- That colonialism was evil. There seems to be some resurgence of a need to propose that there might have been some good in colonialism after all. Sorry but no. Accidently, the odd good thing might have happened. But that is no justification.
- The Holocaust happened and was horrific.
- The atom bomb was inexcusable. (even if, you know, the war would have gone on and the bad guys may have won, so it’s okay that we condemn generations of them to cancer).
- The caste system is wrong (no, it was not just assigning people to different occupations. Please.)
- That slavery was a blight on human history (No, African-Americans should not get over it).
- People have the right to body autonomy at the very least.
It’s apparent that the #Metoo movement has now entered the backlash phase, with critiques of the movement going too far, the dangers of not following due process, etc. etc. It is almost amusing to see “liberal” men expressing their unease, of course prefaced with how they absolutely respect women but you know.
Over dinner, one of my friends started pontificating about the movement and how now some woman in the US is suing her boss for putting his arm around her, and how Michelle Williams got money out of Mark Wahlberg. His rant was filled with misinformation (e.g. Williams never asked Wahlberg for money, but he was embarrassed when it was pointed out how he was paid so much more than her to reshoot scene in their movie and so donated the money to the Time’s Up fund, not to Williams). But more obvious was his discomfort at the opposite gender essentially striking back.
Then someone else said how offices have now become so constrained by fear that one hesitates to even compliment a coworker. The clincher was when one guy started suggesting that the women who were abused by Harvey Weinstein kinda sorta deserved it because why would they go there at night.
All through this the women in the room maintained silence, until someone could bear it no longer and shared her own experience of sexual harassment in the workplace and how an arm around a woman can be really creepy depending on whose arm it is and where it is placed. A couple of others, including myself, pitched in.
But apart from a few comments, I stayed quiet and when I could bear it no longer, walked away. I am actually quite proud of myself for not really engaging. My policy on these issues is that these kind of drawing room discussions cost more than they are worth:
- Certain topics concerning politics and social justice tend to get heated. People have entrenched positions, and it’s hard to ensure that the discussion remains civil especially after a couple of bottles of wine. Better to not even go there. If one does engage, compose one’s response, state one’s position and then back off. There’s no point getting into an argument in a social setting, because honestly I have yet to see anyone getting ‘converted’, people just go away upset.
- Discussions related to women’s issues are particularly triggering for me. They are both theoretical and deeply personal. I cannot trust myself to keep my composure and be polite in the face of thinly veiled misogyny.
- Usually men discussing women’s issues do not want to learn or change. They want to win. If they wanted to learn, they would listen more carefully to women instead of mansplaining our lives to us.
- There is so much information out there on gender injustice – and other forms of social injustice for that matter – that people serious about educating themselves could do so without demanding explanations from those at the receiving end of injustice.
- It is not incumbent on the disenfranchised to explain and justify their pain to the privileged.
- Those of us interested in social justice have to save our energy for bigger fights, to pick our battles carefully.
I respect and am grateful to those women who choose to speak up and patiently engage with these men who just never get it on the off-chance that one of them may see the light (though the odds are slim). However, I reserve the right to not be that woman all the time, even though I am an avowed feminist. Sometimes, if I feel up to it, I will. Somtime’s silence or a dignified exit is the best response to willful stupidity, which is really fear and defensiveness.
- Keeping students engaged for THREE hours
- Timing material accurately so that it is exactly three-hours long
- Weird admin things that I suddenly while peeing at 2 am realize I forgot to do.
- Teaching so much I cannot find time to write so that I will be condemned to forever teaching so much.
- Finding a job outside academia to escape all this.
- Finding a job outside academia and realising I forsook all this.
I can’t win.
One of my kids’ books features a zen monkey who quotes Lao Tzu: “At the centre of your being you have the answer: you know who you are and what you want.”
But do I? This job search has taught me that I don’t really.
At one point, having seen what making it in academia would involve and realizing what academia is – not that well paid, badly organized, full of egos – I had convinced myself that I would be happy to give it up and go into a non-academic job. But then I found myself faced with the choice of one decently paying commercial job and a handful of not-so-well-paying, precarious teaching jobs, I had a mini identity crisis. What did I want?
In the teaching jobs corner:
- They are in line with what I’ve been doing for the past three years, and give me a foot into the door of a new career.
