An Earthy Mother sharing her experiences in today's world....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Surviving my childhood

 I'm a survivor, but I'm not a person from a reality television show. I'm not from Destiny's Child, shaking my booty and watching the money roll in. I'm a woman, a mother, a daughter, a cousin, a niece, a granddaughter, and a survivor of childhood abuse.

I come from a middle class family. My sisters and I were raised by babysitters, childcare workers and then a nanny while my parents earned enough money to pay for a comfortable life for us all. My parents thought that paying someone else to raise us while they worked for 10 times that amount was worth it for the future of our family. It wasn't.

I was sexually, physically and emotionally abused. I was abused from when I was 5½ until when I was 10½ years old. I was abused by a woman, her husband and her brother. These people were supposed to care for my sisters and I. They were entrusted with our wellbeing, and instead they crushed our spirits.

Abuse damages people immensely irrespective of when it happens, how it happens, or how old you were when it happens. It has resounding affect on who you are. It changes you in ways you still won't realise for many years. The lasting effects of abuse are even more painful because there is often no physical scars to show the damage that has occurred; there is no exterior sign to show people you are fragile and need help.

The people who abused me were sadistic pedophiles with no compassion. They were also Jehovah's Witnesses with a religious exterior and an involvement in their community. She was a childcarer, her husband was a bartender, her brother was a doctor. They presented an immaculate façade. They contorted my life so extremely that I do not remember vast periods of my life right up until my late teens when I sought psychological help.

I was raped, drugged, held underwater, suffocated, locked in rooms, starved, beaten, made to eat feces and drink urine. I was forced to perform sexual acts on all three of them. I was tied up and I was put in car boots while they shopped or went to (her husband's) bar to get my baby sister drunk. My sisters suffered different abuse; they were abused emotionally and physically. I was at an age when they could groom me and then abuse me horrifically, so they did. When they met me, I was also a child used to being ignored, a child used to being shunted, a child who did not have a strong attachment to anyone. This makes it easier to abuse a child, and I was a prime candidate because my parents were so disconnected.

I thought this was all normal. I thought everyone had someone who played heavy metal music at maximum volume while they raped you on a towel. I thought everyone had to keep secrets from other adults or else you would be killed.

I went to friend's houses and it was normal there too; one friend's dad had a tattoo on his penis which he liked to show us and ask us to touch it. Her 5 brothers all did the same. Another friend's grandfather would ask us to sit on his lap and he would fondle us and then digitally rape us as he read to us. This was life. I would have swapped their lives for mine, though- it seemed they had it easier.

As a teenager I was a self-mutilator, writing dark poetry and smearing it with my own blood. I became bulimic and then vacillated between anorexia and bulimia. I attempted suicide and I tried any drugs I could. I slept with anyone who looked at me, starting when I was 13. I got drunk as often as possible and I was raped at parties when I was too drunk to fight back. I teetered on the edge for so many years that it was normal for me. I felt dead inside and I thought it was normal. I slept with men older than my father with little understanding of the way I was continuing the abuse. In my last year of school, I lived on the couches of other people, in the apartments of men I had just met, and for a few days in the back of a ute when I had nowhere else to go. I was adrift and I did not know how to anchor myself. It seemed I had always been adrift.

I am still recognising the way the abuse I endured has affected my life in ways I never considered.

I underwent intensive psychotherapy, using so much of my weekly salary as a waitress that I barely had enough for rent. I would rather go without food than go without my psychologist. She was the one person who helped me understand myself, understand what had happened, process the years of hurt. Without her, I would not have made it to 20. But I did. I struggled through, trying to make sense of it all, trying to find a reason to live. I attempted suicide one more time when I was 22, sick of the suicidal thoughts and the bleakness of my life. I decided that if I managed to live, then I would throw myself into trying to live. My older sister saved me, finding me on the edge of a creek on the edge of unconsciousness and racing me to hospital. I survived. Just as I have been surviving for almost my whole life.

I don't expect a medal, or pity, or even understanding. I don't make excuses for myself because I was abused, nor do I allow myself to be a victim. I made a choice- I decided that I was going to make a difference. I was abused, but that did not make me who I am today. It is a part of me, and it always will be, but it is no longer how I frame myself.

I parent my children with love and attachment. I make sure they feel safe and secure so that when they are older, if anyone approaches them or tries to abuse them then they know that it is wrong, know they should scream, know that it is wrong, know they can come to me. I am present in my children's lives. I do not let strangers look after my children, I do not leave my children with anyone I do not know, I am hyper-vigilant. I cannot imagine leaving my children to be raised by others at all- let alone from when they are small. My children know they are loved. My children will not be raised by other people because they have a mother, and no money is worth missing my children's childhoods. I will not make the same mistakes my parents made, trading money for our childhoods.

