Out of the Box Childcare Arrangements

I guess this just proves the case that there is nothing more motivating that relieving yourself from artificially imposed pressures. Because here I am, finding time to blog after my self declared hiatus.

I wanted to share this article I recently read, that was shared with me by Kristen Burgess of Natural Birth and Babycare.com . The author, Arianna Taboada describes her decisions surrounding child care and makes the case that it doesn’t have to be a black and white decision between working and staying at home. I have actually had in mind to write an article like this myself for a while, because I also feel like I have discovered this “secret,” namely, that it is possible, with a bit of perseverance and willingness to go against the grain (well actually a lot of those things!) to come up with a child care plan that is totally tailor-made to fit your circumstances.

I went back to school (or uni, for my Australian readers) a month after my son was born. I brought him with me, on the one and a half hour bus commute, to my classes and back home again. It was draining and during those early newborn months, as soon as we got home, usually around 6pm, we would both go to sleep! That said, it worked and allowed me to stay on my track to doctoral studies and be with my son full time. Of course this was dependent on my awesome professors, who agreed to my son being there in class with me.

In second semester, when he was about eight months, I started hiring babysitters to take him while I was in class. They would call if he needed to nurse or be with me. It worked really well, as well and I was lucky to find some great babysitters who I felt at ease with. Knowing my son was often literally just down the hallway, sometimes I could even hear him screeching and laughing from my classes, was a huge relief.

At the start of this academic year, I tried this arrangement again and it totally flopped. My now 14 month old was happy to play on campus with a babysitter, but the bus rides and waiting for the bus by a busy highway was not such a positive experience.

What we ended up doing was a bit outrageous, but again, it worked for us. We didn’t want to put our son in daycare from very early in the morning until I returned from university, so instead, we moved to the neighbourhood that borders the university. We decided some time in November, and by the 1st of December we had crash landed in our new home. Again, crazy, yes. Working, also yes.

These days our childcare arrangements are a bit ad hoc and in transition as my husband has recently begun a new job. But essentially, he looks after our son in the mornings while I am in class or working on my thesis and I am with our son in the afternoons and evenings while my husband works. I have an extra two hour work session some time in the afternoon when a babysitter comes to take our son to to the park. I have found that in between his nap and the two hours of babysitting I can get an impressive amount of work done, but it demands a level of focus during the hours I am working that I am not used to. Before I was a mum, I could spend hours working on the same projects, getting in and out of flow and distracting myself when I needed a break. If I know that this is the time I have to work, it is less easy to go with the natural rhythms of inspiration and distraction that I experience.

The point that I am trying to make is that like the mom in this article, we have found that some kind of alternative where in a certain way we are enjoying some of the best parts of both the working and staying-at-home lifestyles. It’s been busy and difficult, but like the author of the linked article, I think there is a lot to be said for thinking out of the box when it comes to creating the kind of family life we want and need.

 

Blog Hiatus until first week of July

Hi all,

The blog is going on hiatus for the next two weeks until the semester break. Just making official what has been the unfortunate reality for the last few weeks, I simply haven’t had the time or extra space in my brain to put together blog posts.

I am busily preparing for the International Simone de Beauvoir conference see details here, where I am presenting next week and generally keeping a lot of plates in the air at once.

I am hoping to get back into it during the first week of July but may need to reassess the weekly posting schedule.

All the very best!

Home Remedies for Anxiety

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Photo Credit: Robyn Lang (c). Used with permission. 

In some things it turns out that the stereotypes are true.

I have been experiencing a lot of anxiety lately. There is the end of semester build up, compounded with my husband’s new job which has thrown our previous schedule for a loop and for a few weeks in there, our babysitter was in America.

I wanted to share a few things that have been working for me.