- They pay shite
- Teaching takes a lot of effort, and I’m not sure I want to do sooo much teaching that I don’t have time for anything else.
- There is no stability. Next semester, I’ve have to start this search all over again.
But the thing that really pissed me off about these jobs is how unprofessional these places are. They are vague with info, and provide no proper confirmation about anything – whether you really truly have the job, how many students, hell, when the semester starts and ends. In order to withhold this info for whatever mysterious reasons – I guess amazingly because they don’t know either – they don’t even reply to email. I heard from one friend that one of the places that I was slated to teach at confirmed over email that she would teach a coach, and then silence, until nearing the start of the semester, she emailed to ask them for details, and they told her that they found someone inhouse to teach that course #sorrynotsorry. This made the vagueness of communication unnerve me further.
In a fit of pique one morning having again not received a response to an email query, I fired off an application to a non-academic job. And to my complete and utter shock, the HR replied right away. They asked me to state salary expectations, a category I had left off my application because my real expectations are high but I’m willing to compromise? Pressed on this point and suspecting that if I put in my last salary, I might scare them away I asked around and found a former colleague had worked there. Although she told me the pay would probably not be amazing, the place was a good one to work at, I got excited.
The thing was that two weeks or so before the start of semester, I felt bad to back out of the teaching jobs. But two weeks or so before the start of semester said teaching jobs were being vague and hadn’t even signed a contract yet.
Of course, on the day I apply to something else that writes back, the woman from the teaching position replies to my email saying sorry I was on leave (on leave replies are not a thing that exists in academia I’ve come to understand, eyeroll). Anyway, I went in for the editing test of the commercial job, and while I liked the place, I disliked the politics they espouse which are on the (economically) right wing of the spectrum. Nevertheless, I could swallow that for financial security. Unfortunately, I think I did rather badly on the editing test.
While waiting to hear back, I wondered why I was ‘wasting time’ prepping for the teaching jobs. If I did indeed land the commercial job, then all these PPTs on Pride and Prejudice would be for naught. It all very well to say carry on as if you weren’t getting the job, but the fact is that if I were to get the job, I should have been trying to get a paper published not prepping for courses that I wouldn’t teach. The problem is that depending on my future path, the claims on my current time would change. Not knowing what the future held became even more frustrating because it gave me the sense that my current effort might be entirely a waste of time.
Anyway, I didn’t hear from the commercial job for a few days in which time, given the alacrity of their first response, I had given up on them. I was fine, except my ego was bruised. I knew my test hadn’t been stellar but I didn’t believe it was so bad as to write me off the second interview. That’s the other thing about job hunting, the sting of rejection.
Then, of course, just as I had given up hope, I got called in for the second interview. And of course it happened on the same day that the institution I would be teaching with contacted me to ‘double confirm’ that I would be available and said they would start processing a contract.
Now with the possibility of the commercial job becoming real, I had to figure out what to say about the teaching. I could of course back out of the teaching altogether – and given the lack of professionalism and low pay, why not- except:
- I didn’t entirely want to close the door on an academic career given that I did have a PhD and it was a path I wanted to explore (but not risk bankruptcy for)
- Although I had established that these institutions wouldn’t treat me the same way – they have a clause in their contract that if 10 students don’t sign up the course gets cancelled – I did not feel comfortable backing out at the last minute. If nothing else, these were not bridges I wanted to burn entirely.
Finally, I did the kind of Libran balancing-act that my conscience would be comfortable with even if it may not have been the most sensible course of action. I told the interviewer that I could start in two weeks but I needed to be out of office a couple of half-days to teach for three months. They didn’t seem as fazed by this as I expected. And I really liked the manager which helped ease my misgivings about the politics of the place.
Then came the agonizing what-ifs. Even if they agreed to my conditions of being out of office for a bit, I would need to cancel two teaching jobs. And the whole arrangement of a full-time editing job and two teaching jobs was going to be crazy hectic for me. Now, I realized that I needed to speed up prepping for the courses because if I did get the job, I would have zero prep time during the semester.
The idea of being so crazy busy that I wouldn’t have time to breathe began to give me a minor panic attack. But more than that I was stressing about cancelling two of the four – yes I need to teach four courses to make slightly about my student stipend – teaching jobs I had committed to (but not yet! signed a contract for) .
