Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The mother of all guilt trips

I am a working mother, therefore I have a finely-tuned guilt gene. It comes with the territory.

Right now, the guilt gene is in overdrive. You see, I only go into the office two days a week - Tuesdays and Wednesdays - and this week, Missy has decided that those are the days she will get sick

So instead of attending meetings, developing marketing content, finalising artwork and collateral,  writing a 2000 word article for an industry rag, and generally being an effective employee, I am at home, on the couch, watching over a sick little girl, while trying to do a bit of work.

The watching the kid bit is easy. She's running a fever and is generally lethargic, which means she is lying on the couch and is easily placated by liberal doses of Dora and the Wiggles as she drifts in and out of sleep.

Work? That's the hard bit.

So much of what I do involves interaction with others. In order to write said 2000 word article, I need to catch up with a colleague who knows the subject matter backwards. And it's hard to give valuable input into proposed graphic design changes via email or phone without the body language and robust discussion that goes with face-to-face meetings.

It's times like this when I am really conflicted about the whole career woman thing. In my case, my family is ALWAYS going to come first. And, at the moment, with the winemaker in the midst of vintage, I am, for all intents and purposes, single parenting.

And then the pragmatic business woman in me understands this makes me a risky prospect when it comes to employment.

At the moment, I'm lucky, I can do some of my work from home, and I work in the public sector, which means my employer is obliged to give me the flexibility I need.

But I can hear the frustration in my boss's voice when I call to let him know I can't actually make it into the office for one reason or another.

And I know, when I was the boss of part-time workers, how my eyes rolled back when they rang in sick, or because they had to look after sick kids. (Kids seem to have this uncanny ability to get sick on their parents' working days. It's a fact - someone should get a research grant to examine why).

So what's the solution? Do we go back 30 years to the days of single-income families (I know that I would totally have been one of those housewives dosed up on valium and having it off with the postman if I was at home with kids day in and day out).

Do we offer parents more opportunity to work from home? The problem there is that there are many jobs which just CAN'T be done from home (retail, factory work, staff management etc).

So, any ideas?

(Meanwhile, I guess I should stop the blogging about my dilemma and get some work done.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

A lasting reminder of India

I have many lasting memories of my three years in India, some hilarious (the naked sun worshipper on the bonnet of our car), others heart wrenching (the mass of humanity I saw every day outside my front gate), but mostly good.

There's the cultural influences, the poverty, the heat, the welcoming locals, the food (Bukhara Room rules!) and, of course, the many International friends I made (many of whom I am still in touch with, thanks to the Internets.),

But it seems I have one lasting effect, which means I may not have saved three lives back in January,

Turns out the blood bank was only able to use my plasma (so, I did save at least one life) because, get this, I have malaria antibodies in my blood, that must have been making themselves at home for the past 25 or so years.

Before you give blood, you need to answer some short questions (you know the kind : "Have you ever had unproteted sex with a intravenous drug user?"). I usually go along the rows of these and answer "No" to all these (which, quite frankly makes my life sound a little boring).

Until I got to the one "Have you ever lived or travelled more more than three months in a malaria-affected area?"


Something interesting about me.

It threw the Red Cross nurse into a bit of  a lather, as she wasn't sure whether I needed to be tested, since I was in India so long ago (back when Michael Jackon was black and a web was something spiders wove).

Anyway she looked through all her material and learned that yes, anyone who had spent any length of time, no matter how long ago, in India, needed testing for malaria antibodies.

I thought nothing more of it until a week or so ago when I received a letter with, in bold letters, about 72 point, it read "Malaria Information Sheet."


It turns out to not be such a big deal, it just shows that my antibodies did what antibodies are meant to do, that is fight infection. And it doesn't mean that I have (or ever had) malaria. Unfortuately, it also doesn't mean that I can't catch malaria.

As for donating blood, I will need to be tested each time I front up to the blood bank.

In the absence of symptoms, I can still give plasma. Whch is better than nothing, and more than a lot of people do.

And I still have all those other great memories.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Middle-age blues

I can't deny it anymore.

As of tomorrow, I will be past middle aged.

That's right, if you take the average life span for females in Australia (84) and divide it by 2, you get 42. Tomorrow, I will be 43. The downhill run.

I don't feel middle aged. Middle aged people wear cardigans, and talk about insurance, or real estate, or how things were so much better/cheaper/safer/simpler when they were young.

(Come to think of it, I really do need income protection insurance, and we could do with buying a house with more backyard. Gees life was so much simpler when I was young. I might even have the odd cardigan in the closet.)

It's also been many years since I knew (or cared) about the top ten charts (is there such a thing in the era of iTunes?) and I would rather an early night with a good red and a good book than hitting the latest nightclub.

Fuck, maybe I am middle aged?

But that means I am running out of time to live the dream. The 20-year old me would have been appalled at what's become of her. A house in the 'burbs, a husband, two kids, a job in the public sector.

Where's the rich Spanish lover? The homes around the world (in a quest to never experience Winter. I hate Winter)? The fame of being Australia's most trusted and respected foreign correspondent? The Jimmy Choos????

Still, life's not too bad. I have a husband who loves me and is a great dad, two kids who keep me amused and tear my heart out (often both at the same time), my health, a steady job with good pay and benefits, caring, thoughful friends who are always there for me.

And it could be worse. I could live in Swaziland. With an average female life expectancy of 39, I would be positively ancient.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The myth of multitasking

Once upon a time, there was a midle manager in the public servant who prided herself on her ability to multitask.

Juggling several balls in the air was what she did best and she NEVER dropped one.


Let me tell you about the myth of multitasking, something that we working mums pretend we are really good at.

It's simple, if we try to do too many things at once, we will fail. Something will give and balls will be dropped. And Murphy's law ensures that the dropped balls will be biggees - Ministerial bringing papers, cabinet submissions, board papers.

It's one thing to brush your teeth while putting on your stockings. It's an entirely different thing to check your emails,  or talk on the phone,  while editing a policy-speak document into plain English.

So why do smart working mums continue to multitask?

Maybe it is because we feel things won't get done if we don't do several things at once. But guess what, if we multitask, there's still a good chance things won't get done. Or at least won't get done very well.

 So, let's put the myth of multitaksing behind us and work on one thing at a time. We will all feel better for it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Husband for hire, three month terms.

Some time ago, I wrote a post about how much I would suck at single parenting.

Well, the time has come to eat my words.

No, no, it's ok, the Winemaker and I have not split up. It's just vintage has rolled around again and we are back to him working 13-hour days, six days a week, and being a big fat pain in the neck the rest of the time.

I'm not blaming him for the abovementioned pain-in-the-neckness. Hell, I would be a bitch on wheels if I worked those hours (no comments from those of you who know me in real life, thanks).

It's just that with two whiny kids around bedtime, I don't really need a whiny adult as well. (Last night, he lost his cool because the water temperature was still set for the kids' bath/shower and hadn't been reset to a hot enough for doing the dishes. Seriously?).

While I have absolute sympathy for the people I know whose spouses work away a lot, at this time of year I almost envy them.

My life would be much simpler if the Winemaker would just stay at the winery for the duration of vintage.

I love him, I truly do. And the fact that the next couple of months is a nightmare, is made somewhat more bearable by the knowledge that winemaking is a pretty flexible career for nine months of the year.

So ... do I have a deal for you?

One husband available for three months hire. He won't fix your car, or mow the lawn, or take the rubbish out, or cook dinner, or pick up after himself, or keep the kids occupied, or even have sex.

He will, however, get under your feet, mess up your routine, yell obscenities at inanimate objects that don't work and fall asleep on the couch at 8pm each night.

Any takers?