One year at The Campground

I have a whole list of drafts in various states of completion. But they all seem just a little bit too hard right now.  The owners of The Campground are away at the moment, which means we’re working every day.  I’ve lost my voice, which makes both working and parenting more difficult. I’m sooooo tiiiiiiiired.

But this week marks ONE YEAR in The Campground, so I can’t let it go by without a blog. And that can only mean one thing…. It’s time for a lazy photo blog.

And so, I present: A year in The Campground (in photos)

October 2016: The Campground Kid “mowing the lawns” and enjoying our new home.

November 2016: Abseiling 100m into the Lost World with Waitomo Adventures.

December 2016: The road between Kawhia and Waitomo on a beautiful summer day.

January 2017: The view from the Waitomo lookout while out on an evening walk.

February 2017: A walk in the Ruakuri reserve. A snack on top of the rocks.

March 2017: Watching the sheep shearing at the Waitomo Caves Sports Day.

April 2017: Stomping in the mud during a very rainy autumn.

May 2017: A holiday in Taupō. Beautiful sun over the lake.

June 2017: A walk in the Waitomo hills. A view to Mt Pirongia.

July 2017: Another holiday. Toddler’s first snow.

August: A sunset. The end of our first winter in five years.

September 2017: A walk to Opapaka Pā. A view over Waitomo.

It’s been a BIG YEAR. In and around these photos there have been ups and downs. Some things have been surprisingly easy. Other things have been very very hard. But one year in, we’ve made it through together, and we don’t regret the decision to come here for a second.

Someone’s gotta do it.

I do not love cleaning. I do not even like cleaning, really. I quite like the results of cleaning, but if I’m honest, I shirk as much cleaning as I can, and I don’t think about it any more than I have to.

Well, it turns out that as a campground manager, I have to think about cleaning rather a lot. I have to roster daily cleaning staff, make sure all cleaning staff have what they need, set up for cleaning, wash laundry, schedule long term cleaning tasks, hire new cleaning staff, pay cleaning staff, order cleaning products, monitor the condition of rooms, and more.

Some days, I even have to do the cleaning, and let me tell you – it’s hard work!  Yesterday, I cleaned for an hour, and by the end of it I was glowing a sweaty mess. Cleaning as work is, in my opinion, much harder than cleaning at home. On the surface, you’re doing the same tasks. But cleaning as work is different. It’s time limited, physically difficult, and requires nit-picking and attention to detail. That hair on the sheet that you can ignore or don’t even see when you make your own bed? That’s a complaint at an accommodation business. Those streaks left after wiping your kitchen bench? Nope, not good enough when it’s your job. Plus, it’s repetitive, usually poorly paid, and often only offers inconsistent and/or short hours. To be honest, it’s not much of a proposition. But, even if it’s not much of a proposition:

Someone’s gotta do it.

Stock photo cleaner has had enough of your shit.

Cleaning’s one of those jobs that’s often invisible. Unless it’s done poorly, many people don’t think about it at all. But today I want to encourage you to think about it.

Ignoring all the cleaning work in the world is a pretty privileged position, so let’s take a look at a pretty privileged example – a family holiday – and consider just how many cleaners are involved to make it run smoothly (or… well… cleanly):

  • Maybe we start our holiday by taking a bus or a train to the airport (well, we would if we didn’t live in New Zealand). That bus or train has to be cleaned regularly.
  • We get to the airport (cleaned by a team of cleaners) and check in.
  • After a short wait, we head to the plane (which has just been cleaned) and take our seats.
  • We eat food from factories and kitchens that have to be cleaned, and read books printed in factories that hire cleaners (who am I kidding, we’re parents, we don’t get to read books…)/distract our kid with toys made in factories (which also need cleaning).
  • The plane lands, and we head through another cleaned airport, to another cleaned mode of transportation, which takes us to our accommodation.
  • We arrive early, but we’re lucky enough that our room has been cleaned already, and we can check in. As we walk to our room, we pass cleaning trolleys in the hallway, but don’t see any cleaners – they’re hard at work. When we get to our room, we don’t really notice how clean the room is – but we’d certainly notice if it wasn’t.
  • Oops, we realise we forgot something, and we pop to the mall to grab a replacement. We leave just as the mall closes and see the cleaning teams ready to start work.
  • We go to a restaurant for dinner. The restaurant may not hire specific cleaning staff, but a huge part of the work there is keeping everything clean.
  • After dinner, we have a swim at the hotel pool, which is cleaned every day.
  • The next day, we are checking out, but first we have breakfast at the hotel. We are glad that the milk in our coffee comes from a factory with very high cleanliness standards. To achieve this, they have specialised cleaners as well as general factory staff who clean as part of their work. The farm where our eggs come from also needs regular cleaning. Depending on the scale, they may not have specialist cleaners, but…

Someone’s gotta do it. 

