Categories
Feminist Rants

Don’t Change Your Maiden Name

When I got married, I changed my name.

I didn’t do it because of societal pressure, although believe me, there’s plenty of that out there. I had a few reasons.

This adorable lady doll is about to waste a lot of time filling out forms. The gentleman doll is going to do sweet F A.

Firstly, I liked my husband’s name. It sounded nice. It worked. I liked the idea of sharing that name with my future children.

Secondly, kids at school had trouble with my maiden name (ugh, that’s such a weird name for it. “Maiden” name. Is my married name my “crone” name?). My maiden name is Scottish and consonant-heavy. It’s not difficult or anything, but kids still stumbled.

Thirdly, I liked the idea of separating my writing from my teaching. My playwriting is all under my birth name. My teaching under my married name. A nom de plume! Boom, easy!

Or so I thought.

TURNS OUT THAT’S A FILTHY LIE.

Society pressures you to change your name, to conform, to fit in. Then it financially penalises you and you suffer for years, dragged into a legal pit of doom.

I got married in 2014. Seven years later, I still get asked for copies of my marriage certificate to prove I am who I say I am. Why? Because my degree and diploma are in my birth name. Because I thought I’d wait until my driver’s license and passport expired before renewing them. Because my job requires a police check every three years and needs documentation so you can be tracked under both names. Because despite changing your name being the norm for women, every government department is stunned that you’ve done it and requires proof that you’re not a dirty liar.

Side note: why do government departments not communicate with each other? Why can’t I just provide proof of identity to the IRD and have it automatically updated everywhere else? This also applies to changing my address. I can’t remember everywhere I need to update my details every time I need to move in this housing-insecure country. It’s really annoying.

It’s just such a catch-22. And no one talks about it. No one tells you that you’re going to have to pay for a new passport and driver’s licence and that you’re going to have to track down a Justice of the Peace to sign a million copies of your marriage licence so that you can prove your existence to your bank, government departments (who need to share information, dammit) and any school you want to work at. It’s a TRAP. It just follows you around, adding an extra layer of hassle and complexity anytime you need to do something official, like buy a house.

I chose to change my name. My husband didn’t pressure me – he was happy either way. If he had a hideously awkward or boring surname, he would’ve changed to mine. We would’ve hyphenated if both names together hadn’t been such a Scottish mouthful. I chose to do it. And I like my name – both my names. But I wish someone had told me what an utter rigamarole it is, because my ADHD means official forms are super frazzling and intimidating for me.

Oh, and I still need to update my licence. Maybe everything would’ve been easier if I’d done it all at once. But I was poor as a church mouse when I married, and documentation is EXPENSIVE.

So yeah, don’t change your name. Or if you do, don’t do it officially. Our society seems to want women to conform to the norm, but then punishes you financially for doing it.

Be a feminist. Save your money.

Categories
Cloth Nappies Parenting

Cloth on the Cheap

One major thing with cloth nappies that I’m hyper aware of is the initial cost of a setup. Although cloth nappies wind up thousands of dollars cheaper than disposable nappies in the long run, not everyone can afford a big upfront payment. And not everyone knows which brand they want to invest in! Recommendations are hugely helpful, but ultimately it comes down to what you like and can afford and what fits your child best.

It’s like Terry Pratchett’s “Boots” theory. Having more money saves you money.

Been there. It’s one of the many, many ways people get trapped in poverty.

But if you haven’t got the cash for a bulk payment, here are some ways to get into the cloth game anyway.

  1. Start small

Remember, you do not need to be all or nothing. You don’t need a full stash of 28 nappies from Day 1. I think that expectation is one of the things that puts people off using cloth. If you only have two nappies to start with, that’s fine! That’s two nappies you save from landfill every time you use them. Do what you need to do for your budget, and if cloth works for you, you can continue to build up.

  1. Go part-time

You don’t need to go full-time if you don’t want to. Ever. Some cloth parents just use cloth during the day and go for disposable at night. Some do two days on, one day off. Some just have a few nappies that they use when they can. All of these options are fine! I use disposables when I’m on longer trips to visit family, because I don’t want to spend my holiday at the laundromat. Do what works for you and your family! You can always add more later if you want to.

