Rule No. 1 Of Feminism: Never Bleat About How Hard It Is To Have It All, When Fighting To Have It All

Maternity-Work-SuitsIt appears to be the fate of women in search of equality that we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. And that’s why I loved Serena William’s honest proclamation in her speech after losing the Wimbledon final.

“To all the mums out there, I was playing for you today,” she said.

The comment was not an excuse for her performance, rather a galling admission that I suspect many sportswomen and professional women at the top of their game will identify with. Because to be at the top of your game is a choice for many women.

Anyone that has ever watched the iron-will of the formidable tennis player will know how much Serena must have hated to lose that match. But to me, what she said was what most of us know to be true in the fight for equality – and it’s something that I have been reminded of many times by men – that we can’t have our cake and eat it.

We can’t bleat about how hard it is to have it all when fighting to have it all.

I know how hard it is to hold down a job as a mum with no extended family support; and particularly as the mum of a kid with additional needs. Only the other morning, after a terrible night with the boy, the old man said to me, “Imagine if we had to hold down proper jobs?” as we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes. Our son is twenty-one.

Fortunately, both of us work from home, where a sneaky catch-up nap after lunch is an option. But for most working women, a sneaky nap isn’t an option. Sleep or no sleep, many are expected to get up during the night, care for sick children, prepare packed lunches and clean uniform, sign off school notes, monitor homework and do drop-offs, and then put in a full day’s work as a convincing professional.

And it’s hard. And don’t misunderstand me, I’m not negating the hard work that men put in to provide for their families and the support that many men demonstrate towards their partner’s return to work, yet I suspect that many are unaware of the way women’s achievements are held up for review and scrutinized in comparison to theirs, once they become mothers.

I wonder how many men have been on the receiving end of the tut of impatience from an unempathetic boss when they’ve had to leave early to collect a sick child from school? Those same people that were incubated and nurtured by women, many of whom have endured huge physiological changes from childbirth, the debilitating toll (in many cases) of a decade’s lack of sleep, and who sometimes faced genuine financial fears when they found themselves on their own, having sacrificed their earnings to be the primary carer – for them.

The type of sacrifice that some days may indeed affect the game of those women.

 

Jacinda Ardern: No One Doubts That You Can Have It All

Jacinda Ardern is the sort of woman for whom I could sacrifice my love of putting the toilet seat down and changing the loo roll on its holder. 

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Although I’ve recently come to the decision that the expression ‘having it all,’ (generally associated with women), puts too much pressure on our gender and inadvertently encourages men to reduce their contributions to domesticity and family life, it is lovely to be proved wrong, and to witness a shining example of a woman who has proved that, perhaps, we can. I should add that I also believe that if ‘having it all’ is being able to have a professional career and a family,  many women do ‘have it all,’ out of their need to survive rather than through choice. However, if ‘having it all’ is also about achieving equanimity in all areas of our life, to include lifestyle and happiness, that is a much harder goal to attain as a woman, without support.

 

I admit that I felt a bit like skipping awkwardly through the mountains like Julie Andrews when I first heard the news of Jacinda Ardern’s pregnancy and then witnessed how she presented it to her public and the press, as in, a celebration rather than the apology some might have been expecting.

 

Unfortunately, however, with our closest mountains situated three hours away, I had to make do with the frozen food aisle in Aldi.

 

What I will admit, though, is how nervous that headline made me feel at the same time. Because, in spite of our reputation, we raving feminists can be sensitive as well, and at a time when male feathers have been severely ruffled in matters of equality – leaving many men feeling lost, abandoned, in denial, victimized and confused by what the hell these loose women are accusing them of – I didn’t want the fallout to encourage an attack on Jacinda, who, (the implication at the time), might have actually known she was in the family way at the time of her election.

 

*Makes the sign of the cross.*

 

And as many men are aware, it is a well-known fact that pregnancy is a debilitating sickness that can leave its victims with vegetable brains, and therefore useless to society; that is if we conveniently ignore the fact that of the approximately sixty percent of women that work and get pregnant, will most likely work close to their due date.

 

Those that continue to fight for equality in the workplace have always stipulated that, with the right support network in place, there is no biological reason why women cannot do the same job as men, even when a woman becomes a mother – mainly, because she is one half of a couple and the child has two parents. Therefore, (in an ideal world with no privilege, pay gap, the full payment of child support and more affordable childcare), there should be a choice within most partnerships as to who will become the primary carer to the children.

