Navel gazing

I am so self absorbed these days. Much as I was back in June 2006 as I counted the days until Nipper 2.0’s arrival or not as the case was then. You would think I would make the most of this time blogging and casting over on The Rosie View but I managed to completely banjax my back last Monday and couldn’t sit or lie down comfortably for about 5 days. I don’t generally have a bad back so this was my first experience of the excruciating pain that can be experienced and I readily admit I was blubbing like a baby. All I could take for the pain was Panadol! Thankfully by Friday it seemed to have eased off and I started thinking “Hey I could do this whole birth thing!”. Then the next thing you know Nipper 1.0 spends all Saturday night puking on the half hour so by the time 6am came around on Sunday the two of us got up (Himself having done the lion’s share of pajama and bed changing during the night.) So yesterday I was exhasusted again and hopeful not to go into labour as much for my own energy levels as for Himself’s.

So time is hanging heavy on my hands and my feet and my belly. I found a photo of myself at 40 weeks on Nipper 2.0 and created the collage below because as mentioned I’m very self absorbed these days. The silhouette on the left is me in 2006 and the silhouette on the right is me yesterday. I reckon I looked bigger in 2006!

I know many of you are waiting for our news so here’s a song to keep you amused in the meantime 🙂 A great iconic female singer for International Women’s Day.

Glutton for punishment

HePhoto owned by map (cc)
I received the confirmation of my maternity benefit from the Department of Social Welfare today. Don’t get me wrong I’d prefer to get it than not but I feel like I’m being punished for having a child. I know it’s a clichĂ© but if a man had to take a pay cut like this everytime he had a child, there wouldn’t be any children or certainly doctors, lawyers and (normally I’d say builders or bankers but obviously…) civil servants would never have kids. Actually civil servants will always have kids because our taxes are paying for their (m/p)aternity leave top-ups. I’d prefer if my taxes were paying me decent leave benefit to be honest. Maybe they are but I’m not paying enough taxes but that’s a rant for another day.

I seem to be reading articles everywhere these days about women in the workplace, about working mothers and about caring for children. I suppose it’s on my mind. I have already posted about The Economist’s recent celebration of women in the workforce but could not have put it more succiunctly than their correspondent Jani-Petri Martikainen who wrote in to point out:

Remarkably, you managed to discuss the challenges women face in combining family and career without ever mentioning the role of fathers.

I also read an article in Image (bought it because Abigail is featured in it!) entitled The Mommy Wars which to be fair featured one father who had chosen to stay at home and care for his child because “I didn’t want to have a child unless I was prepared to look after him.” My ire is up, Daddio! I do concede that maybe I’m a little sensitive but there’s an implication in that statement.  The article is written by a woman who has no children and it’s basically about a book she read by a man who should not have children (allow me my little joke!) There are some reasonable points from some sources who have actually researched and studied the issue of women, work and childcare but all in all the article left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t normally buy women’s magazines but reading this and the Provocateur column (yes I did note it was called the Provocateur column) in a recent edition of Marie Claire reminded me why. I just don’t understand why these articles are about mothers versus non-mothers, why they are all about what monsters childcare is creating and none, not one that I read recently, queried why fathers weren’t being released from the workforce to mind their children. Not just released; ejected! If it’s so damn bad for a mother to put her child in creche it’s also bad for a father to do it too. Less about the moms, regardless of the demographic of your readership, and more about the parents please!

From my own experience I think it’s a myth that childcare is bad for kids. Bad childcare, long days and hassle is bad for kids as a bad workplace, long days and hassle are bad for all of us: they are human beings! Our kids love their childcare and my correspondence from the Department of Social Welfare today is taking that away from them. It’s taking the choice away from their parents. Sure there are days when they don’t want to go to crĂ©che and when they scrap with their minders but there are days when they feel the same way about their parents and vice versa!

