Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Fun with boxes

E is dosed with the cold today, she watched tv for a while but then wanted to play. Great entertainment!

This blog was originally called Messy Mammy's - looking at the room around her, you can probably see why! But I'm currently reading Raising Freethinkers by Dale McGowan et al and playing with a snuffly two year old, so why would I want to waste time tidying? 

Sunday, 17 March 2013


So today is St Patrick's Day here in Ireland.

I told E that that's what today is called, and that's why I stuck a green t-shirt on her, and how we might go watch the parade later if the weather clears up a bit.

She asked, "Who's Patrick?"

So I told her that Patrick was a miserable old grumble-head who didn't like anything the way it was and went around complaining and trying to tell people what to do all the time.

She grinned.

Duty for the day as an atheist parent: done.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Privilege. Mine.

One of the most fascinating, and resonating things I learned about during the course of gaining my Sociology degree, was about the concept of privilege.

Privilege is (dictionary definition):
A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to one person or group of people.

 When applied to structures in society, it means that some groups are given advantages on the basis of various arbitrary (i.e. unrelated to merit) conditions. The most common types of privilege that are discussed are white privilege and male privilege. But privilege exists in many different forms. And one of the key things about privilege is that people who have it fail to see what unearned advantages they have in society, believing that they have gotten where they are purely by hard work. The barriers to others are invisible, and the victims are blamed instead of the structures being challenged.

I will rant and rave and complain and moan about privilege from time to time, but I think that it's important that I recognise the ways in which I am privileged, as well as the ways in which I am disadvantaged.

I do not see these things as inherently good. When I say that I am privileged to be white, I don't mean that I think it is better to be white than to be black (or any other colour or ethnicity). Far from it - I am a passionate believer in equality. All that I am saying is that I realise that being white gives me certain advantages, since the society I live in is racist in various overt and covert ways.

I am privileged because I am white. My skin colour doesn't automatically make people think I am a thief when I walk into a shop, an illegal immigrant when I sit on a bus, a prostitute when I get into a car (all things I have heard of happening anecdotally). I can open a newspaper or a magazine and be confident that I will see people of my ethnicity depicted in positive as well as negative ways. These are just a few of the ways in which being white gives me a position of privilege in modern Irish society. I am also privileged not to be a Traveller, in which case I would be thought of as stupid and dirty and a drain on society.

I am privileged because I am straight. If I fall in love I can marry the person I love, as it would be (and in fact was) a heterosexual marriage: I can celebrate my love for a partner without being called dirty or sinful or disgusting or a multitude of worse words. I can walk down the street holding hands with or kissing a partner without it making me fearful for my safety. I can turn on the television or read a book and see people in relationships like mine depicted as normal. I don't get regularly confronted with polls on other people's opinions, who are completely unaffected by my decisions and life choices, as to whether I should have equal rights.

I am privileged because I am cisgendered. The way I feel about my body is depicted in society and media as the norm. I don't have to go seeking obscure blogs and websites in order to find others who feel the way I do about the body I was born with. I don't have to deal with people telling me I am a freak or a weirdo, or telling me how I should feel about my body and what I should or should not be allowed to do with it. I don't have the very essence of who I am criticised or lampooned on a regular basis.

I am privileged because I am able-bodied. I can enter shops without a second thought, I can watch a film without having any difficulty, I don't have people look down on me and think I am in some way less than human or less than them because my body or brain is different.

I am privileged because I live in a country that has a safety net. I am not currently working, I have a 2 year old and a baby on the way and the maintenance my ex gives me isn't enough to cover basic living expenses - nowhere near in fact. However, I get an allowance from the state which does cover those basic expenses like food, heat and clothing. If I manage my money well, I may even be able to put some aside from time to time. I did so in the past and this meant that when I had to suddenly and abruptly leave my husband, I was able to do so. I could pay a deposit to rent a new house within days of leaving.

Following on from the previous point, I am privileged to live in a country that allows me as a woman certain rights, such as holding a separate bank account from that of my husband - it allowed me to squirrel some money away, though I didn't expect to need to use it to leave him I was very, very glad to have it when that was the way things turned.I am privileged to live in a Western World country, where finding a new place to live even for a woman in desperate circumstances is as simple as loading a smartphone app and making a few phone calls. Where I am not, as a newly single mother, looked upon with suspicion and revulsion (in general).

I am privileged to live in a country that has freedom of speech. I can complain about the ways in which privilege affects me negatively (oh, and I will!) without fear of being locked up. I am free to own a computer and access the internet and use it to seek and share information. I am privileged to be able and allowed to read and write; ditto for driving.

I am privileged to live in a democracy. I have the right to vote, or the right to abstain from voting. I will not be jailed or killed for going against the majority.

That's all I can think of for now! Of course there are probably other ways in which I am privileged - feel free to use the comments to share them with me if you think of any, or to talk about ways in which you too are privileged. We are all quick to see how disadvantaged we are, but it is good for each of us to check our own privileged from time to time as well, especially if we like to argue that others should do so.

Monday, 25 February 2013

A polar bear in the park...

Sunny here at the moment, we are getting out in it as much as possible and soaking up the vitamin D while we have the chance. It's cold but beautiful.

Yesterday we went to the park. The swings and slide were fun, but what Miss E really wanted to do was explore.

She wandered through bushes and clambered over branches. She told me there was a polar bear there, and a snake.

A little while later, we met some friends. I told them of E's adventures in the little forest.
"There were even polar bears there, " I grinned as my friends nodded knowingly.
"No, " E interjected. "There was only one polar bear."

If she's already so well able to correct me at just 27 months old, she's going to be a very clever and very, very argumentative teenager. Plus, if she continues as she started, she's going to win a lot of those arguments.

Oh well, it's certainly going to make for an interesting life!

Sunday, 24 February 2013


I found it very interesting to read recently that a study by San Francisco State University has found that spending money on life experiences makes us happier than buying stuff (can't find a link to the study itself, just this report on it).

Fascinating stuff. Common sense, in some ways. I mean, in twenty years, are we going to think back on that brilliant holiday, or how awesome that TV, that was at the time top notch, was?

Sure, some stuff is great. I do love my TV shows, but I don't need a massive LED screen that takes up half my sitting room to watch them on. I love my books, but there are only a handful (ok, several armfuls) that I would genuinely feel sad if I no longer hand, and they're mostly books that have some sentimental value for me.

Holidays, dinner parties, events where we can meet new people and perhaps make new friends - they are truly special. Sights that stick with us for the rest of our lives, be they local or far across the world from home. Education, to me at least, is also a life experience worth spending money on. Learning and the pursuit of knowledge are precious to me.

I miss having a car, but it is only a small part to do with the car itself (I had a sporty Fiat Punto). Mostly, I miss that feeling of being able to get in the car and drive, to be able to go anywhere. Bear in mind that I live in Donegal, which is poorly served by public transport, so a car is more of an essential than an optional item really, though I am coping without. But ultimately the car relates to experiences. It brings me to see friends and family. It brings me to the beach, the forests, the parks. It brings my daughter on playdates and to the zoo and all the exciting places that she loves to experience. 

What makes you happy - are there material things you couldn't be without? What are your favourite experiences? If you won the lotto, what would you spend the money on that you think would make you happier, or that you would enjoy? What do you save money for?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Untitled Poem

This isn't based on any of my personal experiences, but some thoughts that were going around in my head recently based on various news stories both in Ireland and the USA.

It's untitled, as I think it works better without a title. The whole poem speaks for itself, I hope.

She considers getting the boat,
Then decides to book a Ryanair flight instead.
It’s not the seventies anymore, after all. Not in how she can choose to travel at least.
Though perhaps, she thinks, in the fact she has to travel at all.

No need to book a bag, carry on allowance will be fine –
Sure what will she need, phone charger, a change of clothes, probably some sanitary towels.
She isn’t really sure. Maybe a book.
To distract her from thinking about it.
Because she has thought of nothing else up to now, but the decision is made.

She kisses her littlest boy goodbye, and wonders as she delivers him into her own mother’s arms,
Whether she knows the real reason for the trip to England.
Wonders whether it is shame or something else
That keeps the wall of silence standing between them.

“I should be there with you,” her husband pleads.
She shakes her head. “You can’t afford to take the time off work,” she reminds him.
Half the reason for this decision being made in the first place.
“I’ll be fine,” she reassures him, then hates him briefly for needing her to do so. Even now,
She must be the strong one. She must hold the family together.

She leaves lunches for the older kids in the fridge before she goes. Does the online check in.
Tries to write a note but can’t get the words out, can’t put lies to paper as easily as she seemed to be able to tell them.
It is hard, she thinks as she waits in the airport, clutching her bag.
It is hard, but it has to be done.

What must the neighbours think...

I have real neighbours for the first time in years. For a long time I've had a car, so I was able to live a little outside town, in a detached house. No one to complain about dogs barking, or loud music.

Now I live in a house with two flats adjoining. Real neighbours. I can hear a TV from my bathroom. I can hear conversations. Not exactly what's being said, but that people are talking to each other.

This same bathroom is the scene of occasional (ok, almost nightly) tantrums from E, the talkative and precocious two year old. Every night we have the same routine, she sits on the toilet and brushes her teeth, then I wash her face and she washes her own hands.

Then, I get a cloth and give her crotch and bum a good wipe to make sure they're clean. I reckon it's good, responsible parenting to do so.

E still mixes up personal pronouns - she says "your" for stuff to do with her, i.e. when she means "my" and when she says "my" she is actually referring to the person she's talking to.

So when she screams, "NOT YOUR BUM! ONLY YOUR CROTCH!" she actually means she only wants me to wipe around her vulva, not her anus. Think this is a throwback to times when teething caused raw skin nappy-rash.

Still, I do wonder what the neighbours think, if they can hear. I'm pretty sure social services are going to knock on my door one of these days...