(Picture shows the first Barbie wearing a black and white striped swimsuit with white sunglasses on her head.)
This week a child showed me her Barbie doll. Quick as a flash I said, ‘That’s nice. What job does she do?’ Child looked confused but eventually agreed Barbie is an engineer. The child then wandered off presumably to play a game of Suspension Bridge.
I felt triumphant to have used this simple interaction as an opportunity to spread my radical feminist agenda. With that in mind I have prepared this list of questions to ask about Barbie.
What job does Barbie do?
What kind of super fund does Barbie have?
Does Barbie have any good tips on how to successfully ask for a pay rise?
What sport does Barbie play?
Which AFL team does Barbie play for?
What’s Barbie’s favourite science?
What’s Barbie’s favourite physics sub-field? (If Barbie says string theory, gently suggest there are better options, but don’t be strident about this.)
What is Barbie reading at the moment?
What book does Barbie think should win the Stella Prize this year? (If Barbie thinks there shouldn’t be women only prizes for literature, this is a good time to get strident.)
(This next one’s genius. Hold on to all hats.)
Have you ever met anyone who has legs as long as Barbie’s, a waist that small and boobs that go out that far? No? That’s okay Barbie. It’s good to be DIFFERENT.
The rise in the popularity of podcasts has been an absolute boon for me. I have listened to audio books since a tot, but podcasts have added an embarrassment of riches to my audio options.
Here are the podcasts that I regularly listen to and what they bring to my life.
1. My absolute favourite podcast dares not speak its name on this blog. However it is extremely popular so if you google “My Dad Wrote a” all will be revelled. I have become evangelical about this podcast and regularly and annoyingly proselytise to friends about why they should listen if they want to have happy and fulfilled lives.
Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales put their dazzling friendship on display while chatting about politics, films, books, art and cooking. They jam recording in around midwinter balls, television appearances and apparently cooking more biscuits than seems feasible. Crabb and Sales’ all-round competence in their hectic lives and brilliant careers is almost annoying, but they have enough self-depreciation and awareness to stop my smugdar from raising the alert and making my arms throw things. They also recommend a lot of good stuff and have a list of links to follow up on.
Bit of disclosure – I am sometimes on this podcast but far more often I am just listening and laughing. Hosted by my good friend, Vaya Pashos, Neighbuzz brought me back into the Neighbours fold after years in the wilderness. Before Neighbuzz was invented I hadn’t watched Neighbours since Karl and Susan were having marriage troubles! (Sorry, that doesn’t really pin the timeframe down.) I enjoy listening to Neighbuzz even when I don’t watch the show because it’s funny.
Damian Callinan performs all the roles on this very clever and very funny podcast. The only problem for me is that you do actually have to listen to it. I often consume podcasts while pretty actively involved in housework and letting my children develop independence by unsuccessfully trying to ignore them. Bodgy Creek does not work for that. You can’t appreciate it properly while having a conversation about making playdough, which we don’t need to do because we made playdough last week and it is in the fridge and we’re not making any more. So Bodgy Creek is a treat podcast for me when I have time to concentrate.
I have been checking out some podcasts about the US election, however, often I become just too terrified by the whole thing and disengage. Then I go back to my number one podcast at the top of this list. You should listen to it. Really, you should. It will make you happy even if the world as we know it is going to end. We have a rogue comma. Just try and forget about it.
PS: Obviously, I don’t listen to the first podcast mentioned in front of the children either.
I borrowed a book from the library called ‘Naturally Fun Parties for kids’. It is about, ‘Creating handmade, earth-friendly celebrations for all seasons and occasions’.
It’s no surprise that I found this book to be ridiculous. However, I was slightly surprised that it is actually less politically correct than I would like.
So I’ve fixed some of their kids party themes to make them more appropriate.
Natural Spa Party
I don’t really care if the grapefruit sugar scrub is made from natural, organic ingredients; 8-year-olds should have something better to do than lounge around being ‘pampered’. This is the kind of thing adults resort to when we’ve realised that life is not one long adventure, we’re never going to the Olympics, and we’d rather lie down and try to forget.
So my suggestion is to have a Factual Spa Party where the children learn about the geological causes of natural hot springs in a classroom setting with a test at the end. Actually, that is just going to school rather than a party, but I still think it would be more fun for kids.
The idea here is to ‘spend the afternoon honouring a friend’s birthday and engaging in a gratitude treasure hunt’. The birthday girl/boy makes a list of things they are grateful to and hide treasures representing each of these things.
