Thursday, October 25, 2007

great moments in housework

The other night I dreamed that I was working at a car wash and trying to clean all the cars with bicarb and white vinegar. You may be unsurprised to hear that my customers were not happy. Clearly an anxiety dream...and about the housework.

What has become of me?

The housework has piled up around my ears this week because of the rib-and-dignity fracturing incident at Ivy’s birthday party last weekend.

Hepped up on goofballs, and unable to do much but make little yelping noises, I wondered a few things: A) Will ‘Mum, you are soooooooo embarrassing’ actually be Ivy’s first words? B) when you can’t lift, bend or breathe without squawking, how can you clean the house? which leads me to C) when did housework take over my life?

It doesn’t seem so very long ago that I lay in the bath eating chocolate and discussing the 2006 runaway publishing success ‘Speed Cleaning’ with Keith. It features, amongst other tips, how to clean oil paintings with female urine. While the washing up languished in the sink, we discussed the science of housework with interest. I thought we were on the same page until a few days later when Keith commented that maternity leave was going to be great considering that you could, after all, clean the house in 15 minutes a day. Only weeks away from giving birth and facing a profound shift from work-life to domestic life, I looked at him in horror. Was it starting already? That whole man-woman, me-fry-bacon, you-hunt-pig thing? Even from Keith, the man who says the novel The Women’s Room changed his life? Later, he said he was joking, but I was there. We agreed to differ, just like on who dumped who in 2002 (hey! catchy!)

As I write this I’m looking around Keiths office. He is a full-time academic, and spends half his week in this room, which currently houses a desk covered in wooly socks, a pile of bedding from the last time we had people to stay over, an empty cardboard box, an overflowing suitcase, a wet towel, a pile of washing and a pile of shoes. His Canberra office, where I have no jurisdiction, is even worse – last time I went down I puzzled at the collection of thirty or forty orange juice bottles in his in-tray. ‘What?’ he responded defensively. ‘That’s my recycling!’

Since Ivy came along, and I stopped working in order to burn the home fires, there’s been a profound shift in our domestic arrangements. Keith is working harder than ever to keep us stocked in bicarb and vinegar, and I have taken over most of the housework and the care and maintenance of the tiny leader of the opposition.

Housework is a bad profession. It has its small satisfactions – a fresh tea towel, a pile of folded washing, talk-back radio, the gleam of a washed floor, the rewards of a full pantry or a well-cooked meal. Caring for a baby is full of small satisfactions too – games and giggling, watching new connections spark, the warm intimacy of sharing a routine.

However, unless you are one of a set of Mormon wives, or blessed with multiple personalities to keep you company, running a house is a lonely job. When you go about your daily duties, you are on your own. There is no team to support you in tackling a really bad nappy, no supervisor to discuss other ways in which you might have steamed the pumpkin, no drinks at the end of a good week of sorting out the wardrobe.

I used to work as a sex educator. We didn’t eat as well, and the oven never got cleaned, and certainly Keith had to do more of his own washing, but the post-work conversation was much more interesting. ‘Guess why syphilis is on the rise?’ or 'I got a condom stuck during a demonstration on the banana penis today' beats ‘Guess what we’re having for dinner?’ Hands down, every time.

This new relationship dynamic is a work in progress. We are both still working, just the jobs are different. I looked up ‘happy housewife’ on the net and ended up at a site that declared passionately ‘help us take our conservative values to the White House’. My old-school feminist laptop shut down in protest. I am not sure where my templates are. I will never manage to be the 50’s model that freshened her makeup and rehearsed interesting snippets of conversation before her husband came home. (And not about sexually transmitted infections). I do try to make sure the undies that hold back my ponytail are from the clean pile, and aim to get my legs waxed every solstice. I have a supportive and thoughtful partner in Keith, who is navigating with me this new relationship terrain. At the end of the day, we both clock off and share the care of our little one. And when she goes to bed, we will talk about academic politics (for him) and bicarb soda and radio moments (for me). And after that, we will talk about how much my rib hurts.

