Tag Archives: silly people

There’s a special feeling reserved for parents, I think

27 Sep

A mixture of guilt, obligation, stubbornness, annoyance, ‘it’s-not-fair’-ness, and general argh! at the world.

I have been accepted to do an internship at a separate organisation based at my university which is relevant to my PhD. This is great news, especially as I thought the interview went extremely badly.

As part of this internship I will be working with the person who is also my second supervisor. She got in touch to set up our first meeting about what I’ll be doing, and I sent her a list of my daughter’s nursery times, implying (I thought) that it would make sense for her to pick a time within these hours. But she didn’t.

She doesn’t have children, and she only knows a little about my situation, so I don’t know if she thought the times I sent her were merely the most convenient for me rather than the only times I am actually available. The email was very short, and I don’t know this person well enough to judge whether she might be annoyed at my limited availability and thought ‘well, she’ll just have to make it work!’, or if she simply didn’t read my email properly.

Either way, I had to delicately let her know that she could either choose a different time or I’d have to brig my daughter with me, thus risking looking unprofessional before I’ve even started the internship. I briefly wondered (agonised!) if I could make it work another way.

For the interview, which lasted all of 12 minutes, my daughter’s dad took an entire afternoon off from his busy job. He’d been off work for a few days the previous week due to illness, and taking further time off risks making him look unprofessional, plus his work is of such a nature that it tends to pile up when he’s not there, so that when he gets back his stress increases. Added to this is that our relationship is not brilliant and quite unequal in terms of power distribution, so I usually feel uncomfortable asking for favours because I can’t think of a favour I could ever do him. So this was a big ask. For the sake of 12 minutes.

Doing this again a week later is not an option. I could book an extra nursery session (if one is available, that is), but £30 is rather a lot for a few minutes of meeting, and it would mean putting my daughter in nursery for longer than she’s ever been. Sure, it wouldn’t kill her and she would probably have fun, but £30 when this is most of my weekly food budget? No.

Then, as I saw a fellow student mother wander past me in the office, I considered asking her to play with my daughter in the postgraduate kitchen as they know each other from the music group we used to attend. But I don’t know her that well, and I don’t know if she’d ever ask me for a favour. And getting indebted to other people only sets the precedent that even if something takes place outside of nursery hours, I will make it work somehow, so next time I’d have to ask someone else for help again because surely nursery times are only a preference . When it’s fixed events like conferences or interviews, I will make it work if possible. But when it’s a two-people meeting and I’ve made it clear that I am only on campus at specific times – no. Not anymore. Not after a 12 minute interview that involved a rather sarcastic comment from one of the interviewers and made me feel a bit rubbish.

I have a daughter. That means I have responsibility for another person. Not a dog or a cat you can put somewhere on their own. A person who also deserves to spend time with me. I want to be involved in university life, but I can’t change nursery times at the drop of a hat, and I just do not have a network of people that allows me any flexibility. So those are the times I am available. Take it or leave it.

The Torygraph and Misogynist Drivel

13 Jul

I can’t work out whether this article is being ironic or not, but considering the Telegraph’s usual attitude towards women and gender equality, it’s doubtful. In short, it’s a rant about the fact that deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg occasionally takes his children to school in the morning.

‘Just how scared must he be of his militantly ball-breaking missus?’

Let’s assume this article is not intended to be ironic, but rather that its writer is being deadly serious in her anti-women outrage. The words used to describe Nick Clegg and his wife are representative of the language which women-haters fall back on when faced with a marginally less-than-traditional family set-up. (I don’t have any further examples right now, but trust me, it really is typical.)

She is

  • Miriam Gonzalez Durante, preferring to be known by her own name rather than as Mrs N Clegg (Ooh, look at her wanting to be her own person, dirty feminist.)
  • Prickly (Because she has *gasp* opinions?)
  • A militantly ball-breaking missus (Nice alliteration; shame that a successful woman who knows what she wants can’t be imagined without some miraculous emasculating effect. How does it work – is there a limited supply of success/determination/power in the universe, and by not being subsumed by her husband’s career a woman somehow uses up his share?!)
  • A partner in global law firm DLA Piper (Aha! As a female lawyer she is clearly a cold-hearted career bitch.)
  • Far too busy to take time off to support him on the campaign trail (Clearly not performing her wifely duty of always being visible in supporting her husband in his endeavours. What could possibly be more important? )
  • Emasculating him (I was just waiting for this to pop up. It is the gist of this article.)
  • Doing him a grave disservice (Being a bad wife.)
  • A woman with a  truculently embattled attitude to equality (How dare she think women are people too.)
  • Smug (Just for opening her mouth.)
  • An Alpha female (Whatever that is.)

Whereas he is

  • Lacking cojones (He should put his foot down/the little woman in her place.)
  • The second most senior politician in the UK (Could do better. If only his wife was more supportive.)
  • Supposedly scared of his wife (Must be, he can’t possibly want this too.)
  • A supine weakling (Big bad feminist, she’s walking all over him.)
  • Scrambling about looking for plimsolls (Poor disorganised little man being forced to do a woman’s jobs.)
  • A Beta male (Whatever that means.)

All this evokes an image of an overpowering harridan who forces a poor weak incapable man to do as she says. Even the distribution of descriptive phrases is a giveaway: the above lists contain just the easily identifiable judgmental phrases, and even here , statistically, the focus is clearly on Ms Durante (10) rather than on Mr Clegg (6), exemplifying how the article, despite its headline, gives an overview of how the deputy PM is governed by his wife because he is too wimpy even to be worth talking about a lot. Obviously its composition is very skilled and effective at getting the point across. But why portray an unexpectedly involved father as incompetent? Perhaps he’s really good at getting the kids organised and out of the door in the morning. Perhaps he wanted things to work this way too, perhaps it’s the only way he can manage to squeeze in seeing his sons on a manic day.