That’s the nub of it I think: choice. Parents should be allowed choose what is best for their child. Maybe the father is a better parent (I often think so about our family unit!); maybe the mother earns more; maybe the circumstances change over the 18 years the parents are shepherding their child through the education system and towards adulthood; maybe the child goes through a phase where a different approach to education is better suited to their needs. All of these life cycles need individualized responses and if there is one element in the system that does not have the flexibility to cope with individualization the whole system will break down. I’m not saying I have the answer but if the burden of care becomes a parenting issue rather than a women’s issue we would be getting somewhere. This should start from day one of a child’s life. That would separate the men from the boys eh? I bet there would be less “single mothers” too if the “single fathers” got paid paternity leave too.

Oinking update

(229/365) Daily injectionPhoto owned by Sarah G… (cc)
Further to my previous post I headed out to Tallaght Hospital one Monday morning (a day off) to get my vaccination against swine flu. I had taken the day off because Nipper 1.0’s school was closed so he was with me. I had left Nipper 2.0 in the crèche much to his disgust.

When I arrived at the centre, the fact that I had booked online made no difference so I wonder why the heck they bothered making online booking available? I filled out a form, read a booklet, handed the form in and the woman in her Stop Swine Flu t-shirt (the whole team were wearing these bright red tees) asked me, pointing at Nipper 1.0, “Do you want to get him done too?” After the prior refusal to “do” Nipper 2.0 this really gave me a pain. I didn’t get Nipper 1.0 done as I just didn’t think it was fair to spring it on him without warning. Turned out I was right (mother’s intuition?) as he came down with a severe chest infection at the time which he is only getting over.

We were then directed to sit in a waiting area. The red be-tshirted team had no system, not even a book of raffle tickets, so it was every man, woman and child for themselves. It was crazy and people (already nervous about injections) were getting very antsy. I also question the logic of dragging us all into the hospital in a big crowd if there really is an epidemic.

This week I’m getting my booster (maybe today while I’m in the Coombe but I’m not holding my breathe). The Nippers are going to a clinic off Cork St. When I rang to make my appointment for my booster I asked them could I go to the clinic on Cork St. too as it’s just down the road. The very nice lady I spoke to agreed that it would make more sense but it was the wrong area. I do think it’s all very rigid, making decisions on a geographic basis especially when a clinic on Cork st. is patently closer to us in D12 than the clinic in Tallaght. The mind boggles. I’m not sure but I think the reason Himself is taking the Nippers to Cork st. is because he went online to book and as I previously pointed out there is not indication on the site as to which area one belongs. It’s completely self-sorting.

And in case you are wondering the vaccination doesn’t hurt a bit 🙂

Reasons to be fruitful

Just because we are in a recession doesn’t mean you should put your dynasty building plans on hold. Here are my reasons to be fruitful in reverse order.

Fruit basket
Photo owned by IMAGINE!NATION (cc)

I’ve been thinking about this for some time and my recent reading of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell made me realise I’m probably not the only one. It’s an easy read; you’d probably get through it in a weekend. His thesis is that success is not so much a result of genius and/ or hard work but a result of circumstance; being in the right place at the right time. One of the stories he recounts to illustrate is how a father and son, even though they went into similar businesses, the Great Depression got the better of the father. The son on the other hand being only one of a relative handful of babies born during the Depression enjoyed more attention in school and easier access to public services because there was less competition for those resources due to the fallen birth rate.

And that is the first reason that you shouldn’t put your progeny plans on hold just because of a recession. The theory goes that this bust comes after a boom when money was spent on creating fabulous educational establishments that nurture and develop our children to their best potential. Maybe in other countries. However at least the (temporary) classrooms of your little twinkle may not be quite so overcrowded. They’ll still be sioctha fuar sa gheimhridh and rĂłsta te sa samhradh but spacious.