  1. Buy secondhand

This is not as gross as it sounds, I promise. There are Facebook groups like NZ Buy and Sell MCNs where you can get great deals on secondhand nappies. Ads will state the condition of the nappies. If you’re buying secondhand, it’s definitely worth sanitising them with a bleach solution before putting on your baby. Groups like Clean Cloth Nappies will guide you through that, or just ask a fellow cloth user! We’re always happy to help. Secondhand is also a great way to get out of stock prints that you like from good quality brands.

  1. Use brand rep discount codes

A lot of nappy brands have brand rep codes that can offer you 10 or 15% off. Feel free to message the company and ask, or search the company’s hashtag on social media.

  1. Use stockist sites

If you want to try a few brands of nappy but don’t want to pay shipping costs for each individual order, you can use sites like www.tweedle.co.nz, www.tushie.co.nz, www.chirpycheeks.co.nz and www.nappyheaven.co.nz (New Zealand) or www.fluffmail.com.au, www.wrenandmyrtle.com.au (Australia) to choose several brands in one order. I’m sure there’s others, so feel free to plug your favourite site in the comments!

My Wren & Myrtle stash – Junior Tribe, Boho Babes, and Baby Beehinds.
  1. Take advantage of bundles

Most brands have bundle deals, where you’ll get a discount for buying 6, 12 or 24 nappies. These are fantastic if you know which brand you like and want to commit to! Many brands and sites also have trial packs, where you will get a one-off discount for buying 2 or 3 nappies.

  1. Buy flats/prefolds and covers

Flat nappies are the old-school style of nappies, a bit like what our parents would’ve used in the good old days. They’re folded around the baby and held in place with a fastener (you can use Snappis these days though, not big old safety pins!) Flats and prefolds with covers are more cost-effective than a full stash of pocket nappies, as you can use the covers more than once before washing them. Flat nappies and covers also dry much more quickly, so you don’t need as many in your stash.

  1. Sell nappies you don’t need or want

Yes, those same secondhand groups are a great way to pass on what you don’t use or what didn’t work for your child! Cloth nappies hold value well, especially if they’re a popular brand. You may not get back the full amount you paid, but you will get some, which is definitely not the case for used disposable nappies!

  1. Ask a mate

Do you have a cool friend who uses cloth? They might be able to loan you a couple of nappy brands to try! Feel free to ask.

Hopefully these tips help you feel a bit better about taking the first step to using cloth. Have you got any other ideas to do cloth cheap? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Categories
Uncategorized

So that was a crazy few days…

So my post about Dr Seuss blew up.

That was awesome, don’t get me wrong. My blog readership went from tens to hundreds to thousands. The Spinoff got in touch and published my piece on their site. It was the second-most read story that day, after Harry and Meghan. I don’t mind coming in second to a duchess.

It got me thinking, though (ugh, what a Carrie line. Sorry). Why do things like this set certain people off? It honestly seems like some people want to find things to get furious about. For some reason, they’ve decided “wokeness” is an enemy. That doesn’t even make sense. How does society becoming more aware become a bad thing? Haven’t these people been telling us all to wake up for years? Sometimes I feel like these people will just reflexively oppose anything just to go against the liberal grain. It seems quite counterintuitive. Kind of like the American Republicans who are defending the British monarchy – isn’t America founded on y’know, not liking those guys?

Among the many, many lovely messages from both teachers and normies, I received a few complainers who either hadn’t read the piece, or who read it and took away the most minor quibble. A couple of people didn’t like that I had used the word ‘white’ to describe someone, and called it a “racist attack”. They clearly didn’t click the link I posted that led to an article about actual racist attacks, but okay.

Another woman (from the teachers’ Facebook page and who was unaware she was one of the inspirations for the initial post!) seemed convinced that I or others were going to come for her Noddy books. Lady, I don’t give a damn what you read to yourself in the weekends. Just don’t read racist stuff to your students. They don’t get to choose their teacher. Don’t be a bad memory for the rest of their lives, okay?

Oh well. It was an interesting experience. It’s a shame I didn’t have more content on the blog for people to read! But I’m back at it now. Enjoy your week!

Categories
Teaching

Horton Hears A Whinge

Most of the time, I’m very proud to be a primary school teacher in New Zealand. We work hard, we love our students, and we continually strive to improve our practice and get better.

Well, most of us. 

I lose a bit of faith in my profession occasionally when I go on the NZ Primary Teachers Facebook group. In amongst the amazing resources, good conversation and admittedly repetitive book recommendations, there exists a reactionary aspect that I find super depressing.

This was really evident yesterday in a discussion about Dr. Seuss.

The news? That Dr. Seuss’s estate had chosen to cease publication of six of his early works, citing racial imagery that they considered “hurtful and wrong.” They’re right. Dr Seuss’s early work contains a lot of racism, which was acknowledged by none other than Dr Seuss himself,  when he went back to make edits to the wording and illustrations in at least one of his works.

The six books that won’t be published anymore. Rest in Pulp.

Seems simple, right? Dr. Seuss wrote over 60 books. We’ve still got 90 percent of his work available for purchase. And the old copies of the out-of-print books aren’t going anywhere. They’re not banned. They won’t be burned. No one’s going to come and growl you for owning them.

This nuance was too complex for a few Seuss stalwarts. Highly agitated by the decision to stop publishing a half dozen books that nobody ever recommended in the “what should I read to my students next?” conversations, they ranted in the comments about the “fun police” and how the “world has gone bonkers”.

What would be banned next? one teacher lamented. Rainbow Fish? The BIBLE?!

What if I want to teach my kids about racism? I will need this book to show them the racial imagery!

Okay, dudette. 

1: It’s not banned. (The Bible, however, is heavily edited for children. Who wants to read Judges 19 to their kids? No one teaches that. Yuck.)

2. You still can teach If I Ran The Zoo if you really want. The book still exists.

3. Why the everloving FUCK would you want to?

I’m going to try not to swear in the rest of this post, but I feel this warranted an f-bomb. If you, white teacher, are planning to use racist imagery to teach primary school children about racism, then stop teaching immediately. That’s not how you do it. You do not need to show a cartoon image of Asian men with “slanty eyes” to teach racism to your multicultural students. Trust me, your Asian students have put up with this sort of nonsense from people already. The West is chock-full of anti-Asian racism, which has been connected with murder.  Children of colour do not need some dopey teacher with good intentions paving the road to a racist hell. And before you say “but Lou, that link leads to an American site, New Zealand is much kinder!”, here’s a link to our own ugly toxicity.

Most importantly, this isn’t up for debate. It is literally in the Teachers’ Code of Professional Responsibility and Standards of the Teaching Profession. We need to be protecting our students from harm, respecting diversity and culture, being fair, and effectively managing our assumptions and personal beliefs.

Whoomp, there it is.

Use your reading comprehension, teachers. Here we go:

Dr Seuss has not been “cancelled”. 

This is not “cancel culture”. Dr Seuss’ own estate is simply choosing to take six old books out of publication. This happens to books all the time. If we still published everything ever written, our planet would be drowning in pages. (I don’t moan because they stopped publishing Sweet Valley books. Those books were icons of my childhood, so you can cope with these ones vanishing. )

You can still purchase and teach all of his other books. The Lorax is great. Horton Hears a Who is cool. Go for it! It’s a free country! None of his books are banned, and there’s no plans for them to be!

OR, you could take a break from Seuss and teach a book from this century? There’s lots of good ones. As teachers, it’s our job to expose children to great books. This doesn’t just mean old classics. This means diverse books of all kinds, by diverse authors. This means that as teachers, we should be reading modern children’s literature and keeping up with “Best of 2020” lists, etc. We should be recommending new books. Don’t recommend the Famous Five, The BFG, or Holes to other teachers. We all know them. Everyone knows they’re good. Find newer stuff!

I introduced my reluctant reader students to Raina Telgemeier and Kazu Kibuishi this way, and they’re now massively popular authors. If you haven’t heard of them, teachers, you’re out of touch. My boys were queued up to read my copy of Smile until our librarian ordered Raina’s back catalogue. I had to tape up my Amulet series because it couldn’t handle the quantity of kids passing it around. Kids love when you can introduce a book to them. Libraries can be overwhelming with the amount of choice. A teacher saying, “try this, it’s awesome!” can be super helpful to all kinds of readers.

