Monthly Archives: February 2013

It takes a village doesn’t it?

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I opened my big mouth and said that it is nobody else’s business how another parent decides to raise their child. Unless I am employed by the Department of Child Safety and real abuse and neglect is suspected, I should mind my own business. I said we should stop commenting on other people’s parenting decisions. And then I was challenged, but….it takes a village, doesn’t it?

“For disadvantaged children to thrive, many of whom are growing up in lone parent and jobless households, they need to be connected to, and supported by, an extended family” (The Smith Family, 2010).

A UK study of studies which looked at 45 different papers on family and child wellbeing from around the world found a consistency in all groups studied; extended family is beneficial in terms of positive outcomes for children. The UK study suggests we are supposed to raise our kids in community, not alone (Dr Rebecca Sear, 2012). I couldn’t agree more. Kids need to know that people other than their parents love them and value them. Sometimes the assumption can be that well, you’re my parents, of course you have to love me. Plus, other people play different roles and provide other benefits for your kids that you can’t provide. Crazy Uncle Keith might inspire a fearlessness to try something new. Dotty Great Aunt Daisy might engender  a compassion for and understanding of older people struggling with failing health. Cheeky Cousin Rusty might be the one through whom your child learns some of his physical limits. There is no doubt that we need others around to enrich the lives of our kids. Aside from that, there’s also the benefit of having (hopefully) willing babysitters, without whom we would be socially deprived from not going out, or broke from paying someone.

But it’s Critical Neighbour Jane who is not a helpful member of the village. Last week on the parenting panel we talked a bit about judging each other as parents. I stand by my comments that it is nobody else’s business how we choose to raise our children. My husband and I are the experts on our own kids and the best two people to parent them. We will sometimes get it wrong. We might even get it really wrong. We will very often struggle. What we need from the village at these times is not criticism, but support. We don’t need people who barely know us judging a parenting fiasco in the shopping centre with a barely concealed eye roll. It’s a five minute snapshot of us. We do better than that most of the time and it’s our journey to take. Parents in crisis need a comfortable chair, a glass of wine and a good vent. Not a parenting manual. Oh, and take their kid to the park for an hour. That’s the best gift a villager can give.

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Double standard for Slackers

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Yikes. There sure is a lot of parenting controversy out there. I had no idea. There are mothering ‘movements’ I was not aware even existed but it appears I belong to at least one of them. There’s the Attachment People, I’m not them. There’s the Anywhere, Anytime people, nope, not me. And now I’m reading about  Slacker Mums. Now this seems more like me. These, I think, are the Mums who don’t give a crap that they are not perfect. Yup. That’s me. Jane Caro is one too and she wrote this about being slack. Andie Fox is the thinking woman’s Slacker and she wrote this response to Jane. Read them both. Do. It’s a slap in the face, followed by a kick to the guts rounded off with your mother telling your she raised you to THINK GIRL!

I had mixed reactions to both of these articles. I’ll start with the fact that neither mentions a male parent and that again and again we are having ‘parenting’ debates that are really ‘mothering’ debates. I’m nauseated by how much criticism is out there for mothers and the squillions of ways we can get it wrong. Andie  (Blue Milk) brilliantly asks “…what business is it of yours how another mother does her care work, because it’s inherently sexist that we routinely consider women’s lives our business and that we also have so many ways to criticise women?” Let’s spare some of the vitriol shall we for the douchbag Dads who are responsible for the not-by-choice single Mums. Let’s write blogs and opinion pieces about how fathers could do more, read more, play more, work less and share the cooking. Or maybe, let’s just shut our damn mouths and thank our lucky stars that our worst parenting moments are usually hidden away from public view.

I am missing the point here, I know. Back to Jane the Slacker. As I read her article, I mentally ticked off a list of agreement with her every point. I am her yet I disliked her – why? She’s waving a red flag to a pack of bulls. She’s a self confessed ‘stirrer’. She wants to be accused of not loving her children enough so that her point will thus be proven. It pisses me off that women find themselves needing to adopt this IN YOUR FACE kind of it’s my party and I’ll parent how I want to attitude with a hands on hips stare down for anyone game to gasp at the brutality of saying sometimes you just don’t care. I am so glad she did not wrap a yes but around her brutal confessional. I drank (but only a little bit), they drive me crazy (but gosh they’re so cute aren’t they), I hate being a mother (but only sometimes). I thank Slacker Jane for giving me credit for knowing that mothers are not one dimensional, simple or all the same.

