Feb 22, 2013

Science and Religion

Science and religion. 'And' - not 'versus'. No need.

As Julian Burnside tweeted this week:

I am an atheist, and I LOVE science. But I am not anti-religion. Religion is part of who we are as humans, and it serves multiple purposes. Religious people are probably on the whole happier, and more comforted. And we all, somewhere, retain a little bit of religious sentiment, hope or belief, even if we consciously reject it.

My kids were baptized Greek Orthodox, but we don't go to church. They opt in to religious instruction in school, though I would prefer it were not offered. I don't send them to learn ethics or how to be a good person, because you don't need religion for that. I send them because it's a huge part of human culture and society, and because religion gave me some comfort as a child. (Actually I took A out last year, because she hated it. M loves it. A wants to try again this year because her friends go, so we'll see how it goes. I've made it clear she doesn't have to go).

I answer my kids' questions about God and religion honestly (more honestly than I answer their questions about Santa).

Last week my kids learned the truth about the tooth fairy. This year I expect they'll figure out the truth about the Easter Bunny and Santa. But the truth about God and religion is not an easy one and one they will decide for themselves along the way.

Like the books on this trestle table, why can't we all just get along?

Feb 20, 2013

Hard Questions

Here are some questions my kids have asked me. I don't know all the answers - do you?

"Why don't dogs and cats get nose bleeds?"

"Which is worse: fire in your bottom or spikes sticking in your bottom?"

"Where did lice come from?"

"Who's stronger, God or Santa?"

"Why aren't dragonflies purple?"

"How come [...] downloads movies which you shouldn't do but she's a good person?"

"What's more important, a volcano or your kids?"  [huh?]

"How come dogs don't have to clean their teeth?"  [actually, ours should]

"How come you NEVER let us do anything fun!"  [huh? how did that sneak in there!]

What are some good questions you've had from kids?

Feb 19, 2013

Sponsored Posts, Disclosure and Professionalism

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, however it is possible that jumping on this bandwagon may bring me increased page views, which I accept is a benefit.*

If you are not a blogger, or you have been reading about this elsewhere, you may roll your eyes and click away at this point, because this may bore you silly. [Alert! Blog post about blogging follows!]

Bloggers in Australia have copped some flak recently about sponsored posts. The arguments can be summarized as:

  • bloggers are not always disclosing when they have received a product which they blog about
  • bloggers are grasping and selfish, want stuff for free and expect to be paid for crapping on about their life and kids
  • companies attempting to engage with bloggers are disrespectful and clumsy and expect free advertising from bloggers
  • bloggers are already doing the right thing but readers are overly cynical/suspicious
  • sponsored posts should be disclosed at the top of the post
  • sponsored posts can be disclosed within the post or at the bottom 
  • readers don't like sponsored posts and will click away if they see a 'sponsored post' disclosure at the top of the post
  • readers don't like to be ambushed at the end after reading a post they thought was 'real', only to find it promotes a product or business
  • bloggers are no longer blogging from the heart; there are too many sponsored posts and giveaways
  • the brand-meets-blog PR outfits are doing a lousy job fitting brands to blogs 
  • 'sponsored' means you were paid money; gifts are not sponsorship
  • money or gifts are all benefits and should be declared equally
  • supporting a business you love is not a sponsored post
  • bloggers' disclaimers that "my opinions are all mine" are meaningless because you never see a negative product review on a personal blog

Bloggers are vexed by this issue because they want to do the right thing, want (and have the right to) earn money from their blogs, and want to retain the heart and soul and authenticity in their blogs at the same time.

image by Vlado via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here's my opinion, in a nutshell:

I think distinguishing between cash payment and gifts is pointless. We all know that advertising and PR take many forms, and that if a business gives you a gift or gives (or lends) you a product for review, they are hoping for a return. That return may be a glowing blog post or it may be a good relationship or increased goodwill leading to glowing blog posts later on. Declare it all. Even if that business is run by a family member or a friend, you should declare it. It doesn't matter how, as long as you do.

Everyone agrees a post should carry a statement at the top such as 'sponsored post' or 'advertorial' if you have been paid. If you have received a gift it should state this in the blog post, preferably somewhere near the beginning so you are giving the correct context to your writing.

Disclaimers don't need to be long or written in legalese.

