What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or at least leaves you with a lot of laundry

A couple of days ago Elder, Husband and I all came down with a wildfire gastro bug.  Younger was fine, thankfully, having gone through it two days earlier.  So rather than joining us in Unwanted Bodily Emission Hell, she was single-babyedly championing the much-overlooked hours of 2am, 3am and 4am as being excellent times to party.

Anyway, so there I am, in the throes of it, trying to persuade a happy awake baby to go back to sleep at 2am, then putting her back into her cot awake and furious (how DARE we not minister to her every poorly-articulated need?) so I can lift my poor three year old out of a vomit-soaked bed.  Then leaving her on the floor hugging a bucket so I can rush to the bathroom myself.  Come back to Elder, who is now lying on her carpet half-asleep, changing the bedclothes, soothing her before going back to the younger who is now Really Quite Cross About This Situation Thank You and rocking her down to sleep.  Because obviously when one is extremely nauseated, a gentle rocking motion is exactly what’s needed.  Good times.
But it was fine.  We all got through the night in relatively good humour, nobody got furious or panicky or mean, we all just triaged and managed.  It was so bad it became ludicrous; no time or space for recriminations or resentment, just – whoever is not currently attached to a receptacle has to deal with the next crisis.

And both kids felt safe and cared for, and everyone survived the night.  And then we took Younger to daycare the next day and the three of us napped a lot.

And I think back to when Elder was a newborn, in those first few days which are really easy because they sleep all the time anyway (in the day…).  I would obsessively read baby books, as if I’d found myself outside the door of an examination hall having not studied, and how panicked I was that I was doing everything wrong.  And especially, I remember reading a chapter about baby illnesses, and how to cope with colds.  It was written without dramatics, just a matter-of-fact rundown of how to help a baby with a cold, but I felt surges of panic.  It seemed, suddenly, so unreasonable that one day she would get a cold and how would I possibly cope with that on top of the Awesome And Almost Impossible Responsibility Of Keeping Her Alive.

And then she did, and it was fine.  And I remember when I got pregnant with Younger and my mind kept reeling at the sheer logistics of dealing with two.  How would I possibly manage grocery shopping?  What if I took them to the park and Elder needed a wee when I was halfway through breastfeeding Younger?  WHAT IF WE ALL DIED OF INCONVENIENCE EVERY DAY?

But this is part of parenting; learning that whatever comes up, can be dealt with, and the bits that suck are temporary and love, pretty much, will get you through.  And in a funny sort of way, even a whole-family bout of gastroenteritis can be a good thing.  Because now there’s a lot of things that won’t scare me.


The New Domesticity

Lifestyle blogs, eh?  With their carefully crafted photographs of home-grown heirloom tomatoes, rushwoven baskets with wooden toys inside, a knitted hat or some vintage bunting.  Everyone mocks them, everyone aspires to have a life that looks like them, and by everyone I obviously mean women because this is a very female sphere, this New Domesticity, don’t you think?  Rather as the Same Old Domesticity always has been.  As just as always, women’s work is being both fetishised and trivialised.

On the one hand, it’s another layer of pressure put on women.  I’ve spoken to a lot of friends about this, since we’re all smack bang in the middle of the demographic that this is pitched at; thirty-something, professionally educated, financially well off enough to have choices around work/life balance, and raising small children.  Most of us have some paid work as well as raising pre-school-age children and running a house.  We all, pretty much, shop thoughtfully and cook from scratch as often as possible, we all grow a little bit of food (a very little bit, in my case.  Look out for a coming post entitled Possums: Kill Them All) (not really) (at least, probably not).  And yet this topic comes up, and suddenly the conversation is a flurry of apologies; oh, I’d love to sew my own clothes but I just don’t have the time; I haven’t the eye for home decor; I hate buying things from the store but my job doesn’t leave me enough hours to make my own bread.  Excuses, delivered in tones of apology as if someone is going to reply Well!  That’s just not good enough.  A Real Woman would Make Time.  Clearly you do not Cherish your Family enough.  Because it can feel as if it’s framed in moral terms — that they’re not only about enjoyment, they are about you and what sort of person you are; one who cares about her family, her local community, her home.  And by person, I
mean woman.  Because, again.  The men aren’t doing this.

Oh, and there’s a whole bunch of class stuff mixed into this too.  Which I’m not ignoring.  Well, okay, I am ignoring it, but I promise I’ll come back to it in another post.  There’s just a lot of stuff wrapped up in this.  Why, someone should recycle and hand-dye some paper so they can wrap it up for me.  With twine. 

Nobody is going to say that, though.  Because this is the other hand: despite the fact that women feel all this pressure to do absolutely everything perfectly, desite the fact that we expect a 1950s standard of house cleanliness and personal upkeep (to wit:
the return of control undergarments!) whilst growing and cooking from scratch a la the 1900s, while maintaining a 1980s – style high powered career, all in the 1000-watt glare of 2012’s social media technologies (how many Instagram pictures of yarn, home made pickles and playdough dyed with natural plant derivatives are in your feed today?), despite all of that – nobody really rates this work.  It’s just women’s work. Did I say work? Women’s hobbies. Not important. Consider all the useful, productive things she could be doing. And how is she spending all this time blogging about her lovely family and doing all this, she must be faking something.

