About Me

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I am a full-time mama with a passion for writing and talking to fascinating people. I live in a one horse town with a Cowboy and my son. Thank Lord for cyberspace! I lived a colourful life in Sydney for a number of years. Working in advertising and journalism for FPC and the Sydney Morning Herald. During my time in Sydney I competed in a Dragon Boat race, choreographed a dragshow, used the Share Accomodation advertisements as a way to meet men and was told by Noiseworks frontrunner Jon Stevens that I was a bitch! Then came the decision to move back to country for 3 months to help out my Father with newspaper business while he was having treatment. Convinced I was a city girl I was caught by surprise when I fell in love with a farmer (and no, he didn't want a wife... still doesn't it seems!) convinced him that we needed to see the world, popped off to Vietnam to teach english in Saigon - before realising that the "food" in Nam didn't agree with me... turned out to be Monte - my son who is now with the Cowboy and I back in country NSW! I am in a wonderful stage of my life where I am focusing on the things that really make me tick. Including writing these chronicles.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rebel with a cause

Not only can she sew fabulous dresses out of moth-eaten tablecloths but Eileen from Consumption Rebellion has a fabulous approach to parenting and, well, life in general.
Eileen's blog has received some good accolades of late including a nomination for the Business Mums Network's "Australian Blog by a Business Mum" in the Eco Friendly category!
Rightly so.
I must say she is pretty inspiring because suddenly I want to learn to sew, grow a veggie patch, and take a good hard look at who the hell I think I am!
I have finally asked myself a question I wouldn't have dare questioned in my 20's : Do the clothes really maketh the woman? and I've finally concluded the answer is - "Hell no!"
Singlehandedly this blogger has made me sit up and have a look at a few things in my life.
In a good way.
She has made me reconsider what values I want to instil in the Prince - and quite frankly, frightened me witless about trying to compete with this Consumer Giant that preys on our children from the moment dot.
From the moment I clapped eyes on her blog I really wanted to talk to her about her philosophies and had to know what she learnt from her year of consuming as little as possible.
I was fascinated to find out what she learnt from this experience and how the she goes about trying to teach her kids about consumerism. Enough from me. Here is our interview.

Tell me, what did you learn about yourself from your year of consuming as little as possible?

Out of anything else, I learned how *integrated* shopping/consuming was in every area of my life.
I learned that it was much much more than just buying stuff I needed or wanted.

Buying had become, my main way of expressing/reconstructing my identity.

(OMG this is so true - when I lived in Sydney my workplace at one of the major newspapers the corridor on the way to the bathrooms was nicknamed "the catwalk" people literally tried to outdo each other in the latest brands as if that made them a better person. (myself included)
Sorry.. back to interview...)

Suddenly I was filled with all these insecurities - "what would people think of me? would they think I'm poor?" (that last question made me realise how much I used buying to project my socio-economic status. I didn't realise how much of a snob I really was.)

It had also become my way to "fit in" to those around me.
"Oh no, everyone has X and I don't - they are all talking about it and I can't join in!"
I then realised how much of my relations around people were based on buying - going shopping together, trying on clothes we didn't want or need together.
I realised that people (including myself) used shopping to get to know each other and to keep "in sync" - what they bought, what they were thinking when they were buying.

I realised then why I was so unhappy with all my stuff - it was because the stuff was there to prop up my identity and facilitate my relationships.
And therefore, when stuff would get "obsolete" or "no longer the 'in' thing", then I felt I needed to buy more because my identity and relationships were also "obsolete" - it was a vicious cycle really.

The never happy syndrome I call it - the more, more, more mentality....

It sounds very highschool'ish, doesn't it? I know that I would never have believed it if anyone had told me these were the reasons why I bought stuff.
By stopping myself from buying brand-new, I gained insights into myself that I would never have believed possible and helped me re-form my identity and relationships with others in much healthier ways.

What are you trying to teach your children (5 and 6) through this awareness?

They are still very young but I guess by living the way I do I can show them that there other ways to live.
(That) they don't have to partake in an over-consuming culture.

The trouble with consumerism and most commercial media is that it tends to "cheapen" people's values.
So many people state that they value children's rights, but will go and buy chocolate containing cocoa harvested by child-slaves.
Or they express shock at 12 year olds having sex but will go buy provocative clothing for their 6 year old because its the "in thing".
Whether they do it knowingly or not, what happens is that the act of consuming such products is making a mockery of their values.
I hope that in time, my children will eventually understand how damaging that is to themselves as well as others.

How difficult is it to raise a child on your own terms in this consumer driven world?

