Sunday, 14 January 2018

All in a Day's Work

Image via Pixabay

I recently started working in a hospital. It's actually a community health center attached to a public hospital, but I have to walk through the main building each shift. There's something very comforting about a hospital. I probably don't need to articulate it. It is simply an environment that levels everything. People are being born, they are unwell, they are tending to loved ones or they are dying. People are working in service of others. On every level; whether they're performing life saving surgery, providing care and support, answering questions at the front desk, making food and coffee or emptying bins and cleaning floors. There is something really special about being a part of that workforce community. I find myself smiling the minute I walk through the doors. I feel myself being extra polite and helpful. I start up conversations with strangers in the lift all the time, AND IT'S RECIPROCATED! 

The other day at work wasn't especially significant. I work two days a week and keep as busy as I can for most of the day. The community health center provides services to children from birth to 18 years of age. There are a range of services provided through the public health system for people living in the local area, ranging from speech and hearing assessments, occupational and physiotherapy, paediatric and developmental services, mental health and child protection. I work in the administration section. There are always children around and it feels familiar, comforting and sometimes soothingly chaotic. I sometimes think about my own children when I'm at work. When I'm distracted and busy, they're out of my thoughts, which has given me a balance and freedom from the constant attention required when looking after young children, that I could feel swallowing me up before I got back into the workforce. Going back to work wasn't easy. It took seven months, more than 60 applications and only a handful of interviews, before I finally hit the jackpot. I found myself over qualified and too old for a job that was only two days a week. Those jobs tend to go to school leavers and 20 year olds that employers can underpay. The jobs I was qualified for required shift availability and flexibility on my part, and this time I was inflexible and unavailable. After a couple of decades of being completely at the mercy of employment, I finally had to put my foot down and wait for a role that was accommodating to me and my family's needs. I know it is temporary and I will someday be able to give more, but that time is not right now. 

When I'm idle at work, or it's a quiet part of the day, I think about and miss the kids. This is healthy. The resentment I used to feel about being at home all the time has melted away. Even when I knew it wasn't going to be forever and I should have been loving every minute of being with my babies, I didn't. Sometimes I fucking hated it to the point of desperation. Every mother does. How could you not? Being a stay at home parent is relentless, exhausting and isolating. Someone once suggested I should "get a real job" instead and I laughed and I laughed. He was right. A real job pays you, gives you a lunch break, unlimited toilet and coffee breaks and you get to clock off and go home at the end of the day. Being at home with little kids doesn't. 

When I hear babies crying at work or a fussy toddler, I smile and think about my kids. I'm empathetic towards the (usually) mothers who are flustered and tired, dragging their kids to the appointments and it makes me feel grateful that my mind is at rest that my kids are at a good daycare, being taken care of, having fun and learning. I wish the workers who have looked after my children were paid better, valued and appreciated more. I wish the care service industry treated its workers with more respect and recognised how vital those services are to a prosperous community. I see pregnant women or new mums at work on a regular basis and my heart remembers that feeling with nostalgia, but also a little bit of relief that it has passed. It was so hard sometimes. Rewarding, but not properly acknowledged or supported and very hard. 

I'm acutely aware that I am also surrounded by illness and death. I see patients hooked up to drips, I walk past the radiotherapy ward and walk through the floor that contains the mortuary. I see sadness on the faces of some of the people that walk past me. Expressions of worry, fear and despair. 

The one thing I have noticed a lot since starting work, is that people look you directly in the eyes at a hospital. More so than say in a shopping center or when you're walking past someone in the street. I have a habit of making eye contact. I have big eyes and I can't help it. I remember someone once saying that it was very disconcerting and it isn't something that you are supposed to do with strangers. I think I complained to him that nobody ever smiled and he told me it was because it was unusual to expect eye contact from a stranger, let alone acknowledgement with a smile. I was honestly taken aback. Why? Why was it unusual to connect with someone even momentarily? I hadn't expected to exchange numbers and become best friends, but you know, an appropriate level of recognition that we were sharing the same space was normal, I thought. I get it now. I'm older and wiser. I don't always feel like making that connection either and must appear aloof or rude sometimes too, and I don't care. Perhaps I was worried about being judged before and smiled at everyone all the time. I don't do that anymore.