The time between these call-backs is agonizing. The well-meaning advice is apply and forget about it, but it’s hard to when you are in the interview process. It’s hard not to what-if, or in my case at least have a game plan about what to do with the other balls in the air.
So what happened in the end?
I haven’t heard back from the commercial job. I’m a little miffed ego-wise, but for now, I’m okay with it. I had told myself when I started applying in April, that I would prioritize teaching jobs for the first semester to give that career path a chance and having actually got four offers, it seems silly to close off that option even though they lack stability. I might as well get that experience on my resume. And the money all put together is not that bad.
The commercial job would have given me stability, but it was going to be a nightmare doing it together with teaching. So I’m actually fine with it not coming through except for the unease about what I’m going to be doing three months down the line and whether this means that I’m unemployable commercially.
To go back to the quote that started this post, the answer may be at the centre of my being, but I don’t know what it is. I feel easier fate having made that choice for me.
I have not yet mastered the art of letting go of the things I cannot control. If anything, I have become more anxious, or at least I am conscious of my anxiety, or there are more things to be anxious about. Or less things that I can control.
For example, when applying for jobs, I worry about what if this one calls me before that, will I accept, but what if? Which is all pointless because a) noone calls b) if they call, would it have done me any good to be worrying about all the possibilities and permutations and combinations before the fact. To be fair, I worry about these things because I want to figure out whether to apply at all. Why apply, if I won’t accept. But I only won’t accept if a number of other things fall into place, which I have no way of predicting. So.
I have always said that having kids is an exercise in losing control. This feeling of basically having to let go and go with the flow (even if the flow is basically getting no sleep, or having to sling your baby and carry her around 24/7 because she will not be put down. The alternative is to run from pillar to posts for solutions that basically stop being relevant just when you found them because the baby has moved on to a new problem). I never quite got the hang of this loss of control or at least, I never got over the resentment of having to lose control, but thankfully, the babies grew up, and gave in to a modicum of a routine. Of course, modicum is the operative word.
My kids are older, but they are unpredictable. One of the unpredictable things is there health. Last year, Nene has been sick one every month, if not more. He basically has a permanent stuffy nose (like allergies, but to what we don’t know, likely the air which we have no control over and I do not possess a husband who believes in the expat solutions of air purifier, special cleaning of aircon with tea tree oil, what not), which at some point degenerates into a bacterial infection/tonsilitis. Mimi’s health has been pretty robust – being around a sick brother notwithstanding – but occasionally she falls sick too. And then, there’s me. So there are three variables that cannot be controlled, and doctors visits and care etc which all takes time, which in between trying to finish writing a dissertation and apply to jobs and write a proposal for a postdoc that will anyway not consider me (and which now is not posting the recruitment ad eveb) and prepping for the poorly paid jobs I’ve been offered, is time I barely have. Even with hired help at home.
I am sorry to say that the time before last that Nene fell sick I collapsed into a blubbering mass because I just did not have the time to take him to the doctor. Again. Then I felt guilty about that.
But today I did better. Today when each of my children complained of some ailment that would require a trip to two separate doctors, requiring me yet again to reschedule my carefully laid plans for the day, I took a deep breath and went with it. Sequenced the events in my head – prep helper to get appointment for local pediatrician in case ENT for Mimi doesn’t work out, call ENT on repeat in the morning and request afternoon appointment so I do not have to cancel lunch meeting with former boss, if afternoon is not available, cave and take whatever appointment, but resist urge to contact former boss until this has been confirmed. Once inevitably only 2 pm appointment is available, accept it and cancel lunch. Go with Mimi to Central to ENT to be told she has middle ear infection, but basically it could have been diagnosed by pediatrician (but what if it coudn’t have so good I did ENT and saved myself two potential visits, at least I’m covered by insurance), head back and work on bibliography while Nene plays with cars on my leg, only snapping at him when he jabs at my keyboard and basically erases entire bibliography which I thankfully am able to recover, then dither over whether to send Nene to doctor with helper because the doctor will give the same medication anyway, cave to guilt and take himself, bring home the same medication including one dodgy looking cream that I’m not sure I want him to apply, dither over whether to sacrifice run in favour of packing for next day’s minibreak which I probably should not go on because of all these doctor’s visits but it’s the summer vacation…
The thing with kids is that I cannot afford to procrastinate on my own stuff. When time is mine, I have to work like a horse, because I have no idea at what inopportune time the interruption will come. How do working parents with no flexibility do it, I wonder? But I know. I was that parent. You do what you can. You don’t feel guilty because you don’t have a choice. Because I seemingly have ‘the time’, I am plagued by endless claims on it. But it is finite and so am I. Nobody else seems to understand this.