  1. Breathing
  2. Sharing “stresses” with my husband
  3. Being really really there when I am spending time with my son.

It turns out, breathing is something you can do everywhere. It’s actually amazing. The trick is, turning off the part of the brain that notices your mind has been wandering away and makes remarks like “oh, I knew you wouldn’t be able to focus on that for more than a minute.” That’s the hard part. I have found that if I can just give myself permission to be kind to myself, and tell those mean brain voices that it’s okay and they can have a hug or whatever it is they need, the breathing really, really helps.

John Gottman in his book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work  discusses the idea of a stress reducing conversation where couples sit together and take turns for a timed period of time, discussing any and all stressors from outside the marriage. It really works. I recommend the whole book, but this activity in and of itself I find incredibly helpful.

Finally, I get a lot of relief just using play time as a time to let myself be truly present. I think it works especially well because I have son there showing me exactly how it is done! He could be the poster boy for The Power of Now, he’s so in the moment. I find that just letting myself release whatever thoughts I am having and focus on the play and accept whatever feelings I am having without needing to control them is very healing. It also stops me from getting overwhelmed by frustration when I sing Old Macdonald for the twentieth time in a row!

It’s very much a work in progress, just like I am. I wanted to share these ideas because they helped me, but I am equally excited to learn more things that can help one achieve calm during the busy seasons of life.

Baby Life, Toddler Life.

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Photo Credit: Robyn Lang (c). Used with permission. 

I have been musing over the last few months about a particular aspect of my parenting journey. Namely, how difficult it is to spend the day interacting with an adorable, yet volatile toddler who is prone to be a danger to himself and others right at the moment when I am trying to take the pasta off the stove or use the bathroom. My dad told me that this age, around one and a half to two is “kid heaven” and that they never get cuter. I am inclined to agree. Watching my son stomp around the house, declaiming profoundly in his 15-or-so word vocabulary and pulling me over to a chair to nurse is basically adorable.

However, on the other side, I am exhausted and the constant vigilance his care demands (especially now that he has learned to climb!!!) wears me down. It has suddenly hit me that mothering my son at this age is a LOT harder than it ever has been, even when he was a newborn.

I think part of the difficulty has been adjusting my expectations of what it’s possible to do with my son in tow.

A baby, after all , when they are nursed on demand, carried in a baby carrier and nursed in a baby carrier is basically portable. I took my son to university with me throughout the last year of my masters from when he was three weeks old to when he was 9 months or so. It was pretty tricky but mostly because of the long bus rides to get there. Nonetheless, we always had everything he needed (basically just nappies and me and a nursing-friendly top) and if he started disrupting the class I could usually just nurse him. I ended up getting a baby sitter to watch him while I was in class during the second semester, and so long as she pushed him around in the stroller and showed him interesting things and called me to duck out of class whenever he wanted to nurse he was A-OK.

I got used to doing everything with him and I learned to do an amazing number of things with him latched on: cooking dinner, negotiating with the bank, having interviews with potential thesis supervisors, listening to online classes…. and that’s just what I remember.

But now things are different. My little boy has a will of his own and it includes things beyond me. Whilst it’s clear that I am still in a lot of ways the centre of his universe and if possible he’d like to do everything with me close by, he has started needing a lot of time outside and he needs to walk around and explore freely, so going to a shop and expecting him to sit still in the stroller or the carrier isn’t as simple. We need to bring food and water because nursing alone isn’t going to satisfy his hunger these days. He loves playing with little friends (and their stuff!) so we have to find them and go to park days and friends houses. Sitting inside playing with toys or whatever of our household goods I have to hand just wont do it for him anymore.

In short, caring for him has become something that demands a lot more of my creativity and effort than it did previously. He wants things I can’t give him (like huge sharp knives) and those situations need to be defused with cunning political skill. He wants to be involved in what I am doing and I have do devise safe but satisfactory ways for him to do that. He wants to sing Old MacDonald for ten minutes straight and I have to wrack my brain for whatever sound a goose makes – which, for the record, I think is HONK.

