Saturday, November 28, 2009

Something's gotta give

There is a story in the Good Weekend by David Sedaris (I admit, I'm a fan) about him being in Australia and seeing a Kookaburra. Of course, it is about more than that, but anyway, his hostess talks about the idea of our lives having four burners like a stove top, and if you want to be successful (meaning at work), you need to let one or two of the other burners, labelled Family, Friends, Health, go out. They talk about what aspects of their lives are neglected, or consciously dropped, in order to be successful.

In the context of the current public discussion about mothers and work, this is timely. I'm referring to Alexandra Shulman, the editor of UK Vogue, who says that as an employer she believes the legislation is too much in favour of mothers, and not enough for the employer. She is also a mother (has one child, went back to work when he was 12 weeks, has a live-in nanny). She wants full time employees to work full time, and understands the consequences in the office when women take extended maternity leave, stay home with sick children, pop off to the school play or leave early to pick up the kids from school.

The controversial article is here.

We know how the conversation usually goes. If you want women in the workplace, we need to account for care responsibilities. Some women say they are happy to step down from their careers and work at a less satisfying job after having children - ambition fades as being with children is more important. Child-free adults say that having children is a lifestyle choice - why should they pay for other people to have kids? It is a personal and private matter - each family works out their own solutions. Then parents say that their children will be paying taxes for the child-free people's aged care and looking after them when they are old. Some say we need work flexibility for everyone, because we could all have care responsibilities - disabled siblings or aged parents. Some say it is a feminist issue - we were promised we could HAVE IT ALL and the feminists lied. Some say we need to change social policies and expectations - that this is the unfinished work of the women's movement. And so it goes.

I say we need women in all kinds of positions of power. That is in government, in business, and that we need to hear from the stay-at-home mums as well. I say, lets look at what the most socially progressive countries in the world do (um, that would be Scandinavian countries, and a few other European countries), and if that is working well, in terms of representation and the wellbeing of men, women and children, then lets do that. Lets look after everyone. Let the women have real power, do the work they are good at, and still, as a society, look after the children, and involve men in the workplace and in their own lives that includes being with family, with friends, and their health (and I mean all kinds of health - physical, emotional, spiritual, mental). When we apply the old feminist measure of asking would this conversation be applied to men, we see how far we have to go. The fact I just said 'let women have real power' makes me shudder. We should be way beyond that sentence. We still live in a patriarchy, and change is happening way too slowly.

So, back to the stove top. Does the same apply if you want success at Family? At Health? At Friendships? Perhaps we could look at work being turned down a little so that all burners can stay aglow. Because really, if you spend seventy hours a week at work, the only relationship you have is with your boss and workmates. And this is true for everyone, not just mothers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Buy Nothing Day - Nov 27/28

November 27/28 is International Buy Nothing Day. Protest by not shopping on this day.

Here is the link to Adbusters, the culturejammers who started Buy Nothing Day. Worth a look.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Poems on Motherhood - on the radio

An Ear on my Heart - this is on Radio nationals' Poetica program tomorrow, Saturday 3pm, repeated Thursday 3pm (4pm WA)

Poems of motherhood by Kathryn Lomer and Esther Ottaway.

"An ear on my heart" features poetry on the intimacies of pregnancy and parenthood by tasmanian poets Kathryn Lomer and Esther Ottaway and original music inspired by their poems by composer/producer Oonagh Sherrard.

The poetry of Lomer and Ottaway presents a range of perspectives on pregnancy
and parenthood that depart from the stereotype of blissful calm. This is not the poetry of bunny rugs and peaceful self-absorption. The work of both poets honestly maps the physical and emotional transitions of having a child, raising issues such as fear, marginalisation, change of identity and social place, as well as embracing the fragility and wonder that the experiences of pregnancy and parenthood inspire.

The program also looks at the relationship between being an artist and a mother and how having a child effects, influences and inspires the poets in their life and work

If I don't get to hear it tomorrow, I'll listen online later and get back to here with some feedback. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Parents parking at school

Fool, fool, come to school
Don't forget to break the rule.

When I was a child we played a game that started with singing this song.

It seems, now that many parents are happy to break the rules on a daily basis, when they drive to school. The park on the crossing. park in No Standing zones. Do U turns on the crossing. Park in the driveway. They seem to believe they need to park on the actual block of the school. Across the road isn't good enough. The next block isn't good enough. And if you stay in the car, or leave the engine running, they seem to think that means they aren't really breaking any road rules.

Our local school is quite small. The catchment area is quite small. Most families live in walking distance. However, few families walk to school. My kids would like to walk to school on their own, but I've seen so many drivers sail through the school crossing, I'm reluctant to let them walk on their own. Usually we cross with me holding onto them shouting 'It's a Crossing!'

We, the members of the P&C, have talked about this problem endlessly. We've rung the parking police, who move from school to school on a roster basis, fining parents, to have the problem improve for a day or two, then we are back to weeks of blatant law breaking. We've talked about taking their numberplates, taking photographs, having the children talk to them. We know that having the Principal talk to parents doesn't work - some parents tell her f off. We know that having notices in the newsletter and reminders about the penalties doesn't work. The same parents break the law on a daily basis.