I am not good at making decisions on the fly because I want to agonise over the perfect one. I am getting better at deciding something and then squeezing my eyes shut down on the what ifs. Today I managed this, even with the PMS hormones raging and threatening to take me down into sadland. Of this I am proud.
Cover letters. Applying to jobs. Every other day.
Are cover letters necessary? Couldn’t one just forward a CV? Well, in my case, I feel the need to explain why I’m still competent even though I’ve been stuyding for a PhD.
Yes, even though the PhD. It seems as if a doctoral degree is like krypton to commercial employers. I’m beginning to think I should leave it off. It seems weird that 10 years of media/corporate editing experience at some pretty good firms counts for nothing in the face of the stupidity of pursuing a research project for a little less than 3 years. Now I know what those mothers who took breaks to look after the kids feel like. Except, ironically, I never took a break to look after the kids. I never even took a break from commercial work, I kept freelancing throughout. But I guess the fact that I got accepted into a programme for abstract thinkers that very few people get accepted to makes me untouchable now?
And why do I want to go commercial again? Well, because academia will qualify you but not employ you. That is, all the jobs want teaching experience even though you just got your qualifications. It seem impossible to get even a part-time teaching job (which by the way pays less than my PhD stipend) without teaching experience. That old chicken and egg thing. The way around this is to know someone. Basically, many positions aren’t advertised, and when they are, it’s a formality and they already have someone in mind. Yet, the ad makes the poor sods out there who don’t know enough people think they actually might have a chance and so you apply (‘to the void’ as my colleague put it because noone ever replies). The only two gigs I’ve secured are through people I know, which should make me happy but makes me sad instead. These gigs pay so little there is no point celebrating them,.
Forget part-time teaching, I have not heard back from teaching assistant jobs. Maybe because it might make the actual teachers who are not PhDs insecure, I suppose.
Okay, to be fair, I still don’t have a PhD (I haven’t submitted and done the exam yet). Though honestly a PhD as a part-time teacher is overqualified. But okay. Fine. Maybe all this will miraculously change when I have that piece of paper.
But what won’t change is how little they pay. After spending 3 years, at best (at worst 5-7) on this thing, you have to spend a couple more doing part-time work or if you’re lucky a postdoc before you can actually get a job that basically pays less than my previous job correcting people’s English.
This makes me feel so angry that I want to chuck the whole dream posthaste (and I would if someone would offer me something else to do. See part on commercial sector cold shoulder). The poor pay, exploitative working conditions for part-time staff and general lack of transparency makes me want to smack the next academic who starts sanctimoniously critiquing the commercial sector.
Because you know, in the commercial sector, if you apply to advertised positions, you actually stand a chance of being considered based on your resume. Well, it seems like a better chance than in academia which really does seem to run on influence at the lower levels anyway. And that sector pays better. And you get nice tea in the pantry. For free.
This morning when I was reading a story to Mimi I was thinking that I could apply for a teaching assistant job. At a kindergarten. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
By the way, those are the jobs that seem plentiful. The teaching English. At all levels. That I am not actually qualified for, because I don’t have TESOL qualifications, but I know that doesn’t matter in the lesser institutions, if you’re the right colour. Which I’m not. Too much cafe in my au lait.
I really should have gotten a TESOL qualification if I wanted to diversify my career path (which I didn’t. I thought of the PhD as a passion project and that I would get back to editorial work after. Except the blemish of the PhD it appears is overwhelming).
When I started this job hunt, I was wracked with indecision about what I wanted to do. Ha! Now I’ll take whoever will have me.
This post discusses the Girls finale It contains spoilers so read on at your own peril.
