People don’t tend to believe me when I say I have ADHD.
I don’t fit the stereotype at first glance. I’m a grown woman in her 30s. I have a first class honours degree. I hold down a challenging job. I was a smart bookworm at school. I was a Good Kid.
But then, when you read about adult ADHD in women, and you know a bit more than the basics about me, it becomes more apparent.
I’m impulsive. I want to do what you just suggested – right now! Are we shopping? Buy it! Buy it in every colour! You want to stage that play one day? Let’s do it! Quick!
I’m disorganised. My teaching desk was always stacked with paper. I got frazzled when I couldn’t find things. It earned Comments from my superiors. I would tidy it up occasionally, and within a day it would be stacked again.
I have problems prioritising. I start one task, then drift to another before the first task is done, then switch again. Or I lie on the couch unable to move. All while avoiding the biggest and most imminent tasks.
My time management sucks. I have half an hour to finish marking? Well, I’m going to spend at least half of that going through my sticker collection and choosing stickers for my students based on what ones suit their personality.
I have trouble multitasking. If you’ve hung out with me while I’m doing something you’ll be familiar with the traditional tune-out – when I stop talking mid-sentence and literally can’t hear what you’re saying.
Restlessness. Yep. When I’m resting I want to be doing something. But when I’m doing something I want to be resting.
Problems focusing on a task? Heck yes. That’s why this blog exists. To actually give me something to attempt to concentrate on. It’s not working, but every now and then I get a burst of hyperfocus.
Poor planning. Yep. Just ask all my mentor teachers why I can’t submit my planning on time. Every. Single. Week.
Frequent mood swings and hot temper? Temper yes, mood swings not as much. But those might be hormonal anyway.
I have low frustration tolerance. I work better in groups when I have to do stuff I don’t like, because I can talk out issues and I can’t skip out.
Problems following through and completing tasks. Hello, giant google drive full of half-finished play notes and random scenes. Hello, screeds of teaching ideas. Hello, this half-assed blog that I barely contribute to. Hello, Leo’s baby book that I was supposed to fill with letters to my beloved son.
Trouble coping with stress. Ooh! I have a whole chronic illness that is exacerbated by my inability to process stress. I can handle any stressful situation at the time, but then crumple with a migraine in the days following. I’m good in a crisis. But give me some standard university forms or creative arts funding paperwork? Hahahahaha I will sit on that for months, completely unable to do it, even if it’s for a scholarship or grant that will literally give me free money.
I hope no future bosses read this. I’ll never get hired.
But I’m a good teacher. I really am. I can improv on the spot, I explain things well, I’m flexible with interruptions or changes, and I build amazing relationships with students and parents, especially the quirky ones. I’m just sucky at the paperwork side.
It’s the same when you know me in a non-work capacity. I’m a good friend, I swear. I will help you with whatever you need. My love languages are words and gifts. I don’t know how else to show people I love them, because I’m basically useless at the “acts of service” love language.
When you tell me things about yourself, I chime in with “me too!” It probably sounds like I’m trying to one-up your story, but I’m not. I’m just trying to tell you that I can empathise because I have experienced something similar. Except sometimes I’m excited to tell you and scared I’ll forget, so I’ll cut you off. Sorry about that.
My main trouble here is that I struggle to keep in contact with people. The fun side effect of ADHD is it comes with extreme rejection-sensitivity. This is worsened in my case with a shitty first-half-of-high-school experience that has left me with fun trauma scars that take the form of me thinking people don’t actually like me. It’s incredibly self-indulgent and stupid, but I tend to not contact people first because I think I’m unwanted. So I don’t always want to offer to video chat or meet up, or drop by, because my default mode is thinking that people don’t want to hang out with me. I’m aware that this is absolutely cooked, but I can’t really help it. My biggest fear is being a burden to others. So I hide away, but then I get sad and miss people and cry to my partner and he pushes me to contact people.
