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Why I had children!

A FB “friend” posted an article about being childless.

The FB article said it would address our misconceptions (okay maybe not the word it used), okay it said assumptions about why women do not have children and the stereotypes of childless women.

I think the reverse is also often true. There are false assumptions about why women get pregnant and stereotypes about what motherhood is.

I never wanted children. I had children because I got pregnant.

I was unable to take hormones, such as the pill, for medical reasons. And let’s face it, who wants to use a condom in a committed, monogamous relationship? I hate the smell of rubber and latex and I react to it in ways I won’t go into.

My gyno actually said having a child would clear out my uterus; I was having multiple false positives to Pap smears.

I was in love and pretty sure I had found a man I would spend my life with. So there was no way I would have an abortion. Hey, we had a solid income and a home. There were worse things that could happen.

If I’d been able to take the pill, I probably wouldn’t have had children for a very long time as it’s never the right time. My studies. My career. Our relationship. A mortgage. My travels.

Three years after my first, I had my second child for the same reason as my first. I had sex and in the moment of passion didn’t care about the very unreliable method of contraception we were using. I got pregnant. I still couldn’t take the pill. No one would prescribe it for me as I had had a blood clot which caused temporary blindness and still affects my vision.

I remember a sexist, pompous prig of a single man with whom I worked saying, “I didn’t think anyone had unplanned pregnancies anymore!”

Spoken like someone who was single, had limited knowledge of women’s bodies, and didn’t understand, or have, sex drive. Or no one who wanted to have sex with him.

So there was no burning desire within me, no plan, to have children. And I wasn’t particularly maternal. I still largely am not with other people’s babies. I never saw myself with a house in the suburbs and kids in the yard.

But I was a god damn great mother once they came along. Yes, there were moments that I hated it, moments that I wanted out, moments of utter boredom.

But I’m so glad I fell pregnant twice. So glad the decision was taken out of my hands.

Yes, without children my mortgage would have been paid off. We’d have travelled more. We’d have had more dinners and nights out. I might have finished my masters.

But that’s more of the same-same. Really big woop if we got to go to more restaurants, to more expensive places. Big woop if our mortgage was now gone.

We would have missed out on the pure love of a baby and toddler; sharing the wonderment and joy of learning and experiencing the world through a child’s eyes; creating the magic of Christmas and Easter bunny; the palpable love between brothers. (Look at photo below. Can you see the pride and awe in The Dreamer’s face at the cleverness and skill of his older brother?)

I would have missed out on my boys thinking I was truely awesome and amazing because I could make an ugly, wonky brown caterpillar cake that adults saw as ugly and wonky but they saw as cool; and my boys thinking I was truely skilled because I could sew on a button. No one else would think that. No one else would share my view of myself as incredibly clever.

And I got to experience the joy of silly games and play and uncontrollable laughter.

My relationship with my boys is changing as they reach adulthood and become more independent. (Well as much as millenials can be.) I get to go to stand up comedy shows with my son who shares my sense of humour, which is brilliant as my husband hates comedy shows. I get to learn current slang terms and social media changes and what is happening in my neighbourhood because of my connected son. We go to concerts together. We have political discussions. We enjoy each other’s company.

I never wanted children. I never planned to get pregnant. I wasn’t maternal. I didn’t plan to be a family in the ‘burbs. But I don’t resent that sliding door opening. And that it did, it is not the sum totality of my identity. You don’t have to give up career and travel and studies and love and “lifestyle” when you have kids.

I know there’s many who can’t get pregnant, who struggle conceiving a child, who have all many of heart-wrenching conditions which don’t let the baby go to full-term. My heart goes out to them.

And I know people don’t have children by choice for many, many reasons. For these people, just as you may not want others to make assumptions about your choice, don’t make assumptions about what I may or may not be thinking about your choice, even to thinking that I might be making assumptions. I don’t think all women should or want to have children.

And if I now think work and travel, and not being comfortable around babies (god sake you can learn) and not feeling maternal are shit reasons not to have kids, well listing these reasons in an article, especially when the person quoted is in their 20s, is not going to convince me of the logic and validity of the arguments. But I also think my view is as irrelevant to someone’s childfree-by-choice decisions as their view is on what they think I am thinking of their childfree status from my status as a “breeder”.

