AND, most significantly…
I’ve had a Nikon 5700 since 2003 – it’s done me well but I today I treated to myself to a shiny new Canon SLR – a 5D Mark II (thanks redundancy $$$).
I’m a bit scared of it. It’s huge. Easily double the size of the 5700. But it’s so beautiful. I may need to caress it a few more times before I’m totally satisfied.
I’ve never owned a proper SLR before either (the 5700 was promoted as “SLR-like” whatever that means), so I’m going to have to READ THE MANUAL. When I told Husband I’d have to READ THE MANUAL, he laughed at me. I’m not a manual reader by birth or by trade. I’m more of a spot learner. You know, have a particular problem, solve that problem only.
Anyway, I’m a bit excited at the prospect of learning all this little beauty can do. Watch this space (and ignore the guffaws of laughter coming from the kitchen. That’ll be Husband, fully admiring the way I start at Page 1).
Scout has battled head lice since she started Prep last year. We had managed to escape them for 5 whole, blissful years, but for the past 12 months she’s been the Joan of Arc of Nits.
The first time I found a louse in her hair, we were at the dentist’s office. She had been scratching her scalp that day and the dreaded “Lice Note” had come home in her B.E.E folder (Bring! Everything! Everday!). The Lice Note is never directed at anyone in particular – just a nebulous There Has Been Confirmed Cases Of Head Lice In Your Class. Please Treat.
So I casually went through her hair while in the waiting room and I find a fucking flea. A fucking FLEA in her hair? I was thrown back to 1977, with visions of obsessively combing through Sam the Siamese Cat’s fur for fleas. But a Flea in Scout’s hair? I ganked it between two fingernails and examined it. Could this possibly be a louse? Could my child have LICE? I was such an Amateur.
So we dutifully treat the hair – blitz it into smithereens with chemicals. I’m not convinced that the chemicals even work – there are nasty rumours that the little fuckers are becoming immune to them. And at the end of the day, all it takes is one single renegade lice to trapeze in on the locks of one Grade Schooler to the next for the whole lice cycle to start again. The girls are the worst for this, with all those long, loving, nit-infested snuggles with their BFFs. My head is itching just thinking about it.
I stopped using chemicals after the third infestation. It was getting to the point where I was dousing Scout’s scalp in insecticide every few weeks. I hated that thought, so I went herbal (which had varied results – mostly shit ones) and then I found a solution of sorts. Comb through her hair (without conditioner) every. single. morning. before school with a metal lice comb. Her hair is light-coloured, so the lice are easily noticeable. We can keep the lice at bay by doing this. I may find one or two lice (rarely any eggs – the lice probably aren’t on her head long enough to lay any) every couple of weeks now. She hates The Procedure and whinges every time the comb snags a lock of hair, but I have found in all this a dirty, dirty pleasure.
I like finding lice. I don’t like the lice themselves and I hate that they are continually infesting Scout’s hair, but I like finding them. I like the challenge of parting the hair just so and locating one of the little fuckers and flicking it out, expertly with a lice comb. I like examining it in the white porcelain sink. I like that when I’m finished, Scout’s hair will be pristine. KP24 and its friends are right Fun Killers. Why spoil perfectly good sport with insecticide?
I’m like a cat dragging in another skanky dead mouse into the house, proudly with the contented look of “Look what the Fuck I just found, bitch. Pat me.”
It’s my filthy little secret. Just don’t tell anyone, all right?
And it’s not “Wouldn’t you just love to marry that pie?”
No. I was collecting Inky from creche this afternoon when I ran into one of the school playgroup/creche mums. I had Scout with me, whom she had never met.
As we were walking back to the car, my kids happily chatting to each other, she asks;
“Oh, is that your daughter?” (talking about Scout)
“Do they have two different fathers?”
Now, I’m still deaf with this infernal perforated ear-drum, so I kinda went;
“Oh sorry, I was just wondering if they had two different fathers. They look nothing alike.”
I do just love a mum who says what she’s thinking. No, seriously I do. Plenty of people have commented that Inky and Scout look nothing alike, but no-one actually questions where the sperm came from. I’ve always thought Inky looked a little bit like Jared Padalecki, actually.
Maybe he’s up for another round of Celebrity Free-pass?