My worn out old Amulets, before the duct tape repair that kept their pages from completely falling out.

A couple of years ago, I was searching for a good book for my Year 5&6 class. I chose Morris Gleitzman’s Once, a story about a Jewish boy during World War 2. I chose it knowing I would have to provide context about the war, about antisemitism, and about the Nazi regime  to children aged 10 & 11. So I did. (And hey, I managed to do it without showing them any antisemitic children’s books or illustrations!)

They were free to ask any question they wanted – and they did, even about the main character’s circumcision! All of them loved the book, and wouldn’t leave me alone until I read the second one. I refused to continue after that, because I wanted to introduce them to other literature. So most of them requested the other 4 books in the series from the library themselves. They absorbed every copy in the Auckland library circuit and ended up having to reserve copies on a waitlist. It spread to the neighbouring Year 5&6 class. I had to instigate a school-wide spoiler ban. Several of the children went on to read other war-themed books, and one precocious and intelligent ten-year-old even began her own independent research project on the Nazis and the Holocaust, with full support from her parents. She began reading the Diary of Anne Frank. She ended up giving a Slides presentation to the rest of the class, completely of her own accord.

We have the power to inspire kids with our choice of texts. Don’t waste this opportunity by reading the same books and authors they’ve read every year.

Educate yourself before you participate

Yes, there are conversations about if the Cat in the Hat is appropriate. If you want to participate in that conversation, get educated about African-American stereotypes. Don’t just prance in claiming that you “just can’t see the problem!” Refusing to acknowledge other perspectives in a discussion doesn’t add anything of value and it just makes you look foolish. As teachers, we wouldn’t put up with it from our students. 

If you don’t want to educate yourself on the issues, that’s your choice. But in that case, just abstain from the conversation. You don’t have to have a strong opinion on everything, especially if you don’t know the facts. As teachers, we need to be comfortable saying, “I don’t have enough information to have an opinion on that.” In fact, we as people should all be able to say that. Being reactionary doesn’t benefit our profession, and it can damage our students.

And for heaven’s sake, read more than just the headlines before reacting. It’s embarrassing.

We get it, you liked the book as a kid. That’s okay.

Don’t pretend that anyone’s calling you racist for enjoying the books as a kid. You didn’t know the background of the images when you were a kid. That’s fine. But now you know, so what are you going to do?

Here’s a story. When I was a kid, I liked golliwog toys. I thought they were cute and friendly-looking. I had no idea what a minstrel was. When I learned the background in my late teens, I reflexively tried to insist that they were okay, that they didn’t mean anything here in New Zealand, it was different here. But you know what? I was wrong. When I was told I was wrong by a justifiably unimpressed African American girl online, I didn’t like it at first. It was hard to hear, because I didn’t like to think that I’d contributed to racism. I was a textbook case of white fragility. But once you’re told, you can’t plead ignorance anymore. And as an adult, I have a greater understanding of racial context and I know golliwogs are not okay. It’s about learning and growing. No one’s going to cancel you for liking these stories and toys as a kid. You can have a fond memory of them. But you can also change and grow as a person and acknowledge that context matters.

And as teachers, if we can’t have a growth mindset, then we need to leave the profession. We cannot expect our students to do things that we cannot be bothered doing. And that includes growing out of racist ideas.

Categories
Cloth Nappies Parenting

So why cloth nappies?

“Why Lou?” I hear people ask. “That’s a lot of extra laundry. Don’t you want to just bin the poop and be done with it?”

Well, no. And here’s why:

The rubbish bins in my town only go out fortnightly.

Three reusable nappies - a purple one, a patterned one and a black one.
Nappies from Minimi, Kekoā and Jubel, three awesome Kiwi nappy makers. You can also get all three brands from Tweedle.