It’s fun but it’s tiring and I am beginning to find my previous arrangement as a work at home mum doesn’t seem to be working out. I feel constantly behind on my thesis, even despite my writing productivity boost. I am having a hard time keeping up with my research job. I feel constantly behind and it feeds a gnawing pit of anxiety that makes it hard to be really present with my son.

The reason I thought this was so interesting is that I think that popularly, children are portrayed as beginning life completely dependent and then gradually becoming more and more independent. Whilst a newborn does have intense dependencies, I found them easier to work with. Firstly, I was expecting it and gave myself a long and well planned do-nothing period following my birth. Secondly, the needs of a newborn were in my experience simple. So long as I nursed when he wanted it and carried him around everywhere he seemed completely contented.

I think it’s popular to say, and my experience has taught me that life has seasons, the semester is over in another six weeks and I will have both the opportunity to take a breather and also devote some good thinking and strategising to the question of how I can keep making this work as my little boy needs more and more of me.

 

Happiness and Consumerism – Coming to Terms with my Financial Reality

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Photo Credit: Robyn Lang (c). Used with permission. 

Apologies that this post is a little late. It has been a bit of a difficult week. My husband started a new job that has a lot more hours and travel time involved. Whilst this is something that we have both been hoping for, it has called for some big changes in how we organise our days and in particular who is looking after Yitzhak and when. So far the dust hasn’t really settled yet. Right now I have that knotty feeling in my stomach that not enough of anything is getting done and it’s taking all my strength just to try and stay present and breath.

So that’s enough of an update.

I wanted to write about money. I have been listening to the podcast Budgets and Cents with Cait Flanders and Carrie Smith and also checking out Cait Flanders (formerly known as “Blonde on a Budget”)’s blog.

On the blog and in the podcast, Cait raises some really interesting questions about what money means to us in our lives. In particular, what spending means in our lives.

For me this has really been an opportunity to confront some of my issues in this area and unfortunately, it’s just not pretty.

In my family, money seemed to grow somewhere in the backyard behind the bird’s bath. Whilst, especially in my younger childhood, I was aware of times when money was tighter, by the time I was older, money seemed to be something we had and could use whenever the need or desire was pressing enough. If I could characterise the spending ethos in our home it was something like, if you need it, you should buy it. Whilst my parents generally seemed to focus on buying only that which they needed, “need” could be pretty loosely defined and included things like “needing” to go out to dinner to celebrate. They also instilled in me the value of good taste and the idea that it’s better to spend more and buy one item that will last a long time and serve you well, than to buy a cheap version that will invariably have to be replaced. We didn’t seem to spend much time doing consumer research and it didn’t seem like we needed to. This is in no way intended to knock my parents spending style, some of my happiest memories with my parents were in restaurants enjoying luxurious food or going “luxury shopping” at the local mall.

When I was working in politics, I really took this and ran with it. I remember always having a lot of disposable income for nice new clothes, tonnes of food out (I had no time to cook, and besides, there were friends to be won and people to be influences at the various bars, restaurants and haunts of the Party), the various places I rented and not to mention the hundreds of dollars I spent on alcohol and probably plenty of other things I can’t remember anymore. But whenever something happened, like the car insurance came due when I wasn’t expecting it, or I crashed my car (as happened more than once if I remember correctly) – I never had money on hand to deal with it. It was like it had all disappeared.

These days, my financial life couldn’t be more different. The simple fact is, that I am by choice neither a minimalist or frugal, although these are cute labels to help me feel a little more trendy. The fact is that we don’t have a tonne of money. We live in a pretty small place – although as I find out when I listen to American podcasts, “small” is a very relative thing. Luxurious dinners out are essentially distant memories, clothing purchases are always guilty occasions and it seems that because of our budget and the high costs here, everything I buy is so poor quality that it just doesn’t last or look good for more than a few months. We eat a frugal, vegan diet. We often go without things that I didn’t even know it was possible to go without – like moisturising lotion and snack foods. We are absolute pros at making a delicious and interesting range of foods from dried beans, chickpeas and lentils.