I don’t read the Telegraph usually, and only came across this article because someone on Mumsnet linked to it, so I’m not familiar with this particular journalist, but a quick scan of her work reveals that she mostly seems to write about male personalities and celebrity gossip, so I don’t think this particular article is meant in jest.

Which is annoying because, while it is entertaining to muse about the home life of politicians, this article has served only to further undermine working mothers and wives. So what if Ms Durante didn’t join her husband on the campaign trail! She probably had a lot of her own work to do. So what if Nick Clegg does the school run and the nanny doesn’t! I’m sure they have their own arrangements worked out so that no one misses any important meetings. But but but… he’s supposed to be busy running the country! Well, he’s not even the main person in charge, and again, I’m sure they’ve got it all figured out, they have to.

I’m just annoyed by the vitriol directed at Clegg’s wife. Surely being a female partner in a big law firm is a huge achievement and hard work. So is mothering three children. Being a politician’s wife can surely not always be easy. Anyone can look neat in expensive clothes and name their children after twee Cornish villages, and who cares about hat-etiquette at weddings anyway. So why not celebrate and look up to the way in which Mr Clegg and Ms Durante seemingly manage to cooperate as two busy working parents?


A Post about Self-Pity

3 May

I’m not enjoying anything much at the moment. Like Emily from one of my favourite blogs My Shitty Twenties, I am trying to find a new place to live at the moment. I’ve lived in this flat for five years now, my daughter’s dad and I moved here in order to start our postgraduate degrees. It is a perfectly lovely flat for two students, really close to the university, but not in the popular student area, so comparably cheap.

Even now my daughter is two years old, our flat ticks many boxes which I find important when it comes to house-hunting: we have our own front door, the rooms are a good size, the windows are double glazed and have really good security features, the central heating system is only about 6 years old, there is a shower over the bath, and lots of built-in storage. There is even a big garden (a dream in this city and with the rent I pay!) with a shed and a washing line.

BUT!

The kitchen is so small that the fridge only fits in my daughter’s bedroom. And even though the primary school is literally a two minute walk around the corner, it is among the five worst in the country, as is the secondary school it feeds into. The area looks very tidy in general, but it is a former council estate (many residents, like my landlady, have opted to buy their council flat/house), and, although this probably outs me as the snob that I am, most of that mentality still remains.

The night after we moved in five years ago, my daughter’s dad and I were woken by shouting and the sound of furniture being smashed. It was our first experience of the many loud arguments my next-door neighbour likes to engage in when she gets drunk. My downstairs neighbours aren’t much better: during our first year in the flat, their daughter seemed to spend most of her time staring out of the cat flap, and their music is frequently loud enough to shake our floor and make our radiators rattle. When we bump into the nice old people who live in our street, they acknowledge these neighbours’ behaviour (unprompted!), but they just seem resigned to the fact that this is just how life is.

Well, I decided that this is not how I want my life or my daughter’s to be. So last month I made an official noise complaint to the council. The music has stopped, but now we are shouted at for my daughter’s dad’s (ought to find an abbreviation for that really, Ex sounds too final somehow) perfectly normal and reasonable parking. I have stepped up my hitherto half-hearted house-hunting (I do love a good bit of alliteration).

But this is where it gets depressing: as I don’t have a job and my PhD isn’t funded, I receive housing benefit. In my city two out of ten rental properties are meant to be affordable to benefit recipients. My mum has kindly agreed to subsidise my rent, and I will get rid of non-essential outgoings like TV. Just TV really, I have no other outgoings which aren’t food or fixed, like council tax, utilities etc. This week I have arranged viewings for several flats in a much better area, and a dream house which is surprisingly affordable. But it is really difficult to find a landlord willing to consider me. It makes financial sense: I am a single mum on benefits who is also a student. I don’t smoke or have pets though, so I have some redeeming features. It is probably too risky. But I have always paid my rent on time because that is just how I was brought up. Sadly, however much I despise my awful neighbours, the only thing which distinguishes me from them is that I think I’m better than them, and I’m just as stuck here and in life as they are.

I could get a job, and if I worked over 16 hours per week I might even get some tax credits towards the nursery fees, but that would mean putting my daughter in nursery for whole days and it would also make the struggle for PhD time even more difficult.

The result of all this is that I feel powerless and like a child: I receive money from different sources, but none of it is earned through my skills or work. This means that I am stuck in a bad area with bad neighbours. Changing this would mean compromising my parenting and my long-term future.

So that’s it really, I’m stuck. (Story of my life!)

The Breastmilk Icecream controversy

11 Mar

Most people are probably aware of a London ice cream parlour’s offering of breastmilk ice cream thanks to the endless column inches dedicated to the topic. The Guardian weighs in as usual, but gains my approval because they published a piece by the woman who provides the milk for the Icecreamists ice cream parlour. There is also Zoe Williams’s article (loved her ‘Anti-Natal’ column!), which is far more informative than most other comments because she actually tastes the ice cream.

The Analytical Armadillo has written a great post about the recent breastmilk icecream outrage. What I find particularly interesting is her interpretation of the accompaniments served with the ice cream: Calpol, an Avent bottle and Bonjela. She notes that these three items are actually far more disgusting than icecream made of breastmilk – Avent contravenes the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Calpol contains carcinogenic colour, and Bonjela isn’t all it’s hyped up to be either. Breastmilk, on the other hand, contains vitamins, minerals and stemcells, to name just a few of its over 200 ingredients.