But that’s the very least of them and may not come to fruition if you all take my other points to heart and go forth and multiply. It is a scary time at the moment as people are losing their jobs and having their hours cut and generally having to keep your head down and not rock the boat. For women in particular this throws into even starker contrast, the eternal question of whether she should ahem “take time off” to have children. (Like it’s a bleeding holiday or summat!) Regardless of the conditions your employer finds themselves in you will still receive your maternity payments. If your employer had a policy of topping up maternity leave and they suddenly changed this policy and no other staff were forced to take a pay cut you might even consider discussing this with the Equality Authority because it is a change in the contract that you have with your employer. But I’m no employment expert so check your facts before you raise your blood pressure.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I have two nippers. So when I say that children in their first five years are not a huge drain on your resources, I know what I’m talking about. True there is some specialised equipment involved but there are some great deals online (I got our Phil&Teds stroller for EUR100.00 cheaper online than it was being sold in Dublin baby shops and delivered to the door.) Why do children save you money? Firstly there’s the 40 week detox which saves you a fortune on your social life. Mind you Himself went with the attitude when we did go out that he was drinking for three (Only kidding!) Now I’m not saying, “Say bye bye to your social life.” but you will find that your priorities change and as your ankles swell standing in a crowded pub stone cold sober becomes less glamorous as the minutes tick by. Once the pregnancy is over, of course, you can reclaim your party animal mantle, if you can afford to pay a babysitter between EUR7.00 and EUR12.00 an hour. Yes it does take the shine off going out a bit doesn’t it? We’re very luck that we have lots of generous family members nearby who are often happy to babysit for us. However I frequently remember a bit of advice from an acquaintance when I was expecting Nipper 1.0, “Don’t rely on your parents to babysit because then your social life revolves around theirs.” I cannot complain at all but a good stash of unrelated babysitters is a must. So apart from the added cost of a babysitter, you tend to splash out on a babysitter for special occasions only. Okay that’s not probably selling the kid thing to you but I swear I really enjoy going out so much more now than I did when I did it every week, every Friday and Saturday. You don’t see the same crowd over and over again so when you do go out it’s all new and there’s loads to catch up on. It works for me.

They also save you money because your priorities change. I’m not saying I don’t hanker after fancy shoes and bags or the latest gadget. I’m not even saying that I don’t occasionally indulge those hankerings (see soon hopefully my upcoming post about my iPhone.) but I put a little more thought into those indulgences. This means that I tend to have less cognitive dissonance about my purchases and I get more out of them. Well that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

But I’m saving the best til last. Having the two boys from the moment I knew they were definitely on their way to right now as I listen to their little sleepy shnuffles on the monitor is the most life-affirming experience I have ever had. Being a parent and having that responsibility adds meaning to the most meaninglesss, menial and even meaningful tasks. Money doesn’t come into it. I would do any job to provide for them and I believe if times get tougher it will be character forming for us all. I know that might sound naive but I will always be their mum; I will always have them to brighten up the horizon and to keep me going.

My main point is, in five years time or even further down the line, will you look back at this recession and think “Wow, I saved a few quids by not having kids!” If you do and you never wanted kids, good for you. If you do and you did want kids I hope you still have time.

Go on, go for it. It’s great craic.

Lots of fun with all the family
Lots of fun with all the family

Parenting Teens, Inspiring Ideas to Help Your Child Prosper

Some mornings I stand back and look at my eldest and think, “We’ve skipped childhood altogether and gone straight for the teens.” The word “whatever” has been banned in our house, it caused me so much annoyance when it was used in reply to the most reasonable request. Probably not the best parenting technique but it was that word or me at one point last week.

My eldest is not yet six and we are hoping against hope that all his teenager-ly antagonism will be vented by the time he reaches his teens. Mind you with Mr. Destructo coming up close behind him I’d say we are damned either way.

So while it’s not for me (yet) I was interested in an upcoming event aimed at parents who are helping their teens make some career & study choices. Whatever about negotiating coats and bags in the morning and the longer term goals of reading and responsibility that one has with a six year old, helping a teenager with their choices for the future must be a minefield. So if you are facing into that period and living in or near Dublin, it might well be in your interested to check out the following post about an event to that effect from Irish Blogger, Krishna De. Parenting Teens, Inspiring Ideas to Help Your Child Prosper

(Disclosure: Krishna sometimes presents for the organisation I work for and I am on the IIA Social Media Working Group with her.)

Correction: Krishna is not directly involved in this programme but managed to obtain 10 free tickets for bloggers who would be interested in writing about the presentation.