Go Out and Tell Someone

I’ve had a terrible fucking long weekend.

O took the kids (except one who didn’t want to go) away for 3 days to spend time with family; for fishing, boating, picnics and four-wheel driving.

I was supposed to work all weekend but I didn’t.

Sounds good in theory right?

Not always.

I had a kid go AWOL for 6 hours in the middle of the night. Made 64 phone calls, uncountable texts and voicemails to friends and family at 1am, and considered callings the cops.

Thankfully some amazing friends helped me. They went looking for my son at 3am while I was loosing my mind. (You know who you are, I love you 😘)

O cut his trip short, came home to help me deal with the chaos and we spent most of today fighting.

I fought with the love of my life pretty much all day long because, LIFE.

And now despite the undeniable love that holds us together through all this LIFE, I am falling apart.

Still, amongst the awful pain of all this, I had to squeeze in a few quick work emails, send apologetic texts to the colleagues I’ve let down; do the bare minimum to not be hated/perceived as incompetent at work.

Tomorrow I must go to work, there’s really no choice, and I will be expected to pretend everything is ok. I will paste on a smile, attend a management meeting and do 5 days worth of work in 2.

Question- why do we hide all this shit from each other? Why do show up to our workplace/sales meeting/anything social and pretend that all is well; pretend that shit is not falling apart?

Is it competence or is it stigma?

Is it professionalism or is it shame?

I don’t understand why we do this to ourselves.

While I am known for my brutal honesty, I haven’t always been honest about my leave days, especially when they are the result of mental health.

It used to be “gastro” of “flu” but I’ve changed that recently. I’ve started telling my management team that shit is going down. “I’m not ok”, or “my unstable teen needs me”

There should be no shame or stigma in either of those things.

But sadly, there still is, even now in 2018, in the workplace there is still the undercurrent of incompetence in the face of mental health.

As Harvey Milk once said when asked by a young gay man how he could help the cause, “Go out and tell someone”

Go out and tell someone.

I think that’s a good enough answer for me.

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17 Years Ago Today.

One day, at the age of 21, almost 18 years ago I woke up knowing something was different about me. I felt it in my body; I felt it in my psyche.

I’d had an oddly vivid dream.

My dream was running, searching, frantic; helpless. I felt an ache in my heart that I didn’t recognise then; but now I know it well.
In my dream my Mother appeared and held both my hands in hers. I recognised that she felt the same ache within her. Her presence calmed me. She looked deep into my soul with her love and wisdom and said “You must do anything to protect your children”

That ache is what I now understand as a Mothers love.

I woke up and immediately knew you were there.
My very first wakened thought, “I must be pregnant”.

I knew you were there without any of the usual signs of pregnancy. It was far too early to have any signs. Still, I knew with the same certainty that I had at 16 years old, I would marry your Father one day. I knew with the same certainty that the sun will rise in the East and set in the West. I knew with such certainty, that I could not be swayed. Now, years later, I understand that to be Mothers intuition. (True story – it happened again with each of your siblings – I knew before I medically should have known – the dreams were different, but I awoke knowing I was pregnant)

You were a secret for a little while. Only a little while because we were just so excited.
We waited merely long enough to produce a positive test and then we told everyone you were there.
We told everyone you were there before I had a legitimate medical blood test. We told everyone you were there before the ‘official waiting period’ was up. We told everyone you were there the same day that we confirmed it with a home pregnancy test.

Some people were sceptical “A bit early to know – you should wait a bit before you tell people”

Nah, I knew. I had my dream, by psyche, my body telling me something was different and my wee stick.
I KNEW.

You were there, growing in my belly.
It didn’t take long for the morning sickness to kick in, and then there was no doubt.

It seemed to take forever to get through your pregnancy.
We had already been engaged for 3 years, wedding plans were finalised, and I was 4½ months pregnant on our wedding day.