If you do sponsored posts sometimes, and then you want to write about/recommend a product you love and paid for, then you probably have to say in your blog post that this is purely your opinion and you received no cash or benefit for it. That may be annoying or may seem like overkill, but it's the flipside of writing sponsored posts. The upside is you will retain reader trust.  (Here's a good example from You Learn Something New Every Day)

I loved this sponsored post from Edenland last year about magazines, though it divided opinion. I thought it was funny and really well written and I thought it was the model for how to write a sponsored post. Others found it false or the tone jarring, or were annoyed at the placement of the ad part at the bottom. I thought it was fine.

Blogging in Australia is clearly in a transitional phase at the moment, and all these issues will be settled and of no interest at all within a very short time I am sure.

I have written one 'sponsored post' on this blog: this one.  I didn't receive any payment or gift for it, but as I know that this kind of post can result in increased page views, there was the possibility of a 'benefit', so it had to be declared. I did this by including "Competition" in the post title, and a very clunky disclosure at the bottom. My post wasn't well written, and I don't plan on doing a lot more of these. I'm not interested in doing sponsored posts or being paid to blog, but I have no problem with others who are.

Readers will read what is good or useful to them. You don't have to read the blogs that annoy you (although, I know, sometimes you just can't help yourself!).

Today I left this comment at The Shake, where Veronica Foale wrote a thoughtful piece about sponsored posts:
If you were going to blog about a gift from your mum then usually there is no need to mention it. If your mum runs a business selling that item and you are blogging about the item specifically or in a way that showcases/advertises it, then yes you should mention the circumstance. It doesn't have to be ridiculous, just a line in the blog. 
If you receive a bag of peaches as a gift from your neighbor then you don’t need to mention it. If your neighbor sells those peaches or runs an agri-business or organic food business of some kind, then yes you have to mention it. 
If you are given a gift of any kind from ANY business, AND you blog about the item, you should declare it. If you are given ANY kind of benefit, or possibility of benefit (e.g. increased page visits) from any business, and you are blogging about the item or the business, then you should disclose that. I think most bloggers already do this, but a few are not very sophisticated in recognizing what makes a ‘benefit’ and this is what irks readers. In every other public endeavor this kind of disclosure is already in place, so blogging should be no different.

For guidelines read the Digital Parents forums, look up blog disclosure policies on Google (e.g. http://disclosurepolicy.org/), or take the lead from bloggers you admire.  E.g., I think Carli at Tiny Savages probably gets this spot on, based on her comments on the thread at The Shake.

What do YOU think?

* Disclosure: that was a lame attempt at humour.

Feb 12, 2013

Yes, I’m playing with your toy, because someone needs to do it properly

Oh, isn't it wonderful how imaginative and inventive children are? 

How, when you give them a toy, they don’t play with it the *proper* way but find some other, funny, idiosyncratic and perfectly lovely way to play with it instead?

And does this sometimes frustrate the crap out of you??

Have you ever caught yourself saying any of these things?:

“See, the little fireman goes in the little firetruck!” 
“Ha ha, I don’t think the TIGER would sleep in the HOUSE!” 
“See, this carriage should go in front because that’s the engine, and the caboose goes on the back.” 
“Look, you can put the little teacups on top of the little saucers! That one’s actually a milk jug, so that goes there.” 
“Oooh, look - this swing attaches to the back of the boat and then Polly Pocket can sit in it! No look – wait – let me – I’ll give it back – I’m just trying to show you…!”

When my kids were little and they got a new toy, I was actually not always so quick to say these things, but I did sometimes, and I sometimes had to almost restrain myself from plunging in and setting up the perfect little play scenario… for me.

My sister and I have had this discussion. My nephew was recently given a little wooden police station with garage, police car, helicopter and helipad. Do you think he will ever sit the little helicopter on top of the little helipad? He won’t let my sister do it either, and she has tried to do it many a time, at first in front of him with explanations and appeals to logic, and secondly behind his back. He is having none of it.

My girls share a wooden dollhouse which is kept in the lounge [playroom] and when they were in bed I used to quite often [daily] “fix” the furniture while they were asleep so everything was in its right room. 

Then I set the dolls up in various rooms so each was engaged in a logical scenario – often wish-fulfillment ones for myself like watching television, sitting together at a dinner table, or lying in bed. This went on for a fair amount of time and I got a goodly amount of satisfaction from it… until finally I realised that actually, I was playing with the dollhouse.

