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.

 

 

Concessions for Women

Hats off to Fu Yuanhui, the twenty-year old swimmer, for mentioning the P word at the Olympics. And I’m not talking about the P in Phelps.angry-1429013_1280

 

When asked how she felt after her race, she responded with:

 

“My period came last night and I’m really tired right now … but this isn’t an excuse, I still did not swim as well as I should have.”

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be that honest in the workplace and our colleagues were mature enough to demonstrate some empathy rather than smirking patronisation?

 

No, menstruation is not an excuse for poor performance and women don’t expect it to be, but perhaps it should be? Other athletes concede matches due to injury such as inflamed joints or muscle strain. Picture the pats on the back when a guy comes into the office with his arm in a sling because he sprained his wrist playing rugby; then imagine the reaction in the photocopying room if a woman suddenly bent down in agony from excruciating period pain.

 

Why is there this expectation that women have to be stronger and tougher to be equal ie. Superwomen? They suffer through menstruation, giving birth and breastfeeding while working and are still not considered as good as their male counterparts.

 

I read a very funny article recently about the true, nitty-gritty symptoms of menopause – the bits we don’t talk about. ‘Clots the size of tennis balls’ is one of the descriptions that stuck in my brain – cue exit of all my male readers – and it made me laugh out loud, because every one of us has at least one horror story about birth and embarrassing period accidents.

 

So, even though I’m usually quite vocal about my demand for equal rights, it did cross my mind when I read that piece that too right! women should be given some concessions in the workplace for all the hormonal shit we have to put up with at the same time as doing our jobs. But we’re not. We’re expected to forge through it, which means that sometimes our life feels like our own Olympic competition to to see if we’re good enough to do ‘a man’s job’; as if what they do is what we need to aspire to.

 

Even though we push their babies out of our bodies.

 

At the same time we’re fighting the stereotype of women being complainers and moaners, so to counter balance that accusation most of us try to make as little fuss as possible in the workplace, even though no man has ever had to give a presentation while worrying about leaking from either boobs or vagina or being over-tired because they couldn’t sleep through period pain or the crying of a newborn the night before.

 

*Steps down from soapbox*

 

Work/Life Balance And Fifty Shades Of Domestic Chaos

Women do the bulk of the share of housework. FACT.

 

Apple juice
Apple juice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Women do not enjoy housework and do not have a natural, innate flair for it. It is not ‘women’s work‘. FACT 2.

 

Yet unfortunately, in our house, things are no different. Because I work part-time and the old man pretends to work full-time (apparently eight-hour lunches and golf days constitute REAL work), we have carefully worked out an agreement where the amount of housework we each do is pro-rata-ed, based upon the hours we work.

 

Obviously, this agreement needs some remodelling occasionally.

 

For example, dealing with bin juice will NEVER be my domain – even when we both retire. Women don’t do bin juice, just as men don’t wipe bench tops.

 

But sometimes my bosses get over-zealous about their profit margins and my accountability (yawn!) and throw our careful planning out with the bath water when they spring extra work on me and I have a run of several HUGE, fucking exhausting days. At the end of which, the only thing I am capable of doing is thinking about Tyson’s chest in the shower on I’m A Celebrity with a big silly grin on my face, and slurping wine noisily and sucking the chocolate off Maltesers in bed.

 

It’s only Thursday and already this week has been MASSIVE.

 

It began with the major disappointment of the Libspill result on Monday, which was only compensated by the timely addition of Tim Robards’ chest to the Celebrity Jungle.

 

I do worry that Tyson may be losing too much weight to maintain his shower drool-ability and as he has no discernible personality, it could end badly for him. 

 

Then the old man dumped a work dinner on me mid-week, where I had to either bite my tongue or sip more wine each time I was tempted to have a pop at my husband in front of his colleagues.

 

Which is why I need to whinge about that old chestnut of balancing work and home AGAIN, because I’ve noticed over the past three days that when I work more than two big days on the trot, the whole house goes to shit.

 

You see, in spite of fact that there has ALWAYS being a washing machine in our home, no-one but me knows how to work it – although the whole family is very proficient at bemoaning their lack of socks; not one of them is capable of cooking anything unless it starts its life in a tin; and as for cleaning – don’t make me fake-laugh and pee my new Calvin Klein pants.

 

It must be so nice to be them – to come home from a hard work of toil to an ordered, chaos-free home, where a content, ‘fed, watered and walked’ dog awaits, where there are plumped up cushions, and the inviting smell of home-cooked food smouldering cooking in the oven.

 

Rather than the chaos I walk into.

 

Home work not started and due the next day; wet towels draped on every inch of flooring; a cockroach feast of empty chip bags and cereal boxes strewn all over the coffee table and a dog that is on the verge of self-combustion from the agony of holding onto a full bladder for too long.

