Objectification total

I’ve got stonewash grey tight jeans, white Adidas high tops, a navy hoodie. Straightened long dark hair (flipped over to the side), minimum makeup (saving my face for tonight). A handbag over the crook of my arm, iPhone clutched in hand.

I stop to take a selfie. Cue pout.

I went running this morning, did some planks. I’m going to the library to study (digital advertising). I’m going out dancing tonight.

I could be anywhere between 14-40, living in New York, Paris or Sydney. It’s so iodine, so middle of the road, so zeitgeist.

Yet the whole thing makes me feel so normal. I feel so in-line with my generation, so strangely connected to what I’m “supposed” to be doing. It’s unreal.

I’m usually covered in children, toddlers, stains and shouting. This week we had nits and intestinal worms (not the first time for either). Broken stuff, shouting. Running from A to B to drop and pick up children, guitar lessons and after school clubs. Food smells and grubby floors. Chaos, total imperfection.

Selfies and straight hair and my i-Phone and looking hot make me feel in control for the first time in a  long time. Belonging to the external world, having value in the external world through objects and the image they project of me. Objectification total.

Of course, the world that gets played into is manipulated, highly consumer and very external. Does nothing for my soul. But habits and routines that ground us in their repetitive simplicity – in the feeling that we are all doing it – they reassure you.

It reassures me to have clean, nice smelling clothes, to have material things that are unbroken, that are mine. I feel I belong to myself.

In this world, where does parenthood lie? Where do chaos and bad smells and mess and parasites and sleepless nights and never going out lie?

It lies at the other end of the value spectrum. It has no value in this external world, it is worthless, just an impediment to the real stuff, the stuff we want and are taught to want.

And so we feel trapped and impeded and held back by our kids, they become another thing to manage, to get done so we can get on with living, and run the risk of making them feel worthless and annoying.

Objectification of the self, objectification of life. Sweet illusion of control. We cling onto it sometimes, like a raft before going under into the (inevitable) undercurrent of chaos again.

Today is an exceptional day.

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Objectification total

Tech-haters gonna hate

Look how happy he is!
Look how happy he is!

I’ll just go ahead and say it: I’ve bought my kids tablets for Christmas.

I’ve had so many incredulous looks and even a “I don’t like that” proceeding that utterance that I feel as if that is some kind of sick statement akin to “I’ve bought my kids machine guns for Christmas”.

But it’s not. And if I need to defend myself (do I? I feel I do): a) they are not going to have unlimited access to them, b) I am getting the use of my iPad and laptop back (which they hog), and c) last but not least they are gonna LOVE them. Win win.

I am for the record a hands on mum (again, why the need to justify?), I cook, craft and read to my kids. My kids in turn love to cook, craft and read. And game and watch. Yes, they love to watch cartoons (gasp!) and play computer games (bite me!).

Yes, I know Steve-bloody-Jobs’ kids weren’t allowed a lot of tech time (mine get about up to 2 hours but not every day), they had big, calm, talk-filled family dinners *instead* and that’s great, fine and dandy. I totes respect that and I also respect all the nannies and cleaners that made that even more calm and nutritious. But I do let mine use tech, and it doesn’t make me a bad parent.

Let’s talk about this word *instead*: let’s just break it down here. It implies (and this is the underlying implication) that you are either the “type” of parent that is strict on tech, has family dinners and are generally holistic with their kids OR you let them use tech and are slack and lazy. Something smacks of judgment here, and that’s how I feel these days, very judged.

It’s also made me realise that I’ve done some judging. I’ve judged kids on phones and consoles on buses when they are with their parents (something I think I wouldn’t do). How the heck do I know how that parents’ day has been? How do I know how that kids day has been? Don’t you ever want to just play, or chat over messenger to relax? Does that make any of us bad or – worse – unintelligent, because that is also one of the underlying messages here: that uneducated, lazy parents let their kids use tech. Clever, concious middle class ones don’t. And there you have it, smack-bang judgment.

So with all these subtle messages I feel that I’m being judged as a mindless, lazy parent by giving my kids tablets. And I don’t like being judged, especially for my parenting. Ouch.

And at the same time I know I’m anything but.

So, I have to use these feeling to analyse my OWN judgment, and also surrender and just remember that #hatersgonnahate.

And they are gonna LOVE them 🙂 (as well as the books, crafts and other “real” toys they get)

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/evilpeacock/13235511974/”>evilpeacock</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Tech-haters gonna hate

Funk-y

So, yes, it’s been a long time since I last posted. Life is hectic: 2 jobs, 3 kids and no family help just means constant (CONSTANT) activity.

Working for money at work takes up around 75 hours per week between us, then there’s picking up/dropping off various kids, food related activities (shopping for, prepping, serving, clearing), house stuff: the endless clearing, let alone actual cleaning (the daily laundry loads, folding clothes, toys everywhere, shoes everywhere, everything a constant mess), and lastly personal care which I will not give up although last night I did wipe my face with a babywipe and skip flossing. My legs are sooo hairy: damn summer and the need to bare skin, hair removal is just one more thing to do.

Anyway. This post wasn’t going to be about that. That is something most families experience to one degree or another. We are all busy. Many of us work outside the home and if not are damn busy inside it (I have done both and looking after young kids at home ain’t no walk in the park). Homes need care, children and adults need care, these thing take time and energy.

The question really is about that energy, where does it come from, how do we sustain it?

There are times when I feel I can take on the world. I am woman, I am strong, and all that. I feel zippy and capable, and fabulous. I make it look a breeze, they all wonder how does she do that? I revel in my children, laugh and play. I feel proud of myself: I’m coping! way to go!

Other times I just feel drained. I wake up tired after a crap nights’ sleep, I’m pissed off when my kids wake up and demand me, the day in front of me stretches out into eternity, I work and while I’m there I use up any of the niceness energy I have because I have to put on a good face, when I get home I have no niceness left and the kids piss me off immediately by fighting, I feel hard done by and drag the dinner on, heave the clothes into the machine, tidy up and bark at anyone who isn’t, I lie in the dark getting my kids to sleep, biting my nails and thinking of all the other things I could be doing. I’m totally not in the moment. Each day and each task becomes something ticked off an eternal to-do list. Another day done, another day closer to…to what exactly?

Lately I’ve been feeling number 2. I’m just constantly in a funk. I’m aware of it, which is good and painful. I’m aware that I’m not being my best self with my kids or my partner. I know that each day “ticked off” is also a day of their childhood, which is so fleeting and precious. I know that they are building a horrible image of mummy being moody and irritable.

I know all this yet the feeling persists. The not right feeling. There is every and no reason to feel like this. To say it’s down to choice is too simplistic, as if we can turn off and on joy at will. I think joy is more like a cultivation or practice but right now I’m not even sure where to start with that. In other times I’ve turned to books and spiritual practice, and I must say I’ve totally let that go again. Being present and grateful really help but I feel awash with a mixture of tiredness and urgency which make it hard.

There’s no solution, no conclusion, no answer. It’s just put one foot in front of the other, as my mum always says, and possibly put the old oxygen mask on, and hope that joy comes back sometimes soon.

Funk-y

Sweet, sweety, sweetalicious fun

I think nutrition is something most of us think about, worry about. At the moment it seems sugar (avoiding of) seems to be a hot topic. In my house we cook most of our food from scratch (avoids large amounts of hidden sugar), we allow the kids sweets once a week at the sweet shops (memory making, I think) and a free for all at parties (don’t want to make sweets “like diamonds”).

I also just let it roll that they eat sweets whenever offered really (banks, shops etc give them out here in Spain), plus the occasional treats when family are here, special occasions, or just ‘cos we feel like it. I try not to control, I think it almost always has the opposite effect in the long run.

But, of course I worry and I stress that I give them “too much” sugar. Sometimes it feels like there are endless birthdays and outings that involve large amounts of the sweet stuff which is, btw, more addictive than crack apparently. So I do talk to them about healthy balance. Sometimes we take a look at the food pyramid that’s pinned to our fridge and see, like a game, if they have had their portions of this and that for the day, usually it pans out more or less.

A talk about “treats”(!) and how we have them “from time to time” inspired this snippet from my switched-on 8 year old:

Me “Sugar … yada yada yada… empty calories etc…so, really in conclusion, sugar doesn’t give you anything, does it.”

Boychild “Well, yes it does, it gives you a nice taste.”

And that’s it really, absolutely true. It gives you a nice taste, actually let’s put this even better: it gives you an amazing, delicious, uplifting heavenly buzz on the tongue, its lovely, it makes you smile and your taste buds shimmer, yey!

And food, apart from food being The Building Blocks Of Life, and The Cornerstone Of Good Health, is also about pleasure, enjoyment…and just (GASP!) tasting nice.

Whats’ wrong with that?

Sugar is not toxic, it is not evil. It is food that brings pleasure, and when taken in ‘normal’ amounts is fun and tasty.

Pass the cake please!

 

 

 

Sweet, sweety, sweetalicious fun

The Dutiful Mother

I have been child rearing for 8.5 years, and sometimes I think I’m a bit of a veteran, having 3 of the blighters and all. But as in anything, I am standing on the shoulders of giants, giant other-mothers, who over the years have given me words or insights that have been key to my evolution as a mother.

The dutiful mother…

I’ve written about her before, elsewhere, and she has stayed with me for the past 8 years. She is the sister of a good friend of G, and I met her at a flat when I had a 3 month old and she had a 4 year old and 5 month old. I was aaahing and oohing over her two, saying how much she must love being a mum etc. She looked at me straight up and said “It’s not about love, first and foremost I am a dutiful mother”. She went on to express to me how of course she loved her kids etc, but that mothering is not always about the roses and hearts and flowers (a place I totally was with my ONE very easy 3-month old) but about being there for the duration, and doing your duty by your kids through thick and thin.

As slightly shocking as her words were at that moment, they have come back to me many times over the years, and as a well seasoned mum of 3 now I totally get it. You love them, you do. But it’s not love that always keeps you going ‘cos sometimes you feel that you don’t like them, and in those times it’s your duty as a mother that keeps you feeding, cleaning, working, hugging, washing and all the other tasks that you have to do.

I’m not saying that duty keeps you from enjoying them, I’m saying that in fact it’s the backbone of good enough parenting, and of this type of long term care that can too often be thankless and relentless.

So, thank you dutiful mother, your words have grounded and comforted me.

The Dutiful Mother

No TV is a good TV

If I had a euro for every time I’ve heard the words “too much TV” and “my kid(s)” in the same sentence… well, let’s just say I could probably buy a huge flatscreen TV with the proceeds.

But I wouldn’t, would I. ‘Cos TV is bad. Bad, Bad, BAD. Evil perhaps?

Literally all of the parents I know feel their kids watch too much TV and it is generally agreed that it has no merit. Yet we all continue to let them watch said amount and then moan about it (to them) and berate ourselves as not good enough parents.

First of all, what is too much? Every day? And what is the right amount? What would we be at peace with, once/twice a week, only on a Saturday morning, none?

And merit? Because our children couldn’t possibly be doing something, say “just for the fun of it”. If it doesn’t add to them in some way…well, what message is that, that people might do stuff just for fun?!

Personally I know I try to control the watching (we do screens/DVDs, TV I don’t do in my house purely and simply ‘cos of the advert bombardment plus here in Spain an innocent channel flick could lead to scarring for life by watching the uncensored news) and I almost always feel that they are watching too much.

I think I feel that the thing I don’t like is that they “should” be doing something else, something more constructive or play based, something enriching. The reality is they do do a lot of enriching stuff, when they aren’t watching they go to a brilliant school (all day!) where they are playing freely and exploring, they are drawing and cutting, or helping us cook, or let’s face it – fighting or getting underfoot when we have a million and one things to do, so the screens are pretty useful as well as in balance.

As for enriching, I’m not just saying this but I do think they have learned a lot from watching. Apart from the myriad of documentaries we have watched (at the mo’ we are getting through The Human Planet, it is ace) boychild is a total film buff. He will watch and enjoy anything from the usual (and, I know, completely unsuitable for an 8 year old…) transformers/spiderman, to black and white comedy classics like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keeton.

So why do I still feel guilty about it?

Well, partly to do with the studies that prove that on screen violence provokes violence in kids. I hold my hands up that boychild has watched waaaay to many violent scenes. So I feel it may make him violent or angry. But actually, he is less violent and angry than he used to be, so I should concur that it’s probably not the films but the family situation (DH and I are less angry and stressed than we used to be).

And then it’s the links with obesity. But none of them are obese and they do spend a load of time running about at school and we do stuff at the weekend like bike rides, walks etc.

And I think a WHOLE LOAD because I (and you, and you, and you) constantly feel like a not good enough parent and since TV has been vilified again and again we use it as a stick to beat ourselves.

Perhaps I should try to let them watch the same as they do now, and just be at peace with it? OR, let them watch (gasp) as much as they want and be at peace with it? Could I? Would they regulate in the end? People who un-school their kids would say that they do. But then again it would probably get waaay beyond my comfort zone before coming back and being regulated.

On a last note, I don’t remember being regulated by my parents at all for TV as a kid, and I wasn’t violent, obese, or stunted in any way. In fact I was an exceptionally creative child with great social skills and enjoyment in outside activities and nature. I don’t think any of this has got to do with time spent watching or not watching, but more to do with the way I was raised: lots of excursions, conversations, experiences and love. And TV, plenty of it!

So I’m going to try to make peace with the screens in our lives, and just kick back and be grateful for the relative peace it provides. Happy watching!

 

 

No TV is a good TV