Comment or not, as you wish.

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Changing doctors 

I have a GP that I trust. She makes good calls. And she knows me well – knows I hate taking medication, so tells me why I should. And she seems to know the best specialists. 

Several times my GP has been unavailable and I’ve stressed about finding another. I have gone to medical centres when things are not really bad but I need to be checked out quickly, throat infection and the like. (My GP can be hard to get in to see – the downside of being popular – and she takes her time with patients so is often running two hours late.) But I don’t want to see medical centre doctors for real needs and they rarely look at you as a while person, listening to the one thing you say is wrong and quickly getting you out the door. Given that many of them are overseas trained doctors, I don’t trust they know the right/best specialists. 

One time I tried a doctor recommended by a friend. I had a bad throat infection. I just wanted to be checked out before I left for the snow. To be trapped on the mountain with a secondary infection wouldn’t be fun. But I was in there for ages. I know I should appreciate the thoroughness (especially as this was the opposite of my medical centre whinge and she was trying to get to know me) but being quizzed about my uterus and periods when I wanted my throat looked at and getting a referral for an internal ultrasound and more blood tests was not what I wanted. (I didn’t go for the ultrasound or the blood tests and went back to my GP who didn’t think they were necessary.)

So 24 hours in from my knee injury and I still can’t walk. I try to make an appointment with my GP. I haven’t seen her since last year. The number is disconnected. Bugger! She must have retired!!!

What to do?

I contact some friends for recommendations. Of course, good GPs probably aren’t taking new patients. 

I am about to phone one when it hits me. I’m in another state. I need to put the area code in front of the number. 

Success! Well, of a kind. My doctor is on leave. But I will see her colleague. I don’t know her but at least I’m not starting afresh. 

Do you have a general practitioner you have been seeing for a long time? Do you stress about changing doctors?

Resuming normal transmission

How’d May Day Revolution go?

I did eat more healthily. 

I didn’t lose weight. Well under a kilo. But that’s neither here nor there. But I suppose it is neither on my hips. Lol!

How’s the “reclaim your life from work/ making margins around work” going?

I am averaging a 10 hour day at work. Add travel, and reclaiming my life is not going too well. But I don’t do emails from home unless I’ve been at a course of meeting during the day and I really resist doing work things on the weekend. 

I am making a conscious effort to do things I like – French lessons continue on Saturday, reading, watching movies and series on TV, exploring places, going out for lunch, dinner or drinks. And I’ve been planning our next overseas trip. Having something to look forward to is a great lifter of spirits. 

I’ve taken two sick days so far this year. Pretty shocking for me. One was really because the stress was too much and I’d had enough. And the other because I was feeling a cold developing. As it turned out I ended with the flu in the first week of he holidays. So on the sick days I was really sick. Still I normally would battle on because of the work needing attention. Not anymore. And I got my hair done. Normally I go on a Saturday but that would mean missing French lessons. Which I don’t want to do. 

And I took a Family Leave Day – explained below. 

How’d the Persian thing go?

You didn’t know I had a Persian thing? Well after reading that book, in the last post, I really had to try the food. I spoke with some Persian/Iranian students who recommended some restaurants. Turns out there’s heaps of Persian restaurants around our part of Sydney. Who knew?

I picked one, one wet week day evening. So, how’d I kind the food?

As my eldest said, glad we came as it will be more memorable than if we’d had yet another Thai meal. My most complimentary words – unusual and unique, which is up there with memorable. 

The flavours that are put together are really unusual – sweet and sour and and … and something I just couldn’t put words too. 

We were the only people in the restaurant. The two servers/cooks were so lovely and friendly. I do hope they make money. I can’t see the food taking off with Australians. I will go again to try some kebabs. And maybe to another restaurant to try the same dishes but cooked by someone else. Would hate to judge all Persian foods based on one version. 

My less complementary word was swampy. Which the dishes did look like. 


What’s the best thing that happened over the last few months?