And then there is what I decided today I’d call the Blue Milk smack down. This writer has a way of grabbing your face and rubbing it in the obvious like you used to do with your dog when he shat on the carpet. Andie’s cautionary response to Jane is that you cannot say Slacker-type things if you are in any kind of marginalised, disempowered group. You can’t because then people will not chuckle knowingly at your cheekily imperfect parenting choices. They will report you to the Department of Child Safety. You will then know the sharp end of the snobbish judgement of the middle class school staff, the middle class doctor, the middle class Centrelink bitch and everyone that walks past you at Westfield rolling their eyes and whispering as you pass. I have seen it in the way I get treated by Doctors and so on in comparison to how some of my clients have been treated. I know, I’ve been there and I’ve seen it. If you are a poor Mum, a young Mum, a desperate Mum, a beaten Mum, an uneducated Mum or a mentally unwell Mum the system is suspicious of you, routinely talks down to you and withholds your rights to information, choice, compassion and a say in the treatment of your child. If you then start going round saying how you’re a Slacker too, the system will not be amused. Who among us of us really understands what it might be like to mother under extreme pressure? Do you think this mother loves her kid one scrap less than you love yours?

I’m now well and truly lost in the cornfield of my own argument. I’ll try to pull it together. I love Jane the Slacker, I especially love her for this:

“I had no birth plan, except an adamantine determination to avoid any pain, and so I aimed to take as many drugs as were on offer. I had no interest in the grim maternal competition that equates a ”natural” birth with being a good mother. Consequently, I had no interest in home births, birth centres, birth coaches, water births or whale song.”

I’ll add that while this tickles my sense of yeah me too, birth centres and birth coaches are not usually a resource available to Marginalised mum.

I love Blue Milk and her special brand of intellectual smack down. I especially love her for this:

“…the slacker mum movement often neglects to directly acknowledge the debt it owes feminism. It’s frequently liberation without the radicalism.”

I wish parenting debate meant parents and not just mothers. I wish desperate and disempowered mothers were properly supported from day one. I think we all love to whine about how hard parenting is. I think none of us have even an iota of a clue how hard and heartbreaking mothering can really be for some. I think we all love our children.

Turning something-0

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Tracey Epping 2

Wow, I am having an unexpected moment. I read this the other day and found it so wise and beautiful. And then I spent a few moments looking into the eyes of this young girl and I was brought almost to tears thinking about her. It’s a face I can hardly recognise. I cannot see myself in her. I know that she wore her favourite, very special earrings that day and brushed her hair just so. I know she hated her teeth, and still does. I know she didn’t like how her hair sat uneven. She, like probably every other girl her age, judged herself way too harshly. She did always love the colour of her eyes though, even still now.

I guess she is about 10 years old here so I’m going to make it nice and neat and say it was 30 years ago today. Here is my self indulgent tribute to this dear little girl who created the first of my footprints in the sand.

My first thought is that you are sweet and kind looking, that you have perfect skin and lovely warm eyes. The ravages of late teen/early twenties acne will later come to destroy that beautiful skin, and you will despair that you are ugly for years. I’m sorry that you tried to overcompensate by presenting yourself as less that you were to feel attractive. I wish that you could have known and trusted yourself well enough to treat yourself better and expect better quality attention. But you eventually learned.

That hesitant smile tells me you are uncomfortable, the way you often are still. You think that everyone around you is smarter, happier and somehow a part of a loop that you missed out on. But you’re just fine. You’re good enough, smart enough, and in some ways honey, you’re even better than those in that loop. And the loop isn’t all it’s made out to be.

You have this cute plan for your life. You’ll marry a rich guy, rich enough to have heaps of kids. Even at 10, you know that you need lots of money to have lots of kids. You know you don’t want to live poor like you are the day this was taken. You know you don’t want your kids’ Christmas tree to be a broken off tree branch drowning in tinsel. You know you never want your kids to drink powdered milk and sleep three to a room. And you know you never want to be on the phone to your ex-husband crying for money for the boy’s school shoes. I can’t remember you ever having any ideas of your being able to contribute to the world in any way other than becoming an actress and having all those kids. This is amazing to me. I’m sorry that it took you another 15 or so years to think that you could be something very worthwhile. I mean no disrespect to actresses, who I know are very worthwhile, it’s just that had I become one, the world of the arts would not have been the richer, let’s leave it at that.

I won’t tell you now how your little plan for the next generation turns out. I may scare you off ever getting pregnant and it would be a gosh damn shame for the world to miss out on little Mr 5 and the Troublesome Two. As for your choice of rich husband, well here is where I know you learnt a thing or two since that photo. He’ll never make the Forbes list, but my girl, you chose substance over stuff and I’m so impressed. You were patient enough to wait and even to say that no husband was better than the wrong husband. You eventually found some quality attention, and have it still.

I’d like to walk in a park with this little girl. I’d love to have the chance to cuddle her close and listen to her troubles. I don’t think I’d offer her much advice. Can I finally say I am proud of her? I am. Happy Birthday.

 

Letting the dogs out and depression

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We talked about when to let the kids off the leash and post natal depression this morning on ABC612. Wrap your ears around it here.

And just because…..

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Is it Spiderman? Is it Ironman? Darth Vader? NO! It’s the Incredible Mr 5!!!