Why?

I get so many questions about the choices we are making in parenting our kiddos. I’ve learned not to argue or justify. I just ask, why?

Why does it matter if they don’t go to school?

Why do they need to wear shoes?

Why do they need to cut their hair?

Why can’t they wear PJs all day?

Why do they need to fit society’s mold?

Why do they have to look at you?

Why do they need to conform to your expectations?

Why can’t they just be, who they are.

Turning 37

This week I am turning 37 and I was reflecting on what I’ve learned thus far in life and what that would mean to a 17 year old me. In our world heavily influenced by busy lives, media portrayls of perfection and the ‘good life’, I wondered, what would I do differently if I could go back.

I would stop criticising my body and all of my perceived imperfections. I would recognise that I was perfect the way I was (still am!) and my body is more than something to look at.

I would not let anyone stop me from exploring my dreams. I wouldn’t feel swayed to follow a particular path, I would choose my own experiences, make my own decisions.

I would be much more careful about relationships.

I would explore more of the world, have more adventures and be more in nature. After having kids, this becomes more difficult, not impossible, but certainly there is a regret for the things I could have done when it was easier.

I would take better care of my body with how I move and what I eat. I would pay more attention to the niggles, and do ALL of the exercises my physio gave me.

Becoming intentional is about learning from the past and making better, informed and deliberate decisions today, tomorrow and in the future.

The rebel, the black sheep

Growing up, the black sheep of the family was always considered a rebel and not a favourable person to be within an extended family.

Looking back on people I’ve known to be the rebel, I feel a respect for their confidence in eschewing social norms, the things that are expected of them.

Perhaps being a rebel is a way to feel more connected to our inner selves. Maybe the act of rebellion gives us a sense of power. Particularly for women who despite decades of feminism still do more housework, are expected to take pay cuts and career back steps to manage family life and work, to have perfect bodies and skin and do everything else in the exhaustive list.

I want to be the rebel. I will live how I see fit. I don’t mind being a black sheep!

Intentions for a better world

Idealised versions of a better world have been around for as long as humans have been able to write. Since receiving my ‘enrol to vote’ card at 18 where the AEC had assumed I wanted to save dolphins, until now, my understanding of the world has changed and grown in immeasurable ways.

This blog and my life have become almost solely focused on how our intentions, or lack of, affect our ability to change things in our worlds. Reading about the idea of the stranger in my course this week, the topic of civil inattention (Goffman) seemed so apt at this stage of Victoria’s continued stage four lock down due to coronavirus. Goffman argued society has coped with not knowing the never ending surge of faceless strangers by learning to not pay attention, to pretend we are not concerned with our own image and how we are constantly scrutinised or evaluated. And the result of this, argued by Bauman (1990) is a sense of moral indifference. Perhaps it is the inattention society experiences that leads many Victorians to protest and argue against our Premier’s lock down extension on the basis of freedom. The moral indifference leads to heartlessness and disregard for the needs of others (Bauman 1990, p. 70) and could explain the individualistic nature of members of society. Yet, the plan for Victoria promises to protect those most vulnerable; a less-political and more accommodating view of society than one could generally hope for from a politician.

As individuals, we can make a difference. We can show up for our neighbours, work hard to pay attention to others. Be engaged and watch out for our own moral indifference. For those who have enough, we can look out for those who don’t. We can share, we can help, we can care.

This is the end of the three – part series on the post-pandemic world. Part 1 and Part 2 are published.

Life after coronavirus

This pandemic feels as if it will never end but there is no shortage of blogs, articles and discussion about the ways the world will change post-pandemic. As is the nature of an emerging career in sociology, and my own critical mind, I am unfortunately reluctant to believe things will change, much.

One of the main positives will no doubt be the increased flexibility for those who want to work or study from home. Universities, employers and other institutions have been forced to adapt, and it was overdue. The Government’s support of telehealth for medical appointments has also been a welcome change. Although it’s not clear how this will play out post-pandemic, we can certainly assume there will be a shift change in this direction.