These days my girls are seven and they are very adept at “scenario” toys. But they do still mix things up and of course it’s a good thing, because (a) it just is and (b) I haven’t had to buy new doll accessories as everything gets repurposed. Polly Pockets, Strawberry Shortcakes, Power Rangers and My Little Ponies all share houses and furniture, while the Monster High girls have taken over the old Barbie stuff now that Barbie is so uncool.

Though what I would really love to see is the Barbies, Monster High girls and the La Dee Da dolls sometimes go on camping trips together and use the ^&$%@#! Barbie camper vans which cost Santa a ^&$%@#! fortune two Christmases ago. I've suggested it a few times but it’s not catching on. My new evening activity, perhaps?

How to play with dollhouses: Barbie and Ricky video:

Feb 10, 2013

Leaf Art

Half the time we back the car out the driveway the kids follow a little ritual accompanied by hushed giggles whereby M tells A to wind down her window and grab a handful of leaves from the bushes and trees our car brushes past. I pretend not to notice, then when we come back home they quietly gather up the leaves they've harvested and then I tell them no leaves inside the house, and they either leave them in the car or toss them on the front lawn.

Mostly this is all to no further end, but sometimes the leaves are used in a game where they become money or fairy dust or counters or confetti, and sometimes I find them stashed in a cup or a bowl inside a cupboard for later play, or carefully piled on the table outside until the wind or the cat swats them away.

Today they were put to another use, with the help of some extra bits gathered from the backyard and some paper and sticky tape:

"Leaf Garden"
"Leaf Dog and Cat"

Feb 6, 2013

Sand Sculptures: "Under The Sea"

So these are cool.

The annual sand sculpting competition and exhibit is on, and we recently went to see them. The exhibit is at 'Frankston Waterfront', which is an actual place, not a vague term meaning on the beachfront as I assumed.   After traipsing for a bit through drizzle up and down the main beach, we got back in the car and drove further along and found the right place, and in we went.

I have to say the entry ticket for a family of four is a bit on the pricey side, but that's the way it is these days. Toys and "stuff" for kids have got cheap, and outings have got expensive.

But the sculptures are amazing and well worth a visit.

They're open until April 28 - you can see more information at the Frankston council events site here.

More pictures, and information on sand sculpting and how it's done, can be read at Sandstorm Events' website here.


Mermaids (and a couple of family
members in the background)

Feb 4, 2013

What Not To Say To A Working Mother

I danced a little jig in my head when I read this blog on the Huffington Post this week.

It has now been posted on Mamamia as well and is apparently garnering a huge number of comments, which I will not be reading (no doubt many in support, and no doubt equally as many of the "I don't understand why you'd have children only to farm them out to others to raise" sort).

In What Not to Say to a Working Mom, Devon Corneal totally nails it on those questions and comments - some dumb, some nasty, some well-meaning - that all "working mothers" get from the day they hit the workforce after having a child.

Here are some snippets:

Can't you afford to stay home?  Let's assume for a minute that I can't. Let's imagine I work to help pay the mortgage and buy groceries and send our kids to college. Where does this conversation go now? Awkward, right? Next thing you know, I'm going to be asking you how much your husband earns so you can stay home. Let's agree not to go there.

There are other good reasons for working, of course, beyond the immediate budget:
...I also know that some day our kids will be off at college or started on careers of their own and I want to keep a foot in the working world so when that time comes, I'm not staring at a big gap in my resume that makes it harder for me to get a job.

I also like the equality that exists in my marriage because both my husband and I put money in the bank. 

This is a big one for me, and an unexpected beneficial side-effect from our arrangement. I know the way we live doesn't work for everyone, but I do believe, in the best of all worlds, both parents work outside the home and both parents do heavy-lifting parenting as well as cooking, cleaning and gardening, administration and the rest. The "traditional" (it's not really) model of Dad in the office and Mum at home, doesn't always but can lead to frustration and resentment on both sides, as Dad feels locked in to a career he hates, and Mum is over-burdened with the heavy-lifting parenting and emotional parenting, and each feels misunderstood and under-appreciated by the other.

Not that that still doesn't go on in our house of course.

Here's my favourite:
There's always time to work later, these early years are so precious.  All the years are precious. 
Absolutely. OK, I know where people are coming from. Those early years are special, as you get to know your child and get to know yourself as a parent, and as children grow and change so fast. But I think people get so hung up on the years before pre-school that it's as if the years following are worth nothing. School years are also immensely important; as are tween years, and teen years. I have never prized the early years any higher than those.