That’s less than a day out in the world, and already our little hypothetical family has used the services of at LEAST 13 different cleaners. Even if we stay home, pretty much all of our food and almost everything we use can only get to us with the help of cleaners. We don’t specifically hire a cleaner (I kinda wish we did), but we definitely get the benefit of their work.

In short, we need cleaners! But they’re not the only ones out there doing important and invisible work. There are also refuse collectors, gardeners, janitors, groundskeepers, drivers… Not to mention the HUGE amount of care work that is required to allow people to work outside the home; childcare, elderly care, disability care… This is all the work that many people only notice when it’s not done or not done well.This is the invisible and underappreciated work that makes society function.

Sort it out yourself, or appreciate those who do!

Being invisible doesn’t mean it’s less important, quite the opposite.  These invisible jobs are like medications: they’re a lifesaver for some of us, many of us don’t think about them much, some people actively look down on them, but without them our society would be way less healthy.

And yet, the hard working people in these roles face unfair stereotypes and huge amounts of judgement. They are told they should be ashamed of their work. They are told that they should “better themselves”. When they need government support because their employers don’t pay them a living wage, they’re told they are a drain on society. When they complain about their dismal pay, they are told that it’s their choice to be there and they can find something else if they don’t like it. When they draw attention to poor working conditions, they are ignored and told “what do you expect if you’re just a [cleaner]?”

And all these (rude and privileged) positions against cleaners (etc.) effectively ignore an important point: someone’s gotta do it. 

So, my challenge to you today is to notice the cleaners. Make eye contact. Thank them for their hard work. If you don’t see any cleaners, appreciate the unseen cleaners who allowed you to live your life and do your job. Or thank a childcare worker or a gardener or a security guard. If you are a cleaner, thank yourself, and be proud of what you do.

Maybe you already do those things? That’s great! But I think you could do more (I certainly could). There are a lot of rude comments and unfair stereotypes. We have to be twice as nice and appreciative to cancel them out.

Someone’s gotta do it. Lots of us don’t want to do it. So we’ve gotta appreciate those who do!

 

Taking our kid camping, and other goals

We have been The Campground Family for nearly a year, and I have a confession to make: The Campground Kid has never ever been camping.

She’s never stayed in a tent or a caravan. She’s never known the joys of campsite cooking. She’s never slept outside. She’s never woken up in a tent-oven. She’s never pushed the huge puddles that build up in the roof of a canvas tent after rain.

She HAS helped set up a tent, and she HAS slept in a sleeping bag. But STILL… What kind of Campground Parents are we?!

This is something that NEEDS to happen. And SOON.

So our goal for this summer? Go camping.

We have all the equipment. We could go camping for free pretty much at our house, pretty much any day of the week.  We’re coming into Spring now (HOW?!?) and Summer is just around the corner. This is not a difficult goal for us, but with this first goal in mind, I started thinking about goals in general.

The Campground Kid in a tent last summer. The closest she’s come to camping!

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been feeling drifty and planless. There are reasons, but one of those reasons it just that we haven’t made a plan. So, inspired by a great list of at home date ideas by a friend, we decided to sit down and extend this one easy goal into a list of 100 life goals.

We started our list yesterday, and as we hoped, it was a great chance to talk and a fun thing to do together. (Can you tell we don’t get out much?) We’re up to 30 goals on the list now, ranging from tiny (have a freak shake) to medium (travel to the Great Barrier Reef) to huge (buy and run our own business).

Even The Campground Kid got in on the action. And her additions were surprisingly appropriate: See a volcano; Ride a rollercoaster.

