Sunday, April 27, 2014

Book your babysitters - Mamapalooza is coming!

 Mamapalooza is on in May. Make your plans now to come along. Support mothers in the creative and performing arts. Support a broader depiction of mothering in our culture, and join the conversation.

 Ask your friends and please circulate among your networks. 

Events include:   

Launch by Tanya Plibersek, ‘Stolen Moments’ an art exhibition depicting and exploring the themes of identity and motherhood, Tuesday 6pm - 6th May, Tap Gallery

Mama Music night featuring Rebecca Moore and Lisa Schouw (Girl Overboard) at the Django Bar in Marrickville, Thursday 8th May 8pm

Mama Comedy Night Hosted by Lou Pollard Friday 9th May 7.30, Tap Gallery

‘Mothers’ – a play about mothers – Friday 8pm 2nd, 9th,  Saturday 2.30pm 3rd & 10th May at the Roxbury Hotel in Glebe and at the Tap Gallery on Mother’s Day, Sunday 5.30 11th May. 

We need all the help we can get to spread the word.   Thanks

For a full program go to see Facebook: Mamapalooza Sydney 2014 or email

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting, by Jennifer Senior

This is the book commissioned after the publication of her New York magazine article a few years ago. If you haven’t been keeping up with all the books published in the last dozen or so years about parenting, reading this will give you the sweep of the important ideas. Senior intersperses interviews with parents with findings from academic studies in a readable way. I’ll cover the main points (so you don’t have to read it).

We no longer know what children are for, which means we no longer know what parenting is. In simpler societies it was about passing down folkways and adding to the family economy. It used to be that children gained satisfaction from helping with farmwork. Now we praise them for their effort in sports. We’re all making it up as we go along.

Since small children think permanently in the present, parenting small children means that the adults in their lives are less able to be in the present. Being with small children provides few opportunities for ‘flow’ and the satisfaction of concentrating on a single task.

Senior mainly reports, but she does contribute this suggestion. To reduce anxiety, rather than look to how French women parent, mothers could look to the fathers in our midst. Mothers tend to multi-task, ie, be relational while doing other things, whereas fathers tend to do one task at a time, which is less stressful.  

Although Senior is looking primarily at middle class parents, it is interesting to note the difference in parenting styles across class. Middle class parents do concerted cultivation. This means they are overinvolved with their children’s lives. We hyperparent because we don’t know what future we are preparing our children for.

Family time is now spent doing homework together rather than eating dinner together. (I must say, this doesn’t happen in our house, but seems to be the way in the US.)

Adolescence is often more taxing on adults than the children. It is confronting for adults to see their children on the brink of adulthood - it means they reassess their own choices.

Our experiencing selves versus our remembering selves. Being with children may not seem fun at the time, but the way we remember being with children grants it significance and meaning.

Wanting our children to be happy is an unrealistic and unmeasurable goal. It places pressure on children. And happiness is a by-product rather than a state in itself.

It is good to be reminded that childhood and parenthood are socially constructed. And that policy lags social change.

In looking at the reasons for having children Senoir turns to parents who have dealt with dying, or the possibility of dying. The answer, she says, is about connection, and that connection in the routine of everyday life. I can relate to that.

It wasn’t an earth-shattering read for me - I’ve already read and discussed these ideas. But if you are a new parent, or considering parenting, or interested in how childhood and parenthood have changed over time, it is a good read.

The way education is going

It’s been interesting to be involved with two high schools introducing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). The program initiated under Kevin Rudd as an enticement for votes, that all public school students are given a laptop in Year 9, has ended. (I’d like to know if all those laptops are now in landfill.) The response from schools is to implement BYOD from year 7. So far, children have been lugging laptops to school and back every day, along with dance gear, sports gear, cooking gear, musical instruments, or whatever else is required for the day’s activities, and barely opening the laptops.

