda unisex, I can basically only get some red boots or sandals, because all the girls’ shoes – which are super fun and colourful and also have glitter and sparkles and lights!!!!!! – are over-the-top girly, with frills and bows and girly-shoe-shapes. Argh.)

Toys were easier. I tried to choose any and all toys, without bias, from the toy library. Dolls, trucks, tea sets, car games. That was fine. But one day, we were at a friend’s house – in her little girl’s room – and my kid picked up some toy jewellery and curiously started putting it on – I hadn’t thought of the other things that girls would get, that my boy hadn’t ever tried.

(Side note: Oh my goodness. The feeling of guilt, regret, and bad parenting when you think you have let your child down – when you have not allowed them to experience something they could have experienced and maybe would have enjoyed/loved it. I know it will sound totally stupid, it’s just toy jewellery! – but there was this tiny, strange feeling of loss for my kid. I have had that regret on the smallest scale possible a couple of times; I can’t imagine what it is like for guardians who can’t provide significant things for their children. It would be heart-breaking.)

Anyway. We have been plodding along since then, and I’ve paid more attention to the other kinds of experiences that girls get, but boys don’t.

And now… my kid is over two years old, so we’re gradually entering the world of him having preferences and making his own choices. A new tricky terrain. For example, I showed him pictures of kids’ drink bottles and asked him which one he would like, because he needs a drink bottle for “occasional care”* this year, and I was curious about whether he had developed any preferences yet.

He looked at all the photos, then pointed.

“Flower one.”

He walked off to do something else. His decision had been made. He liked the drink bottle with flowers on it. So then I was left with the ramifications of my offer: OK, if I buy him a drink bottle with flowers on it, will he be teased at occasional care? Will he get a couple of months in, and refuse to use it anymore, because he’s started idolising the older boys, and they all have superheroes on their drink bottles, and he only wants one of those? Am I overthinking this? UHUH OF COURSE.

(But, you know, that’s what happens when you write thoughts down. They tend to sound ridiculous. They were fine in your head, when they were private and took one milli-dilli-hilli-second to think up.)

So, that’s where I’m at, so far. In the end I couldn’t find the drink bottle with the flowers, so he has a blue and pink drink bottle with dogs on it. He loves it. So far.

* Occasional care is 3 hours a week. I have signed him up for it because I think he’s going to find it really interesting, and so I have one morning each week when I don’t have to think of something to do (and be his guide).