The impact of coronavirus on the world’s economy will see significant changes to business; many will not survive the extensive lockdowns and changes to consumer accessibility. Many people have lost their jobs (over a million estimated in Australia in 2020 alone) as a result of the sweeping changes to stop the spread, and ultimately to reduce deaths. Technology changes including automation were already beginning to show how the job market may change, and there are reports of this taking effect already. The current generation who have just entered the job market will face economic losses over a lifetime compared with previous generations who have not been subject to a recession.

Many hope the pandemic will increase the sense of community, and bring people closer together. While we know people do come together in natural disasters, this pandemic affects every person on our planet, and although in the beginning there was a focus on ‘all being in this together’, the continued requirements to stay home seem to be gradually causing greater mental health concerns. As the population feels more isolated and depressed about the future, are they likely to reach out and find ways to connect with their community? Or are they more likely to avoid the entire situation and focus on short-term entertainment highs?

The increased levels of welfare from the state in the form of payments like JobSeeker and JobKeeper, and payments to businesses have shown us how a larger welfare structure may benefit the whole of the country. It’s also illustrated that it is possible. Certainly not sustainable at all levels, but it does raise a critical question about the structure of our government and whether the Universal Basic Income may be a good way to future proof economic stability when further pandemics are highly likely.

We have seen those most vulnerable be more affected by this crisis, than those with more advantages, both socially and economically. The majority of those who could ‘work from home’ were those with higher paid jobs, and fewer were stood down or made redundant. Those who were impacted greatly were those in hospitality and retail – casual and insecure work without a safety net. Of course, the transport industry have been affected in terms of air travel – with thousands stood down – but many of those were perhaps able to secure other work with extensive skills.

Many of those who were essential were in roles that were considered lower status, including delivery drivers, meat works, grocery workers, cleaners (and lots more!). These jobs have proven their essential status in a time when without them, the world would stop. Of course, those working in any type of healthcare role are possibly the most important, yet also the most likely to contract the virus. Perhaps we will learn to value all people and all jobs more equally?

The impact of travel restrictions will limit movement but it certainly has not slowed down online shopping. Despite the role globalisation has played in this pandemic, and the reduction in emissions highlighting the possibility of actually changing climate changes’ dire path for our Earth, most of us don’t seem able or willing to make behaviour changes for the greater good. In this sense, it’s fair to wonder if it would ever be possible?

So what will it look like? It’s impossible to guess, it is a question many of us will ponder, and likely a lot of academic research will take place to try to answer the question. The intersection of globalisation, neoliberal politics and economics, and the interconnected nature of humans will certainly all play a role in our future. While some reports are extremely optimistic, my own feelings are that there will be some big changes in work environments but that overall, much will remain the same.

What will the future hold?

Part one in a three part series exploring the post-pandemic world

The news cycle is rampant with stories of hope and optimism about the way Victorians have ‘come together’ during this period of harder lock downs. Questions are asked about the way the world will look post-pandemic; and the opportunities we as a wider community must embrace. But what is likely?

Is it more likely that the current neoliberal political and societal structures that render us individuals first, community second, will prevail? Neoliberalism doesn’t work because existing social inequalities in terms of wealth, and access to healthcare and education are being reproduced through government policies.

The rise of populism in politics has given way to a mindset of nationalism, whereby our country is more important than another. Whereby, our state or territory must be put first. The NT Chief Minister Michael Gunnar has confirmed the Northern Territory will have strict border closures for at least 18 months. He says his job is to put the NT first. What does this mean for Australia? This social polarisation between states is made possible by neoliberal politics which accompany a decline in trust of experts and a fear of the ‘other’. Furthermore, distrust builds from conspiracy theories which give rise to alarming ideas about how to manage the pandemic, and what it means for all of us.

The welfare system set up following the Great Depression in America which made possible welfare systems across the globe has been eroded over the past four decades. This progressive move away from providing basic needs for all represents the way society has shifted to see success as a result of hard work, with privilege and existing resources not considered as the primary drivers.

Many celebrities and members of the community claim coronavirus doesn’t discrimnate; but nothing could be further from the truth. While coronavirus will affect many people with wealth and priviledge, it is those with less access to healthcare and secure work who will be most impacted both economically and socially. Even if they avoid the virus itself, the increasing casualisation of the workforce may leave those on low incomes unable to provide for their families.

