Archive for the ‘fathers’ Category

Monday Money – Starting the Conversation.

This is the first of a series on Finacial Literacy where I will look at the things that I have done to change my personal financial wellbeing.  It is based on experience, the good, the bad and the ugly of getting financially healthy.

I am not an expert, nor do I claim to be anything other than someone who has experienced a number of different factors and am achieving financial success. Both my parents worked when we were growing up, six children plus a number of foster kids, a number of pets, the usual type of crazy household. Money was never a topic of discussion that I can remember when growing up. Both my Grandfathers were the bread winners in the family, whilst one of my Grandmothers had an academic position at the University of Western Australia her income was never a consideration. As I grew up I learnt that hard work didn’t always pay off, whilst it went some of the way to achieving success, alone it wasn’t enough. One set of Grandparents ended up in State housing, never owning their own house, the other Grandparents did very well. Both worked equally hard. So why the difference? I’ll look at this question later.

As a result of the way I was brought up, I believe I have a fairly liberated view on a number of things, I have four sisters and one brother (he’s gay so I’m not sure how to count this). I was, and still am interested in all the sports and outdoorsy types of things. I wasn’t taught to be male, in fact my parents worked very hard to bring us up with a balanced view on life. Despite their best efforts, I fell into the role of being the bread winner and financial manager of my first household. The woman I first married was an outstanding financial manager, she had saved a huge amount of money in her own right. I on the other hand was living pay to pay and just managing to make things last.

Our marriage, purchase of our house and then the arrival of our first child threw all sorts of different things into the mix. We went from a two income family to a single income in a matter of months, with then the sudden increase in interest rates to 17%, it became a struggle of a magnitude that you have to live through before you realise how hard things could be. We had done the cut backs on living expenses, trimmed to a point where there was nothing left, especially food. So I got a second job, then a third and the odd fourth one to make ends meet. I managed to keep the family afloat without having to refinance the house or lose anything along the way. Of course as the interest rates came down again, life became easier.

Ok, so if you are still reading this, then I haven’t totally bored you! The reason for starting off the introduction this way is to let you know that I am an ordinary family man, yes I am special in lots of ways and am proud of what I have achieved. So what have I done? I am on my second marriage, have 2 little children, survived the first divorce (wasn’t something I had planned or thought would happen), own 2 properties outright, have 2 investment properties that are positively geared (they make me money) have about $60k savings, no credit card debt, own my own cars (yes there is more than 1) and best of all can pay all the bills when they come in not having to stress about where the money is coming from.

There are 2 ways that I have been able to succeed financially in my life, in the 80’s it was a case of working harder, more jobs with more income, and now, 20 or so years later, it is a case of budgeting to make the money go further. Looking at the first scenario in the 80’s we had cut back on all that we could doing everything to make the fortnightly income go as far as we could. Things like not turning on lights, no phone calls (mobiles weren’t an issue) walking to the shops, nothing extra. When that still didn’t achieve the desired result, get another job! Sounds easy, but it wasn’t at all, it meant that I had less time with the family which wasn’t what I wanted as I wanted to be at home with my baby son. It worked for us at the time, put food on the table and kept the roof over our heads.

The financial situation wasn’t something we discussed. As the bread winner, it was my responsibility to make enough money to cover the expenses. When we did talk about money it ended in arguments every time. So the point of all this is to consider how do you start the conversation about money without it leading to an argument?

I am not saying that I am the typical male because I really am not sure of what that actually is. I would say though that I do react in the way that a lot of my male friends do when it comes to discussing money, especially with my partner. No matter which one of us brings up the topic, there is an air of defence on my part and apprehension about what is being asked or questioned, even discussed in the conversation. I have no idea what evokes this reaction to having money discussed as it is our money and I am not solely responsible for it, yet I am.

Knowing that having a conversation about money is going to be an emotional roller coaster leads many people to not having the discussion because it is safer. So how best to start talking about money, being open and honest with each other, to work together in getting ahead financially? From the male’s perspective, I don’t think there is a good way to start. Sorry for the females. If a cold beer, favourite meal, something special is organised, suspicion is raised. When the husband comes in with the flowers or chocolates, suspicion is raised. It is just an automatic response that needs to be worked through. Of course all the reassurances along the way don’t help either! It really is tough for the wife in this situation to bring up the topic of money with the husband. I don’t think it matters how strong a marriage is, there is going to be a reaction of some sort by the husband that there is a question about their fiscal management ability, even if this isn’t the intent.

From the male side of things there are similar issues about bringing up the topic of finances. Is it a sign of weakness or am I not doing something right to be able to make the money go as far as it should? If I bring up the topic, is she going to think that I am questioning what she is spending the money on, how she manages the shopping and other running costs of the house? As I sit and pay bills on pay day, knowing that there isn’t enough money for all of them and the fortnightly expenses, how do I say we have a problem as I am the one in charge of the money!

