Things that make me proud

By Legal Eagle

Jim Belshaw wrote a post listing 5 things that make him proud, and has tagged SL and I to do the same. I’m not going to write a list, mainly because I’m terrible at lists. I struggle with memes.

The main thing in life that makes me proud is family: my children, my husband, my sister, my parents, my extended family and in-laws. I also love to see other people achieve their best, whether they are family, friends or students.

Personally, I get much joy and pride from my art, cooking a good meal for my family, writing a good blog post and solving a really hard cryptic crossword. As far as academic acheivement goes, unfortunately I suffer from “Imposter Syndrome” – I wish I could feel proud, but I am plagued by a constant suspicion that I am an imposter. Most vexing. Every now and again I get an idea where I think, yes, that really was a good one!

It’s interesting to consider what I would have put in this post if I had been writing it 10 years ago. At that time, I certainly would not have envisaged that I would be a wife and a mother of two. I suspect I would have listed academic achievements as the main personal achievements of which I was proud. I doubt I would have even contemplated the possibility that being a mother is my proudest achievement.

I have been thinking lately of how society undervalues parenting as an achievement. And, almost as if on cue, a furore has arisen in the Federal Senate after Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young brought her two-year-old daughter Kora into the chamber. There is no suggestion that her daughter was distracting others or in some way impeding Hanson from doing her job. She was just sitting quietly on her mother’s lap. However, Senate President John Hogg ordered Kora out of the chamber because technically, she was a “stranger in the house”. Apparently babies are not strangers while they are breastfed, after the rules were changed when Victorian MP Kirstie Marshall was ordered out of the state Parliament for breastfeeding her daughter. But once they are weaned they technically become strangers. President Hogg has regretted the way in which the matter was handled, and welcomes a reassessment of the rules so that they are clearer.

Reactions were mixed. Some MPs supported Hanson-Young, whereas Barnaby Joyce suggested it was a stunt (hat tip: LP). The Age had a range of responses from readers and commentators. Andrew Bartlett’s opinion is worth reading on the issue.

Poor Hanson-Young said:

“I was upset by what happened. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever felt so humiliated in my life. … I understand that the president made a ruling based on the current rules. But as any mother knows, sometimes families don’t play by the rule book… I hope this allows us to have a discussion about how we balance these things and respect the work of working families regardless of whether it’s mothers or fathers…”

Given Hanson-Young’s evident distress, insinuations that the whole thing was a stunt are unpleasant.

Is this just an issue for mothers? No, it is not. Is the attitude towards mothering (and parenting generally) sexist, a function of our patriarchal society, which privileges non-parenting activities?

I’d suggest the reality is a little more complex than this. One only has to think of Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique, which questions the notion that women only find fulfilment through childbearing and homemaking. Let me be clear: this is a good thing to question. Not all women want to have children, not all women who have children want to be homemakers.

However, this questioning of fulfilment via childbearing and homemaking has led some people to believe that a woman who does find fulfilment through childbearing and homemaking is somehow deluded. What is more, it has led to an environment where it’s difficult to say that you enjoy staying home with your children. And men who choose to stay home and look after their children suffer these kind of judgments even more acutely.

I’m sure I’ve written before of the conversation I had with a female boss after I gave birth to my daughter. She rang up to check when I was returning from maternity leave. My daughter was 3 months old at the time. I said that I wasn’t quite ready to come back to work, and that I had at least another 6 months at least up my sleeve. This woman said something to the effect that I should just put my daughter in care and come back to work, because “these are the sacrifices women have to make if they want to get ahead as a solicitor.” I handed in my resignation the next day.

Now, you might think – perhaps this woman didn’t have children? Perhaps she didn’t realise how hard it is to leave your child? Well, you would be wrong. She had two children under the age of 5. Why is it that women are sometimes their own worst enemies? This conversation really disappointed me, because, naively, I had thought this woman was an ally and a friend. My theory is that women like this try to get other women to follow their own choices because it vindicates their own choice. I suspect, somewhere inside, this woman might feel guilty that she doesn’t spend much time with her children, and seeing someone else choose differently makes her realise this. I genuinely don’t mind what this woman chooses to do. I don’t judge her, or try to bully her to make the same choices as me. So I’d appreciate it if women such as this would respect my choice.

