A woman’s body is broken for her children in a way a man’s can never be. We carry our children for nine months — and then an other nine months, and another, until they are simply too big to carry, and then we can only hold. Our bodies are changed forever: stretch marks and scars, feet perhaps a different size or shape, hips wider than before, breasts perhaps larger, suffering the lingering after-affects of gestational diabetes or loose joints or back pain, RSI in wrists and elbows – not Tennis Elbow, but Mother’s Elbow, holding them when you are just so physically sore that you can’t possibly hold them any longer, our bodies are broken down again and again and again.
I can carry two giant bags of dog food by myself, thanks Mr Pet Store Man: I have mother’s arms.
Can you please carry the baby upstairs for me, husband? My wrists are broken and I can’t face one more stair climb.
Our bodies are broken, and rebuilt; we are weakness, we are strength.
Christ said it best: Here is my body, child, broken for you.
Amanda Palmer, multi-media artist extraordinaire (and, though I am loathe to fall into the old ‘identify the woman by her family’ trap, wife of Neil Gaiman) is pregnant. I happened across this article today, in which she defends herself from an eloquent yet, in my opinion, insufferably critical and nosey fan who is concerned essentially that Amanda’s standards are slipping, and will continue to slip when/because she has a baby. Amanda has some lovely things to say, and I think you should definitely take a couple of minutes to go read the article (link again), because this is an Important Issue.
What’s the issue? Fundamentally, a compartmentalisation of women’s roles, stemming, I think, from the fact that a woman’s contribute to the public sphere has been historically undervalued. Put simply, this issue is this: while it is never called into question that men balance fatherhood and careers on a daily basis (some better than others), women are constantly beleaguered with questions surrounding their ability to balance motherhood and a career. I’m too lazy to go look up links right now, but there are plenty of examples of female celebrities being asked this question in professional interviews, while their equally-famous husbands are quizzed simply about their jobs. I’d like to say that this goes double for artists of any kind, but let’s be honest: western media culture as a whole lacks competent role models who are both mothers and workers. Trying to figure out how to balance the two falls solely on our shoulders and, if we are fortunate enough to have personal role models, those around us.
Amanda notes in her article that she is terrified that becoming a mum will somehow vanquish her identity as an artist. This really resonated with me, because I had the exact same fear when I fell pregnant with my first child. Teaching, I knew, wasn’t optional: for us, me not working was never an option. But writing? Art? Writing was a hobby, a love, something I wanted to turn into a career but something that wasn’t really contributing to the family income. Would I have time to write? Would I even want to write? What kind of person would I become when I had a small person to depend upon me?
The answer, obviously, is that I would become the exact same kind of person I was before I had a small person depending on me, because becoming a parent doesn’t change your identity, it just throws another cap in the ring. Yes, becoming a parent has changed me profoundly in many ways–but it hasn’t changed me, if you understand the distinction. I’m still the same kind of person I was–just without a lot of excess flaff. As my husband once put it, having a baby is a great way to distill your life to its essence, to what’s really important and what’s not–because you don’t have time for what’s not.
And to my great pleasure, writing was one of the things that was really important. It took time, of course; I quit writing at one point because it had become yet another yardstick by which to measure my own failure. But before my son was a year old, the itch returned–and by the time he was two, I was writing my non-fiction book From The Ground Up (2016). Last year I wrote over 100,000 words. So far this year, I’ve written nearly 70,000 words of fiction. My best year ever was 200,000. Has having children slowed down my art? A little, yeah. But has it killed it? Hell no. And as the babies grow ever, onwards, older, they will need me in different ways that are somewhat less demanding on my sleep reserves and time, and late evenings (my peak writing time) will once again be mine. (In point of fact, my day job has interfered with my ability to write far more than having children, because in busy weeks I’m stuffed by the time the kids are in bed.)
Ladies? It is possible to both mum and art. You can be an arting mum, or a mumming artist. Having children will change you profoundly–but it only makes you more you. If being an artist is what you are, don’t fear. When the dust settles, when the sleepless nights are over, your identity remains. Art on, my lovely one. Art on.
