Monday, 21 August 2017

The Ish Mother Reads: 'Delusions Of Gender' by Cordelia Fine

I mentioned in my last post that I've been trying to read after the kids have gone to bed every night. Well, it's paying off - I actually finished a book intended for grown ups for the first time in ages! And a brilliant book it is too.

Gender is a hot topic at the moment with the documentary 'No More Boys and Girls' starting last week - and coincidentally, the day after the first episode, I finished reading 'Delusions of Gender' by Cordelia Fine. (This really is a coincidence - as any of my Instagram followers can attest to, I actually started reading it back in January! In my defence, I have read other books in the meantime ...)

It's the kind of book I want to pass on - because what it says is so very important. It is a thoroughly researched and meticulously thought-through look at our society's view of gender, how that view has been formed and our society's view of how that view has been formed.

I have to admit at times I found it difficult to read - I haven't studied science in any form since I was 16 and I don't remember neuroscience being on the GCSE curriculum, so at times keeping track of the argument was tricky. That said, it is written surprisingly clearly considering how densely packed each chapter is. The references take up a considerable chunk of the endpapers because Fine really has left no stone unturned in searching for the answers to our questions about the 'gender divide'.

Unsurprisingly - to me, anyway, it may well surprise others - Fine reveals that male and female brains are extremely similar, and that the reasons for gender difference lie in our socialisation. She has read the literature, lots of it, on both sides but has found the case for innate gender difference paper-thin and pulls no punches in debunking much of the evidence put forward for this case. It's a truly fascinating, witty read, and made me think a lot about how we raise our children according to the stereotypes even when we're trying not to.

I found that the book really challenged me, even though I was in agreement with it. It made me realise that I still see the world through a social filter, and that my own efforts in 'gender-neutral' parenting are in fact still heavily biased towards the traditional model. I always knew this - hello, stay-at-home mum with full-time-working husband here - but hadn't fully considered the implications for how this affects my parenting. No matter how much I reinforce the message of gender equality with my kids, our lifestyle still reinforces the status quo.

I'm not about to hand in my SAHM notice just yet - hopefully I will have plenty of time to redress the balance in years to come - but it has made me more aware of the need to show my kids that our family life isn't the only way, nor is it even the norm these days. I don't think I'm doing too bad a job though, seeing as a few weeks ago Girl Child told me she'd be going back to work the day after her baby was born!!

It's also a sobering read as it reveals just what I'm up against as a parent who tries to challenge gender stereotypes - these stereotypes are firmly ingrained in our culture, can I really take on an entire society? But much as I don't think the stereotypes will be entirely wiped out in this generation, I'm hopeful that just trying now will make things easier for my children, and their children, and so on.

I'd recommend this book to - well, anyone really. Gender inequality affects us all, so we all have an interest in knowing the actual science behind it.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

Read With Me

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Trouble With 'Me Time'

There's much talk in the parenting world about the importance of looking after yourself when raising your children. Filling your cup. Attending to your own wellbeing. Putting your life jacket on first. Getting some 'me time'.

Books, articles, videos talk about the importance of this, including (perhaps especially) in the world of gentle/attachment/positive parenting. You can't deal with the stresses that daily life with kids throws at you if you don't take care of yourself. You can't stay patient with your children when you're all strung out. In short, if you're not getting what you need, you can't provide for your children's needs.

And I agree with all this. I know that when I'm tired (which is always) I'm more likely to snap. I know from experience that always putting my child first and never getting any time to do stuff I like will lead to me feeling resentful, and projecting that resentment onto my child. I know that I need to take care of myself.

My question is this. HOW?

How do I make time for me?  When my eldest doesn't fall asleep until close to 9pm some days and my youngest wakes through the night. When my other half, who wonderfully takes the early morning shift after Toddler has woken at 4am, has to leave for work at 6.30am so I have to be up by then no matter what kind of night I've had. When my toddler is so active that the only time I can get stuff done in the day is when he's napping. When the evenings are so chaotic with two children with very different bedtimes that trying to get and keep both asleep is a two-person job. What space is there for me time?

I've recently started doing a bit of reading and crochet after the kids are in bed. It's great, I'm using my brain and my creativity, I love it. But it means sacrificing some chores so there's more to do the next day, or going to bed later so I'm more tired the next day. How is that an improvement?

The other thing is - and I'm hoping I'll get some chimes of agreement here so I don't feel so selfish - what little I can get is never enough. When my other half isn't working I'll often sleep an extra hour or more in the mornings, but I still feel tired. I can read a chapter of my book, but I'll want to read more. After nearly six years of broken nights, of giving up my 'me time' out of necessity, I really don't know what it would take for me to feel refreshed and reinvigorated again. The idea is that even a little bit of self care helps. But for me the effect is so miniscule that it may stop me being snappy mummy for an hour or two, then I'll go back to tired and stressed.

I wish I had the answers to these problems, but more than anything, I think it would help to know I'm not alone in feeling like this. Do you feel it too? Or have you found the solution?

This post is now linked up to Day 18 of #Blogtober17 - Relaxation.