Monday, January 31, 2011

Labiaplasty - a big range of normal

Sharing this post from Veronica at Sleepless Nights. About labiaplasty, and
an exhibition at MONA of 150 ceramic vaginas - moulds of models - showing a range of normal. Something to counter the idea of womens' bodies seen in pornography.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I love a good flashmob

A friend of mine is in this choir that did a flashmob at the QVB just before Christmas. Bringing joy to shoppers, who whipped out their cameras. Have a look.

Encyclopedia of Motherhood - out now!

Have a look at the Encyclopedia of Motherhood, compiled by Andrea O'Reilly, which is now available.

What an amazing undertaking! And it is all there - have a look at the Reader's Guide and the Resource Guide - all the issues covered by the academy as well as popular culture. It includes a history of motherhood, and statistics from countries all around the world.

And academics from Australia have contributed.

This is a huge achievement. I need to give Andrea a big kiss!

Monday, January 24, 2011

National No Nits Week

I’m scratching my head over why I’ve never seen a report into the lost productivity caused by dealing with nit infestations. If each household spends five hours a week combing and washing, combing and washing, and repeat this each week until no nits appear, then repeat whenever re-infested, and re-infestation occurs twice more each year, let say the parents of the household spend 60 hours a year treating their families for nits. That’s 60 hours that could have been spent playing or cooking or reading, or learning a new skill. For a school of 400 families, that’s 24000 hours of lost productivity for one school community.*

Can I ask that we try to avoid such lost productivity in Australian households by declaring the last week of the holidays National No Nits Week? If we put our heads together we could hatch a plan to avoid infestations spread by children at school by making sure children start the school year with clean heads.

Perhaps that means a nurse checks the children on the first day of term.

I know that teachers are not allowed to check children. But having spent time in the classrooms, I could make a pretty good guess which children have nits - the one who keep scratching their heads. I don’t know that, at our school, children are sent home for having nits. The only way it is managed is that a note goes home to the parents of the class asking that they check their children. The whole issue, as a health issue, is not dealt with very seriously. I know that some parents just ignore the whole matter.

What else could be done? Are nits dealt with more seriously at other schools?

* We all know that issues are only taken serious when presented in terms of productivity, or GDP or the economy. Not taken seriously if mums just say, 'We're bloody sick of nits!'.

Mumsnet in the UK

A story in The Guardian about Mumsnet in the UK. It is an online forum for mums which also lobbies for change. It is probably the largest online lobby group for women in the UK. This is an interview with its founder, Justine Roberts (whose husband is deputy editor of The Guardian). Mumsnet gets a million hits a day.


Nothing equivalent here, although Essential Baby and Bub Hub fill similar needs in some ways - mums helping mums - just not the political action.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Aussie Bloggers Conference

For mum bloggers. (Well, mum, parents and personal bloggers.)

March 19th, 2011, for the full day, in Sydney.

Includes tips, networking, monetisation.

Looks great. It was organised in October, and is sold out! I've put my name on the waiting list...

In the meantime, I'll be reading the blogs of the speakers.

I found about about the conference through Aussie Mummy Bloggers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sex Work in Australia

At the f collective conference last year probably the most challenging thing for me (except the debacle at the end )was the feminism of sex workers. I'd spent so long thinking about the feminism of mothering that I'd forgotten about other people in very different circumstances. There were representatives there from The Scarlet Alliance, who lobby for the rights of sex workers. These women are not junkies or downtrodden no-hopers. They are career sex workers. Whether or not they are mothers was never discussed.

It is interesting that WEA (a community college in Sydney) is running a session on Sex Working in Australia. It is on Saturday 19 March, from 9.30 to 4.30. It is being conducted by Roberta Perkins, who is a lecturer in sociology at UNSW, and has published widely on the topic of sex work. She also is involved in The Gender Centre. Someone from The Scarlet Alliance will also be speaking on the day.

It would be really interesting to attend, but I don't think I can make it. Kind of booked up with study and other outings that are higher priority.