I’m not the first to write about this, nor the 100th; a trend towards knitting, canning, preserving, sewing and crafting has been growing for a long time. But we lose ourselves in our own egos and we fall into the trap of assuming this is a personal thing.

Everything old is new again. The personal is still political.

Your unhappiness with your lot is exactly why I am forced to oppress you

I can’t parse Jim Wallace any other way than that. 

His position against gay marriage, at least this week, appears to be that supporting gay marriage would be tantamount to supporting bad health choices, because gay men have a shorter life expectancy than smokers: “The homosexual community’s own statistics for its health – which it presents when it wants more money for health – are that it has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years,” are his reported words.  First off, this is a lie.  It’s based on a cobbled together series of studies, each with dubious premises.  Not that Wallace has deigned to Show His Workings, but presumably he is referring to a 1997 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology, undertaken in Canada, which concluded that “life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is eight to 20 years less than for all men”.  That study used data collected at the height of the HIV epidemic (1987 – 1992) and before advanced HIV treatments were developed.  Oh, but how can we expect Wallace to have read the details of a study he’s using to justify an oppressive bigoted position?  He doesn’t have to have done:.this 2001 follow-up study statesthat the results would be radically different if repeated any time after 1996, which is when the medical profession really got a handle on treating HIV.

Oh, maybe that’s unfair.  Perhaps he’s referring to the ‘Gay Obituary’ study, critiqued here, which studied obituarities of dead gay men (also during the height of the HIV epidemic) to conclude that dead gay men were dead earlier than … non-dead gay men, whose obituaries were strangely missing from the data set.

Or, possibly, he’s referring to…you know what?  Maybe he should back up his own damn claims, rather than throwing spurious statistics out there as if they’re true.

But hey, let’s proceed on the assumption that the gay population does have a higher rate of drug taking and suicide than the heterosexual population.  Why would that be, then?

A 2012 University of Queensland study, The Psychology of Same-Sex Marriage Opposition, contains the following:

Same-sex attracted Australians who reported having frequent contact with people who actively opposed same-sex marriage were statistically significantly more likely to:

– Report self-hatred (e.g., agree to statements such as “Sometimes I feel that I might be better off dead than have same-sex attractions”)

– Feel that having a happy, healthy relationship was not a possibility for them (e.g., agree to statements such as “A long-term, loving, committed relationship cannot happen between same-sex attracted people”)

– Feel unsatisfied with their life and hopeless about the future (i.e., they were more likely to agree with statements such as “I feel that my life has been a failure“)

This isn’t exactly a surprise.  Generally speaking, being exposed to bigotry and hateful rhetoric in one’s daily life doesn’t tend to create a warm fuzzy feeling.    On the other hand, marriage is correlated with lower suicide rates. Lower alcohol consumption.  Longer lives.

So since Mr Wallace is so very concerned about the health of the gay community (he has “a number of gay people he counts amongst his friends“, you know.  What they think of him is, as yet, unreported) it seems fairly obvious what he should do to help, doesn’t it?

Support marriage equality.

I Have Things To Say

I always have had.  And I used to say them, until I had children.  The children turned me into a different person, temporarily.  I have things to say about that, as well: how it is only since returning to paid work, and more importantly since regaining time away from the children, that I have reclaimed the ability to think about things other than domesticity for lengths of time.  But, you say.  Writing!  It’s versatile, can be done anywhere, can be done in short intervals.  Anthony Trollope wrote his novels before dawn and had a fulltime job!  What is WRONG with me that I can’t write, and look after children fulltime, and keep a house?

Well, it turns out nothing at all.  It turns out that the belief that I could is part of the narrative that says this: taking care of children isn’t real work.  Sure, it might take up some time, but it’s not brain work, is it?  It’s just a matter of being present and keeping an eye on the knives.  Except that that’s not true.  It takes an enormous amount of brain work to do well.  And writing – which, I think it is pertinent to say, is the only artistic domain that has historically admitted women – is not something one can just do in between demands to play trains.  At least, I can’t, and I’m not alone.  Female writers have always said they need to be ruthless about carving out time for themselves; Marge Piercy, childless by choice, relates that she has lost friendships over this, because her insistence that her writing time was sacrosanct was seen as breaking a social contract.  Writing takes time.  It takes concentration.  And for me, it takes being elsewhere from my children, so that I can turn off the part of my brain forever listening out for the sleep-fuddled wail that heralds the End Of The Nap, the complaint that Everything Is Boring, Mummy, the awareness that in an hour they’ll all want to be fed again.

So, here I am!  And I still have things to say, and once again the space to say some of them.  Hi!  Glad you could join me.