Maybe that’s why I’m writing this. So you know why I am the way I am. At least social media comments offer me a way of telling people I love them without feeling like I’m horning in on their personal time.
One way to treat ADHD is through routine. Intense, regular routine. Something that’s really hard with a baby. Another way to treat it is with meds. Which I can’t currently take, because I’m breastfeeding my baby. So I don’t know what to do, and I just muddle through with the help of my husband, who is also ADHD. Another way is with therapy, which I suck at.
It’s funny, my husband and I bonded originally because we had so much in common, and really felt like we “got” each other. In hindsight, it was probably the ADHD commonalities. It might be why it took us both so long to get diagnosed – because both of us had the same traits, we thought they were normal. We didn’t realise we might both be broken in the same way.
Several of our friends have been diagnosed as adults with ADHD. Maybe that’s why we’re all friends. Like attracts like.
The tough thing with diagnosing ADHD is how many traits are just traits of being human. Everyone’s restless sometimes. Everyone hates boring tasks. But the executive dysfunction is really tough. When I figure out how to overcome it, I’ll let you know.
A few days ago, we passed the point where Leo has been out in the world for longer than he’d been in the womb, and I remembered that I had a half-written birth story on the computer. So here we go: a finished, muddled recollection of a couple of very powerful days. So I thought I’d share for people who like this sort of thing. Feel free to leave a comment if you’ve experienced any of this stuff too. Birth is intense, and I think we all need to talk about it.
I went into labour around noon on Labour Day, three days after my due date. I appreciated the irony. It was also my best friend’s due date, so our kids had the possibility of sharing a birthday (that didn’t end up happening, her son was born a week later).
Around 8.30pm, after lightly labouring with a TENS machine throughout the day, my waters broke. I was quite excited by this because hello! It was real labour now! I quickly messaged my midwife, because it was late, and I figured I’d have to wake her up sometime in the night, so it would be nice to give a bit of warning.
“Are your waters clear?” she asked.
“I think so?”
“Let me know if you get more and they’re discoloured. If not, just keep going, you’re doing great.”
Ha. Waters don’t keep breaking, right? That was a full gush, not a trickle. Surely that’s all the water I could fit in me. Well, I was wrong. It happened again. This time I put on one of my reusable cotton pads, and as I reached the toilet and yanked down the pants, my plans fell apart. The pad was soaked in a greenish-brown goo. Meconium. Worse, it was thick meconium.
There goes my peaceful water birth, I thought. Meconium rules that out, I’d had that explained to me at my midwife visits.
So that was the first thing that went wrong.
I called my midwife and confirmed that yes, my waters had some meconium. She recommended that I come into the birth centre for an examination. So that was fine. I put on a clean pad, undies and pants, and we headed out for an extremely uncomfortable but fortunately only ten minute drive to the birth centre. Josh drove so carefully, knowing I was cringing over every bump. He handled the suitcase and the giant bag of snacks (the bag was big enough for a week at the hospital, which came in handy after the birth, as you’ll see.)
As I climbed out of the car, my waters broke. Again. It was like I was the liquid equivalent of a trick candle. A trick water balloon. How much liquid was in me? Was this whole thing just an elaborate psych-out, and I wasn’t pregnant at all, just retaining a ton of water that mysteriously looked baby-shaped on my frequent ultrasounds? Was my son actually a merman?
I waddled in, acutely aware that I was leaking onto their carpet. I apologised to the receptionist, who was not at all bothered. To be honest, I was mostly concerned about my Allbird sneakers. I mean, I’m sure a lot of women had leaked body fluids onto their carpet and they expected that sort of thing, but my shoes were brand-new, man. I have no idea why Í chose that evening to wear them.
The lovely women at River Ridge Birth Centre helped me into an examination room (where I took off my sneaks and saw that the goop had hit my socks but had travelled no further, yaassss). My midwife examined me as the contractions kept coming and confirmed that yes, there was actually quite a lot of meconium, so the birth would have to be at the hospital. So much for the cute, photogenic River Ridge birthing tub. (Maybe next baby? Hahahaha oh god that means doing this again…)
So we drove to the hospital. We checked in and were assigned a delivery room. I have it on good authority that my room was the best one – it’s bigger and has the nicest view.