But at work, in the hospital, it feels like the opportunity and the need to do that presents itself more often. And I really like it. It feels good. It's a powerful thing when we connect with others, even for a moment. I always leave work feeling great. Like I contributed something and had meaningful exchanges. It makes me a better person, and not only is it because I work in a hospital, whilst that does add to the significance, it's the power of working in the service industry. I have always worked in a service based industry. Whether it was food service, or community service, or public service. It was those jobs that allowed me to contribute something useful to others and it made me feel good. It motivated me to do good and to value moments when I was in receipt of another person's service. 

We need to put more importance on being of service to others. Not in a self-serving and self-righteous sort of way, but by understanding that altruism is healthy and necessary, that kindness is vital and crucial, and that helping each other is actually our natural state. We too often get roped into thinking that it's every person for themselves and that's the only way to get ahead because nobody would do it for you. That's utter bullshit. Everyone has at one time or another been helped. Help is readily available if we are just willing to find a source, ask for it, and receive it gracefully. Opportunities to give are everywhere and really simple. There is no need for aggrandisement. Slowing down to let someone into your lane in traffic, letting someone with less items in front of you in the supermarket queue, holding a door open, giving up your seat...too easy. When we feel strong and the opportunity presents itself, do good, and pass it on. Guaranteed, it will come back your way when you need it too. Then you start to notice those moments more and the laws of attraction kick in. Maybe it's just a slight shift in awareness, but at work it happens all the time. If I go about my day with a positive attitude, willing to help others, being mindful of the people around me and their feelings and needs, I then notice when my needs are being met. I'm bringing this attitude home to my children the three days I'm with them too. I don't have that feeling of isolation and enclosure anymore. I have more patience and I'm more willing to find the silver lining when things get tough. I still understand the massive discrepancy in society when it comes to women's roles both at home and in the workplace. That inequality is still not resolved and is far from balanced, but I feel like I have struck a balance in my own life that is allowing me to contribute to the lives of others so that they may benefit too.

Most of the time we blend in like the grey umbrellas, but when we can, we can choose to be the yellow one.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Self-doubt and writing

 
Writing is one of the most liberating processes for me personally. I journalled endlessly as an angst-ridden teenager and young adult. It helped me to get my feelings and thoughts out of my system, read over them and make sense of them. The words were a true reflection of my disposition at that time. Sometimes it was poetry, sometimes black marks on the page. These days we blog or post on Facebook. Same difference.

The art of letter writing too, has evolved into emails and texts and I have to say, I'm ok with that. I would rather write short greetings, day-to-day catch ups or verbose soliloquies, than say them. Writing to someone is a great equaliser. They can't talk over you or respond their thoughts without considering your voice. They are forced to read what you have to say and then reply. I find it not only an efficient way to communicate but a leveler of the proverbial playing field.

Writing books has been a blissful and wrenching process simultaneously. I love nothing more than to sit alone and in silence; (this never happens, I write among the chaos of a young family most of the time!), and to thump out the work of my mind and heart on a keyboard. For me, the hardest part is definitely not the writing. Not even the re-reading, editing or re-writing. It's the sharing.

When I journalled, I assumed, and rightly so, that the words on those pages were mine alone. Nobody would ever read what I wrote. Maybe my children or grandchildren, or great grandchildren, after I'm long gone, would discover the chest of journals in some dusty garage and pour over the ramblings of their long dead relative. How romantic!

