Emily Writes on the early childcare study

Here, in the Herald.

I’ve been trying to find a post I wrote a long while ago to explain how I feel about the way the study has been reported.

It’s here: Running on empty. The post I wrote when the little dude was eight months old and I started to feel like my return to paid work was a light at the end of a tunnel.

Everything I wrote in that post about looking forward to going back to work came to pass. I felt myself regain a more balanced identity, and I felt myself becoming a better parent. Finances permitting, we plan to keep the little dude in creche two or three days a week while I’m on leave again this year. I think he gets a lot out of it; I also think I get a lot out of having a break from him. At the same time, I am very glad that I was able to stay home with him until he was big enough to eat solids and drink from cups, so I never had to worry about expressing milk at the office.

It’s worth mentioning the enormous financial impact of returning to two incomes. It meant we could buy this house. That’s pretty significant.

But… in an ideal world, it’d be nice to have the best of both options. Say if my husband and I both worked four days a week and the little dude was only in creche for three days. That’d have been pretty great. In this ideal world, there would also be paid parental leave for longer, so that no-one is forced by financial circumstances to send their baby to creche before they feel ready. Caring for a baby would be less socially isolated, which might make people want to continue it for longer. Also, childcare would be of a very high quality. I have no real concerns about the effects of childcare on the little dude’s development, because his creche is great. He really likes one of the teachers in particular, and gives her a big hug in the morning. When we were looking though, the first few places I saw weren’t very nice, either they seemed too chaotic and haphazard, or too cramped and dingy, or too brisk and uncaring and businesslike. When I walked into the creche we ended up choosing, I felt a weight lift off my shoulder and thought “Yes. This place. He will be happy here.” There hasn’t been enough research to fully differentiate good from bad when considering the effects of centre-based early childcare, but it’s not fair to lump it all together. When we talk about older kids going to school, we take it as a given that a good school is a completely different thing to a bad school. We should assume the same for early childcare too, and focus on improving quality.



Accused doctor ‘hit the wall’ | Radio New Zealand News

Oooooffff. Reading this is a punch in the heart.


I feel like that could have been me with the little dude.

Not to minimise the poor judgement of this specific doctor, but part of me isn’t surprised. From the combined experiences of everyone I know who’s given birth in the past few years and had a rough time, it seems there’s a strong medical bias in NZ maternity care towards letting things play out and not intervening early. Perhaps a horrible intersection between under-resourcing and a philosophy of childbirth as something that should be allowed to proceed naturally with limited intervention? Anyway, fuck, should not have read that right before bed. Maybe the little dude won’t be the only one having nightmares tonight.

Accused doctor ‘hit the wall’ | Radio New Zealand News

Rethinking the Work-Life Equation

Fairly good piece. One slightly critical comment though. While I agree that work/life issues aren’t just about families, I’m a bit wary of completely taking family out of the equation. Before I had a kid, my spare time involved a fair bit of voluntary work with a criminal justice reform organisation, and long distance off-road running. Those were both time-intensive activities that could totally be used as examples of why people with no dependants still value workplace flexibility and don’t want to have to work long hours. But having a toddler is a whole different ballgame. There is no spare time.

Rethinking the Work-Life Equation

The Scourge of the Female Chore Burden

Gates’s letter is here.

A few observations:

