Opinion

'It's time to crack down on stay-at-home mums'

THERE'S one issue guaranteed to trigger hysteria across the nation every time it comes up in the news, and it has nothing to do with Pauline Hanson, international terrorism or Married at First Sight.

It's the topic of stay-at-home mums. More specifically, the release of any data or analysis that dares recommend Australian women should get out of the living room/kitchen/nursery and back into the workforce.

So the outcry has been predictable in the wake of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) recent report which had the audacity to suggest stay-at-home mums would be better off putting their skills to use in paid employment.

"One of the areas of greatest untapped potential in the Australian labour force is inactive and/or part-time working women, especially those with children,'' concluded the landmark study.

"There are potentially large losses to the economy when women stay at home or work short part-time hours.''

 

Are stay-at-home mothers doing more harm than good in our economy?
Are stay-at-home mothers doing more harm than good in our economy? Matthew Ennis Photography

Right on cue, hysteria ensued, with commentators from coast to coast howling in indignation at the very idea that the uppity OECD would insinuate Australia might have a tiny bit of a problem with our female workforce participation rates.

For days you couldn't walk past a television, radio or computer screen without encountering a defensive rant about how the most valuable work a woman can do involves nappies, play-doh, and a strict adherence to only leaving the family home during the hours of 9am to 5pm to attend playgroup or a similar non-work sanctioned activity.

And then we wonder why Australia continues to languish in the bottom third of OECD member states when it comes to female employment. It's no mystery; our collective support for working women makes Donald Trump's cabinet look like Women's March HQ by comparison.

First, a few facts. Anyone who has a child - and this goes for both mothers and fathers - knows that everything else in life becomes a distant second to that child's welfare, happiness and wellbeing. So this is not a discussion about the importance of parenting - that is beyond dispute.

And yes, the role played by parents in the early months and years following the birth of a child is vital and irreplaceable.

It also stands to reason that for many (but certainly not all) families, it is the mother who opts to take time off work during this period to solely focus on caring for her baby.

 

Once again, there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, that time at home should be a privilege afforded to more new mums, which is why a few years back I was a lone voice in supporting Tony Abbott's grossly misunderstood and thus ill-fated paid parental leave scheme, which proposed all female employees receive their normal salary for six months.

So it's not as simple as suggesting that the OECD's rallying call to utilise the potential of stay-at-home mums is an insult to mothers - on the contrary, it is the desperately needed voice of reason that Australians cannot afford to ignore.

Rather than wail about the supposed liberation in a woman's right to choose to shun paid employment, we should make it a legal requirement that all parents of children of school-age or older are gainfully employed.

The OECD was right to criticise the double standards applied to Australia's work-search rules regarding welfare benefits.

Lisa F Young

While young people face strict criteria when seeking to access the dole, those aged over 50 can still receive it despite not looking for a job by citing 15 hours volunteer work a week.

The double standards are even greater for stay-at-home mums, with governments of all persuasions traditionally wary to tackle the unfair tax concessions enjoyed by one-income households for fear of inciting voting fury. (No doubt they refer to Abbott's aforementioned paid parental leave scheme as a cautionary tale).

But it's time for a serious rethink of this kid-glove approach to women of child-bearing and child-rearing age.

Holding us less accountable when it comes to our employment responsibilities is not doing anyone any favours. Not children, not fathers, not bosses - and certainly not women.

Only when the female half of the population is expected to hold down a job and earn money to pay the bills in the same way that men are routinely expected to do will we see things change for the better for either gender.

Only when it becomes the norm for all families to have both parents in paid employment, and sharing the stress of the work-home juggle, will we finally have a serious conversation about how to achieve a more balanced modern workplace.

Only when the tiresome and completely unfounded claim that "feminism is about choice" is dead and buried (it's not about choice, it's about equality) will we consign restrictive gender stereotypes to history.

So long as we as a nation cling to the lie that only a stay-at-home mum is best placed to assume the responsibilities of caregiver then working fathers will continue to feel insecure about stepping off the corporate treadmill to spend more time with their children.