Just officially noting that blogging is temporarily on hold due to the following:
Happy upcoming solstice, end of financial year, and whatever else there is to celebrate. I’ll be back at some point, although we are also moving house in 6 weeks, so life is rather chaotic. In the meantime, be good, have fun, and go read all the free stories up on the Darkness & Good site 😉 Rah *\o/*
Although those of you who’ve been reading for any length of time know that my version of ‘back’ is always a little sporadic and unpredictable at the best of times: let’s face it: I’m not great at regular blogging. That’s going to apply doubly this year, because – and although this has hit social media, I’m pretty sure I haven’t posted here – Minion #2 is due at the end of May, and in true Minion style this one’s been keeping me pukingly sick pretty much the entire flopping time. RAH.
Also, for those who care about such things, SmallBoy will be three and a bit when SmallGirl arrives; yes, this minion is female. Woot.
Right. On to more writingish things. I know it’s a month past time when people usually do their annual recaps and set their new goals for the year, but a) better late than never, b) I am ALWAYS late (despite my best intentions), and c) I actually had to wait for a few pieces of writing-related data to filter back in after Christmas/New Year before figuring out what I was doing this year.
2014 was a chaotic year in many regards for my family, but writing-wise, it was the year of #FGU, more properly known as From The Ground Up. This is my non-fic book on worldbuilding for writers that will be coming out some time in the second half of this year – I’m working on edits at the moment, rah.
It was also the year wherein I co-opted the Twinny One,* Liana Brooks, into starting the Darkness&Good blog with me, whereon we post short, totally unedited stories somewhere between once a week and once a month, although we got better with that towards the end of the year 😛
Finally, 2014 was notable for me because Liana and I officially started using our self-pub imprint, Inkprint Press. Hurrah! Under this label in 2014, I launched my short story collection Cherry Blossom and Other Stories, my book of (church) plays Where Your Treasure Is, and the print edition of The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Dogs. Much excitement indeed.
Some quick overall stats:
Which means, I think, that if I was really rigorous about counting up every single word I wrote this year, I probably just cracked the 100k mark. Which is actually way better than I would have expected – I feel like 2014 was a pretty slow year for writing, but it turns out it was significantly better than 2012 or 2013! So that’s cool.
* She’s totally my twin. Just separated by the Pacific Ocean, about three years, and totally different sets of genetics. But, y’know. TWIN.
Where to from here, that’s the question. Now that I have all my data points, it looks like this year is going to be another ‘light’ year for writing. I had postnatal depression after SmallBoy and although I think I’m in a better place mentally with SmallGirl than I was at this point with SmallBoy, I absolutely can’t guarantee that I won’t get it again – and as anyone who’s experienced any kind of depression knows, it kind of puts a damper on creativity. On top of that, I have FGU due in and a much fuller workload this year than I’ve had before. So I have to plan for multiple small achievements, rather than any large ones this year.
Things I really plan to do:
Things I’d really, really LIKE to get done:
So. Nothing long and novelly, unfortunately, but if I can manage it Inkprint Press will see a decent number of new releases this year, so you’ll be well stocked on things to read – and hopefully, for the first time ever, you’ll get to read something of mine longer than a short story! 😉
I think that’s all from me for now. What about you guys? What are you up to in 2015?
Which could also be titled, “The Education of a Large Segment of the Population Deemed to be ‘Bad'”. Anyway, you should really go and read this short story by Ellen Klages, who had been added to my ‘authors to investigate’ list because this story is just… intelligentheartbreakingrealhonesttrue.
Here’s the comment I posted to Ada Hoffmann’s blog, who initally linked to the story.
Yes, [Lizzy is treated almost entirely as a problem and not a person, and there seems to be no one willing to acknowledge that she’s feeling scared and abandoned,] although there’s almost a touch of understanding when Mrs Dickens goes ‘ah, new baby, of course’. I confess, I hoped at that point that Mrs Dickens would know what was going on and had isolated Lizzy in order to come talk to her about witches being real but that she had to be responsible with her talents etc etc… Mm, been reading too much Pratchett lately, I think. (Not that it is ‘too much’, just that my expectations were clearly set too high).
I feel ridiculously sorry for Lizzy; I love that she’s challenging the dominant narrative; I am annoyed at the parents for their blatant disrespect for that, and depressed because so many adults do exactly that.
I didn’t read the ending as intented murder, though. The narrative says she was angry at Mum and the baby and wotsie, the boy, so she made the boy’s nose bleed. She’s drawing up the fire at the end not to kill anyone (though granted that may be an unintended consequence) but to express her anger, something that no one has been allowing her to do before now.