I did not see the view.
I assume other people enjoyed it?
The birthing suite, obnoxiously, had a big tub that I couldn’t use. It taunted me with promises of hot, soothing water. I wanted to kick it, but it was ceramic or metal or something and I didn’t feel like adding more pain on what was a swiftly increasing level of discomfort.
Baby was posterior, which means he was facing forward. I knew that in advance. He had also been breech up until a couple weeks before birth, but thankfully he’d changed that.Posterior positioning usually means that labour takes longer, because the baby has to rotate around to being in the correct birthing position before he comes out. That involves his spine scraping up against mine. And that hurts in a way I really can’t describe without losing this light, breezy tone and ending up putting women off giving birth. So let’s just say it was a bit sore.
I stood under a hot shower for about half an hour, bending over a chair so the water hit my hips and lower back. It was the closest I could get to a tub and it felt so good. As each contraction hit, I strangely embraced them. Every one brought me closer to having a baby. But then they got worse and the novelty wore off.
“FUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” I bellowed, a couple hours in. My midwife suggested I try the gas. I insisted it didn’t work – it just made me feel nauseous.
“That’s because you’re not breathing it in deep enough.” She gently encouraged the proper technique – breathing long deep breaths. Once you hit about 8 breaths the gas hits juuuuust right. After a couple of contractions worth of this, I had it down pat and the NO2 became my best buddy. It was definitely better than staunching it out. Anyone who manages posterior labour without pain relief is a superhero but also isn’t someone you should trust, because they’re not normal. Josh held my hand and handed the gas hose to me whenever I dropped it. He looked so worried, and I remember thinking that this was rough for him. Oh, girl.
So I huffed on the gas a lot, but the contractions got worse. They got really bad. I like to think I’m reasonably tough due to years of working through migraines (which are like mega-hangovers without the fun of alcohol) but this was next level. It stopped being funny. It just became about bracing for the pain. I screamed. The gas hose would fall out of my mouth. Someone, usually Josh, would pass it back, I would huff. I would scream. Cycle repeat. Over and over.
“Lou, you’re only 3 centimetres dilated,” I was told. I thought of Ross on Friends, and that quote during Rachel’s labour. Three? I’m dilated three! Except there was no laugh track, there was just the misery of realising I was hours into a very slow labour that also had a time limit.
Apparently if there’s old meconium in your waters when they break, you need to give birth within 18 hours or you’re at high risk of infection. Or maybe that’s unrelated to the meconium. I don’t know. At this point my memory gets a bit unreliable and I might recount things in the wrong order.
My midwife gently suggested an epidural as a possibility, to let me rest while my body did the work of dilating. And even though I hadn’t intended to get an epidural (you can’t have them at birth centres and that was my original plan), the offer was like a life preserver. So I accepted, even though the idea of them had made me nervous at my antenatal class. (Tip for future mothers: antenatal you is an innocent lamb. Appreciate her, but don’t try to follow her instructions. Just do what feels right for you in the moment.) At some point during labour I was given oxytocin to speed the process, which helped. It was done on a drip.
So the epidural, thankfully, came immediately. I sat as still as I could for the rather large injection, and asked the anesthesiologist if I’d fucked up (by moving). She misheard me and thought I’d asked if she fucked up. She was very gracious and tried to explain that she’d done it correctly, but Josh thankfully clarified, and she immediately said “oh honey no, you did it just right.” Cringe. Sorry, anesthesiologist, that was my bad. I’d like to say I’m not always that awkward, but that would be a lie.
Anyway, the epidural worked. There was a patch near my hip which didn’t quite numb, which meant I felt a tiny twinge of each contraction. I found that weirdly comforting, like I was still connected to a process that felt like my body was going through without me.
