By GRETEL KILLEEN
Now, like many of you I haven’t a clue who to vote for so this is not a political party piece. Like many of you too, I’m a working mother and a strident advocate of women’s rights. But I cringe at the suggestion that any parental payment plan is a sign that respect is being shown for women as carers.
The fact is that women are the primary carers – not only of babies who are needy and vulnerable – but similarly of the disabled, the ill and the elderly. And, as far as I know, there ain’t no payment or government endorsed job security thing going on there.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why women who temporarily leave the workforce to care for their babies are paid leave and their position held within a company, while women who are forced to leave the workforce to care for the disabled, ill or their own parents are given no such safety nets nor social reassurances?
Perhaps because the elderly and the disabled are not ‘cute’ subjects.
Perhaps because babies are on public display while the sick and the elderly are often bed-ridden or housebound, out of sight, out of mind.
Perhaps because the mere thought of the difficulties of the life of a carer is potentially so damn confronting that we choose not to think about it all and imagine that it only happens to ‘other people.’
But the fact is that so many women today are not only caring for babies in the form of their grandchildren but also for their elderly parents that a British think tank has announced that women over fifty should receive ‘granny leave’ from their jobs. Why? Because the impact of caring is causing these women to lose their jobs in a society in which unemployment figures for women over fifty have doubled over the past five years and women over fifty are the new poor.
Maybe it’s time for us to realise that caring in general needs recognition because those who are caring for our most vulnerable and needy are rarely heard. They’re too damn tired, they’re too time poor and they’ve been conditioned to put themselves last.
In fact over the years we’ve all been taught that when women are doing something for love we shouldn’t expect to be paid for it. Paid parental leave schemes could be seen as perpetuating this notion as they undiscerningly acknowledge only those who are temporarily removed from the work force and will soon return.
So it would appear that love and nurturing outside of the work paradigm have no value and unless you’re going to be tangibly financially beneficial to the society then sorry, our nation won’t invest in you.
But the fact is an investment in the sick, disabled and vulnerable is actually an investment in our society. History shows that those communities which look after their weak are far more enduring, powerful and content than those who only care about the strong.
So maybe it’s time for us to think of this issue both socially and personally because, if for no other reason, statistics show that one day our income and work will be affected by caring for someone other than our babies. And that my friends will make us more emotionally and financially vulnerable and more likely to need caring for too.
In her colourful career Gretel has been a best selling author, film director, TV host, journalist, voice artist, doco maker, radio host, public speaker, social commentator and stand up comic. Next she is thinking of becoming a neuro surgeon but in the meantime Gretel is writing a play about the lies of love. You can visit Gretel’s website here and follow her on Twitter here.
Are you caring for elderly parents or grandparents?