Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Men balancing work with caring for children

Are you a father who finds it difficult to juggle the demands of your work with your desire to play an active part in raising your children? Well, according to another new report on the difficulties of the 'work/life balance', you are not alone.

The latest research by Barbara Pocock, a South Australian academic and leading researcher on work-life balance, and her co-author, Natalie Skinner, found that over half those surveyed "felt that work sometimes, often or almost always interfered with activities outside work."

By "activities outside work", I think you can take a fair chunk of that includes raising children and having a relationship with your partner (if you have one), or even visiting your parents or siblings, and the rest of it could include other things like taking out the rubbish, doing the dishes, cooking meals, reading the odd book or two, catching up with friends, and fitting in a trip to the museum or the footy.

The researchers also found that men working long hours are suffering from the pressures of balancing work and life, but that women working the same hours are suffering more.

Again, that is no surprise because women are still expected – by far too many men – to take the lioness's share of caring for children and keeping the household from turning into an avalanche of sludge.

But I'm sure you don't need another research report to tell you that it's a struggle to balance the demands of work with the needs and desires of raising children and keeping family life on track. But the key thing that I'm picking up from this research, and the teetering tower of research that has gone before it, is that men are finding it a crunch.

Yes, this means that people are
generally finding work pressures are getting worse, including the pressure to work longer and harder. But what is noticeable is that men are noticing how the crunch is affecting their family lives – because they want to have a family life in the first place.

I'm sure we cannot say that a majority of men are up doing this yet, but I know that there is a growing number of men who take an active role in the raising their children – because they
want to.

By this I mean more than just playing with our children on weekends and perhaps reading to them at bedtime, but also being involved in their school issues and homework, sharing in ferrying them to and from school or child care, playing with them, taking turns to cook meals for the family and do the household chores, and more importantly taking and active part in supporting and caring for our children's developing inner, emotional life.

Fathers are not just appendixes. We are part of the crucial anatomy of family life and raising children.

But there is no denying that it is hard to juggle all the demands of life - especially the often competing demands of work and family life. But all
is not doom and gloom. Many men are choosing to scale down their work demands, including working part time, forgoing promotions, or choosing to work in organisations that don't put as much pressure on th workers to put in long hours at the expense of personal and family life. And, admittedly, this often comes at the expense of financial security and ease.

I highly recommend Cast Iron Balcony's fantastic post responding to the same research. Drawing on her observations from her workplace, Helen writes of the changing situation of men taking on the responsibilities of caring for children and notes that it is not just possible, but quite plausible to cite family responsibilities as reasons to leave work early, arrive late, or take time off so that fathers can pick up their kids, care for them or just take and active part of the family.

Mark Bahnisch at Lavartus Prodeo has also posted briefly on the
new research on Work/Life balance. One of the commenters at the Lav post points out that the SMH's coverage of the story focuses on a high-achiever, a woman who manages a large staff, as a case study. Interestingly, The Age's treatment of the story in its Insight Saturday supplement (26 July – sorry, I can't find the story online) focuses its coverage on the case study of a high-powered male lawyer who went part time – 3.5 days – in order to stay home and care for his young children on his non-work days, which also allows his wife/partner to pursue study.

But, it is worth remembering, because is helps put this story into perspective, that this is something that has been discussed and covered in the media for a long time, been long advocated for by the union movement, and frequently been something of a political hot topic for opportunists on both sides of parliament.

However, many of us aren't just waiting for the media, government, policy-heads or other people to keep cycling through this conversation. We're doing it – now.

Would you like to share how you are juggling the work-life balance?

[Men at W.o.r.k. image gratefully pinched (sorry, borrowed. Yeah, I'll give it back, promise.) from Helen at Cast Iron Balcony. Can't keep a good idea down.]

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Essendon by 45 points

My cheer is dampened by post footy grief from my Pies supporter son. He couldn't stand to watch to the bitter end.

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Essendon v Collingwood at the 'G

Live footy blog post. Will the Bombers squander their 20 point lead from the first minutes?

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Support the campaign to end mandatory immigration detention in Australia

GetUp! is saying that the federal government has unexpectedly announced an inquiry into Australia's immigration detention regime, and is calling an people to support their online petition to end mandatory immigration detention.

It appears to have been just announced, as I have yet to find I have had great difficulty in finding mention of this on the online MSM (mainstream media).

This is something that so many have been waiting for: after the apology to the Stolen Generations, and the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, I began to wonder if the Rudd government would avoid moving on the remaining festering sore from the key triumvirate of the Howard government's sins.

So I am pleased to have just signed the petition calling for an end to mandatory immigration detention and for a humane immigration system. I have also added some comments in my online petition, which I trust will get sent to Kevin Rudd and Immigration Minister Chris Evans as part of the Get Up 'submission'.