But a list of goals is nothing but a kinda fun distraction if you just create it and do nothing about it. Which is a thing I tend to do. So along with the list of goals, I’m taking some life advice from a dude on reddit (OF ALL PLACES) and committing to no more “zero days”. That means that every. single. day. I’m going to take some action towards one of these goals.

Some days, I’m sure, are going to be very-nearly-but-not-quite-zero days. Some days are going to be I-really-really-don’t-want-to-but-I-will-not-do-zero days. Some days will probably be I’m-stretching-it-to-call-this-non-zero days. But I’m hoping that building up my number of non-zero days will lead to more really-truly-not-even-close-to-zero days.

Two days into the #nonzeroday challenge, it’s good (OF COURSE it is. EVERYTHING is good two days in!) It’s not exactly life-changing just yet (after all, this is what I’ve done so far, as well as working working working):

Day 1: start a list of goals
Day 2: write a blog post

But I think that, with time and consistency, it could be.  (Don’t burst my bubble!)

We might have to wait a bit to get to the camping one, though. We’ve had a shit ton of rain this week, there are new ponds and lakes popping up all around us, and there’s more rain in the forecast. Thanks New Zealand Spring!

 

Cooperation, Control, Confidence

Three weeks ago, I was sitting on a plane to our first (campground management) conference. I was seated across the aisle from The Campground Kid and Campground Papa, which meant I could read for the whole fight (and when I say read, I’m talking my OWN book, not reading the whole entire safety card to a very curious kid). Three years ago, that was normal. Now it’s like heaven.

I finished the book I was reading, and flicked through my Kindle looking at unread books. I opened a couple, and eventually decided to go back to a book I’d started a while ago, but had lost steam with – No Contest: The Case Against Competition by Alfie Kohn. I don’t know why I lost steam however many months ago, because this time I started highlighting as soon as I started reading, and pretty much never stopped.

The basic premise of the book is that co-operation is better for us than competition. Better for our self-esteem, better for our productivity, better for our happiness. It’s a radical thesis in our current society, but I found the arguments compelling. My mind was instantly whirring with ideas on what could be improved through a shift in mindset from competition to co-operation (pretty much EVERYTHING, except Game of Thrones and Suits) and how I could achieve that shift.

“Pious admonitions about not getting carried away in competition, however well-meaning, are just exercises in self deception. If we are serious about eliminating ugliness, we will have to eliminate the competitive structure that breeds the ugliness.”

(Alfie Kohn, No Contest: The Case Against Competition)

The book stayed at the back of my mind all through the conference, but I was distracted by the logistics of conference + pre-schooler + new experience (an equation that only balanced because of a very generous Campground Uncle who came along to hang out with The Campground Kid for a good chunk of the week). I hadn’t even had the chance to really let the book’s ideas sink in before something else started my mind whirring.

Taking a break from the conference to hang with The Campground Kid

The whole conference got my mind whirring, actually. The talks were about balancing, about how our business needs to be positioned for the future, and what potential threats lie on the horizon.

But the real star of the week for me was the conference’s keynote speaker. Mike Ashby runs The Breakthrough, and is one of NZ’s top speakers and advisors to small businesses. If I had to summarise, I’d say that the key message was “if you’re not running [X], [X] is running you.” (through his talk [X] was mostly “your business”, but it was easy to extrapolate and generalise to other [X]s that were more relevant to me.) This advice obviously relies on a level of control and choice that mostly applies to those with a fair whack of privilege, but was appropriate for the audience (me included), and helped me to realise just how much my life is “running me” at the moment.

We are all pulled in many directions, free-time is a luxury that we don’t get enough of, and self-care has been sorely lacking for the grown-ups, which flows down to the poor Campground Kid. SO MUCH has changed in the last year (a year ago, we were just starting to pack up to move back to New Zealand), and all the change has started piling up on us. We don’t really have a solid medium/longterm plan for various reasons, and the short term plan is pretty much just to get through each week. Long story short, The Campground Family is stuck in reactive-mode right now, and this talk reminded me that we don’t necessarily have to be.

After some discussion of how and why we should work towards a better balance, the topic turned to making the choices to regain control. Most importantly, how this necessarily involves making change, and how all change involves loss. With the amount of change I’ve opted for in my life, you may think that I love change. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But still, making change is scary. Scary and hard, and (for me) anxiety-inducing.

Ashby summed it up perfectly with one quote:

“The past is desirable because it has been drained of fear.”

And that quote wedged itself firmly in my mind.

When the talk was over, it was straight into pinning tulle to a dress for the 1950s themed gala dinner. Then it was goodnight for The Campground Kid, who had a” kid party” while we went to our “grownup party”. Then it was winning an amazing spot prize, eating an amazing dinner, and dancing with new friends. Then it was waking up with a hangover, packing up, and flying home. But through it all, my mind kept coming back to this idea of time draining fear. It’s obvious, perhaps, but it stuck with me.

The day after the conference, I received a copy of the invoice from the hotel. I hadn’t checked it in detail, and when I looked through, I noticed a couple of charges that weren’t ours. I called the hotel, and queried them, and they said it was all sorted. I checked the next invoice – another mistake – and called again. It all got sorted and I got an apology.

This is totally basic adulting, I know. But it’s basic adulting that used to make me hella nervous. It got worse in Brunei because it was often hard to make my accent understood over the phone. If there was an email/online option where I could sort it out without a phone call, I always always used to take it.

But part of being a campground manager is talking on the phone quite frequently, both making and fielding similar queries.

And it turns out that doing it over and over again really HAS stripped it of fear. I sometimes even choose to call when there’s a way I could avoid it.

This is not huge in the grand scheme of things, but it was a timely example that proved and reinforced the maxim for me.

And if I can now make phone calls confidently and easily, maybe I can make some other changes my life needs right now too…

Maybe I can quit (or at least reduce) competitive thinking?

Maybe I can make some new habits or lose some old ones?

Maybe I can make some different choices to regain some balance and control?

Maybe I can even figure out how to wash my kid’s hair without the people in the next room thinking I’m torturing her…?!

(Or maybe now I’m just getting too bold!)

Winter Holiday

When you work in a campground, you have to take your holidays in the winter. It’s fun, because you get to take your nearly-three-year-old to see snow for the first time.

And because you get to be with family when that nearly-three-year-old becomes a three-year-old (Happy Birthday, Campground Kid!)

And because you get to stay in a big ol’ farm house and see all the animals and stay cosy around the fire playing card games, and chatting.  And you get to go for walks in your gumboots and jump in muddy puddles.

And New Zealand still looks pretty beautiful in the winter.

Orewa Beach

Mahia Beach

But then you go and lose your voice halfway through the trip, and spend a week of your holiday being sick and miserable.

(No pictures allowed of me moping around in my PJs)

And then you get rained on allll the time, even at the three-year-old’s special and planned-in-advance outing.

But at least you can still balance bike along a wet beach.

And at least you can still say that, all things considered, it was a very rad holiday.

(And also, I’m glad to be home again and well again!)

 

 

 

 

Seasons (revisited)

A week ago, it was the shortest day of the year. We have had frosts almost every morning this week. The other morning I forgot to set the heat pump timer, and The Campground Kid and I had to snuggle under a blanket for the first half hour we were up because it was so blimmin’ cold. It is most definitely winter. Our first winter since 2012.

And I love it.

I don’t love trying to convince The Campground Kid to wear enough layers to stay not-freezing. I don’t love it being dark at 5:30pm and at 6:30am.  I probably don’t get outside enough some days. But I love it.

View of snowy mountains from an amazing chilly bush walk.

I love the crisp mornings and the sunny cool afternoons. I love cuddling up in the warm with the rain outside. I love soup and hot drinks and roasting everything. I love scarves and boots and woolly jumpers. I love walking through the cool bush and seeing my breath against the cold air.

I have missed winter.

Nearly three years ago, I wrote about Brunei’s seasons (or lack thereof.)  And I thought that once I was actually confronted with another winter, I would change my tune.  But NOPE. Even here in winter, I love seasons.

Living on a tropical island is so often touted as paradise. But it definitely wasn’t my paradise. My paradise has variety. It has changes that mark the passing of time. It has the cold that helps us to appreciate the warm.  It has a warm hot-tub against a freezing night and a dark sky full of stars. It has cold noses and woolly hats on frosty mornings, followed by a hot cup of coffee and woolly slippers.

(It also has good insulation and a heat pump. The winters of my student-flatting days? I definitely don’t miss those!)

Frosty mornings.