 

I like to believe that Jacinda may even pick up new skills during those early weeks of motherhood, that could prove useful in her role as PM. She’ll learn how to wake at the sound of a pin dropping and she’ll fall back to sleep with a drop of a hat. In fact, she’ll learn to sleep just about anywhere – and she might have to watch out for that during those arduous parliamentary discussions.

 

Granted, the prime minister of New Zealand is in a more fortunate position than many women. She has a husband happy to take on the role of childcare, along with, (I imagine), a salary not only commensurate with her performance but one that will contribute nicely towards a cleaner, should Clark feel a bit icky at the sight of a dirty toilet.

 

But what I truly love about the way this woman works is her commitment, because even after the dust settled on the public announcement of her pregnancy and her skeptics had ruminated and untwisted their knickers – because there will be  doubters that spout bile about how irresponsible her decision was to have a baby at this point in her career – she hasn’t disappeared into the shadows, shied away from celebrating one of life’s greatest achievements or using her new position as a pregnant PM to leverage her views on sexism in the workplace.

 

Jacinda has proven that we can have it all if we want it. It won’t be easy. But if having a baby is one of the hardest things one can do, I reckon that being prime minister comes pretty close.

 

 

There Might Be More to The Grumpy, Menopausal Woman Stereotype Than Meets The Eye

You may or may not be aware, but I’ve  been trying to find that feeling of gratitude that we all strive for, for a long time. And failing miserably. But this week I had no real excuse.

Stress. Woman stressed

With a less crazy workload and the House Bitch showing signs of improvement in all areas of his domestic chores – even though he STILL can’t wipe down a fucking bench top – ie. getting a better work/life balance – I’m feeling much calmer. Added to which, I’ve found the renewed ability to sleep for longer than two hours at a time, so I’ve dicovered some lucidity about a few things that have been bugging me for a while.

In particular, about the whole grumpy, middle-aged woman stereotype thing.

Because while I agree that there are a lot of over-tired, over-emotional, VERY angry, and (above all), unfulfilled women out there who represent my age group – and whose grouchiness and partner victimisation, society likes to blame on menopause, peri-menopause and middle age…I think we should be given more credit than that.

Agreed, fluctuating hormone levels are the absolute smegma of life, invented by Satan to test the superior strength of our sex, again. But they’re not the sole reason we women aren’t content.

Because, under the right laboratory conditions, there is still a happy person wanting to come out of my body. She pops out occasionally – on holiday, in the shopping mall, in the bottle shop, when the kids are at sleepovers, when the old man is out on a boys night or with the help of a few Chardonnays, close friends and chocolate.

So we can’t blame hormones ALONE for these changes to our personality. There’s a bunch of other shit stuff that sends women over the edge.

Like:

People – The better perception about people that we develop with age makes us realise at this time in our life that, frankly, a lot of people really get on our tits. And with this new conviction, comes the courage to stand up for what we believe in and deserve, and we become intolerant, if necessary, about the choices we make about who we want to spend our time with. A few good friends is infinitely better than a room-full of periphery friendships and fuckwits.

Having it all, it being too much and sinking – Of course women still want it all, but the reality is that the dream is not always that straightforward. And we hate to admit to that because we (can be stubborn bitches) fought so hard to get where we are. Which is why an equal partnership, that includes a supportive domestic infrastructure, is so important – to stop us feeling overwhelmed, resentful and sticking pins in voodoo dolls of our partners when they aren’t there.

Because sometimes long-term relationships are hard. Both genders know this. We reach middle age and we don’t necessarily have as much in common anymore with the life partners we chose when we were completely different people in our twenties, and now our responsibility to contribute to the population is over, sometimes, on days when the shit has hit the fan, bounced off the walls several times and then hit us straight in the face, it can be hard to see why we stay together.

By our forties and fifties, many of us are juggling more balls than we can hope to catch, and at a time in our lives when we a) are not as co-ordinated and b) thought life would be easier. Once the kids are in high school, there is an expectation and financial need for many of us to go back to work full-time, if we’re not already there, yet we can’t afford the support required for a true work/life balance, and … TEENAGERS! Did you know that women still do the bulk of the domestic chores, even when they work full time?

On an average day, 19 percent of men did housework–such as cleaning or doing laundry–compared with 49 percent of women. (Time Magazine)

Then there’s the added pressure on women to do everything perfectly – to cook ‘cleanly’, look healthy and gorgeous all the time, to Thermomix, slow cook…AND BE HAIRLESS!

So what happens? We sink further into the quicksand of a horrible, middle-aged lethargy because we’re already more tired than we’ve every felt in our lives. Our body is slowing down, the hormones ARE wreaking havoc on our sleep patterns, anxiety levels and weight/self-esteem, AND we have to work twice as hard to hold down jobs due to brain cells that are self-euthanising at a time when we’re up against younger generations who cost employers less.

And that, admittedly, might make us a tad over-sensitive at times.

Those outbursts over wet towels on the floor, or being too tired for sex, or crying because our cooking wasn’t good enough, are not just about fucking hormones.

They are a plea for help and support.

So, thank you for the compliment of piling everything onto us because you know we are more accomplished multi-taskers and organizers, but …no thanks.

Do Women Really Want To ‘Have It All’?

Can Women Really Be Bothered To 'Have It All?'
Housework Hell by Alysa Pakkidis

This week I have decided to question the premise of women ‘having it all.’

And I’ve decided that ‘having it all’ isn’t ‘all that’.

Because the Perfect Mother medal in my cupboard and the ‘thank you’ email from that bitch of a client, hasn’t brought me the fulfilment I thought it would.

‘Having it all’ has its limitations.

It’s not like I’ve even lost any weight from the stress of it, which begs the question of what exactly I am supposed to be gaining, apart from a highly fraught existence.

There’s certainly no work/life balance to speak of.

The old man dared criticise my aptitude for house cleaning this week – a bit rich considering my pleas for a cleaner some time ago (here).  I knew something was simmering, because he develops this very loud tut when he’s cross. He tutted first when he had to empty the recycling bin, and then again when he discovered that I hadn’t ironed him any clean shirts for work.

Obviously I ignored the insinuated criticism.

After a few wines he grew some balls and came out with it. He said the house looked like the ‘back streets of Calcutta’.

Which I felt was a bit harsh.

Admittedly, the kitchen did look like some earthquake had hit the North Shore during lunch, but in my defence, it is the school holidays at the moment and our precious teenage babies can’t be expected to clean as well as grow, can they? I didn’t think the milk had been left out THAT long – I carried out the sniff test and it passed for hot drinks.

He was obviously just having a bad day. Apparently he was down a few seconds on his running time home from work and you know how maddening that can be?

Frankly, I couldn’t give a flying fuck about whether the house is clean or not, but it still stings to be criticised.

But made me realise that I’ve got too many balls in the air at the moment.

Trying to ‘have it all’ is exhausting sometimes.

We women are always trying to be the perfect mother, friend, colleague and partner. Sometimes it’s fun to rebel, kick off your shoes, become a bit more Bohemian and let the mess reproduce, the loo roll run out or create meals out of canned food.

Not that he didn’t have a point about the decaying sweet corn under the fridge.

But inevitably something has to give when we find our backs against the wall and the stress levels begin to escalate. My rule of thumb for coping with stress is to prioritise, and those activities that I derive the least pleasure from (like exercise and housework), have to be put to one side.

It’s quite amazing the squalor one can become accustomed to when push comes to shove.

I used to be proud of how organised my chaos appeared, but these days even my chaos is struggling to breathe. And the reality of ‘mum can’t do everything’ has hit the family hard. Because the bed linen doesn’t change itself and the clean washing doesn’t actually shimmy its way from the laundry to their drawers.

Calcutta might actually be an accurate analogy.

I admit that I’ve been putting myself first for a change.

After fifteen years of child-rearing, when at times I felt as though I had lost my own identity and become just someone’s Mum, I want some ‘me’ time now.

But now that I’ve put myself first, I feel guilty that I’m letting everyone down. Isn’t it strange how we women always feel like we’re failing?

Is ‘having it all’ actually worth it?

So there’s currently an embargo on cleaning in our house.

Anyone who needs a shirt ironed or food cooked can either hire a cleaner or do it their bloody selves.