Seriously. Can you imagine? Two weeks of soiled nappies and wipes? They’d fill up the entire wheelie bin! And once the kid starts solids, that’s two weeks of stinky human waste sitting there in your trash – even if you’re the responsible type who flicks solid poop off the nappy into the toilet like you’re apparently supposed to.

No way. Ew. 

For me, that was the clincher that began my cloth journey, but there’s actually a ton of great reasons to go cloth. Here were the main ones for me:

  1. You save money, even if you go a little nuts buying prints

You save a butt-ton of money using cloth. Once you’re past the initial outlay, you’re only paying for laundry powder and some electricity for the extra washes. Going full cloth will save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars – even when compared to the cheapest disposable brands!

Remember, you do not need to be all or nothing with reusables. If you only have a couple of cloth nappies to start with, that’s fine! Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re doing it wrong. Owning and using two cloth nappies is two nappies you save from landfill every time you use them. It adds up. And keep in mind, you don’t even need to buy brand new! There’s a great market for secondhand nappies online now, so you can build a stash for not much more than the price of a few boxes of disposables. And even within brand new nappies, there’s a huge range of prices.

I’m at the more expensive end with nappies. I’m luckily in a position where I can do that, and I have fun with it. I started out with a huge collection of Baby Factory nappies from a friend of mine – she gave me so many that I was able to share them with three other friends to boost their cloth supplies and give them an opportunity to try cloth out without committing to anything. From there, I bought a few trial packs from different brands. Trial packs are a great way to test a nappy brand while getting a wee discount. I started with trial packs from Fluffy Ducks and Bear & Moo and got addicted from there. I ordered mixed packs from Tushie, Fluff Mail, Tweedle and Wren & Myrtle. Once you’ve tried a few brands you’ll have a good idea of what you need and what you like in a nappy, and you can go from there.

And when your child is toilet-trained, you can sell them to someone else! Can’t do that with used disposies!

Nappies from three fantastic and affordable Kiwi brands – For The Burrow, Yoho & Co, and The Bebe Hive.
  1. They’re better for the environment

Disposables take hundreds of years to break down, and it takes more waste water to make one disposable than it does to grow, create and use a cloth nappy. That astounded me and I really wasn’t okay with it. I’ve been trying to cut down on my waste for years, with mixed results. However, I’ve managed to have a waste-free period for 3 years prior to my pregnancy. Cloth nappies seemed like another great opportunity to minimise my landfill contribution.

For Leo’s first three weeks, we used disposables* – we spent most of his first two weeks either in the birth centre or in the hospital and it was just too hard to contemplate going home every day to do a wash when I was tethered to an exclusively breastfed baby who couldn’t leave his blue light bed. Once we’d been home for a week and felt settled, I started him in day nappies. Once he hit 2 months old, I began doing cloth overnight, and we also began using cloth wipes. Since then, I’ve only used disposables on a couple of overnight trips. That’s what works for us right now. Every cloth nappy reused is one less disposable going into my wheelie bin and into my town’s landfill. Stoked!

*When I do use disposables, I use Noopii – they’re a NZ brand (possibly the only one now that Treasures have shut down?) They also seemed a bit more environmentally-friendly than the other brands, and a percentage of the purchase price goes towards conservation of native NZ animals, which is pretty fly. Ka pai, Noopii! Little and Brave also appealed as a disposable option, but their compost program doesn’t extend to my city yet, so I decided against them. Would love to try them if they ever bring their commercial composting to my neck of the woods, though.

  1. I like laundry

I find doing laundry weirdly calming. It’s one of the chores I insist on doing entirely myself – not because my husband isn’t capable (he is perfectly capable of washing his own clothes, and everyone should be), but because I like it. (He did his own laundry for years before me, there’s no issue there. He still folds his own clothes because he likes the Kondo method, and Konmari is lovely and tidy once it’s in your drawers, but I feel like it takes foreveeerrrr. Do any of you guys still do Konmari stuff, or was it just a passing fad?)

Aaaanyway, I looked up a wash routine on Clean Cloth Nappies and went from there, and in the process I learned a bunch about how to get all kinds of stains out, so now I really like laundry because I get sweet results and also get super zen when it’s all done and out on the line. I even bought metal pegs so I never have to deal with plastic pegs breaking! 

