Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Birthday Parties

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending my first children’s birthday party for one of Jacks little friends.  It was lovely – a day at the park with an easy BBQ, a couple of games for the kiddies, cake, and beer for mums and dads. 
Since Jack is having a birthday of his own in a few days – his first one – I figured I better make some observations about what was being organized.  I liked this party because the parents were well organized without going overboard or spreading themselves thin to throw an extravagant party, yet I realize the extravagance of a childs birthday party can fall anywhere on a wide spectrum of “easy” to “way over the top”.

Birthday parties can involve soo many excesses …. You have the cake.  The cupcakes.  The nibbles and snack foods.  The entertainment for children and parents.  The PARTY BAGS (big peeve of mine).  Venue hires.  Clowns and bouncy castles.  Oh my the list goes on and on! 
I’m no party pooper and I want my child to have a lovely birthday as much as the next parent, but it is just far too easy to cross that line and create way too much work for yourself!!  Its enough to make the cake in the days leading up to the party, and prepare food and activities.  And you want to tailor the theme / activities to the actual birthday boy/girl’s interests, sure.  But where do we draw the line?
I think that the more parties you attend, the more complicated it can become because parents have this ridiculous tendancy to “compete”…. Which not only puts undue stress on ourselves as parents, but it also increases the expectations of the children attending the parties.  At the last party I was at, a wee girl approached the birthday girl’s mother and asked for her party bag (loot bag) when the party was nearly finished.  The mother hadn’t arranged such things, and she is from England so I don’t know – maybe its not such a common thing there as it is here in Australia – but regardless, it was a clear sign to me that this childs “party expectations” have been set by birthday parties past, and in their little minds they might be inclined to ‘rate’ parties based on these formed expectations!
Really, when you have a dozen children all at varying ages playing together, its chaos.  I would like Jack to think it’s just an opportunity to play with his mates, have a good time, and have some cake.  Isn’t that enough for a young child?
For Jacks party, I know one thing: I want a “no presents” rule.  I don’t think it should be an expectation on other parents to spend money on a toy for your child just to attend said child’s birthday party.  I think it’s a crazy notion, actually.  I know that this is a hard thing to swallow because society has it so engrained into us that buying presents is necessary… but I don’t believe this to be true.  Children, for the most part, already have a toybox filled with a minimum of 183 toys (or numerous toyboxes).  How is one parent supposed to know what the birthday boy does or doesn’t already have??  How can you ensure you are going to spend $20 on something that the child will appreciate?  You can’t ensure that!!  And as children get older and the birthday guest list gets bigger and bigger, you just end up with mountains of presents which, in my mind, diminishes the value of each individual present. Less is more.
I’m not saying I don’t buy presents, but I can say that I don’t buy them very often!  I now often opt to make or bake something for the child who is having the birthday, as this has more meaning and often serves a purpose.  I cannot, for the life of me, buy something just for the sake of giving a present!!  It has to have meaning between me and the individual, or have a purpose it will serve for that person.
If a birthday rolls around and I haven’t come across or thought of such a thing, then the birthdayee gets no gift and only gets a card to know we are thinking of them.
This is not to say I (we) don’t appreciate gifts given to our child – but there is an underlying guilt in both me and Nathan that other people are parting with their hard earned money when they could be spending it on their own families.

Cards are another annoyance with Nathan and I.  Nathan thinks birthday cards are the biggest marketing scam since Diamonds, and especially loathes Hallmark.  (Poor Nathan... having his views and opinions aired and exploited on my blog against his will)....   I can agree with him – why do we spend up to $7 or even $10 on something that is going to be either thrown in the trash or shoved away in a closet somewhere after its been opened?? I still feel there is a need for cards, as you want to have a means to relay a happy birthday message (or any other message) and we are avid card-senders, but I cannot pay $5-$10 each for them!! 
When I first started working on my thrift policies (when we became a one-income household), I thought it would be a good time to start card making.  But HOLY cow… one or two trips through a craft shop and you see that this is actually not a thrifty way to do birthday cards. It can be an extremely pricey and time consuming hobby – one that I don’t feel is fair to pursue if I’m not making money of my “own”… but you CAN get bulk packs of cards which makes the cost of each card about $1 or less.  This has satisfied my card-sending needs for now, as its more about the message you are putting inside than what someone at Hallmark has pulled out of their arse.