At one school information session a parent asked if the device bought for year 7s will do for their school careers. The answer was ‘no’. They’ll probably need new devices for year 10, but then the students will need to switch to handwriting their notes, so they can be prepared to write their HSC exams by hand. The demonstrations by the teachers were boring and ineffectual. When asked about managing class behaviour a member of the executive said that we can all multitask now. Apparently we can listen and be online at the same time. Other concerns raised by parents were dismissed as family issues that parents just have to manage. I have my reservations about the whole program.

Meanwhile, we hear about children suffering from nature deficit disorder. We probably all could benefit from spending more time outdoors.

I’m currently studying via distance education. There is a world of difference between studying on campus and studying online, so much so that sometimes I think they should be different qualifications. Studying on campus means easy access to lecturers, getting to know them, and them, you. It means talking to peers about what you are learning. It means being able to work together, attending post-grad presentations and being part of academia. Studying online is all about working alone. It means studying in the margins of the rest of your life. You can do a whole course and never speak the words aloud. That’s a much shallower level of processing. It also means that, although in education we are being taught to cater for various learning styles, the value of group work,  and to deliver and assess using a variety of means, in truth we are being taught a very talk and chalk method. We are reading, and sometimes have online lectures to listen to, and we write very proscribed assignments to prove we have read the readings and understand the main points of the course. It isn’t a method that allows for an animated discussion nor much in depth assimilation of information.

It appears the whole idea of education, and the regulations around both schooling and higher education are about the change.

I’m finding it a bit demoralising to be studying education when the next trend is to run schools as businesses. Even though we are implementing the new national curriculum, the government is talking about changes to the curriculum. It is likely that in the coming federal budget the changes to tertiary education will include funding for private providers to allow more competition, increasing student fees, stopping government support for post-grad degrees, and encouragement for Australian universities to offer online courses to the Asian market. It is thought by some that by retaining HECS we will avoid the access and equity problems of the US style university system. Time will tell.

If studying online is the way of the future, perhaps high school students really do need to bring their own devices, despite educational theory. It is yet to be seen how online learning prepares students to work in real workplaces.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


I’ve been tired for about eighteen months now.

I read an article about Arianna Huffington and her collapse from overwork. She talked about how a lot of people are sleep deprived. Although I’m not sleep deprived, I think chronic tiredness has the same effect.

‘Even traits that we associate with our core personality and values are affected by too little sleep. According to a study from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, sleep deprivation reduces our emotional intelligence, self-regard, assertiveness, sense of independence, empathy toward others, the quality of our interpersonal relationships, positive thinking, and impulse control.’
Arianna Huffington

Yep. I relate to that.

Being chronically tired is depressing. You just don’t bother doing what you would normally do if you had the energy. Things like dressing well or disciplining children, or baking treats or visiting friends.

Just when I’m worried that I’m not going to improve, and that my life will be based on lying down for naps, and dragging myself around to get things done,  I’ve had a few little glimpses of feeling better. When it happens, I notice. I’m expecting the tiredness to lift, like when morning sickness goes away. I’ve had a little taste of that.

But then I got a cold. Now I’m back to feeling rubbish and looking for spaces to lie down. I didn’t complain much about having leukaemia, but I’m complaining about having a cold.

I’d been thinking that, when the mist rises, I can just forget all about being sick because I’ll feel normal. Then I read a report on stem cell transplants written by members  of my medical team. No such luck. Soon I’ll be having lots of medical tests - bone density, skin cancer, heart, lungs, liver. I’ll eventually get cataracts. I’m higher risk for secondary cancers, especially skin cancer. I realised how many bullets I’ve dodged already. There was a lot that could have gone wrong that I avoided.  I’ll be taking my leukaemia medication for the rest of my life, ignoring my bone pain, and wondering if it is waking me up when I’m asleep. But when I feel better, I’ll be able to think less about myself, which will be healthy.

I’m glad the weather is changing. I’m ready for a new season. I feel like it’s been summer forever.