But that’s taboo: God

Throughout the western world, belief in God – that is, genuine belief that God is is real and relevant- is increasingly taboo. Well, no, that’s not quite right. It’s sort of taboo. Across Europe and the UK, God appears to have been largely forgotten. America is its own special category. While here, in Australia, in my lifetime Christianity has thus far has swiftly been shifted from the category of Ned-Flanders-quaint, to Fairy-Tale-ridiculous, to the now perilous quandary of (at least in the media, if not on the ground, among real people) Horrible-and-Dangerous-Ethically-speaking-yet-unquashably-hope-inspiring (listen in to Cynthia’s story for example). Laughs used to distance the masses from the faithful remnant here in Australia, but now I think it’s more a mix of outright contempt and perplexed incredulity (that die-hard Christians, their Bible, their Christ and their God, just won’t go away). Also, fear.

I’m not sure where the fear comes from exactly, but maybe its fear of the unverifiable nature of belief in an unseen spiritual realm, another reality beyond, but related to ours. I think that, perhaps unconsciously, scares the heck out of people. Having just read Stephen King’s Revival though, I’d say the age-old fears about what lies beyond the curtain of death are well and truly alive. Most other cultures across the world, to this day, retain a robust belief in the spiritual realm as more real than our material realm, but we in the West, tremble, and therefore, scoff at the thought.

To me there seems to be precious few spaces left to freely talk about serious belief in God in our current culture, but, even in the most secular of circles, there does seem to remain, at the very least, and only very quietly, an insatiable curiosity in the firm belief of something so “unprovable” as God. It may very well just be a fleeting curiosity, as in the presence of the (newly) devout Catholic priest in Fleabag . Irreverent mocks genuine belief in the Christian God as laughable and hopelessly outdated but ultimately not entirely defrocked of the vague utility of belief in dark moments like mourning the loss of a loved one (“God, we deliver into your care…”) or healing deep conflicts (a surprising use of the biblical wisdom of Solomon). But more serious contemplations of the genuine validity of the Christian claim of truth cannot, it seems, be openly discussed, only smuggled in, as in the frequent exploration of Christianity by multiple characters in Sally Rooney’s string of novels. Serious considerations, in general, do seem to be taboo in the West these days. (Of course in other countries across the world, professing allegiance to Christ is not just theoretically taboo, it’s punishable. But that’s another part of the story).

For this, my final post in this Taboo series, I have compiled a collection of buts and pieces on belief in God of Christianity, including a poem I wrote a few years ago. I haven’t written a poem since high school. I am not a poet by any stretch of the imagination, however, I thought I would include it anyway as it expresses something I couldn’t think how to express other than in poetry.

Continue reading But that’s taboo: God

But that’s taboo: vulnerability and other things you can’t see.

Let’s talk about public image, social anxiety and vulnerability. I don’t think we talk about vulnerability enough. I don’t think we like to even think about it, that is, I don’t think we like to dwell on our frailties and imperfections. These days, according to the cultural milieu, we are all supposed to be able to keep it together, all the time. And if you can’t manage that, well, you probably haven’t tried hard enough, have you? Maybe you should do some more yoga? Or eat more kale?

Continue reading But that’s taboo: vulnerability and other things you can’t see.

But that’s taboo: The modern mother (or complaints of a stay at home mum or fear of missing out or navigating modern motherhood) Part IV

In his recent book “On Writing” Stephen King reflects that, among many things, he often ends up writing about work. “People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do” he says.

I’ve certainly found much to reflect on when it comes to work, but I’m rather glad to be at the end of this little bit of work. It has taken up much emotional and mental space and I am ready to move on with renewed vigour and, well, get back to work.

Continue reading But that’s taboo: The modern mother (or complaints of a stay at home mum or fear of missing out or navigating modern motherhood) Part IV

But that’s taboo: The modern mother (or complaints of a stay-at-home-mum or fear of missing out or navigating modern motherhood) Part III

Hello again! And thank you for reading along and making it this far in the series! This topic is big, it’s complex and it’s emotive and sometimes to this day it’s still a little bit taboo!

