Likely the beginnings of my feminist militancy as with many “extremists” can be traced back to my upbringing. I have a photo of my mother which I treasure – of her 7 months pregnant with my younger sister, me on her hip, as she mows the front lawn of our home. “Your dads at work, and it needed doing” was all she ever said about it.
As I grew older, there was never any division of labor into blue and pink jobs in our household. The boys were expected to cook and clean, use the machine machine, fold the clothes, dust, vacuum. Girls were also expected to do these things, but also given the option of doing the so called “manly” jobs of lawn mowing, taking out the rubbish bins etc, I took pride in the responsibility allowed me by the age of 12, I was responsible for dinner twice a week, the mowing of the back and front lawns, taking the bins out on Sunday night and a load of ironing once a week(I timed this with watching Blakes Seven so I was allowed a bit of extra TV time).
At primary school, I campaigned for mixed netball and softball netball teams so the girls could match up against the boys. It was a huge success with the boys relishing in the chance to play a new sport. We had an incredibly sporty group of girls in my year and the extra challenge was relished.
At 25, I found myself a parent to an 18 month little girl but heading towards a marriage failure. I brokered a deal with my soon to be former spouse where we would share custody, at one point the father became a sole parent for 6 months after leaving his job to focus on parenting.
Throughout all of this, I educated myself, and worked in several senior government managerial positions. I wore power suits to work, was a tough but fair boss and worked hard. I was often up at 5 to get my daughter ready for crèche, raced into the city, raced back to crèche to pick her up, home for dinner then a small amount of mini family time and I would hit the books studying for my law degree full time at night by correspondence.
Being a feminist did not mean I saw some need to hide my sexuality. I grasped my return to single life with both hands and took up night clubbing. No shrinking violet, I became a regular dancing on the podiums every second Friday and Saturday nights at several Sydney clubs. All done without ever wearing a bra though I was frequently topless. It was glorious.
At 30, engaged but not yet married my 2nd daughter was born. There was never any question for me of her taking her fathers name. To me this was little more than an outdated patriarchal claim of ultimate ownership of the children by the father. My partner was a somewhat bemused by my insistence on this, but in the end came around to my way of thinking. I have since met several families where the husband took the wifes surname when they married as a sign of respect for her and acknowledgement that her name is no less important than her husbands – with no less right to become the sole name given to the children.
At 32 I went back to school and trained in IT, emerging from computer land 12 months later as a graphic designer / web developer. I started a small web development business that became a large one, working full time and parenting full time. At 36 my son was born and I pondered if he would adopt my views or like a stereotypical preachers child, opt for the reverse. I need not have worried. At 7, he is captain of his soccer team, but also loves playing with Barbies with his big sister. He is popular with the boys and the girls. He is tough, and kind, and sensitive. I relented last Christmas when the children bemoaned my “no video games” rule and bought a Wii – thinking at least the kids would be jumping around when playing it. Mr 7s favorite game is Fifa soccer…. He refuses to sub any of his players off when they get hurt as they look too sad to come off the field…. He is sensitive even to the feelings of virtual people… hehe
Now at 43, I have a new IT business. It sponsors 10 micro businesses in Africa, all run by women, all in countries where women have few rights or opportunities. I outsource a lot of my programming to Armenia and Pakistan, where I employ women who have secretly taught themselves programming online in order to empower themselves. I employ a team of writers in the US and Australia, all overeducated mums who still wish to keep themselves gainfully employed, of course the deal is they work when they can around their families.
This year for the first time ever, I will vote. I have always been an adamant believer that men should play only a minor role in politics. The madmen of this world, Pol Pot, Hitler, George Bush.. no woman would have permitted the things these men did. Men are too focused on keeping power, in increasing their grasp on it to wield it properly. I wanted to form a “No men in politics political party” at one point but figured it was unlikely to do more than sensationalize what I saw as a serious issue. Instead I refused to vote, as my vote meant a male prime minister.
But this year, 2012 I will register to vote and vote for Julia Gillard at the next election. I think she has done a fantastic job under extremely difficult circumstances. No man would have had to put up with nonsense she has had to since her elevation to the top job. She is tackling global warming, the two speed economy…. Tony Abbott is the epitome of the “I want power” man no matter what the cost. I abhore him.
I am an active parent and a full time worker. I see my children off to school every day, and am home when they arrive home every day. I am a soccer coach, a singing partner, a taxi driver… being a parent and full time worker makes for a busy life.
There is little time just for me but every three weeks or so I catch the formula one car racing on the tellie or make it to a football match. I went to my first live boxing match this year, and watched Daniel Geale win another world title in Germany. I go out once a month for a few beers with my friends. I can still bench press 250 pounds, though my knees are pretty shot from playing too much football in my teens.
I am Richard McLachlan, head of IT at Natural Parenting, adamant feminist, father of 3 and Ive never worn a bra.
Richard McLachlan provides IT support to Natural Parenting, and is the proprietor of the SEOGuys.com.au. Having travelled the world with his wife and two youngest children through 2010 and 2011, he is now based in Berlin.