So, the Girls series finale. Last month I was at a conference at which there were a couple of papers on Girls and during the discussion someone pointed out that because there has already been a baby on the show, they were not convinced that the series would feature another one. Maybe that comment stuck, or it was just my perception of Hannah’s character but I kept waiting for her to have an abortion or miscarry even as she kept getting bigger and bigger, right up to the penultimate episode. The idea of Hannah having a baby seemed kind of unreal, especially since she didn’t seem to have made any arrangements in particular or had a stable source of income. In fact, this is true of the series as a whole; even as the girls seem incapable of holding down a job, they always seem to make rent… in New York! To be fair, their struggles to make rent are portrayed, but considering this is New York, you’d think it would be an endless anxiety for people who don’t have a stable income, not a random problem. Anyhow, with a baby on the way, the question of financial stability seemed even more pressing – there were people like Elijah and later bizarrely Adam – who offered to help, but with time not really with money. So maybe Hannah’s parents would pitch in, though that wasn’t mentioned either. Or maybe I’m the only one who things about these things.
Anyway, the show resolved the financial question by having Hannah move away for a job in the penultimate episode, but again that’s happened before with the writing workshop thing, and although it seemed like that was the series finale (it wasn’t), I continued to wonder how Hannah and motherhood would play out. Well, the finale episode delved into that.
And I found myself somewhat disappointed. Not because of the fact that the episode was anticlimactic, which it was intentionally in keeping with the show’s ethos, but because of the depiction of the trials of early motherhood. Which were pretty on point actually. But almost in a cliched and tired way. Breastmilk vs formula, baby won’t latch, gosh I’m so tired, noone understands. These are so familiar and so old, do they bear repeating? Or maybe I am on the moms Facebook page too much where we hear this ad infinitum from actual mothers. I get that portraying this ordinary reality might be groundbreaking television, but is it? Really? I feel like it’s been done before (or maybe just in my own life)? Am I not appreciating the innovation of depicting raw new mother frustration on TV just because I’ve been-there-done-that (by the way, I have lots of sympathy for actual new mothers) and that it all might seem gritty and novel for millennials without kids?
Oh, and a lot of people are upset with Hannah’s yet-again display of self-centeredness in fighting with her mom when she came to help. First of all, the idea of just Hannah and Marie going it alone while very sweet was also very stupid. When I realised that that’s what was happening, I was like um. I suppose this is an American thing but it is so stupid. Did Hannah even try to solicit help from other people? Where is Elijah who was so supportive throughout the season (though admittedly he did say he’s not going to leave New York and his career took off). You’d think Hannah’s parents, knowing their daughter would have the sense to be there. Well. Kudos to Marnie although she seemed to morph – not surprisingly – into the kind of partner who is all about the gyan without actually having to put her raw boobs on the line. I was impressed with how calmly she dealt with Hannah’s meltdown though.
Okay, so back to Hannah’s mom. Yes, Loreen was awesome. But about Hannah being a bitch to her, while in character, it was probably the one time it was/is okay. When my mom came to help me out after I delivered Nene, she at one point mentioned to me that her oldest sister-in-law had counselled her to not be offended by anything I said to her, that new mothers could be like that. And I was. And Hannah was. Hannah shouting at the very people who were helping her, because in the end they couldn’t really help her feeling of helplessness and utter total exhaustion, was very realistic and in fact normal. Okay, so maybe this episode is about something after all.
I think was killed it for me was the very end. I wish they could have fed the baby formula and moved on. But no, the culmination had to be about Hannah getting the baby to latch. And okay, this is about a narcissistic person who as her mom said gives up when the going gets tough deciding to come back and follow through. But it just felt like such a betrayal of all those women struggling to breastfeed, who cannot breastfeed (like Hannah’s mom incidentally) who had to watch the triumph of the series being getting the baby to latch and thereby proving redemptive for the central character. And I get that this is only redemptive in the context of Hannah, but given that the whole breastfeeding dogma has become sooo oppressive (I saw one post on an FB Moms group about how a baby was actually dehydrated by the insistence on breastfeeding, and of course, event though this post is a drop in an ocean overflowing with the endorsement of breastfeeding, you had to have a lactation consultant butt into the say “I am sick of this…breastfeeding is hard, if you can’t do it, get over it”. Like if you are sick of all of three women sharing their distress, move on, don’t while pretending to help tell people they didn’t try enough), you’d think that they would have gone a different direction. I don’t know.
So after the season finale of Girls, I started Big Little Lies which is also critically acclaimed. Hell, one of the feminist blogs I read which is against everything (this is not to say all feminist blogs are against everything, just this one tends to be quite critical) endorsed it.