When I was younger I had friends who worked in brothels as receptionists and as cleaners. One friend was a B&D Madam - she put herself through design school. I worked for some time doing phone sex, which is part of the industry, but at a distance from clients, and as close as I was prepared to go. For me, even doing phone sex was not healthy. It did, though, improve my voice for acting, which I was studying at the time.

When I saw the women from Scarlet Alliance I thought: there but for a decision or two goes I. I suspect they didn't think about me at all. I wonder what their views are on protecting children from sexually explicit imagery and such campaigns. I've met Fiona Patten from The Sex Party and was surprised at how much our views were in common. She said that no-one in the sex industry was interested in marketing to children. They agree with the right wing Christians on a lot of issues, but some campaigners or politicians just won't work with The Sex Party.

Should we think of sex workers in the same category as gestational carriers? A woman renting out a part of her body? A part of the economics of supply and demand? I wonder what modern sex workers want for children? What they want for mothers? From what I saw they were not women who had no other options, and would be insulted at the suggestion that they were not empowered feminists.

So interesting.

Monday, January 17, 2011

All this conflicting parenting advice - it never ends...

It isn't just Chua's book that has caused controversy the last few weeks in the world of parenting. Latest advice is to start solids at four months rather than six, and a discussion over what kind of home children need: tidy or cosy (ie, messy). And there are new momoirs coming out all the time.

"The single most important point of all in childcare is that none of these prescriptions is the right answer," says Oliver James, whose book on child rearing, How Not to F*** Them Up, is out in paperback in April. In an effort to turn down the heat on parents, the child psychologist adds: "There is an endless searching for a right way to care for a baby or a small child. But there is no right way."

The weeks ahead do not offer a period of calm. Mothers are to be subjected to a volley of rival strategies for the child-rearing years. In spring Rebecca Asher's book, Shattered: Modern Motherhood and the Illusion of Equality, will attempt to raise the consciousness of exhausted British women. They have been complicit, she argues, in maintaining a status quo in which mothers bear the primary responsibility for bringing up children, to the detriment of the rest of their lives.


James feels it is a shift in emphasis that is coming from young women. He says he has found that many women in their early 20s or late teens are asking what the point was of trying to do everything. There is no prize awarded for working and mothering hard, James points out, although he concedes that for poorer women and single mothers choices are limited.

"Mothers of young babies should consider whether they are comfortable in their skin," he says. "And that is not an easy thing to achieve, particularly if you have been living like Bridget Jones. It is not an ideal preparation to have enjoyed a career and had little experience of having a status lower than a street-sweeper. It is a huge wrench."

He urges women to consider the kind of person they are. "Do you like babies or do you prefer toddlers? If you are what I call 'a hugger', for instance, you will enjoy being with babies. If you are 'an organiser' you are going to find it stressful. Or you might be 'a flexi-mum', which is a bit of both."

I'm interested in the book on how the expectations of mothering effect women, Rebecca Asher's book, Shattered: Modern Motherhood and the Illusion of Equality. And Oliver James seems quite sensible too. Becoming a mother should not mean signing up to a particular style of parenting, akin to joining a cult. (I'm wondering when an Australian mothering identity will be coined - Kangaroo Mother? Kookburra Mother? Do you know anyone who identifies as a Yummy Mummy or Soccer Mum?) He asks questions worth considering. As does Rebecca Asher. And yes, we are all just doing what we believe to be right for us and our kids. Perhaps we could all just relax a little.

Here is something from the blurb of Asher's book, to be released in April.

If we live in an age of equality, why are women are still left holding the baby?

Becoming a mother is a tremendously rewarding experience, but, for all the current talk of shared parenting, women still find themselves bearing primary responsibility for bringing up their children, to the detriment of everything else in their lives. Fathers, conversely, are dragooned into the role of main earner, becoming semi-detached from their families. Both men and women put up too little resistance to this pressure, shying away from asking what is really best for themselves and their children. The consequences of this enduring inequality in the home reach far beyond individuals and into society as a whole. A radical new approach is needed if we want to raise our children fairly and happily.

