Have you ever had one of those days, when you wonder where it all went wrong?
Was it the moment that you walked out to the car in a panic to get to work on time, only to discover that you left the driver’s window open all night? This isn’t normally a problem, but last night just happened to be the night that broke the drought and it rained all night. Yes, the sheep skin seat cover is soaked, the seat is soaked and there is a small pool of water building on the floor of your car.
Your five-year-old makes the encouraging observation, “mozzies breed in water just like that Mum”. Mentally, you note that you must limit the amount of wildlife documentaries he watches from now on. He knows way too much. You gingerly take your seat, feeling your nicely ironed work uniform sink into the mushy seat. Inevitably, you arrive at work five minutes late, wearing soggy undies and smelling like a wet sheep.
Or was it the night before, when it started to go wrong? When, in another panic to get home from work because you have to tie-dye a t-shirt for your five-year-old’s first school disco – why did they not let you know there was a ‘Rainbow’ theme, at least three months earlier? You jumped out of the car, rushed the children inside to feed and bath them quickly. So, then you had time to concentrate on dyeing the shirt and have it finished, washed, dried and packed for school the next day. In the process of all that business, you forgot to close the car window.
Or did it all start to go wrong when you decided that you needed to go back to work to pay for the mortgage? Or was it when you decided to buy a bigger home, to meet the needs of your growing family?
It all makes perfect sense at that moment. Clarity dawns and you realise; If you had NEVER moved to the town in which you live, you would NEVER have fallen madly in love, NEVER gotten married, NEVER had children, so you would NEVER have needed a bigger home, so you would NEVER have left the car window down, because you would NEVER have been concentrating on tie-dying a t-shirt for a kindergarten disco!
You would have followed your dream and become the first solo female astronaut to live in space. Far away from all human contact, with only the stars and the planets for company. Aah, yes. It’s all sounding particularly nice at that moment, because if one more co-worker asks what the wet animal smell is, you might start throwing things.
Take a deep breath. Remind yourself sanity will return. It’s just a bad day. Or maybe a few bad days. It will pass. Remind yourself that things could be worse.
All of the above paragraph could actually have happened. You could be living a single life without the most beautiful part of your life. Your family. The ones that wake you up at night and don’t know the meaning of the words ‘sleep in’. The ones that believe mess just cleans itself up – ie, mother. The ones that groan when you cook pasta and mince for dinner, AGAIN. The ones that make you laugh. The ones that you adore. The ones that if they were in pain, you would prefer to take the pain, than see them suffer. They are a gift.
You know, that you would never really change a thing. Except maybe, smelling like a wet sheep.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem