Fuck you, Mummy Wars!

mummy-war

I’ve posted before about my feelings about the “Mummy Wars”- basically, I think they’re shite. For some reason, at a time when we should be building each other up, the media seems hell bent on pitting us against each other. And it clearly works, given the amount of nasty and snarky comments I read from hot-headed keyboard warriors in the aftermath.

This week, the social medias were awash with mummy war inducing tripe. Awash. From stay at home mums vs. working mums, to breast is best, and how and where we should be letting our children sleep, the mummy ‘news’ pages did their best to ensure that every mother felt guilty this week. It’s a pretty impressive feat, when you think about it. These pages work so damn hard to make us feel like shithouse parents, and generate so many nasty, unmoderated, mean spirited comments, yet we keep going back for more.

I got caught up in it the other day. I commented in a discussion on a bit of click baity garbage. Soon after someone else commented, and unintentionally (I assume) tore me apart. I don’t even think they had seen what I had written, but their comment essentially labelled me as something that I definitely am not. And it hurt. My feelings were hurt. It was most unpleasant.

I vented to my husband, who looked at me like I had grown an additional head. “Why are you getting upset about throw-away comments from people on the internet?” As much as I hate to admit it, he was right. So I made a decision.

I’m boycotting the Mummy Wars.

Clicky baity news sites, you can keep your ridiculous, shame inducing, nasty comment causing, bullshit. I’m not going to click on your bait. I’m fucking done with it. I don’t wish to read your passive aggressive articles, which are obviously written to ruffle feathers and generate toxicity. “It’s not toxicity, it’s conversation” , you say, but that’s not true. It’s just an outlet for people to bully, hurt, and offend other people. Mums ragging on other mums.

At the end of the day, I don’t care if you want to stay at home with your kids. I don’t care if you choose to work, or have to work, or want to work. If you eat your placenta, lotus your birth, breastfeed your kids until they are in primary school. Feed them organics, feed them fish fingers and frozen peas. It’s OK with me.

Unless it is clear to me that you are physically or emotionally harming your kids, it is not my place to be involved. It’s really not the click bait brigade’s place, either. So, as long as they keep posting shame inducing tripe, I’ll keep boycotting.

Mummy wars are ridiculous wars. While we are wasting our time, bickering over meaningless shit, and belittling complete strangers for simply having a different parenting style to our own, actual bad shit is still happening. Sixty women have lost their lives, this year alone,  through acts of violence. Asylum seekers, including women and children, are stuck in island purgatory. These are the issues that we should be outraged about on the internet. Not whether or not another parent feeds their kid toddler formula.

Feel free to stand with me and proudly declare: Fuck you, Mummy Wars! Fuck you, and goodbye! Farewell, and don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out! Be gone!

Or don’t. Seriously. I don’t really care.

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From me to you, Mummy Wars.

 

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Baby-free zone

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Yesterday, I took my middle child to his first kindergarten orientation day. Surrounded by crying and unsure kids, my newly minted five year old walked proudly into the class, fearless and unphased, with barely a look in my direction as farewell. I realised in that moment, that my little boy was gone. Dan the Man is a big kid now.

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Bona fide big kid, right there

I had a similar moment with my youngest, the day before. After sharing a hilarious anecdote about JJ on Facey (they’re always hilarious when you are the parent), I posted a photo of him that related to the anecdote. Suddenly, when I looked at his shaggy hair, his little face, and his long legs that hint of lankiness to come, I realised that I was no longer looking at a baby. My littlest baby is my littlest boy.

I don’t have a baby anymore. Not one.

My seven year old daughter is “like, totally over Frozen”, my five year can count to 100, my two year old is speaking in ‘understandable’ sentences. Not a single baby between them. My days of bottles, high chairs, change tables, and teething toys are over.

It’s fucking fantastic.

I hear so many mothers lament their baby raising days. I know women who hold the babies of others, and tear up with the realisation that their time with tiny scrunched up faces, and yellow, curdy milk poo are over. I am not these women. When I am handed the teeny, wiggly bundles that friends have birthed, I am overcome with relief that I get to hand them back and sleep through the night. As cute as they are, little babies are not my thang these days.

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The long legs that gave the game away. Asleep, yet still clutching his beloved ‘happle’

I was at a birthday party recently, with the parents of a bunch of kids that Dan is going to school with. We were discussing the approaching orientation day, and it was generally agreed upon that the appropriate reaction to such an event was sadness, wistfulness, and possibly, tears. I couldn’t help but chime in.

“I’ll be so excited that Dan is going to school, I’ll probably stand at the gates and high five the parents.”

Everyone laughed, ha ha, that Rissa, she’s such a card. And I guess I am, but the thing is, it was true. I am not sad in the slightest to watch my middle child growing up. This orientation thing, this kindergarten student 2017 thing, is something I plan to celebrate.

I love watching them grow. Sometimes, I feel like I am watching a movie, at the edge of my seat: what will happen next? Where will they go? Who are they going to become? I love hearing my daughter’s almost-tween conversations with her friends. I adore listening to Dan practicing counting to 100, just because his friend knows how to. I delight in seeing JJ walk up to a group of little kids, “I play game too?”

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My first baby, now a bendy, speedy, dreamer of a kid. She’s going to be Prime Minister one day. Watch out, world!

They are growing up, and it means so many things. It means that they will get to try so many new things. It means that they will learn that they are not so good at touch football, however they are fantastic at turning cartwheels and navigating monkey bars. They will learn to win games, and races, and competitions, and they will learn to lose a few along the way, too. They will learn how to navigate conflict, the value of a true friend, the value of being a true friend. They will break rules, bend rules, and new rules will be created just for them.

It means some pretty awesome things for me, too. Perhaps many will find it selfish, but it means freedom. Freedom from being a little person’s slave. After three kids in five years, they are growing up, and it means I get to remember who I am. Not Rissa-Phoebe’s-mum. Nor Rissa-Dan’s-mum. Just Rissa.

One day in the near future, I might be able to get an eyebrow wax without a captive audience. I may even manage to find the time to get a pap smear, without it requiring far too much coordination, and far too many babysitting favours used, for me to bother. I might apply for jobs that I have put off looking at. I might have time to turn some of my ambitious dreams into actual realities. I might get to actually read a book that doesn’t have pictures or large print.

Lately, the husband and I have been talking about flying to an exotic location for our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s 18 months off, and it’s starting to feel like it might just be achievable. A week, just him and I. A whole week of grown up activities with grown up people. It sounds so amazing, I can barely even bring myself to dream about it.

It seems unpopular, my excitement. It feels like people expect me to be sad that my babies are no longer little bundles of joy. But dammit, I just can’t pretend that I am. Maybe it’s just my weirds hanging out again, as they have a habit of doing so frequently. I think that maybe more people feel this way than I think, it just happens that I feel it louder.

Life is for living. I don’t want to yearn for the past, not just yet. And I don’t want to wish my children were something they no longer are, either. Excitement is infectious, and I want my children to feel it for their own futures. This wild life ride would be boring without it.

The “Me Time” Problem

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Recently, I have noticed a number of articles imploring women to slow down. Take “me time”. Sit back, and smell the roses. It appears that, now that we have told everyone that women can “have it all”, we have discovered that having it all is exhausting.

While I understand that the authors of these articles are well-meaning, and their advice to slow down is somewhat sensible, I can’t help but feel harassed by their message. It feels like yet another thing to put on my ‘to-do’ list. Another reason to feel guilty as a parent. Another thing to fail.

“Me time” is great, if you are in a position where you are privileged enough to have the means to facilitate it. I’m not going to lie about this, I do have that privilege, to some degree. My family is well supported, so I am able to have the odd night out while my kids are taken care of. My income is high enough that I can afford a reasonably pricey gym membership, and the associated costs of the creche that the gym provides. But I know that I am exceptionally lucky in my circumstances.

Even with the privilege of adequate child care, and a supportive family, “me time” is not easy to facilitate. To earn the kind of income required to support a family of five in a city like Sydney, my husband and I both work full-time. I’m a shift worker, which complicates the situation even further, as I am often working through the night, and over the weekends. Our time together as a family is often restricted as a result. My kids have birthday parties to attend, sporting commitments, doctors appointments, swimming lessons. We are busy.

And we are not alone in being busy. Everywhere I go, I meet another parent, rushing multiple kids to multiple locations, eating pasta out of plastic containers in cars, counting a large skim latte and a protein bar as lunch. In a city like Sydney, families with two working parents are the norm. I know parents who are both working two jobs, while still rushing their kids to gymnastics, tutoring, and little athletics.

“Me time” costs money. Even putting my kids in the creche at my gym a few times a week costs me a minimum of $32 a week. An amount that I can work into my own budget quite comfortably, however it would not be manageable for many families. Other options are even more expensive – occasional care in my area costs $10 per hour, per child – which can quickly add up to more money than many families can afford to part with.

Even free “me time” has a cost. My family often comes to my rescue while I work, or when I have to attend appointments. However, my parents, in-laws, and sibling have their own lives too. I want them to enjoy spending time with my kids. I don’t want them to feel burdened by my children. I am lucky, to have their support. Many families have little support, some none at all.

So what do we do? How do we deal with the lack of me time?

From conversations I have, and people I know, we take what we can get, and make the most of it. For me, that means eating my lunch (or dinner) at my desk, so I can wander the city and pretend to have a life on my meal break at work. It’s not how I would spend my time if I had a choice, but it’s better than nothing. Sometimes, when it’s warm, I spend my break reading a trashy magazine in a park. I take an extra ten minutes, and read the news sites in peace after going to the gym. I make the absolute most of those rare weekends when I am not working, and my husband and I have been gifted care by one of our relatives. I get a coffee after I get a pap smear. I walk the scenic route home from the supermarket, and try to enjoy it, regardless of the heavy bags I am carrying.

“Me time” is important, and I am sure that most people would take it if they could. Unfortunately it’s not always possible. It’s  not always going to happen, and certainly not in the way that many opinion pieces and blog posts seem to think it should. This isn’t something we should feel guilty about. It’s just the way life is.

And, if you find that someone you care about reacts angrily to your “me time” suggestion, perhaps it would be beneficial to not be defensive. They probably do need some me time. Perhaps they don’t have the resources to facilitate it. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with asking for help. A friendly ear, and a shoulder to cry on might be just the thing they need.