Archive for the ‘daughters’ category

the kitchen table

March 1, 2013

When I sit at our wooden table late at night and look into the kitchen I see 78 photos plastered across the tall cupboard doors – of our life, this year, from the past.

There is a Claire surrounded by feathers at a festival. There is a wide view over Kabul and it’s staggering mountains, all dusty brown and grey and pale blue – a photo I took when visiting my dear friends. There’s Arthur the dog in a coloured bow-tie he wore for a special occasion, and Alice with sparklers at midnight in our friends’ backyard.

There’s my mates and I with our guitars and drums, belting out some tunes from under the shed I repaired with left over pieces of corrugated iron. There is Louise holding a cake with candles alight, resting in a rock in the bush, Jane dressed in a homemade Miss Piggy costume, the dog and the duck sitting together on our lawn out the back, the mouse on an old German clock I bought from a very odd antique dealer. There is swimming in the ocean, and a campfire, and the faces of many of the people we love.

What a strange and beautiful life we lead. These were some of my dreams, and whenever I can, when I’m scrambling along rocks with my girls looking across the moving sea, or yarning at tea time about why life is this way or that, or gazing at the orange clouds that parade in the western sky as the day is fading, I tell them this is what I dreamed of.

I often think of tragedy, in places far away or lives close by – like a weight in a pack on my back, like a load on my shoulders, like a badge that ensures I never forget.

But still, beauty. The dreams I had, the ever-present joys of the natural world and discovering it, of our animal friends, of finely crafted instruments, of treasured relationships, I carry those on my shoulders too, and my kitchen cupboard is a reminder.

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Part-time work

May 24, 2010

 

watching the waves

 

Recently I found a poem that my then eight year old daughter had written to me for Father’s Day a couple of years ago. Most of it was heart warming and predictable – “he tickles me, I love him, he fixes things.” I remember though, it was the last line that caught my attention the most – “my Dad works part-time and I love him”.

I know people who regularly work at least 60 hours a week, often on Saturdays and Sundays and only ever see their children on occasional days off or for a quick sleepy cuddle at night if they’re lucky.

They are not alone. According to Australian researcher Hugh Mackay, more than one fifth of Australian workers work more than 50 hours a week, and about a third work regularly on the weekend. Australia is second highest on a list of industrialised countries who’s citizens work consistently long hours.

I remember another piece of research, from the Australia Institute a few years ago, which interviewed children about family life and parent’s work hours. They seemed to understand that parents need some paid work, but also expressed a longing for more time together, rather than to be compensated with having money spent on them. The wonderings of a young bloke called Eddie, aged 12, said it best:

 He misses out on seeing us. He wants to see us heaps and heaps and to make up for it … he buys stuff and he can see you feel sad”

 A cycle of pressure to earn and spend, to provide bigger houses, more up to date gadgets and fancier holidays could well play a role in the sad end result. As wealth and income increase across a society, the ability of people to derive satisfaction from their economic gain is reduced – a bit like the way a $100 is worth much more to someone who only owns $100, rather than to someone who’s income is much higher. Therefore, those seeking satisfaction from material wealth need to accumulate more in order to be satisfied – feeding a cycle of acquisition as well as dissatisfaction. In a society such as ours where material acquisition is a major goal and pastime, this rings particularly true, and makes the need to find ways to scale back consumption more urgent.

Just this week, the Australian Institute of Family Studies released a study about the time children spend with their parents. This included research about time fathers spend alone with their children, and it showed that Australian fathers spend on average less than hour a day with their children, and often as little as half an hour. Even on the weekend, the time alone with a father was still fairly low – on average about an hour and half.

There are complications of course, like family structures and changing work demands. However, it is also true that many children are spending less and less time with their fathers, and in many cases they’re unhappy about it.

Not everyone can work part-time. Not everyone can share parenting and household duties. Not all children can have a dad at home. However, there is wisdom in a little girl’s observation that something good is going on when a dad chooses time with them over other pressing demands, and keeps on doing it.