By the way – I actually love being a stay at home parent! I really, genuinely love it. And, as much as I am somewhat having a bit of a grumble, I literally do count my blessings every single day. I am abundantly blessed in innumerable ways and not a day goes by without humble recognition of this fact. Life is short. There are no guarantees. I live each and every day thanking God for what he has provided and asking for the grace to accept whatever comes my way.

That being said, as much as I appreciate and enjoy the gift of raising my kids, I would also really, really like to be working outside the home too. But sometimes that is far easier said than done, right?! So, the question I am focussing on today is: why is it so hard for some of us mothers to combine work and parenthood?

Continue reading But that’s taboo: The modern mother (or complaints of a stay-at-home-mum or fear of missing out or navigating modern motherhood) Part III

But that’s taboo: The modern mother (or complaints of a stay-at-home-mum or fear of missing out or navigating modern motherhood) Part II

Hello and welcome back for Part II of the Modern Mother.

Thanks for all the comments and feedback on Facebook about Part I. It’s heartening to know that I’m not at all alone in the struggles and challenges that modern motherhood throws at us! I mean, motherhood across cultures and time has no doubt always had its challenges and some places and time in history have had many more challenges than others. But in the modern western world changes to society and culture are so rapid at the moment such is the situation that, while there is of course significant overlap, many challenges we face today were simply non-existent for our our grandmothers or even to some extent our mothers. They had their own set of cultural roadblocks. We have ours.

In Part I of this series I explained how partly by choice, partly by circumstance I’ve spent the past almost 11 years mostly as a stay at home mum. And, it sounds funny to say it, but this actually comes as a bit of a shock to me! Being a stay at home mum for 11 years straight wasn’t what I was planning at all! Before becoming a mother I knew that I wanted to predominantly be at home with my children as they grew up. I knew that for sure. And I haven’t changed my mind about that at all. It’s just that I also knew, with equal certainty, that I wanted to continue to work in some part time capacity. I’ll go into more detail about this later but suffice to say, given just how much I wanted to continue to work, I am truly shocked and surprised that nearly 11 years have passed and one of those desires has been fulfilled, but the other one hasn’t. I’m both curious and quite frankly a bit worried to know why this is the case.

In Part I, I asked myself, as happy as I am in my decisions to be with my children as they grow, why did I at the same time neglected my career so badly? Couldn’t I have done both?

I succeeded in one of my significant personal goals, namely to be at home with my children as they grew up but largely failed in the other, that is to continue to work. How and why did that happen?

Continue reading But that’s taboo: The modern mother (or complaints of a stay-at-home-mum or fear of missing out or navigating modern motherhood) Part II

But that’s taboo: The modern mother (or complaints of a stay-at-home-mum or fear of missing out or navigating modern motherhood)

I’m becoming just a teeny bit afraid that I’m missing out on something really good and I’m going to regret it! Basically I’m what is called a stay-at-home mum and I have been for most of the past ten years. Partly by choice, partly by circumstance. What is dawning on me is that, in staying home for so long, I might have seriously undermined my chances of a career. Or at the very least, I’m looking back on the past ten years and wondering if I could have used them more “productively”, if I’ve missed out on opportunities that were there, in terms of career, that I just didn’t take!

I feel like in the modern world, due to the enormous efforts of feminism, there is a place for me in the workforce while I raise children. It feels like feminism has made it possible (and so much easier than in previous generations) for me to participate in the workforce while being a mother. And what concerns me or worries me is that, for some reason, I haven’t taken up this option, this hard won “privilege” or “right”. Instead I’ve just stayed at home…

I have previously been broadly confident and content the in choices I’ve made in this sphere. But last year, as my most recent two years maternity leave came to a close I become a little panicked. It felt like a huge fork in the road moment. My career has been so stop-start for nearly 11 years. I’ve had three children and moved twice since leaving university. I’ve put on hold the final two years of my post-graduate training so that I can focus on parenting. And now as a nearly 40 year old, with only the equivalent of 2 years full-time post training work experience, it feels very, very daunting to try to get back in the game again.