When I decided that I would write books and self-publish them, it was with the intention that I would manifest my desire, regardless of what an industry's rules were, and whether or not I was lucky enough to ever set foot in that world. Without the approval, hmm maybe that's the wrong word. Promotion? Endorsement. Without the endorsement of an industry: having a publishing house pick you up, give you a contract, market and promote you; without that machine of commercialism behind you, it's just you and your words, out there in the wind, naked and for all to see and judge or ignore. It's a bit masochistic because that is what I love most about self-publishing. That authenticity. It's just me out there. Purely what I have written, by myself, without much interference, with no one but myself to blame if it all goes pear shaped. It's very scary, but it's very liberating and I get control over the entire process of creating a book. I'm aware this may be a bit dysfunctional, but it's the only option I have to live out my dream right now. People don't have to read my books. They are not coerced or encouraged to, other than by my piss-weak self-promotion on social media, to my handful of followers (most of whom I'm convinced are bots!). And if someone does read my work, they don't have to like it. It's not trendy to. They don't even have to finish it. They can be completely indifferent. There's no popularity to cloud their vision or entice them. I have to say, I really like that. I can stay in the shadows.

But, and it's a big one, I'm still terrified about writing the wrong thing, causing pain, getting it wrong. Despite there being no real contractual consequences, (I don't owe anyone anything. I can write and publish the same word over and over again if I want to); despite that, I don't! I want to write something good. I want to write with integrity, honesty, emotion, passion, authenticity and fearlessness. I want my words to have impact. I want them to be enjoyable and entertaining, to make people feel and think. I want it to be the best it can be at the time I do it. Subject to change of course, and hopefully for the better.

It is now time to publish my second book, a prequel of sorts, in the trilogy that has become the guinea pig of this whole journey. And I am plagued by fear and doubt, which some may say means I'm on the right track.

When I wrote and published the first book I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. The story took 10 years to develop and building the architecture of a book, setting up a business from scratch and fulfilling the needs of this experiment were a massive learning curve. This second story was a smoother process, from the benefit of experience, but I have some major doubts. I'm getting to the main point, stay with me!

So, my biggest fear with the first book was creating and writing characters that were Aboriginal. I was terrified that I would get it wrong. I worried about appropriation mostly, and so many other issues that I had no idea how to even approach it. I asked questions, did my research and let my imagination and intention speak for itself. Then I came across a great paper by the author Anita Heiss who addressed this issue. Dr Heiss' paper talks about white writers and their fear of not getting it right when creating Indigenous characters. Whilst I still had lots of discomfort about my amateurism, my lack of experience, my limitations in research, I forged ahead and did my best. I worked hard to portray my Indigenous characters with sensitivity and respect and to ensure that it was clear that the voice of both the author and protagonist was clearly a white person. In this way, I did my best to be descriptive without appropriating. I'm not sure if I succeeded completely, I'm sure there is always room for improvement, but I worked really hard to get it right and as stated in Dr Heiss' paper, I simply could not omit an Aboriginal presence in a story set in Australia, and in particular, in the countryside.

The Indigenous characters have returned in the second book, and I hope to include them again in the third book. I felt more comfortable the second time around. They felt more real and accessible to me than ever. I felt better about writing them and even bringing them closer to the central narrative. Again, I wanted to make sure it was clear that the story was fictitious, the author and the protagonist were still white and still mostly describing, from their perspective, their experiences and relationships with these fictional characters, which sometimes exposed their bias and ignorance. Again, I have doubts and I'm sure there is room for improvement, but I'm happy to stand by that, and if necessary grow and learn. 

Now I have a new uncertainty and this one is a little harder to make peace with. In the first book (spoiler alert), the protagonist starts off being a heterosexual woman, who later falls in love with a woman, the protagonist in the second book. I had some concerns about writing from the first person about being bisexual, when I, the author, am not. How can I speak for someone's experience, when I haven't had that experience myself? Do I even have the right? There was no way to make clear that the author was observing the character, because the protagonist tells the story in the first person. I justified my actions by allowing myself to explore a "what if" scenario. What if I, a heterosexual woman, found myself falling in love with another woman? It's not entirely impossible. I delved into that possibility as the fuel to my creativity.

