You undoubtedly won’t remember me. We cooked dinner together at a cooking school on a drizzly miserable Monday evening about 8 or 9 years ago. You were funny, down-to-earth and had an amazing conversational tone that made late 20’s me, a socially awkward workaholic, find your tales of balancing motherhood, spiders in your cupboards and a busy job simply fascinating. Throughout our class we tried our hands at de-beaking cuttle fish and tried not to go OTT with the cavelo nero in our hero dishes, I was completely oblivious to who you were. As my fiancé (and now husband) turned to me in the car park and said, “I can’t believe we just cooked with Annabel Crabb” my eyes widened and my mind started racing back through all the notoriously boring comments I may have made. How did I not realise this? I mean how? It was a blessing though. I know what I was like around well-known people. How I choked up and couldn’t talk as Nick Earls signed my book at the Brisbane Writers festival when I was 19. How I almost fell over when John Birmingham said “hello” to me. Yes, it was definitely “for the best” that I didn’t recognise you out of context while we were dining on Jew fish. It could have lead to a most unfortunate incident of gasping for breath and spluttering out flakey morsels of tender fish. On a side note, we cooked that seafood feast extremely well, in my humble opinion.
And now that you are aware of the insignificant blip on the radar that I would be to you, I don’t want you to think that this has turned into a stalker-ish obsession. In fact, I have a very limited interest in politics and so our paths have rarely crossed over again. But I do love food! And I have only once ever written another piece (and recipe) on my blog in tribute to you and your moving article about feminism. Yet, it is your commentary about being a parent in the modern day, your quote that I refer to SO often, that drew me down the rabbit hole.
“The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”
I decided that I needed to know more about where this quote came from. And there I was, 4 years after you wrote “The Wife Drought”, enthusiastically reading it on a road trip to Canberra (ironically) last month. It was singing my song. It was articulating the answers to all my internal exasperating thoughts about modern day parenting and turned it into some fascinating statistics surrounded with engaging and magically woven words. In a world where women are brought up thinking they can have their cake and eat it too, we get to parenthood and realise that there are droves of us that left university and scaled career ladders only to be suddenly jumping off the “stupid curve”. Not only are we trying to eat the cake, we are grocery shopping for the gluten free flour, outraged by the varying degrees of “free range” that our eggs come in, we are wondering what “good fat” really should be in our cake, we are deftly weaving our trolley through the WHOLE goddamn supermarket to get to the milk placed in the back corner to maximise our time in store and then we get home to an oven in desperate need of clean, a ticking clock and kids demanding that the cake needs to be shaped like a rubber duck!
Our participation in the workforce has been dramatically changing because of a few things BUT it’s also not been very fair. As a society, women have increased their participation, we are working on building in flexibility into our work arrangements and we are still doing traditionally held “wifely” duties. Where society is falling down, is that we aren’t seeing our partners embrace the same opportunity to do all the things too. They are less likely (statistically) to ask for flexible work arrangements to enable participating in things like canteen duty, playgroup, school pick-ups and do the gift wrapping.
Without giving away the conclusion of your book, I have great hope on the technological revolution and the possible alignment of all the rungs on the corporate ladder, parenting ladder and participation ladder.
If you get this letter, I just want to say thanks for writing this book. Is it unfortunate that, 4 years after you wrote the book, it’s still resonating with your audience? I hope in another 10 years the statistics about the way Australian society divvy’s up parental responsibilities are REALLY outdated! Your warmth and writing in “The Wife Drought” made this mumma feel more accomplished, empowered and inspired. I’m not doing it all wrong after all, I was bound to burn the cake every now and then.
PS – To my usual readers, thanks for reading – I know it’s not my usual style. Yet, I was so moved by this book during my research for my current pipe dream* (*book / WIP) on Parenting Picky Eaters in a Busy Modern World, I wanted to share my thoughts on Annabel’s work. And to paraphrase the classic movie Love Actually, “If you can’t say these things at Mother’s Day, when can you?”