You made me have my wedding dress taken out, rather than ‘the usual’ taken in (as the dressmaker helpfully declared)
You made me vomit on my wedding day (but I forgive you)
I was sick for most of our honey moon (but I forgive you)
I gained 30kg’s and looked like a baby elephant (but I forgive you)

I cried alot while I was pregnant with you. At commercials on TV. At strangers. At nothing in particular. I ate alot of ice-cream too. Mostly I worried if you would be healthy. I worried if you would be born with all the right stuff, in all the right places, and all the right functions. I wondered curiously about whom you would look like and who you would become. I wondered apprehensively what your future might hold. I feared for the world you would be born into. I wondered how I would protect and guide and teach you.

The day you arrived wasn’t a surprise for any of us.
You were induced two weeks late.

I.was.ready.

You were suctioned out after an induced crazy 18 hours of active labour. SIX hours of second stage (I’m not kidding) and in all seriousness, you have been just as stubborn ever since.
Toward the end, my doctor asked for my permission – mid contraction- if some students could come to watch you be born. I distinctly remember saying ‘I don’t care just help me get him out!”
That’s how we ended up with a team of more than a dozen people in the room. My doctor, my two midwives, at least 9 student doctors watching and learning as you were suctioned out.
Even though I thought I was dying, I remember laughing at the sound of the suction cup as it stuck to your head. It was a blinding pain and yet, it was a sweet little ‘sucup’ sound, and the most alive, liberating and blissful feeling I have ever felt.
But in my own pain, I felt for you; I wondered ‘Did that hurt him?’

Your Dad and Grandma were there.
Dad, because he knows me, knows my cues, understands who I am.
Grandma, because she knows her child in a way only a Mother can, she knows Mothers, she knows birth, she knew what I needed without the need for words. (They became the most amazing birthing duo of all time)

You came out with a little muffin suction cup bruise on the top of your adorable (fat) head.
Birthing you was my very first lesson in what it means to be human.
I was just 22 years old, you were my first lesson in adulthood.
You were my first lesson in what it means to make choices, not just for myself but for the little life that relied on me now too.
You were my first realisation that I actually was responsible for something bigger than myself.

Grandma said my first words after your birth were “Is he really mine?”

I actually could not believe they were going to let me leave the hospital with you. How could such a beautiful, perfect being be the result of anything I did?

I half expected someone to tap me on the shoulder as Dad and I left the hospital with you…’Err sorry this was just a loan, you’re not ready for this yet, hah. Soz”

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You were the reason I learned many of my early parenting skills.
You taught me that 3 day baby blues is a very real thing.
You taught me that women don’t automatically know how to breastfeed, and neither do their babies.
You taught me co-sleeping was ok.
You taught me demand feeding was ok.
You taught me that 2am feeds are actually the most peaceful beautiful blissful thing in the world.
You taught me that formula was acceptable too.
You taught me that cloth nappies (at that time) were a huge waste of time.
You taught me that I would sometimes fail.
You taught me that not only would I make a mistake, but that mistakes are not just ok, they’re actually imperative to parenting and life.
You taught me, and I learned that we fumble, we fail, we make mistakes; we learn, we love and we do it again.
That’s what parenting is.
The day you came into the world was the day that changed my life forever.

You made me a Mother.

Before then, I was many things. A wife, a Sister, a Daughter, a Granddaughter, a Cousin, a Friend.

YOU, made me a Mother.

I have loved every moment with you. I have loved every single stage of childhood, every early morning feed, every cute stage of your young toddlerhood, every childhood scrap (the two broken arms?), every testosterone fueled teenage angst diatribe, every stage of your life journey; and even every single stubborn argument. (OK, ‘love’ might not be the right word for the arguments….try ‘appreciate?’)
It has been 17 years of love and excitement and also pain.
Love because you are mine, and no matter what, you always will be. I made you, I love you unconditionally.
Excitement in your first steps; in your first words; in your fist day of school; in your first real girlfriend, in your first job, in your everyday life.
Excitement for your unmistakable grasp on your sense of self; for your ability to be exactly and unapologetically your authentic self; and excitement also because I see a bright future for you. A future that you don’t quite grasp yet.
Painful because as time passes and I see you grow into the most amazing young man, the man you are destined to become, I realise that I want to freeze time and memorise your life moments. I want to go back to your toddler days and remember your mispronunciations, your favourite toys, your fat little baby hands, and your classic authentic innocent self.
Painful because I want to protect you from the world, shelter you from harm and heartbreak, but I can’t.
Painful because I know that, even though independence is my intention, one day soon, you actually will be exactly that, and you won’t need me anymore.