  • The technological advances point is really important. I am still totally in awe of the dishwasher we now have. Before we try and reinvent a cheaper wheel though, let’s remember that if poor people had more money they’d be able to access more of the existing technology.
  • Part of recognising the uneven distribution of chores includes recognising how much skill is involved in doing chores efficiently. Men often seem to dismiss this – at least, most of the men I know count chores in terms of how much time is spent, not in terms of what gets done in that time. My husband gives the little dude his bath every night, and in that time, I tidy the little dude’s bedroom, get him his cup of milk for the bath, clear the lounge and set out his nappy and pajamas and story books and stuffed toys on the couch, put a load of washing on, clear the kitchen bench, check my work emails to see if there’s anything I need to respond to before bed, and get the ingredients out for dinner and start prepping until I hear the call “Mummy! Ready dedt out!” There’s mental effort in getting things done in the shortest possible time, like remembering to turn the oven on to heat up before I get the little dude out of the bath. Also, I do chores while looking after the little dude – which my husband almost never does. Emptying the dishawasher while the little dude semi-competently feeds himself porridge in the morning. Taking the washing off the line while he plays in the garden. Tidying a toy away when he loses interest. Etc. 
  • I have mixed feelings about this point: “it’s obvious that many women would spend more time doing paid work, starting businesses, or otherwise contributing to the economic well-being of societies around the world. The fact that they can’t holds their families and communities back.” I could pick up more paid work if my husband did more chores, but, it would be low on my priorities list. I work 0.7FTE and I think I get about 85% of a fulltime load done in that time. I just don’t have the lulls that I used to have. I was 0.6FTE when I first went back to work and found I couldn’t quite get the job done in the hours I was paid for, but since picking up the extra few hours, I feel like it’s fairly close to the ideal balance. To my mind, the key goal is to adjust working expectations so that they accommodate equal sharing of unpaid labour and allow for leisure time. Expectations of “full time” should match the a number of hours that can be comfortably worked by two parents while also remaining involved at home and having some time here and there to, y’know, chill out. 
  • Related – the gender chores split necessarily raises the question of “outsourcing”. This transforms unpaid work into paid work, in that it puts a price on something that wasn’t being counted before, but it doesn’t actually add anything to the economy. 

The Scourge of the Female Chore Burden

Secrets of a #Bossbitch: On Parenthood, Marriage, and Leaning In


This is from last fall but I just saw it the other day, read it on my phone after a 3 a.m. feed because I couldn’t settle myself back down, couldn’t….self-soothe…if you will lololll, and I wanted to get on board. I wanted so badly to get on board. I crave smart writing about parenthood [by women] that is positive, even casual.

Ultimately, this rankled so hard that I continue to be mad about it five days later and so here I am posting about it on my tumblog. The commenters on the article pretty much covered it, but I still need to get it off my chest. 

I do agree fiercely with the writer’s conceit that a non-negotiable aspect of Having It All for [hetero] women is choosing a feminist as your partner. Not simply a nice guy, but someone who understands the powerful systemic forces that suppress women’s progress, and who makes attempts in his life to dismantle those forces. Then she seeks to normalize outsourcing care (yeah!) and warns women not to make their careers so flexible that they cease to exist or matter (yeah!).

However, from that blazing start the writer goes on to unwittingly prop up patriarchy by suggesting you not start a family unless you have worked really hard for it. By work, I mean paid labor. She claims to have spent her 20s slaving away and setting up avenues for passive income so that she could one day start a family. She calls her 20s a “launch phase” and suggests that during launch phases, people should not strive for work/life balance.

Ah, but the thing is, all of life is a launch phase. Twenty-year-olds deserve work/life balance. Thirty-year-olds deserve work/life balance, etc.

This late capitalist thing of having children as a capstone after a decade plus of responsible decisions…Fuck that. Full reproductive rights mean women can easily access safe abortions, yes,  but to me it additionally means that a woman should also be able to have a baby whenever she wants without limiting her options. Not just after twelve years of earning middle-class wages, securing a mortgage, finding a partner who has also spent twelve years earning middle-class wages, and adopting a rescue dog or two.

Women should have children at any time they choose, take at least six months paid leave from work, access truly affordable subsidized childcare upon returning to work. Like I’m happy for the author that she set up passive income for herself so she could power down a few levels during her kid’s first year? But it’s kind of like, cool story…but what about the rest of us.

We should be rioting in the streets and demanding these things. Maybe after that we can all be smart, positive, and casual about modern parenthood.

Edited to add: My main point is that you should be able to be an unambitious slacker and enjoy a comfortable family life. At a baseline. It’s just work! It’s just jobs!

P.S. I bet me and the writer would get along well in real life and I bet a lot of my friends agree with the whole article. 

All of this. This whole comment.

Also, get the hell out with the self-congratulatory tone. What I can’t stand about pieces like the one linked is the idea that we can figure out perfect workarounds to the huge structural problems. It undermines the campaign to fix the structural problems. And it’s bullshit! I didn’t do the launch pad thing, and though I sometimes think I’d have liked to do more travel before I had a kid, I never for a second wish I’d done more paid work.

Secrets of a #Bossbitch: On Parenthood, Marriage, and Leaning In