Looking in the mirror

(Today a wonderful Facebook group that I’m a part of hosted a five-minute writing challenge. The theme: the last time you looked in a mirror. I liked what I wrote, so I’m sharing it here, along with a couple of related stories.)

“PULL MY SLEEVES UP MAMA”
“Okay my dear, here you go”
As I pull pink flowery sleeves up to sweet chubby elbows, I catch a glimpse of a face that looks just like my mother’s. I see my messy bun. And I see my eyes rolling.

I realise that she, too, sees my eyes rolling.
She, too, sees through my false patience.
She, too, knows that her Mama feels overwhelmed by her big feelings and loud demands.

So I stop my eyes, mid-roll. I grab a big fluffy towel. “The towelosaurus is coming to get you! Rrrooooarrrr.”

Her giggles echo through the bathroom as I catch her into a big towelosaurus hug.

I’m not perfect, but we’re going to be okay.


Speaking of being imperfect, I’ve been finding the adjustment to our first winter for aaaaages quite difficult. I’m staying inside too much. Spending too much time online. And The Campground Kid is following my lead too much for my liking. She’s like a little mirror, and all too often she shines a light on all the habits that I’d rather keep in the dark.

So when my little homebody asked me to take her on a walk to the digger (we were having some work done on the park), of course I said yes.

She brought her teddy too.

We walked around the park. She climbed the digger. We ran down hills. I took photos.

It was simple and wonderful and exactly why we came home.

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Sometimes her little toddler mirror shines on the things I don’t want to admit. Other times it lights up the things I didn’t know she had noticed.

A few months ago, in an effort to encourage The Campground Kid to talk about her day, we started a little dinnertime routine. We take turns talking about times that we were happy/sad/scared/frustrated/excited. It’s new, so mostly Campground Papa and I take turns and The Campground Kid just gives her stock “What did you do today?” answer of “Played inside and outside!”

But the other day, in the middle of dinner, she turned to Campground Papa, and with a quizzical little face she asked “What made you happy today, Papa?”

And after he answered, she turned to me and said “Nice curry. Thanks, Mama!”

We may not be perfect, but we’re going to be okay.

Keep It Kind Online

I’m lucky in so many ways; too many to name, really. But one of the ways I count myself lucky is that this blog is mostly read by my family and friends. You might think that doesn’t sound entirely lucky. Surely as a blogger, I want fame and fortune and lots of readers? Wellllll, I’ll admit there’s an element of truth to that. But the reason I consider my small audience to be something lucky? Everyone who reads my blog is kind to me. 

People don’t always agree with me. But if they tell me, they do so kindly. And they certainly don’t ever send me horrible abuse.

But many (most?) people who have a wider public platform aren’t so lucky.

In just the last week or so, I’ve seen that currently taking a stance on a controversial issue can earn you relentless bullying, your parents’ religion can earn you accusations of terrorism, and a simple request to a company can earn you comments that “you should be euthanised”. And these are just three of MANY examples this week, and every week.

And I don’t think that’s okay. So when an online acquaintance suggested we start a campaign for online kindness and respect, I jumped at the chance. And so, Keep It Kind Online was born.

Keep It Kind Online is a campaign for more considerate interactions online. We want to bring the humanity back to the internet and share the message that personal attacks and nastiness are not tolerated. We want to encourage people to challenge online attacks when they see them. We don’t want to wait for moderators to step in, we want to moderate ourselves.

So if you know that small acts of kindness can achieve great things. If you believe that debate and disagreement are great, but that personal attacks and abuse are just. not. okay. If you want to do your part to make the internet a better place, join us for the Keep It Kind Online campaign TODAY (Wednesday 7 June).

There are a few ways you can participate:

  1. Take the pledge by sharing in your status or social media updates:  “I pledge to comment with care and to challenge online unkindness when I see it.”
  2. Use our Facebook profile picture frames.
  3. Use the #keepitkindonline hashtag liberally on social media.
  4. Make an effort to make kind comments on blogs and other online platforms.
  5. Make an effort to challenge the unkind comments you see.

And…

6. Share it with your friends!

Wouldn’t it be great if even those with a large online presence could find that everyone who reads their blog is kind to them? Let’s do our best to make it happen.

 

“Boy or girl?”