Today, everywhere I go I meet other women and men who have been abused. Often, survivors tend to gravitate towards each other. It saddens me to think of the vast number of people I know who have been abused as children. Yet, the majority of survivors I know are strong people who have overcome adversity. They are amazing people who have hurt in their hearts but love in their eyes. They try to help others because they were never helped. I hope I do the same.

Today, my parents still refuse to acknowledge that abuse we all suffered. I am manifesting these memories, recreating my childhood, fabricating these ideas. They are terrified of facing the harsh reality of their mistakes. So I am the one who has to validate myself, I am the one who has to be strong enough to stand up and say this: I was abused, I was hurt, and it was wrong. No child should have to suffer, no child should be abused. And yet I did, but I survived. It would have been nicer to have experienced my childhood rather than simply survived it, but you cannot undo what is done. All you can hope to do is heal the wounds until they no longer hurt.

If you suspect someone is being abused, whether they are an adult or a child, please report it. You could be making a world of difference.

Here are some links for those who need some guidance:

I have a few great books on processing and healing the effects of childhood sexual abuse; for those who would like to borrow them please feel free to email me at

Monday, March 29, 2010

My journey and the stigma of single motherhood

During the course of my life, I have known many solo mamas- strong, witty women raising their children while the men-folk they bred with took a different path. I never thought of them as different, I never considered them lacking because a penis-toting man was not there standing beside them. I thought they were brave and stronger than even they knew. But I was not going to be a single mama, no thankyou. My parents have been together for over 30 years. I was going to be in a stable, everlasting, equal relationship.

When I became a mother, I fell in love with my son so deeply I was afraid I might love him too much. I knew I had to protect this small person from the perils in this world while keeping a balance with exposing him to the beauties of this world. I had a partner who was kind, and charming, and warm. He was a lovely man who I deeply loved. We worked together and there was harmony, music, love, mutual consideration and kindness. I was supported and life was perfect- well, almost. Small things started to make me wonder whether or not I was alone here... I researched choices extensively and when I presented them, they were accepted. We agreed on most subjects. What I felt was right was never questioned. I started to feel like I was the only person who actually cared; I started to wonder if perhaps I was much more invested in this small human than he was. I asked him and he shrugged his shoulders.

I considered this was just the way things were- as a woman, and a mother, of course I cared more. I loved more. I thought more. I put in more. But why? Was this really how most people lived?

I loved my son, and I yearned for more children. I wanted another baby, and he agreed. We were very fertile, it only took 2 months before I was pregnant again. My son was 9 months old, and I was ecstatic. Two babies to feed together, two babies to grow up together, two babies to lavish my love on.

I was incredibly sick for the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy. I could not function, I could barely move, I vomited every time I ate. I lived on ginger beer and apples. I still worked, because I had to- he did not. I still cleaned the house, because I had to. I coped, because I had to.

I wanted a homebirth, and he did not. I would not budge. I was going to have my baby at home. After a few months, he agreed. He had no choice. This is not a man's choice to make.

The turning point for me was one day as I was at work, breastfeeding my son over my 36 week belly. I was working 40 hours a week over 4 days. I was exhausted but I continued so I could pay for my homebirth. He was not working, he was studying. He was not helping me. I was not supported, I was not cared for, I was not in a partnership but more of a beneficial scenario for this man. I raised my concerns and he dismissed them, dismissed me. I was pregnant, I must be hormonal, I must not be clear-headed. He invalidated me and I let him.

After our daughter's birth, things became worse. He did not find work, despite me imploring him. I went back to work when my daughter was 3 weeks old, my 18 month old son also there with me- because I had no choice. If I wanted us to stay afloat, I would have to be the one to tread water. So I did. And when I came home with my two small people on public transport at 7pm at night to find him asleep in bed, the house a mess, and Uni subjects failed, I was livid. I was working myself beyond exhaustion, and he was sleeping.

When she was 6 weeks old, I decided enough was enough. We had a roaring fight, and I asked him to leave. He did. So we were alone, and I was the one who did everything. I had no help, no family, no close friends who lived in my state. I didn't even tell my family for months. Instead, I just did what I had to. He did not see his children for weeks at a time, he missed almost a month of her life when she was 4 months old.

I was deeply ashamed, but not that I was a single mother. I was deeply ashamed that I had chosen this person as the father of these two beautiful children. I was deeply ashamed that I had failed them, because I had not chosen better.

