Sunday, March 29, 2009

strangers at a fair

I was at a school fete, so the conversation that followed was not unexpected.

Chatting to an old friend about politics, the economy and the like, a mate of his rocked up. Introductions were made, their daughters are best buddies. In the small talk that followed the obvious question arose, “How do you two know each other, through your kids?”

I smiled, “No we go way back. Twenty years or more. “, I looked at the man I’d known for half my years on earth, “His life before children.”

The unknown guy’s eyes kind of glazed. Life before children, I could almost hear his mind muttering. A wistful, nostalgic look.

Without children, there are not these convenient demarcations. Our entire life is pre, or rather without, children. No bookends. No previous life suspended in animation, ceased to be.

It’s times like these, I don’t miss having children at all!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Outrageous sums of money

Often I wonder just how much I, childless, can say about my partner's teenage step-children. Overwhelmingly generous and caring, it's not that I am afraid of broaching (sp?) the subject with him; rather my concern lies in how much outrage I can show over certain expensive financial decisions he makes without me.

The eldest, having recently finished school, is off overseas. You know, the familiar 'gap' year that 18 year olds apparently need because they've worked so hard. (I wish there was a sarcasm icon I could merrily insert at the end of that sentence. It's not hard work, completing a VCE or equivalent and I don't care what anyone says). The 'programme' he is on cost us, for 'our' half of the payment, close to $10, 000.

If you think that's an outrageous sum of money to spend on an 18 year old, please remember that that amount is only half of what was required. Half.

When the email from his ex came in, I felt sick. I didn't mind forking out for a flight to Israel; perhaps some spending money for the boy but that amount and all the zero's at the end made me feel physically ill. We don't own a house and that sum could have easily helped us toward the deposit we so want. Could have helped us realise a few things that need realising. Having been struck recently with horror financial/work-related woes, I began to feel...angry. Angry because this is money going out over which I have no control.

Not even the most severe of sour faces would stop the fact that the money HAD to be paid. Spoilt-brat stuff, I reckon. Most people I know who travelled after school saved for the trip themselves and worked when they got there. Child number 1 is selfish and invariably lazy in regard to such things. All the cash he earned in the run-up to his trip is being 'saved for the future'. Hmm...

Next time, I'll open my mouth earlier. Thing is, child number 2 is far more like his dad. He is, at 15, saving up for his trip. Which he may very well need to do.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

budget advice for the barren

Another Outspoken Female is back on deck for another serve.

Been a bit quiet around here, hasn’t it.

As a woman without a family, I should have lots of time to pop out tri-weekly pithy posts for a blog, or four. Shouldn’t I? Well, life – children or not, has a habit of getting in the way.

Not that I don’t have a backlog of barren inspired rants.

Like, just last week when one of the many, older Italian women in my street managed to buttonhole me for a decent working over. She has lived half a dozen houses away from my for a decade now and we nod and say hello in passing but til now that has been about it. We found ourselves at the tram stop together and in halting English I got a full serve. Children? (No). Why do you have no children? You must have children! What does your husband do? (What husband, oh that man I live with? He’s a wannabe, unemployed artist).

I can be remarkably polite sometimes but it did put me on a slow simmer for the rest of the day. It’s like a stranger telling you that you should go on a diet, wearing orange doesn’t suit your complexion, that they can do great things with plastic surgery these days or you are really getting too old to get away with dying your hair that colour.

Not. Your. Business.

I pick up a magazine focused on ‘women’s issues’, for research purposes. Have you noticed how finance, computers, porn and sport are men’s issues but cooking, craft and budgeting are quarantined in the domain of the women’s section? I know everything old in new again but in 2009 this popular Australian rag is as fresh and innovative as something out of the ‘70’s. The cover features a young, thin, blond woman in a floaty dress frolicking through a paddock of impossibly placed flowers. The big feature is “your finances in your 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s and beyond”. I have not hit the “beyond” category yet but the one I chronologically fall into bears no resemblance to my life. I’m told this can be a very expensive time for a woman managing a home and growing family. Actually my family is shrinking. Cat number three died last week. She was a big, bouncy ball of fluff that scoffed more than her fair share of the feline food budget, as well as needing a squirt of those costly de-fleaing treatments every month.

I read about needing to get on top of my superannuation. I don’t have anywhere. Double fail. A house, yes, I am top of that. Much to my accountant’s initial disgust, as a self employed person I decided when I bought a home to put any saved money into the house instead of super. She has conceded over the years that an inner city property has been wiser than trusting it to the experts to gamble my future on a failing stock market.

One piece of advice these magazines dare not publish is that not having children can do wonderful things for your finances! No loss of earnings from extended maternity leave, reduced hours to fit in with the school days and the horrendous expenses of childcare, education, food and clothing – not my problem! Truly, my advice to a single woman in her early 30’s – bugger the babies, go for a modest mortgage and budget an overseas holiday every few years instead.

But hanging out at the tram stop, it’s just too hard to explain this to an elderly Italian woman with a stubbornly limited understanding of English.

And that magazine, I guess really is the domain for some ‘70’s housefrau dreaming of a frolic through a field of daffodils.

I think I’ll just stick to my own garden instead.