Toy guns and toxic masculinity

Pow pow! I struggle to get the boys, just gone three and five, to stay in their seats. The boy behind them on the bus has a toy gun and is pretending to shoot his sister, then aiming the weapon at strangers in the street outside. Pow pow pow! We never allowed our lads to play with guns. They build weapons of Lego, chew their toast into what just about resembles a pistol, and they use their hands; I can’t control their imagination, nor would I want to. But buying plastic imitations of the tools of war, intended to kill – that’s where I draw a big, fat line. I know I’m in the minority here, and even in literature the verdict is still out on the benefits and dangers of playing with guns. Kids make sense of the world through play; how...

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To the woman who told me all my child needed was a hug

You came into our lives at about 8.10am this morning. I was standing outside my house, my youngest kid kitted out and ready to go, his older brother screaming hysterically at the top of his lungs, quite possibly waking every single person in Drumcondra our side of Griffith Park. See, he didn’t want to go to school by scooter. “Awww,” you said, tilted your head and looked at my son, and I ignored you. “Give him a hug,” you said then, with a tone that struck the perfect balance between empathy and demand. If my morning had started off in a bad way, it shot up on the crappy-morning metre at this exact moment, but I kept ignoring you. You couldn’t know that I’d had no more than four hours of very broken sleep, that I had a...

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Why have kids if you don’t want to spend time with them?

A few days ago, I snapped at a friend I haven’t spoken to in years. It was on Facebook, which I guess just makes it less surprising and more pathetic, but anyway, I did*. She put up an article entitled ‘Why have kids if you don’t want to spend time with them?’ and I thought ‘finally a piece that rips that stupid question to threads!’ and clicked on it. But the article did no such thing; it was just another entitled article describing the selfish behaviour of parents who put themselves first sometimes, who want ‘me time’, who don’t cherish every moment with their children enough. It’s worth talking about the choices we make and how they impact on our children. Actually, it’s crucial that we do. It’s important that...

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Down Syndrome, reproductive choices and the need for a social welfare state

On January 2nd, the Irish Times reported that Irish women have been advised to start having babies younger. The contextual hypocrisy aside (think housing crisis, sky-high childcare costs, poorly paid graduate jobs – the list goes on), one aspect of the story jumped out: Dr. Fishel, of a Dublin IVF fertility clinic, said that Down Syndrome occurs in one of 700 pregnancies in women aged 32, while the same figure for women ten years older is one in 67, and 70-80% of a 40-year-old woman’s eggs have a chromosomal abnormality. Why it’s important? Because Irish women aren’t having enough babies to keep society going with our ageing population. We need to keep producing healthy, productive sprogs. Last weekend, Down Syndrome appeared in...

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A feminist childcare model – and mammies doing it wrong

“Children of working mothers have better social and everyday skills,” read an Irish Times headline last week. A few days later, The Guardian reported on another study suggesting that mothers should spend as much time with their children as they can afford, and went with the headline “Child’s cognitive skills linked to time spent with mother”. Such is the game of pitting mothers against each other: you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. This of course is nothing new; the stream of new studies seems never-ending, and media loves reporting on them – likely because new mothers never fail to fall for the clickbait, desperate for some sort of evidence that they’re doing something right in this most difficult job...

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Take your privilege and shut up

So today started out well. What better way to start your day than with a nice cup of coffee, a bit of sunshine and a good dose of privilege spread across the opinion pages of the Independent? Now, before you go looking for the article – don’t. Don’t give them the honour; don’t feed their advertisers. Lovely woman as I am, I have summarised Barbara McCarthy’s privileged views below along with some rage-fuelled commentary. Hurray! McCarthy introduces her tribute to privilege with a brief anecdote of a man revealing himself to her at an airport, exemplifying the many situations that would justify her feeling offended. She was even called a tranny once – what an insult, eh? Her point is this: feminists these days take offence...

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Pretty in pink and cool dudes in blue

‘Pretty in pink’ and ‘Cool dudes in blue’ read two of the three headlines in my first ever mailout from Mamas & Papas. High on excitement about becoming a parent, I had somehow gone and allowed myself to hope that it wouldn’t be like this, that things really can’t be quite as bad as they seem. The mailout, then, came like a slap in the face of my ideas about gender-neutral parenting, and I tweeted Mamas & Papas and told them to grow up and piss off. Needless to say, they didn’t respond. A friend did respond, though, saying something along the lines of ‘no shit, they’re still playing that stupid colour game’. No shit. And sure, it is hilarious that in 2012 you still can’t go to a kids’ clothes shop without...

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Let’s talk about having it all

There’s a debate on twitter at the moment around the hashtag #havingitall: about the women who want to have it all, and about whether or not they can. It’s funny how the having-it-all discussion gets stuck at greedy, career-hungry women who are stupid enough to think that they can do well professionally, lead a good life, and have a family at the same time. No one talks about the greedy, career-hungry men who are stupid enough to think the same thing. And, much more annoyingly, no one gets that, really, the discussion we should be having is about choice as opposed to greed. Can women really have it all?, people ask. How about we change that to: Why can’t women choose from it all? Or, even better: Who’s allowed to choose what...

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I don’t know how he does it

“If you want to have it all, it’s your job to work out how to do it. If you can’t, give something up.” That’s David Cox’s advice to Kate, the high-flying fictitious character in the film I don’t know how she does it. I suspect we’ll read many a harsh critique of the super-woman film, but I wasn’t quite prepared to read this in the Guardian. I’m not saying that this Hollywood plot doesn’t need some ripping apart – the have-it-all approach to life indeed deserves questioning – but your way of criticising something says a lot about your outlook on life. And I guess, somehow, I keep forgetting that even the most liberal publications in the UK look at parenting as a one-woman job. Many would agree – and I’m sure I...

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