Sunday, August 31, 2008

A fabulous weekend, and a disastrous one

Many months ago we planned a weekend away. A real weekend away, where Grandma looks after the kids and we bugger off completely. We have been members of Petersons winery for years, and for the first time we could actually make one of their dinners in the Hunter. We planned to get all the kids off to Day Care and school, and then head up on Friday. Mum and David were to be looking after the kids, picking them all up from their respective carers (Ben goes to after care on Fridays).

Thursday night I had a pleasant pub dinner with Cate, and got myself into bed about 11ish. I had trouble getting to sleep for some reason, which meant that I was mostly awake when Elissa started screaming at midnight. She had thrown up, and refused to go back to sleep until 3:30am. I was seriously contemplating a very expensive weekend NOT away. She seemed ok when she woke up, so we bundled them all off and hoped for the best. We spent a couple of hours cleaning the house to the point that other people could look after our kids in it and managed to get ourselves in the car before midday. We needed to go to the swimming pool to sort out lesson enrollments on the way, and Crash got a migraine en route. So after my 3 hours' sleep, I had to drive up.

We got up to the Hunter and sorted ourselves a dinner venue with Robbie, Megan and Griffin. The food was fantastic, I can thoroughly recommend the Leaves and Fishes restaurant in Lovedale.

Saturday morning I spoke to my mother to discover that Charlie had thrown up at 3am. And she had been looking after all of them on her own.

We tasted some great wine, found a new winery that we liked, bought oils, wine and chocolate and came home for a nanna nap. Awesome. Then we headed out for the dinner, which was fun, but probably not one of the best I have been to. Still a good night, and I am glad we went.

Today I rang Mum to discover that Charlie had thrown up AGAIN at midnight. At least this time she had David to help. Kids really know how to turn it on. Oh yeah, and Nerida had looked after them during the day Saturday, and when she left Charlie dropped his bundle and refused to speak to anyone or cooperate with anything all night. Endearing.

So we had a great weekend, which is probably a good thing, since it might be a Very Long Time Indeed before we get to do anything like it again....

So we had a great weekend

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A note to anyone organising a business competition

If you are organising some form of business competition:

Try to get the location right.

Try to get the timetable right - busy people don't need to be surprised by something running an hour and a half longer than they anticipated.

Try to get the rules of the competition right.

Try to get the available facilities right - do the competitors need to supply their own PC or don't they?

If you are going to lock the competitors in a room for hours on end, at least warn them to bring some water.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the efforts of the people who gave their time, and I am sure that none of this was intentional, but I hope they get some of this stuff sorted for next year, for the sake of next year's entrants.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Morning tea

Me: What would you like for morning tea, would you like a cup of tea?

Charlie: No, I don't want a cup of tea.

Crash: Would you like some strawberries?

Charlie: Yeah, I'd like some strawberries and a brownie.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I miss Nerida

Not just for all the obvious reasons, like the difference between having a 5 day a week nanny and 3 days of care in which all kids and everything they could possibly need for the next 9 hours are bundled into a car to the strains of "I don't wanna go to Nessa's house", or the good stuff of having a sister around to distract you from real work. I miss her being here on Wednesday afternoons so that we can bully each other into going to the gym.

It is all good and well for me to decide that I am happy at the weight I am, and go out and buy myself some clothes. However, even if I don't need to lose weight (and one day I might actually believe that), watching my body steadily convert what muscle it owned to fat is just not good. All Nerida and I managed was a very flakey once a week Pump class, but it seemed to be enough to maintain something resembling muscle tone, keep my back from giving me grief and otherwise work for me. Without someone to go with, I have gone precisely 0 times. I also haven't bought hand weights and devised my own routine, although I looked at them in K Mart once...

Reading fat acceptance stuff has left me with the impression that trying to make myself do stuff I really don't want to do is ultimately counter productive. Unfortunately it hasn't given me much insight into future perfect wants - things I want to have done. Perhaps I need to set the alarm and get up very early, so that by the time I actually wake up, I will have done. Maybe I should try to get into some belly dancing somewhere, because I really love that, although I find one class a week of that is not enough to change muscle mass.

And then there is the kid guilt. I go out a bit in the evenings, to miss another bedtime routinely isn't fair to them. They would miss me less in the mornings, Crash does the majority of them anyway. Maybe I have my answer. I just don't like it. I am not a morning person. I could really use a second Friday.

The Herd

This week has been... gaaaaa,

But Friday week ago, I went to see The Herd at The Metro. A local Sydney band playing in one of Sydney's best venues. Added to the fact that it is virtually impossible not to enjoy a band with 8 people on stage, it was bound to be a good night. I saw a bit of their set at the 07 Big Day Out, and I really enjoyed it. I had some high hopes.

I should be point out that my knowledge of the "Not Rock" genre is virtually non-existent. I have been developing a taste for Australian hip hop recently - it doesn't tend to be about how awesomely awesome they are. Rather, it is self deprecating humour, other-deprecating humour, or, like The Herd, political. In my new found appreciation for this other world, I have learned almost none of the jargon, or taxonomy. So if I sound like I don't know my house from my trance from my urban, it's because I don't. But to quote the cliche, I know what I like.

I loved The Herd's version of "I Was Only 19". "Unpredictable" was a lot of fun. But "The King is Dead" won me forever. What a way to capture a moment in history.

The gig itself. Well, I am an old person. I was expecting to be the oldest person there, but actually it was a really varied crowd. So I may not have been the only one thinking that 11pm is too late to start the gig, despite knowing that it was a pretty early kick off for a hip hop headliner. Despite this, I loved the show. They have a ball on stage, play a huge range of instruments, with DJ providing beats and support, rather than the bulk of the music. Jane Tyrrell has a great voice. I loved it. And "The King is Dead" re-created the party atmosphere of November 07. I particularly appreciated this, since I didn't get to partake at the real thing, Elissa being two weeks old and all. Absolutely recommended. Go see them, you can't fail to have a great time.

Note for the unwary (or forgetful like myself): The Metro airconditions appropriately to the weather. If it is cold outside, they keep it cold enough inside to wear your hoodie. This is exactly as it should be, but generally not how it is. Therefore I dressed for your average hothouse, and then froze my proverbials off all night. This has happened to me there before. I am blogging this so that I might manage to remember next time.

And finally, a note to the guy in the white [some surf label] hoodie who spoke to use half a dozen times: Not everything checked is a flanno. And I don't really care how many pairs of jeans you own, or whether your girlfriend can testify to the number of flannos you own. But I hope you had a good night out afterwards. We were too old and went home.

More about poo

Overheard this afternoon when Ben was playing with friends:

You know that bit when Boo goes to the toilet? I know she's doing a wee and not a poo, because it's a DVD and there are no poos in DVDs.

He's probably seen less than a dozen movies in his life (a bit shy of novelty).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The life of a contractor

Today, I had a client who was really ticked off at me. He said "You are making a design that works!". I love my job.

Monday, August 18, 2008

There has to be a better way

On days like today, I want to pack up and move to somewhere cheap, finish my degree, tack a dip ed on the end and get myself a job as a teacher. Crash can make clocks. And I won't have to have days like today.

I woke up at 4am with tonsillitis. The throat was the least of it, every joint in my body is killing me. And I knew I had to work all day today, regardless of how I felt. It was stressful work, and it was interspersed with even more stressful work. I took Ben to gymnastics because it meant a break - well, except for the phone calls.

And tomorrow I have a lot more work to do, and I probably won't be able to take Elissa to day care because of the conjunctivitis. We are probably going to have to play pass the baby parcel as we both have work to do in the city.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Nearly free stuff in Sydney

As a person who always panics that no-one will turn up to her party, I couldn't turn down this request from Penni at eglantine's cake. And I think it is pretty cool, someone just needs to collate the answers.

Here are the rules (because it wouldn't be a meme without rules):
1. List (at least) five things to do for free in your city or town, not just well publicised touristy things, but things YOU might do too!
2. Write it with a visitor in mind.
3. Tag three people* - extra fun if they live somewhere you'd like to know better or you're going to sometime soon.
4. If you're anonymous/coy about where you live, choose another town or city that you know.

So here's my list for Sydney.

1. The Bondi Beach walk. You can walk south from Bondi Beach along a very well marked path which is pram plausible (a few short sets of stairs). You can go all the way to Maroubra or you can pike out anywhere along the way. It is really spectacular, and there are cafes at each beach. We quite like to have brekky in Bondi first. I am a sucker for cliffs, so I love this. There are buses that run up and down the beach suburbs to get you back when you are done.

2. Get yourself to Balmain, either by bus or ferry. You can just walk around the shopping area, window shopping. There is good ice cream and great coffee. When you get bored of looking at amazing but massively overpriced antiques and cool clothes, you can wander around the back streets looking at the cool houses and head towards the harbour to get back to the ferry or grab a return bus. This is a great way to spend an afternoon, especially if you pick a day with markets, but I would recommend it as sans kid day.

3. One of my favourite "For God's sake get the kids out of the house!" excursions is to get the train to Circular Quay and then a ferry to Darling Harbour. The ferries are not real frequent, so a wander around west Circular Quay is often in order. There are always street performers around this area, which seems to amuse the kids. From the ferry stop at Darling Harbour you can wander right through the precinct up to China Town. On the way there is Lindt Cafe (with the best hot chocolate I have had recently) and a kids' playground. The playground is ok, but definitely better for the older kids - say 4yrs and up. Further around there is an area where kids can play in a little water park, with water guns and stuff. There are several opportunities for kids to get wet, so be warned. As you go under the last of the flyovers towards China Town there is a curtain water fountain that kids love. Lots of food options in China Town and then back to Central Station and home.

4. This is a summer one - walk across the Harbour Bridge to North Sydney Pool. I know the Bridge is very touristy, but I love walking across it, and when I worked in the city I used to do it at lunch time quite often. I get a buzz every time I look at the Harbour, and this is a great way to do it. When you get to Milson's Point, head down to North Sydney Pool, basically under the Bridge on the western side. It is a beautiful pool, and although it isn't technically free, it is about the same price as a ferry ticket, so I thought I could sneak it in.

5. The Rocks area on a weekend has markets which are fun to browse. It is a cool place to explore, with stair cases and little alleys and an abundance of cool pubs. My favourite pubs are off George St. The Lord Nelson holds some "oldest" title, but has fantastic beer which it brews on site and a great atmosphere. It is west of the Rocks proper, but worth the walk. Ask a punter if you can't find it. The Glenmore is up near the Bridge, on the east side. It has a fantastic deck on the roof and is otherwise an old man's pub. I love it. Just up the road from the Glenmore is the Australian, which has great beer brewed in Picton (SW of Sydney) and awesome gourmet pizza.

I really wanted to put a beach in here, but all the ones I like to go to can't easily be done by public transport.

I don't tend to tag, but I'd love to hear Ingrid's answers for her town. And I think this is a fairly constructive one, so if you feel inspired, go ahead. And let Penni know, you might live where she's going!

Toilet humour

Yesterday was an exciting day - Charlie did a poo in the toilet. This gargantuan feat has yet to be repeated, but he did seem to be more co-operative and happier all day after it. I started toilet training Charlie in April. This is the very fist time he has managed this, a mere 4 months later. And there are still dirty nappies after sleeps. *sigh* I think toilet training should be a software upgrade.

For some reason this feels about right


Created by OnePlusYou - Online Dating

Thanks to Hoyden About Town for this.

When Google doctor goes bad

I am a big fan of Google doctor, I have diagnosed myself on several occasions. I'm not completely stupid, I go to a real doctor to confirm my diagnosis, nevertheless there is something immensely satisfying about working it out first.

Yesterday Elissa got conjunctivitis (just when I thought we had run out of diseases), and she was also throwing up a little, and seemed slightly feverish. I figured I would just check there wasn't some illness that actually had all these symptoms that I was unaware of. Trust me, this seemed much less ridiculous when I was looking it up than it does retelling it.

So I googled "conjunctivitis vomiting fever" and I got a link that was titled "Are vomiting and diarrhea ever associated with conjunctivitis?", with the subtext "She also seems to have a low-grade fever". "Aha!", I thought. So I followed the link to this Yahoo answers page. I hadn't noticed it was Yahoo answers, or I might not have followed the link with any hope of anything useful. This, offered as the best answer, is definitely one of the Best of the Web.
It has nothing to do with the pink eye. But she could have given pink eye to herself from touching her eye after touching or blowing her nose. Pink eye is caused by the same germs that cause colds and is easily given to your self if you don't wash your hands often. Sounds like she has a stomach bug or something
So the conjunctivitis has nothing to do with the stomach bug, it is just caused by the same thing. Great, that has cleared it right up.

Looks like we'll have to go to a real doctor after all. I need it gone by Tuesday as we both need to be in the city which means she has to be fit for childcare....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Balance in all things

In answering Aztec-rose's questions about work-life balance, I started on a rant about needing a life apart from kids and work. I think this is an underrated concern.

In the workplace, a culture of obsession is developing. Great professionals are held up as role models, people who are described as "having dedicated their lives" to their jobs. Great success stories involve years of working 90 hour weeks. The problem with this is that it is not what everyone should be aspiring to. Now everyone is required to go the extra mile. For me, the pin-up boy of this view is Einstein. He is held up as an academic hero, and there is no doubt that he was genius. He was also a disaster personally. The world needs the odd Einstein, it does not need an entire generation raised as "Little Einsteins". In fact, his obsession even affected his own work. If a driven, obsessed man can be negatively impacted professionally by a lack of balance and distance, I can only assume it has a greater affect on your average punter.

When I first started working in the corporate world, our workplace had an informal policy of mental health days. People were encouraged not to take sickies, to truly only take sick leave when it was needed. In return, if you just really needed a day off, you could take it as a sick day as long as you let the boss know, so that appropriate staffing could be maintained. I thought it was a bit of a rort when I first worked there (which I was more than happy to make the most of), but when it disappeared in an ocean of NYK head office policy, I realised how productive it had been. People who have the opportunity to de-stress when they need it are much better employees. They handle work stress better, they handle irate customers better, and they are less likely to do a bunk when chaos strikes and you really need all hands on deck. In addition to that, people who have a life outside of work are better at keeping an appropriate perspective. For most of us, no matter how bad the disaster, people won't die, empires won't fall. No doubt everyone has worked with someone who seems committed to the belief that this is the gravity of problems at work. In general, this doesn't make for better handling of the problem.

So you need time off from work for your family. After all, poor bonding with your baby will cause emotional problems for life. 95% of juvenile offenders have emotionally or physically absent fathers. The behaviour of your toddler is the best predictor of their behaviour as a teenager. Best not leave them for a moment, you may regret it for the rest of your life. I take the piss, but I understand why these studies, and the headlines they create, exist. If we don't provide some hard evidence that kids need their parents, caring for them will never be valued. This is a war for the social value of productive adults' time, and no weapon can be spared.

The problem is that this is the order in which most people encounter the battle at the moment. They are already living the obsessive corporate life, then they have kids and have all these statistics thrown at them. It is a major struggle to maintain a career and anything resembling the kind of parenting they want. All the studies designed to legitimise parenting as a use of time just become a source of guilt. Added to the guilt about leaving work on time. Taking regular time out to do something with no corporate or parenting value is largely unthinkable.

For those who stay at home (for whatever reasons), the guilt turns into something along the lines of "if you aren't doing real work, you'd better raise perfect kids". Martyrdom to children is becoming legitimised. We hear that someone "devoted their life to their kids". We are supposed to protect them from bad influences, be there for them always, give them every opportunity.

In contrast, hanging out with friends, adult dinners, even a solitary coffee are described as indulgences and luxuries. Leaving work on time to look after kids might just barely be tolerated, but leaving to go surfing or to the pub with mates (not clients) is definitely poor form. Letting your social life in any way impact on your kids is also a no-no.

The problem here is that as well as having an impact on work performance, a lack of a life can have a negative impact on kids. At worst, parents smother their kids. They don't teach them independence, don't let them learn to critically assess the world. Maybe even end up in all the problems that living vicariously through your kids can cause. At best, it just doesn't teach kids how to live an enjoyable life. It creates an expectation that adults live their lives for work and kids. I suspect it also delays the point where kids realise their parents are real people with faults and quirks. Kids are the centre of the universe, seeing their parents doing stuff for their own edification, with no connection to the kids, helps realign the universe for them. I am not suggesting that this realignment won't happen without parents with lives, just that it is worth considering all the consequences of your self-indulgent behaviour, not just the guilt producing ones.

I would love to see some studies on the long term outcomes, both professional and parental, in people who maintain balance in every aspect of their lives, not just the ones society judges as valuable. I want to see a headline that says "Parents without playtime raise delinquent kids". Lets see some alarmist nonsense in favour of down time for everyone. I really think everyone benefits.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Him on work life balance

Since this doesn't really belong on his blog, I put it here. And besides, it was me who was interested in how his answers compared with mine.

1. What are your main work, life, family balance issues?

Balancing up earning money (I feel guilty when I am not earning money) with the need to spend time with the kids.

2. Why is work life family balance such a difficult issue to resolve?

Because I don't feel successful when I am leaning towards the family direction.

3. Have work life balance issues affected your fertility decisions?


4. Why do women, and mothers still take on the bulk of domestic unpaid work, despite juggle jobs and children?

Probably because women are more responsible parents, and that's because men aren't.

5. Why do married women do more housework than women in de facto relationships?

I don't know whether that's true, let alone why.

6. Does part-time work give fathers greater flexiblity and balance?

Yeah. I can actually walk the kids to school, and I am trying to learn not to feel guilty if I am spending time with the kids.

7. Does part-time work free fathers up to do more unpaid work?

It does give me more time to do more, and I feel more obligated.

8. Is part-time work for both co-habiting couples with children a way to more equally share child care and domestic work?

Yes. We each spend much the same amount of time looking after the kids.

9. Do fathers feel they can take up family-friendly options at work?

No, not when I was at work. In fact the company didn't like letting the women do it, but they tolerated it more for women than men.

10. Do fathers still feel the pressure to be primary breadwinners?

Yes, guilt still weighs heavily on me if I'm not.

11. Are dad’s getting their preferred amount of time with their children?

Generally not, but I am.

12. Do we value caring work enough?

No, obviously not. I don't think my thoughts on that have changed in the last 20 years.

More achievements

Last Sunday I mentioned that Elissa was about a week from crawling. Turns out I was spot on. She mastered the task this afternoon, and here is the proof positive.

Despite the weather, she is sans pants. You just can't learn to crawl on floorboards whilst wearing pants. And just don't mention the black stuff on the bib, I still don't understand where it comes from, except that it appears in the washing machine, and drives me batty.

Now if only I could predict stuff that was profitable...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Boy meme

For some reason this one (courtesy of Mim) grabbed my interest...

1. What is his name?
Crash. OK, he has another name, but we used Crash for most of the wedding ceremony, so it'll do.

2. Who eats more?
Depends largely on what we're eating.

3. Who said, “I love you” first?
I have no idea.

4. Who is taller?

5. Who drives most when you are out together?
About even I suspect. I drive more in traffic.

6. Who is more sensitive?
About what?

7. Who does the laundry?
Both of us, but he does seem to be allergic to putting it away. :)

8. Who sleeps on the right side of the bed?
Me, if we're measuring by when we are lying in bed.

9. Who pays the bills?
Me. Crash is paperwork challenged.

10. Who cooks more?
It'd be about even, recently he has been cooking a bit more. Depends on circumstance.

11. Who is more stubborn?
I tend to define myself as stubborn, so I guess that's me.

12. Who is the first to admit they are wrong?
The person who stops being angry first. Or the person who was actually wrong if it was only one of us.

13. Who has more siblings?
Both have one.

14. Who wears the pants in the relationship?
What century are we living in?

15. What do you like to do together?
Quite a bit. Eating, drinking, talking, sleeping. Not too much left is there?

16. Who eats more sweets?
He doesn't have much of a sweet tooth.

17. Guilty Pleasures?
Isn't that an oxymoron?

18. How did you meet?
At work.

19. Who asked whom out first?
It didn't really work like that. We spent a large amount of time in the same pub.

20. Who kissed who first?
Doesn't that take two people?

21. Who proposed?
We went to dinner for his birthday, and I decided to tell him that I wanted kids, thinking it could be a deal breaker. I was surprised to discover he was keen on the kids thing, and the conversation wandered to marriage. I kind of mused that I thought I would probably want to get married if we had kids, and he said, "OK, let's get married." The actual action took place in the same order as the conversation, kid first, wedding second.

22. His best features and qualities?
He's incredibly generous, passionate and caring. And he clears the table and sets off the dishwasher during dinner parties.

So if it grabs your interest too, go ahead. :)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Ben on Marriage Vol II

My conversation with Ben on Tuesday got itself a post script last night during dinner:

Ben: Are boys allowed to marry boys in Australia

Me: Not legally, but lots of boys live together like they are married.

(Sidetrack into what "legally" means)

Me: Actually, they can get married in Canberra (more subtleties ignored).

Ben: Oh, we want to go to Canberra!

Me: (Thinking this has something to do with the current school unit on Australia - he has learned the capital this week) Why do we want to go to Canberra?

Ben: (Very passionately) Me and [bestie] want to go to Canberra so we can get married!

Me: (stifling hysterical laughter) You're not going to get married until you get bigger, and odds are you will probably want to marry a girl when you get bigger. Most boys do, although some do want to marry boys.

Ben: (incredulous) Why would I want to do that?

Me: Because as you get bigger, your body changes, and most of the time boys start to like girls and girls start to like boys.

Ben: (Skeptical) Ooooohhhh.

Me: Anyway, you and [bestie] don't have to get married. You can stay best friends forever and maybe marry other people.

Ben: Really?

Apparently much the same conversation has taken place in houses all over the area. Homosexual marriage is quite the rage at my son's school. Although Ben was told in no uncertain terms by one of the girls that it isn't allowed. This took place in a scripture class, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Crisis of conscience

On Friday afternoon, Crash rescued a staffy (or staffy X) from outside our house. She was terrified and shaking, possibly having just had a close encounter with a car. He put her in the font yard and hoped that someone would come looking for her. This has happened before, but with a different dog. By nightfall, it was clear that no-one was going to find her that night, so he made her a bed on the front verandah, fed her and resolved to take her to a vet to get her microchip read the next day.

Saturday is swimming day, so by the time we had dealt with that and all the other little dramas, it was after lunch and the dog was still out the front. Our vet and any other close vet was closed for the day, but I found one in Five Dock that was open. So I loaded her into the car, listened to her cry piteously all the way there and took her in to have her microchip read. Only she didn't have one. So that means she was surrendered to the vet, and ultimately to Canada Bay Council.

She was a lovely dog, and if anyone is looking for her, they probably won't find her at Canada Bay, since we are between two other councils. I want to ring and find out if she has found her owners, but I don't know what to do if she hasn't. She seems like a beautiful dog, probably around the 5 years old mark. But I don't actually know her, and we have a nine month old baby. I literally have, potentially, two lives on the line. Obviously, all else being equal, I choose the baby over the dog, but that choice is based on a possibility of a problem, not the existence of one. I just don't know what to do. So I have not rung to find out. A wonderful ostrich approach to the whole situation. The fact that she doesn't have a microchip makes it all the worse. Arggggg.....

And in case you are wondering why I am so prolific today, that disease that Ben had on Sunday has moved on to me, Crash and Elissa (in that order), so I am cowering on the lounge reading and posting in small bursts. I am looking forward to all the kids coming home in about 10 minutes...

Cold War Kids

Last night I saw the Cold War Kids at The Enmore. They had Delta Spirit as a support act.

Delta Spirit started well. It was interesting enough, with the first song played in 3/4 time, and really interesting percussion. But then they just kept playing. And it got less and less interesting. At the point that they told us we were the best audience they'd had in Australia, you could barely hear them over the chit chat. And then they played another 5 songs! They played for an hour. Way too long.

So finally CWK came on about 10:10pm. I really love the music, and I was pleasantly surprised by his voice live, as I had seen live footage that didn't do him much justice. It was a fun show, and they clearly enjoy their music.

Now come the buts. They played in the dark. They were lit only from behind and above, and the latter only rarely. If I bother to go see a band, I like to actually see them. Maybe I'm just old fashioned.

Then they played Hospital Beds. This was disappointing in two respects - for one, it wasn't 11pm yet, and that was clearly a next to last song. And secondly, he really can't sing that live. They came back and played two songs after, but it was only just after 11pm when they finished. Compared with Angus and Julia Stone at $35, the $62 this one cost did not look like good value. I like their music, but I won't be heading out to see them live again.

Ben on marriage

Ben: I probably won't be able to marry Elissa, because she's a baby.

Me: She won't always be a baby, but you can't marry your sister anyway.

Ben: (Incredulous) Why can't I marry my sister?

Me: (Thinking very fast, babbling incoherently and then settling on) Because if brothers and sisters have babies, the babies can be sick. (There was some talk about getting some stuff from both parents and having similar stuff yada yada, but without any concept of recessive genes, it wasn't exactly intelligible)

Ben: But I couldn't marry a school kid

Me: Yes, you could, when you are older

Ben: But I couldn't marry my favourite

(some failed guesses)

Me: Oh, you mean [insert bestie's (male) name]? Well, yes, you could if you wanted. (Ignoring the subtleties of legal marriage not being an option)

Ben: But he's not a girl!

Me: Sometimes boys marry other boys.

Ben: But how could they have babies?

Me: Well they can't.(Ignoring lots of other subtleties that are probably a bit much for a 5yr old)

Ben: It would be really funny if two girls got married.

Me: That happens too.

Ben: WHAT???? But what if they both had babies at the same time?

Me: Well you need a boy and a girl to make a baby, so they would need help from a boy. But mostly what would happen is chaos. Two babies to look after!

Ben: But what about twins?

Me: Yes, twins are chaos too.

Ben: Why can't we have twins?

Me: Because they happen by accident, you can't just choose them, because I don't really want them, and because we aren't having any more babies!

Well, that covered some ground in 5 minutes. :)

Juggling work and family

Aztec-rose has asked a bunch of questions about how people juggle work and family, so I thought I'd answer them here.

1. What are your main work, life, family balance issues?

Hubby and I work for ourselves, and we don't really work full time, so it is hard to justify (or pay for) full time care. Unfortunately, we don't work to any particular timetable either, so we regularly end up look after kids and working, and that isn't much fun for anyone. Except maybe the baby, who doesn't care much either way.

2. Why is work life family balance such a difficult issue to resolve?

I think because largely we don't know what we want. We know we want cash. We know we want happy kids. Exactly what goes on to achieve those ends is a bit of a mystery. We are told that work is adult and fulfilling and part of our obligation to society. We are also told that kids need to bond and need time with their parents. Pretty much any choice you make is wrong somewhere.

3. Have work life balance issues affected your fertility decisions?


4. Why do women, and mothers still take on the bulk of domestic unpaid work, despite juggle jobs and children?

Because the previous generation did, so we are better at it, and we are terrified that the world will come to an end if the kid forgets their library bag. And lots of other related things. Men still earn more, so it makes financial sense that women take the time off. It's catch 22, and unless we are prepared to make mistakes and leap into the unknown, the next generation will do the same. Mamas don't let your sons grow up to be breadwinners.

5. Why do married women do more housework than women in de facto relationships?

Because married women include the more conservative end of the female spectrum? If you control for general views on feminism, is that still true?

6. Does part-time work give mothers greater flexiblity and balance?

In my case it does. It means I can be involved in the school to the level I choose (somewhat less than the school encourages!), I can move stuff around to accommodate important events. But then I have much greater control over my hours than the average part time employee. And still not enough, since I do have to oblige those pesky customers.

7. Does part-time work free mothers up to do more unpaid work?

Yes. Someone has to do it. Having time to get the unpaid work done can lead to sanity. The real question is does part-time work free fathers up to do more unpaid work? And in our family, the answer is yes, although it has been a slightly rocky road, between his blindness to housework and my control freakery. But we are moving in the right direction.

8. Is part-time work for both co-habiting couples with children a way to more equally share child care and domestic work?

Seems to be. Although sexism in the work place makes this a much more difficult option for men. Also, as a company owner and former manager, I don't know exactly how you handle part time management jobs. There has to be an answer, but until there is a good one, it sets one hell of a ceiling on the careers of part time workers.

9. Do fathers feel they can take up family-friendly options at work?

Not in general. Mostly they have to go elsewhere, although I think "family friendly" is becoming a bit like "green". Companies want to be it. They don't really want to have to change much or spend anything, but if marketplace pressure keeps up, they may have to. More power to the companies that use it as an advertising gimmick. As long as it is backed up at least a little, it creates a market in family friendliness, and that seems to be the only thing that the corporate world recognises.

