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Archive for the ‘Feminist motherhood’ Category

NOTE: Some people may classify this post as ‘over sharing’. The content touches a little on contraception and an appointment I recently had with a nurse to remove a contraceptive device. No gory details included. You may be wondering why I would choose to write about such personal things, even though they are a bit embarrassing, and yeah, pretty dull? My answer is because I think this stuff is important. It’s real, and it’s messy and it’s… whatever the opposite of glamorous is. And that is what I am most interested in writing and reading about. If you don’t agree, that’s cool – skip this post.

As I have mentioned before, here, I am experiencing some unpleasant symptoms that I hope are due to the Mirena contraceptive device I’ve been using for the last two years. These symptoms include fluctuating moods, bouts of depression (or what feels like depression but probably isn’t really clinical depression), acne, and (slight) weight gain. I felt the same way using the oral contraceptive pill many years ago, and I have now reached the point where I just want to be rid of the thing. I’m saying ‘NO’ to extra hormones!

Despite coming to this conclusion a few months ago, it has been extremely tricky and vexing to pull it off. Not many GPs are trained in inserting and removing the device. My normal GP doesn’t do it, so I made an appointment with the same doctor who put it in for me two years ago. This appointment had to be booked weeks in advance because the doctor only works certain days and is busy. To further complicate matters, I had to arrange for my Mum to come and babysit for me, (because these are not the sorts of appointments to take kids to: I’m sure you can imagine the kinds of questions that would be asked afterwards!) My Mum lives two and a half hours away and does shift work, so this was no mean feat to coordinate. Much to my annoyance, the appointment was then cancelled by the doctor with only a days’ notice, because her mother was ill and she was only seeing her regular patients so she could leave early that day. I mean, fair enough… but did it have to be my appointment that got ditched, after I’d worked so hard to get it?

I tried another GP a few weeks later, during the school holidays when the kids were in care but I wasn’t teaching. These days are rare, people! During this appointment I discovered that this GP also didn’t deal in Mirenas, even though the receptionist had assured me she did when I made the appointment. Gah!

It was then that my Mum suggested trying the local Women’s Health Centre. The idea had never crossed my mind. I’m not sure I even realised that such a place existed. But, I looked up the number and gave them a call. I was happy to learn that the centre is Medicare funded, so basic services such as GP and nurse practitioner appointments are bulk billed, and other services come with only a relatively small fee. The receptionist helped me to make an appointment with the nurse practitioner, who was qualified to remove the Mirena for me and advise me on alternative contraception methods. However, as she is only there two days a week, I had to wait two weeks to get in. I also had to ask Mum to come and hold the fort at home for me, again, as I had no other childcare available to me on the day of the appointment.

The day of the appointment came and I was feeling very nervous. I’m not really a prude, but the idea of stripping off in front of others, even for medical reasons, does tend to freak me out. At the same time, I was looking forward to finally feeling a bit better once the device was removed. Fingers crossed, anyway.

I have to say, when I entered the clinic I immediately felt more comfortable and calm. It had a homely feel to it, with soft couches, lots of cushions, bookcases full of books and information brochures, and lots of other nice touches like artworks on the walls. It felt safe and welcoming. Some people may not notice these things, or not feel they are important, but I always do. If I am about to go into a room with a stranger, tell her all about my sex life and ask her to get up close and personal with my privates, then I need a few creature comforts to help me relax!

The appointment went well. I won’t bore you with the details, and I’ll spare myself some dignity. But I found the nurse very approachable, considerate, empathetic and professional. During the appointment I was handed a brochure to tell me about the centre’s other services. The first paragraph of the brochure states that the centre is a feminist service, which is fairly obvious, being a women’s centre, but I think it’s really important that they actually identify themselves as such. The brochure then goes on to explain the other services they offer women, which include naturopathy, massage, legal services, counselling, special services for migrant women, counselling and support for women who have experienced child sexual assault, and child care!!! ($2 per child per session, and by appointment only). And that was the moment I fell in love with Penrith Women’s Health Centre.

Because it is totally great to have all of these services available to women, but, for many, the child care is the absolute clincher. That is the thing I have struggled with the most over the last few months, the feeling of really, really needing to do something important for my health and wellbeing, but of having to constantly put everyone else’s needs first because it is too expensive to book extra childcare days, and because asking family members to cover for me is not always practical. And this is me, who is lucky enough to have a good support network and a husband who also takes his share of time out from work to look after the kids, and me, when necessary. If I found it so difficult, I can only imagine how hard it must be for women who do not have the same privileges I do.

