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.

Disney's classic reborn

OLD TALE: Emma Watson brings to life the character of Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

Disney's classic reborn.

The spots for the right drop

RED ROYALTY: Matt Clarke, from Melbourne, caught this ripper Red Emperor at the reef on Thursday with Sea Fever Sport Fishing.

The spots for the right drop.

A chest-beating riot is on the way

MONSTER HIT: Kong: Skull Island is coming to the Proserpine Entertainment Centre.

Going ape for new Kong.

Local Partners

Almost 100 people rescued from rooftops, cars

ALMOST 100 people - many stranded on the top of houses, cars and verandas - have been rescued by emergency workers after being trapped by floodwaters

Future Islands gear up for Splendour gig

Future Islands is an American synthpop band composed of Gerrit Welmers (keyboards and programming), William Cashion (bass, acoustic and electric guitars), and Samuel T. Herring (lyrics and vocals).

Their new album is "music from the heart than from the mind".

CMC Rocks is just the ticket for Eric Paslay

HAPPY TO BE HERE: American country singer Eric Paslay will play CMC Rocks 2017.

Country music singer is touring overseas for the first time.

Daredevils of Nitro Circus to thrill Lismore

Oakes Oval in Lismore will host the sell-out, worldwide phenomenon that is Nitro Circus Live during its 15-city Australian tour in April.

The (in)famous 55-foot high Nitro Giganta ramp is the centrepiece

Gogglebox shock: ‘This is so bloody juicy’

THE Gogglebox households can’t quite believe their eyes as they watch one of the most scandalous TV...

New Oscars fiasco safety net

IN A monumental stuff-up, La La Land was incorrectly named Best Picture. During the acceptance speech, the real winner was revealed.

Academy ‘won’t sack PwC’ but new safeguards in place.

Frozen’s original ending was much darker

Disney’s hit movie Frozen nearly turned out very, very differently.

IF THE original script had gone ahead, Frozen would have been grim.

Bea's parting gift: The Freak's in the frame

Pamela Rabe stars as Joan Ferguson in a scene from season five of the TV series Wentworth.

Gripping prison drama Wentworth returns for a volatile fifth season.

What's on the big screen this week

A scene from the movie The Lego Batman Movie.

LEGO Batman and Scarlett Johansson take on Beauty and the Beast.

MOVIE REVIEW: Crazy Boss Baby story is a little far-fetched

A scene from the movie The Boss Baby.

After nailing Trump, Alec Baldwin’s career takes a strange detour.

MKR’s Amy blasts Josh’s ‘sl*t’ slur

Amy Murr, pictured with brother Tyson, said rival contestant Josh Meeuwissen crossed the line when he called her a ‘sl*t’.

AMY responds after being called a ‘sl*t’ by MKR’s villain Josh.

Calling all renovators at heart

Solid home on 617sq m between beach and CBD development

This is what Sunshine Coast living is all about

Life's a breeze at stylish Alexandra Headland apartment

Timing pays dividends in Kawana health hub precinct

DCIM\114MEDIA

Construction starts at Sunshine Coast mixed-use project in Birtinya

Coffee king snaps up gym

Mooloolaba Healthworks site sells for $2.1million

Luxury hotel expands $400m water park development

Developer to push on with second stage of massive new water park

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!