I can already see some of you side-eyeing me for the laundry stanning. Come on, doesn’t everyone have one chore they actually secretly like? Well, this is mine. Don’t judge me.

The chore I hate is ironing. Don’t even start. Ugh. 

  1. I love the prints!

My addictive personality has totally latched onto cloth nappies. I love the patterns, I love trying different brands, and I love collecting prints that mean something to me. I have prints of movies I love, animals I love, random prints that remind me of special moments with my family, and colours that I find satisfying. I even have some nappies designed by a friend of mine (check out Tuti’s Wild Things collection)! Every print I buy is in my collection for a reason. I have no idea if other people put this level of nerdery into the nappy prints they buy (I’m sure I’m not alone!), but some aren’t concerned with this aspect at all and are happy for any print, focussing instead on price point or brand or whatever. Each to their own. If you’re not compulsive like me, I’m sure you’ll find cloth nappies much simpler! Either way, it’s loads of fun. 

My Tuti nappies, designed by one of my favourite women!
  1. Shopping small and local

I’m big on shopping local these days, especially now that importing clothes and shoes comes with a GST charge at the border. I really like supporting small businesses. I like to know that my money goes to families like mine. I like getting little thank-you chocolates in my courier bag. I like the little thank you notes. People put so much care into the deliveries! I’ve also ordered from Australia a few times – again from small businesses – and although that’s not exactly local, I still like knowing that my money is going to small business. And hey, my kid is half-Australian, I’ve got to have Aussie animal prints on his butt, right?

So there you go: my reasons to go cloth. What are yours? Are you considering cloth but haven’t taken the plunge? Feel free to ask questions if you’re curious.

Categories
Uncategorized

Welcome!

Hi, I’m Louise. You can call me Lou.

Oh look, it’s me.

Boring way to start, I know. But starting has always been the hardest part for me. When I write plays I start in the middle, and come back to the start at the end. But that doesn’t make sense for a blog.

Why am I here?

This blog will serve as many things for me. Mostly, it’s a release. I love to write, but I really struggle with my creative writing, and find getting into the flow of things really painful. So having this blog allows me to write in a freer way about things I like. There’s fewer constraints than when I’m writing a play. Plays have a format – you write stage directions in italics, character names in capitals, then the dialogue in plain font. It’s fiddly. And for someone like me, who is either hyper-focused or completely inattentive (there is no middle ground), it involves either smashing out ten pages or screechily labouring over three sentences. This is easier. Plus, it gives me something productive to do when my baby’s asleep, so my stay-at-home mum life isn’t just a blur of chores and baby snuggles.

Outside of mumming and blogging, I’m a primary school teacher, I’m a playwright, I’m a copywriter for a software firm, I’m a theatre director, and I’m an actor. Actually, I don’t know if I qualify as that last one anymore, it’s been almost six years since I set foot onstage. I do miss it, but at the same time, I wasn’t very good, so it’s nice not to feel the pressure to memorise lines – something I always found really hard, even though I loved acting. I think what I loved most about acting was telling a story, which I can do better as a writer.

My son’s name is Leo. He’s three months old and he has lit up my life in a way I can’t describe but know other parents understand. 

My husband’s name is Josh. He’s an amazing artist, a crazy talented writer, and a great dad. He’s my best friend and I admire him more every day. I wish I had his dedication to artistic pursuits. I will probably plug his stuff regularly because it’s just that good. 

What will I be blogging about?

A whole ton of stuff. Parenting. Teaching. Trying to be eco-friendly. Fashion. Shoes. I don’t know. Building a house? We might do that this year. For me, this blog is a release, to get me writing again after one year of being pregnant and giving birth in the middle of a pandemic and four years prior of an intensely challenging but amazing job that ate my whole life and left me crying in a therapist’s chair because of the expectations I put on myself.

Why is this blog called Halfway There?

Because that’s how I feel, all the time. Kinda prepared, but also behind. Scrambling to catch up. Halfway to achieving my goals. And hey, maybe writing again will get me the whole way there.

Hope to see you around. Feel free to leave me a comment anytime, or follow me on Instagram @halfwaythere.lou