The next few hours were relatively peaceful, yet still tiring. They continued monitoring the baby, who was surprisingly chill. There were a couple of periods where they thought he was in distress, but it turned out that his monitoring equipment wasn’t in the right position. So that scared us, but it was all good. So far, there was no need for a caesarean section. I was very clear that I only wanted a c-section if the baby was in distress, not me.
(C-section mums: please note that I am NOT one of those people who thinks they’re “not real birth” or any of that bollocks. That wasn’t my issue. I was just really scared of getting major abdominal surgery and adding to the healing time. Zero judgement here of whatever way you choose to birth, it’s an intense experience no matter what!)
The hospital midwives changed shifts, and my midwife and student midwife went home to get some sleep. When they returned later, I had managed a nap, and I was eight centimetres dilated. Mention of the c-section popped up again, and I refused again.
My mum called, and I finally had a cry, so she and Dad headed over to the hospital to come and talk to me while I waited out the last couple centimetres. Originally I hadn’t planned to have them come see me, but hey, a lot of things hadn’t worked out the way I thought.
This was when I was told that my cervical lip was blocking his head from being able to get past. This was aired as another reason for a c-section. I was still really not keen, but the OB-GYN said if it didn’t fix itself soon I would be out of options. He left to start prepping. In the time he was out, my midwife tried a tactic called “manually reducing” which involves turning baby’s head, I think? It apparently is super painful but I couldn’t feel it, it was just uncomfortable. But it worked! Lip gone. OB-GYN came back in and was really happy that it had worked.
My parents arrived half an hour later, and my mum teared up as soon as she saw me. I must’ve looked like a wreck. My student midwife was rubbing my numb leg, which was incredibly comforting, and there were people everywhere. My midwife (who was friends with my mum and babysat me as a toddler!) took my folks out to update them while I got examined by the OB-GYN, who told me yet again that if I wasn’t at 10cm, we were out of time and natural labour was off the table. He was right, but I didn’t like it.
But yay! Family returned to the room in time to hear the OB-GYN announce that I had hit 10 centimetres! We were good to go. So the fam vanished, and the pushing began.
I pushed for two hours.
Apparently at first I made great progress – good, strong pushes that had him moving really well. But then he got stuck. Turns out he had his arm up by his face. (He still sleeps like that now. But it’s cuter now. It wasn’t cute that day.) Because of this, he was jammed. And he was going to need forceps or a ventouse, because the two hours pushing was done, over 18 hours had passed since the waters broke, and he needed to be out. So I chose the ventouse, they attached it, and I pushed again. A couple minutes later, I heard a loud pop!
“His head’s out, Lou, you’re nearly done! One more push!”
Around me, all the voices were urging me to push. It was such a weird moment. So I cried out that I was going to puke. Then I threw up. Amazing timing. A smart midwife was there in time with a bowl. Then I pushed again, and suddenly a huge, beautiful, surprisingly un-gunky baby, all squirms and smoosh, with a faint head of hair and a not-so-faint yell, was on my chest.
“Hi baby!” I managed to say. I couldn’t see his face. But I assumed he was cute. My midwife noticed immediately and adjusted him so I could see his gorgeous, scrunched-up face.
He was beautiful.
I did it. I did it.
Five minutes later, the placenta was out and the cord had stopped pulsing. Josh got to cut it. They finished Leo’s APGAR tests, and he latched for a feed. He latched perfectly from the first moment, which redeemed him somewhat for that hand-up-by-his-face-during-birth nonsense. I got stitched up for my 3A tear. Ouch. After that, I fell asleep. I assume that was when Josh got to cuddle him. I dunno. I was tired, man.
After that was a night at the hospital, then two nights as a family at River Ridge, and then a night at home before Leo turned bright orange and needed 8 days in a locked-down NICU for jaundice. Josh and I both stayed in the hospital with him because I was EBF. That was a tough week. But he’s fine now.