Over the next 18 months, we went through periods of trying to make it work. Well, I should say I went through periods of trying to make it work. We lived together. We lived separately. He refused to see a counsellor. He said we could just make it work. Yet it always came back to the same, lonely, unsupported place.

The thing that really interested me was the responses from others when they found out. There was deep pity, encouragement to seek couples counseling, teary eyes and pointed questions about "however will you cope?". I would talk about living in an unhappy relationship, supporting a man who didn't support me at all, earning the money and keeping the house clean and the fridge stocked and they would ask me how I would cope!!!

On the other hand, I had some women who barely knew me nodding their heads and looking at me with an "I told you so" glint in their eyes. I was too strong, too opinionated, too forceful. One of these women actually told me that I would "never find a man unless I toned it down and tried to be a little more demure." !!! What kind of world is this, where a strong woman is obviously single because the man she was with couldn't cope with her overwhelming dominance? (Please note the dripping sarcasm here.) These women always assumed he had left me. I liked to set them straight.

Suddenly, being a single mother was something I should be ashamed of, apparently. I was a blight on the community, ruining my children's lives, living off taxpayer dollars, using the system. I was reported to Centrelink for fraud, I received abusive text messages, I was hassled online. Women told me I was below them because I was single; as if being in a partnership made them better mothers, better women, better people.

What it boiled down to was that these women felt that I should feel less of a mother because I did not have a partner- well, more accurately, I did not have a man. Our society still sees women as objects, sub-humans, a gender who should be dictated to. Women continue this misogyny, directing it at other women, because they are so used to labelling themselves as wives, partners, fiances, girlfriends. A mother is not a good mother without a father for her children. Why? Why isn't a woman who stands on her own two feet and supports her children commended for her strength instead of looked down upon?

At school, the idea that you are a nobody without a boyfriend is still the norm. Girls who don't have boyfriends are somewhat amiss. It is the same for women at all stages of life; to be single and 20, 30, 50, is supposed to be something abhorrent. It is supposed to be an indicator that you have failed. And it was what I felt when my relationship first began to break down- I was ashamed that I had failed my children, that it was my fault.

What I now realise is that I have nothing to be ashamed of; I have not failed my children, he has. He failed me as well. Above all else, I should be proud. Because my children have the life they have because of my hard work and strength; they have shoes on their feet and organic food in their tummies because of me. They have beautiful wooden handcrafted toys and play silks. They drink pure water and they are not vaccinated. My daughter had the best birth possible because of me, and my son had the best birth he could expect in a hospital because I informed myself. My children have wonderful clothes gleaned from Op shops and bought on sale. They have hats and dresses and vests handknitted by me with wool I dyed. They sleep underneath blankets I made for them. They are happy little people who have everything they need in life, and more. And I am the person who made all of this possible. I am the person who made these choices for them. I am the mother who chose to fly solo because I know it is the best thing for us right now.

My children have a father, and he is a good father to them when he can be.

I am just thankful that my children have a great mother who wasn't afraid to stand on her own so she could give them the best life possible.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Empowered women and the women who despise them.....

 I wish women were respected more and objectified less. When we allow those closest to us to dictate our choices, we relinquish control over our own lives. When you defer to others about your beliefs and rights, you are essentially giving away your own power. Your life is your own, your body is your own, nobody gets to make choices for you or force you to bend to their will.

This was my status the other night, after an eyeopener discussion on a woman's status which really made me consider where women stand in today's world.

I am a strong woman. I stand up for what I believe in; I have to acknowledge that I often come across in a way which rubs others the wrong way. I'm okay with this because I realise you can't always get along with others and that sometimes in order to educate people you have to push them out of their comfort zone and rub them the wrong way so that they start questioning their realities.I want to inform people on issues which are often controversial or difficult to digest, so I have become adept at not letting criticism get to me. (And I sometimes consider buying clothing like this because it nails it.

This week, women on Facebook made a stand and used pictures of themselves feeding their babies to show that breastfeeding is not obscene. Almost every profile picture was a beautiful statement of breastfeeding love. It was a lovely way to normalise breastfeeding.

A few hours into the campaign, a woman on my friends list had to remove her picture. We all know Facebook is discriminating against breastfeeding women. However, it wasn't a faceless Facebook employee who forced it to be removed. It was her husband. The same man who fathered the child she was nourishing in her picture- threatening her if she did not remove it.

 I have to admit, I was shocked. Not only shocked that a man would threaten a woman over her breastfeeding picture, but shocked that a woman would remove it because she was forced by her significant other. Shocked because I really considered that women would stand up for what they believe in. Shocked because her husband's justification was simply an objectification of his wife- exactly what the campaign was trying to address. How can women rally against Facebook's backward policies  when their own partners are sexualising their breastfeeding relationship?