Being your Mother has been, and always will be, the greatest joy of my life.
Know that I will always be here, in any and every capacity, because that is what Mothers do. They can even visit you in your dreams when they feel your need for them.

No matter how our world changes, no matter what life has in store for either of us, you will always be my first.
You’ll be an adult too soon. You will flee the nest and I will proudly stand aside as you spread your wings and fly out into the world; hoping against all hope that I have prepared you well.
Until then, I hope the days slow down just a little bit, because I am, after all, still your Mum.
You made me a Mother, and even though I have 3 other amazingly different and beautiful, equally cherished children, I have not forgotten that day 17 years ago. The day that I could first call myself Mum.

Happy Birthday Firstborn, I love you with all my heart and soul.

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You are not failing.

Parenting is fucking hard.

I was one of those Mums that knew what to do with little kids.
The timeouts, boundaries, strict routines, bedtimes, in their own beds – definitely not mine,- Super Nanny, reward charts, structured meal times, all that jazz.
My Mum said I was hard on them.
Maybe I was.
I had good toddlers, great little kids. Well mannered and well behaved. We used to take them to wineries and 5 star restaurants when they were 6, 4, 3, 1 year old, and they would, all four, sit nicely and behave themselves.
Why? Because if they blew bubbles in the lemonade they’d lose it. If their bum left the seat to run around the restaurant they missed out on play time in the park later.

( I won’t tell you that park time was “Mum and Dad need to sober up to drive” time :-D)

They knew the “mum look” and they were amazingly well behaved for their age. We didn’t ‘do’ play centre restaurants because we refused. We wanted to teach them how to sit their asses in a chair and behave respectably for a reasonable time frame (To be fair those play centres were few and far between back then)
We had strangers come to our table more times than I can count to tell us that “we should be so proud of our children; they are so well behaved, a credit to you both”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that..”

Now I know the truth.
No such thing as perfect children;

never ever.

ever.

Teenagers are a different beast entirely (for me)
Perhaps some parents find their fortè in teenagers.

Not me.

I can set boundaries and issue consequences, I can stop a toddler tantrum in its tracks, and I can sleep train a 3 year old.
I can talk and be open and initiate conversation regarding alcohol and drugs a sex with a teenager; nothing is off limits and I’m all about non judgement, safety, realism and acceptance.
What I cant do, is learn how to release all of those boundaries, consequences, and structures that I’ve worked so hard for.
Why, when its worked would I let it go now?…..because they’re almost adults, independent, and I have to let it go.

But in all seriousness, this shit is hard.
Harder than the naughty step (for me) harder than enforcing bedtime (for me), harder than toilet training (for me), harder than not blowing bubbles in lemonade (for me)

Let me assure you. We all have our parenting forte’; some early on, some in later years.

My forte’ has been and gone.

One of my kids is ADHD and ODD. I should have know earlier but I thought I was doing OK. This wont happen to me because ‘I’m in control’

False.

Dont Google ODD, it’s scary, and the reality is… it is damn scary. A teenager in the grips of testosterone while grappling these other mental health issues is hard.

A couple of days ago he told (screamed at) me “I fucking hate you and you should kill yourself!”
My baby. The one who giggled when I let him eat peaches from the can. The one who drank tomato sauce from the bottle. The one who was always reckless and cute. The one who is more intelligent than he understands yet. The one who is so loving and warm with such a big heart, said those awful words, to me. The one whom I love with my whole being,  nurtured, protected with my life, set boundaries, consequences and had a naughty step for. The one I did “everything right” for.
His psychological requirement now is that I learn to let go of that strict control. Not the boundaries, but the control,
He is teaching me (again) that parenting is a lifelong lesson. You will never be finished parenting.

never ever,

Regardless of his outburst,  I love him with only a Mothers intensity (of course), and my only desire as a parent is to ease his suffering. No matter what he says to me, my only pursuit is his lifelong happiness. (I still took a bottle of wine to the beach that day anyway)

My point is this… we have smiling selfies and awesome family holidays, great restaurant check ins, accompanied by awesome family snaps. Life is grand.
Nothing on social media is as perfect as it seems.
Everyone is suffering in their own way.