Kids are not born knowing how to express their emotions. It’s something adults are supposed to teach them as they grow up. Poor Lizzy has no one even ACKNOWLEDGING her emotions, let alone showing her how to appropriately express them – of course she’s going to let them out any way she can.
But for me, this was not the least bit creepy, and was terribly, terribly sad. Horrific, yes, but not in the scary-creepy-horror story sense. Rather in the ‘that is so tragic it is horrifying’ sense.
Heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking. A very intelligent and commanding story.
Basically, it boils down to something it’s trendy to call ‘ageism’, which frankly as a term I do not like, simply because a lot of people (willfully) misunderstand it to mean that children should be given free rein. However, this is a misunderstanding caused by a conflation of the two concepts ‘rights’ and ‘freedom’, and a whole lot of nineteenth century notions about the supremacy of the individual versus society, etc and so on. Having equal rights does not entail being allowed to do whatever the hell you like.
Ageism, therefore, is not about treating kids the same as adults, i.e. never telling them what to do, not forcing them to do anything they don’t want to, etc (why? because frankly that’s stupid and unhealthy :P), but rather about giving children equal RESPECT to adults – which, ultimately, is what we actually mean when we talk about ‘equal rights’ anyway. Equal doesn’t mean identical, and there is no way that everyone on the planet ever CAN have identical lives – also, HOW BLAND. Rather, we want everyone to be equally respected, and have access to things based on that respect. Though, dude, clean water and food would be a nice way to begin with the ‘equal means identical’ thing.
Ahem. Sidetracking. My specialty. Ageism, therefore, is a concept that refers to the way that children are discriminated against not in the behavioural sense per se, but in terms of respect for their emotions. People who say ‘Oh, I wish /I/ was a baby again!’ (and with a currently-10-month-old, yes, I’ve heard that several times in the last year) MAKE ME MAD. OH, SO YOU’D LOVE TO BE UNABLE TO MOVE YOURSELF AROUND, TEND TO YOUR OWN BASIC NEEDS, COMMUNICATE ANYTHING BUT THE MOST BASIC OF CONCEPTS (smiling or crying), EXPERIENCE HORRIBLE PAIN THAT IS ALSO TERRIFYING BECAUSE HEY, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS FEELING THAT I HAVE NEVER EVER FELT BEFORE AND WHY DOES IT HURT AND WILL IT EVER STOP AND HOW DO I KNOW I’M NOT DYING? (Also known as stomach upsets and teething). Oh YES, being a baby sounds FREAKING AWESOME. NOT.
And yet, there are people out there to whom I have said almost exactly that (though I promise, with less capitalisation), who still go – eh, they get to sleep all day and don’t have to do anything.
Way to completely dismiss someone else’s humanity, moron. A cow gets to sleep all day and do nothing too. Maybe you’d be better off bovine.
So. If you haven’t yet, go read the story. It’s a beautiful (if fantastic ;)) example of what happens when children’s emotions are dismissed as not real, or not real enough, or simply just not as real as adult feelings. Guys, I REMEMBER being a child. Compared to life now, sure, I had it good; most kids do. But at this time, being a kid is all you know, and pain still hurts. Give the little people* some respect.
* And yes, all of this is a large part of the reason why the 10-mth-old has been called Small Person and Small Boy his entire life. I feel awkward calling him a baby, because it’s too close to synonymous with ‘squidgy thoughtless blob’, and he is anything but. He IS a person – just a very small, very inexperienced one.
Another baby-paraphernalia post, but in case anyone is a) interested and b) in Australia, Woolworths Select brand wet wipes are the free-est from chemical nasties. I wouldn’t advise munching on them (much to Small Boy’s intense displeasure – he loves the things and will hunt down the packets with ridiculous focus), and there are a bunch of ingredients listed as skin irritants, but nothing actually toxic in and of itself, and nothing carcinogenic, and nothing listed as an environmental toxin.
Double check for yourself at www.ewg.org/skindeep, of course, but I’m happy enough with this as an alternative to flannels and spray (which I do still use, but let’s face it, there are some nappy changes where you really want to be able to just toss everything away >.<).
Yup, really got to make an effort to use the cloth ones we bought a LOT more often.
