what I write about
she has fallen and now she is awake
Maybe this is a feminist thing, or maybe it’s because I’m not a mother, but even if I was a stay-at-home mom with no job (and therefore no reason to already have business cards) I wouldn’t extoll my ability to wipe snotty noses and read bedtime stories as a core part of my persona. As if your main accomplishment is childbirth, and you would like to commemorate your skills with a card detailing your contact info after the names of your offspring. To provide to other moms when you need to carpool, or if they want your ants on a log recipe.
Jezebel chimes in with:
My own mother was a stay-at-home mom (although she abhorred the expression) and I think she would have seen being a mother as a key part of her persona, and something she was proud of. (She also had other people call her much more often for her analysis of Schopenhauer or her opinion on politics than for recipes or carpool questions, for that matter.) But when I asked her, she too found these cards odd. “It’s always problematic to base your identity on someone else,” she said definitively. “And that’s a lot of pressure on the kids. But I’ll tell you who it would be good for: the mother of the bully. So you know who to call when he beats your kid up or steals her bike. You’d know exactly who was responsible.”
Here’s the thing – motherhood is more than just snotty noses, bedtime stories*, childbirth, carpooling and ants on a log. It’s also more than Schopenhauer or politics. I’ll tell you a secret; it can be both. You can wipe snotty noses AND expound on Schopenhauer. You can carpool and talk politics. You can bounce a baby and write.
You can have more than one identity. And since when is acknowledging one’s parental status ‘basing your identity on someone else’? Why is a card with salient details for the environment so bad if it’s motherhood, but AWESOME if it’s a corporation? Why is it okay to base your entire identity on a subculture, on a hobby, or a job, but not motherhood?
Don’t get me wrong – there are a LOT of ways the patriarchy and mainstream culture like to jam mothers into boxes. But a BIG part of doing that is denying the importance of that identity even as they strip it back to nothing. So instead of ‘mother’ encompassing the rollerderby and the retro, the Martha-mothers and the mainstream, it simply strips away everything that makes you important and stuffs you into a box labelled ‘unimportant’ because mothers do it. The causality is the wrong way around – motherhood doesn’t cause you to drop out of society, society makes mothers drop out.
Bunbun was two weeks old when I first started getting flack for not getting out with friends, or taking time for myself. I have had to explain on so many occasions that I don’t actually relish time away from her. That my birthday celebration shouldn’t be apart from her because I want to celebrate it with her. That’s not because my identity is based on her; it is far more than that. I birthed her, I still nourish her from my body. We are linked with something a lot stronger than time or money or external factors. That allegiance cannot be altered or moved. It is not a commodity. So society tries to make it one, creates nonsensical consumerist mother-identities that we must buy into or face being alone forevermore. Combine that with the way many mothers must work**, and other choose to work, and you’ve got this godawful push-pull bullshit where I am NEVER EVER supposed to take time away from my child because I already ‘deprive’ her of her mother by working yet I am also in danger of losing myself and should go and undertake whatever ridiculous thing being sold to me as the cure for it because otherwise I deprive her of a good mother.
Good mother being one who is still as fuckable, likeable, entertaining, amusing, active and personable as before the child’s arrival.
God forbid we acknowledge the changes motherhood makes and not apologise for them.
The other nice little bit of misgynist bullshit? Mothers being the primary cause of bullying. Since y’know, we’re ‘just’ mothers and obviously totally and completely responsible for every single action our child takes. It’s a good little bit of double binding there – you’ve got the card, you are obviously totally identified with your child and therefore responsible and if you don’t, you weren’t there, you don’t care and are therefore responsible. It’s a nice way to assume that the mother is the primary carer and nurturer as well as blame her for it. ***
But hey, it’s totally feminist and totally woman-loving to say “It’s like she was lobotomized during the c-section.” and it certainly shouldn’t be called out for it’s expectation that new mother’s continue being entertaining. We should all have friends this worried about us, this caring and this kind. Certainly one’s that are this understanding about the early months of parenting.
*And guess what? My personal and professional identities BOTH include storytimes!