But this post has gone on too long, so I will discuss that in a separate post.
But for the last three months or so, my period has been bearable.
Yeah sure, it’s a bloody mess and I’d rather not skip it altogether. But, with careful management (i.e. vegging in bed for the better part of two days), it is not so bad. I haven’t even needed a painkiller. Heh.
This, after actually trying to get a grip on the thing by exploring contraceptive pills. That was a very shortlived exploration because the pill I took made me lightheaded and nauseous and although I actually bought a different pill to try, I couldn’t find it in me to actually try it and risk the same symptoms plus another period when I stopped. The fact is that I have a sensitive stomach and any oral medication is likely not going to be without side effects.
The fact is that my period just arrived in 23 days and not at the most convenient time, but now that I’ve accepted that it is what it is, plus I do have the option of using a hormone to delay it if really needed, I don’t feel so bad about it.
Also, I’ve noticed that although my body feels crappy on the first/second day, my mood actually clears up. Like the world actually looks/feels better. Hormones are like drugs, yo.
*For want of a better term
Recently, two posts on a Facebook mum’s group I’m part of caught my eye. In one, a mother asked when other mums in the (very large) Facebook group had stopped breastfeeding their child and started formula. Another described her ordeal as her six-week-old baby cannot be put down for a minute, wants to suck her breast constantly but does not ever get satisfied and go to sleep.
The first post on breastfeeding received a deluge of answers from people who exclusively breastfed, some stopping at 2 years. Among 50 answers, I saw about 3 that said that they used formula. Amazing right? If you read that post, you’d think the majority of mums in Hong Kong breastfeed. In fact, the number that continue breastfeeding beyond 3 months if at all is quite small. Of course, the number among expat, especially Western mums, would be higher. But even in Western countries the continued breastfeeding rate is not high.
We all know that breastfeeding is great and all. But the fact is that many women struggle with it (I do not know a single woman who did not struggle with breastfeeding, despite the fact that it is touted as the most natural thing in the world). Moreover, in Hong Kong where the participation of women in the workforce is high but the maternity leave is restricted to 10 weeks (and you can add a couple more weeks annual leave if you save it all up the whole year and your boss agrees), it’s even more challenging to keep up breastfeeding. So yeah, a lot of women top up with formula or switch exclusively to formula for a variety of reasons, not necessarily because they are duped by formula manufacturers.
My problem with the skew in answers to the post was why the formula-givers were so reluctant to out themselves. It was almost as if they were ashamed. And I feel this is counter-productive. It does no service to other mums, struggling to make a decision and keep the guilt in check.
The response to the second post on the clingy baby was even more surprising. The mother asked for solutions that may have worked for people who had faced similar issues. I did go through the same thing with Nene, and to some extent with Mimi (although she was better than Nene, she had colic and I spent a lot of time just slinging and carrying her). The majority of responses, however, were people telling her to read about the “fourth trimester” and to just accept it and go with what the baby demanded.
First, I was surprised at how many people have gone through the same thing. As one woman ( a tad insensitively I think) wrote in response: “So, good news, your baby is normal.” It did seem that a huge number of women had experienced unputdownable babies (and not in a good way). I think this is something that needs to be shared with expecting and new mothers, and anyone planning a baby. The expectation that your baby will feed and sleep and you can sleep with it in this calm cocoon of mother-baby bonding is …
wrong, delusional unlikely to be fulfilled. If you indeed give birth to such a angel, thank your stars and make a big donation to charity to pay your good luck forward. Because this rarely happens.
It appears from the responses that a baby that never sleeps, except in its mother’s arms, that wants to suck constantly, is extremely common. This may or may not be so. Awareness that this could happen to you is good.
However, I also think that the glib answers of ‘accept and move on’ are not entirely helpful. It is extremely hard, after going through labour or surgery, to settle in smiling for three months or more of basically never sleeping longer than half an hour stretches, of carrying a 6 kilo weight on you at all times (it’s easier to carry the weight when it’s inside you frankly), of dealing with the crying and the constant worry when there’s no crying, of the psychological stress that you’re not producing enough milk. Most of us aren’t used to hard physical labour, and being woken rudely from sleep just when you’re getting into the deep end of the sleep cycle is a form of torture used by secret police the world over. There is a high rate of Post-natal depression among new mums and it’s not because we are wusses. It’s because this shit is hard, possibly the hardest thing you’ve ever done and frankly you didn’t know this when you signed up for it.