I do address the parents when I see them park illegally. Every week I would talk to someone. i say. 'Do you know it is illegal to park on a crossing/ do a U turn over double yellow lines/ park across the driveway?' They usually look at me blankly and nod. But they don't move. Occasionally it makes a difference. I guess I just have to keep chipping away at it.

And I really wonder what these parents say to their children as they drop them off. Be good. Do what the teacher says. Be respectful. Follow the school rules. But the parent is doing the opposite.

This is what I'd really like to do. Using the Mayor Giuliani approach that people who break the law in one area usually believe they are above the law in another, I'd organise a tax audit for every parent who repeatedly breaks the road rules around the school. That would get their attention, hopefully before a child is killed. I know how you are!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why I love The Partridge Family

I've been watching The Partridge Family on Go!

Here are the reasons why I love it.

1. Shirley is a great role model for mums. She knows when to step back, when to stand up and when to step in. She is a single mum, and there's no question of her needing a man. She's perfectly capable. And I like the way she and Lori relate to each other. And Shirley Jones is great - from Carousel and Oklahoma! to this - she's great. (And such a cute haircut!)(Although I do wonder what about the looks of a man who fathered such different looking children.)

2. The kids are famous but all do their chores.

3. The kids tease each other, but look out for each other too.

4. The clothes. Not only do they wear the same costumes on stage, not just the same as each other, but obviously a limited selection of stage costumes, they also have character wardrobes, so they do wear the same clothes twice, three times. They don't have inexhaustable wardrobes, as characters on tv do these days. I've been looking for a new fashion influence, not for me,but I can copy some of Lori's clothes for the kids.

5. David Cassidy. How skinny is he? He's a dag. He's a spunk. He's a dag. Pop star living with his family, keeping it real. Girls like him, but he does nothing to draw attention to himself. Not presenting as sexy. No publicity stunts. He just plays his music. With his mum. Perhaps more mums should be involved in their kid's talent? See Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. Doesn't always work. Hannah Montana? Compare and Contrast.

6. The guest actors. Meredith Baxter and Season Hubley in 1972. Gorgeous.

7. Rheuben Kinkaid. He's a bachelor, but he hangs out with the family. He pretends not to like kids. But really, he loves the family.

8. They play music. Together. Keith writes the music. They work together. Everyone participates in working for the family, and no-one complains. How cool is that?

9. They eat dinner together at the table. Every night. They play card games and monopoly. The house isn't full of clutter. Life was simpler then. Something to aspire to.

10. The social issues. Everything is an opportunity for discussion in our house. We've talked about the battle of the sexes, workers' rights and unions, and so on, because of issues raised in The Partridge Family.

Notice I didn't mention the songs? I don't like the songs particularly, but I don't mind my kids singing them. And I'm happy that my five year old now wants to be Tracey Partridge rather than Posh Spice. A move in the right direction!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rethinking Christmas

My letter in the Sydney Morning Herald today. Something I've been thinking about a long time. I know that people can be pretty touchy about the subject - it is confronting to consider changing our routines and rituals, but thinking how we celebrate Christmas bears thinking about.

Christmas crying out for a makeover

Peter French's thoughts on the useless and environmentally damaging practice of sending Christmas cards (Letters, November 21-22) is the tip of the iceberg. How relevant is the celebration of Christmas in Australia? We sing of sleigh bells by candlelight, dress a fat man in a woolly red costume, decorate the house with lights and eat like it is the middle of winter even though we have heatwave conditions and the sun goes down at 8pm. We buy and wrap gifts for everyone we know, even though they may not need anything. We know the northern hemisphere pagan rituals are wrapped up with stories of Saint Nicholas and the birth of Jesus. We know the way we celebrate Christmas is damaging to the environment on many levels. Living in Australia, surely those of us who don't celebrate pagan winter rituals, don't believe in Santa and don't claim Jesus as our saviour can find a better way to enjoy a more meaningful and sustainable celebration of family and friends.

Catherine Walsh

It seems strange to me that every day we think about how to reduce our environmental footprint, for example, turning off the electricity, then at xmas time we think, what is the biggest thing I can wrap xmas lights, around? My house!

Celebrating at the end of the year shouldn't be an environmental catastrophe, every year. There's no Christmas on a dead planet.

People talk about the 'magic of Christmas' and the joy on the children's faces. I think there is magic and wonder in the natural world. Each religion has its own causes for wonder. Giving gifts brings joy, regardless of the occasion. I have real reservations about the whole Santa deal. The depth of the conspiracy intrigues me. Everyone is in on the deal. Santa is everywhere. Strangers talk to our kids about Santa. He's in the mall, on the advertisements, makes appearances at preschool etc. All for the children. If we put the same effort into eliminating soft porn in advertising, or removing dodgy additives from food marketed to children, or putting shade over playgroup equipment, imagine how much we could do for the wellbeing of children. What if we applied the same level of commitment to eliminating poverty? But no. We keep Santa for the joy and 'magic' of Christmas. What makes Christmas magical? Is it like the magic of Disney? Or is it about being together, about ritual and community, which all people seem to need, since ancient times? Sure, lets get together and have our celebrations. I'm just saying we need to think about what we're doing.