People have often mentioned my birth being traumatic. I wouldn’t personally call it that. I know that there were a lot of complications, but thanks to my amazing midwife and her focus on informed consent, I felt in control of a lot of what happened. I don’t regret any decisions I made. If my next birth went the same way, I would make the same choices. Well, I’d probably get the epidural earlier, and I’d huff the gas properly from the start. I also wouldn’t wear wool sneakers.
So thank you to everyone who was a part of Leo’s birth story. You all helped me and reassured me, and most of all, you respected me. That’s how every birth should go.
When my husband is feeling a bit melancholy and needs a reminder of how great he is, I tell him stories from my Facebook pregnancy group. They make him feel like Superman. Why? Because the bar of being a capable husband and father is set so low these days, he stubs his toe on it.
Don’t get me wrong, the stories aren’t uplifting. They’re sad. They’re stories of women who were told “I’m not celebrating you, you’re not MY mother” on Mother’s Day by the father of their children. It’s stories of women who were told to “harden up” during pregnancy, who were woken up in early labour by partners wanting dinner cooked. Women whose partners come home from work and spent hours gaming instead of participating in family life. Women whose partners say “I don’t know what to do with a baby” and who have changed three nappies in six months and gagged their way through it. Women with a 24/7 job who were expected to mind their tired partners who only worked 8/5.
It hurts to read these stories of regular, kind, hard-working women being neglected by the people who are supposed to love, understand and appreciate them best.
What the fuck, men?
Yes, I know, I know. Not ALL men! Of course not, but a significant percentage. Of course I know it’s not all men – I’m happily married to a beautiful example of a person who does all the cooking and easily half of the cleaning – he’s seen more with the vacuum than I am. He’s not whipped, he’s not manipulated – he just appreciates a clean house and understands that everyone who lives in a house is expected to maintain it. He’s not “helping” me by doing chores – they’re his chores too.
Let’s be clear: plenty of my friends and plenty of women generally are partnered up with capable, considerate human beings. They are not the target of this post. They are great.
These men I’m talking about, they don’t do shit. They’re getting a maid they can fuck for free. Why shouldn’t they do half the cleaning? It’s their house. Why shouldn’t they do half the childcare during the hours when they’re not at their job? It’s their children too?
No one should be settling for less. No one.
Why do these men stagnate in their development? Why do they not look at a chore they’re bad at, like laundry, and go, “I’d like to not suck at this. I’d like to reach a minimum standard of cleanliness as a human being.”
So you can’t read the laundry tabs on a shirt, boys? Well here’s news: fucking no one fucking can. Those little icons are totally confusing. But did you know, you can just Google them? Amazing! Or if that’s too hard, just put your clothes in a warm wash with a lidful of detergent. You don’t know how to use your washing machine? Take notes as your partner graciously shows you. Or hell, READ THE MANUAL. Or, again, GOOGLE! We live in a world of immediate information.
You’d be an absolute laughingstock with your mates if you don’t know how to start the lawnmower. Why is the washing machine any different?
Why do these men not bother to learn? Because they have someone doing it for them. For free. EVERY time.
Women, just STOP. Please, just stop. Stop babying them. They are functioning adults. They should be able to make their own food, clean their environment, and manage to meet their children’s needs without depending on you to tell them how to prepare their formula (it fucking SAYS IT ON THE FUCKING TIN OH MY GOD)
I teach my primary students to have a growth mindset, to know that learning new things never stops. That they’re smart and capable and can do anything they set their minds to.
Dudes who can’t clean a microwave: catch up for fuck’s sake. Otherwise she’s gonna leave your unwashed ass and you’re not going to know how to squeeze water out of the mop you’ll be using to wipe up your tears.
And please, let’s not let our sons leave for university without knowing how to do these things. Don’t leave this task to their future partners.
I didn’t do it because of societal pressure, although believe me, there’s plenty of that out there. I had a few reasons.
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.
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.
But if you haven’t got the cash for a bulk payment, here are some ways to get into the cloth game anyway.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 lotsofgoodones. 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.
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.
“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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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