Now, I genuinely enjoy my work and study. I would not want to go back to a world where the only options available to me were childbearing and homemaking. But the difficulty for me (as for so many parents out there) is getting a balance (as I’ve discussed before).

I don’t know quite how this post turned from a discussion of pride into a discussion of parenting, feminism and society. I suppose it was just the realisation that in my youth, I wouldn’t have expected that I would feel this way. Secretly and inwardly, I might even have sneered just a little at women who said they found fulfilment in this way. But to feel pride in one’s family is important and natural. That is why Hanson-Young felt humiliated when her daughter was ordered out of the chamber – because she is proud of her daughter, and proud of balancing the demands of work and family, but the public ejection of her child was a repudiation of that.

Hopefully, the Hanson-Young incident will start a discussion of what we can do to make sure that parents can balance these things more easily.


  1. Posted June 22, 2009 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    Very thoughtful post, LE. Not much more to say, really.

  2. conrad
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised at all the fuss that incident kicked up too. I really wonder why people care so much about kids coming to workplaces occasionally, when it really has no effect on anyone else. Many people are happy at my work when people bring their kids in, as it lightens up the drab places that most universities (including mine) are.

  3. Posted June 22, 2009 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Agree, family also number one for me.

  4. Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    You can take a test to see how the impostor syndrome affects you at

  5. pete m
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    LE I understand children of Senators are allowed to visit the floor of the chamber, but must be absent during any division to ensure no mistakes in a vote count. That is the rule to be debated, and yes, I agree it was very poorly handled by the Senate President.

    I’m not sure how a vote, usually done on the voices, could be stuffed up by an eggnog mistaking a 2 yr old for a Senator!

    re family as number 1 – my brother in law is a great example. He’s been delaying starting a family until nearly too late (my sister just turned 39), but finally gave in last year. They now have a son, and he still cannot put in words the joy this has brought him. He also said it has changed what he considers is important, and when I pop down to see them next month, I’m sure his old somewhat selfish personality will not be on show. Not to say he isn’t a decent fellow – just he saw life as what it could do for him etc.

    re the discussion – what derails it is when tax dollars are called for or used to help “working families”TM. This riles singles and people who have already raised kids at their own cost. If the discussion is more about how society responds to our changing norms, you will get a fairer go.

    I love seeing kids in the office – it is usually way too serious.

    Our littlest turned 1, 2 weeks ago, and people are hassling us about whether we’ll have another. We’re happy with our current brood. Sure babies are cute and all, but not sure we could afford another anyway. And my wife isn’t keen on it at all – so that’s that! How about you?

  6. Posted June 23, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    John – According to that test I have moderate imposture syndrome situations. Is that because I am moderately paranoid?

    Will a new religion emerge on the basis of the ten-point online pop psych quiz.

  7. Posted June 23, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Yeah I let that comment through because the test seemed interesting and not a scam. I hope he comes back, tbh.

  8. Posted June 25, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    …and, of course, the whole issue of kids in the workplace isn’t just about the workplace itself, but whose kids they are. I imagine in most workplaces that aren’t seriously inappropriate for children (ie, scientific labs, construction sites, etc) that if the boss brought their child in, it wouldn’t be an issue, but woe betide someone rather further down the foodchain ….

    sorry, inner cynic just got out …

  9. Posted June 25, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Adrien, unsurprisingly, I scored very highly on the Imposter Test. I really don’t know where it comes from, but it’s very high amongst academics generally.


    I’m sorry. No offense I just thought that was really funnny. Hell I work in advertising I should’ve broken the machine. I’m a professional bullshitter.

One Trackback

  1. By skepticlawyer » Pride comes before a fall on July 9, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    […] a post for Jim Belshaw on things that make me proud got me thinking about pride more […]

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