I’ve been making sure that I’ve been doing things that bring joy (see first question) but some things bring great joy without any input or control from me. 

My eldest graduated from Sydney Uni with a double degree – science and chemical engineering. Mr S and I took leave to attend his graduation. We had an absolutely perfect day. So many people commented that I looked beautiful in the photos. It was because I wa so happy. Amazing how joy can make you glow!

My youngest is in a band. They’ve been playing gigs and they have a song that you can buy on iTunes or Spotify. Search Arborview if you’re so inclined. 

Photos below were at a free gig at Bondi in April. Perfect blue sky. Lovely warm weather. We went for a swim, as you do when at Bondi, although it’s not my sort of place and I haven’t been for over a decade. Too crowded. Still, we were there to see our son. And we couldn’t have been prouder. 

Mr S watching the gig

My high jumping bass guitarist

Classic rock star end-of-gig stance



Who’s that?

A cousin who lives overseas recently sent me some photos that she had unearthed from her mother’s (my father’s sister) collection. 

Some people in the photos were instantly recognisable. That must be dad. That must be dad and his siblings. That must be nan when she was young. Look at her gloves – what the groover she was. 

That must be dad’s family at the seaside in Wales. I mean who visits the beach (we don’t do seasides) in Australia dressed up like that? And rides donkeys?


But who is that? And that? And this little round thing?


My father died when I was a teen. He left us years earlier. I don’t have much to do with his side of the family for multiple reasons. Even if I did, there are not many people who would know who the people in the photos are. My aunt is 80 and has Alzheimer’s. There’s only one other sibling still alive. She is significantly younger and may not know the people either. 

Then I helped my mother with a couple of entries on her blog. We uploaded some photos. Again of people I didn’t know. 

All this got me thinking. What is the point of family photos?

Are they just for those who take them, and their immediate family, to recollect or celebrate events in their lives? To act as decorations around the house?

Are they records for family history? 

Are they for future historical and cultural references?

Should we keep old photos? Should we bother keeping all our own photos? What now that we take thousands on our phones? Should we treat photos as ephemeral?

Is it better to have one photo with a record of who is in it and where it was taken and other contextual information than thousands of unknown people and places?

Now that I know who some of the people are in my mother’s photos, the photos mean more to me. But will my offspring care?

 

French Lessons

Whenever I share with friends some new little thing I’ve been doing, whenever I say, “Did I tell you I [insert minor new thing – not minor like I’ve bought a handbag, unless it is an absolutely amazing handbag or I’ve bought a super expensive handbag of the Hermes or Chanel price range and then it would be more about having thousands to spend than about a handbag, so not minor but more a major thing such as how I won millions – but minor like I’ve taken up yoga again (which I haven’t) or I get up half an hour early and go for a walk (which I’m contemplating)] I think of a scene in the sitcom, Will and Grace. I think of this scene even more so when a friend tells me of some new little thing they’ve been doing for ages. 

See, Will and Grace lived on the same floor of a block of flats (when did we start saying apartments like the Americans, or is there a difference, like price?) and they were close friends. They shared all the minor tooing and froing of daily life. Then Grace moved away. Catching up becomes a big thing. Grace finds out Will isn’t eating cheese anymore. She’s devastated. 

Grace: You gotta call me when you go off cheese. 

Grace and Will – though I prefer Jack and Karen


It’s not about the cheese. It’s about not sharing the little things, the truely little things. 

When you have a friend with whom you interact daily, say at work, and then you don’t cause you move, you stop sharing those little things. You wouldn’t phone just to say, you’ve started morning walks. Then the gaps in knowledge of all the minor things become bigger. When you catch up, you talk about the big things and not the minor things. 

Later someone might say to you, “I’m thinking of joining X on her morning walk.”

“What?” you think. “When did that start?” You begin to question your friendship, “I don’t know X anymore.” And maybe that little jealousy creeps in. “Why does this other friend know more? Is she a closer friend than me? Why wasn’t I asked to go on morning walks?”

Yeah, so I’m doing French lessons on a Saturday morning. Now you all know. 