There’s a combination of factors at work here that brought about this change. The standard of living is not as high in Israel. Pay is low and things are expensive. That is just part of life here. Also, I have traded my place as a child of the Australian upper middle class with cultural capital to spare for that of an immigrant without full language proficiency, family or social networks. I am also a mother now, which has significant financial consequences. Finally, I am a PhD student which seems to basically mean poverty regardless of where you live.

However, regardless of the causes, the simple fact is that in my life in Israel I just don’t have the options for consumer fun that I had when I was in Australia. When I first got to Israel, ablaze with spiritual fire and having just finished an honours thesis on the evils of consumerism, the opportunity to live a simple life dedicated to the important things like the pursuit of meaning, relationship with the Divine and growing a family, really appealed to me and I thought that I would never need anything more than a black skirt and a couple of polo shirts again. But slowly the enthusiasm faded.

Over the last year or so, I started shopping for clothes again and became more and more concerned with my appearance. Having a home – a “grown up” married people home – led me into all kinds of pressure to furnish it with respectable pieces that would demonstrate my class, taste and having-it-togetherness to all comers. I began to think that I need to have coffee when I go to University because it makes me happy and reminds me of home. I got increasingly emotionally connected to these kinds of material things. What made it worse is that as our financial situation became more and more difficult and we didn’t have enough money sometimes even for things that I thought were absolute essentials, this was all experienced by me as an emotional blow. I lamented our situation. I blamed everything. I was in general, pretty bummed out about the whole thing.

I have come to the conclusion that what is really going on has less to do with being poor and more to do with not having learned ways of caring for myself that do not involve spending money. My idea of self care is going and sitting in a cafe or restaurant, extra points if it is one of those cafe-restaurant-bookshop places and spending a lot of money on yummy food. Or going to the mall and buying myself new things. And if I look back, that is essentially how I learned to relax and kick back in both my family and culture of origin.

Now that those options aren’t so readily available, I feel like I am living in a permanent state of deprivation. I miss those comfortable material aspects of my old life, although I know that if I was jettisoned back there, sooner or later I would have had to come to terms with my financial issues as well. I assume my parents wouldn’t have continued cleaning up my traffic fines for ever…

I guess the point of this somewhat rambly post is that I need to find new ways of relating to money.

I am considering trying a shopping ban, Cait Flanders style. I can imagine there being tremendous comfort in knowing that no matter what, anything that isn’t essential just can’t be bought. Stay tuned. I’m still thinking this one through.

A room of one’s own or, getting sick.

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Photo Credit: Robyn Lang (c). Used with permission. 

I apologise that there was no blog post last week. Once again I was stuck in bed, sick with a tonsil infection that knocked me out for a week.

Sickness is an especial time of strife in our home as my poor husband usually scrambles around trying to do the job of two parents. Sickness really reminds us we are quite alone, and that even the best friends and community in the world are no replacement for your own mummy and her “headache stories” and confident remedies. I find that times of sickness are the absolute hardest to be so far away from my family.

I imagine the ease of being able to call my mother from the same country , and ask her to pick up my son, or come spend time with us while I lay in bed.  I imagine asking my cousins for favours and knowing that they won’t judge me as needy and “not-together.” I at least won’t jeopardise my new relationship with them, I have known them all my life.

And then I wonder how much of this is fantasy. My mother is a busy deputy principal, not the full time nurse-maid of my dreams. And my cousins are probably all just as busy as I am. I am sure that life closer to my family would find a way to be just as filled with challenges, new challenges and different challenges.