When I was pregnant, the most common question I was asked was “how long to go?”, which was usually followed up with “Really?! That long?! You look like you’re about to pop?!” and an incredulous expression. But after the shock at my huge belly was out of the way, it was always “is it a boy or a girl?” I always answered honestly “I don’t know” and sometimes added “it doesn’t really matter to us.”‘

We didn’t find out the sex at our scans, because I didn’t want to have to lie when people asked me, and also because I wanted to extend the time before she was “encouraged” into gender norms and expectations for as long as possible. I wanted to let her just be a baby. I didn’t want to force her into a box of expectations based on her sex, and I definitely definitely didn’t want everyone else to do it for me.

And for a while, it was easy enough. We were at home or with good friends a lot, with relatively few outside influences. It was easy to get “gender-neutral” clothes in her size. She had short hair, and most people couldn’t tell if she was a boy or a girl. This meant that many of our interactions were missing that layer.

But it didn’t entirely stop the expectations. We still heard that we were lucky to have a girl, because they were “calm and easy” (despite the fact that in her first year of life she could easily have been voted “kid most likely to try to get into stuff” in most settings). We were still told we should put a headband on so that people could tell she was a girl. We still had people say that she loved her Papa because she was a girl (a “daddy’s girl” at that).

Things have shifted and changed, as things tend to do. Her hair has grown. There are fewer “gender-neutral” clothes in her size, and she rather enjoys the colour pink. We don’t hear “boy or girl?” so often when she’s there with us, because most people can guess based on appearance that she’s a girl.

But even if we don’t hear the question out loud so often anymore, we’re still hearing “boy or girl?” all the time, in so many ways. The message it sends is only getting louder. And The Campground Kid is hearing it too.

The Campground Kid


A couple of days ago, someone in one of my Facebook groups posted a fairly innocuous question to McDonald’s about why they ask “is it for a boy or a girl?” when they sell happy meals, rather than just offering a choice of toys: “do you want a ninja turtle or a beanie baby?”

I found out about the post, and made a quick supportive comment, expecting that there would be a few supportive comments, a couple of misinformed negative comments, and a cheerful but meaningless response from McDonald’s that they were “working on it”.

And in two out of three cases, I was correct. There were a few supportive comments and a fairly standard corporate response from McDonald’s. But there were not just a couple of misinformed negative comments. There were thousands. Literally thousands of people who thought she was a) making a big deal of something that was a non-issue, b) an overly precious lefty liberal caught up in the PC brigade, c) pathetic for being concerned about this when people are being killed in wars/can’t afford food/have real problems to worry about, d) a terrible mother who should be worrying more about feeding her toddler McDonald’s or maybe not raising kids at all, or e) all of the above.  Some of the comments were seriously nasty, she received private messages abusing her and her parenting, and they just kept coming and coming and coming.

I don’t necessarily want to give this one post more attention than it needs. McDonald’s have already taken the feedback on board, there’s been an article published on news websites, and I’m pretty sure the poster wasn’t expecting this level of attention. But posting and reading on the discussions has been eye-opening for me.

The Campground Kid

I am not surprised when I’m asked the question at McDonald’s;  I’m used to the casual but insidious gendering of our kids, which is perhaps why I’ve never thought to complain to them. But I was shocked at the level of disagreement on the post. I never realised just how much hate for progressive thinking was there beneath the surface, and how much people were clinging to gender roles as a bastion of “the good ol’ days”‘. (I know, I know, there were SO MANY clues, but this little issue just seemed like a no-brainer to me!)

The Campground Kid has the occasional Happy Meal from “‘Miss Donald’s” (her words). I ask what toys are available and let her choose, or choose the one that I think she would like the best (or the one that I think would be the least annoying, if I’m honest), and we get on with our days. The impact of this specific issue is minimal.

And, just so we’re crystal clear on that point, OF COURSE this isn’t the biggest worry in my life. I have plenty of other things to worry about, and I spend plenty of time worrying about them. But, we can worry about more than one thing at once. Trust me, I’m well versed in worrying.

And OF COURSE if I had the choice between “no children killed in wars” and “no gendering of the toys in McDonald’s” I would choose the former.

And OF COURSE I’m not going to win over many people in the comments section of a Facebook post.

