“Why don’t you be a “stay at home mum” and look after your children?”
I’ll never forget my emotional reaction to the statement of the “stay at home mum” at my children’s’ primary school’s Christmas picnic. She asked me the loaded question when I’d “dared to share” with her that my planning for childcare arrangements for the following year was proving challenging.
This incident occurred some years ago now, however, to this day, Australian parents, particularly women constantly face the judgement call of others regarding their childcare arrangements or whether they should stay at home.
These judgmental statements are usually underpinned by the view that a working mum is somehow not as good as a stay at home mum. They often have the effect of what has been dubbed “mother guilt”. Guilt is an emotion that is felt when you do something wrong. It is not wrong in modern day Australia for women to want to work and raise children at the same time.
Children need two things in their life. Love and stability. This can be given to children no matter the working lives outside the homes of their parents or single parent as the case may be. Thousands of Australians are living proof of this.
However speaking to the thousands of working mums in my electorate of Chisholm – childcare remains a big issue. Whether they’re in the private or public sector – young professionals, teachers, community workers, small business owners, retail shop assistants, nurses, factory workers women all over struggle with “this issue of childcare”.
The childcare issue is not only “big” for young families but it’s intrinsically linked to the household budget. And in the main parents just get on with it. Pragmatic budget managers and childcare planners.
In dual-working parent households, the birth and immediate childcare of children in the vast majority of cases changes the woman’s life more than the man’s. It not only introduces a whole new ballgame of a different life – but it imposes absence from the workplace, uncertainty about return to work and balancing work and life and childcare. Childcare can often mean a logistical nightmare which necessitates juggling childcare arrangements with grandparents, friends, pre-school, holiday programs to name a few.
The reason women go back to work is multi-faceted. It can be to have an income, to supplement an income, to ensure the continuum of hard work of study and career thus far, to keep up to date, to not allow a too long absence from the workplace or a backwards step in a career trajectory, to pay or save for school fees.