This time it's a little different. I have to say from the outset that it's too late and I can't change it. As I write this, the second book is in the final stages of publication. You see, this time, the protagonist is a lesbian. She discovers her sexuality in her teens and I wrote the story in the first person. It feels a little deceptive and I'm not sure that I have the right to do this. I have a million justifications. I tried to be respectful and authentic, it's fiction, I should be able to imagine characters that are far removed from myself. But it still doesn't make peace with the appropriation of a gay woman's voice. I knew the only way around it as I was writing, was to write from the third person, making it clear the author was a straight woman, observing and describing a fictional lesbian character, but I felt the impact would be stronger in the first person and I felt strongly about not 'othering' the character - I didn't want her sexual orientation to be trivialised. I am aware that I may have done the wrong thing. That I may have made a mistake, but I simply didn't know how else to achieve the continuity of the style of story telling that I began in book one. I even considered writing the third book in the third person to prove myself wrong, to highlight how I should have written book two, but I'm not sure I can. I even told myself that the central issues of the story in the second book weren't the sexual orientation of the main character. That family breakdown, relationship dysfunction, addiction and recovery were the main themes. That it doesn't matter that she happens to be a lesbian. But it does matter. Her orientation is central to the character's being and I have appropriated that voice as a straight woman, by telling the character's story in the first person.

Therefore now, all I can do is stand by my decision, whether or not it is right or wrong and let the storytelling speak for itself. The politics are something I am willing to admit I got wrong, and knowingly! It is not something I am only discovering now, or that has been pointed out to me. I knew it was problematic from the outset, but I did it anyway. I'm not hoping to get away with it and this blog in part is a way to address my doubts, not exonerate myself. Remember, the industry machine does not exist in my writing and publishing. There is no media attention, no social media mob, no consequences. Lucky for me. It is very likely that not many people will read this book. So I want to make it clear that I am aware and mindful of my possible misstep and that I am willing for it to be a point of discussion if it comes up for people who do happen to read this book and find it odd that a straight woman is writing from the perspective of a lesbian.

In saying all this, I am proud of the work I have done so far and hope to do more. I adore the characters I have created and their journeys and truly feel that the story honours the issues and themes I hoped to highlight. This year I hope to write the final book in the trilogy and bring all the characters together. It might make all the mistakes of the past worth it. After all, that seems to be the central message of the saga. That life is just a series of experiences and decisions that we make with the tools and knowledge we have in that given moment, and that in retrospect, these events form the tapestry of our lives. We don't live in a vacuum. We share our life's voyage with those who we are intertwined with through kinship, friendship, love and chance.

The second book in the Space trilogy will be available for purchase on Amazon on the 14th February 2018.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Resolutions


Making resolutions is a tricky thing. Big decisions are made, mostly in our own minds, during a rush of emotion, often marked by significant milestones in life. New Year's Day is the most common one. Birthdays too. We feel like we are getting a clean slate. The end of something and the hope for a new beginning. There are other triggers too. Falling in love, a quarrel, losing or starting a new job, having a baby. Sometimes it's simply a matter of waking up with an unexplained surge of energy. After a powerful yoga session, I feel like I can change the world!

The reality though, is that many of these thought processes never see the light of day. We don't manifest many of the thoughts in our mind, because they are simply thoughts. What ifs. Coulda, shoulda, wouldas. That's why we are such suckers for entertainment. Living vicariously through others. Reality TV, a sitcom or soap opera, a film or play, music. We look outside of ourselves and want that feeling within. "I'll have what she's having!"

Finding a balance between dissatisfaction and gratitude is tricky. It's no good simmering in bitterness and unhappiness, but complacency is the killer of dreams. It's tempting to live vividly in our heads and merely survive reality. Or go the other way; mindlessly seeking instant gratification to satiate our endlessly insatiable desires, never making peace with anything we do or have.

Where can we get perspective? In nature? With our loved ones? Through exercise, sex, intoxication? Why not all of them?

Above all else is creativity. I think the answer lies in Art. What is your art? What do you create alone? By yourself and for yourself. Do you garden, cook, paint, write, play music, sing, build, craft, mend or heal?

Sometimes the jumble of thoughts that make us crave change are just a jumble of thoughts making us crave change.

Fizzy, muddled energy that clouds our vision and torments our feelings.

Go make something beautiful. Make it a habit. Share it. Sell it or give it away, display it or collect it for future generations to find. And learn to read what you create. What does it tell you about yourself? What does it make you notice? How does it help you to see? What path is it leading you on? 