It makes me realise though, the real price we pay for this millennial life where the world is so tiny and we can spread out all over it, and make new friends and live in interesting places and Skype back home like it’s nothing. I like it. In many ways, it works brilliantly for us. We have an independence here that is really splendid. We choose our friends, we make our life, we set out schedules and plans – how we want it. It sounds bratty as I write it, but for both of us this freedom has catalysed such intense inner searching and work that I can’t but think it is a very meaningful and good thing. I don’t necessarily want to live in a world where freedom is limited. I read a tonne of historical novels over the week I was sick, and in ages past, big, close families were very in and self-determination was decidedly out. In many ways, and I think of this often as I navigate my religious observance, the price of being part of a tradition and a community is giving up some of your choices together. Every real community I have been part of, even the political party I was a member of, was forged on that idea, that we are in this together because we are giving up the alternative together. Without that, it’s really just a interest-based swarm.

In my independent life, I have the convenience of not answering to my whole family for my choices, but I also have the inconvenience of often finding for myself that the price of having a room of one’s own is being alone in it.

Write your thesis!

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Photo Credit: Robyn Lang (c). Used with permission. 

Does it ever happen to you that you spend months, sometimes years, listening to people giving you the same weary piece of painfully simple advice that seems so ridiculously underthought or simplistic that it can’t possibly work, for example, if you want to have a good marriage “you need to communicate.”

People say that like it’s the easiest thing in the world and yet, it seems, very few of us can do it. It’s not that it’s not true, almost every relationship whether it be with a martial partner or not could be greatly improved with communication. And it’s not even that communicating is really that hard, most of us manage it to some extent throughout our lives. The real issue is that when you say “just” communicate, what you really mean is, “overcome all your family of origin issues, achieve a substantial level of personal maturity, develop resilience and learn to be silent when the cupboard door is left open for the nth time.” It’s just not that simple.

I think the PhD equivalent of this is “just write your thesis.” It seems like everyone is saying this, from the PhD bloggers I trusted to have my back with these kinds of things, to my supervisor, whose response to a question of how do I start was something along the lines of, you just start.

Of course, having all kinds of perfectionist limitations and insecurities, it’s not so simple. What if the words don’t come out……..better than anything that has been thought by humankind since time immemorial? What if I don’t have evidence for these claims? (insert a million other potential, terrifying, what-if scenarios).

It’ll probably be fine. At the end of the day, I have enough experience in the writing process to know that its rare indeed that a whole unaltered paragraph – even sentence – will ever survive each stage of the cutting and editing process.

So I started writing. And all those PhD bloggers were right. Making a daily writing goal, five days a week has been incredible. Even apart from the fact that I have now got some text in front of me that I can work with, evaluate and even – shock – send to my supervisor, the feeling of productivity has really altered my mood throughout the whole week. I feel a lot more confident and that gives me a lot more impetus to actually work harder on other projects and aspects of the thesis.

In order to start writing I had to let go of a lot of my perfectionism and accept that this work I am doing now might not be perfect and it might not be my best work. But it is certainly a lot closer to my best work than a blinking cursor on a blank page.

I think there is a real lesson in this. If you are a PhD student and you haven’t started writing, maybe try it for a while. Our Rabbi is constantly giving the advice “experiment and experience.” Even if it’s just once or twice that you set the clock and give yourself time to do nothing but write and give yourself permission to be perfectly imperfect, at least in my experience so far it is really liberating, and once the perfectionism is chased away, it really is as simple as it sounds. Just write.

 

Podcast Faves of 2017

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Okay, so firstly, I survived the holiday period and the rather painfully busy first week back to “normal life.”

Unfortunately between catching up on thesis writing, some babysitter cancelations, cucumbers that needed to be transplanted and my research job… I didn’t get a chance to write an essay style piece. But in place of my own thoughtful thoughts, I thought I would thoughtfully present you with some of the finest thinking thinkers I have encountered on the interwebs – namely, my favourite podcasters.

For those of you as yet unfamiliar with PodCasts, they are essentially radio shows that are available through iTunes and various other platforms. There are PodCasts on hundreds of topics and you can even make your own! The way I listen to Podcasts is through iTunes and you will find all of these by searching. I have also included the links here to the websites of the individual podcasts, where in some cases you can play them from there.