So, a few days after the Mirena’s removal, I can’t say whether there is any improvement yet. Actually, I’ve been feeling pretty grumpy the last few days, but I hope this is part of ‘coming down’ off the hormones, if such a thing exists. But I am relieved that it’s all over for now. I’m also happy to have discovered such a great service that is so close to home, that ‘gets’ women and what they need. I will definitely think of them first, rather than as a last resort, in future.



Posted on: September 20, 2012

In two sleeps, Molly will turn 4. In two sleeps, another of my so-called ‘parenting rules’ will fly out the window.

You see, she’s getting a Barbie.

Actually, she’s getting TWO Barbies (one from each Grandmother).

Before having kids, I swore I would not ever introduce a Barbie into my house. It’s not personal; I’m sure Barbie is a cool chick. She can do heaps of things now besides cook and clean and lie around sunbathing. She’s a qualified doctor. And a nurse. That’s dedicated. She also has achievements in the field of veterinary science, and is quite the pancake chef. She has played several sports at representative level: swimming, tennis and gymnastics to name a few.

No, Barbie is fine. But why does she have to look the way she does? Why can’t she just look like a human being, rather than a freakishly tall, long-necked tip-toe-walking, plastic-faced weirdo??? Would it be too much to ask for little girls to have someone a bit less sculpted and perfect to aspire to?

I never really did get Barbie. I had one as a kid. My friends all had boxes full of them. I dabbled in playing with them, but lost interest quickly. I was kind of hoping Molly would take after me in this respect. But, no. She is, I hate to say it, the epitome of a ‘girlie-girl’. Pretty dresses, high-heels, lipstick, nail polish, dancing, dolls, weddings, PINK! She loves it all. LOVES it.

Molly was introduced to Barbie by some of her little friends, and now she is hooked. She wants in. I’ve tried to explain how I feel about Barbie, but really, what can I say? “No Molly, you can’t have a Barbie because Mummy doesn’t like how she looks…” Hmm, maybe not!

Still, I really thought, for quite a few months, that Molly would just have to live Barbie-less and make do with visiting her friend’s Barbies to play.What finally changed my mind was on one such visit, when I watched Molly play with her friend’s Barbies for an hour, chatting away to herself merrily and taking them on adventures around the house. She was so happy. Sigh.

In a last attempt to avoid the inevitable walk down the dreaded Pink Aisle, I did an internet search for a similar doll that wasn’t so offensive to my feminist senses. All I could find were scary-looking Mormon dolls from America, which were being sold as a ‘wholesome’ and ‘homely’ Barbie alternative. I think one of them may have been called ‘Chastity’. Yikes! No thanks.

So, Barbie it is.

I called Molly’s Grandmothers and gave them both permission to buy her a Barbie for her birthday. This way, if the Barbies mess with Molly’s head and she ends up with body image issues at the age of nine, I can blame the people who gave her the Barbies and not myself. That’s my logic and I’m sticking to it.

I am making one contribution, however:

If Barbie is going to live in my house, she can at least earn her keep! Astronauts get paid heaps, right?

Molly’s long, blonde curls are all gone.

She had been wanting ‘short hair like Tiernan’s’ for ages, but I tried to hold her off for as long as I could. Not because I didn’t want her to have her hair short (I didn’t), but because I wasn’t sure she understood the semi-permanent nature of such a dramatic hair cut. Yes, it will grow back, but to a three-year-old, six months is pretty much forever… if she didn’t like it, we would all be stuck with it for a really long time.

We tried just cutting her hair shorter to see if that was good enough, but she didn’t change her mind. She wanted it short.

So eventually, I gave in. It was a bit of a struggle. Those curls!! They get me every time. I went through the same heartache when Tiernan wanted to cut his hair at the same age. I wanted to keep his long curls, but he wanted short hair like Daddy. Eventually he won. Sniff.

I had Tiernan and Neave booked in for haircuts. Molly, as I knew she would, piped up, “Mummy, I want my hair cut too!” I rang Tom. “It’s going to happen today,” I said. He didn’t agree. I told him it was her hair and she really wanted this. We had run out of reasons to say no. I wasn’t going to tell my daughter she couldn’t have short hair because she’s a girl.

So it happened.

She loves it. I love it. Tom does, too.

I’m still mourning her blonde curls a little bit. She looks so much older, with much darker hair now. But she is beautiful and her new haircut really suits her. It shows that she is a girl who knows what she wants. She is an individual with spunk!

I’m so proud of my Molly.

More books

Posted on: March 14, 2012

A while ago I wrote about diversifying our book collection. I’ve continued on my quest for this, and recently added some more books to our library:

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko. This one was recommended to me by a friend. She said it was one of her favourites as a child, and I can see why. It has the word ‘bum’ in it, which my kids think is absolutely hilarious, but also, it’s about a girl with spunk who outwits a dragon and then tells a rude, ungrateful boy where to go. Fun!