Kids say “I hate you”

Parents struggle daily with how to manage their babies sleep routines, the threenager tantrum;  just a cry-free, snot-free, lets-try-to-not-lose-a-sock-today, damn grocery shop; all this teenage angst;  a kid with a mental illness or a judgemental prick who doesn’t understand the ‘working mum’ struggle.

Marriages fail.

Parenting makes life hard. Absolutely no bones about it.

It’s not all all dinners and check ins and fucking awesome holidays, that’s for damn sure.
But viewing through the scope of social media can so easily make you believe you are failing.

You are not failing.

You’re doing the best you can with what you have. And your kids fucking love you for it (even the ones who tell you to fuck off will admit they actually do love you)

As one of my favourite people said

“When you know Better, you do better”
– Maya Angelou

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Your kids abide this rule too; they will do better when they know better.

You are just waiting for your parenting forte’. It will happen, early or late is irrelevant to your kids.
In my case, my forte has been and gone, but so what, I am still rocking this shit; and so are you.

 

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#whipit

 

I have been labelled aggressive before. This week is not the first time, nor will it be the last.
That’s ok. I can tough it out.
The truth is though, I am genuinely not an aggressive person. I am not soft and meek or passive either.
But aggressive? Nah.
I am firm, and passionate and protective. I am strong and resilient and outspoken. I am an advocate for my family, I don’t back down from confrontation and I am unafraid.
That does not an aggressive Rachael make.
I had spent the day at my Mum and Dads place. I had spent the day watching my Mother running around doing things for her mother; things that she could/should be doing for herself.
She looks tired, my poor tired Mum. She’s running herself ragged; so, before I leave, I hug her and take both my hands on her arms and tell her in no uncertain terms that she needs to stop. Stop the endless doing and bringing and go getting and running around after my Grandmother. My Grandmother who is more than capable but willingly allowing my mother to do everything because she can get away with it.
I was firm. And I was outspoken as I told her not to do the things for her that she can and should be doing for herself.
I was not afraid to say the things that polite people don’t say. I told her that my Grandmother is capable but lazy. She’s 80. I might be lazy at 80 too. But I can see the tired in my mother and she needs to know that I care; and I can see; and I will be the advocate she needs.
So, with a barrage of instructions about the rehab and the ‘district nursing’ I left her.

I was firm, forthright, protective of my mother and an advocate for her when I can see that she feels like she’s just doing what she must.
My husband says to me later…. “That was aggressive; you were aggressive”
And I must wonder…
If it were he, or any man, standing in advocacy and protecting his mother’s interests so strongly, in the same way I did, would he be called aggressive?
No. He wouldn’t.
He’d be a ‘Good son, looking after his Mum like that…What a good boy he is’

Aggression is Deflector, my now 16-year-old son when testosterone washes over him and he reaches for an outlet; any brother will do; to lash out in a masculine show of strength or play violence.
It is my CC, now 14; when he follows Princess around mercilessly annoying and taunting and attacking her until she submits to powerlessness.
It is my husband, on the rare occasion that he becomes angry enough to release a violent yell at me; or when he simply says something so quietly cutting, it almost feels like it was a physical pain (he’s a Scorpio)
Aggression is an attack, it carries hostility and the intention to cause hurt, it overpowers with force.

What I do with my family, my husband, my children, with the people I care about, is stand up for them, sometimes stand up against them, but always stand for them. I advocate for them, I protect them, I do for them what is right when they either can’t or won’t do it for themselves.

I’ll advocate for my children to both teachers and family if I need to. I’ll have a difficult conversation and I won’t shy away from a confrontation.
I do it fiercely and with passion.
Sometimes I do it like I’m giving orders.
Sometimes I do it loud.
I always do it with love and my intention is always good.
It is the only time I am strong. And I am not afraid to be confrontational.
But
I am not aggressive.