So these are my faves – according to category. I figure if you are reading this, there must be some shared tastes between us.

PARENTING AND HOMELIFE

So this one is easy. Exploring Unschooling with Pam Larichia. Not only does Pam have a lovely voice to listen to, but she brings a fascinating range of guests to discuss all things relating to Unschooling. If you are interested in natural parenting and generally fighting the man and you also happen to have a kid or two, this may be worth checking out.

I also like Cohesive Home which is this interesting discussion between two homeschooling moms about life, minimalism and priorities. They partially inspired me to start this blog.

HISTORY

History of the Crusades. TOO MUCH FUN. Okay, so I listened to this while my son was between the ages of maybe 8 and 10 months sliding around the floor while I basically listened to this and hoped my research proposal would write itself… I mean, worked on my research proposal. I have so many wonderful memories of that time. There were more than a hundred episodes in the original series dealing with the Crusades in the Middle East so the fact that they got snapped up in the course of two months should astound you. I would literally listen to this stuff all day as I nursed, cooked, carried the baby whilst imagining myself riding into battle brandishing a… wait… I mean, did I say that out loud? Spoiler alert, I literally cried when Saladin died. Sharyn Eastaugh the presenter does an amazing job presenting a mixture of sources and narration. It really gets addictive and has a great adventure story feel to it. The fact she has an Aussie accent is a bonus 🙂 She has since continued into a series on the Crusade against the Cathars in Europe and the Inquisition, which I found a little too depressing and gorey for my tastes. There was also a decided lack of Saladin.

LEFTY-ACADEMIC-STUFF

I enjoy listening to The Always Already Podcast mostly because they make a bunch of basically hilarious in-jokes that only someone working in the very narrow field of critical theory would get – for example, their “phallic” microphone is called Lacan. I like keeping up to date with the way the presenters discuss issues, it helps me keep my English academic lexicon robust, even as I spend most of my time on my current campus speaking a mishmash of Hebrew and Hebrew-ified English. They talk about current books from their various perspectives, which range from curious, interesting to downright insightful.

TORAH/JEWISH/SPIRITUALITY

I am going to initially recommend the Women in Depth Podcast which discusses all kinds of interesting topics – like really all kinds, from why women stay in unhappy marriages, to birth trauma, to emotional neglect. The presentation is definitely touchy feely, which wont be everyone’s style, but I find the willingness to discuss such a broad range of issues from a woman’s perspective very interesting.

On Being with Krista Tippett tries to ask the big questions about the meaning of life and the universe in dialogue with a whole spectrum of religious leaders. This is one of the ones where I find myself composing my debate lines in my head while I listen. It’s been a while since I got into it, but it’s great for thoughtful, kinda heavy times where small talk just wont cut it. It also has the benefit of being super professional and well made. It listens like a real radio show.

My favourite Torah podcasts are found through Pardes and they have a whole range. They come from a wide variety of perspectives, Pardes institutionally, I believe is not affiliated with any one denomination, so not everything comes from an Orthodox perspective, but I find the insights and especially the Parsha commentary fun and suitably bite sized. I also find the “offensive statement to overall content” ratio of these shiurim extraordinarily low.

Happy Passover/Pesach and see you in two weeks

I apologise that there has been a hiatus in blog posts over here.

Last week, I missed the post because both my computer and my husbands computer went on strike, catapulting us back into the Iron Age where we were forced to do absurd things like use recipe books and philosophise about what people did while folding laundry before Podcasts.

This week has been overtaken by preparations for Passover or Pesach, one of the most significant Jewish holidays of the year. I have a lot to say about the significance of these days, but every practical, the Torah and the tradition also demands some pretty scrupulous cleaning in the lead up to the holiday (essentially a multi-day search and destroy mission for bread products) and until this is complete I don’t really have time for any of my usual rhetorical flourishings.

