So, what do you do?

So what do you do?

I am a mum. Conversation killer, well, it could be a starter depending on who you talk to, but mostly a killer.

At the moment, I am not doing any waged work. I am trying to write articles from my PhD research, but nobody is paying me to do so. I went to a conference recently, but that’s about it. The rest of the time, I manage the house, and I am with r. Since last week, she is doing 3.30 hours at the Montessori. For the last two and a half weeks, she was settling in, which meant she was going one hour, and then extending it slowly by 15 minutes. And I was staying there, waiting for her. So it has only been a few days that I have had my three hours.  And sometimes it is even less, if I take her in the mornings. Luckily, my partner has agreed to take her, but we are still working it out. So yes, mostly full-time mom.

We moved recently, so I am meeting people here and they ask, as anybody would ‘so what do you do? And I am struggling here. I feel the need to explain that I just finished my PhD, that I have done a little bit of consultancy since, but that at the moment I am a mum. But it does not seem enough to be a mum. I think that is quite crap to be honest. I feel like the waiters who shout at you that really, they are actors/comedians/students…but in reality, no, I‘m ‘really’ a mum, and very happy of being one, and hopefully, eventually, I will also have a paid job. But I struggle to just state that nonchalantly. I think these little instances, those uncomfortable moments when I say I am a mum and eyes glaze over, show the diminished view of motherhood, and the (invisible) work that it entails, which is as sorry a state as when working for a wage was shameful in my view…

Lucila

 

Do I dare? “Feminist” doesn’t sound good at all

This is my dilemma at the moment: I’m working crazy hours at home and at work. It’s not that I consider working six hours every day at the university heroic, but being nearly six months pregnant, plus having a demanding toddler at home, plus a horrible nesting drive that’s driving me to tidy up every single wardrobe in the house, and last but not least the need to finish my PG in Coaching in January, just before giving birth, is not helping me to find inner peace!

In the midst of all this chaos I have an urgent desire to set up a feminist seminar at the university. My current university is a bit more traditional than the previous one I worked at. People here don’t talk about feminism, they talk about gender; and they refer to women’s rights, not to patriarchy or gender structural discrimination. So I feel at odds with this crazy idea. Should I risk my legal and professional credentials running a seminar with the title “Feminism isn’t bad, let’s give it a go”, or should I try a more conventional approach and call it “Women’s rights”?

These are the things I would like to talk about in the seminar: mothering, body image, new sexism, gender discrimination at the university, gender parenting and feminism, gender differences and science, feminist activism and women’s networks, among others. But I’m afraid that if I include the word “feminism” in the title nobody will come to my seminars!

I feel this sort of isolation more and more. When I say I’m a feminist people look at me as if I’m outdated, a man hater, a woman who ill-treats her partner (something he might agree to, considering how many times in the last six months he’s told me I have a wicked tongue).

On top of this I’m starting to teach a new course this year. This is a big one, with about 100 students, and I’d like to share with them everything that feminism has brought to my life, the inspiring readings and the way of looking at gender relationships, but I don’t know if I dare.

The same applies to my seminar.  What if I title it “Feminism and women” and nobody comes? I’ll be extremely sad, but I’m so much in need of sharing my thoughts, readings and projects with other women that I might risk it.

Any idea for an appealing title? I don’t want to be left high and dry in the seminar room…

Natalia

in my mind these days…

I know this is a silly thing to be asking…but at this point in time I would like a magic wand that would dress r. and make her nap without taking 3 hours to do so….

Next week she will be starting to go to her montessori ‘house’, and she has to be there by 8.45, and again I am faced with the question: how the hell do people get to drop their children in time, dressed and fed? It is a small mountain in the larger order of things, but one which I can’t help but fret about.

 Since we moved houses three weeks ago, r. has been quite challenging and our rhythm totally out the window: naps are until 4ish, bedtime again is 10ish, and it is driving me mad, so we have been working this week on being more organised ourselves and a little bit more structured, but even so… I am not sure how I am going to achieve getting her in time…. At the moment my average is getting out at 10.30/11 from an 7.45 wake up…so any tips welcome.

Other things on my mind: looking for work, painting samples, dreaming about a house that is not cluttered and full of boxes and things that don’t seem to belong anywhere, and a life in which everything flows, is more ordered, simple, lovely and cooperative….and on ways to make some of these things happen, but obviously, even if this was achievable, any progress here is SLOW, and my body does not seem to want to cooperate either: too tired, grumpy and impatient. So that is what is going on around here…

What are your current gripes? Come on, here is your place to rant!

Lucila

the devious commercialisation of public health

I have been quite surprised before, but now I’m pregnant again, it struck me once more: what is it with Bounty, a ‘parenting club’, and the NHS?

The folders and information you are given when you are pregnant by the midwives and in the hospital are from Bounty, and I remember well how when r. was born the bounty lady just came in my room with the authority  of a midwife or doctor and gave me a bag full of stuff such as samples of disposable nappies, laundry powder, wipes, but also important documents related to getting child tax credits. I found this collusion quite perplexing, and the intrusion of this woman uncomfortable. She offered to take pictures of r., and did it, but it was all a bit strange for me, I did not really understand if it was a public or private thing …especially because I am not from the UK, and those first few days after birth, with the worry and anxiety of those first days as r. was born tiny and I could not manage to breastfeed, my milk was coming in and hormones were flowing in turmoil, and sleep deprivation made everything more hazy.

