It’s Not Goodbye.

I’ve been neglecting path: ethic. More to the point, I’ve been avoiding it.

It’s not that I have nothing to say. I always have things to say!

But it’s just finding the time to sit down and write it, and write it well. And I’m definitely a proponent of finding the time to write. So when I say, ‘I don’t have the time to write for path: ethic,’ what I’m really saying is that I don’t want to make the time to write it.

That sounds quite rude, especially to those of you who read, so let me explain myself further.

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I See You!

‘If you could choose,’ I said to the Handsome Sidekick one day, a few months ago, ‘would you rather receive recognition from your peers, or from the general public? Bearing in mind that the recognition from your peers might mean that you earn less money, than if you were to become famous in a mainstream sense.’

He thought for a while.

‘I guess… my peers?’ he said. ‘I mean, sure, it would be great to have both. But I suppose I’d rather have people who I know really value this stuff, also think that my stuff is good.’

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Me too, I think.’

Of course, neither of us is in the position where we have to worry about choosing between the respect and admiration of our peers or our fans! But I have been thinking a lot about recognition lately, for a few reasons.

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Before First Offspring was born, I read.  A lot. All about babies. Having sat many an exam, I guess I treated the pregnancy and impending child-rearing like a test, and studied accordingly. I learnt about all different parenting techniques, and weighed up the pros and cons of routines, attachment, co-sleeping, vaccinations… really, everything. And one of the philosophies was that the word ‘no’ was an unhelpful word, to be avoided, if possible.

Telling your children ‘no’ sends a message of negativity, and is irritating to both you and them. And it can ‘breed resentment and plant seeds for future rebellion’ in your youngsters.

‘That sounds fair,’ thought yet-to-be-a-parent I. ‘I like the idea of being a positive parent. I’ll make an effort to say ‘no’ less. All that negativity is unhealthy, anyway.’

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You Can Have It All.

Earlier this week, in between bringing my Offspring home from school and rushing out the door to go grocery shopping, I looked in despair at the washing up. I’d done some that morning before going out, but there was still a frying pan from the night before, and I’d not yet unloaded the dishwasher, so the breakfast dishes sat on the drainboard, too. Everything looked cluttered and messy. I sighed. Some days, the kitchen looks amazingly clean. When the Offspring are napping or away at school, I’ll spend an hour or so cleaning the benchtops, clearing off the dumping ground which is the sideboard, drying dishes and putting everything in its place.

That day was not one of those days.

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The Frequent Footslog.

Well. I have never in my life used the word ‘footslog’ and probably am unlikely to do so again. I mean, finding links once a week is hardly a slog, really.

Anyway. We’ve got two weeks left of summer holidays and suddenly we seem to be running out of time to do everything. It always seems like that at the beginning of a long break, doesn’t it? You imagine all these things you’ll do, and then time gets away from you. But I think the children are looking forward to going back to school, and I am too – in the nicest possible way, of course! It’s exciting to start a new school year. Before then, though, we’ve friends to see and icey poles to eat and long summer afternoons to enjoy.

Have an excellent Sunday, everyone!

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Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before…

A man comes home from a long day at work to find his children, still in their pyjamas, playing in a pool of mud. They’re filthy and barefoot. There is a roll of toilet paper leading from the front door. He stumbles over a carton of broken eggs as he opens the door, and is met with utter chaos. There is breakfast cereal all over the carpet, milk dripping from an overturned bottle on the kitchen table. Washing up is stacked in the sink, on the drainboard and all along the counter. Books and toys are piled up everywhere, and dirty washing is strewn along the length of the hallway.

On the couch sits his significant other in her dressing gown, holding a mug of tea.

The man is almost speechless. He gasps for a few minutes and then is able to stutter, ‘But… what on earth happened?’

His significant other smiles sweetly and takes a sip of tea.

‘You know how you always come home and ask me what I did all day? Well, today I didn’t do it.’

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So. What Do You Do?

First Offspring went over to a friend’s place to play the other day, and when I picked him up, the friend’s mother and I chatted for a while, as the children jumped on the trampoline together, eking out the last moments until First Offspring had to leave. The mother and I discussed the beginning of the new school term in about three weeks, when her youngest child was going to start full-time school.

‘I’m looking for a job,’ she said, ‘and it’s stressing me out already. I need to find something where I can work school hours, but also leave early, on the days they have early finish, and if one of them’s sick, I’ll need to stay home with them. Plus I’ve been home looking after them for the past five years, and so how do I explain this big hole in my CV?’

We talked about different jobs, what we had done pre-children, and what sorts of expenses are associated with working versus staying at home. She mentioned that they’d need another car, which meant there’d be an extra registration, another insurance bill, and all the associated costs with the upkeep of another vehicle.

‘It’s interesting,’ I agreed, ‘because it’s always something you think about, when you get a bit of time back once the children start school, and you think, ‘oh, going back to work is totally going to increase our income,’ but then when you factor in the extra other things you don’t consider, like the fact you have to have new work clothes, and that you end up probably buying more takeaway or pre-made meals, which cost more money… sometimes, I think, if it’s a second income for your household, you’re actually better off staying home and saving money, than going out to earn it.’

This is not to say that all households should be single-income. Obviously, there is a tipping point: if both breadwinners are on a high wage, then it is worthwhile to even work part-time. But for the kinds of work many people do to supplement the primary income, from a financial perspective, it’s sometimes not worth it. Yet it feels oddly lazy, in this society, to say that you’re home taking care of the housework and the cooking and the washing, when the children spend six hours at school everyday. There is an expectation that the primary carer will get work of some sort–usually out of the house–once the children start school, and if one chooses not to take that path, that choice is met with surprise by some, disdain by others.

Of course, it’s not lazy to be the person taking care of feeding the family and keeping the house clean. If nobody does that, it begins to fall apart fairly quickly. It’s a really worthy, valuable place: being home to keep things in order, make sure bills get paid, perhaps grow some of your own food.

But then, you have to meet people for the first time. And what do they ask, when you meet them?

So. What do you Do?

I dread that question.

I dread it, because I don’t really know what to say. I don’t want to say I’m a high school teacher, because I’m not, right now, and I probably won’t be (in any great capacity) for a while. And I don’t really feel like a proper teacher, either, because I’ve only a couple of years under my belt. I don’t really want to say ‘stay-at-home-mum’ because I… just don’t really like that term. It’s as if it’s a life-sentence until my children are 18. ‘You must STAY AT HOME. MUM. STAY.’ Yikes.

I don’t want to say I’m a writer, because, well, so far, nobody really pays me for anything I write. Plus, it’s pretentious (because, again with the lack of payment). And also, I’m worried that people will then ask if they’ve read anything I’ve written, and I have to decide whether to mutter, ‘uh… it’s unlikely,’ or to change the subject.

Why are we so obsessed with what people ‘do’? When we were younger, we used to ask far more interesting questions to potential friends and acquaintances. We used to ask what their favourite colours were, which music they liked, what they liked to do on weekends, what were their favourite foods. And when you think about it, these are much more important questions to ask than what someone does as a day-job. When you ask what someone does as a job, you’re using their response to pigeonhole them into a stereotype which probably doesn’t reveal very much about their real personality. It certainly reveals less than finding out that they like stargazing, Mötley Crüe and felafel.

I remember some years ago, being unemployed for a period of a few months, and I needed to claim unemployment benefits to be able to make ends meet. In keeping with welfare law, I met with a case worker once per month, to discuss my jobseeking efforts, and for her to pass on any relevant positions or opportunities. One Monday, I had quite an early appointment, and my cheerful case worker sat down with her coffee as I joined her at her desk, and she opened my file.

‘How was your weekend?’ she asked. ‘Do anything fun?’

Do? I thought. But I’m unemployed. I don’t ‘do’ anything. And I’m not supposed to be having fun! I’m unemployed!

My lack of employment was such a source of shame for me. I felt so worthless, like such a loser, because I had nothing to say, when people would ask, ‘what do you do?’ And even though I had a fair amount of time on my hands (I was jobless, after all!), I didn’t have the energy or the motivation to do all the things I would dream about doing, when I went back to work a few months later. I didn’t read much, I didn’t garden, I didn’t write. What did I do? A whole lot of nothing. I absorbed all the disappointment from within and without, and it didn’t do me much good at all. For the sake of my mental health, it’s just as well I did find a job.

I wish we could get past defining people by what their job title is. It’s not to say that we should discourage people from working–far from it. Most people like to have purpose, and many of us like to be paid for it. But if someone is not working full-time, or out of the home, or in any job position at all, then that doesn’t make her or him any less interesting or valuable. It certainly doesn’t define that person, and neither should we.

What do I do? The Hokey-Pokey, at times. A mean chickpea curry. Some weeding, now and then. I do all sorts of things, and my job is one of them, but it’s by far not the only one. I’m so much more than that.