I would urge you to do something similar, and also consider preparing and sending your own individual submission to the inquiry once all the inquiry's wheels are in motion.

Here are my additional comments I added to my support of the petition:

End Mandatory Immigration Detention!

It is important that a just and honourable immigration system recognise the principle that children should never be in detention.

Australia must develop a fair and humane approach to handling asylum seekers' applications for asylum, and in dealing with those in breech of immigration rules. This can and should involve a community-based system for caring for asylum seekers while processing refugee applications and immigration issues.

Australia must abolish temporary protection visas, and give full residential rights and status to those who have found to be refugees. This must include welfare, medical and other residential rights. If it is unsafe for someone to return to their home country, they should be allowed the decency of finding security and attachment here in Australia, and not the constant fear that their temporary visa will be revoked.

It is time that Australia corrects the great wrong in how we treat asylum seekers and close the immigration concentration camps!

Do no harm. The principles upon which Australia processes applications for asylum must be based on securing the safety of the asylum seeker, not on some misshapen foreign or domestic policy emphasis on quarantining Australia from the world or the movement of people fleeing violence, war, terror and harm.

It is time to raise our heads and take our rightful place in the world in looking after those fleeing persecution and harm.

You can find the GetUp Campaign petition here:

Other people working on this issue include the
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, A Just Australia, and the Human Rights Law Resource Centre.

[Update: I have found an ABC news item from June this year where Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced that "Federal Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Migration has been asked to investigate the criteria for detention, length of time in detention, and accountability and transparency in immigration detention processes." I am wondering how and why things have been so quiet on this for so long. What did I miss? Unfortunately, the report suggests the ALP are going with a 'business as usual' approach to detention on Christmas Island, but this is no reason to give up on the campaign! Updated Monday 21 July, 4:23 pm]

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thought-quote for the day

Alex Steffen, in his recent WorldChanging post The Apocalypse Makes Us Dumb writes, "Disasters … are all about bad food and wet feet and sick babies and pointless pain."

There is much to reflect on in this very good post that questions the millennial assumptions of the 'end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it' thinking, particularly that related to global warming.

My other favourite idea/quote is "The Apocalypse will be an adventure." As he says, it won't. Well worth mulling over.

A good post to read in tandem with his post on who the heroes in a climate-changed world would be, which I've responded to in my Twitter updates (see 'Twitter updates' section in the column on the right).

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pain on a push-bike

I am amazed at the resilience of someone like Cadel Evans. Not only has the amazing strength and endurance to race the Tour de France, but he has the amazing capacity to bounce back from a bad accident and win the yellow jersey in the latest leg of the Tour.

I can remember what a wuss I was the couple of times I had a significant bingle while riding my bike. On one occasion, I was blown sideways by one of Melbourne's infamous massive wind tunnel crosswinds, pushed into parked cars and hence over my handlebars.

Besides some bruises and sore hands, the worst I had was a graze on my chest near my collarbone, which I luckily didn't break. I was shaken, but picked myself up in daze, thankful that there was no car behind me to crash into me. I limped, almost shell-shocked, into work later that morning. But like I said, I was a it of a wuss about it. Though shaken up, I was pretty right to ride home later that evening – very cautiously and slowly. I am not being conceited in comparing my petty little bingle in my little bike-commuting history. I just couldn't imagine doing a grueling mountain bike race in that condition.

But Cadel Evans is a different beast. He suffered bad grazes and bruises in the bad accident he had a couple of days ago, and was quite fearful that he would not be able to finish the race if the injuries were worse that was known at the time. I was quite shocked when I read the news of the accident yesterday morning, as I have been really hoping that Cadel will win this year's race. But, not only did he pick himself up, but he kept on racing, and kept himself in a good position in the race.

ll that was reported yesterday morning is that he was racing again, and had received medical attention from the Tour doctor – leaning out of a moving convertible. It turns out the injuries were not 'serious' – whatever his team representatives mean by that – and though still in pain and bruised, he started again the next (yesterday) morning, and ran an excellent race to win the latest leg. He is now leading the race. The ABC has video footage of Cadel getting the yellow jersey online.

Good on you, Cadel. You're amazing, and I wish you all the best for the rest of the race.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Ten things I know now that I didn't ten years ago

Something or other jogged my memory tonight of a postcard a friend of mine sent me some 15-odd years ago when I was a Uni student.

It was an HIV/AIDS education postcard asking what was the leading cause of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infections (in the world), with three (that I can remember) multiple choice answers to select from:

a) unprotected homos-xual s-x (sorry, don't want this blog to get blocked by any nanny-net filters)

b) unprotected hetros-xual s-x
c) intravenous drug-users sharing needles

After a little hesitation, I picked 'b', mainly because I thought it was a trick question designed to challenge my inner-homophobe, but also because I was sure I had learned somewhere that rates of HIV/AIDS infections
were skyrocketing throughout all population groups in Asia and Africa, and that AIDS couldn't really be called the 'gay disease' anymore as it was known in the 80s. Remember, this 1992 or 1993 and such things were just filtering through into the awareness of Australians.