Do it. Or not. Sometimes doing nothing is an act of creativity - simply observing, existing, when life is demanding you to do anything but. What art and creativity does achieve is a manifestation of energy, a practice that trains us to make decisions. To choose. It really does. Art, in and of itself, imitates life. It teaches you to think and see efficiently. To make sense of the 'thought mess', the 'feeling chaos' and turn all of that into something beautiful and meaningful. Or at least external. Art pushes out the muck inside and transforms it, makes sense of it. It liberates and lightens. It empties and makes room. Art creates and takes up space simultaneously. It facilitates balance.

This is my resolution for 2018. Also, growing out my eyebrows, but that's another blog post.

I resolve to create. I write. I crochet. I sew. I might draw and paint again. I make every action a work of art. As luminous with beauty or prickly with ugliness as it needs to be, I resolve to notice my ability to create. What other purpose is there? 

Happy New Year.

Friday, 7 July 2017

How To Avoid Career Interruption When You Have Children




 *I wrote this article for a Canadian job search site. The editor refused to publish it. His response and my retorts are below the article.

Working in one company or field, from graduation till retirement, is almost unheard of these days. For many people, their career goals, life paths and interests alter over time, leading them to change direction at least once or twice, sometimes several times, over a lifetime. Organisations and companies, in fact, the world, is dynamic too and change is inevitable. Success relies on the ability to adapt to change.

At times, choices associated with career interruption are made consciously and thoughtfully, the benefits and risks taken into consideration carefully and the pros and cons weighed up, to help make the best possible decisions to suit financial position and desire. A hybrid career can sometimes only be realised after years in the workforce, through trial and error and can benefit both individuals and companies.

However, sometimes a career can veer away from its initial route unexpectedly, which may lead to uncertainty and even hardship. The most common reasons why people may face career interruption are life events such as starting a family, developing illness or becoming incapacitated by an accident. It is interesting that having a baby can seem like an unfortunate obstacle, particularly for women in the workplace, closely related to getting sick or being injured.

While there are checks and balances in place through employment legislation to prevent discrimination against women of child bearing age who become pregnant, the reality is vastly different and many women find that they are either overlooked for positions from the onset, at the interview stage; they are disregarded when it comes to career opportunities and promotions; or they are being forced to exit the workforce through involuntary resignation and redundancy, usually when flexible work arrangements or accessible and affordable childcare are unavailable.

For women who are embarking deliberately on motherhood, this should be a time of celebration and joy, but unlike men, the fact of their biology means that they will need to juggle child bearing with their career in one way or another. Furthermore, women are not only physically responsible for gestation and birth, often the bulk of domestic labour and child care commitments will fall on them also. In fact, recent Australian census data shows that women are still highly disadvantaged when it comes to unpaid domestic labour. In Canada, the statistics show a similar trend, with women doing 50% more domestic duties than men, and men doing 37% more paid work than women.

It is possible that for some women, embarking on intentional motherhood and facing the prospect of career interruption, may be an opportunity to explore new avenues and pathways to find a better balance between work and life, and perhaps even discover new interests and life goals along the way. Having a baby might be the ideal time to allow life to take on a new direction and to pursue alternative and innovative experiences in relation to work, without ending up unemployed for an extended period.

Career interruption can thus be either avoided altogether or used to one’s own advantage, allowing women to be prepared for the changes and to gain benefits from the disruption to what may have become a stagnant employment situation. Men too should be advocating for more flexible workplaces to allow for better work/life balance, not only when embarking on parenthood, but also in the unfortunate event of illness and injury, resulting in unanticipated career interruption or unemployment.



Here are some tips to avoid career interruption all together, or use an inevitable disruption, as an opportunity to enhance paid employment.