I am a woman.
And because I am a strong, forthright, loud and frequently ‘too’ direct, women I am labelled negatively.
This week my forward, passionate, unafraidness has awarded me the label ‘Aggressive’
I wouldn’t be the first woman to experience this gender bias.

I am aware that this happens more frequently in the workplace, I’ve lived it. But I’m betting that it happens in homes all over the country as well.

Where a man is confident, his female counterpart is aggressive
Where a man is dominant, his female counterpart is bossy
Where a man is self-assured, his female counterpart is self-absorbed
Where a man is persuasive, his female counterpart is pushy
Where a man is dedicated, his female counterpart is obsessive
Where a man is committed, his female counterpart is selfish

So how do I/we/all of us, fight against eons of gender bias?

the way I see it we can do two things

  1. Be you anyway.
    I can be who I am and accept my strength and my passion and willingness to protect the people I love as a good part of myself. I could be brave enough to see it as something to be proud of. Loud, mouthy confrontationist and all. Because I will always advocate strongly and clearly and with passion for the people I love. Turning it down is asking me to turn down the love I have for these people; won’t happen.
    And
  2. Be you anyway and don’t let labels hold you back. Do like Pantene and #whipit (watch the vid)

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Looking for an Anchor

A post that I made direct to the FB page a couple months ago…it’s finally a real blog post today 😉

I went home today, or I tried to. I’ve been sad and searching for an anchor. Something to bring me back to myself.
Back home.
I decided to go to the only real home I’ve ever known. One small problem; the home I was looking for isn’t home anymore.
I alread knew that while driving there, taking the familiar turns, passing the same streets of my youth. Naming them one by one in my head as I approached. I already knew home wouldn’t be there.
I cried as soon as I turned into the not my street.
Still, something in me was hoping that rather than travelling to my old house, I’d be travelling back in time, to my old life. Mum in the kitchen, or chatting on the phone, or tending her fern garden. Dad painting or fixing or growling because I parked on his nice lawn. Bec with her 13 year old secrets and Bro with his 8 year old annoying boyness.
Back when at 16 I thought life was hard.
what the hell did I know about hard.
What the hell did I know about life.

Now I sit outside my house that’s not my house and wonder if the new family inside will think I’m crazy if I knock on the door, ask to go and smoke a cigarette in my old bedroom.
I don’t smoke anymore, but I would if it could take me back.
I considered it.
But I’m far too adult (ppffft) for that nonsense so instead of sitting in my car crying like an idiot I decide to leave. I end up at the beach instead.
My beach.
The one at the end of the not my street that has known me since I was born.
The track is so familiar. So much the same that I almost smell sunscreen and aeroguard and red cordial.
This is the beach where my parents paddled with me at 12 months old.
Where I collected shells every single summer of my life and built sand castles with the best moats.
Where I collected crabs with my brother and held them in a hole so large they couldn’t escape. Captives.
Where we ate vegemite sandwiches and bbq shapes that always had a little bit of a sandy crunch.
Where I was afraid of the seaweed and knew every route to make it out to the deep whilst successfully avoiding standing on even a teeny piece of it.
Where i was once bitten by some big ugly sea monster.
Where my sister and I walked on “the wall” and tried to hold hands even though it made the task of balancing ever much more difficult.
Where My friends and I at 15,16,17 ‘borrowed’ other peoples boat sheds; we came to talk and smoke and listen to music.
Oasis and Faith No More.
In the days when we had to carry the heavy ghetto blaster, with its cassettes and spare D batteries- that would inevitably go flat. Every.single.time.
Where I went when I ‘ran away from home’
Where my best friend always knew she could find me and where my then brandnew boyfriend and I wagged school just to walk hand in hand, barefoot in the ocean.
Where we shared our first kiss and where he eventually proposed.
I have a jar of sand and a jar of sea water from this beach that I collected 20 something years ago, knowing that wherever my life would take me, I would always have a piece of it with me, in a treasure box in a closet in whatever house was my new home.
I must find those jars, I think.