So, this weekend, yes, I will bake a fancy cake for Jack.  And we will have a little party.  But I’m not doing party bags, and I may not even do activities, given the fact Jack won’t be playing them!  And we don’t want presents!  But I am picking that no matter what my principles are, as he gets older he will soon develop his own set of “birthday party” expectations laid upon him by outside influences, and I may be eating my words then, just to avoid disappointing him.  Ask me again when Jack is turning 6 what I think a birthday party should involve…. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

According to the gospel....

"But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God."
(1 Corinthians 11:3-16)

"Wives, be obedient to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them."
 (Colossians 3:18)

So, way back in my first blog when I was wondering who, if anyone, is “right” on the matter of gender roles, well my question is sort of answered:  I am wrong, and my whole generation is wrong!  And we shall all be damned for our betrayal of The Written Word.
Or something like that.
Given that Christianity is the cornerstone of Western Civilization and all that it has become, the bits of scripture I have just quoted made me feel a sting of shock when I stumbled upon them.  Have I been doing wrong by the Lord??  Does he expect all women to be submissive and subject to their husbands rule?  Or has the message been misconstrued over time to impart a message that suited maybe a specific church or certain men in rule *cough* Vatican *cough*….
It is irrelevant that you as a reader may or may not believe in the bible, or God, or Jesus – and it is irrelevant that I certainly do believe in such things.  What matters here is the fact that the hold that the Catholic Church had on civilization in the height of the papal reign has shaped our judicial and legal system, our governments, and society’s expectations. I would go as far as to say that conservatism is rooted in the bible and what it deems right and wrong.  Obviously the bible has less relevance to everyday life now than ever before in history, but its only been a few short decades since the conservative attitude was the norm and the fear of God was what kept people from straying too far from what was expected of them.

“And the rib, which Jehovah God had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.  And the man said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”  
(Genesis 2:22)

“…and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” 
(Genesis 3:16)

Well its all very clear now isn’t it!  Know your role, women.  And don’t speak out in church.  And do not do mens work.  And keep your hair long.  And the list goes on…. My oh my how far we have come.

Its been so long since I studied the bible, and probably the first time I am doing so with any real interest.  I’ve determined that if you go to a Catholic School and take religion class, they steer clear of any controversial topics or scripture that may give students reason to dismiss the authority of the bible (speaking from my own experience) and I think it was used more as a tool to teach right and wrong and preach the popular parables without delving seriously into depiction of specific scripture and its relevance to our daily lives. 

Soooo… where am I going with this…. Well upon rediscovering the written word, it has only reconfirmed my perception that gender equality is never achievable.  Men and women were not created equal so how could we ever reach equality?  Men were made bigger, stronger, faster – whether you believe in evolution or Divine Creation, this is true.  Women were smaller, weaker, oh – and according to a library book I am reading at the moment Australia’s Greatest Women, it was not so long ago that it was thought women actually had smaller brains thus were inferior to men.  Laughable now, I know, since academically men and women can be equal – but on so many other fronts we cannot.  Why do we even want to be equal, anyways??  Shouldn’t we be celebrating our differences and the fact that they compliment one another perfectly to contribute to the blossom that is life and humankind?

I don’t know if this is a relevant tangent, but its just popped into my head so im going to talk about it.  Women and beauty.  I think its fair to say that beautiful women generally have an easier go at most things.  We grow our daughters and teach them to be humble and abstain from vanity, but for thousands and thousands of years the beauty of women has been celebrated and, in some eras, (greek, pagan) women were worshipped for their beauty, intrigue and allure.  On one hand, I don’t condone focusing on looks over smarts, but on the other hand why not celebrate what you are blessed with – it is one of the many tools of survival given to us by mother nature, after all!

So, another inconclusive blog by Yours Truly.  The more I let this gender issue roll round inside my head, the more I am inclined to be grateful I have a son – it seems so much less complicated !!!!!  If I have a girl in the future the poor thing may be bombarded with mixed messages of Old Testament scripture, extreme feminism, and contemporary ideologies of human rights.  Oh, but I suppose if I just seek out the opinion of the Head of the Household, the one with the brains, he will have all the answers!!!  Goodness, silly me, worrying my little head with all these complicated issues when I am merely a woman!   ;)