Ranging from antenatal care and maternity leave, to work practices, relationship dynamics and beyond, Shattered exposes the inequalities perpetuated by the state, employers and the parenting industry and suggests imaginative ways forward to achieve more balanced and fulfilling lives.

Rebecca Asher draws on the experiences of mothers and fathers in the UK and around the world in setting out a manifesto for a new model of family life. Engaging and provocative, Shattered is a call to arms for a revolution in parenting.

Sounds good to me!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January is the month to ...

clean up and catch up. I’ve realised I may not have a chance to do these things later in the year.

So, I’ve been Spring Cleaning. I’ve vacuumed under the beds and cleaned the windows and sorted through our stuff and taken lots to the op shop (seriously depressing exercise to walk into an op shop overflowing with stuff. And I’m a little more anxious about letting go of my things that I should be - I want that dress to go to someone who will LOVE it, and I want those shoes to be displayed on a shelf and not thrown into a tub - but it is out of my hands...) It has been a good exercise to take stock of what we have - trying to know, love and use everything in the house - I'm starting with 'know'. And a good exercise to finally let go the dresses and shoes I haven’t worn since I had my first child nearly eleven years ago. I guess I’ve accepted that my life will never be like my pre-mothering life again. That is, flat shoes and sports bras from here on.

I’m taking the opportunity in January to catch up with friends. I’ve noticed that if we don’t see people as part of our weekly schedule, that is, we don’t go to the same school, pool, or dance class, then we just don’t see those families. Last year I hosted a few Sunday lunches where I invited a few families over at a time, which took a lot of organising to work out who was available when. This month I’ve announced we’ll be hosting Sunday afternoon teas every week in January and I’ve invited all the families I don’t usually see in the course of our everyday lives. The families we might run into at the shops and say, ‘We must catch up’. Most families in Sydney go on holidays in January, so it is very tricky to keep track of who is around when. For those who are home, and might be looking for something to do, come on over. Those invited can come every week, or the one week they want to, but we’ll be home, ready to welcome two families or ten. If there are ten, the older kids can play at the park. The parents can sit around drinking iced tea or champagne. And catching up. And if anyone wants to stay for dinner, we can order pizza. Perhaps it is a bit slack, but it is manageable, sociable and I’m trying to keep people in the loop (I do like to connect people with similar interests) and not falling off the radar. Perhaps in a few years we’ll graduate to dinner parties, but for now, this will do.

Girls can do anything, so why teach?

I remember as a teenager the sign that used to appear inside the train carriages that said ‘Girls can do anything.’ I think it was a TAFE advertisement to get girls into courses for trades. I remember the girls at school talking about how they could do anything. And, the implication was, why would a girl want to do mothering, or become a nurse, or a teacher? We had the world at our feet. I remember a friend of mine, a friend who was ambitious in the arts (as I was), a friend who has had a successful career in the arts and has lived and worked for many years in New York (as I haven’t), a friend who told me that if I wasn’t going to be a ‘somebody’ I couldn’t be her friend (we are no longer friends), a friend who did not go on to have kids (as I did), well I remember this friend saying, when we were at high school, that teachers had premature menopause.

Well, now I’m pre-menopausal and I’m going to become a teacher.

This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, reconciling myself with becoming a teacher. The implications of that. The fact I have resisted so long with the path that has been bloody obvious. The issue of teachers having lower status in our society than they should have. I’m thinking that after being a stay at home mum for eleven years, so far, there is only one way to go in terms of social status and that’s up.

I believe that teachers deserve more respect. I believe that it is a job you can bring yourself to, your intelligence and creativity (and you don’t need to wear a suit, which was the reason I gave my father, when I was a teenager, why I didn’t want to study law). I believe a good teacher can make positive changes in society. And, as with mothering, I can work at improving the status of teachers from within. And I believe it is one of very few jobs that fit with having a family. Yes, we can talk about how we could change the hours of work, or of school, and that school holidays could fit better with working life. (Why do we take six weeks out in Summer? We don't need the kids to bring in the harvest. And it means we are stuffing the rest of our lives into a shorter working/school year.) But that sort of change isn't about to happen in my working lifetime.