 

  • Negotiate a contract and maternity leave policy, prior to recruitment

This is one of the biggest obstacles women face, because as soon as it becomes known that they are planning to start a family, the discrimination begins. It is wise to keep personal details private at the interview stage. In most instances, it is illegal to be questioned about your plans for child bearing in an interview. This information is irrelevant to your capacity to do a job and cannot be used as grounds for discrimination. It is also important to familiarise yourself with an organisation’s maternity leave and return to work policies. Finding a balance between contract negotiation and disclosure can be tricky, however doing some research early on can be beneficial. Don’t be intimidated about asking questions and reading company material. Also, know your rights. Understand workplace legislation, equip yourself with knowledge to not only protect yourself, but to give you the tools and language to negotiate your terms. Whenever possible, join an industry union.



  • Participate in further training and education 

Being temporarily away from full-time employment can be a perfect time to update skills and training through further study. There are more options to do this remotely nowadays and this activity can improve your chances of not only returning to your old position or industry, but gaining new employment in circumstances where you find yourself unemployed. Retraining can seem daunting, but brushing up on new technology and innovations, by for example improving computer skills, obtaining an industry related certificate or building on already attained qualifications, will not only keep your mind active and motivated throughout early child rearing, it will ensure you are still “in the loop” so to speak and are not drifting further away from the workforce. It may also be a chance to do a course in something completely different to your current field. Changing career paths is always an option and taking that first step will put you in a better position for when you are ready to re-enter the workforce.


  • Impart industry knowledge

Sharing your expertise is also another way to maintain focus and experience, while you are on maternity leave or should you be facing redundancy. You may wish to do this through pathways such as writing or teaching within your field. Both these endeavours can be extremely flexible professions and can be performed on a part-time or casual basis, sometimes at excellent rates, and in the case of writing, may even be done from home. Finding ways to utilise your intellectual property can also help you to refine your interests and strengths and will lead you to more job satisfaction and prosperous endeavours.

  • Start your own business

Finding yourself without work may be a signal that there is a better fit for you elsewhere, but it may also indicate that you are capable and prepared to forge your own way in your field of expertise. Running your own business is challenging and requires both an investment of time and finance, but if successful, the benefits are abundant. You may want to start something from scratch, or perhaps invest in an existing business or franchise, whether within your current field or in a new area of interest.

  • Sound financial planning

It is always beneficial to live within your means. That is, spending according to your earnings and affordability, and ensuring that a financial safety net exists for when the unforeseen happens. This could mean setting up a high interest savings account as soon as you begin paid employment, that is only accessed in the event of an emergency. Minimising debt is another way to ensure that if career interruption occurs, you are not being burdened by superfluous financial commitments such as outstanding debts or credit cards. Participating in a high yield superannuation scheme, and one that may offer access to your money in the event of financial disruption is worth exploring early also. Having a financial safety net simply means you will have more options to explore new opportunities and avoid career interruption. It can allow you to pay for further study and childcare, while you re-establish yourself in the workforce.

  • Advocate for affordable and sustainable healthcare, childcare and education

It is vital as a society that we support public services that are accessible and inexpensive. This means educating ourselves about our governments and choosing wisely when we vote. On a more practical level, we can utilise public health systems and educational institutions, including those that facilitate further and vocational study, and support the provision of community childcare services to enhance the demand for them and improve their quality and availability. When mothers are faced with the prospect of balancing family and work, it is these services that are going to determine how much support they can access to maintain employment choices and financial independence, even if their hours and income are reduced as a result of career interruption. 


**************************************************************

* The editor:


Hi Diane,
Thanks for your article. It's well-written, but the content is not there. Here's my feedback:

1) You spend 7 paragraphs introducing the topic. I'm not sure what I should take away from these 7 paragraphs. The topic is how to avoid career interruption when having children. It's mainly targeted at women, but you add a few sentences at the end of the intro for men. You also go into various tangents. Your intro should not be more than 1 paragraph or two. Women facing this issue know about the problem. They read your article looking for solutions, not for a lecture on how difficult or unfair life is.

2) You then go on with tips to avoid career interruption altogether. But the tips that you give don't make sense or are just plain obvious. i) Negotiate a contract or maternity leave policy prior to recruitment. That's not realistic for most people. ii) Training and education. After giving birth, most women struggle to just keep up with the newborn. iii) Same thing for sharing your knowledge while on maternity leave. iv) The rest of the tips are obvious. There aren't any insights.