What do you think?

Friday, November 20, 2009

12 year old girl addresses conference

A brave girl addresses a conference on the environment and development in South America.

Everything she says is true. I hope she can make a difference.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


When I was a teenager I could go to the Art Gallery and identify the art students. They were the people who had taken something from an op shop and made it funky. Now when I go to the art gallery, everyone can afford a five dollar t shirt and everyone looks pretty much the same.

It's sad. Now that clothes are cheap we've lost that creativity born of necessity. Our fashion trends used to come from students finding what was in plentiful supply from charity shops and turning it into a statement. Petticoats worn with docs, for example. Then the look would catch on and designers would make new versions of the look.

I remember when recession wear was in. It started with people making a statement out of wearing old, ripped clothes. My friend and I went to a shop in the Strand Arcade and copied a design for a recession wear dress that cost a hundred dollars. That was a lot of money to a Year 12 student in 1983. I made my own clothes when I was a teenager, but now I don't because it isn't cheaper. The fabric often costs more than it is worth when I could buy something cheaper. And there are a lot of cheap clothes around. Cheap for us, so cheap that some people consider them disposable. But expensive for the earth. Nothing is disposable for the earth.

Every $100 worth of clothing produces 70kg of greenhouse gas emissions. Everything we buy new is made with the earth's resources, creates pollution by being made, dyed, packaged, stored, transported. I think we could stop manufacturing clothes for a few years and catch up with the supply already in the op shops, which are bulging with more interesting garments, and let the earth have a breather.

That's why I love renovated fashion and The Uniform Project Check out the doilie collars!

I'm only buying second clothes now. Except for basics like underwear, of course. I find it depressing to walk into clothes stores - most of the colours and styles are not flattering to me. Whatever is fashionable, I've already bought from an op shop. I find it exciting to walk into an op shop and go exploring. I must say it helps if you know what suits you (I'm a short, hourglass Winter). Instead of spending money on new cheap clothes, I recommend spending money on having a consultant tell you what colours and styles suit you. It will make op shopping much easier and you'll always look great.

Lets share our op shop finds. I'll grab a camera and post photos of my favourites.

Friday, November 06, 2009


This is something I've written to distribute to the community to help people think about the consequences of their Christmas purchases. Feel free to circulate.


Celebrating Christmas need not cost the Earth.

Ideas to help you celebrate Christmas without damaging the environment or hurting your wallet.

* Make your own gifts.

* Give things that can be consumed, like art and crafts supplies, or food.

* Ask for “to do” presents, if asked, rather than something that takes up space, eg., tickets to a show or admission to the zoo or a museum, or to classes that you want to attend.

* Give a “gift of your time”, offering to do a special job for your friend or family member.

* Don't buy gifts that are over packaged and create rubbish just by being opened. Every square mile of the ocean currently contains around 46,000 pieces of plastic and almost 50% of landfill consists of packaging, most of which is unnecessary.

* Buy ‘pre loved’ - search your op shops & garage sales. It is fun, the goods are often high quality and you can find something individual. Everything you buy new uses resources (oil, coal, water etc) to be made, packaged and transported. Did you know that for every $100 spent on new clothing about 70kg of greenhouse pollution is generated?

* Give donations to organisations that really help people. TEAR Australia , World Vision Smiles, Oxfam Unwrapped or Women for Women International – all have websites for you to further explore. A perfect gift for the person who already has everything.

* Buy gifts from organisations that help people and animals, like Oxfam, The Wilderness Society, Australian Conservation Foundation, Landcare or Greenpeace. Better still, buy a gift membership to support these organisations.

* How about a worm farm or compost bin as a gift idea? About 37% of waste in landfill is food scraps, which, in landfill, creates methane, a greenhouse gas. Better to put your food scraps in a compost bin or wormfarm. Some chickens for the backyard would make a great gift for your family and they will keep on giving with fresh eggs everyday!

* Buy a tree to plant, or grow some herbs or vegetable plants and give them as gifts.

* Don't buy unnecessary electrical appliances.

* Give rechargeable batteries if giving a gift requiring batteries. Buy a solar recharger.

* Check out these sites for funky, fairtrade, environmentally friendly gifts: www.biome,,,,,,
* If you don't have enough plates and cutlery for Christmas lunch, see if you can borrow some. Otherwise buy strong plastic ones you can wash and reuse.

* Don't buy wrapping paper. Wrap your gifts in artwork you have made, in fabric you can reuse, or don't wrap it at all. Just tie a bow around it, and reuse the ribbon. Or put it in a bag that can be reused.

* Have family holidays that are gentle on the earth. See if you can consider eco-holidays, like camping, and avoid flying in aeroplanes or driving long distances.

* If you have Christmas lights, make sure they are LED Christmas lights. Ask if your household uses a Green Energy Provider.

* Some families have set themselves the challenge of spending no more than $100 on Christmas. That would get the creativity flowing!

Have a bright green Christmas!