Now, again  I faced this quite tight weaving of comercial interests with public healthcare. Again the dutiful Bounty folder, and on my first scan, I was given a Bounty bag full of stuff and was told by the receptionist of the hospital that I had to fill a form. I looked and looked and the only form I could find was the Bounty form to give my details to Bounty, and thus, to different companies. I looked at the contents of the bag and found disposable nappies, laundry powder, etc – luckily not formula milk!- but these were things I did not want. So I went and asked the receptionist which form did she meant, thinking it would be something official, since I ‘had’ to fill it in. No, she explained, it was the Bounty form. When I said I did not want to fill it in, she looked at me sourly and told me curtly to give back the bag then. I found this outrageous, why did they make you think it was an official ‘public’ form, why did I HAVE to sign it? She got her bag back.

Recently, this article in The Guardian shows that I am not the only one worried about this, and gives more details of what is involved, which sure enough is, guess what? money. As this article states

The Independent today reports the National Childbirth Trust’s (NCT) findings that “parenting club” companies are paying maternity units £5,000 for the right to access their wards, approach their patients and sell their wares. These generally constitute sets of pictures of your newborn for around £20 a print, and in some cases – notably by the largest of these companies, Bounty – the right to distribute “new mother” packs, which contain free samples of baby-related commercial brands, along with promotional literature and some discount vouchers.’

The article concludes with the following:

‘That maternity units are struggling and need all the money they can get is a major cause for concern, but by allowing them to be subsidised in this way the NHS is colluding with private companies exploiting people at their most vulnerable.’ 

I think this sums  up nicely what I felt then, but more so now, as I understand the system better… I’m glad someone is digging into this. The NCT is looking to ban this practice, and I, as the author of the article also states, would gladly add my name to that petition.

Lucila

Great minds think alike, or the power of coincidence

Hello there, hope some of you are still with us, in spite of our very patchy appearance.

What’s the likelihood of two friends getting pregnant at the same time?? quite remote, but here we are. Natalia, who has been much better at organising her time and energy than me, has already told you her news, I wanted to share mine with you too, though I’m sorry it’s a bit late: I’m pregnant, 5 months now…one week ahead of Natalia to be exact!

This is one of the reasons for my absence here in this space. The first three months were just a bare survival in terms of energy, I couldn’t get my body to do and go along with all my plans. My body did not budge: ‘sleep when you can’, was it’s motto. And that’s what I had to do, even if I had a hard time accepting it (and still am!). Also, all I could think those first months apart from sleep was pregnancy and baby related daydreaming…some good, some wondering how the hell I was to cope with two, if I could barely cope with one…There is something about not being able to talk about something that shuts the door for talking about other things…it was as if I was blocked or something.

After those months, house moving suddenly got very near and a holiday break in between with no internet access – apart from a dark cyber cafe- made contributing here very hard. So I apologise for that! and to myself, because I miss this space, I miss it a lot. Now, one week in the new house, I feel today – unlike yesterday!- that things are starting to shape up a bit in our smaller house: in trying to control the overload of THINGS, in finding ways to accomodate different needs, and especially a little one who has been brilliant with all these changes – baby on the way, move, saying goodbye to the nanny, loads of visits from grandparents – but who needs extra re-assurance – running into our bed in the middle of the night, going to bed late because she needs us to stay with her for a loooong time, and who has quite a few unleashings of what looks like madness over little things, but which are obviously her way of taking some steam out…but in the midst of it all, here I am am. I’m back.

Lucila

 

Going for holidays for two weeks

I will be in France on holidays for two weeks with no internet connection. I hope I can survive 🙂

See you soon,

Natalia

What I want from a job

 I’m currently in the Basque Country where the weather has been crap for two weeks. However, thanks to Susana I can have three hours of computer-reading work every day, unless I need to collapse on my sofa for an hour or so before E. returns from the park full of energy and joy.

 Apart from getting back to writing, reading and doing some other admin work for the university, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my job. This morning, navigating through my usual feminist blogs I found Rachel’s post “More than enough” in which she wonders “Do I need my paid work to be personally fulfilling?” Her answer is no, and that really made me think. Rachel says:

 “Right now my answer to this question is No. A couple of the gigs that are on the table for me at the moment do sound like creative, fun jobs — but do I need every job (or even most jobs) to be creative and fun? Right now, no. Right now my writing is personally fulfilling (OK, and agonizing, too), and taking care of my family is personally fulfilling, and that’s enough — more than enough, really. Meanwhile, all that I ask of my paid work is that it be satisfactory, worthwhile, and compensated decently.”

 You might think that I’m naïve, but I’ve never thought about my job from this point of view. I’m the type of person who needs my job to be personally fulfilling, otherwise I feel empty and depressed. Most of the time this translates into a not very satisfactory salary that makes me start thinking how I can get more money from my fulfilling job. As you can imagine, this ends up being not fulfilling at all because I get stressed and frustrated.

 I’m working as a part-time lecturer, writing this blog, studying for a PG in Coaching and still wondering whether or not I’m happy with my job. The reason is that I feel I’m not making enough money at the moment and not contributing in the way I would like to (for example, attending conferences and presenting papers, writing more articles in academic journals or writing more things in our blog, especially reviews). The outcome is that I don’t value what I’m doing very highly because I think it doesn’t have a big enough or successful enough impact.

 These thoughts hammer away at my brain and turn into an absolute killer, not allowing me to make the sort of compromise that Rachel talks about.

 My hope is that our second baby will blow everything out and my obsession for performing, doing well, succeeding and making more money will vanish along with the stupid idea that what I need to fulfill myself is a good job.

Natalia