After reading your article, although you have good grammar, I don't know what I should take away. Can you rework this article, do more research and take at least a week to think it through?
Sorry, this may sound brutal, but I'm just trying to give you my honest feedback.
Let me know your thoughts. 


* My response:


Oh dear. I’m afraid you’ve missed the point entirely and have inadvertently exposed your own male privilege and internalised gender bias. Sorry to be brutal. I don’t need a week to think on this, I thought about it over breakfast while we fed the kids.

I didn’t spend 7 paragraphs merely introducing the topic, I used those words to tease out the issues. Women are engaged and empowered by being empathised with and having their experiences validated. I used the statistics relating to domestic duties in two countries to back it up. I also included men in the scenario, to highlight how childbearing for women in the workforce is not dissimilar to a disadvantage like an illness or injury suffered by men. I also attempted to highlight how men are needed to support women to avoid career interruption, particularly when they often possess the structural power to do so, but also within their own households.

I think it is patronising and quite incorrect to suggest that women are not capable of participating in paid work, study or training whilst caring for a newborn. That is entirely the attitude of discrimination creating these barriers in the first place. Two points here. Firstly, where are their partners? Shouldn’t they be doing 50% of the work and negotiating flexibility in their own careers to make space for women to preserve theirs? That is why I mentioned them in the beginning. Not only to include men and make a comparison to their own possible career disruptions through illness/injury, but also to make them accountable. The fact is most men won’t participate equally in domestic duties and child rearing specifically because it is difficult, tedious and UNPAID work and to preserve their own careers and sanity. Secondly, this statement is blatantly untrue. I can tell you I wrote and self-published a novel with TWO newborns and a toddler and recently Senator Larissa Waters breastfed her baby whilst putting forward a motion in the Australian Federal Parliament. Google it. 

The other tips I mentioned such as maintaining financial independence and having a monetary safety net are not obvious to women, within a patriarchal system that largely expects them to abandon their careers and financial independence, instead becoming dependent on their partners (often male/husbands – but not always), when they have children. That is the central point of the whole topic. It is impossible to find 800-1000 words describing ways in which women can preserve their careers, outside the tips I have given, within an inherently sexist system, which you have very clearly demonstrated. This is yours, many men’s and society’s views:

  • Women are solely responsible for looking after newborns and can barely cope, so can’t retrain, work part-time or work from home 
  • Women already know to have a financial safety net, that’s why they get married and let the man work so they can stay home and do the housework and look after the baby

I could have written a three-word article to help women avoid career interruption: don’t have kids!

You also suggest that it is unrealistic to negotiate maternity leave. Rubbish. This is exactly the type of empowerment women need and the kind of resistance men need to stop creating in relation to career interruption. It is absolutely realistic, in fact necessary, for both men and women to start demanding flexible workplaces in regard to family/life/work balance. It is not only a woman’s obligation to surrender her financial independence and her career aspirations to build a family, it should be everybody’s responsibility to participate in child rearing equally. Including society in general, which is why I mentioned how we should educate ourselves about our governments and the structural systems they maintain that for the most part, disadvantage women. The most progressive nations in the world already do this. They provide free or at least affordable childcare, they have school drop off/pick up compatible work hours and don’t depend on the false economy of working 9am-5pm, focusing instead on productivity not hours sitting at your desk, and they encourage equality in parenting by both men and women.

I anticipated that you may not be brave enough to include a feminist perspective on your website. You said you didn’t want me to write fluff, but I think that is exactly what you wanted. Not an article that actually empowers women by validating and articulating their lived experiences and provides them with tools to empower them to maintain an intellectual and financial pursuit whilst raising children, and demanding that there is someone to pick up the slack when they surrender some of the burdens associated with child rearing. By not using articles like this, you are simply alienating 50% of your market. Don’t underestimate women’s, especially mother’s, capacity to engage with an academic level, politically rich article. Who knows, it may take your site to the next level. I know how women think and feel. I am a woman who writes for and about women. And not women with internalised misogyny and a sad case of Stockholm Syndrome. Google it.