While Australia has put in place unprecedented social policies including JobKeeper and JobSeeker as well as other various supplements, they are not intended to extend beyond an initial period. The government has recently made changes to the criteria and timeline of the payments, but is it enough? Sentiment on social media from cursory research shows many people believe those breaching self-isolating orders are selfish. But without the data to know for sure, is it possible those people face not being able to pay rent, the mortgage or buy food for their families unless they go to work? Is it possible those who are most disadvantaged are seeing greater economic impacts due to the higher number of cases in their area; The Age thinks so. We know that the key hotspots in Melbourne are the most disadvantaged council areas. It isn’t difficult to understand why this is happening.

While those lucky enough to be able to work from home share their feelings about having to supervise their children who are either unable to attend childcare or doing remote, online learning, it is clear vast sects of our community have greater challenges to manage.

Panic buying of groceries peaked in the first lockdown in April 2020, but a surge of panic buying hit Melbourne and regional Victoria last week when stage four measures began. Although supermarkets report this has subsided and supplies of key items will be managed and available to all.

The widespread economic, social and political impacts raise a key question. How can we as communities be more resilient? Are communities coming together to help each other during this difficult time? Will the pandemic create a permanent shift in the social order and end neoliberalism?

The mental health impacts from this pandemic will be unimaginable, but it remains to be seen whether this will generate change, or whether the status quo will remain uncontested.

Part two will examine the way the pandemic is changing, or not, community resilience.

Self-directed learning

My children are only young but we have found a style of learning that works for us, and it’s called ‘self directed learning’. My husband and I went to traditional schools and our parents were traditional in their understanding of learning. And although we both survived and finished our schooling, we have both felt much more engaged in higher levels of university education where the objectives and parameters of projects are looser and have at least some degree of autonomy.

Knowing our children, we decided this was the way to move forward for their education. There is a big difference between school and education. Schooling is a system designed to produce workers. There are lots of good things about schools, but there are many drawbacks, especially for learners who are neurodiverse and will find the environment stressful. It’s fair to say, in our situation, engaging in a traditional school environment will actually cause more harm than good.

But we are now on the fringe; choosing a path that is considered odd and possibly irresponsible. There is a great freedom in choosing something different but it comes with a requirement to be thick-skinned and to be confident in your choices. Not something that is always easy; especially for some more than others.

During this pandemic, in 2020, what our learning looks like is different than what we hope it will look like one day. We are home-bound and that is almost completely fine, but we look forward to travel and engaging in cultural and social activities again.

In a typical day our children have complete freedom in their play; from watching videos of garbage trucks, to playing Minecraft, digging in the sandpit or building Lego. Our boys experience a world of freedom and imagination. For us, this meets their needs and allows them to reach their potential. Some will argue that at some point we all need to grow up and meet the expectations of others; a boss to earn a wage etc. But what will the world look like in 20 years when my kids are ‘grown up’? Right now, we are experiencing a massive change in employment conditions due to the pandemic, and many of us hope things will change thereafter… But even so, the casualisation of the workforce over the past 10-20 years has changed the nature of work for young people. So no matter what happens, preparing our boys to be more self-directed feels like the right choice, for us.

We can’t know the road ahead, so we don’t know where it will lead. But for right now, we are focused on following their lead and engaging them in their interests.

Global panic: take control of the anxiety

Right now the entire world is in the depths of panic. Its grip on our society is tight; each action making each person just a bit more worried.

But, hope is not lost. Yes, this is a global pandemic. People are dying. People are losing their jobs.

We cannot control everything, we have to accept this. It’s even more important right now.

What we can control:

  • Our spending
  • Our saving
  • Our home environment and the anxiety level
  • Our engagement with our children
  • Our relationships with others
  • What we eat and drink (to an extent)

There is no doubt the fall out from this disaster will be something our children’s children learn about in school one day. Let us take lessons from this.

  • Build up savings
  • Examine your life and get rid of everything that isn’t important
  • Have lots of margin in your budget, wherever possible
  • Be empathetic towards others
  • Take only what you need

So many of us, me included, are so privileged. We are more wealthy than any previous generation and while that isn’t true for everyone, there are people in drastically bad situations. We all have more than we need.

