Correct impulses

A couple of impulsive things from earlier this year that I don’t regret in the slightest:

We decided to prioritise experiences over things for birthdays, which is very hard now, but was very correct in January. For A’s 6th birthday we went to see the Flying Fruit Fly Circus which might have been more of an adventure for me personally: I feel like acrobatics has moved on to the point where the kids in training are doing tricks that would have been world-class 30 years ago.

We promised V that as his 10th birthday present he could go and see a Big Bash game anywhere in Australia which was initially complicated—people remember the fires in January and the pandemic in March, but there were also flooding rains in February, and they meant the final was at risk in Sydney—but we impulsively pulled the kids out of school and flew down to Melbourne on a Thursday afternoon in order to see a semi-final somewhere where it wasn’t raining.

We had business class seats to Melbourne (the only points seats left), resulting in the following in the lounge:

Me: see all this food kids? it’s all free!


[Five minutes later] Kids are sitting at the table with plates piled high with… plain crackers.

We stayed within walking distance of the MCG which meant I could take grumpy A home from the game early (although she was sad not to see “the big things”—team mascots—up close) and Andrew and V could see out the game. Then we went to Brunetti which both kids thought was the fanciest restaurant they’d ever seen, and Legoland, and flew home.

A colleague had tickets to The Necks in February and couldn’t make the show, and the show date was exactly Andrew’s 40th birthday, so I bought them at half price, and we had dinner at Bennelong prior. It will be at best months before fine dining is a likely thing, and may be years before stangers can sit together in auditoriums and listen to experimental jazz.

What I learned from this: impulsive hedonism, because it all could be taken away at any time. Maybe not the most sustainable approach to life to have learned.

The best thing of the last week

It was jalapeños, in Cantina Bar‘s menu, for my birthday dinner. I have a chilli tolerance such that jalapeños are not painfully spicy, but a reminder that they could be painfully spicy and have chosen not to be.

Right now, getting invited to my birthday dinner is quite the accomplishment: if you haven’t been married to me for (checks notes) nearly 13 years or spent some portions of your life living inside me, you don’t meet the public health bar. I’m 40 next year, I hope for more of a “we have met several times” level of intimacy for that birthday.

Reverb 10: Wonder, Let Go, Make

Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Largely by attempting to understand the perspective of my baby son. Again with the baby!

But really, this was brought home by a visiting midwife in my postnatal checks who said that a newborn is experiencing hunger, thirst, temperature, touch, many sounds and many positions all at once in the same few days. So I began by talking to him, and agreeing that it was a strange strange world he’d found himself in. And later, it became a game of trying to understand what it’s like to never be bored because everything is new. And later again, to have to infer rules from first principles. Why can you chew on food, and on many brightly coloured plastic things (toys), but not most other things? How can you explain the “what you can’t chew on” rules succinctly.

Plus, for example, babies doesn’t know about nudity and clothing, they don’t know that your nose is shaped just like food but is not meant to be bitten, they don’t know not to touch faeces, they don’t recognise a difference between food and dirt.

So, it’s been rather easy to keep in mind that the world is a strange place, this year.

Let go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

I was anticipating these things, but I can’t do any of the following now:

  • propose a spontaneous late night wander with my husband, and execute it a minute later
  • have a conversation with my husband in a normal tone of voice while we’re both occupying the same room
  • sleep all night (I’ve slept through about ten nights since V was born)
  • leave the house within two minutes of the idea occurring

It’s got to the point where it’s going to be strange to have some of that return.

Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

Sticking to physical things, what I tend to make is food. The last food I made for pleasure rather than necessity was, I think, burnt butter biscuits for the picnic in memory of my grandmother. And I’m failing to execute a plan to make rum balls right now.

That said, “clear time for it”? This set of prompts seems to be rather in the “empower yourself” mold. I’m not making rum balls right now because I need downtime after deaths and illnesses in the last week, not because I’m failing to organise my life sufficiently well. This year, my life has organised itself around disasters and stressors. Making time for things was a recipe for disappointment in 2010.

Your women's networking event; mothers need to plan

This post is inspired by a specific event, but I have contacted the organisers privately with a specific complaint/suggestion, so I’m not posting this publicly to slam them, or naming them here. But I think the ideas are more generally useful.

If you run career networking events for women (or anyone! but it’s more obvious if they’re targeted at women) you need to make it possible for mothers to attend them. Not all women are mothers, but a substantial fraction are.

How can you do this? Well, childcare for children from 0 to 12 or so would be awesome, but I realise it’s expensive and logistically difficult (certified safe space, insurance, qualified carers in the right ratios…). Here’s something that isn’t: specific advance publicity. That is, publicity that announces date, time (start and finish, or at least finish of the formal bit, eg “6pm to 8pm with socialising until whenever!”) and location. Because here’s what a mother will have to do:

  • there’s good odds a mother needs to be sure someone else will care for her child during your event. That someone else might be a co-parent who has a life of their own to plan, or it might be a non-household member (same) or a paid carer who needs to be booked (and budgeted for!) in advance
  • if your event is on a day when she does care, she will probably need to dress especially for your event
  • if your event is on a day when she does care, she will probably have to travel especially for your event

The appropriate minimum notice period is at least a week.

As a bonus, this is also helpful to part-time workers, unemployed people and students, all of whom all have to dress especially and travel in order to attend most networking events, and busy people, for that matter, and people who work in casual-dress jobs.

A slight tangent, but something else I wish networking events did: be more specific about the catering. So many go from, say, 6pm to 9pm and specify something about a “light meal”, which in the extreme can constitute a couple of spring rolls per person. I’m a long-term breastfeeder, at the height of production I’ve had to eat something like five substantial meals in a day. Even before I was pregnant, I ate good sized dinners. I understand that your event likely won’t have a full sit-down meal, but I’d much rather get info like “light snacks will be provided, there’s a food court at $address if you want to eat beforehand” than “our sponsors are catering a meal! awesome $sponsor!” when it turns out I will need to leave early (in tears, because noise and hunger overwhelm me) and buy a whole second meal at 9pm.