 

And then there’s dinner to think about, which is when I have to stifle very bad thoughts about adding dog food to the pasta sauce or getting the dog to wee in the apple juice.

 

Normal reaction?

 

Or has trying to balance work with family turned me into a vengeful psychopath who might just come home one day, suddenly reach crisis point and react irrationally to that first wet towel on the floor I trip over and in vengeance roast the dog for dinner?

 

This week I’ve decided that it might be safer to transfer my mental energies to Tim Robards abs.

 

And no, in answer to your question, Kurt, it’s not PMT.

 

 

 

And Do YOU Have A Life, Like Your Husband?

Controversial, I know, but would there have been as much media interest if Phillip Hughes had been a woman, my daughter asked me in the car this morning?

 

‘Harsh’, I responded, secretly proud of her inner feminist sensitivities.

 

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/176640394

 

Being the complete cricket ignoramus that I am, I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never heard of Phillip Hughes before last week’s incredibly sad turn of events. But everyone in the world knows who he was now.

 

And who could fail to be sucked in by those big, brown puppy-dog eyes and the huge, cheeky grin of the sportsman, who not only won the hearts of his fellow team mates but also those of a nation? Apparently he was an awesome cricketer too.

 

And it’s only right that his death should be ruminated over and that he should be eulogised.

 

But NC had a point.

 

How many times in my life have I attended a party or dinner on the arm of my husband and never been asked what I do? 

And Do YOU Have A Life, Like Your Husband?
Amara – Dinner Party 1954 – Found on Flickr.com

 

No-one is interested in what I do, but they are always eager to ask the old man about his day job and successes. Is that a gender thing – in that men talk about work and sport and women apparently talk about housework and children (?) – or is there the underlying assumption that because he’s a man, he must be successful/do something interesting?

 

He’s an accountant.

 

Whereas, in my case there seems to be the assumption that what I do is either a) too dull to warrant discussion b) nothing c) JUST raising kids d) too awkward to ask.

 

Which riles me because what I do is SUPER interesting, ACTUALLY, if any of those insular, uninteresting losers actually had the ounce of personality, creativity or manners required to ask me about it.

 

I could bore them for hours with my tales about houses.

 

Because I do have a life outside my husband and my children and some fairly outrageous opinions, and what galls me the most is that in many respects it’s been a harder journey for me to achieve my successes than him.

 

I’ve had to cope with vaginal stitches in the photocopying room, leaking breasts and I’ve had to give presentations on no sleep, yet it has still been expected of me to perform at the same level as him.

 

Which is why it is so frustrating to be overlooked and patronised.

 

Whatever men do, seems to be newsworthy, yet the only time women overshadow men in the media is when they take their clothes off or when they are painted as the freaky female success story of the corporate world.

 

I might not sit in a boardroom for work but I am still a person, with a career and a life, and to be honest, I’m far more interesting than my husband.

 

Ask me about it, sometime.

Woman Seeking GENUINE Work/Life Balance

Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a scale of one to ten, my stress levels are at a Gordon Ramsay ‘ten’ at the moment.

 

Work has gone into overdrive recently and once I’ve done my duties as a mother, domestic slave and family therapist, there is no time left for ME.

 

And I resent it. There, I said it.

 

I need ME-TIME. I need time to offload on my blog, watch a trashy movie, drink more than two glasses of wine and fantasise about hot, young men. At the moment I’m having to donate precious ME-TIME to the impossible task of matching socks, cooking uninspiring food and refereeing between the rest of the dysfunctionals.

 

Why can’t my work/life balance stay at a level I’m comfortable with? I’ve resigned myself to the hours I initially agreed (as employee, wife, mother, aka Super-Slave) to designate to each different department of my life, but the minute one area begins to demand overtime I begin to crumble with the stress.

 

I never pretended to be a fucking saint!

 

And meltdown is not a pretty sight in my case. Put it this way, I make Ange in ‘Girl Interrupted’ look normal.

 

When I begin to crumble mentally, the symptoms and abstract behaviour can become very disconcerting. Particularly for the dog. I become completely non-tactile (except with wine bottles and chocolate), monosyllabic and I have a tendency to curl up in the foetal position either under my desk or preferably with the Princess in her dog bed, and rock. If the phone rings I begin to shake uncontrollably and I do crazy, irresponsible things like pretend I’m taking the Princess for a walk when really I’m going down for a quick Chardy at the local bar.Woman Seeking GENUINE Work/Life Balance

 

Not really, but I would if I could get away with it.