Of course, the answer 'b' was correct, but little did I realise the extent of the infection rates amongst the wider hetros-xual population (I don't remember the stats from the back of the postcard, but it was high). If I were asked this question today, I wouldn't hesitate with the same answer, as the devastation that AIDS has wrought throughout Africa has become
so prevalent and has so entered our consciousness. If anything, I'm sure today's younger generation may think that AIDS is the 'African diseases', rather than the 'gay disease'.

But (and here is the point of this rather long introduction to the main purpose of this post) the key thing is this little memory, in that strange Proustian way, got me reflecting on the things that I know now that I didn't know 10 years ago, and wondering if I could list 10 of them.

If anything, this is as much a reflection of what I was ignorant of – or naive about – 10 years ago, as what I have learned in the intervening years, so bear with me if my naiveté is slipping. Here is what I came up with (and by no means is this exhaustive. I just wanted to see if I could list 10 things that stand out for me):

Ten things I know now that I didn't know 10 years ago
  1. That the woman I was starting to date (10 years ago this month) - rather nonchalantly, but was somewhat smitten with – is the woman I still love and am spending my life with and raising children with.

  2. That the earth's climate is drastically warming because of our greenhouse gas emissions, and this is leading to dangerous climate change and throwing our ecology out of balance.

  3. That I don't want to be an anthropologist specialising in Southeast Asia's emerging working class, or a sociologist researching forms of working class resistance to capitalist control of work in Australia (despite 10 years ago having started a postgraduate research degree in the former and switching to the later).

  4. That having children could be so bloody exhilirating, frustrating, difficult, rewarding and life-changing. Oh, and that your children will yell – loudly and repeatedly – for you from another room the way you did to your parents.

  5. That Pauline Hanson and her brand of racism has become just a blip on the political landscape, and that her xenophobia and racism was so insidiously appropriated and institutionalised by John Howard's (now former) government.

  6. That a geeky, spectacles-wearing, Chinese-speaking, former bureaucrat and diplomat can become Prime Minister of Australia.

  7. That the Greens could become a successful (minor) political party that cares about social justice, rather than remaining a fringe, narrow-interest political lobby group/small, state-based party, and that the Democrats go down the gurgler.

  8. That the internet has become so much more than a bunch of really boring, static web pages whose information is limited, out of date or somewhat suspect, or a collection of email-list discussion groups, or hand-crafted 'Home' pages with 'under construction' animated GIFs.

  9. That I can be a writer and enjoy it, and break down some of my big hang-ups about writing and procrastination – albeit just. (Though I'm not getting paid for writing my own stuff, mind you.)

  10. That water, rather than oil, could be shaping up as the key resource over which so much struggle, death and destruction could emerge – if we don't do something about how our industrialised and industrialising economies are destabilising the earth's climate and undermining our water security.
As I reflect further on this, I realise I can come up with many more than 10, and then I would struggle to pick my top ten (though some are clearly and obviously there). So I'm stopping while the going is good. Perhaps there'll be a part two. For a while, I also toyed with the idea of listing 10 things that I don't know now that I knew 10 years ago, but that started to do my head in so I gave up.

I am curious, what do you know now that you didn't know ten years ago? Drop me a comment, or write your own blog post (if you do the later, drop me a comment, please, to share a link to the post).

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Happy birthday Shelley!

It was my partner Shelley's birthday on Saturday. Happy belated birthday, Shelley!

I took her indoor rock climbing as one of her birthday presents, and we had a great time! It was the first time either of us had done it, and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously, though I admit it was pretty tough going for someone as out of shape as me.

We didn't have heaps of time, but once we covered the safety and skills introductory training, we managed to fit in two climbs each. And I thought I had a fear of heights...

Of course, yours truly took the prohibition on taking photos and video in the indoor rock-climbing 'gym' in the city seriously (unlike many others there) and so there are no photos of the event to share. But that wouldn't have mattered as I had forgotten to charge the batteries for the digital camera, so there aren't even any photos of the lovely afternoon tea we had for her birthday yesterday. But I can assure you that she had a great birthday weekend!

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Blogging Resumes as Winter Woes Subside

Apologies for the sparse blogging lately. I've been laid low by a bad cold and cough for two weeks. In fact, the cold has hit the kids as well, the youngest one the hardest (you don't want to know how bad it is when three people in one household have colds – you could build a wall with the empty boxes of tissues in our house).

I was off work last week, (but couldn't bring myself to face the blog for longer than that) and I'm shredding my fingernails trying to claw myself back to some normality and gettting back into the swing of things at work this week.

Blogging activity is now hopefully back to normal. Whatever that means.

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