I’ve spent most of my life dabbling in the arts and now I can use that knowledge and creativity in a way that is meaningful. And I’ll know where my paycheque is coming from. I may even reference the work of my ex-friend who now designs for the New York stage.

Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

A high achieving Chinese mother explains how her ideas about parenting push her kids to success. This is a topic of conversation amongst mothers I know who talk about kids at school who are forced to do coaching all through their school lives, are not allowed to play sport or have playdates, and are forced to study all weekend. It is interesting to see her views, which explain why Chinese mothers don't volunteer to help at school, or get involved in P&C. Also interesting that the arts, beyond playing piano or violin, are not considered worthwhile.

Discussion on the mum forum includes the usual 'this is not what childhood should be about' to women who wish their mothers pushed them more.

And there were articles in SMH this week stating the importance of physical exercise for kids, and the value of the arts in children's education. (Says me, who has her daughter at an intensive international dance school this week - she wants to be there! and wondering if said daughter wants to go to a selective school, and if so, should she do some coaching?) A friend of mine suggests that having your kids coached in maths every week isn't really very different from insisting your children practise their instruments a half hour a day.

So many things to consider. So many paths to chose. All can be rationalised. What I'm wondering is, am I being the mother my children need? Would I want me as a mother?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


I feel inspired by this:

I've been following her blog The Zero Waste Home.

My home looks nothing like hers. As much as I'm interested in not accumulating junk, and as much as I'm trying to be aware of where everything comes from and where it goes, and as much as I'm trying to keep toxins out of the home, I still find it difficult, and I've made an observation. It struck me when I read in the article that Bea has no books in her house except library books. I'm thinking, not even a dictionary. And thinking, where is the music? Is it all stored digitally? The only art on the walls is the green growing wall. Nice, but not really tapping into what what art is. I also noticed that my neatest friend, who limits all the clothes, shoes, music, books in the house, (who reads the school newsletter and puts it straight in the recycling bin) doesn't really care about art and music and fashion and literature. She likes what she likes, but she doesn't collect or revel in or really CARE about these things. When I told her how hard it was to try to throw out books, she suggested I should only need one bookcase of books. Sacrilege. Impossible.

So, I'm coming around to thinking, it is easy to keep an uncluttered house if you don't care about art and fashion and literature and music. Can I limit these? I can try. Can I cut back more on everything else? Yes I can. Can I try to use whatever I have? Yes I can. Can I try to bring not another thing into the house? I can try.

Do I know, love and use everything in the house? No.

Now on with the decluttering and dusting.

Monday, January 03, 2011

2011 - too much to do

I don’t have any New Year’s Resolutions to make. (I already go to the gym and eat well. I could arrange to socialise more. And yes, I know, I need to clean the house better.)I don't have resolutions like these from women in The Guardian:

However, I do have some decisions to make about how I’ll spend my year. Here are the options. Suggestions and opinions welcome.

Attend the A-MIRCI conference at UQ in April and deliver a paper about mothering in songs. Which means, basically, talk about and play some recordings of songs (I’ve already done the research).

I've been a member of the Greens for the last few years - how involved do I want to be in the state election?

Do a WEA course on great thinkers of the 19th Century.

Do an art class - I really like them!

Join the local community choir.

Make a cookbook for the school about using fruit and vegetables (this was my idea and I said I would do it as a fundraiser we could sell at the fete).

Work on the school fete.

Keep attending P&C meetings.

Do Reading Recovery at school, which means I have three kids I read with each week. I did this in 2010 and really enjoyed it. The local high school also needs reading tutors for girls who have recently arrived in Australia.

Volunteer for uniform shop at school, which I’ve been doing the last few years. It’s fun.

Help out in my kids’ classrooms. Three kids, three sessions each week. The kids like me doing this, but my enjoyment depends on the teachers and the kids.

Do the Teaching Ethics course and teach at another school each week. (I wouldn’t teach at our school - want to avoid the politics - and I’m not convinced I want to be involved in another school.)

I’m already committed to being President of the local Community Centre Management Committee and we are reviewing lots of documentation this year. And we'll be hiring staff.