Here's my second favourite:

Why did you have kids only to let someone else raise them?  ....We are grateful and proud to have wonderful people who help us -- from family to friends to teachers and babysitters. But make no mistake, my husband and I are raising our kids. 

That old thing - that if you're working then other people are raising your kids. It's everywhere in popular culture - in books and films written by people who don't have kids (The Nanny Diaries) and others (Paris Je T'aime - the scene where the struggling mother drops her baby to the cold, institutional, Romanian-orphanage-style daycare centre). I admit before I went back to work I also worried this was true, and I worried about kids loving their carers more than us, or crying for their carers when they were upset with us. It didn't happen. It doesn't. I was assured "Don't worry, babies and kids always know who their mum and dad are", but it's more than that. Kids always love their mum and dad the most. And what's more, you're still as involved with your kids as any other parent. That scene in I Don't Know How She Does It where the frazzled career mum has no idea whether her son likes broccoli or not? As ridiculous as suggesting this of a "stay at home" mum. 

Two anecdotes from my own world

Someone judges me...
Once when I had recently returned to work (and yes, I was feeling guilty and a little sad about it), I went to a movie one night with a friend and her friend G. G had her twins at the same time as me. Unlike me, her husband had a career job with steady pay and good entitlements; her husband was the main breadwinner; her house had been bought earlier so her mortgage was smaller, and she had taken time off work to spend "the early years" with her children. See how those things go together? I'm not implying that G and her husband didn't sacrifice, struggle, plan mightily and scrimp and save to do this. I'm just saying it was possible for them in a way it was not for us.

G asked me what I was doing and I said I was working. Her comment? "Oooh, that's unusual."

My reply? Not as feisty as it would be now. Now I would say "Actually it's not at all unusual." (Yes, I have replayed this scene in my head just a few times).

At the time I said, "Oh well, I'm working now and the kids are really happy and thriving and I plan to switch to part-time work down the track when the kids are in school."  (And this was indeed always my plan).

Her response: "Oh, but the years before school are so critical."

My response: again, not as good as it would be now. But even in my swallowed hurt and anger I found it ridiculous that anyone would discount the school years as less important. Playground squabbles? Homework? Struggles with independence and obedience? There's a lot going on there, baby.

...And I judge someone else

While I was still off work and my girls were babies, a mum at our local Multiples club recounted her story. She and her husband were both teachers and had decided she would take "the early years" off work. In order to do this, they'd sold their house and were renting.  Now, while this level of sacrifice (and guts) are admirable, to me, I admit this seemed a step too far. At that time the housing market was booming and even now post-GFC house prices continue to rise in Australia. It's a fair bet that unless their financial situation improved dramatically (or she went back to work), they would struggle to buy a house again later and could also end up locked into increasing rents and a difficult rental market.  

Of course they probably took all this into account, and of course plenty of people make the choice to sell up and rent for all sorts of reasons. But I couldn't help think that the current obsession for being able to "stay home" for "the early years" has created unrealistic expectations and placed undue burdens of stress and guilt on those of us who can't do it.

It's just not the case that every family can afford one parent at home for a few years.  It's not a matter of being selfless and giving up McMansions and fancy TVs. If you are both on low pay, or one wage is not steady, or you bought your house recently and your mortgage is large, then these days, both parents work. Then, yes, there may be some extra discretionary cash available for a new TV, but that doesn't mean you would save a bucketload by not working. Also, while spending time with your children is critically important, providing financial security and keeping finance-based stress to a minimum are also important parts of raising children. (Not that everyone should be working outside the home - just don't assume that nobody has to).

In conclusion

I will say quite honestly that I hand-on-heart loved being home with my babies, and I did return to work when they were eight months old for financial reasons. That last night of my maternity leave I cried and I wished things were different.

But our arrangement had benefits as well, and I haven't hesitated to share those with women at work who have asked me (as well as the drawbacks).  It's not just financial - having spare cash, being able to pay off a mortgage and accumulate super that will provide long-term security - or about job security.  I honestly believe my husband is a better father than he would have been otherwise. I honestly know that my kids had wonderful, loving and beneficial years at day-care. And, they also accept a couple of days of before- and after-school care now, because they are used to being cared for outside the home. (After all, you can't stay home forever - at some point most mums must go back to work).

Everyone is different. In my perfect world, I would work three days a week at a stimulating, fulfilling job where I was respected and made full use of my knowledge and strengths, my husband would not be worked off his feet, we'd have enough super saved up for some kind of retirement and our mortgage would be negligible.

Until then... back to work! 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...