But those things don’t mean it’s not a real issue. Because it’s not just about the Happy Meal. It’s easy to ask for a “boys toy” for my kid, if that’s what they want, but I think it’s important to question why we as a society even consider a truck or a ninja turtle or a superhero to be a “boys toy”, and how we influence our kids’ choices and “natural preferences” every day with the messages we give them.

The “boy or girl?” question is asked, both explicitly and covertly all. the. time.  And all the little instances build up.

They build up to a world where men are encouraged to be violent rather than showing any vulnerability and where women are considered “less than” if they don’t conform to arbitrary standards of beauty. They build up to a world where children drop their favourite hobbies because they’re “too girly” or “for boys only”.  They build up to a world where Donald Trump is the President of the United States. They build up to a world where a woman is shamed and ridiculed on the internet because she dares to question our entrenched ideas of gender.

That’s not the world I want for my child, and if that makes me an “overreacting special snowflake” in some people’s minds, then so be it.


I have more thoughts on this (SO MANY MORE). But my post is too long already, and there are people who’ve said it better, so I’m going to finish off with two recommendations.

First is Let Toys Be Toys, a volunteer organisation in the UK who advocate for removing gender-stereotyped advertising. They explain why it matters and have successfully lobbied several retailers. In the last few days, I’ve realised more and more how important their efforts are.

The second is this article about how we can very simply reduce our children’s tendency to stereotype, by speaking in specifics rather than generalisations.

And the third is a book, Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine.  I’m only part way through, but it is FASCINATING and important and engaging and everyone should read it.

Uniform

The weather is quickly turning cold here. We had two frosts last week, and certainly made it into the negatives, temperature-wise. (And yes, I know that in a global scale of winter, this is not a big deal, but for two parents who haven’t had a winter since 2012, and one kid who hasn’t had a winter EVER, this is coooold.)

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Frosty family

This means it’s time to get our winter uniforms at work. I haven’t actually seen them yet, and although I’m more than ready for something a bit warmer, I somehow doubt they’re going to be as popular with our guests as the summer ones.

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Me and The Campground Kid in our summer uniforms

Seriously, you would not believe how often we get compliments on these shirts. Or maybe you would, I don’t know, but it has surprised me. I would say that on most days there is at least one person who comments, and 99% of the comments are positive.

But the reason I’m writing today is not about the specific uniforms, or about their relative popularity with our guests. It’s more just about the concept of wearing a uniform.

This job is the first time in over ten years that I’ve worn a uniform. If you’d asked me a few years back what I thought about wearing a uniform, it would have been a great big NOPE. I loved having a large wardrobe and creating fun outfits. I wouldn’t wear an outfit again if I’d worn it in the last few weeks. I had a serious amount of clothes, and I had fun with them.

But now that we’re here… I kinda love it.

I think there are a few things that have changed to change my mind on a uniform. 1) I became a mum. I have another person to dress in the morning. I have less mental energy, and I don’t really want to spend the energy I do have on choosing clothes. 2) I’m on my feet a lot. It’s way more important to me that my clothes, and particularly my shoes, are comfortable, so it’s just easier to have one casual outfit every day. And 3) I got fat. It’s not as easy to buy fun clothes, especially not cheaply. Clothes are less comfortable, and finding something that fits and looks good is just hard (I could say more, but availability of larger sizes and clothes made to fit fat bodies is a whole other post!)

Over summer, I even took to having a casual “uniform” that I wore most days: jogger pants (which I also wore to work), a comfortable t-shirt, and jandals or Birkenstocks. It was pretty much the same as what I wore to work, but with more jandals (flip flops) and less tie dye. It was easy, comfortable, and looked good enough.

But for winter, It’s proving more difficult. I don’t have good layering clothes. I don’t have any pants that go with tighter tops. I don’t have the right shoes/boots. I don’t have enough woolly socks. I don’t have the right jacket. Winter clothes are more expensive, and there aren’t any shops nearby. And don’t even get me started on what I can wear if I actually want to exercise! The whole thing is just annoying me.

So, I’ll be really glad to have that work uniform soon. Provided it works with skinny jeans and sneakers, I’ll be pretty much sorted for five days a week. And maybe the other two days, I’ll just hibernate and live in pyjamas. That’s what I did yesterday, and it was pretty great. Totally solid plan… right?