**If one more fucking arsehole starts with the ‘plasma screens/designer handbags/holidays’ bullshit about needing work I will lose the fucking plot. Having food, electricity and a roof over one’s head are not luxuries. That sort of nonsense comes from people for whom poverty is a theoretical conundrum, not a lived experience, and who will ALWAYS see a woman’s career as lesser than and adjunct to a man’s. So they get to keep us down in dual style – shit pay and shit respect no matter what we ‘choose’.
***Obligatory disclaimer – yeah, I’d be fucking horrified if Bunbun were bullying someone. God knows I feel enough shame when she’s hitting her cousins. And I am responsible for her, but once she’s at school and reasonably autonomous, I am no longer responsible. Unless you want me to still be identifying myself with her completely. Oh wait, that was the problem wasn’t it? That I was too involved with my life as a parent?
I am very very sick of getting concern trolled about my identity.
Don’t I know I need interests/hobbies/purchases outside my maternal identity??
Here’s the deal. I spend an inordinate amount of time outside the home for work. Even though my workplace is reasonably child friendly and certainly welcomes parents, I spend 40 hours or more of my week travelling to work, working, or doing something other than spending time with my child. Do not presume to tell me that child-centred updates on facebook (!!) prove that I am one of those parents.
Beyond the socially structured nature of facebook (i.e. you are not the centre of everyone’s universe but they are the centre of theirs and what they do on facebook is informed by who they see as their ‘audience’). Beyond the artificially constructed ‘mothers who drink wine are SO NAUGHTY and FUN and NOT LIKE THE OTHERS. Beyond the tag ‘mother’ denoting it less. Beyond the ridiculous level of expectation behind all of these things.
Beyond all of that, how the fuck would you know? If you are so busy bemoaning the lack of substantial updates (seeming to mean “sauced with my friends” updates) (since we’re all boozehounds here) and snarking about those mothers, how the hell would you even know the state of my identity. Have I talked to you about it? Am I worried about it? Have I expressed a need to change my life? No? Then let me identify myself however I wish. Motherhood changed my life completely and I am not going to apologise for that, or pretend differently, because you want the old me back.
My facebook is full of baby pictures, this whole blog is full of mothering. It’s totally okay to ignore the changing style and skill of my photography, the feminism and politics and philosophies of motherhood inherent in what I write. And please assume you are the centre of the universe and know everything there is to know about me. I’m totally one of those parents and therefore inconsequential. Please privilege other socially constructed ‘identities’ over motherhood because you couldn’t possibly find another way to judge women. Please tell me I need to spend more time, more money, more energy, fulfilling an external goal of ‘identity’ before you will accept my viewpoint.
Distilling ‘identity’ into a series of purchases, fashion choices, hobbies and leisure activities is demeaning to everyone. Be as rockabilly-goth-metalhead-femme-cheerleader-geek-gamer-fitfreak as you want to be. Own it. Live it. Don’t pretend you need to have a brand to have an identity. And don’t pretend any of them are more or less meaningful than parent. Identity is what you make it, and mine includes a shit ton of mothering, something I am not going to apologise for.
but there’s a catch.
I’m ‘lucky’ that Wolfman is such a good guy. Except that I went throught how many failed relationships and false starts and never starts because there was no fucking way I was going to partner with a misogynist douchewad.
I’m ‘lucky’ he helps around the house and stays home. Except that absolves him of any impetus to get better – why should he? He gets claps for simply being home, no matter what he actually does there.
I’m ‘lucky’ I have a good job.I worked hard to get where I am. I uprooted my family TWICE for this, I have thousands and thousands in debt to be educated and qualified enough to be working a job where I have some semblance of security and things like leave.
I’m ‘lucky’ breastfeeding worked out. Again, I worked fucking hard at it. I really did. I look back and think of the five + months of hour long feeds, the constant denial of anything existing outside us and our relationship and not leaving the house for days to build my supply and wonder how the fuck I did it.
I’m ‘lucky’ I didn’t get PND. Yet again, I worked hard because I knew it was on the cards. So any signs, any little tremors and I was back into lockdown mode. I didn’t wait for the tears and the harm and the rocking and the alogia because I’ve been there before and I know what it is.