Whilst I was on maternity leave in 2010/2011, rumours spread of redundancies at work. People I knew were being retrenched from all areas of the business.
In my naivety, I assumed our team would be safe. I work in a very technical area of Human Resources (compensation & benefits – that’s OK, you can switch off now) for a large organisation and felt sure that the company would need all hands on deck, particularly with a remuneration review just around the corner. The team itself had gone through a restructure, but I was confident my job would still be there.
In February 2012, I returned to work 2 days a week. I put Inky in childcare, went shopping for post-baby-body work-clothes (thank you Ojay, I will always love you) and actually got a bit excited about having somewhere to go where I could use my brain for something other than solving a Tupperware shape sorter. On my first day, I felt the atmosphere in my team, was, ahem, somehow different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but everyone seemed introspective, nervous. I went out for a lot of coffees that first week.
I had always been a high performer, but realised very quickly that the executive team as I knew it had disappeared. The one person in senior management who I trusted to have my back, I discovered was being made redundant in the week I returned. When our team was presented the “new” structure in March and told who would be making the decisions as to who would stay and who would go, I knew I was screwed. The executive team had never even met me, let alone worked with me and you can scream “High Performer” in their faces all you like, they will not retain someone they don’t know over someone they do.
In the following weeks while decisions were being made, I was pragmatic. I had been with the firm for 7 years so my redundancy payout, if it happened, wouldn’t be insubstantial. But I was also pretty pissed in advance – I had just come back from maternity leave – I was eager to work, to learn. I had only been in the area for a couple of years and I genuinely loved the balance of “squint” and “consultant” in the work. Although I questioned certain aspects of management and the original mandate for cost-cutting, I wanted to be here. But I decided that I would be better off working somewhere else if upper management weren’t going to value the work I did.
When the news came down (via phone call) I wasn’t surprised. I had prepared myself and had settled into a place where I would have been shocked if they’d kept my role. 6 of us in the team went – 5 part-time mums and 1 full-time female. All women in an HR area not dominated by women. Our roles were not superfluous – they were offshored to a new Asian hub, the idea being that the hub employees would take away the administrivia from the Melbourne-based consultants so they could be freed up to do the more technical/consulting aspects. How that will play out in practice, I have no idea and I don’t particularly care.
There was no official announcement about the team “restructure” and ensuing redundancies. I was put on redeployment but knew that was a waste of 6 perfectly good pay-in-lieu-of-notice weeks. I worked 2 days. All the areas I would be remotely interested in were themselves laying people off. Likewise, the 6 weeks of retrenchment afterward were spent working my networks, fine-tuning my resume and realising that I wasn’t going to find a 2-day per week job anywhere. I was actually annoyed that management made us stay for the 6 weeks of redeployment in order to be eligible for the severance payment when they knew that the part-timers were simply not going to find another job in the organisation.
So those 12 weeks were weird. And awkward. Only a couple of people really asked me how I was doing and it wasn’t from the people I expected. Team meetings were business-as-usual, which I found uncomfortable. The team were concerned that those who had been made redundant had already checked out emotionally and why would they bother going above and beyond when they wouldn’t be around in 8 weeks? I listened to this over the blower and felt increasingly frustrated (and, quite frankly, insulted). I was trying to be as available and valuable as I could (whilst still looking for a job for numero uno) so as not to leave the team in the lurch. I don’t begrudge them for trying to manage the workload when they were the ones who would be left to pick up the pieces. After all, it wasn’t their fault that certain decisions were made, but I just kinda wished these conversations had gone on behind my back. That is the first and last time I’m ever going to wish that.
I took some solace, not only with the other girls who had been let go, but with some of my team who were left behind. Ostensibly the lucky ones. I remarked one day that it felt awkward being in the office because I felt acutely the Survivor Guilt around me. Someone posed that in some cases, it was actually the opposite, that some of the others wanted out and thought I was the lucky one to have scored a severance package. It wasn’t something I’d ever really thought of. It is a strange oxymoron, being someone with a healthy ego and being retrenched – on one hand, it is fiscally rewarding, on the other, my career destiny is something I want to be able to control, to leave when I feel the time is right for me. Being retrenched takes that out of your hands.
People would say to me “Don’t take it personally”, but I did. I took it really personally. I think there is value in taking it personally. Not everyone can love us or our work 100% of the time (imagine having to conjure up all that perfection). I figured if my ego can take a blow like this and recover then my ego is going to be OK.