 

I don’t manage stress and anxiety very well, so when I get up early to work BEFORE my first fucking 8am meeting (WTF!) and the old man mentions that he hasn’t got any clean socks, it takes all my patience not to ram his dirty ones down his throat until he chokes on his own vomit and dies.

 

Too far???

 

Remedies I have found to have some success include:

 

Chocolate

Wine

Wine

Chocolate

And then there’s wine….

Oh, and sobbing loudly in the car along to Michael Buble’s ‘Hold On’.

How do you cope when your work/life balance gets screwed up?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Women and School Holiday Hell

Week 1: Working from home...
Week 1: Working from home… (Photo credit: Mish Mish)

School holidays upset the natural order in our house.

For working women, school holidays are akin to waxing your own bikini line with fabric strips – (those who have done it will know what I mean).

As if working ‘around’ children isn’t hard enough, mothers also have to ‘manage’ them during school holidays, whilst trying to maintain a level of professionalism at work at the same time.

And let me assure you, holiday-anxiety gets far worse when kids become teenagers. You see, you can’t shove them into childcare then, in the knowledge that at least they’ll be safe for the day – you have to leave them to prowl the streets looking for things not to do whilst you try to earn a dollar, engulfed by guilt.

School holidays probably sit at number 3 on the list of Working Mother’s Guilt, just below ‘sending your kids to school when you know they are sick’ and ‘picking them up late from childcare’.

Luckily, my teenagers do sleep through half of the day, so if I can bribe them with wads of cash, take-out food or movies on Foxtel during the afternoon, I might just find a small window to earn a living.

But things don’t always work to plan.

My job means that I work from home for approximately half of my paid hours.

The problem with working from home is that no-one in the family actually believes you are working.

Nevertheless, on paper my job sounds like the dream job for any working woman. It gives me that precious commodity of flexibility for all those unforeseen events that can send normal healthy working women to their GP begging for a Valium script at the very mention of head lice, school carnivals and orthodontist appointments.

But where this working-from-home nirvana comes horribly unstuck is when I attempt to maintain some professional dignity during the school holidays.

It is fair to say that I might have been guilty of exaggerating my home working facilities as a ‘separate home office’, during the interview for my job. Yes, I do own a desk and computer – they just happen to be located in the war zone between the kitchen and the television. This area is a high traffic area for teenagers, (and their teenage hanger-on friends), whose main purpose of existence seems to be eating or doing nothing.

If you listen really carefully, a loud and very distinguishable communal sigh of relief reverberates around the city suburbs from working mums on the day the public schools re-open after the holidays. Frankly I’m surprised we don’t all set up tents in front of the school gates the night before, like fans do for Wimbledon.

I had an interesting experience of working woman school holiday hell just yesterday.

I might have mentioned that Kurt can be quite hyperactive euphoric in the mornings, and particularly during the school holidays  – this symptom of ADHD is often labelled as ‘morning mania’. His anxiety is lessened by no train times to meet and no assignments to (suddenly) remember as he is walking out the door and his excitement for life (one that is infinitely much less complicated in holiday time) is magnified about three times. His euphoria, which is generally demonstrated by uncontrollable noise, lasts for the first hour of each day, until ‘holiday boredom’ sets in.

On Friday morning, I was in the middle of a very important preliminary call with a new client in Japan. I had assumed that Kurt would remain in bed until at least 10.30am – GROWING – as a result of that three packets of chocolate biscuits that he stole in the middle of the night.

The telephone call with my client would have been delicate at the best of times as his English is not what you would describe as ‘fluent’ and it doesn’t help that I have this awful habit of barking into the phone during international calls, as though I can somehow compensate for the distance by increasing the volume of my voice.

Anyway, at the point where I was trying to decipher some important information pertaining to my client’s visa, Kurt suddenly descended upon my work space (aka the kitchen), blaring out (with a volume to challenge the PA system at the Enmore) ‘Because I got High’ by Afroman. In fairness to Kurt, he couldn’t see that I was on the phone initially, not until he moved directly above me in all his naked glory and promptly went into his ‘I’ve got a big penis’ song; even more loudly.

Obviously, I stood up immediately to try and grab his attention, waving my arms frantically like some military traffic controller on Speed, in a bleak attempt to get him to shut the f*ck up; unfortunately, he mistook my signals for encouragement.

The silence from Japan was deafening.

Eventually my client spoke and asked me politely if I was too busy to talk at the moment, (which roughly translated meant sort your domestic shit out).

I was relating this to a friend later, (who is also trying to balance work with school holidays and failing miserably), and she questioned when exactly we women become so ‘bitter and twisted’.

I don’t think it has anything to do with the inadequacies of men (well, not much), or even menopause, and it’s not because we are trying to ‘have it all’ either.

It’s because we have to do it all.

Never work with animals and children.