But I am lucky. I’m lucky that I was born into privilege so I could go and get that education, find a partner who had a good enough job that I could stay home, save money, save time, budget. I’m lucky that I knew what PND was going to do before it happened so I could do something at the slightest of warning signs. I’m lucky that I got a maternal and child health nurse who didn’t live and die by the scales, a paediatrician who was pro-breastfeeding and an obstetrician who wasn’t trigger happy. I’m lucky that even if I had, I not only had the resources to change the situation, but the education to know better and the time to do something about it and the privilege to think I am smart and correct and knowledgeable and worthy.
Luck can obscure the work that we all do to be where we are and who we are. I’m not just lucky.
Some douchey goddamn neanderthal was in the same carriage as me, Wolfman and Bunbun today. We were heading to the Ekka and this guy was doing fuck knows what apart from harassing women on the train. We got on and all we could hear was his fucking monotonous whining bullshit with occasional “no seriously, stop talking to me” and “no, I’m not going to cry” from a woman near him. Eventually she got up and walked down to where we were standing – well, I was sitting because I had Bunbun strapped to me. She was shaking and pissed off and neanderthal raised his voice and went on and on about bitches.
I wanted to say something to her, I just couldn’t think of anything appropriate.
A few stops later she moves to another carriage and another woman gets on and sits near him. His monologue on bitches gets interrupted to start in on this new woman. Does she know how fucking stupid this other bitch was? All he did was say hello and she was totally going to try. In the beginning the new woman smiles and says how stupid some women are. He launches into another monologue, more and more explicit.
I try to catch her eye. She’s looking down now, picking at her fingers.
He launches into how he’ll wank tonight about her and how that’s better but hey, why isn’t her boyfriend here if he’s so awesome?
I try catch her eye again.
I am not going to put myself in the firing line. My adrenaline is already up and I’m shaking and I just fucking can’t, not with Bunbun nesting against my chest. Not even with Wolfman behind me.
We get off the train and get onto the connecting one. I launch into a diatribe on just how much it fucking sucks to be a woman in public. To be on public transport. I tell him about the time I pretended this was my stop but only got off and ran to a carriage a few down because the thought of even letting this guy know my real stop was terrifying. I didn’t explain that I only did that because it was a well populated stop and I knew that I could have lost him in the crowd.
He asked me why it took the first woman so long to move and why the second one hadn’t. I explained how there’s that initial need to be polite. Refusal to believe they’re actually saying what they’re saying and doing what they’re doing. Then there’s the risk assessment – are they going to be violent or merely vile. Are they going to threaten you or assault you? It’ll be one or the other.
All this with our baby daughter resting on my heaving chest.
I’m sorry I didn’t do anything. The risk assessment just wasn’t worth it. But I’m sick to my stomach nonetheless and I am sorry.
The idea that the judgement rained upon childfree women is not only the fault of mothers, but also has no ill effect on mothers themselves. Like it isn’t part of a wider social fuckup that not only assumes you want children (and that something is wrong if you don’t) but also that because you want children, there’s nothing at all you can complain about because “you chose this”. So there’s no recourse for fair or equitable treatment because you chose to have a baby. You chose that so you also chose the bad treatment. No backsies. If you didn’t want substandard care, social isolation, intellectual ostracism and society bent on telling you you’re wrong, you should be childfree. Then you can get judged for that too.
(Also, remember that there’s a chance that the mother you’re talking to was childfree at some point.)
Anything that assumes all women are the same is bad for women as a whole. Anything that makes women jump through hoops to prove that they’re worthy, that they’re okay, they’re not like those other women, isn’t okay. If your argument against women is based upon a pretty unlikely to the point of nearly mythical happenstance, you need to step back a little. If you’re judging someone based on one tiny interaction for one tiny fragment of time, you need to really examine what is happening.
And if you think for one moment heaping that judgement on a struggling parent is helping them, you have got to be fucking kidding me.
The closer I get to starting back at work, the more anxious I get and the angrier I get.