Financial management is one of the household chores, something that needs to be done on a regular basis. Think about how the household chores are sorted out, has there been a discussion about who will do what? Do you work together on any of them? Are there chores that you could work together on? Or are there chores that you really WON’T work together on? So many questions. Is this perhaps the place to start talking about financial management as part of the overall running and management of the household or family unit, as a whole rather than an individual chore?

Men at work…

I’m trying to make a point here so let’s get to it – My husband works in a male dominated industry (mining).   I work in a female dominated industry (early childhood education).   I take our two year old to work with me and I work part time.  I travel a lot for work and I sing to her in the back of the car.  I take her to meetings, conferences, lectures, and networking opportunities where I am always surrounded by lovely women who smile and laugh and we all get on with our jobs.  I always make sure I am at home for 4 days out of 7 and then every second week full for our girl to be with her dad.

Now for his story…  My husband has just started out in the mining industry over the last three years.  He works a lot of overtime and is surrounded by men who also work a lot of overtime and probably have children at home.

Recently my husband refused some overtime to spend a Sunday with us.  Over the weeks leading up to this particular Sunday he had been away … then I had been away … and we had seen each other for one week out of six when his parents were visiting – not really a time of marital bliss.  Come Monday and dear husband is getting ‘pineappled’ at work (that’s his term for being in trouble with the boss).  He is sat down, given a warning and then the BIG boss is on the phone also telling husband that it is in his contract to work reasonable overtime.
My husband asks, “what do you consider reasonable overtime?”
“10 hours a week or one full day.”
“well I worked all day Saturday and overtime on Friday.”
“look… If you want to work in this industry you have to expect to work overtime whenever asked”…

My husband, being a gentle soul leaves it at that and accepts the warning.  He is even convinced that he had been in the wrong.  Until he got home and I had something to say about it.  I say – People make an industry – it doesn’t make itself.

Here is my biggest issue…  It’s almost a feminist issue (leave it to me to make anything a feminist issue).  Well actually it’s a humanist issue that impacts negatively on women as well as men – but the men within the industry are the only ones that can really change it.  THE ISSUE – It is the fact that we have a huge mining industry here in Australia that is mostly full of men.  Most of those men are probably fathers with wives who might happily be stay at home mums (part time in my case) but who still want their children to see their fathers.  However, the head honchos who make the industry are anti-family and therefore anti-woman.  So, are they promoting bad parenting towards our future generations?  Are they promoting negative relationships between man and wife?  Are they reiterating their own outdated beliefs by assuming that women should be the ones to raise children generally alone?

There has been a shift in choice in the world of feminism.  Before it was the choice to work and be liberated from forced domesticity.  Now it is the choice to stay at home and have the well earned support of society or to work with that same respect and support.  However, for those of us who have chosen to stay at home – with a partner in this industry (and many other male dominated industries) we could be taken for granted.

Although … in the end I think my husband is really getting the crappy end of the stick.

Dads do things differently

In the first few months after my daughter was born, I became quite convinced that my husband was doing things all wrong. Which means, in short, that he wasn’t doing things My Way. I wasn’t the anxious mother hovering around the bathtub watching to see that Daddy got the water temperature exactly right. On the contrary, I was the one to broil my daughter…on more than one occasion. Nor did I oversee as he changed nappies, got her dressed or wrapped her up for the night. He did all that much better than me too. It was the other stuff that was the problem….you know, all that talking and singing and reading that you’re supposed to do with your babies even before they’re out of the womb.

When he read books, he didn’t put enough expression in to his voice. And he read way too fast. I, of course, read slowly and clearly, with lots of rhythm and resonance. I was interesting to listen to. On the other hand, not even a dirty old sock would enjoy story-telling when done by Daddy. I sang. A lot. If I die before my time, I am sure that one of my claims to fame could quite possibly be that I know the words and tunes to at least 3154 nursery rhymes. My husband can’t boast a feat like that. Because, of course, he doesn’t sing unless I sing too. It’s just not what he does. And then, there was the talking thing. Obsessed with language development, I knew that babies needed to have their parents talk to them. A lot. In fact, all the time. I tried, I did. I talked about how I was folding all the nappies neatly and placing them in tidy piles. I talked about what I was preparing for dinner. I talked, no, complained, about how her father didn’t talk to her enough and that there was now way she would have a vocabulary of 500 words by the time she was 2 if he didn’t up his game a little bit. Or, rather, a lot. I yabbered away constantly and quite possibly bored to tears, my daughter succumbed to sleep very easily, usually before I got to the bit about how I was peeling the potatoes now…one by one…see the skin…it’s all brown…it goes in the compost bin…now here’s the next one…(oh, sorry, I’ll stop now). But really, it was good for her. Honestly. It says so in my book.

So, as I said, in the first few months of mutual parenthood, I was doing everything right and my husband wasn’t. I thought that he would learn by my example; that he would start singing, talking and reading exactly the way I did. After all, I was a language development teacher. I knew what I was doing. He, apparently, didn’t. After a while, I decided that he just wasn’t going to get it, so rather than fret, I decided that I would just go it alone and do my thing and he could do his. I didn’t want to raise the issue with him, knowing that it was important to our parental harmony not to cause any unnecessary conflict. Instead, I tut-tutted away to myself as I watched him crawling around on his hands and knees chasing our daughter round and round the dining room table. I harumphed as I watched him tossing her in the air and catching her again, while she delightedly squealed with unabated excitement. I hmmmmmd when I heard them banging on drums and cymbals as loudly as they possibly could. I frowned when I saw him playing rough and tumble games on the carpet with cushions and pillows. Just think – all that Valuable Time Being Wasted on Frivolity and Nonsense when her vocabulary was at stake! Harumph indeed.

Then one day, it finally all clicked. He WAS doing things right after all! He was being a dad and I was being a mum. That’s a pretty sweeping generalisation I know, but it just seemed so obvious (and I’ve seen a similar pattern occurring in lots of other families). I’m more talkative than him; I like singing and I can make books sound interesting. I enjoyed doing those things with my daughter so naturally I tended to do them more. I didn’t have the energy to be on my hands and knees all day crawling and rolling and tumbling and bouncing. On the other hand, my husband is physically much stronger than me. He could toss our daughter up and down a dozen times before stopping to take a breather. His bursts with her, after a day’s work outside the home, were intense and active. And she LOVED it. A Lot.

To be honest, as time has gone on, we both read the stories, sing the rhymes, play rough and tumble games and mess around with musical instruments, but we also each have our own specialties. And so, our daughter truly gets the best of both worlds. But certainly in our case, what we do, what we enjoy doing and what we’re good at doing are quite different to each other. I’m interested in knowing if we’re a special case or if other families out there are similar – does mummy do most of the singing and reading and daddy most of the physical stuff; is it the other way round or is there no difference at all? I’ve now learned to be thankful for our different approaches because I’ve finally understood that it’s all about the balance and not about who’s doing a ‘better’ job (my stories are still more interesting though)!

Breastfeeding Week- an open letter of thanks

It’s World Breastfeeding Week and we are celebrating at Fusion Parenting.  Come back for a new post on breastfeeding every day!

 

In this, my first Breastfeeding Week since becoming a breastfeeding Mum, I would like to express my thanks to a group of women and men who helped me through the biggest emergency of my life. So below is an open letter to my friends at the Australian Breastfeeding Association…

After a beautiful 27 hour labour my little boy was an absolute natural at breastfeeding. Within minutes he had made his way up my tummy and had latched on for his first warm, milky feed. Before he was born I looked as breastfeeding as something that he and I would learn to do together, but after this, I knew that he would be the one teaching me what to do.

Our first few weeks together flew by with no problems with attachment, supply, nipple soreness….by this time I had attended my first ABA meeting and was an avid ‘lurker’ on the ABA forum. I was very proud of the job I was doing- even with my son’s love of comfort sucking, for many, many hours of the day. My husband and I saw this as a great way to catch up on some favourite tv series- with a fantastic excuse.

But when my son was just ten weeks old I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. Further investigation was required to see if ‘it’ had spread. The tests came back…the cancer was metastatic- it had spread to my lymph nodes and liver. I needed to have a number of major surgeries, and right now! By now, the ‘statistics’ predicted that I wouldn’t see my little boys first birthday. I didn’t know whether I would be there to hold his hand for his first day of school, or even be there to catch him as he took his first step. But there was something I could do- I could give him the best start to life that I possibly could.

And so began my journey with cancer. And with expressing. My first stop was the forum. I logged on and tearfully asked if anyone could help me teach my baby to drink from a bottle. An unlikely source of information about bottle feeding, but I didn’t know who else to ask…and these women seemed to have so much information- and compassion.

This proved to be a defining moment in my breastfeeding journey. Not only did these women provide me with the tips and hints I needed to express, bottle feed and return to breastfeeding but they gave me inspiration, motivation and strength. They didn’t just share information- every message came with love, prayers, and positive stories. Every message gave me hope- something that no doctors could.

My wonderful husband knew that focusing on breastfeeding was giving me hope and purpose and he did everything he could to support me. After my operations he was there with the electric pump, at times having to physically hold it up to my chest so I could express the milk out, ridding my body of anaesthetic so I could get back to feeding my baby. And then he would bring my beautiful baby to the hospital and without fail, Toby would latch on, just as easily as he had that very first night when he was born.

The surgeries performed managed to rid me of all the cancer and since then I have become a ‘regular’ at my local ABA meeting. I am also proudly ‘addicted’ to the ABA forum and consider the women there as friends. These are women who have seen me bare my soul, even though we may have passed each other on the street without even knowing.

I have blessed to meet some of the ‘angels’ from the ABA forum- the girls who gave me the gift of encouragement, to keep feeding my baby and to fight for my life.