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Going back to work

Going back to work....
It’s not an easy decision to make.  As a recent convert, I can honestly say that I grapple with the ethical side of it all.  A part of me feels obliged to return to the HV industry.  Why should a company invest so much in my training, safety and career growth only for me to up and leave once I have a baby?  I feel as if I have betrayed ABB by using them for my fulfilled sense of livelihood and not giving them a good return on their investment.  I naively persisted and bartered my way into projects, overtime, training courses and work experience opportunities, all the while telling myself and my manager that I was worth the investment – I would grow to be a valuable resource for them.  But it hasn’t eventuated that way!!  I have left the industry, and who knows if I will ever return to service what I see as the fair terms of an employer-trainee agreement?  I wanted to be trained for maintenance switching, fiber-optic terminations, licensed to drive a truck and operate a hiab, trained especially to work on SF6 insulated switchgear, you name it…. Every little niche corner my division was involved in, I wanted in on.  And now that I am a mother, I can’t fathom being able to guiltlessly dedicate that much time to a career – not in the foreseeable future anyways.  So it’s a bit of a moral dilemma in that sense.
So with the liberties and the laws of equality come a sense of conviction and a whole lot of responsibility.
Companies are expected not to discriminate between men and women.  They are expected to offer equal pay, equal opportunities and rights.  To hold back on promoting someone based on their gender would be grounds for a lawsuit these days.  Well now I am beginning to question the fairness of this….. wouldn’t any wise employer or corporation be hesitant to invest in a resource, if said resource happens to be a woman who is in her late 20’s or early 30s and just settling in with a new partner etc?  Because the costs associated with losing a trained member of staff can really add up.  That’s money down the drain.  Then you have to fill their role, often times temporarily, train that person, pay out maternity pay, and then the mother may choose to never come back (which is what I am contemplating now).  And if she does come back, is she going to be able to be as committed as she was before?  Most certainly not.
See, nothing matters to me now as much as Jack and Nathan.  If I had to work, I wouldn’t want a speck of overtime.  I couldn’t go away on jobs overnight or be sent away for weeks on end for project work.  I wouldn’t want to use my extra family time to do any training or upskilling.  So as far as ABB would be concerned, I am pretty much useless to them! 
People ask me if I plan to go back to work when Jack gets older…. But the reality is that if I ever do go back to the HV industry, it wouldn’t be until I’ve had ALL of my children.  (This is an ongoing debate in my house- I used to want 4, Nathan wants 2, so I say 3 is a good compromise.  Nathan still just wants 2.  Apparently its not open for compromising.  You can all start praying that my next pregnancy will be twins… thanks). 
It wouldn’t be fair for ABB (or whoever) for me to come back between children – they would have to continue to train and upskill me, then pay me maternity leave and deal with having a lost resource while I was away.  (Not to mention it doesn’t fit our plan for having a stay at home parent).  So by the time I have 2 (3) children and they are all of an age they are older and getting independent, we’re looking at ..what…15 years? If I have a third child in 5 years time and he is 10 when I go back to work?  Whoa.  I’ll be an old lady!  Whos going to have an inexperienced old mum come back to the workforce then!!!  Not happening. 
So now we get into that whole issue of mums who lose confidence when they are out of the workforce for a long time while raising children.  It becomes DEcentive for mums to stay at home for too long because they will no longer be eligible for their jobs once young people come through who have more time and energy on their hands.  Clearly I am generalizing here, and there are many different scenarios out there, but I don’t think I’m wrong to say these are recognized issues for many trades and jobs and the mums who do them.
So I suppose a part of me feels as though I have let my mentors down.  And proved some people right.  However all was not wasted in my journeys because there were a couple, if not a handful or more, of women who were somehow positively influenced or inspired by what I did. Just quietly, I did feel a sense of pioneerism in what I was doing in NZ.  After all, I was the only woman doing my trade (as a high voltage electrical fitter) in the whole of the country.  I met less than a handful of other women that were tradespersons while I was apprenticing.  I went to some workshops and even did some speaking at women-only conferences – and was asked to speak at a girls high school  - while working in NZ.  That’s something, right?  But I still find myself wondering…. Have I taken more than I gave to the industry?  I can thank ABB for nearly 100% of my quality of life – then AND now – and I feel like I’m left owing them more of my time and energy.  I don’t want to rule out going back – because I know how much of a thrill I would get from being out there in the switchyards again.  So I don’t rule it out…. But wow is it ever a burden on my ethical conscience!  This blog is as inconclusive as my feelings on the subject….