Its hard for me!
None of us parent in a bubble.
My children come into contact with over-consumption through relatives, friends, school mates.
My daughter recently told me that she is the only person in the school who has not shown anything new at "News Day"(aka show and tell).
That statement alone gives me insecurities!

Having said that, I concentrate on the fact that this journey really is my own and not my children's.
I refuse to buy lots of stuff for them (prefering instead to do things together and ensuring that I have time to do this) but I don't stop others from buying stuff for them.
My children know why I buy second-hand or make things from second-hand materials .
I keep it simple - I usually say its because I want to buy things that don't hurt the Earth or other people.
They are at the stage when they are actually proud of it.
They also know that other people don't have the same values as I do and that its important to respect people anyway.

I'm sure one day they will reject my path while they try to find their own, as they should.
Of course, I'm hoping that after they have explored other paths, they will see that its okay and quite easy to change their paths and actually live and consume according to THEIR values.

How can we as parents compete with the media / other kids etc...?

Oh goodness, I don't think we can compete! We only have one resource - that is, in their early years, we can lay the groundwork for our children to learn how to think "why" when they see a media/marketing message/strategy - implicit and explicit. At 5 and 6yrs my children are starting to understand product placement - why the junk food/expensive food are placed at their height in the supermarket. They understand that almost everything they see is trying to sell them somethiing - an idea or a product. And I'm hoping that buy understanding these things, they can start thinking critically about it.

As for other kids, well, I try to lessen their impact too. Whenever one of my children's friends admire anything I have made for my children, I try and make the time to make it for them too. Very slowly, more and more kids in my children's classes are starting to carry homemade sandwich bags, or homemade library bags. A couple even have some clothes from me.

Tell me about your blog and what you are trying to achieve through it?

Well, my blog is mostly about me and my journey. I started it because a couple of my friends kept insisting that I keep one. A few months in to blogging, I realised that by blogging my journey, it allowed me to "think aloud" my challenges and helped me take the next step. Blogging also kept me accountable to my own values. Whenever I feel doubtful, I re-read many of my entries and most especially the comments and I'm encouraged all over again to keep going.

What are the biggest factors, in your opinion, facing children today?

The media and over-consumption!
There is increasing evidence that our children are basing their forming identities on "fads" of the week. They are in a race to buy - and it is a race that they can not win. On top of this, most of the adults in their lives are busier and are simply too tired to be truly with them every day. This is worrying and I think is part of the reasons why depression and mental illness are on the rise for teens and younger people.

What can we as parents do to bring up our children - and keep our children, children?

Spend time with them.
When we spend time with our kids, when we are truly with them then they're either watching less TV and spending less time on the computer or they're watching TV or playing computer games *with* you they can start analysing what they are seeing with your help.

I have tried to ban things at home but this doesn't seem to work in the long term.
Either someone eventually buys the banned item for them, or they end up coveting it.
I try to keep a balanced view and so when they get an item that I don't like, I do tell them I don't like it for X reasons but I'll leave it up to them to decide and they can play with it while they're deciding.

As for TV shows, the rule of course is that when they're with me then we don't watch certain types of shows (and again I tell them my reasons).
When they're at other people's houses, then they can watch it but I do tell them that they will always have the choice to leave the room or turn their backs to something if it is upsetting them or if they ever start to feel uncomfortable about it.
I tell them that they should always listen to their feelings as that will be the best indicator on whether something is right for them or not.

What can we do for ourselves, already tainted by being consumers to change the way we live ?

Little steps towards living according to your values.
Try to clarify for yourself what your values are, then take little steps towards living it.
I think so many people get overwhelmed when they realise how far they have strayed from their beliefs. That's why I believe in the little steps.
So if you care about the right for children to be children, then take the little step of finding alternative stories, clothes or media.
If you care about the environment, then take the little step of bringing reusable bags with you when you shop. Keep going back to your values and remind yourself of it.

Take the drastic steps only when you are ready for it and don't get discouraged if you never take that drastic step. Little steps often lead to more steps and next thing you know, you've come a LONG way.

Eileen really appreciate your time in answering these - big congrats on a site that has totally inspired me. Now I just want to channel Tonia Todman, Don Bourke and........ well maybe I just need to channel you!

Thank you so much for visiting my blog! And thank you for the interest you've shown!

She is a great example of someone who lives by Ghandi's famous quote
"Be the change you want to see in the world"
Good luck with your blog nomination Eileen hope you win!!!

Thoughts, opinions, ideas? Love to hear yours too.


  1. Great interview. I love Eilleens blog too, her posts triggers a lot of thinking!


  2. I got a lot out of this interview, thanks to you both.


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