Archive for June, 2012

Things not to do with young children around #245

June 27, 2012

Never, and I mean never, attempt to hang a blind whilst in the sole charge of three young boys.

I attempted to do this tonight. Suffice to say the blind is up. It’s crooked and crinkled, it has blood stains on it from a cut on my finger, it’s broken – indeed, only half of it is actually up (it’s a double-layer blind), I think I broke our drill, we may never get the screws back out of the window frame, the entire thing will probably fall down on my head the minute I try to adjust it (I’m sure use of a hammer wasn’t mentioned in the instructions), there’s sugar and cereal crumbs all over the floor in the kitchen from where the boys fed themselves while I manically insisted on finishing the job before the end of the night, I have hyperventilated and pulled a muscle and swore aloud I will never NEVER attempt to do this EVER again. But $180, a messy kitchen and a near heart attack later and it’s up. The boys are in bed and it’s time for me to make a cup of tea and move on from the experience.

They make it look SO EASY on tv.

Do daughters do this too?

June 6, 2012

Lately Boy 2 has started to manipulate his younger brother in a way that means I usually end up on the receiving end. His favourite tactic is to scream out desperately to his comrade “Help me!!” while I am telling him off (for not going to bed when told, say) whereupon Boy 3 will charge at me and start hitting me in a kind of cute but really ill-timed defence of his beloved brother. Fending off two boys at the same time who are less than a metre tall is a physical, if somewhat comical and hugely frustrating scene akin to a large spider being attacked by several ants. You really root for the spider, and know that she will ultimately come off the victor, but you also feel the pain and irritation of all those little ant bites.

The Message. Got it yet?

June 5, 2012

Tonight I had a really significant “discussion” – ok, argument – with my husband which I am hoping will mark a ¬†watershed in our relationship.

It was significant for several reasons, the first of which being that I stood firm and kept my cool throughout and did not cry like I normally do. This helped me to articulate my points and I think for once I really got across quite a lot of important stuff. Usually our “discussions” dissolve into a scene of: frustrated tears into a cold cup of tea on the couch in front of Lateline (me) and snoring in the bedroom with the light off (him). I truly hate going to bed on a fight. Crawling into bed with the infuriating conflict of emotions of a) being massively pissed off with your partner; yet b) actually being concerned that you might wake them up. What is with that? We have a sofa bed but I’m damned if I’m going to sleep on it. My preferred alternative sleep arrangement is on a mattress in the boys’ room, and, while the mattress is hard and cold and smells like stale urine, I find it comforting to sleep amid the snores and farts and teeth grinding of my three boys and leave their father ostracised ¬†in the other room. I feel like we unify in one big two-finger salute at the only grown man in the house who just doesn’t get it. But it still feels wrong. One of the two pieces of relationship advice I have inherited from my 40-year-mostly-happily-married mother is to never sleep on a fight (the other being to marry a man with a “good heart”. I have clung – often desperately – to this tidbit now for 12 years).

The other reason the argument was significant was because it was the first time in 17 years of being together, 12 of it in, ahem, matrimonial bliss, that I actually expressed a coherent feminist argument about the difficulties faced by women who are seen as 100% full-time carers of their children when they attempt to do anything else in their lives when they don’t have a supportive network around them. Ask a woman who has children and who works (or studies) AND who appears genuinely happy how she does it and invariably she will respond along the lines of “I have help”. Often this is in the form of parents and relatives helping with the childcare and school pick ups, cleaners helping with the housework, and – crucially – a partner who is supportive of her work. Without this scaffold of practical and emotional support, and the acknowledgement that raising children is not the sole domain of the mother – that everyone fares better when a community is involved (the old “it takes a village to raise a child” adage) – a woman faces an incredibly uphill struggle to maintain control and balance in her life.

Loss of control and balance was what I suffered the last time I worked in a “real job”, about a year after Boy 3 was born. I realise now that it was a confluence of factors, namely the part-time conundrum (ie the assumption that the part-timer (usually the woman) will collect a sick child when this would mean the sacrificing of potentially 50% of her working week without the luxury of a full-time week to make up for the work not done) coupled with the housework conundrum (ie the fact that for parts of the week there is no one at home to wash clothes/shop/tidy/cook etc so it falls to the part-timer (usually the woman) to make this up in the other days of the week). Of course, what this really boils down to is that a) part-time work (especially a woman’s and more especially when she has children) is valued less than full-time work; and b) these conundrums would not exist if the scaffold of support mentioned earlier was firmly in place.

I know now, through our argument tonight, that I can erect a scaffold insomuch as I have parents who “might” be available to help, should I go back to work (albeit a very conditional “might”), and I would have no qualms about paying someone to clean my house in my absence. Boy 3 would benefit from a day or two socialising in daycare, and Boys 1 and 2 would be fine cavorting in after school care together. But as far as partner support of my endeavour goes, I am yet to get the impression that there is much of that. And it is his support that I want, and, critically, his acknowledgement that my going back to work would benefit not just me but the family and that raising the boys is not just my sole responsibility. I spelled this out for him tonight, and I’m hoping that he got it. I’m hoping that tomorrow, he will say to me “you can go back to work if you want to and it may take some time to adjust but it’ll be ok and if it’s really what you want to do I’ll support you and I’ll do the soccer run on Tuesdays and the boys will be fine and the extra money will be great because we’ll be able to take them on holidays and buy clothes and shoes for them without worrying about it and you’ll be happier and I’ll be happier and the boys will be happier and it’ll be great”. Even as I write this I know it isn’t going to happen, and my expectations are totally unrealistic. But I’m reserving a bit of hope for the fact that tonight, as I virtually wrote the script for him, maybe his subconscious is memorising some of the words as he sleeps.

Until then I’ll just fret about the job application I put in last week for a job I know I would enjoy and would be good at and fend off the creeping sadness that the man I love and have chosen to be with and have children with may not be 100% supportive of me.

Maybe he is, but just not in the way I want him to be supportive. Maybe he just doesn’t know how. Maybe tonight I helped him.

Or maybe it’ll just all end in tears.