The Skin I'm In: A First Look at Racism

The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism by Pat Thomas. I must admit I haven’t actually read this one to the kids yet. I think the language and the depth in which it explains racism is more suited to slightly older children than mine – I don’t want to put words into their heads (like racism) that they don’t really have a concept of just yet. However, when the time is right, I will introduce this book to them. The simple message that, as humans, we are all equally deserving of a happy, fulfilling life, and that it is easy to get along if we try, is an important one.


I Can Do It!: A First Look at Not Giving Up

I Can Do It!: A First Look at Not Giving Up, also by Pat Thomas. A lesson in perseverance, which is timely, as we have daily exclamations of, “Argh, I CAN’T DO IT!!!”, followed closely by the sound of shoes, shirts, puzzles, and various other sources of frustration being thrown against a wall.


Jane and the Dragon

Jane and the Dragon by Martin Baynton. This one we borrowed from the library. It’s a story about Jane, a courtier who, instead of becoming a lady in waiting, wants to become a knight. Even though she is laughed at for having this dream, she eventually does prove herself brave and worthy enough for the honour. My kids really enjoyed this story, as did I. Apparently, it’s also a TV series (says so on the cover). I especially love that this is a feminist book written by a man.


How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. This one was also recommended by a friend. When I started reading this one to the kids, they were horribly confused and wanted to know where all the pictures were and who the witch was on the front… Okay, I made some of that up. I didn’t read it to them (this one’s for me!), but they were curious about the ‘witch book’ that kept making me laugh out loud. This book was very enjoyable to read. Very relatable, often hilarious, sometimes very serious – a perfect mix, really. Read it.

We have a whole bookcase of children’s books, some fantastic, others… not. Most have been given to us as gifts over the years, and some we have chosen ourselves. The kids love reading them over and over (even the crap ones, unfortunately). I was rather proud of our large collection, until I realised that we only had a measly two books that showed children from different cultural backgrounds (Big Dog by Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury) and only a handful of ones with strong female characters (for example, Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; Possum Magic by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas; and The Red Woollen Blanket by Bob Graham).

So, I set about trying to diversify our collection. I searched online, and purchased five new books for us to enjoy together:

The Family Book by Todd Parr:

The Family Book

(Image from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/120654.The_Family_Book)

This is a lovely book, depicting many different types of families. The author has cleverly used both human and animal ‘family members’ in the artwork (which is gorgeous), to further illustrate the main theme of the book: there are many different types of families, but all that matters is that families love each other. My kids really enjoy reading this book, and they can identify with some of the family ‘types’, such as the family that lives close to each other (Nanny and Poppy are around the corner), as well as the family that lives far away (Gran and some Aunties, Uncles and Cousins live far away). I love that this book casually talks about families with two Mums and two Dads, and families with adopted children. I feel this is a small way to help broaden their understanding of ‘family’ and what it means to be in a family, because I want them to know that our way of doing things isn’t the only way. So this is a fantastic book for that.

Kate and the Beanstalk by Mary Pope Osborne and Giselle Potter:

Kate and the Beanstalk

(Image from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1527311.Kate_and_the_Beanstalk

My kids are really starting to enjoy the magic and mystery of Fairy Tales, but I have issues with many of them! On the one hand, I grew up reading Fairy Tales, and I know they didn’t do me any harm. However, I find it hard to ignore my feelings of frustration and annoyance when reading them Sleeping Beauty, for example. So, this feminist spin on the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk provides a nice counterpoint to all of those Fairy Tales with weak, downtrodden female protagonists. The basic story line is fairly similar, except that Kate is rewarded in the end for her bravery, cleverness and determination to help a poor, starving widow and her daughter, unlike Jack, who is rewarded for stealing! Tiernan, in particular, has asked me to read this book at least a dozen times since it arrived in the mail, and I love that he is so fascinated by Kate, the giants and the magic beans. I highly recommend Kate and the Beanstalk, and I’ll certainly be looking out for more feminist Fairy Tales.

Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole:

Princess Smartypants

(Image from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780698115552?redirected=true&gclid=CJ2y6vmozasCFS4F4god-F-F1g)

This is one I remember fondly from my own childhood. I loved all of Babette Cole’s books, especially The Trouble With… series, because I really enjoyed her sense of humour and her quirky storylines and illustrations. Princess Smartypants is just as quirky. It is about a Princess who decides she doesn’t want to marry, and so she sets some interesting challenges for her many suitors, hoping they will fail. In the end, only one suitor is strong and daring enough to pass the test, but she still doesn’t want to marry him, so she doesn’t. Some people (such as my husband) think this story is all about male-bashing. It’s true that the male characters are all pretty repulsive, most of them weak, and all of them only after Smartypants for her looks and her money. But I think there are so many books, stories, TV shows and movies out there with weak, pathetic, idiotic female characters, that this one little book is not going to turn the tide and cause the children who read it to hate men! Some people, no matter their gender, are weak and pathetic, and Babette Cole dares to depict these traits in men rather than in women, so good on her. My kids seem to enjoy this book for the same reasons I did as a child – the illustrations, fantastic monsters, and the clever Princess herself. It’s a great read.