10. Do fathers still feel the pressure to be primary breadwinners?

My other half does. Definitely. In fact, I think it is still a part of the self definition of many men. See my answer to #4.

11. Are dad’s getting their preferred amount of time with their children?

How long is a piece of string? I think they have even less options. I think that social conditioning makes it even harder for them to know what their preferred amount of time is. And the fact that they are pretty much told incessantly (often by their own partners, something of which I am guilty) that they aren't as good at raising kids as mums makes it even more complicated.

12. Do we value caring work enough?

No, not across the board. Not for kids, or others who need care. We are suspicious of people wanting financial support for it. I don't know what we do about it without making everything just more expensive. Maybe we should go back to only counting one income for mortgage applications (although not requiring that it be the man's!). That was largely what created the requirement for such a greater proportion of the population to work and made caring such a massive issue.

13. What’s the meaning of life? (just kidding) that’s probably enough for now…

42, obviously.

I just have one thing to add. It seems to me that somewhere in this debate, people's lives became looking after children and working. Good mothers (or fathers) dedicate their lives to raising their children. Good employees dedicate their lives to their jobs. Well balanced people juggle the two. Having a life that doesn't involve kids or work doesn't rate a mention, and I think it has serious long term consequences for work and kids. Perhaps that is a subject for another post.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Day That Was

It was a quintessentially family day. Ben threw up in prodigious style, encompassing stairs and walls. Thanks to Toni for passing on the tummy bug. Because clearly Ben caught it from her email, and not from the other kids at school that have been telling me all about their hurling exploits.

Elissa learned to pull herself up to sitting, so I had to move the cot mattress down. I came in to get her up from her morning sleep to find her sitting with her head gently knocking against the mobile animals. She is also probably a week from real crawling, but today she truly mastered her soldier crawl, and she is getting about with much greater speed. Gates for the stairs loom large in our future.

Charlie and Ben played together, it was lovely. Charlie laid down on the floor and played with Elissa. It was gratifying. And now I am hoping that the croup Elissa had last night doesn't return tonight, so that I can have a night that is a little less family-centric.


A few days ago blue milk wrote about Disney Princesses, and talked about how she is trying to balance up her intense dislike for them with the need to avoid turning them into forbidden fruit. I made a (rather flippant) remark about planning on mocking such things mercilessly, rather than banning them.

Mom and blue milk made some rather more well thought out remarks about my plan. They weren't telling me anything I didn't know, but I hadn't given any intimation of that in my comment. And so I responded along the lines of "I'm a bit selective about what I mock". I absolutely agree that constantly mocking girly things simply relegates feminine things to a status less than manly man things. Since my eldest two are boys, I've actually spent a lot of time talking up girly things. Pointing out that there is nothing wrong with boys liking pink and dressing up as ballerinas. I mock thoughtless stereotypes. I have no problem with deliberate use of stereotypes, they can be very funny. The critical part with raising kids is making sure they hear an appropriate commentary on these things.

I like pretty dresses (although I can leave the meringues to themselves - I watched Enchanted last night, and that dress was hideous), I even like the odd shade of pink. I think in general, boys are far more constrained than girls. It is much easier to let girls play with trucks than to let boys play with princess dresses. Of course, that is because girls are allowed to aspire to the superior world of men, but boys can't condescend to be feminine. Oddly enough, this has the effect of constraining boys way more than girls. So that's the main thing I have been fighting. Ben's favourite colour is pink, and I have encouraged him not to let other kids tell him that it shouldn't be. For Christmas last year I bought him a ballerina costume with fairy wings and a tiara. I wussed out and gave it to Elissa (at 7 weeks of age), which shows that I haven't quite got past all the bias. But I bought it for Ben, and I mentioned in my comment on blue milk's post that he still dresses up in it sometimes. This is where the serendipity comes in. This morning I went in to Ben's room to find the boys playing dress ups, and this is what Ben was wearing.

Note the fairy wings, sword slung on his back and gun in his pocket. He also has the "one ring" around his neck, just in case. I think the tiara really sets it off. He told me he was dressing up as a good person who can fly and who can get the bad guys and is beautiful. I took this photo and the last thing I heard him say as I went back down stairs was "I'm going to kill you."

Whether or not I want to promote guns and killing bad guys, I think I am making some progress on messing with gender stereotypes... :)