I’m not surprised you didn’t take anything away from this article. I didn’t write it for you. I wrote it for your female readers. This is how I write. It won’t change. If you don’t think it’s a good fit for your site, we can terminate the relationship here.

PS – I wrote this response in between clearing the breakfast dishes, changing one nappy, wiping one bum, brushing four sets of teeth including my own, putting on three sets of fairy wings and preparing morning tea for three children under four. Women can multi-task, we just need to start getting paid for it!

 
Thanks for your article. It's well-written, but the content is not there. Here's my feedback:

1) You spend 7 paragraphs introducing the topic. I'm not sure what I should take away from these 7 paragraphs. The topic is how to avoid career interruption when having children. It's mainly targeted at women, but you add a few sentences at the end of the intro for men. You also go into various tangents. Your intro should not be more than 1 paragraph or two. Women facing this issue know about the problem. They read your article looking for solutions, not for a lecture on how difficult or unfair life is.

2) You then go on with tips to avoid career interruption altogether. But the tips that you give don't make sense or are just plain obvious. i) Negotiate a contract or maternity leave policy prior to recruitment. That's not realistic for most people. ii) Training and education. After giving birth, most women struggle to just keep up with the newborn. iii) Same thing for sharing your knowledge while on maternity leave. iv) The rest of the tips are obvious. There aren't any insights.

* Editor:


I won't be publishing your article, but I will still pay you for it. I didn't appreciate your reply and the assumptions that you made. You talk about discrimination, but do you realize that I probably suffered more discrimination than you, as a visible minority? The feedback I gave you was as an editor of a site for over 10 years. And I am a father and took one year off as paternity leave. I know how hard it is to raise kids. Maybe you and some women can do it as well as advance your career, but it is a real struggle. My suggestions were from real life experience. When a new baby is born, the parents want to spend time with them, not think about career. There's more to life than career. Btw, my wife is a lawyer and is an accomplished woman who worked hard her whole life. Even she struggled. I'm glad you can do all that you claim, but I regret to inform you can most people can't live up to your standards...you should really reconsider how you deal with people.

 
* My final word:


It's not about living up to standards. It's about removing obstacles to allow people to struggle less. With all yours and your wife's experiences, I'm baffled you don't agree that we should have more balance. Of course people want to spend time with their children, but not at the expense of their lives and careers outside parenthood. And it's often mothers who are expected to give up more. 

It's interesting that you interpret my assertive response as aggressive. Very telling too. 
  It seems you are entitled to be brutal in your criticism and I am not. I suggest asking your wife and other women in your life to read the article and see what they think about it.
I won't be publishing your article, but I will still pay you for it. I didn't appreciate your reply and the assumptions that you made. You talk about discrimination, but do you realize that I probably suffered more discrimination than you, as a visible minority? The feedback I gave you was as an editor of a site for over 10 years. And I am a father and took one year off as paternity leave. I know how hard it is to raise kids. Maybe you and some women can do it as well as advance your career, but it is a real struggle. My suggestions were from real life experience. When a new baby is born, the parents want to spend time with them, not think about career. There's more to life than career. Btw, my wife is a lawyer and is an accomplished woman who worked hard her whole life. Even she struggled. I'm glad you can do all that you claim, but I regret to inform you can most people can't live up to your standards.
Hi Diane,

Thanks for your article. It's well-written, but the content is not there. Here's my feedback:

1) You spend 7 paragraphs introducing the topic. I'm not sure what I should take away from these 7 paragraphs. The topic is how to avoid career interruption when having children. It's mainly targeted at women, but you add a few sentences at the end of the intro for men. You also go into various tangents. Your intro should not be more than 1 paragraph or two. Women facing this issue know about the problem. They read your article looking for solutions, not for a lecture on how difficult or unfair life is.

2) You then go on with tips to avoid career interruption altogether. But the tips that you give don't make sense or are just plain obvious. i) Negotiate a contract or maternity leave policy prior to recruitment. That's not realistic for most people. ii) Training and education. After giving birth, most women struggle to just keep up with the newborn. iii) Same thing for sharing your knowledge while on maternity leave. iv) The rest of the tips are obvious. There aren't any insights.