And then I realise the truth. I don’t need those jars. I never needed those jars. This beach is always with me, has never left me and never will.
This is the true home of my heart, the church of my soul, and it will always exist, if sometimes only in my memory.
So I did travel back in time today, and I did find my anchor, and I did go home after all.

 

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All You Need Is Love

Last week I answered a knock at the door to find two very well dressed young men beaming at me.
No, really. They were glowing with joy.
They were far too happy for a miserably cold, would-swear-it-was-winter-again, spring day.

They introduced themselves as Elder Polson and Elder Piung.
Call me stupid, but it did take me a minute to realise that they do not share the same first name.

Oh yes. Realization dawns.
I squint at their name badges. Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Sigh
I don’t do religion.
But I wont be rude. They’re seem so…well…joyful.
So I groan inwardly, but let them speak.

Surprisingly, they don’t launch into their religious speech immediately. They want to chit-chat.
They’re actually quite pleasant and very friendly. Easy to talk to.
Elder Polson is from Utah. And very very good looking.

We wax lyrical about the crazy stupid weather. We discuss the differences in weather between Melbourne (4 seasons in one day) and Utah (either blisteringly hot or arcticly cold-apparently)
We talk about Elder Polson’s plans for his stay in Australia for the next two years.
I tell them about Barbara, the Jehovah Witness that regularly calls on me in much the same way. I tell them I am used to this kind of front-door-hovering religious conversation.

Barbara is such a lovely elderly lady. Originally I let her talk because I didn’t want to be rude. She’s just too nice to treat impolitely.
She visits us quite regularly now, and I listen patiently while she tells me all about her God. I tell her the truth of my beliefs too. I don’t simply smile and nod, it’s not in my nature. It seems to make her happy that I am a willing ear. It absolutely makes her day when the children all come to the door to say Hi. She remembers all their names and asks them about school.
I feel rude not inviting her in, she almost feels like a friend of a friend.

Almost.

But I can’t ask her in. If I did, I’m afraid she’d take up a whole afternoon instead of just 15 minutes at the door.
It seems I’d be crossing some kind of invisible line.
So we continue to stand in the doorway. Divided by more than just the lintel.

I don’t invite the two Elders into my house either.
For one thing, I just got home from work and it’s a pigsty.
For another thing…..well, door lingering is more than enough.
He really is quite good looking though. Elder Polson.
It’s somewhat disarming.

Then he asks me The Question.

“Are you religious?”

I consider myself more spiritual than religious. I definitely do believe in God, in a sense; just not the sense that most people would think of. My God is not an all seeing, all knowing, interventionist, prayer granting, minutiae controlling God. Not at all.
And although I do believe in God, I do not believe in religion.

I tell him so.

He seems confused at the notion that God might exist outside religion.

He asks, very politely mind you, if I would please explain why I have a problem with religion. If I don’t mind. Thank-you very much.

The truth is I find religion to be divisive, intolerant and sanctimonious. I do not like the lack of acceptance of others’ beliefs. The premise of ‘what I believe is right, therefore what you believe is wrong’ does not sit well with me.
This too, I tell him as gently as possible. I don’t want to offend his faith. And it’s not the people of faith that I take issue with, not really.

He counters my argument with “Someone has to be right. We can’t all be right. There has to be one religion that is true.”
He goes on to give the example of Jesus Christ and Buddha. “Both religions can’t be true, can they?” He turns it into a question, an attempt to be respectful, less confronting.

Well actually, I believe they can.

He raises an eyebrow in question and is clearly confused by my logic, but still enjoying the debate.

I tell him my theory of God. That God is everything. The universal source of all there is. An energy rather than a being. Neither male nor female. Neither Good nor Evil. But both.

I tell him that it is perfectly feasible for our great religious prophets to have all been messengers of one God.
Well why not?
We shouldn’t confuse religious rituals and doctrine as rules from this God or that God.
Those things, dogma, are man-made.

God just is.

Strip away the manmade construct, and the message is the same, regardless of the messenger.

Elder Polson is still grinning. He likes debate. He tells me in all his travels he’s never heard this belief before. (wow, am I really so strange?)
It’s apparently given him something to consider. I don’t for one second believe that I have shaken his faith. Nor would I want to. But he’s not shutting me down. He’s not looking at me like I’m crazy. He’s accepting that I have a different, and just as valid, belief from his own.
He tells me how much he enjoys talking with people like me, because I am honest.