My fears and possible regrets centred around this one question – What have I done?! Have I recklessly thrown away my career? Possibly unnecessarily? These questions and their answers have unsettled and disturbed me for months now. What’s done is done. I’ve made my bed so to speak and I can’t by lie in it. Clearly, I can’t change the past but I do want to, at the very least, learn from it. I want to mine the past, my choices, both my active choices and my passive ones, for any possible clues which might help me make better decisions now, and in the future.

So I’m asking myself a bunch of questions about the past, the present, the future and the future I would like to see for my daughter. For the past my question is this: as happy as I am in my decisions to be with my children as they grow, why have I at the same time neglected my career so badly? Could I have done both?

For the present and for my future the question is: what do I do next? I am having just the darnedest, most difficult time figuring that one out. I’m asking myself all the questions for this one – Do I even want to work at all? Why do I want to work? Do I have to work outside the home in order to live a “good” life? Am I missing out if I chose to remain at home longer than is fashionable these days? Am I allowing myself to be mindlessly swept up in views and opinions that are not truly my own? Are there things personal to me that are preventing me from taking the awkward leap back into the workforce? Am I settling for something less than what could have been? Should I have wrestled with these questions, like, 20 years ago?

For my daughter future: if I could go back to my 12 year old self, my 18 year old self, my 24 year old self, what would I want to tell her? What do I want my daughter to think about when she turns 12, 18, 24 in terms of her place and value and potential in society? And, possibly more importantly, what do I want my sons to think about their place and value and potential in society as well as the women around them when they turn 12, 18, 24?

That’s what these posts will be about. Trying to answer these questions. It’s a personal as well as a social critique of the issue of combining paid work with parenting, especially in the early years. It feels taboo because it so personal and so tricky because, well, we all know that children, especially young children, need a lot of input in order to grow and develop into strong, happy, healthy adults. We all know it takes not just one or two adults to raise a child well, but that children flourish in communities. We all flourish in healthy communities.

And yet, in the west, we live in capitalist economies where time is money and goods and services are traded for profit and jobs are not just for money but for status, purpose, meaning, and community. But you can’t take your kids to work so….it gets tricky.

Be warned: this is a rather long and rather messy, rambly post. There is not much structure to it but I’m posting it in three parts (or more!) to break it down a bit. It is a bunch of thoughts and ideas collected from everywhere and anywhere: comments made by friends or family or friends of friends; blog posts; newspaper and magazine articles, the Bible, podcasts and books.

The months and months I have spent wading through this collection of opinions and facts and personal experience have proved to be invaluable for me personally. I still don’t have solid answers to all my questions and I still don’t know which path to choose regarding paid work. But I do have a more clarity of thought around this issue compared to six months ago and I wish I had taken the time to do this thinking years ago, like, probably when I was 12!

I hope that these posts may be of some help of use to others as we all navigate our own paths through the challenges of motherhood in the modern age.

And on that note, let’s dive in.

(Part 2 out next week)

But that’s taboo: Labour, the other story

I guess my earlier posts are best described as ‘birth stories’. What I want to write about this time is labour itself, which, to be honest, feels a bit taboo.

Sharing birth stories also felt somewhat taboo to me in the sense that I had three positive stories to share and I did not want to appear to be gloating (I sincerely hope that it did not come across that way).

However, writing in more detail about my personal experience of labour feels even more taboo in the sense that, in my circles at least, there seems to be a general yet unspoken rule that your labour is personal and private. Or maybe thats just me interpreting things weirdly?!

Anyhow, as I explained in the introduction to this series, I don’t think its helpful in the long run to keep positive birth stories out of view (so to speak). So today I’m writing about my experience of labour. Read along if you’re interested in a more intimate retelling of a first labour that went really, really well.

Continue reading But that’s taboo: Labour, the other story

But that’s taboo…

I want to write a little about some topics that might sometimes be considered to be a little bit taboo. Well, taboo is probably too strong a word. Perhaps the topics I’m thinking of would be better described as awkward or uncomfortable rather than completely taboo.

Continue reading But that’s taboo…