It’s all a bit smug.
Instead, I suggest holding a Guilt Hunt. The lucky birthday girl/boy makes a list of things they feel guilty about and you hide detritus representing their angst for the other children to find and be disappointed in. For example, climate change could be represented by a decapitated polar bear toy. Crop Failure could be represented by a chewed banana lolly with no food value. Your divorce could be represented by two dead sticks.
Wild Girls Tepee Party
This is a great idea for a party theme if you want to engage in cultural appropriation while reinforcing gender stereotypes.
Assuming that you don’t want to do that, I suggest holding a Dress Up as Your Parents Party. Games to play include Small Talk, Cracking the Shits and Pretending You Haven’t, and Alternating Between Sweet and Savoury Foods Until You Feel Sick.
Yes. I should write a book about this.
The Baby-Sitters Club were really at their best when they were on holidays, particularly when it was a Super Special. The books were fatter, the covers were white, and everybody got a say.
Their experiences were very different from my summer holidays as a kid. It was like glimpsing a different and slightly anxiety provoking world. They called it a ‘vacation’, kissed boys, and sun baked without getting a lecture on skin cancer.
This is how I imagine their group holidays might be now that they’re parents.
Baby-sitters on Board!
Kristy organises a Caribbean cruise for all the ex-BSC members and their families. No-one except for Kristy and Mary Anne can afford it. Rather than admit this to Kristy they all pretend to have scheduled surgery. Kristy sends lots of postcards telling them about the fun they’re missing. Mary Anne writes a postcard to her husband that she will never send. Little Logan splashes in the pool and she thinks of what might have been. Kristy’s son harpoons a dolphin.
Baby-sitters’ Summer Vacation
Kristy organises a fun camping trip for all the ex-BSC members and their families. Only Dawn wants to come. The others all claim to have whooping cough, which is weird because Dawn’s kids are the only ones who haven’t been fully vaccinated. Dawn takes this as proof that crystal inoculations really do work. On the first night Kristy and Dawn have a massive fight about raccoon behaviour but it’s really about Mary Anne. Dawn’s daughter gets gastro in the night and shits in the sleeping bag they have borrowed from Kristy. Dawn and her family leave at daybreak. Kristy and her family can then fish and trap food like normal people.
Baby-sitters’ Winter Vacation
Kristy invites a all the ex-BSC members and their families to her ski lodge in Vermont. Everyone says yes because it’s free and there’s a spa. Claudia’s daughter is a very light sleeper so no-one is allowed to flush the toilet at night unless it’s a poo. Mallory’s children pretend they have done poo when they really haven’t. The next morning at breakfast, Claudia yells at them for flushing too often. Mallory and Claudia have a big fight. The baby-sitters take sides roughly based on whether their children can sleep well through noise. None of their partners say anything and retreat to the rumpus room (whatever that is). Kristy puts on a visor and tries to mediate but no-one listens.
They hit the ski slopes. Stacey brings five hat changes. Her son refuses to talk to her when she is looking ridiculous, which is always.
In the evening Jessi’s son eats a battery, nearly dies and everyone gets a sense of perspective.
(This duck looks calm on the surface but is actually on fire underneath the water.)
I pretty much have it all.
A house, children, sometimes a job and appropriate footwear. I’m very busy and important. So how DO I do it? I’ve squeezed yet another task into my hectic day and written a list of my top life advice on how to do more and be more like me.
As you’ll see from the list below, no socio-economic issues or privileges are involved at all. It’s all just about phones, coffee, water, exercise and stuff.
When I make myself a coffee (I indulge in Nescafe Gold but you do what you can) I always put the milk in the cup first and dissolve the coffee granules, before pouring in the hot water. I think it tastes better and adds a little element of luxury to my day.
2. Coffee again
Sometimes at work I stir a spoonful of Milo in with my cup of Blend 43. I call it ‘a delicious Nescafe mocha’ and my workmates never get sick of hearing about it.
These days I never listen to podcasts in the shower. I used to, but the volume wasn’t loud enough so I couldn’t hear them properly. Now I pause the podcast just before I get into the shower and switch it back on when I get out to dry myself. That way, I don’t miss anything but also minimise the moments of silence where I might contemplate the meaninglessness of existence.
I always take the stairs at work. It is good exercise and for a short time, no-one can see me in the stairwell so I can let my face relax and express my true desperation or laugh.
When I’m with my children I never look at my phone while I’m looking at other parents looking at their phones and judging them for looking at their phones. Most of the rest of the time I am looking at my phone for a very good reason.