The blog will be on Pesach break starting Monday next week. If I do get around to writing some thoughts on Pesach, it will be posted this coming Sunday. If not, look forward to the 21st of April when I will be back with our regularly scheduled post.

For those celebrating, have a wonderful holiday.

Costly mothering: the economics of a fulfilling life.

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Photo Credit: Robyn Lang (c). Used with permission. 

I recently listened to a fascinating podcast on Women in Depth. The host, Lourdes Viado was discussing the phenomena of women who stay in unhappy, even abusive marriages for various reasons, mostly centering on fear of the financial and emotional consequences of leaving.

Whilst the podcast sensitively discussed the experience of many of these women, what was consistently drawn out was the way in which these women were “choosing” to live a life that was not in accordance with “who they really were” for economic reasons and fear of the unknown.

One thing that really struck me about this podcast was the absence of a critical economic perspective. There was a lot of discussion about the economic motivations that prompted these women to stay in unhappy marriages, but very little about the different economic realities of men and women and in particular, the role that the care of children plays in shaping people’s economic choices.

For me, this blunt reality was driven home after the birth of our son. Raised in a thoroughly egalitarian household where I had been cared for by a stay-at-home dad from the age of one to 13, I simply assumed that my husband and I would split care of our new addition 50/50. Whilst theoretically such an arrangement may have been possible, it seemed thoroughly impractical with a newborn. A newborn, I realised, needs to nurse a lot. The arrangements of pumping and bottle-feeding seemed unpleasant and difficult. The stress to father and baby that would come from baby being unable to nurse (and therefore most likely crying) for long periods of time weighed on me. I didn’t want to leave my baby. My husband on the other hand, was less intensely attached and was happy to go out and in fact, wanted to.  I slowly realised that as egalitarian as my views might be, in this particular situation, as a nursing, attachment-minded mother, my choices were just different from those that were available to my husband.

In this particular time and place, it was simply easier for my husband to go earn money. However, this left me completely dependent on my husband’s health, willingness to provide and general good-will in a way that did not seem to recognise in any way the important work that I was doing caring for a tiny newborn life. 

The absence of recognition was driven home so much more strongly because in the year prior to my son being born I had worked as a full-time nanny. I had spent the day with a cute baby and earned a pretty penny. It seemed absurd that doing the exact same thing, but with new night care and milk-production responsibilities, not only had I not gotten a pay-rise, but the promotion earned me literally nothing in a financial sense. My maternity leave ran out at three months (which is considered generous compared to what is provided for many mothers) but my child was absolutely not ready to be away from me for hours at a time. The fact that the government where I live would generously subsidise day care at this age – but not provide me with any of these resources to choose to take care of my own child seemed baffling.

It took all my social capital, intelligence, track record of academic achievement and plain ingenuity to manufacture our current living arrangement where I am able to care for my now one and a half year old son for most of the day and also earn the majority of our family’s income. It is precarious, at times very difficult and most of the time exhausting.

I am however, acutely aware of the millions of women who lack the resources to craft a niche PhD candidate life. It was not easy and I do not think that it is something suitable for everyone. And this is what galled me about the discussion on this podcast about these women who were not being themselves by choosing to stay with a long-term husband who they disliked for health insurance or other economic benefits. Living in accordance with “yourself” and “your values” is – at the end of the day – an economic privilege. The fact that the women discussed in this podcast ended up at the ages of sixty and seventy, financially dependent on abusive and neglectful men after decades of unpaid labour during which they had birthed, fed, educated and cared for infants, toddlers and children seems like not only a personal tragedy but a fundamental injustice.

(Note, even though the tone of this discussion rubbed me the wrong way, women in depth is one of my favourite podcasts and I highly recommend it. Lourdes Viado discusses a wide range of interesting and unusual subjects of relevance to women with a fascinating array of guests. I love the podcast because Lourdes discusses a range of topics that many women experience but we rarely talk about together).