As Pretty As Flowers And As Funny As A Clown – Thoughts on Mother’s Day.

In the past I’ve been very against Mother’s Day. The marketing machine dictating that mothers like all things fluffy, pink and scented annoys me. It’s a cop-out to give the woman who you should really know very well a off-the-shelf on a certain day of the year for doing a job and maintaining a relationship that she is obligated to.

I would argue that very small children do not appreciate you, but rather simply rely on you. Or at the very least they cannot articulate their need of you into the concept of appreciation. So until this year, it seemed a bit off for some adult to manufacture Mother’s Day on my children’s behalf.

This year, my son is in Prep and my daughter is in daycare, and so there is a lot of talk about mothers, what they do, and why we love them. The school facilitates a mother’s day lunch and a stall from which the kids can buy gifts, and daycare encouraged the kids to make cards and gifts.

So as fake and tacky as the day can be, it’s nice to see my son articulating things he appreciates about my – both as a Mum and as a person. He wrote: “My Mum is sweet, loving and gorgeous. My Mum can cook, drive and do washing. My Mum is as pretty as flowers and as funny as a clown. I love my Mum.” It’s clear my son is increasingly aware of the enormity of my job as mother since separating from their father. I’m everything and I do everything. It’s tiring but necessary. It’s just rewarding enough to not give up.

Dissonance
My music blaring to fill the empty house
The sound bouncing off the walls
Resonance
In my empty chest cavity
My heart left home with my children
Their absence sorely overdue
I need time to refill my near-empty cup
Time for silence to not be so suspicious
And yet it is
I’m jumping at shadows
The kids absence a festering wound
This dissonance
Because I miss them
Because I can’t seem to love them this much
When they are at home
Bouncing off the walls
My little shadows
This cup has a slow leak
And is spilled across the table at every meal
I cannot imagine how it is ever filled enough
And yet it is
12 May 2019

 

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Starting School

Yesterday, my eldest child started school.

I’ve been counting down for five years until this moment. I thought I would skip off merrily after dropping him on the first day, and with a big sigh of relief have myself a mid-morning cocktail and a rest. I was sure I wouldn’t cry.

 

But there I was on Sunday, alone in my house while the kids are with their dad, balling my eyes out.

And there I was on Monday, in the school kitchen, listening to some other Prep parents chat about how drop off hasn’t affected them, watching my daughter and ex-husband eat slice and weeping into my tea.

I was crying not because I’ll miss him being around during the day, although I will. Not because I’m proud of him, although I am. Not because he wasn’t ready or seemed too little, because he was raring to go.

I’m upset because it means the hardest five years of my life are over. There is a sense of achievement, and yet this celebration is bittersweet because I still feel like a failure.

Firstly, my identity as a mother of two preschool aged children shifts again and I am one step closer to the reality of what I will do with my time when both of my children are at school. In the next two years, I will need to ensure that my chosen line of work reaps enough financial rewards to fund my life – and meet my children’s needs – and I’m terrified because it probably won’t.

Being a mother of two children at home is really tough, but it’s still a luxury because my life is funded (to the bare minimum, don’t get me wrong) by the government. Thanks to that, I’ve been able to be more artistically prolific than ever in the past five years. Looming on the horizon is the day I am no longer eligible for Parenting Payment and my efforts in making a living from making theatre and writing will be tested.

Secondly is the fact that the family I thought I was bringing this child into no longer exists. While we were able to wave goodbye and wish him luck at the classroom door together, the nuclear family portrait only has a passing resemblance to our dreams and plans of five years ago. After we drop off our son, I will take my daughter home and their father will go his separate way until the next co-parenting event.

This moment of shared parental joy will forever be underscored by our failure as a couple. I think I did more to nurture and prepare him for school, and I resent that burden of the uneven load enforced by our separation. I’m sure his father feels like he has missed out on moments of his childhood and resents that too.

So in my moment of pride, I am distracted by worry – not that our son will be bullied or find the work difficult or have separation anxiety – but that our failure will mark him somehow.

Buddhism says that if you are sad, you are living in the past, and if you are anxious you are living in the future. I find really hard not to follow these thought paths – one into the past and one into the future – at pivotal moments like this. It’s hard to just concentrate on how proud my son is of his new uniform or excited he is at the new books and pencils waiting for him at his desk when my head is a whirl of future worries and past regrets.

So I am starting school too. I’m committing one evening per week to attend drop-in meditation classes. They start tonight at the Ballarat Mechanics Institute. Unfortunately I will have to wait until next week as I have another event on tonight! But as of next week, I will invest more in my own mental well-being, and hope to break this habit of following negative thought patterns. I’ve found reading about Buddhism to be helpful so far, and now I’m keen to learn about actually practicing it. I hope that my learning means that I can fully appreciate the moments in my life for what they are – full of joy, pride and love.

Flashback Friday – Poem “Parent-thesis”

I love this poem so much that it now forms the opening of my newest play, The Let-Down Reflex.

I wrote it in June 2017 and it really does reflect the every day lived experience of parents. The Let-Down Reflex is currently in development and will be having a work-in progress showing on Thursday 24th January at Ballarat Trades Hall. Come along!

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I Wish I Was Boycotting Xmas.

I wish I was boycotting Christmas, but I can’t.

I’ve threatened to “go bush” over Xmas for a few years now (both metaphorically and literally). This year, I naively thought I might really do it. No tree, no presents, no family, no food, no cakes, no carols. I was all for being the biggest Scrooge-Grinch and flying my anti-Xmas flag in the face of popular convention but it’s too hard.

I’ve been told that I’m obligated to “do Christmas” for my kids. My skin prickles about that. My son is 5 and my daughter 3, and boy, do they love a celebration. But to be honest, they’re just as excited at the prospect of hosting a BBQ with friends, getting a new lunch box, going to the Lake or riding on a train. The wonder and joy elicited by all the Christmas traditions can easily be sought by other means. A bush walk where we stop to wonder at tiny insects camouflaged on the tree. A trip to the swimming pool in NEW OCTONAUTS BATHERS. Making, and better, still eating jelly. But I guess we do those things all the time and Christmas is a once a year special event.

While I maintain that Christmas is only as exciting as we make it, when they’ve created a new play area at kinder resembling Santa’s workshop and they are learning carols, how can I win? It’s all-pervasive. I can’t avoid shopping because we have to eat. There are decorations in the street and ads on the radio. Every child’s television show has a Christmas special, and they are already starting to air. My friends have Christmas trees in their houses. People in the street ask what my kids want from Santa.

I hate that entitlement Christmas breeds in children. I just buy things that we need when we need them, and give my children (or anyone else for that matter) presents whenever I feel like it. There’s something weird to me about pretending presents we buy for our children come from a magical stranger. I don’t like buying into the capitalist messaging rife at this time of year. I don’t want to feel obligated to buy someone something. I’m definitely not a Christian, nor do I make a habit of celebrating a festival for religions that I do not follow. So I just don’t get it.

I’ve always maintained that tradition is a bad reason to keep doing something. A lot of what “doing Christmas” entails flies in the face of logic. Maybe I’m a cold emotionless cynic but I don’t understand wanting to cook and eat a roast dinner in the height of the Australian summer. Or putting up an incessantly annoying carol-playing light show that skyrockets your power-bill and you can only enjoy at 10pm at night thanks to Daylight Savings. Or using your hard earned money to buy every person you are blood related to a gift even though you hate them and/or barely know them. Or travelling cross-country with infant children so you can visit two different sides of your family in a single day.

We all know that Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year, every year. Considering in the last 12 months I’ve moved house, broken up with a partner (on top of already being separated from the father of my children), have unresolved health concerns including an anxiety diagnosis, and I’m a single mother trying to make a living from being a writer, I really don’t need the seasonal stress.

But not doing Christmas is like banging my head against a big tinseled brick wall. And I don’t need that stress either.

So I struck a deal with my kids today. We agreed to disagree about Santa’s existence. I maintained that people can believe different things and enjoy stories that aren’t really true. My son maintained that his kinder teacher knew Santa and my daughter was reliably informed that he would be coming to her daycare. We agreed that Santa couldn’t physically bring presents to our house (no chimney, Mum), and we didn’t really know him. But we did know and love each other so we would get each other some presents instead. I asked if they wanted a surprise or to choose their own. They wanted to choose so we went off to Kmart. We already have a home-made play tree which I agreed they could make decorations for. Nan offered to get her box of supplies down from the cupboard too.

We might still go bush. Take that walk, look at some insects. We’ll probably eat jelly (while I try not to gag on my aversion to it) and we might find a quiet watering hole to take a swim in. But we’ll end up creating our own weird little Christmas traditions based on a compromise between Mum The Cynic and the logic-free wonderment of little children. And I guess if it keeps me calm and my kids happy, then who the hell cares?

Merry Christmas, or whatever this is.

On Conflict

Have you ever had that weird effect when you’re lying in bed and you can feel yourself floating up in a sort of out-of-body experience, but simultaneously you can feel yourself sinking down into the earth? And you’re not sure if you’re as big as the sky or you’re just a tiny particle of sand. You’re both. Well, that’s how I feel when I think about conflict.

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