Monday, January 21, 2013

Cafes & Kids

This week there has been much commotion in Melbourne's media regarding appropriate cafe etiquette with children.

One article in particular found on The Age's website really got me thinking about Melbourne's ubiquitous cafe culture....

When Miss E was a baby, and our mothers' group was first starting we regularly met at local cafes. I was never quite comfortable with this arrangement. I could never really relax, as I was never sure if my bubba - who refused to sleep anywhere but her cot - would lose the plot when she got tired and scream at the top of her lungs. Or if she became hungry. Really, there are a myriad of reasons why a young baby might start wailing! And as a regular cafe goer, I don't enjoy hearing a baby screaming, so I wanted to be considerate of others, and not have my baby create a disturbance. This of course was confounded by the fact that, unlike all the other babies in our group, mine was never happy to just sit in the pram, or even on my lap. She got bored. In about 5 minutes. So being trapped in a cafe was not ideal for us.

Also, I felt that a mothers' group was not a particularly attractive or sought after customer base for a cafe. We mostly just ordered coffees, and then stayed for up to two hours taking up literally half the cafe with our prams, and other baby paraphernalia that seemed so essential at the time. Those tables could have been being used for customers who actually wanted to order meals. And who didn't take over the whole cafe. I guess I was more aware of these issues than others may be, as I had owned a business myself and had heard horror stories from other traders in the cafe industry. So I mentioned my concerns to one of the other mums, who was also the person who had been arranging the get togethers, and from then on, we met elsewhere. At each others' homes in the cooler months, and at various local parks in warmer months. Our new arrangement was wonderful! Especially as the babies got older. They had room to explore, and make noise, and when at another person's place, new toys to investigate.

Miss E is no longer a baby, and I still feel the same way about cafes as I did when she was a baby. A pre-schooler can't be expected to sit still or quietly for any length of time. When I do visit a cafe, we have a window of about 30 minutes before she begins to get restless. I am ok with this. She's a kid and kids need to be active. So my options are a) allow her to run around and generally make a nuisance of herself while diminishing others' enjoyment, or b) leave after 30 minutes. Option B is my preferred choice. I think it serves the needs of my child - who needs to be active, and the needs of the other patrons. I guess the only person whose needs are not met, are mine. I don't get to sit and enjoy a long, uninterrupted conversation with a friend/s. But I signed up for this motherhood gig, and that goes with the territory.

It seems that Melbourne's cafe culture has evolved to the point where people think of their local like a home away from home. For many mums, a trip to a cafe is a little outing that gets her out of the house and makes her feel like she's part of what's happening in the world. I get that. Motherhood can be very isolating. And I think in general, most mothers balance their own needs and the needs of other patrons well. But there are the occasional few who seem unaware of the need to be considerate of others.

When frequenting a cafe with Miss E, I stick to the following rules:

* Try to pick a family friendly cafe - with either a kids room or a play area outside

* In a cafe where there is no kids area - Miss E is expected to sit at the table. Running around said cafe is not acceptable. I provide pencils and paper, games on my phone or buy her a baby cino as a novelty.

* If Miss E throws a tantrum, or cries for any reason, I take her outside, and don't return until she has calmed down.

* As mentioned above, if there is no kids area, I don't stay longer than 30 minutes.

What are your cafe etiquette rules?

Saturday, December 15, 2012


It's almost the end of 2012. What a year it's been. We have experienced some very high highs and some low lows this year.

I don't really want to give undue attention to the lows, so I'll talk about the highs!

After a gruelling and mind-bogglingly busy year Mr D - as expected -showed that he really does have an extraordinary and uncommon intellect, and was rewarded with a PhD scholarship. To date, throughout his academic career, he has won awards and acclaim in almost every area he has studied.

He won the Judith Rodriguez literary prize, and had another story published here. He was awarded an Honours scholarship for outstanding academic achievement, and had an essay published in a public policy journal. He also had a poem published in a literary magazine that was launched at The Melbourne writers festival a few years ago.

When we started to discuss the idea several years ago of a PhD, the notion seemed so....foreign. So unattainable almost. But the closer we got to it becoming a reality, the more normal it seemed. Like a natural progression. From second-hand dealer to academic. Who knew?  