I worked from home for nearly 12 weeks. On my very last day I had to come into the office to return my laptop, security pass etc. I work on Level 2, but somehow pressed the Level 1 button and thought for a second that it didn’t take them long to redecorate before I realised my mistake. I had also expressly asked that NO morning tea be held in my honour. I hate those things. I hate the rhetoric of management giving the little speechsky “It was so good to have worked with you, blah blah BLAH” when you suspect they just want you to leave so they can get on with things. I hate the expectation that you will make a little rhetorical speechsky in return when all you want to do is wish them LOTS of luck. The people I work with whose opinions and company I value know who they are. There’s no need for me to say anything extra. When I logged into my laptop, I was relieved to discover that there was no invitation to any morning tea. At 10.30, someone passed by my desk and asked if I was coming to my morning tea. I hadn’t been invited. To my own. morning. tea. This sums up a lot of things for me.
The truth is, being made redundant can be a righteous kick up the backside for many people, including me. For the first time in a long time, I’ve been able to evaluate what is really important to me in light of the fact I don’t have a job anymore.
I have my kids. I’ve gone back to taking Scout to school. When I was working, I would leave before they woke up in the morning, and I was finding that I really missed them. And I had missed connecting with the other mums at school.
I also made two decisions career-wise:
I knew I would be at a disadvantage not having an HR-related degree to move up the management food chain (apparently an Honours degree in Film and Drama doesn’t cut it? Don’t they know how beneficial a Drama degree is in HR?) . Of course, now I’m enrolled I’m second-guessing even wanting to go back into HR. Part of me loves it (yes, I know, hard to believe etc. etc.) but the other part of me realises that perhaps I should try to make a business out of blogging. That writing is my calling.
I have 4 weeks to figure all this out.
Have you been made redundant? How did it make you feel?
(P.S If you know who I worked for, please do not indicate this or name the organisation in the comments)
I’ve been thinking a bit about where blogging ends and celebrity begins. I have a truckload to think about at 2am after the Night-time Codrals have worn off and the infernal insomnia kicks its heels into my skull. I’m not talking about celebrities who turn to blogging, rather, those that have become famous by blogging, by putting themselves out there for the readers to judge, love, hate or idolise (or all of the above).
Let me start by saying I really dislike the term “mummy blogger”. I don’t know why it sounds so patronising, so low-brow, but it does to me. I don’t even have an alternative to the term, I’m simply a person who discovered a creative outlet long ago by writing, and that now happens to be in the public space, via a blog. I am also a parent. I do parenty things. I do non-parenty things (often after an altercation with a few Mojitos). I write about it all. Share the Shitstorm and all that.
But here, I am going to look at blogging mums, as opposed to other “genres” of blogger, only because it’s the space I inhabit to a large degree.
When I first started blogging, Dooce was the shezizzle (she’s still the shezizzle. Fact). A Salt Lake City blogger, she started blogging in 2002 and was renowned for getting sacked because she posted satirical accounts about her company. You know you’ve arrived when your blog makes its way into the vernacular (the term to be “dooced” meaning to lose one’s job because of one’s website). She’s made a packet out of being shown the door and is having the last laugh – now more famous than the company that sacked her ever was. Dooce is one of those bloggers who’s smartly surfed the social media wave. She has 1.9 million followers on Twitter (that’s more than Hugh Jackman. There’s something in that for all of us). I call this class of blogger the Blogistocracy – people like Dooce are, in my opinion, blogging royalty.
In 2003, before Scout and Inky were mere itches in their daddy’s pants, I was at Design Festa in Tokyo with fellow blogger and photographer Martine, when two strangers approached us (very low key, no shrieking or anything) and gushed “We love your blog”. I won’t pretend for a second that I wasn’t incredibly flattered, but it was weird. My hit-rate had been healthy (150 hits a day give or take) but a piss in the ocean compared to the traffic blogs are getting post the advent of social networking sites. I had no clue who was reading my blog, and it made me realise that there is no creep filter when you decide to put your life on the internet and give yourself a “face”. While these girls weren’t remotely creepy, I had other flamers on my blog who were a few synapses short of a full brain and got their jollies by writing incredibly offensive (and personal) comments. I stopped using my real name on the blog after that.