That and the fact that I am not slamming the door in his face.
He really is distractingly good looking.

We finish our chat, he leaves me a brochure (which I did read), invites me to call his mobile if I have any questions or want another chance to debate, and after offering his services (as if I’m going to let a stranger weed the garden) he gleefully high fives me before he turns down the drive.

As I close the door behind me I notice that he has left a little piece of his joy behind in my heart. His particular combination of devotion to his faith, acceptance of others beliefs, and love of healthy debate is refreshing. This stranger, who I interacted with for no more than 10 minutes, was able to get inside my soul and leave me feeling…peaceful.

I have to wonder, if that love and peace is the hand of God, perhaps telling us both that no one is right, and no one is wrong.

Deflector comes to the door once they are gone and says ‘What the hell was all that about?’

Just a spirited discussion about God, and religion, I tell him.

“Huh.” He says. “I don’t get religion. I’m more of an evolutionist.”

And just as I open my mouth to tell him that the belief in evolution doesn’t necessarily negate the belief in God, he turns back, scratches his still boy-ish chin and says

“And anyway,  I do think that God is Love, and really, that’s all you need to know”

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Motherhood and Management

Since I was last regularly updating my blog, I began working full-time again. Or semi full-time, anyway. I am fortunate enough to have a husband with a business for whom I can work, and dictate my hours. I drop the kids at school just after 8am and pick them up at 3:30pm. I work the hours in between and the only difference they see is that the house still looks like a bomb has hit it at 4 o’clock every afternoon.

Yes, there are days when the breakfast dishes get done just in time for dinner.

Working outside the home, and still running the home is not easy. Home never seems quite up to scratch. Work never seems quite up to scratch. (Or is that just me?)

We eat more takeaways. (Thank Goodness for Healthy Grill)

The laundry pile is a never-ending work in progress.

The showers don’t get the scrubbin’ love that they’re used to.

I always feel spread thin.

Quite often I have to start work late or finish early to taxi kids to various things. We have orthodontist appointments (Deflector and Actor) we have weekly psychologist appointments (CC-that’s another story for another time) and we have the usual not-necessarily-regular-things-that-just-happen appointments. Like high school uniform fittings that can only be done in the middle of the day.

Someone has to manage that stuff.

In our family, that someone is me.

Last week I left work early one day for a meeting at school, and arrived late one morning for an appointment. Yesterday I had to take the whole day off work, to take two kids to two different appointments.

Today I get into work to find a message from the CFO ‘please call me’ it says. A colleague helpfully reminds me, with raised eyebrows and dripping sarcasm, that ‘he thought I worked every day now’
Ha! Who knows when Rach will be at work!’ they joke.

Hilarious.
In an office full of men whose only job is their paid one, they cannot possibly understand how we working Mums feel about trying to divide ourselves in two. They might find it funny, but it just reminds me that the world expects me to do better.

Or, even more regrettable, the possibility that they suspect I, or mothers in general, are not even trying to do better.

Last year we employed another Mum who does exactly the same thing as I; she works school hours. She will, like me, occasionally take a day off to ferry a school excursion or start late to attend an appointment. Sometimes she will need to bring a sick kid into the office, lunch box and bean bag in tow. Sometimes she might make a mad-dash in her lunch break to buy a last minute birthday gift or drop off the dry-cleaning. She is actually, as I type this, at home nursing a child with a broken leg.

Another colleague noted her absence today with ‘What, still no Linda…?

Really? Is that necessary?

Last Monday morning when our internet was temporarily down, another colleague greets me with
“The internet’s back.” pause “Oh wait…” he snorts derisively “…what am I saying! – Not that YOU would have even noticed yet. But it has been down since yesterday. “
This because I get to work at 9am after school drop off, instead of 8:30 like all the men. I also noted the self righteous reference to his working on a Sunday.

There is an undercurrent of ‘the women are unreliable and undependable’ in our working environments. I am sure that this is reflected in many a workplace. To be fair, my husband would never support this ideology. He takes pride in his business and enjoys the fact that he gives people the flexibility to work and run their family life in a supportive environment. He welcomes an extra kid here or there over the school holidays and allows them to play in the boardroom or he might thrill them with an impromptu science experiment in the lab. There are probably a lot of bosses that are open and supportive and flexible like him, too. But the fact remains, the vast majority of parents who are making these compromises are women, and the resulting societal undercurrent of incompetence is real.

It seems inevitable that if someone’s career is going to take the hit, it will be Mums rather than Dads.

I have to wonder why that is?

In my case I realise why it is me. I never really had aspirations for a career. I was happy to be, and have already written about my decision to be ‘Just a Mum’. My husband, on the other hand, always knew that he would run his own business. I always knew that my job was to support him in whatever way I could. If that means that I have to dash away to collect a sick kid so that he can still attend his sales meeting, I’m ok with that. If that means that I am judged as ‘unreliable’, it’s unfortunate, yes, but for the greater good I can be ok with that too. Supporting my husband and helping him forge his own career path is what makes me happiest.

But what about those women who do have careers? Who aspire to motherhood and management?

I fear that the world is not ready to accept that Mothers are capable and often very committed employees.
It seems to me that once a woman has given birth, or even earlier perhaps, when she is pregnant, she is perceived as less committed, less competent. In order to be seen as the ‘ideal employee’ we either have to forgo having children altogether, or be able to maintain the work habits of men and other childless women. That’s 40+ hours a week, working without interruption until retirement, and focusing the majority of our time and resources on our job. This, despite the fact that women generally do take on the lion’s share of the family and child rearing responsibilities.

It is no wonder we feel spread thin.

 

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It has a name actually. It’s called The Motherhood Penalty, and I am sure many of my fellow working Mums will not be surprised to hear that it is a very real thing. (Google it. There are studies)

I certainly don’t have any answers. I don’t even know what sort of real world action could be done. Short of shaming Dad’s into sharing the work week kid hustle, but that seems counterintuitive.

There will always be women taking extended maternity leave, downgrading to part-time jobs, taking a sick day to nurse an ill child, leaving early to make an appearance at the athletics carnival and regrettably turning down business travel opportunities, just to keep the family life equilibrium.
No one is suggesting that our children are not worth these sacrifices. Of course they are worth it. No mother would tell you otherwise. But what a shame, that so many talented and intelligent women are unable to realise their full career potential.

Working outside the home, and still running the home is not easy. Home is never given 100%. Work is never given 100%.
But you can bet she’s still giving 100% of herself. You can bet she is giving 100% effort, and I dare to claim that she is just as productive in her shortened hasty work day as her male and childless counterparts.
Working Mums have a host of good quality traits that can benefit business. They are often more flexible and adaptable. They are time efficient. They can prioritise and multitask. Mums really are good at getting stuff done.
In fact, Microsoft conducted a study that concluded Motherhood improves essential workplace skills.
I have no doubt.

While I might not have a clue where to start turning this tide, perhaps I do have one suggestion to make after all.

Can we please, kindly do without the condescending judgement of shortened work days and lack of overtime? The sneers at hasty knock-offs and parental leave days. The tasteless jokes and righteous commentary. They really only serve to perpetuate self-doubt and guilt.

We could start with changing the culture in our own working environments. One workplace at time.

Rather than implying your colleague has been missing-in-action, ask about the wellbeing of her sick child.

Rather than persecuting her for not working overtime on Sunday, enquire about her son’s soccer game that you know she attended instead.

If we can take action in our own workplaces, putting a stop to the condescension of working mothers and valuing their input without discrimination and prejudice, it just might be the first step to acceptance.
Acceptance of Mothers as capable and valuable employees.
It might lead to a common recognition and understanding that we truly are a valuable resource; we can be strong leaders, and we should be respected as essential contributors; even without the ability to work 80 hours a week.

 

Your Turn.

I’m really interested to hear your stories like this. Everyone feel free to comment, not just Mums. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

Posted in Controversy, Kid Wrangling, Life and Other Mysteries, Secret Mummy Business | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment