After that we decamped to sister Betty's and uncie Camo's for Ruby's first birthday. Very yummy soup (leek and chickpea with saffron threads) and toast for lunch and far too much champagne for someone who takes big purple pills. Followed by carrot cake with lemon icing. Luckily I wasn't driving. I worried that we were overtaking Ruby's birthday celebration, but we all kind of knew that it might be like this and we knew we'd all be together for the day anyway. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of Ruby blowing out her candles, too in the moment, too scattered. Or of Grace and Ruby playing together. Although I think this one and this one are quite nice.
So anyway we came home and put Grace to bed, mum pulled out all my knitting and showed me how to knit the scarf without so many mistakes and with a tighter edge. Grace didn't eat any dinner and fell asleep on the chair in her bedroom. She knows what's been going on and today we've been talking about fixing the house, she's suggested sticker tape and a hammer. I'm trying to convey to her that it's going to be a long time, but she's concerned about taking her bed and all her toys, tony in his pink cage in the back of the car, all her books and the playhouse at po-po corner. It worries me a little that there is absolutely no garden there, because Grace is at an age where I think a garden to get lost in is a good thing. Maybe I'll plant a forest of tree dahlias and jerusalem artichokes. Or perhaps the fun will be planting a new garden together,
I woke up this morning with many racing thoughts, including the ohmygod, these are some things I really need to do today and oh crap, what if we've bought a dud, what if the aspects all wrong and it's really dark in winter and glaring in summer and we can't work with it and gulp, there's such a lot of work to do and it's a really big project. In the end, I actually tried not to think too much beyond what I have to do this week, there's a fair while before we take possesion, so lots of time to get organised. I did some knitting. And folded some washing and then let the feelings of good fortune and possibilty just flow. We're lucky, I know and appreciate this. It's going to be good, it's already been good.
A house we like is being auctioned tommorrow, and let's just say that this week I've learnt alot about how realestate works in a soggy market. Quite a different ballgame from last year. So, if for whatever reason, we don't buy this house tommorow, that's my lesson. In other news, the car has sprung a dodgy clutch and has to be taken to the mechanics, and he's saying that it might be expensive. Although he's one of those lovely mechanics that has quite a conservative view of expensive and I'm almost never shocked by the bill. And Gerard's going away for a few days next week to do some work for a friend, so it's not the most convenient time to be carless. But I don't care. With mum's help, we'll manage and I have my knitting.
Did some sewing today too (after shopping and the hour and a half small child dressing session complete with ear splitting screams just on case one thinks that I'm living the ideal craft life). I made a green wool skirt and might have used the wrong pattern. A simple a-line would have been better, I think. There was lots of unpicking while watching Pingu and getting jumped on and wrestled by Grace. Both of us nearly got a quick unpick up our eye at one stage. Never mind, I think I've finished it, except for a final adjustment at the waist. Maybe I won't like it and I'll have to make up the other piece of green material I have and salvage this for something else.
OK time to go and do a row or two before bed....
ps I'm probably not going to turn into a proper craft blog. Next weeks obsession might be the tree dahlias or one hundred ideas for small bathrooms. Just been thinking about it a bit because I realised the other day that I've been blogging for over two years now and I thought it would be all about craft. Because I thought I'd be living this blissful sunshiney craft filled life. Now life's pretty good, but a different kind of good. Gosh, time files doesn't it.
So far, I've made two pairs of trousers, neither of which I thought were a great success. However I put them through the wash the other day and was certain that one pair was destined for the opshop, but I wore them today and really they weren't too bad. I think I'll keep them afterall, with some tightening in the back, I think they'll be quite good even. Grace on the other hand has decided that the skirt I made her is for other childrens and has to go in the opshop. Can't even get her to try it on, even with the promise of a biscuit. I realise that perhaps the material was a bit weighty to have that much gather around the waist, but I wouldn't have thought that it would be uncomfortable over a singlet. It has several features I thought she would like; pink, stripes, a ruffle and pockets. The trousers in the same fabric but with butterfly pockets that she loves, except that they're on pants, have had even less of a look in. Although she did wear the smock (pink with butterfly fabric raglan arms and a pouch pocket) I made her for painting the other day. So I'm told.
Sewing or shopping for Grace is such a minefield. I can't predict what she'll consent to wearing, even when she came to the shop with me and chose it herself. And getting her to wear something she is determined not to wear is extremely difficult. Even with closed choices, ie the red skirt or the pink skirt. So I don't really want to spend too much time or money on her wardrobe, but on the other hand I want her to be warm and comfortable and as much as I hate to say it, look stylish in some way. I wasn't keen on the butterfly fabric, it's a gary pink with badly printed butterflies on it, but Grace loves it. But even that wasn't working. Oh well, maybe in another year we'll be able to work out together what she'd like me to make her.
My next project is a dark green sort of a-line skirt out of some wool crepe I found at the opshop back in the day when the brotherhood had a fantastic fabric table. And a pair of heavy weight black cotton but not denim pants. When those are finished, I have a really fabulous piece of back wool suiting with 5% elasticene for some stretch. For pants. If I get them right, they'll be the mainstay of my winter wardrobe for years to come. You know, the pants you can wear almost anywher, that are warm and comfortable and wash well. And after that some tops for me and Grace. Ambitious, but I guess planning it is half the fun. Truth is, I'd feel pretty happy to get at least half of it actually done.
Have also started knitting at night. Very remedial. I made a short scarf from some wool my mum gave me and I'm pretty impressed that I managed to put a hole in the middle, by design. And that I figured it how to do this. Not so impressed that I couldn't knit in moss stitch which I thought I'd done before. Anyway, we have someone staying tonight, who said she's teach me, so I'd better stop being anti-social (or unwinding from a tough day at playgroup depending on your point of view) and go out there and knit.
Have figured out a new approach to taking indoor and outdoor night shots. Very wide aperture and high ISO. Which does kind of makes sense, der. Aperture is my current learning curve. Probably need to adjust my white balance, but now I do have an approach.
And the other day, Saha posted a beautiful, elegant version of bluemilk's feminist motherhod meme. Go and read what she has to say. Please.
1. How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother?
The personal is political. Dates me doesn't it?
So I've been a feminist for more than half my life now. Women's lib was around when I was at highschool: I remember my mother and her friends being angry, demanding their husbands do housework and nude sunbathing. There were a rash of divorces and more women started working outside the home, after the children started school. But I didn't have my own lightbulb moment until halfway through my second year at uni when my best friend dragged me along to the women's room for a feminist collective meeting. 1983. It was an exciting time, the birth of a women's magazine at Uni, various protests (including Cockburn Sound Women's peace camp), my history major had a big women's study component. But by the end of it, I was so over the the judgements women made about other women's politics, the divisions, the pettiness. The post-modernism and post-structuralism. I still believed in the sisterhood and that personal is political, but it all seemed to get lost under layers of other meanings.
2. What has surprised you most about motherhood?
My immediate and intense love for Grace as a baby and a young child, even when she is being bratmonster extraordinaire and I'm turning into a foulmouthed shrew on the inside while trying to be calm and reasonable on the outside. The new layers of love for my partner. How all those loves keep deepening and binding us together in evermore complex ways. Sometimes it feels like a trap, sometimes a liberation. Mostly it's just the way things are now. Oh, and the tiredness. And the responsibility.
I also remember being really surprised when Grace was a newborn that despite how important becoming a mother was supposed to be, I couldn't get a nurse to show me how to change her first nappy and there wasn't a comfortable chair by my bed to sit in while learning to breastfeed her. It became obvious even in my little bubble of baby bliss that the world around really made little space for mothers with young children.
3. How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?I've become quieter and stronger. Feminism's more an inward assumption now, a core belief. Motherhood has connected me to other mothers, there's always children to talk about. And I think that affects my work quite profoundly. I also like other women (including those without children) more again. I'm drawn in closer with my own mother and sister, and feel connected to a line of women before us. A rebirth of the sisterhood, if you will.
4. What makes your mothering feminist? How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?Awareness (and maybe hairy armpits?). I try to let Grace be herself. She's allowed to make messes, bang around outside and get her clothes dirty, even the pretty ones. If we read a book that has men and women doing traditional tasks, we talk and joke about who does these tasks here. She knows that daddy does dishes, vacuuming and looking after Grace. And that sometimes she stays home with daddy while mummy goes work, or vice versa. That intellect or compassion isn't gender based. And we're trying to protect her for as long as we can from the bratz dolls, barbie videos and clothes that say "I'm going to be a skanky ho when I grow up" (of course if that's what she decides, no doubt I'll still love her and have to respect her life choices, etc etc) . We won't be able to do the total prohibition thing forever, if only because at some point, she'll have to be able to come to grips with how different versions of femaleness are presented in this culture. Hopefully though, we can shelter her for long enough that these things don't take her over and she'll find things that are real and wholesome that interest her. I'd love it if there was a strong and doing-good-things female prime minster as she approaches high school. Just so she knows that women can do that. And I'd like for her to have wild places where she can run free. Basically I'm hoping that her world will be one of possibility. I'd want the same for a boy too. And I wouldn't mind being a grandmother before I'm eighty. So I'm trying not to send the message that having kids ruins your life. Even when I'm super tired and shrewish.
5. Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?Yes and no. Sometimes I think about whether Grace likes pink because most girl clothes are pink and that's what she thinks girls wear. I haven't fought hard against that because it's just a colour, but I worry the rot is starting early. Othertimes I worry that I'm just not there enough, but I can't be and go to work at the same time. And G is just as capable of looking after her as I am. I worry whether I'll be able to guide her through the maze that is female identity. Mostly, I worry I could fail her in the future.
6. Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why?I tend not to talk about it often. It's now so ingrained in me that I assume people would know that I'm a feminist. Just like any rational woman would be. Nonetheless I enjoy meeting women, especially of about my age who "get" the sort of things I was involved with in the past. And when women say gorgeous things like, you can't do it all, and you can't have it all, well, not all at the same time anyway.
7. Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?I wanted a baby for so long and went through so much before Grace was born, that I don't think of it as sacrifice. Indeed I count myself as supremely lucky. However I don't belive in mothers (or fathers) martyring themselves in the ordinary course of events. This means Grace goes to bed with lights out by eight so she has enough sleep and we have parent time. We also work pretty hard at both having some time to ourselves, some time to do things other than parent, work and keep house.
8. If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?I'm the main income earner at the moment and although I had a bit over a year off after Grace was born, there are times I would prefer to be a full time stay at home mother. But with equality comes responsibility. And why should he be the one that has to work fulltime all the time? In my femotopia we would both work part-time in family friendly workplaces, doing interesting useful work that paid really well. As it is, we share housework and parenting, although I do less now because I work outside the home more. G's a bit of a lefty ratbag himself and has always loved strong women, I think he assumes that any sane woman would be a feminist. He's also a dab hand with the vacuum cleaner and lawnmower. While looking after a child. Although I still do the shopping.
But it's about more than who looks after the children and who does what at home. It's about not taking in all those beliefs that one gender or gender role has a lesser or greater intrinsic value. And acting and talking that way. Which is easier said than done. We grew up in the sixties and seventies, there's been a revolution since then, but there are parts of my brain (and his) that missed being re-programmed. Like I said before, sometimes I feel as though I just don't mother enough. As an at home dad, G comes up against a whole other set of challenges.
If you’re an attachment parenting mother, what challenges if any does this pose for your feminism and how have you resolved them?I'm not, but I would have liked to have co-slept when Grace was little, but G was very uneasy about the idea. I remember talking to my GP about it, he was curious why we didn't as I was having issues moving Grace to her room across the hall. In the end, I thought that family harmony involved taking into account everybody's needs, so it just wasn't an option to push in this direction. In some ways, we're really scheduler or routine type parents anyway. Which seems to suit Grace. Athough we have made choices to have all Grace's care within our extended family for the first three or four years. She's been demanding lately too, especially of mummy cuddles, with blanket. These tend to come when there's stress about or when she's had a big language leap and the world is freaking her out. My inclination is to go with the mummy (and daddy) cuddles for as long as she needs them.
Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?No, but sometimes I feel very torn by the domestic world and all the other worlds in my life. That work life balance is a cackling joke I share with other mothers in the hallway between the tearoom and the photocopier. Sometimes I feel absent from my work life or that I am trying to run my home life by remote. It feels like women are expected to do more and more in less and less time. And look fabulous while doing it.
As a young feminist, I remember reading books exploring how to have children in other ways, test tubes, utopian childcare, equal parenting; because I knew I wanted kids but I really couldn't see how it would work. Not if I was going to do domething great. As it turned out, I did a lot of things that were fun, but less than great in a career, or any other sense. Not family friendly either. But in twenty years things have already changed. I remember when the idea of a stay at home dad was laughable (now I know of a few), when women had to wear stockings and skirts to work, in work places where sexual harrasssment was just part of the culture, when gay was barely tolerated at all, when it was expected and rarely challenged that women would leave work after having children, not to return until the kids went to school. When we never even had the conversation about a workplace being family friendly. I'm not saying that the revolution is over, far from it. Just that things have changed.
The pictures are of my mother and grandmother, probably taken about 16 years ago, my mother would have been in her late 40s, my nan in her 70s before she started to get really sick. These are the last nice photos I have of them together.
Mothers of the blogosphere, happy belated Mother's day,
The Moreland Council meeting where preliminary discussions regarding the budget for the coming financial year is being held this Wednesday night. This is when decisions about the future of Coburg Olympic Pool will be made. We can make a difference by attending.
Date: Wednesday 14 May
Venue: Coburg Council Chambers, Moreland Civic Centre, 90 Bell St Coburg.
The new flyer by Ben and Cate says it all really but you might want to also check out this piece by Dr Clare Wright if you missed it in the Age weekend before last.
Anyway tomorrow nights plan is to get to the Council chambers at about 6.30pm and to congregate in the front of the council offices and in the foyer. Bring as many people as you can; including children (if that works for you) props like goggles, towels, bathers (over clothes unles you can brave the cold), floaties, banners.
my second pair. The first have been abandoned as a lost cause and the second are kind of OK but have a funny bag in the middle of the leg below the knee (which I might be able to fix by making the waist sit better or taking in the sides). Although I'm pretty proud of the fly front (normally I just do elastic waists which I'm tired off), I'm yet to decide whether I like them enough to wear.
So what else did I do? I had spicy eggplant and crunchy chicken with rice for lunch at my favourite food court. Coffee before I went home, although I still haven't found a good coffee spot in the city where you can sit and watch the people go past. Myer food hall used to be my quick stop of choice but now it's gone and replaced with a useless tights department. Pity, because there's demolition going on, which would have provided endless watching, eventhough it's a bit sad. And I went to the camera shop to get a remote control thingy and then looked at expensive lenses, asked lots of questions and displayed my ignorance more than once. But it was quiet and the sales people didn't mind. It was quite fun really. And I saw a woman cross the road and then seeing an old lady in a red coat hesitating at the crowds coming towards her, offer to escort her across. The old lady accepted the offer of help and it was one of those heartwarming moments you just see every now and then. And now I should really go to bed, because it's work tommorrow.
Anyway, I saw a house yesterday that really did it for me. It's in terrible condition. Looks like a woman hasn't lived there for a while, having that sparse blokey lack of comfort. I know that's a presumptive thing to say (apologies to men who keep house well and women who don't). Maybe I'll rephrase, it looks as though the owner/occupiers have been more focussed on breeding greyhounds than on home maintenance. But the house is in mostly original and solid condition, except for the room at the back which is an add on and sinking into the kikuyu. That might have to be removed and the timber salvaged, or not, but G will know. Not many cracks.The unworkable kitchen and bathroom both have possibility and I wouldn't have to live with them in the long term, unlike some kitchens I've seen that are not to my liking but probably too good to justify changing. A good sized backyard that's big at the back and small at the front with a north easterly aspect. Room for a decent shed/workshop. There's a park at the end of the street and it's a short walk to a local primary school. The house is small, but I've come to the conclusion that two OK sized bedrooms might be better than three really small ones. I have an idea how we might extend and there's room for what I have in mind. Not sure how we'd fit all the pieces of our life in, before that happened. Which could be a while. Never mind, we haven't even decided yet and even if we do, there's time to work that out.
I got very excited about this house last night and lay awake thinking about this and that, whether it's the right house, right area, right decision for us. And about pulling up all the kikuyu. G hasn't even seen it on the inside yet, but he thought it looked good from the outside. We looked at a another house in the morning, in great condition and with the same layout but on a smaller block and we agreed, nice house, difficult block. I think he might like this one. Of course there's an awful lot of interest in it because of the block, and because it's been advertised at what I think is an absurdly low price range, even in such manky condition. The very young real estate agent was trying very hard to encourage me to put an offer in, but if we decide it's the one, I think I'd like the transparency of an auction. I've been to a few lately that have been total fizzers. Gosh, it's exciting.