I’m a sensitive person and my current anxiety is about everyone out there who does have it tough. Everyone out there, all of the world.

Right now we have to be kind, we have to think of everyone. We have to do this to come out of this intact.

These strange days

I’ve always liked doomsday or apocalypse type books and movies. My husband and I loved The Walking Dead and the video game Last of Us. But of course, what we face right now is not zombies, but a new virus that threatens our way of life.

The impact on our family has been minimal. It’s astounding to me how lucky we are. Because we were already very home-based, the social impact is really the only issue. We do however have good friendships with our neighbours so we can chat over the fence or across the road and share produce or a drink at sunset. This is a pretty crucial aspect to our coping right now.

Being an introvert, I’m not as bothered by being home as my husband who is an extrovert. Not being able to get out into the world is a major issue for him. Thank goodness for his bike, and at the moment he can still take off onto country roads that surround us.

Financially we are OK too as we’ve spent the past five years living on a minimal income and our choice of home and lifestyle means we are not saddled with much debt – a blessing right now.

Our children are thriving being home all the time. They are better with a simpler life.

I’ve been in touch with friends and family more via phone, social media and video calls. That’s been nice. The boys don’t do very well with video calls, particularly our eldest who is very sensory sensitive to voices and too much talking – he struggles to take it in, to manage his emotions when responding and keeping up with the conversation. Our youngest is more interested in chatting with people than our eldest ever has been.

Getting supplies has been OK so far. Given our food allergies and intolerances, having a regular supply of specific foods is important so we’ve always had more than we need. Often it is cheaper to get in bulk anyway. But still, our local supermarket is out of gluten-free pasta, so I am glad I had a couple of spare packets in the pantry.

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening and baking to manage my stress levels. My anxiety is definitely increased during this time. I think most people would feel overwhelmed and worried. There are so many aspects to what is happening, from worrying about loved ones, worrying about jobs, feeling isolated and suffocated; whatever we each individually feel is valid.

Practising self-compassion is crucial right now. Take some time to declutter and sort through your belongings. Take time to think about what is really important to you. My greatest wish from this experience is that society sees a different way to live. That more people choose a simpler life with less debt, less stress and more intentional time for peace, family and their passion. It doesn’t have to be gardening or growing food, and of course, a career is important to many. But could it look a little different? Will our economic situation at the end of this drive change, or will things stay the same?

Coronavirus – COVID-19

These days are frightening or maddening for most. Some of our society have panicked and bought large amount of food and supplies, while others continue their lives with no change, assured it is all overhyped. It’s difficult to know the truth in our saturated media environment. Every media outlet has some sort of agenda, whether it is political or not. The most unbiased sources are often not believed to be unbiased.

We have to rely on our own critical thinking and judgement. We have to take the right steps for ourselves and our families. Having empathy for those around us is critical; while we may not be unwell, can we confidently say we have no chance of passing the virus onto someone else?

Doomsday preppers are probably rejoicing for their time in the sun. All of that hard work in preparing for catastrophe means they can sit back and relax. Those with no savings, no plan, and no supplies are probably very concerned. Permaculturists have no doubt found themselves in a comfortable position with food in their properties and a sense of self and community reliance that’s hard to beat.

So what can we do?

  1. Make sure you have two weeks worth of nonperishable food. Rice, beans, pasta, frozen veg, canned veg. Be sensible and really think about how much you actually need.
  2. Make sure you have medications and basic medical supplies.
  3. Work from home, stay home and spend time in nature with your family – avoiding shopping centres, public places with lots of people.
  4. If you are finding yourself in financial stress, look at all of your options. Can you pick up some freelance work on Upwork? What costs can you cut? Make a plan for the future and start saving for an emergency fund.
  5. Check on your family, friends and neighbours. Call and ask if they need help. Especially anyone who needs additional help – those with disabilities or older age.
  6. Share resources and ideas for home learning with families who are keeping children home.
  7. Be as calm as possible – especially for those with children. Don’t let them become anxious because you are not coping.
  8. It’s OK to be afraid, but make a plan so you can work on feeling more safe and comfortable.
  9. Practice mindfulness and meditation. Keep exercising and eating well.
  10. Choose one source of news and don’t Google everything.

Best health to all.