It's not good enough - and only when we evenly divide the responsibility for workplace participation between the two genders will we truly see a more equitable division between men and women in all parts of Australian life.

Sarrah Le Marquand is the editor-in-chief of Stellar magazine and the founding editor of RendezView.

Topics:  editors picks opinion rendezview


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Daughter of murdered woman calls for Royal Commission

Marie Darragh and her daughter Charli Darragh at St Andrews nursing home in Ballina.

Group call for Royal Commission into aged care

REVEALED: Liam Gallagher is coming to Falls Festival

English musician, singer, and songwriter, former lead singer of the rock band Oasis, Liam Gallagher performs during his concert at National Olympic Sports Center in Beijing, China, 10 August 2017.

He revealed the news ahead of the official line up announcement

CRACKdown: Nudists targeted amid allegations of sleaze

An unidentified nudist pictured at a “clothes-optional” beach at Point Addis in Victoria. Picture: David Crosling/file

Police launched a crackdown on lurid sexual behaviour.

Local Partners

Splendour in the Grass could swell to 50,000 revellers

A finalised community consultation period has paved the way for North Byron Parklands to significantly boost its event-holding capacity.

Painting a brighter future for koalas

WORTH SAVING: The Queensland Koala Crusaders' Community Crowdfunding Campaign aims to raise $30,000 towards the cost of planting 10,000 trees for koalas.

Queensland Koala Crusaders have launched a crowdfunding campaign

Teen actor stars in The Dark Tower

BIG SCREEN: Alstonville's Nicholas Hamilton will be seen in some exciting films this year.

Alstonville's Nicholas Hamilton is part of the cast of the film.

Warhol star brings satire show to Brunswick Heads

Penny Arcade is an American performance artist, actress, and playwright based in New York City.

Warhol muse Penny Arcade is coming to the area this weekend

Margot Robbie is unrecognisable in London

MARGOT Robbie looks completely unrecognisable as she prepares to play Queen Elizabeth I in a new film being shot in London.

Game of Thrones: Season 7 finale predictions

Emilia Clarke in a scene from season 7 of Game of Thrones.

JON and Daenerys finally met. But what happens next?

Reese Witherspoon on being a ‘has-been’ at 36

Witherspoon’s career has never looked better but that didn’t stop people declaring her a “has-been”.

Reese on the ‘brutal’ article that called her a has-been at 36.

RECAP: Game of Thrones s7 e6 - Beyond the Wall

Kristofer Hivju, Kit Harington, Iain Glen, Paul Kaye and Joe Dempsie in a scene from Game of Thrones.

*Warning this story contains spoilers about today's new episode*

Paul Kelly announces massive Australian tour

Paul Kelly is going on a 16-date national tour in November.

Music legend thrills fans with the announcement of a massive tour.

Survivor twist bound to shock

Sunshine Coast mum-of-three Tara Pitt.

TARA Pitt benefited from a shock twist on Australian Survivor.

The Block goes back to school with gorgeous kids rooms

Ronnie and Georgia's winning kids bedroom in a scene from The Block.

ONE magical bedroom received the first perfect score of the season.

Airbnb, Stayz and co tipped to squeeze Coast housing market

HOLIDAY BOOM: Airbnb letting is putting a further squeeze on long-term rentals.

Councils exploring options to manage the industry

Developer tears up couple's contract for new home

Jade and Edward Roberts were stung by the sunset clause on the first day of their honeymoon.

The developer has the right to do this under the sunset clause

Reports of Ibrahim family connections to farm and food hub

John Ibrahimat Bluesfest 2012.

REPORTS circulate colourful Sydney family have investments on the NR

Stunning, heritage-listed Coast home going under the hammer

STUNNING: Buderim House, a stunning heritage-listed Queenslander estate, is going to auction.

Coast home that played host to royalty is set for auction

Internet king Kim Dotcom house-hunting

Kim Dotcom and his partner Elizabeth Donnelly have apparently been in Queenstown scoping out houses. Photo / Kim Dotcom

Dotcom tweeted pictures and video of himself and partner Elizabeth Donnelly

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!