Annabel Crabb — ABC political reporter, Fairfax columnist, Walkley winner, TV host, mother-of-three and all-round superwoman — has written a book.
It’s called The Wife Drought, and it argues that to achieve true gender equality, women need to start taking wives. Well, sort of.
“I use this term ‘wife’ as sort of a wink towards the concept of the stay-at-home wife,” Crabb says. “We think of the concept (of “wife”) as a bit outdated, but the patterns throughout Australian society are still there.”
Crabb points out that while women have been successful in taking on more paid work over the last five decades, they have largely maintained their unpaid jobs at home too – a trend that spells bad news for women.
“This is free-and-easy, egalitarian Australia’s intriguing little secret; our attachment to the male-breadwinner model is deep and robust,” she writes in the book.
“The obligation that evolves for working mothers, in particular, is a very precise one; the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job,” she says.
“To do any less feels like failing at both.”
We wanted to know more about Crabb’s call to action — and how she manages the work-life juggle herself — so we sat down to interview her about everything from paternity leave, to choosing the right man, to jellying her breast milk (yep, really).
Here’s an edited version of our chat.
MM: What was your main reason for writing the book? How did you identify this gap in the discussion about gender equality that your book addresses?
A: Having been around politicians for a long time, I always noticed that the experience of women in politics is subtly different to that of men in politics, and I always noticed the difference between parents who were women in the parliament compared to parents who were men in the Parliament.
And about a year ago when Abbott swore in our Cabinet and we had that debate about “oh, there’s only one woman,” I wrote this column that was not an angry column, but a “for God’s sake”-type column. I said, “Listen… I think one that we often miss is that women doesn’t get the same sorts of spouses that the male politicians get”. I mean, being a political spouse is a major job because your partner is away 18-20 weeks a year; they really need a spouse who’s really prepared to pick up a lot of that stuff…
I had a really strong response to that column. People wrote to me and said listen, its not just politics, it’s lawyers, academics, diplomats.
I went in search of figures, and what I found was that 76 percent of full-time working dads have a spouse who either is at home half-time or not working… whereas the flip side, only 15 per cent of full-time working mums have that arrangement.