My Place by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins:

My Place

(Image from http://www.booktopia.com.au/search.ep?author=Nadia+Wheatley&gclid=CM-Y1OmszasCFS4F4god-F-F1g)

This book is one that I had always wanted to read, but never got around to it. It’s not feminist in the sense of being about women’s rights or about strong female characters (although it does have some). However, if you take the view of Feminism being about inclusiveness of everyone, no matter their gender, religion, cultural background, or sexuality, then this book could be considered feminist. Each page of this book takes us back ten years in time, to a child living in one ‘place’ in a city (I think Sydney?). We see, in reverse, how the city expanded and changed over the years, and we learn about what each particular child experienced, and valued most, in his or her own decade. We see that, over time, many children from many different cultural backgrounds, have shared the same ‘place’ and the same experiences, right back to the original inhabitants, the Aboriginal people. This is a fascinating story, with beautiful illustrations. I think it’s a real eye-opener to imagine what our ‘place’ looked like, and who might have lived there, not so long ago. My children aren’t yet old enough to read and enjoy this book, but I look forward to sharing it with them when they’re a little older.

Everyone’s Got a Bottom by Tess Rowley and Jodi Edwards:

(Image from http://www.fpnsw.org/products/Everyone’s-Got-a-Bottom.html#)

This book is published by Family Planning Queensland, as an aid to parents introducing the idea of ‘private’ parts to children. Private as in ‘just for you’, not private as in ‘dirty/yucky/something to keep hidden and secret’. In the book, private parts are given their correct names: vulva, vagina, penis, testicles and nipples. The children in the book learn that they need to look after their bodies by keeping them clean. They also learn that while it’s okay to be naked at home, it’s not okay for somebody bigger or older to ask to see or touch our private parts (unless for a very good reason, which goes unexplained in the book, but we have talked about what happens if there is something wrong with our private parts and who we can ask for help then). This is Molly’s favourite book at the moment! She loves looking at the pictures, especially the naked pictures. She quizzes us on our private parts every time we visit the bathroom. And she tells us that only she is allowed to touch her private parts. Message received, loud and clear! Of course, this book does not guarantee that our children will be safe from abuse, but at least we have given them the correct language they need to talk about their bodies, and the simple message that their bodies belong to them. We’ve also opened the lines of communication up, letting them know that we can talk about anything, now and always. This is something I feel really strongly about because I want my children to know that we will always listen to them. So this book is a great first step.

This morning I got to sleep in, as Tom was at home. He got up before the kids (still a sleep in for him, he usually rises at 4am), and gave them breakfast once they were up. He played with them (a rigourous game of hide and seek was going on when I woke up), and then he took Molly and Tiernan to the oval to kick a ball around. He put a load of washing on before he left (all of this without being asked!). I gave Neave her morning tea before putting her down for her morning sleep, and returned to bed myself with a cup of tea and a book. Tom picked up some meat on his way home, and started cooking dinner when he got back (to be heated up later, as he was going to work in the evening for a night shift). I got out of bed (at last!), showered, and then made the kids some lunch. While they were eating, I hung out the washing and put another load on. Tom went to bed for a sleep, and I read some stories to the kids before they went down for their afternoon rest/sleep, except for Neave who wasn’t quite ready for hers. I played with Neave for a while, until she was ready to go to bed, and then I did some tidying and more washing, and the grocery shopping (on the internet). I joined Tiernan in watching TV when he came out of his room after his rest. When Molly and Neave woke up, we had some afternoon tea, and I took them out the back to play. After half an hour, we came back in, and I woke Tom up so he could watch the kids while I heated up dinner and cooked rice. After dinner, Tom started getting ready for work, while I put the kids in the bath. He dressed Molly, who got out early, and helped dry and motivate Tiernan to get himself dressed, before leaving for work. I read stories to the kids, gave them their milk, and put them to bed. Then I set about tidying up from the day’s activities.

We don’t always get it right, but today I really felt that we were a team, equally responsible for our children and our household. And it wasn’t even really a day off for Tom, who usually pitches in quite well on weekends, but isn’t too keen after a day at work.

Go team!

Tiernan asked if he could help me with the washing. 

“Knock yourself out!” was my enthusiastic reply.