It is natural to seek solutions and relief, even if you accept the fourth trimester theory. And there are some things you can do to make your life easier. Surround yourself with help who are willing to do shifts with you, for example. Check if the baby is latching on right, consult a lactation specialist (if you can afford one). Try using a pacifier. Co-sleep if it comes to that (while doing what you can to ensure the safety of the baby). Invest in the Fisherprice rocking chair. Check if your baby has issues like reflux. See if massage works. Switch around the baby’s bath time. Try Infacol or gripe water.Take it one day and at time and keep thinking “this too shall pass” (and no, you don’t have to “treasure this time because you’ll miss it when they grow up”. I don’t miss it at all. It is quite hard to treasure not sleeping properly for days on end.)
Talking to other mums to get ideas of how to cope with a newborn can be helpful if those other mums, while commiserating can also share the little things they did that helped them instead of hitching up their halos and going “just deal with it.”
I know a few women whose approach to motherhood has been to roll with it beautifully and beatifically, proclaiming everything magical and miraculous and generally putting on a very brave front. Well and good. But most mums slog and suffer through this period and for me at least, getting some sympathy and practical tips did help. It may be normal and natural to go through this, but it is also normal and natural to think it sucks.
Today, I read a Facebook post and comments about when Indian men first learnt about periods and the attitude to periods in their families. While most of the men who responded were of a liberal bent of mind, most of them seemed to have properly understood menstruation in their late teens. I was pretty surprised.
I learnt about periods when I was about eight, maybe even earlier. Now obviously, I’m a girl so I was bound to learn about it sooner rather than later when my own body changed, but my parents didn’t wait till then or maybe I didn’t give them opportunity. I’ve mentioned in a previous comment how my parents were pretty free with their bodies around us, and our toilet door was never locked (because the lock broke and the door expanded and was not easy to fix.) In our house, a closed toilet door meant someone was using it, but if it was my mom or sister especially, that gave us licence to barge in and ask burning or non-burning questions anyway. And if it was urgent, we’d barge in on our dad as well.
Anyway, during one such barge-in, I noticed the blood in the loo before my mom flushed. I was alarmed. So my mum took the opportunity to give me a quick intro to menstruation. Honestly, the idea of blood leaking out of the body every month astonished me less than the idea of a whole baby coming out of a vagina. First, I had to be convinced that there were indeed two holes down there. Then, I had to be convinced that an entire baby can come out of said hole. I was pretty sure my mom was making it all up, because she had a scar on her abdomen (from an appendix operation) which we had assumed was where we had exited from and that seemed more plausible and palatable than some stretchy hole .
So, that’s how I learnt about menstruation, and that’s how my kids learnt about it at the age of four or thereabouts.
In the glorious tradition of my family, I regularly leave the bathroom door unlocked, even though I now have a properly functioning lock. I’m not sure why I do it, I don’t think it’s because I’m an exhibitionist. I think maybe because I’m just not used to locking doors before the urgent matter of sitting down to do my business. And of course, it’s a rule of the thumb that when mum goes in somewhere that could mean a moment’s peace, the kids will barge in. While most parents complain about how their kids bang on the door of bathroom, mine just waltz in and unload whatever urgent matter needs resolving (e.g. look at me eloquently scratch my elbow).
I think I tried to make half hearted attempts to lock the door when I’m on my period, but of course I wasn’t rigorous about it and the kids walked and wanted to know about the blood. So I told them. They already knew that babies live in mummies tummy for a bit. So I told them that every month, mummy’s tummy makes a nest out of blood in case a baby needs to come live in it. If no baby happens, the blood comes out. They asked me a couple of times, and then were satisfied with my explanation.
There you go. Menstruation done. They sometimes assist with removing pads from the pack and handing them to me, but usually, I try to lock them out mainly because I really would like some peace and quiet.
On the other hand, I find sex harder to explain. The idea of a penis going into a vagina is not going to go down well, I’m pretty sure (and anyway there are more than one way to have sex and/or to make a baby). I think I’m going to stick with daddy has a seed which he gives mummy and when you put them together they make an egg.
How did you learn about menstruation? And how and when do you plan to explain it to your kids?