I’ve only started working the social media crowd recently (by that, I mean using Twitter, Facebook etc. to give my blog exposure). I still find it awkward and a teensy bit stalkerish with the hollow echo of “pick me! pick me!” and all the grade-school social melancholia that goes along with that. I struggle with it EVERY DAY, but I am persisting. I grabbed a copy of Problogger‘s 31 Days to a Better Blog and have been working squintily away on it and he seems as wed to social media as Trump is to his toupee. He has a valid point, of course (Darren, that is, not Trump). I’m not persevering just because he says so (although I possibly might), there is no doubt that social media plays a crucial role in engaging an audience, promoting what you have to say and increasing your traffic.
So, I’ve been dutifully doing my research around what the Australian blogosphere is interested in, who are the big names, who are the smaller names who resonate with me, what is happening.
Woogsworld has 2600 Facebook likes. 4700 Twitter followers (aka A Shit Lot). She engages her readers, blogs about her daily life as a mum to 2 kids. ”Mundane” stuff as she calls it. Readers hang onto her every word and that includes me – I genuinely love what she writes about and the humour that she writes with.
Edenland has 1800 Facebook likes, 3800 Twitter followers. Perhaps not as accessible as The Woog for me, she nonetheless probes the deeper, sometimes sadder aspect of her life (or perhaps this comes through in her more recent posts).
Both of these blogs are quality. They tell it like it is in their own way, and if I saw either of these women on the street, I would know who they were instantly. I would try not to swoon and fail dismally. I may wee my pants a teensy bit. They are ordinary mums, writing about ordinary things, but having an extraordinary impact on their readers. I love that. And they’re using their influence beyond just blogging, dipping their feet into the sea of mainstream media, writing for such outlets as The Hoopla and Mamamia and speaking at blogger’s conferences and festivals such as Blogher.
Another new aspect of blogging that it is really new to me is the marriage of Blog and Brand.
Blogher’s 2011 U.S study showed that 53% of women who read blogs have purchased a product based on a blog recommendation. Blogher’s most recent 2012 study went further, looking at consumer trust in social media such as Facebook and Twitter and discovered that a sponsored review on a blog earns more trust than a celebrity endorsement. But I think this is where the line blurs. Surely both Woog and Edenland who have written sponsored reviews on both their blogs could be considered celebrities in their own right? If the Macquarie Dictionary (hey, if it’s good enough for Letters and Numbers, it’s good enough for me) defines celebrity as “famous or well-known person” then Mrs Woog and Edenland can indeed be considered celebrities, so at what point do brands stop aligning themselves with Bloggers and start working with Celebrities?
I guess an obvious answer is “it’s all about the numbers”. If you have 5000 people who read your blog and you have influence over them, then a company who sells a product to that market is going to be interested. It doesn’t really matter whether someone thinks a blogger is a celebrity or not, or even how you define it. To a reader, the quality of a blog might be quite independent of the numbers that a blog attracts. But, to a sponsor/advertiser/brand partner it really is all about the statistics – how many people will I reach? What will the cost per person be to reach them? How targeted is the audience, and therefore what will be the likely return on my investment? At the end of the day, quantity squashes quality in the game of brand marketing sumo. But it’s quality that gets the quantity in in the first place.
One thing is for sure – “celebrity” bloggers, if you can call them that, are certainly more deserving of that status than the “stars” of “Being Lara Bingle” or “The Shire” (choke gag splutter). The Blogistocracy are the ultimate reality stars. They are smart, they are often brand savvy, they have talent. And there’s nothing on the cutting room floor.
What do you think? Where does blogging end and celebrity begin?
By the way, this post is NOT sponsored by Apple or iTunes. As much as it may seem that way.
At some stage, I’ll tell you about my own experiences with a burst aneurysm (for those who haven’t heard my story already) – you may need to grab a chair for that one…
Got me a ticket to the Melbourne Problogger Training Event. Ooh yeah, baby.
The speaker’s line-up is sweet-as. I’m sorry, did I just say sweet-as?
It will be like going to Lilith Fair but, slightly different. Geeks instead of Groupies. Sarah Wilson instead of Sarah McLachlan. Mumpit instead of Moshpit. You get the idea. I’ll go away now.
Anyone else going?