When I’m thirsty I’ll have a drink of water. This is absolutely essential if you want to keep up with a busy schedule and not die.
I don’t wear make-up and this saves a lot of time. How do I disguise bags under my eyes? I let all my minimalist grooming habits distract from each other in a virtuous circle.
This is a follow up to my post last week about what the Baby-Sitters Club members would be like as parents. I’ve written this follow up partly because I couldn’t stop. Actually, that’s the full reason (thinking while typing).
In the second set of ten Baby-Sitters Club books we are introduced to two new baby-sitters, Jessi and Mallory, who are only eleven years old. This means it is even more illegal to leave your children alone with them but no-one in Stoneybrook seems to give a fat rats.
This is how I imagine things might have turned out for them.
#11 Kristy and the Snobs
Kristy meets some parents at the park who are using a different pram to her. She decides they are stuck up and won’t talk to them.
#12 Claudia and the New Girl
Claudia doesn’t love her second baby until she gets its ears pierced then they start bonding and everything’s fine.
#13 Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye
Stacey keeps trying to leave the house but forgets her wallet, her beret, her son’s gym clothes. Eventually she thinks she’s remembered everything and goes to work but she leaves the iron on and burns her apartment building down.
#14 Hello, Mallory
When her youngest child starts school Mallory needs to find herself again so she writes and performs a one-woman cabaret show about her life entitled, ‘Hello, Mallory’. All her friends and family come to see the show and clap a lot, but nothing comes of it and she goes back to her former hobbies, scrapbooking and crying.
#15 Little Miss Stoneybrook…and Dawn
Dawn stages a protest outside a toddler beauty pageant. Some people don’t understand that dressing up her four-year-old in fish-net tights and making her dance around a street sign is protest art. Dawn gets investigated by family services when they should be investigated the REAL CRIMINALS.
#16 Jessi’s Secret Language
Jessi is black. She teaches her child baby sign language and feels really good about herself. Six months later all her friend’s babies learn to talk anyway so she starts taking her child to a French Playgroup.
#17 Mary Anne’s Bad Luck Mystery
Mary Anne can’t understand why she never gets a car park close to the supermarket. She starts an on-line petition for more parent parking spots but only 23 people sign it.
#18 Stacey’s Mistake
Stacey thinks her son’s softball practise is on Wednesday night, but it isn’t, it’s on Tuesday. Luckily her son finds his own way home and he already hated her anyway.
#19 Claudia and the Bad Joke
Claudia has had a gutful of people comparing owning a dog with being a parent, even if they’re only joking. She fires up in the comments on a friend’s post and has to apologise for dropping the c-bomb.
#20 Kristy and the Walking Disaster
Kristy decides to walk to swimming lessons with her three boys. Unfortunately, half way there, her youngest sits in the middle of the footpath and won’t move. Kristy tries all of her tricks but can’t persuade him to get up. Kristy can’t carry him because of her lumbar surgery. Then her son wets his pants and it starts to rain. Her two older boys chase a raccoon and beat it. They miss the lessons and the swim coach questions whether they are a family committed to excellence even though they are.
The other day I was thinking that Claudia Kishi probably has Type 2 diabetes by now due to all the Twinkies and Hershey bars that she secreted from her room and then consumed. This is nice because it will really help her relate to her best friend Stacey.
That got me thinking that the Baby-Sitters Club members are also probably parents by now (assuming that time applies to them in the usual way, although it doesn’t. I do understand that they’ll be in eighth grade forever).
But let’s say they did grow up and reproduce this is what I imagine:
#1 Kristy’s Big Idea
Kristy creates a colour chart to map the activities of her high achieving children. This improves the efficiency of her household (although it’s really more of a business) by 92%.
#2 Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls
Claudia’s toddler, who has almond shaped eyes, keeps making ghost phone calls to people in her address book. This is hilarious! until he calls her new boyfriend from the bathroom while Claudia is doing a poo. Can a pair of fluorescent leggings and some wild earrings win back Claudia’s dignity?
#3 The Truth about Stacey
She has not done a sneeze without weeing for a decade.
#4 Mary Anne Saves the Day
A strange man is taking photos of children in the playground. Mary Anne films him at it and then posts the video on Facebook. The man is hounded out of Stoneybrook by an angry mob and dies alone. It turns out he was taking a photo of a park bench where he met his late wife. Still. Mary Anne is allowed to wear hair however she wants but she still prefers a manageable bob.
#5 Dawn and the Impossible Three
Dawn can’t flipping stand her mother’s group because they use controlled crying and feed their children non-organic food. Dawn cuts them with a knife.
#6 Kristy’s Big Day
Kristy’s son is headlining at his piano recital. Kristy wears a dress instead of a turtle neck and hates herself.
#7 Claudia and Mean Janine
Claudia’s sister Janine is always comparing their children and criticising Claudia’s parenting. Then Janine’s son is diagnosed with childhood depression and Claudia feels smug about it and keeps sending Janine links to mindfulness articles.
#8 Boy-Crazy Stacey
Stacey has an affair with her teenaged son’s friend. Some people are really judgey about it and she has to go to jail.
#9 The Ghost at Dawn’s House
Dawn wakes up in the night and can feel a ghostly presence at the end of her bed. It turns out to be her son holding a dead rabbit. This is not the first time Dawn has suspected he’s evil.
#10 Logan Likes Mary Anne
Mary Anne calls her first born son Logan. Will her husband Derek find out the truth behind why she chose that name? Probably not because he’s always ‘working late’ and never speaks to her. Oh well. At least someone called Logan still likes her.
If you’ve been into a modern book store recently, you will have noticed shelves upon shelves of parenting advice books. If you’ve browsed through them you may have realised that they contain wildly contradictory advice, bizarrely specific routines and provide little or no hard evidence for the opinions they present as facts.
You have also probably read opinion pieces in newspapers and on-line publications where so-called parenting experts deride the parenting of anyone who is not following their strictures. Suffering from border-line or full-blown god complexes these parenting authors believe they are the only ones with the correct formula for raising children, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.
In the past, parenting books were written by experts and contained advice and information based on empirical evidence and scientific knowledge. (Of course, there were a few small missteps like advising the use of whisky to help with teething and telling fathers not to do women’s work to avoid effeminising boys.) On the whole, the parenting books your grandparents had access to were wonderful, and the ones parents read today are awful.
In my 40 years as a Coach for Parenting Authors and their Publishers I have noticed a huge increase (I can’t say by how much, but trust me, it’s huge) in the number of publishers coming to me, at their wits end, not knowing how to cope with their parenting authors who are running amok.
Last week a woman sat in my office and sobbed. She is currently working with seven parenting advice authors. ‘They all say completely different things,’ she wept. I feel sorry for these publishers, but really it is all their own fault.
These days publishers work in a tough industry and are constantly busy. They are perfectionists and see their authors as a reflection of themselves. This leads them to spending too much time looking at their phones, and if they’re not doing that they are hot-housing or helicoptering their parenting authors.
Publishers sometimes say to me that authors will simply self-publish if they don’t work with them. This excuse is used to absolve themselves of any responsibility. No-one these days wants to take charge and make it clear to parenting authors that they need to STOP MAKING UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS AND PRESENTING THEM AS FACT. It’s that simple.
Publishers these days also use too much tanbark in their offices, when we all know bitumen would be more appropriate below the monkey bars because nothing helps people learn better than an acquired brain injury.
The worst part about this situation is that no-one is benefiting. Modern publishers are at the end of their tether and modern parenting authors are teetering closer than they realise to collapse. Typically, after enjoying a period of supremacy most parenting authors are knocked off the perch by the next parenting guru. Having been mollycoddled with an ‘everybody gets a prize’ mentality from their publishers they are surprised to find that in the real world not everyone is interested in their minute by minute scheduling ideas and hard and fast rules about co-sleeping.
As a society we have let our parenting authors lose the plot. Let’s hope I can fix it.
Penny Tangey is the author of Save Our Contented Little Baby Whisperer.
I have a limited amount of time each day to write. I have to choose how I want to spend it.
The main thing that I feel I ‘should’ be writing is my next book. I’m writing my memoirs of working at a bacon factory over summer. The big advantage of a memoir is that I don’t have to think up names for characters or decide what happens next. I just look at my diary and write it up. I am very worried that this is going to result in a big mess with no plot and lots of upset friends and relatives. So I think I will fictionalise it later. I’m worried the whole thing is a big waste of time, but I thought that about my other three books as well.
But sometimes I use my writing time to do other things. Like writing a blog entry, or emailing a friend or making parody videos of cloth nappy reviews. I feel guilty about these activities, like they’ve taken me away from a more noble path. Then I remember that the more noble path is writing my memoirs of working in a bacon factory. So it probably doesn’t matter what I do really.
So here are the videos.