I'm (quite obviously) so proud of him. His achievements have come at a personal cost. Sacrifices have had to be made - Like studying in a windowless room that had no ceiling lights, and no heating for the last few years. Studying in solitude and quiet is an essential for Mr D, and that cannot be achieved when one lives with a toddler. His office -if it can be called that - affectionately became known as 'the box'. He would leave every morning through winter, rugged up with 6 layers on, and come home frozen. He would study with a small desk lamp for light - or if it wasn't too cold he would open the door to let the light in. Here's some photographic evidence:

And over the last few years our social life has taken a hit. We (and I say we because in a sense it is a team effort) have been so crazy busy that we have lost touch with many friends. We literally haven't had time to 'hang out' regularly like we used to. And here's the scary part: we've just signed up for another three years of it!! Gluttons for punishment?

But there are some perks to being a PhD student - thank goodness! - like a a real office - on campus no less. With windows. And lights. And even heating. What luxury. And getting paid to study (well in actual fact he will be conducting primary research rather than 'studying') instead of having to pay is quite a bonus too.

And now it's christmas. Mr D is on holidays and we're enjoying this time of no uni and no assignments looming.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Beauty & Brains

I really think you can judge a book by it's cover.......

Are hairdressing salons inherently vacuous places? Devoid of anything cerebral or intellectually stimulating? This is my question of the day.

I had my semi-regular hair appointment today, and had been looking forward to it for several days. As a stay at home mummy, getting several hours to myself is, well, bliss!

Being able to sit and read uninterrupted was the thing I was most looking forward to. But then it dawned on me. There would be nothing to read there that would interest me. Unfortunately trashy gossip magazines don't float my boat.

I'm really not the slightest bit interested in who Paris Hilton - the patron saint of vacuous - is sleeping with, or who is divorcing who. And for the love of God can someone please tell who on earth are the Kardashians??!!! Even worse is when, with no alternative I flick disinterestedly through these mags, and my hairdresser exclaims about a particular celebrity, making pronouncements about people with all the seriousness of one delivering a speech at the UN. She speaks with authority as if she knows the person. I find it incredibly strange.

Surely I'm not the only person who's not interested in reading about the dysfunctional lives of the rich and famous? Would it kill them to have a few issues of The Monthly, or Frankie or even The Australian Women's Weekly. These publications actually have articles in them, as opposed to full page spreads of celebrities with a few paragraphs at the bottom as a vehicle for the pictures.

Does caring about one's appearance and more specifically hair automatically mean said person is only interested in the banal, the ridiculous and the inane of celebrity culture?

What do you think? Am I being a snob? Or should salons cater to a wider reading audience?

Maybe I'll donate them a couple of back issues of The Monthly I have lying around......

Friday, May 11, 2012

Breast Politics

Unless you've been living under a rock this past week, it's unlikely you missed the controversial cover of Time magazine with a mother breastfeeding her almost four year old son. Check out the story at The Age here. The story was widely disseminated by news sites within hours and created the quite predictable media storm I imagine it was expressly created to do.

Before writing this post I was thinking that Grumet must be either astoundingly naive or strategically attention seeking and courting controversy. Further follow-up interviews with her suggest the latter.

I find this cover offensive, but not in the way you might immediately assume. I find it offensive because rather than promoting breastfeeding, it is creating controversy and strife. While I personally wouldn't breastfeed my child at three years old, I'm not against others doing so. It seems to me to be an overtly sexual image, and has been constructed to shock. Combined with it's confrontational headline, "Are You Mom Enough" the whole cover has quite an alarming effect on the reader. Let me explain further. In the context of magazines, and the visual language we understand in our western culture, we have come to expect highly sexual and sexualised images on magazine covers, particularly of women. All of these facts must be considered when 'reading' this image. Grumet is a young, slender attractive woman. She stands in a provocative way and stares into the camera wanting to be looked at. So far nothing unusual for a magazine cover. The child standing on a chair latched onto her breast is where it gets weird.

I think in the photographers mind he was perhaps trying to highlight the many facets of womanhood and the expectations on women. Women are supposed to be attractive, sexy, confident, slim, and at the same time feminine, demure, motherly, nurturing. Can we be both at the same time?

But ultimately I think this cover - and the story - pits women and mothers against each other, using breastfeeding as the weapon. And that's what I find most offensive about this cover. Using breastfeeding - which is so profound, challenging, and important - to tear each other down is wrong. It's cheap and base.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Here comes the rain again

Winter is almost upon us, and as the cold blows in, I feel like a fog has rolled over me, dulling everything.

I quite literally have a feeling of dread every time I think about winter. I try not to think about it, but in the back of my mind I know it's coming, and that sense of dread lurks. My mood seems to reflect the grey barren outlook of winter.

This week winter has come early in more than one way. We've been blasted with wintry conditions here in Melbourne, and my little family have all been battling an unpleasant cold.

Some people profess to prefer winter over summer. Such statements - if indeed true - render me confused and without any point of reference. Perhaps they don't feel the cold so much? Perhaps they don't feel depressed by bleak grey skies? Perhaps - although inconceivable to me - such people prefer being inside to being outside?

If I have learned anything about myself since becoming a mother, it's this - I'm an outdoors girl. Any sort of confinement leaves me anxious and stressed. Being cooped up inside for any length of time makes me feel like I can't breathe. Being outside and preferably near water or animals makes me feel like I can breathe again, I feel my stress seep away. Pre-mummy days I thumbed my nose at winter. I wore appropriate clothes and braved the wild and wooly weather. Walking the dog (by the sea - two birds with one stone you see) or feeding/riding horses, I found a way to be outside.

Since Miss E's arrival, winter means being inside more than I would have previously. And why I can only recall dreading winter in recent years! Of course we still get out in winter when we can. And it creates new adventures, as we look for indoor activities (I've never been to Melbourne Museum so regularly before!) that, if it wern't for inclement weather would be overlooked!

So winter is once again upon us. And I feel like I'm preparing to hold my breath for a really long time. But on the other hand there is hope. Summer will come again. The sun will shine and I will once again be re-aquainted with the great outdoors.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My annual Christmas post

Apparently it's been 6 months since I last posted. Either my life's so boring I have nothing to write about, or I'm so busy I never get a chance. I'm going with the latter...

I love Christmas time. Pretty much the whole of December is great. The excitement starts to build and the parties come thick and fast. There's the shopping - which I normally loathe, but have actually quite enjoyed this year. It's the feeling of knowing hot days are coming, and the Australian Open, and beach holidays spent in the sun are just around the corner.

Summer is magical to me. A week spent somewhere warm and by the sea can quite literally remedy all the stress accumulated from the year just gone.

This year we are forgoing our usual coastal oasis and are instead travelling north for a family wedding. While I'm delighted to be going somewhere warmer and to be able to lay by the pool, a part of me is sad we won't be going to our usual. It is my favourite place in the world, a place that enables me to be the most relaxed and happy I can be.

And Mr S and Mrs B have done their bit to make this summer especially exciting as they await the arrival of their first bundle of joy. A baby is always exciting. But becoming an aunty for the first time is very special. I'm also excited for Miss E who has been telling everyone she's going to have a cousin.

Christmas day is rapidly approaching. I'm pretty stoked actually that we get two Christmas day's this year - one on christmas eve with Mr D's family and Christmas day with mine. Double the fun, (and the drama, calories, hangovers, and presents!!)

Then, when the glow of summer begins to fade, real life begins again.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Reflections on Motherhood

Tomorrow is Mothers Day, and as I have been reflecting on motherhood recently, I thought it an appropriate time to write about it.

Before becoming a mother, when people said things like, 'you don't understand, because you're not a mother' I thought they were just being smug, or superior. Turns out they weren't. Here are some of the things I now know;

1. Being a mother makes you so vulnerable. In every way. Emotionally. Physically. Financially. From the moment you discover there is a precious life growing inside you, you feel that urge to protect, nurture, love. But so much of it is out of your hands. It brings a whole new meaning to vulnerable.

2.If emotions can be described as colour, then for me pre-motherhood was black and white and motherhood brought about amazing techni-colour vividness. Every emotion is experienced ten fold in strength and fervour, and is no longer easily containable and restrained. Instead, they sit just under the surface, refusing to be tamed. Rogue tears often appear at the most horrifying moments.

3.The constantness of motherhood is mind-boggling and incomprehensible until experienced. Pre-motherhood I understood the concept in a cerebral sense. But the experience of it is another matter entirely. Come rain or sun, colds or gastro, late nights or hangovers; The motherhood show must go on!

4.A friend of mine with adult children said to me not long after the birth of my daughter, 'Once you have kids, you understand how the world works,'. And what she means is the love. The epic, epic love that you feel for your child. And along with that comes the knowledge that every person has a parent who feels that way about their child, and therefore where their heart lies. It helps you understand how precious and important each person is because you understand it about your own child.

And so, here I am almost two years into this motherhood gig, and despite vulnerability, and constantness and the emotional rollercoaster that is the permanent state I now find myself in, I want to do it again. It's because amongst the mundane is the profound. Being a mother is so ordinary, yet at the same time extraordinary.