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.

Wilson's thrilling win at Tahiti ignites world title claims

CHAMP: Julian Wilson won the Billabong Pro Tahiti to move to fifth in the world rankings.

'I was already enjoying myself on tour but now even more-so.'

Mum killed by truck an 'amazing, lovely, caring friend'

Sharon Cuthbert was killed after being hit by a truck in Coolum on July 27.

Tributes come pouring in for a Coolum woman who died last night

Why this hall's celebration is more a lament

THE Coolum Community Hall in its original location on the David Low Way where McDonald's now stands. Photo: Blair McNamara.

Why for one community hall festival won't be a celebration

Local Partners

Queensland freezes as temps fall as low as -3.7°C

QUEENSLAND towns have shivered through the coldest morning in two years today as other parts of the state dropped to below freezing temperatures.

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

Jemma's bewitching voice

STAGE PRESENCE: Suzie Mathers and Jemma Rix in a scene from Wicked The Musical.

Wicked musical theatre star Jemma Rix has released her debut album.

This laughter yoga video will have you in fits of giggles

BEST MEDICINE: Karen Flannery is spreading happiness through laughter throughout Hervey Bay.

New members needed for a laughing good time

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

REESE Witherspoon might have an Oscar on her mantle and made millions at the box office but that hasn’t stopped people declaring her career is over.

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.

What's on the small screen this week

Rob Collins and Jessica Marais in a scene from season two of The Wrong Girl.

JESSICA Marais returns in The Wrong Girl.

Playing Tom Cruise's wife was a dream for Sarah Wright

Tom Cruise and Sarah Wright in American Made.

The actress stars opposite Cruise in the action comedy

Investors quick to snap up property in key growth corridor

High-profile commercial site sells at auction for $4.920m

EXPLAINED: What the 'Costco effect' means for Ipswich

PRICE WARS: A Costco store similar to this one in Canberra, is planned for Ipswich.

Exclusive 'cult' about to change how families do grocery shopping

4800 homes to be built in massive new Coast estate

Masterplanned community full steam ahead - it's not Caloundra South

Open for inspection homes August 17 - 23

Check out this weekend's homes open for inspection.

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

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!