I’m still a member of the babysitting club I started several years ago, and it is time to do some housekeeping and revise the rules.

Create some paid work for myself, which means either selling some writing, or devising and delivering the course on Mothering in Context that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I could do it through a community college.

And, the major already happening thing, starting my Grad Dip Ed. This is supposed to take 24 hours a week, however, doing essays, we know, may mean it takes longer. (I'm sure I spent longer than 24 hours a week doing two subjects of an MA in English last semester.) It also means doing pracs at schools, which increase from two weeks to four to six, and would disrupt any weekly commitments. The thing I need to decide is whether to teach English, or to teach English and Drama. If I do drama as well, I need to do two residential schools with teachers who used to be my friends. That would be fun. If I just do English, I take extra English subjects in my course, and they look interesting too. What do you think? Am I a high school English teacher? Or high school English and drama teacher?

Of course, I can’t do everything in one year, so will have to eliminate lots of volunteering and nearly everything that’s just for fun. Looks like that leaves the Dip Ed, Community Centre, A-MIRCI conference, babysitting club, working for money and making the cookbook. The things I’ve already committed to, or are necessary for the family’s future.

The kids will be busy too - dance classes after school and Saturdays, and lots of extra-curricula activities through school - four bands, two instruments, dance groups, choir, busy busy, and the youngest wants to do drama classes. I'm thinking there will be serious visits to the orthodontists' as well.

Any comments? Suggestions? Anything I haven't considered?


My piece in SMH

Just sharing.

I don't know how this qualifies as feminist parenting, so I'll consider it parenting against the flow of our culture. I have a Heckler piece in The Sydney Morning Herald today.

And, for good measure, I'll share a letter I had in SMH on Dec 14 2010 which I can claim as feminist action.

Word power

As a language snob, I hear Niall McKay's call (Letters, December 11-12). The most lazy use I notice is the overuse of the words ''sexy'' and ''hot'', so I offer the following alternatives: attractive, strong, fit, healthy, sensual, appealing, enticing, engrossing, alluring, delightful, lovable, lovely, lusty, lewd, bawdy, charming, carnal, voluptuous, inviting, exciting, fiery, tantalising, lascivious, salacious, suggestive, libidinous. And that's just for people, not things.

There are many more, and I want them reclaimed. Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Ira Gershwin, Sammy Cahn, Oscar Hammerstein II, Lorenz Hart and Johnny Mercer managed to say so much without calling everything sexy or hot. Magazine editors and TV talent show judges, take note.

Catherine Walsh

I'm kicking myself for leaving out 'amorous' since the song in my head at the time was S'Wonderful.

Our holiday

We've just returned from a rare family holiday.

We went to a NSW Sport and Recreation camp, and it is something that I can recommend.

One payment covers accommodation, activities and all meals. I loved not having to cook and clean up, and the food was good. We loved trying new activities, the accommodation was fine, and the other families there were nice.

My oldest daughter turns out to be a good sailor. My middle girl tried everything that involved height and harnesses - climbing, giant swing and flying fox. My youngest was happy to have lots of people to socialise with and loved being at the pool. Turns out I'm not too shabby at archery. I learned that my oldest is lovely to go kayaking with. Everyone had time with everyone else in the family. And we had lots of time to read.

An added bonus was seeing fireworks on New Years Eve. In Sydney we have never ventured out for the mayhem on the Harbour. Up the coast we drove for five minutes, parked, waited on grass by the bay for five minutes, watched the spectacular display of fireworks (so 3D), and were back by 9.30pm. How cool is that?

The centre wasn't all booked out with families though. They also hosted a large group of deaf people, who we interacted with. The kids were interested to watch them. What I noticed was how open they were. None were connected to ipods or mobile phones - they were available for communication with the people they were with. I like that.

We're planning to go again next year. They also have holiday camps just for kids and my kids are interested in going on their own sometime, now they know how the whole camp thing operates.

Now back to the rest of our lives. I really have taken a break from thinking about our usual lives. I didn't make a list the whole time we were there. I even read a trashy novel - I won't be doing that in a hurry again...

An easy way to holiday.