Monday, October 15, 2007

ivystock 2007

Ivy's first birthday party on the weekend was swinging good fun. We scored fantastic weather - not too hot, not too windy, and heaps of Ivy-lovers turned out to celebrate her first year of life. Keith put on his engineers hat (and love beads) and constructed a tent city on the hill above Sharkies Beach and we hung out there, an amorphous, teeming mass of infants and grandmas, hippies and her-pies (although that didn't come out right) all playing pass-the-parcel, pass-the-baby and pass-the-beers.

Thanks to everybody who made the big drive down to spend time with us. It was a freakin' way-out, groovy party, and just what we needed to set us up with some warm, lovely memories as we head into what will be surely be a nasty, evil election campaign full of naughty buttons behaviour.

The women's tug of war got serious. Even though we cheated and lost (take note, kiddies), I injured myself bouncing off some spiky bit of Leane. It doesn't hurt all the time - only when I breathe. I took my foolish injury up to the hospital yesterday. The doctor thinks that although the x-rays were clear there is 'probably' a rib fracture, in the same way that I 'probably' only have 3 or 4 years before Ivy develops a conscious sense of shame and realises how embarrassing her mother is.

Click here for my Herald story - it come out today.

If the link doesn't work (IT, like motor function, is not in my skillset)- try searching the SMH site under 'composting toilet'...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

beautiful ivy

Here Ivy shows off her waving skills, crawls with cuzzy Isabelle and shares lunch with her buddy Chelsea.

Skills wise, I'm proud to brag she is an early pointer - a communication tool babies usually grasp later. Also, from a very young age she has laughed at the incongruous -believe it or not, a baby milestone. Perhaps she will be a especially vivacious Sale of The Century spokesmodel.

However, both times I've let Ivy crawl around without a nappy recently she has laid a big egg on the floor. Today was bad - when I noticed it, she was also eating something with a naughty look on her face. I don't want to follow the train of thought any further.

She may be an accomplished pointer and humourist, but also a poo-eater.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

wollongong, forgive me

Wollongong,I feel very guilty about yesterdays attack on you. I feel like I got a cute puppy for Christmas and then kicked it the first time it pissed on the carpet.

Lets make up, Wollongong. Look, Keith doesn't wash his hair and the last time I shaved under my arms was in 2005. I've got no right to be dissing your trackie dacks and daytime drinking.

I think yesterdays rant was a reaction to the hour I spent in the HCF office, Wollomgong. Ivy cried while the one-finger-typing, supercilious assistant slowly found inventive new reasons to dismiss every medical receipt I had collected over the last year.


No excuses, Wollongong.

Lets try again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

i hate wollongong

Yesterday Ivy and I reluctantly travelled to Wollongong to perform one of those painful and ultimately unsuccessful errands that make up some of the 10, 000 sorrows in the Korean proverb on life. There are 10, 000 joys as well. But you wouldn't know it in Wollongong.

What a hole.

Every kid looked like they had been raised on trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup; every teenager looked on the verge of a pregnancy featuring Holiday 50's and no ante-natal appointments, and every adult looked terminally ill, criminal or both. Was there a bogan festival I didn't know about? Was it just my mood? Is Wollongong really a circle of Hell that Dante missed?

I hope that I have just been chancing upon the badlands and that theres a whole other Gong full of shiny, happy people without shifty eyes and skin fungus. I was relieved to get back to my own burg where the kids might have worms but at least they eat brown bread.

In others news, Ivy has fallen in love with her jar of nappy rash cream and is only happy when fondling or chewing on it. Yesterday I went into her room to put some clothes away. She had a sudden spasm of joy that nearly made me drop her; arms and legs flailing with excitement - she had spooted the Sudocream on the changing table.

Also, my article is out in this months Australian Parents and I sold a story to the Herald this week, for their new Eco section. And we dug a pumpkin patch.

Congratulations to Nikki and Brian who have brought little Ethan William into ther fresh air this week. Welcome to the world Ethan!