We’re nearly out of baby wipes. I went to the supermarket about a week ago, intending to buy some (along with groceries for the week), and came out with none. Every single brand except one was choc full of parabens (emerging research – example – shows that high concentrations of parabens are found in breast cancers, and that they encourage tumour growth; the exact link is as yet unknown, and of course, for every study linking the two, there is a study claiming no link – and bearing in mind the fact that a lot of scientific reserach is funded by companies who have a significantly vested interest in parabens NOT being linked to breast cancers… Well, let’s just say I’d much rather be safe than sorry.), and the one that had no parabens was – yay – the organic brand, but – boo – more expensive than I was willing to pay.
Given I’d read like a year or more ago, when still pregnant, that making your own was dead easy, I figured it was time to give it a try. It’s taken a week and of course I decided to do it on the day when I’m sick and feel like my face is going to explode. Maybe trying to distract myself from how ick I feel? But anyway. I’m quite pleased with the result.
I decided to go with the spray-on method. I’d bought a box of wipes (rather than a packet) relatively recently, half-thinking that I’d use the box to make my own wipes when it was empty, but reading around and thinking about it, there doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid making new batches of wipes pretty frequently with this method – too much liquid in the box, it’ll spill everywhere, and the bottoms ones will be soaked and useless, not enough liquid and the paper towel that is the base of the wipes will dry out, and as a friend pointed out, there is always the potential for mould o.O
So. Another blog I found talked about using cloth wipes, and to do that, you just dampen the cloth before using. Tried that at one point, and it was massively inconvenient, because I’d sit down to nappy-change and realise I haven’t wet the cloth, and kid was now half naked, and it was all just too late.
Enter the spray bottle. Which, once I thought of it, I saw in a bazillion places around the web, so you know. A friend linked me to this page, with some ‘recipes’ on it, and being the person I am I mixed and matched. This is what I ended up doing:
Also under the category of ‘making of’, I’m in the middle of making a batch of the world’s most heavenly body butter today – it’s in the fridge cooling. It smells like chocolate, you can spread it on toast, it hydrates without stripping your natural oils, and it really is just amazing. Recipe is from my friend Steph here, but instead of coconut and macadamia oils I used grape seed and apricot kernel (and lessened the amount slightly to compensate for the fact that neither are solid like coconut oil). Can’t wait to see how it turns out!
You can tell I’ve been reading Sarah Bessey when I want to start all the post titles with ‘In which’… 😉
So, did not end up travelling out to camp after all. In the middle of the night I woke feeling like it probably wasn’t a good idea, and then in the morning I got a message from dad, who had been going to drive me out there (me being carless and all), and when I rang and spoke to him we decided that yes, it would probably be more sensible if I stayed at home.
When I stay home all day, it’s very, very, oh-far-too-easy for one day to become exactly like the others. It’s hard to maintain a sense of separation, and it’s especially hard when I’m home alone, or alone with the small boy, to make my Saturday a Sabbath. Much as I love listening to music, our collection is a mess (has been for years, that’s why I stopped listening to music all the way back at the end of highschool), we have no particularly convenient way to listen to it, and I usually have the TV off when I’m home by myself anyway. So how is the day any different?
Today, two things. Rather than going indiscriminately through my feed reader and reading All Teh Blogz, I decided I would concentrate on the blogs that to me, are church: Sarah Bessey and Elizabeth Esther in particular today. The main posts I read and loved today are listed below.
The other thing – the verse I read last night before bed – I’m reading the Bible again, on my phone, a short devotion with a verse or two, I’ve read the whole thing cover to cover and I don’t know how to read it any more, I’m relying on my phone devotionals, but the last set I chose fizzled, it’s been a while since I’ve been reading regularly – was about love and self sacrifice, the verse about no man having any greater love than to lay down his life for a friend, and every time I beg God for direction of late, crying out for something to do, a difference to make, the answer is always, every time: Small Person.
And so I thought that maybe today would be about laying aside myself for the Small Boy, and so I tried, and we looked at the dogs until he’d had enough for once (which took over half an hour), and I sat him in the big kitchen sink with a towel and filled up the small sink with warm water and cups and spoons and drink bottles, and we played and poured and splashed, and we read stories and watched the dogs some more, and played a little on the ipad, and ate oranges and watermelon and grapes and pretended it was summer. For one day, I put aside the computer except when he was sleeping, I didn’t try to do anything but Be, and I Was, and it was hard, and required so much less multi-tasking than I am used to, and so much more patience – but you know what?
It was church.