I’m angry at everyone from my father to friends to Wolfman’s coworkers because all of them presume that he will be bored with staying at home. Bored with our child. With the undercurrent that I wouldn’t be, couldn’t be, shouldn’t be. In spite of what he says, in spite of what we say. We just don’t know or understand. We couldn’t possibly be relying on intimate knowledge of ourselves – gender roles win every time dontchaknow? Because history has obviously shown one of us craves intellectual stimulation and work and it wasn’t Wolfman, in spite of what everyone keeps telling me
I’m angry at Wolfman for not taking this seriously enough. For not magically fixing my anxiety. For staying up drinking and gaming til 3am and leaving the freezer door open last night. For not waking when our daughter stirs so even if I weren’t feeding to sleep most of the time I’d still have to wake up, then wake him up. For not having done his wisdom teeth before now. For acting like certain chores and expectations I have are my own unique and crazy perversions.
I’m angry at myself for being so anxious. For applying for another job that’s probably going to be a better paid version than my current one even though I want to change paths but the lure of the familiar and more pay is just too much. For not being able to explain my anxiety in a way that makes Wolfman understand what I need him to do.
I’m angry at the world because I get paid shit in spite of my education because I am in a feminised field. For telling me over and over and over that I’m too demanding or too much of a perfectionist or a clean freak or a middle-class obnoxious ‘mommy’ who cares too much about appearances or mean simply because I have standards. Because it tells men that not doing a job, or doing a half-arsed job, or procrastinating until someone else does it, is all okay as long as it’s a woman’s job they’re fucking up. For telling me over and over that his decisions are all logical and normal and okay and personal but mine are suspect and probably because of all that shit I read and I don’t I know that it’s all my fault. And for telling me that I should just be grateful he does anything.
I’m angry at my douchebag brother-in-law for congratulating me on the weight BunBun has lost (hint: none, she just got taller and ‘you lost weight’ is not a universal compliment). I’m angry at Maman for explaining how I can’t expect higher social consciousness from someone ‘so smart’. For denigrating my degree. For doubting my devotion to BunBun.
I’m angry at the constant fucking questions about ‘still’ feeding and ‘still’ waking at night and when I’ll wean, when I’ll put her in her own room, when I’ll switch the carseat around, when I’ll give her cow milk, when I’ll do cry-it-out, when I’ll leave her overnight, when I’ll move back, when I’ll have another baby.
I’m angry a lot right now.
to stay home and care for our 10 month old daughter*
“so…what’s he actually going to do?”
“is he going to start doing housework?”
“ha, is he going to keep going with cloth nappies?”
“I’d love to take time off”
“aw, that’s so cute, how long do you think it’ll last?”
“but seriously, what’s he going to do at home?”
“he’ll work part time won’t he?”
“will he start helping overnight?”
“that’s so weird, why are you making him do that?”
“are you sure he wants to?”
“no, honestly, what’s he going to do when he’s at home?”
*$100, a giant bottle of decongestant + antihistamine and 2 hours later it turns out that not only is she teething. Not only does she have a cold. She also had an allergic reaction this morning and probably last night too. Which explains why Wolfman called me a shambling zombie the other morning.
One of the (many) things I wish for Bunbun is a good relationship with her father. I don’t want her to have to fear her father, or loathe him, or simply feel that distance so many women feel. I don’t want her good memories to be made up of the times they did his hobbies (or his chores) together*. I don’t want her to feel desperate for his approval or love.
In short, I don’t want her having the same relationship with her father that I have with mine.
In some ways this is completely unlikely – Wolfman has a reasonably high level of feminist understanding and certainly has feminist leanings so a lot of the fraught aspects of my paternal relationship aren’t going to exist in our household. He actually gives a fuck about parenting as a choice, not just something that you do when you aren’t doing other stuff. So even if reading the same book four times is boring, that’s what he’ll do and that pattern will go on because it isn’t just about what he does and what he feels – she is just as important as he is.
Yet, he still does the kind of half-arsed things Bluemilk talked about here** – I looked over the other day and he was holding a balloon on a string like it was a cat toy while he played his DS with the other hand. Apart from that I have had to say (more than once) that if I request he takes over fully for a while he has to take over fully. Not let her whinge at my feet. Not hand her over for a nappy change (even if it’s the fourth in an hour). Not start talking to me because now he’s bored. I still do the bulk of the emotional work and he knows this. Acknowledges it. But we find it hard to change. I don’t want Bunbun growing up and thinking she’s got to be the caring one and I don’t want her growing up to expect her partner to do it either. Which is the crux of a lot of issues.