However was really surprised me was the vitriol directed at me when I expressed my dismay and disgust at the emotional abuse and manipulation this woman was being subjected to; after her husband justified and objectified and laid the blame at the feet of other men who would objectify her:
 its about MY WIFE doing something that i found way too confronting
 i did ask nicely about 5 times. if she cant get the message .. then fuck why am i married!
i kind of regret i said it and forced it upon her. but it comes down to respecting someone elses wishes.
 if you are going to blame anyone for sexualizing the breast
blame the women that get them out in magazines.. blame the marketing companies that ram it down men's throats. blame society for painting the picture that is "sexuality"
there's a fine line and to most men that line is fucking invisible
The basic gist was that other men would find her picture sexual. Other men would see it, save it, use it as a sexual tool. This man made his wife remove her picture 'in case' other men would find it sexual. He did not ask her to remove picture of her children which a Paedophile could save and use. This had less to do with someone saving a photo, and more to do with someone saving a photo of his wife, breastfeeding openly. His perception was that other men would be turned on by this photo. This was a little too close to a woman being forced to wear a Burqa because other men might find her attractive. He was uncomfortable with her picture being up, so he asked her 5 times, then threatened to remove her Facebook account- as if she was a child and he was her parent. Where does a man in Australia get such backward ideas about his partnership and respect? Where does a man get the idea that he can force his wife to bend to his will and that it is acceptable to disregard another human being's choices?

Strong women should stand up against men who dominate women and use their gender to wield power in relationships. Men should not be threatened by strong, empowered women- nor should other women.When a woman talks of her anger at being forced, those around her should support her and encourage her to stay true to her own principles. And yet, in this case of a man forcing his wife, and his wife expressing that she was not happy, other women gathered around to pat his back and congratulate him for being strong, while also applauding her for taking her poor husband's feelings into account.

 I find it ABSOLUTELY disgusting that ANYONE is disrespecting ♫♫♫♫'s husband for voicing his concern and how dare anyone try to belittle her respect for her husbands feelings.
You're an inspiration as a respectful woman and as a dedicated mother.

I, on the other hand, who questioned his motives and what gave him a right to force his wife to do anything, who supported her in her frustration that her husband would threaten to delete her Facebook account, became the subject of their anger. How dare I question his motives? How dare I ask relevant questions about the inequality in their relationship? These women acted as if he has the right to force her to do anything if he felt uncomfortable with it, that it was totally normal for a woman to have to defer to her husband and accept his insecurities.

 Eath Motherhoood, if I were ♫♫♫♫, the only thing I would be deleting is my FB friendship with you for treating my husband like total shit and being a straight up bitch to him. Why on earth you would think it's okay to talk to someone's HUSBAND on THEIR fb status like that is beyond me
its extremist mothers like you that give breast feeding a bad name and manipulate other people and bend them to your will
 You truly give a bad name to mother's like me who breastfeed and love to be an advocate, Thanks for fucking up the movement!
I never really considered the sexism in Australia; my mother is a Feminist and I grew up considering that equality was fairly visible in Australia- except in business and government. I considered that equality was the norm in relationships and families, that women were respected in their own homes for the amazing people they are.... And then my bubble burst.

I know I am rambling here, but it is difficult to understand why women use phrases such as "my husband wouldn't let me", "I have to use my other account so hubby doesn't know", "my husband doesn't think it is safe", "I just couldn't, he wouldn't agree." Why are women still subjugated? A man works to provide for his family, he's wonderful. A woman works at home to raise her family and she is valueless? It is 2010 and women still don't feel entitled to a part of their husband's paycheck, women still don't feel they can make choices about their bodies without the approval of their partners, women still feel the need to submit when faced with a husband who insists she adopt his choices.

For every empowered woman, you will find 5 powerless women who promote the patriarchal stance that women should defer to their husbands, support them regardless of the support they receive, 'look after' their husbands when they are being emotionally starved. As 'this is being a good wife.'

An empowered woman is not a threat, she is a blessing and an indicator of how the world should be. It is 2010 and women are still considered inferior, malleable- if they are empowered they must be relentless Feminists or men-eaters.... Why is it that an empowered women is so frightening to the world at large, still?

For centuries women have been dominated, forced into submission, controlled by men. Why should we as women accept that our beliefs can be negated by what other people wish us to believe in? Where would you ever see a man accept this?

I will talk about this more in another blog, I feel disillusioned enough already on this topic. I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes: