Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

On the 86 tram in Northcote, I remember I used to live just near here. A few streets away in a little semi-detached unit with a friend. That supermarket was my supermarket. I worked on a theatre show right nearby. Used to go for drinks with friends at that pub. One time this whole street was closed for a festival and people wandered across the tram tracks, now where the cars are, and I was buffeted by the crowd and saw a friend, or a friend of a friend, some guy I used to play cards with.

Going farther back, I used to take the 86 tram to work. I lived a few suburbs back in a tiny one bedroom flat that I loved to pieces. In the hot weather I would sleep all day and stay up all night, chain smoking and writing and feeling so grown up (all of nineteen years old) and so cynical, like life had already rolled me over and pushed me aside. I was so very, very young then.

Now I take the 86 tram with my mother, toddler and infant son. The toddler has never been on a tram before and it’s a special treat, rather than the way I get places. How long since I have been in Northcote? How many years since that was my supermarket? In a way this is my life all the time now – walking streets and places I used to know, remembering how my life used to be and realising how quickly it changes. How different I feel now.

You don’t know how good you had it, I want to say to nineteen year old me, who stays up all night writing.

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I think (hope) I am getting the hang of this parenting-two-children thing which, frankly, has terrified me. As my partner does shift work that consists mostly of evenings, I’ve been doing the bedtime thing on my own. There have been A LOT of tantrums from the toddler, as I don’t have the same endless time and patience for him, but at least he’s been fed and in bed by some reasonable hour each night.

As I type, the toddler is in bed for his nap, right on schedule, and the bubba is asleep in his swing chair. He’s been sleeping a lot in this during the day – it does a lot of the work for me by rocking him to sleep so I can do things like put the toddler down. And so now I have an hour or two of free time. I have no idea what to do!

Afternoon nap!

I feel like I should be attempting something productive (not that a blog post isn’t productive!) but the endless rounds of laundry and dishes do get tiring. With this opportunity for time to myself I should be sewing or cooking or crafting! But I’m paranoid I’ll start something and get interrupted in the middle.


What do you do when you get a few minutes of quiet? Chores that have to be done or something just for yourself?

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Stay at home parents like me spend a lot of time doing things that are observed and judged by other people. I take my toddler and baby with me when I go shopping, the groceries I choose are visible in the basket or cart; the way I speak to my children and react and interact with them can be viewed and listened to when I’m out in public. Who they are, how they act and what they wear can be taken as a direct reflection of me – I’m the one they will spend the most time with at least until they start attending school. I choose their clothes, organise their haircuts, feed them and wipe their faces after. It’s with me that they will do a lot of their learning – my voice and words and behaviour they emulate. 

Being their mother is my job right now. Someone has to do it, and I want to, don’t get me wrong, but its a job. Unlike every other job, however, there’s no clear reimbursement for services rendered, no start and finish time, no set goals and achievable outcomes. But everybody, and I do mean everybody, thinks they get input into how I do my job. Everybody is my boss.

I found I got really defensive a few days ago when my partner innocently requested that I do something (to do with our grocery shopping) differently than I’ve been doing it. I got angry, because this is a task that I do 90% of the time and it makes sense for me to do. I have the time, the inclination, I know what needs to be bought and what foods the toddler is happy with fit now. Generally I have a fairly accurate idea of the contents of our fridge and pantry as I do a lot of the cooking too. 

A perceived criticism in the way I did this really got to me because its part of my job. I already feel ongoing Mama Guilt over the toddler not eating enough vegetables, or too much sugar, and that I don’t cook enough, or cook enough variety, and we don’t eat organically, and I buy snacks often without paying too much attention to the sodium or sugar levels, and none of this would be so bad if only we all watched a lot less telly which is probably evil.

I see articles online, and tweets and Facebook posts, that judge mothers, that make commentary on how they parent and how their children behave. Because society thinks it is my boss, that it gets to decide if I’m doing a good or bad job parenting, and those parameters change with who you’re speaking to. 

its hard because this is my job but my partner is parent too, he lives in this house too, and the things I do every day affect him. Where is the line for what is entirely my say and what we have equal input into? If I make most of the decisions because I’m the one that’s home, can he question them? How do you balance that, being fair to his personal investment and my need for autonomy? And sometimes I make so many of the decisions that I don’t want to make all of them, but they’re like cascading dominoes – I know what is in the pantry/fridge because I’m the one that did the shopping so I should decide what we eat for dinner even when it’s not my turn to cook. 

I think we don’t talk about this enough – that when one half of a couple stays at home, they become entirely responsible for the home, even when the other partner spends all their off time there. It’s then easy to become resentful over household and parenting responsibilities, because of lack of autonomy in some areas and far too much autonomy in others. This then affects the relationship, because that relationship exists within the context of the household and parenting, and its sometimes easy for us all to forget: this might be my home, but it’s also my job. One of us Goes out for work and comes home to relax, but I must somehow do both in the same space, when there is no 9-5 definition of start and finish for each.

A balancing act, and one I don’t know I’m particularly good at. 


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This week has been hard for me. I’m having horrible stabby back pain that kicks in every time I try to move/walk/everything. I saw my chiropractor yesterday and while it does seem to have eased a little, it hasn’t been a huge change. And because I’m tired and in pain I’m more likely to snap at Sebastian for little things, which oh god makes me feel horrible and guilty – along with not being able to get down and play with him properly. But my mobility is pretty constrained right now too. This makes everything so much more frustrating because there’s so much stuff I have to do and yet I’m feeling very limited.

It’s now less than six weeks until the baby is due. That really, truly and properly occurred to me for the first time a few days and I’m feeling a bit panicky. The nursery isn’t done! I have no idea what baby clothes we have! There’s so many dirty dishes in my sink! I haven’t sorted my clothes to figure out what I can wear post-baby but can breastfeed in!

The last few weeks of pregnancy are always super hard because the end is in sight, and it is both too close and not close enough. I have moments of truly profound anxiety where I wonder if I can cope with a toddler and a baby. Alex has four weeks parental leave arranged, but I’ll be recovering from a c-section, so it probably won’t be all special fun super family time. More like me with a giant hole in my abdomen trying to shield it from a toddler who likes climbing me like I’m a tree AND nursing a tiny human who is bound to be big. I console myself with the fact that standard recovery time for a c-section is six weeks, whereas I remained in pain and not completely healed after a natural birth for three damn months.

I am huge, too. Look at this picture from just after Christmas:

30 weeks pregnant

30 weeks pregnant

Now imagine me even bigger. And waddling. With my hand in the middle of my back like some sort of archetype for pregnancy. And making that noise when I get out of chairs, IF I can get out without help.

I worry that after I have this baby I will get consumed by the sleep-deprived brain-blankness of new motherhood again. I want to keep writing – I’m writing for The Peach now and finding that incredibly satisfying, and writing this blog has done a lot for making me feel like I have a voice again and my skills haven’t disappeared in the last few years. There’s a lot I want to do with this blog, and none of it will happen if I’m not writing and posting regularly. But then I remember the lack of sleep, the night nursing, the nappies, the overwhelming feelings that come with giving birth and part of me thinks, how will I manage anything else?

It’s supposed to be easier, isn’t it? Transitioning from one child to two? I mean, at least this time I have a fairly solid idea of what to expect. Having baby number one is like getting a reality bomb dropped on you – you think you’re prepared but there’s just no way you can be. At least with baby number two I’ve already lived through it once and confirmed I will actually survive.

The next few weeks will be busy, if this horrid back pain ever gets better – sorting through our baby things to figure out what we need and don’t need; preparing the nursery for bringing the bubba home; arranging our lives a little better in preparation for the big life change that’s about to happen.

Meanwhile I’ll just be the one in the corner armchair, making that noise when I try to get up.

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On Saturday I attended the book launch for Karen Adrews’ (of Miscellaneous Mum) book Crying in the Car: Reflections on Life and Motherhood. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have my copy and even just the title resonates with me.

It was a fantastic afternoon for me, and eye-opening in a lot of ways. I was invited by, and attended with, Lily Mae Martin, who is not only a brilliant artist but a raw and honest writer too. Lily and I met briefly two years ago at a Swimwear Galore, of all places. I had no Mama friends, and Sebastian was flirting madly with her, so I asked if she would like to catch up sometime (her daughter Anja is only a few weeks younger than Sebastian). That catch up never happened, because a few weeks later she left for Berlin, and has only returned a couple of months ago after around two years there. But during that time we corresponded by email and Facebook, and I religiously followed her blog Berlin Domestic, where Lily writes about the joys and hardships and mundanities of creating and parenting in Berlin, and her subsequent return to Melbourne. Go look. Now. I’ll wait.

Here is why the day was eye- opening for me – I met lots of writers and mothers and bloggers who are going through the same shit of balancing parenthood and having a brain as I am, and they are out there working, creating, insisting on time for themselves and finding opportunities, while I have been sitting on my arse for 2.5 years feeling empty and tired. And you know what? Fuck that noise.

I haven’t updated my blog in weeks, and a big part of that was moving house and work and study and shitty internet and pregnancy, but an even bigger part of that was laziness. I have written a couple of dozen blog posts in my head and made notes on none. I have thought, Oh I must make time for this because I find it rewarding, and instead faffed around looking at pictures of cats. I have felt tired and resentful that I am not writing, and then continued not fucking writing.

I have felt sorry for myself because I do not go out to things, because I do not meet new people or see old friends, but I moved back to the suburbs two months ago and can no longer excuse this with the thought of a long commute for events/social activities. At a certain point, the problem stopped being lack of time and a 1.5 hour drive to anything good… the problem became me. I have fallen into old habits, habits that I learned as a sick teenager and continued as a sick adult – habits of isolation. I know isolation. I do fine with isolation. Sure I feel lonely, but loneliness is itself an old friend. I read my books and make elaborate redecorating plans and procrastinate about writing anything, because producing work would imply some kind of obligation to do something with it.

So here is my new plan: blog regularly, and not just incredibly long and verbose pieces on A Topic. I want to share the feminist articles I’m reading, the opinion pieces on parenting, the cool tips and tricks on making family life (cooking/cleaning/parenting/crafts/whatever) that I come across. I want to write my thoughts on this pregnancy – can you believe I’ve only got three months to go? And most of all, I want to make contact with other writers and bloggers and produce some damn work and put myself out there a bit.

There it is. I’ve written it in a public venue and it will just be awkward for everyone if I don’t follow through.

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In my life before I had a child, I had a set of goals and dreams. These were based on the idea that one day I would be well, and have the time and energy to execute them, and my god, they were ambitious. They went something like this:

  • Create and manage an innovative theatre company for emerging artists that produced new works and mentored those transitioning from their theatre studies into their professional theatre lives.
  • Finish my degree in publishing and/or religion and spirituality, and go teach English in Russia.
  • Bounce around Europe for a bit, indulging my creativity and wanderlust.
  • Attain a grant to travel into the Australian interior to write about spirituality, indigenous culture and displaced peoples.
  • Finish my goddamn novel to universal acclaim.

This list was an expression of my hopes and dreams. Perhaps they were not entirely realistic, but they kept me going. That future wavered on the horizon like an oasis of hope. It was something for me to work towards.

Now, my goals are very different. They look something like this:

  • Do well at my job and save a little money. (Read as: don’t be entirely broke.)
  • Join a playgroup where I have something in common with the other mothers and don’t feel like a complete outsider for not being a farmer’s wife.
  • Attain a basic certificate in accounting software so I am more employable/can earn more money.
  • Finish that blanket I’ve been crocheting for Sebastian.
  • Write something, anything, and if I manage one blog entry every couple of weeks and some emails to friends, I’m counting that as a success.
  • Remember to eat breakfast.

The main difference between these sets of goals is the immediacy of them. My goals now all revolve around the next few days, the next few months. They are far simpler in nature and yet, in their own, far more complex – they relate to the life I have now rather than the distant future. While I do have far-reaching goals in my mind too, a five-year plan, they are more family oriented: Alex and I would like to move to a bigger house in the suburbs, we’d like to be financially stable with some savings in place, we’d like to expand our family, we both envision a future where both of us work part-time, and Alex has a business as a sound engineer on the side while I have time to write.

Whereas in the past all my dreams and goals were me-me-me, now my dreams are focused on financial stability and the family unit. And the list above is all about things I would like to do in the months and weeks to come to feel stable and satisfied. Because it’s not just all about me anymore. I’m a mother now, and somehow that idea of responsibility and personal sacrifice can creep into your mind and subsume your identity.

There’s a lot I could write about the portrayal of motherhood in popular culture and society – about how mothers are expected to sacrifice any personal interests or satisfaction on the shrine of martyrdom that is their family. But that’s an easy thing to criticise. Yes, I felt judged when I admitted I hated pregnancy. Yes, I worry about those that frown at me when I’m in public with Sebastian and he’s misbehaving. But the reality is far more subversive – when I gave birth to Sebastian, a profound and integral part of me altered and I found it difficult to see myself as anything but a mother to this child. Not a creative person with goals and dreams, not a sexualised adult in a romantic relationship, not even a seperate entity with wants and needs of my own that should sometimes come first. I became absorbed in motherhood, and it encapsulated my existence.

When Sebastian was four months old, I went out to catch a play and ran into a friend from uni. She asked me all the usual questions about life and family, and then said something along the lines of, ‘I want a family in the future, but I still want to be able to go out and see friends and work on projects and have a life – how does that work with a baby?’ I replied something flip, like ‘They’re very portable, you know’, but inside I wanted to laugh like a lunatic.

Here is how those initial months were for me: I felt like my baby was still a part of me. Like I’d just lopped off a limb and occasionally let other people hold it. I felt so in tune with my child it was like we were sharing a brain, and when he was unhappy (as he often was with colic in the beginning), I was panicked and miserable. I could not bear to hear him cry. I longed for time alone but felt a burn of loss when I was apart from him. I wanted to express breastmilk so I didn’t have to be there for every feeding, but my breasts ached when I wasn’t there for one.

I had planned to return to study after Sebastian was born, I’d planned to go to a class or two a week and put him in the campus daycare. That didn’t happen. I didn’t feel ready to return to work, even part-time, until a few months ago because I didn’t want to leave him and found I couldn’t focus on anything else when I did. I wrote and directed a play when he was around six months old and found myself perpetually distracted – it was hard to think or eat or focus on anything else except parenthood. My life revolved around watching him grow and learn, around changing nappies and his laundry and buying clothes for him and his sleep patterns and eating patterns and growth.

Motherhood took over. All my anecdotes to friends and family related to him. All my conversation was about him, and the joys and hardships of being a mother. I could bore you to death with all the funny little things he does that I love, and how tired I sometimes get of doing the same things and going to the same places with him, and all the things I can’t wait to do with him as he gets older, like cooking and painting and cubby houses and blanket forts and learning to read and going to see a movie for the first time. I’m probably boring you with this all now.

In a way, I think my dreams and goals have shrunk because my life has shrunk. I live in a very predictable pattern with very predictable rules like: don’t go out too close to nap time, no I can’t meet you for a drink because I don’t have a babysitter, I could go out and do that thing I’ve been meaning to do but Sebastian was awake several times last night and now I’m tired. My horizons all revolve around a toddler. Everything – the job, the theoretical new house in the future, playgroup, the blanket, all of it relates to him. To being a good parent with a stable lifestyle who is financially sound. Corcheting hats and blankets for him because it’s something easy to do with my hands when I’m zoned out in front of the television after he’s finally gone to bed.

I used to be interesting. I had all these amazing plans. But it’s like I’ve spent the last two years in a daze of maternity, obsessed with my role as a mother because it seemed like the only thing I was capable of at that time. Because everything else seemed too hard. I should have gone back to uni after he was born. I should go back to uni now. I should start seperating my life and goals and plans and dreams from my child – not losing those revised goals like playgroup and earning more money, but making sure there’s something in the mix that’s just for me, only me.

I am a mother, but that is not all I am.

How could I not fall in love with this?

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