What am I modelling here? Read more of this post
In my other life I’m a librarian. I work in a public library with a bunch of computers and free internet access for members. Even children can access the internet with parental permission. Every so often a parent is horrified and dismayed that we do not filter our internet.
Why would we?
Filtering is inefficient and ineffective. Particularly when it comes to shared connections. Yes, I will probably set up a whitelist when Bunbun begins using the internet. I will certainly monitor her use as she gets older. See how I set up a whitelist for Bunbun? This is because as a parent I am responsible for her. This is because I will choose what I think is appropriate. This is because what is appropriate for her will change as she grows. This is because what is appropriate for her will greatly curtail my usage of the internet. There is no filter that is appropriate for everyone. Currently there is no filter that will even be appropriate for children – whitelists work but curtail what they can experience which is appropriate for little children but for older children their ability to research and synthesise information will be restricted by whitelists. Blacklists are faulty at the best of times and utterly unreliable. No single filter fills all needs and current filters are an absolute joke.
But beyond that, there’s the social ramifications. I want Bunbun to learn that not everyone on the internet is right. Not all information is correct. That some people are arseholes and will be mean. I want her to be able to process information at a high level. I want her to have the ability to discern what is correct from the morass of idiocy and incorrectness that is the internet. I don’t want her growing up thinking that if it’s written down it must be correct. That if she’s ‘allowed’ to read it then it’s all okay. I want her to have a higher level of information literacy than that. I want her to be able to discuss anything she’s seen or read without fear of getting in trouble for seeing it. I want her to be aware of the dangers online even within filters.
I don’t want her to be subjected to a Clean Feed that’s anything but clean.
If she chooses to go to university and research I want her to have access to all the information she needs – even if it’s disgusting or evil or disturbing or amoral. Good cannot triumph over evil if we refuse to even allow ourselves to see it. Research cannot be done well if it’s done secondhand. She may need access to hate sites, to pro-ana sites, to terrorist sites, even to child pornography sites. It’s all well and good to say ‘no-one should see it’ but what about people researching it? Trying to understand it in order to combat it?
If she chooses to write I want her to be able to write whatever she chooses. I don’t want her curtailed by an assumption that exposure to information is the same as acting upon it or believing it to be good.
Whatever she chooses I want her to have free access to all information. Not just what someone else has decided she is able to view without taint.
Do you know what I am afraid of though? I’m afraid that she is going to grow up with friends who are allowed to use the internet unhindered because Mum and Dad have put a filter on so everything is safe. I’m afraid that she’s going to have to deal with people who think that information is evil. I’m afraid that her education is going to be diminished because the spectre of evil information has been combined with a startling lack of technical aptitude and an overlay of parochialism and good old fashioned patronising patriachy to create a world where censoring and entire nation’s information access is acceptable.
The ‘Clean Feed’ will not protect her from abusers, molesters, child pornography, bullies, bad information, terrorists, pro-anorexics, bad body image, sexist imagery, violence or bombs. That’s my job. The Clean Feed just pretends that it will and leaves you even more open to manipulation.
Open Internet is important. Act. For Bunbun’s sake, act.
I keep going to write a post, but end up writing something terribly cranky. Either railing against idiotic ‘sex advice’ that boils down to “buy stuff!!! Ignore comfort!!!” or the new years round of ‘let’s lose weight, fatty fat fat mamas!’. I was in fact complaining to Wolfman yesterday that everything I wrote came out far more “rar you’re all fuckheads” than “I am legitimately disturbed by these articles and blog posts”.
He wanted to know if I had indeed simply written ‘rar, you’re all fuckheads’.
It made me laugh (which was his original agenda I think) but also made me step back a bit. Rage is not in short supply. I don’t need to point out how irritating vapid and shallow ‘wear a thong’ is when you’re attempting to get back into having actual sex with your partner. I don’t need to point out that the societal obsession with mothers erasing all evidence of motherhood from their bodies is obnoxious and dangerous. You all get that. I simply need to breathe. Write. Breathe some more.