After French lessons I’m going over to a friend’s place for lunch. A friend with whom I used to chat all the time but work and busyness got in the way. She invited me over for a morning cuppa but I had lessons and she didn’t know. Soon she’ll be moving north and there’ll be even less sharing. 

So tell me if you give up cheese. 

More on caveats 

Do you use a rating system for books or films? If so, do you give full marks?

 

I don’t think most people would think 2 stars means the book is OK. Then again, I know people who won’t give five stars. (Just as I’ve known English teachers who wouldn’t give full marks for an essay!)

Well besides the fact that if you have a scale, say one to five, and you leave off the ends, haven’t you just made the scale one to four? 

I find the fact that on Goodreads you can’t give half marks so by using one to four difficult. It limits you so you have to capture books together that you may not have lumped together on your satisfaction rating. You’ve only got four groupings!!!


Anyway, put aside those queries on the logic of not giving top marks, to deal with my main objection. 

Giving any mark is dependent on contexts and caveats. 

Let’s use TripAdvisor as an example. I might stay at a cheap place that’s a bit down at the heels but give it four, because  it was good FOR the price and expectations. Conversely if I stayed at a five star resort but felt it didn’t live up to the price, even if the accommodation and included activities were better than the cheap down-at-heels place, I might give it three, or even four stars. The latter rating doesn’t mean it is equal to or the same as the down-at-heels place but that it is not the best expensive place to stay. 

Does this make sense?

Here’s another example. I ate out at our recent trip to Canberra. One was an expensive restaurant. $150 for two without wine. (And I had two entrees rather than an entree and a main which would have bumped up the price.) I gave it five stars. The food was divine and the service friendly and attentive. The service at the other restaurant, a modern Indian, was also friendly and attentive, but without that finesse from the expensive restaurant. The modern Indian was cuts above your average suburban Indian, and priced accordingly. I gave it four stars. You want something nice and tasty and above your normal butter chicken and beef vindaloo? This is it. But if you expected, and prefer, your normal suburban Patak style Indian, you might be shocked at the price and give this restaurant two stars. Alternatively, if the Indian restaurant was priced higher, say at the same as the expensive restaurant, my rating would drop from four to three, maybe even two. 

Films have contextualised expectations too. It could depend on whether I watched it for free on TV or paid for it at the cinema. Or my expectations. Let’s say I paid for a movie, I might give it five stars, even with caveats, because it spoke to me, made my heart sing, or made me laugh a lot. 

And books? Books that I read and say, “That was awesome. I couldn’t put it down,” they get five stars. 

But beyond caveats and contexts, I get to the heart of star ratings. I hate them for books and films. How can you compare a self-help book with a work of fiction? A piece of literature with some Woman’s-Weekly-stickered, trashy, quickly written novel? (Yes, I’m a book snob.)

And at the heart of it, how can you sum up a book or a film in a number? I need to explain my caveats. I loved it but … It was good but … It was OK but … It was shit but …  

I give it five stars but

Assaulting our senses and sensibilities

Shop windows loud with placards so exclamatory they make one’s eyes jump. (Thank you J.B.Priestley for that phrase. I love the “with placards so exclamatory.)


I’m not a frequenter of shopping centres. The noise, the crowds, the commercialism rankles me. I tend to limit myself to my minor Westfield shopping centre – it has enough choice for me – and within that centre I tend to limit myself to one department store. The one that plays gentle music and has more open space and fewer people. Even so, going once every ten weeks is enough for me. Add to this going once every ten weeks into the city. 

I hate the visual pollution of shouty shop signs. 

I could never work in sales. I’d be telling people they don’t need to buy. And, indeed, they shouldn’t go into debt to buy whatever it was I might be selling. This product wont give them happiness. Go out and do something. Go for a walk somewhere nice in the fresh air, close to nature. Read a book. Talk to family friends. 

Though all this aside, I can shop with the best of them. And I just bought a CD of a local up and coming artist (Alex Lahey, listen to her on YouTube) from the shop in the picture above.  Ahhh, inherent inconsistencies, I embrace you. 

But let’s make a start and not buy from any shops with shouty placards so exclamatory. 

Down with visual pollution!