parent opinion

OPINION: Yes, we should pay mums to care for their own kids.

This week, 50 prominent women in the US made world news after taking out an advertisement in the New York Times to ask that the Biden administration consider paying mums for their unpaid, unseen labour.

Led by Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, the ‘Marshall Plan for Mums’ [or 'Moms', as they write in the US] campaign calls for a short-term payment to compensate pandemic-exhausted mums. There is also a list of other vital family-friendly policies such as paid parental leave, affordable childcare and pay equity.

As a mum and friend to many amazing mums around the world, it would not be a surprise to read that I love the idea of properly paying and supporting mothers and primary carers for the work that we do.

 Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

But it is not just about the work that mothers do, it is also about the work we ALLOW to happen while we care and clean and parent (for free) in the background.

Consider what would happen if all the mothers juggling multiple roles during the pandemic went on strike? What if the tired, depleted mums of planet earth decided they were no longer going to keep working while homeschooling their kids, cleaning their houses, emotionally supporting partners and cooking dinner.

This unpaid, unseen labour that mums do every day is literally keeping the world ticking over. It is enabling the next generation to continue their education at home, while also allowing co-parents to keep on working and contributing to the nation’s economy.

Mums are, as the campaign says, the ‘bedrock of society’ and now, more than ever, they deserve financial compensation and recognition for holding the fabric of our pandemic-ravaged humanity together.

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In Australia like the US, there is no such thing as a mum wage, but there are means tested payments for parents and some subsidies available for childcare.

Yet as Belinda Jepsen wrote for Mamamia on Friday, women still remain behind the men folk in key employment measures. 

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, three in five employed mothers work part-time compared to less than one in ten employed fathers. 

And if you work part-time because you are juggling kids and a household, it is likely you earn less, AND are doing more of the work at home. It’s hard to fathom how so many mothers end up in this situation feeling frustrated, tired and underpaid, so I’ll use my experience as an example.  

 At age 31 I was steadily climbing the career ladder in the public relations industry when I stopped work to have baby Toby. I chose to breastfeed and as my husband had the better paid job, it made all kinds of sense for me to take time off and eventually, due to a mix of practical and emotional reasons, go back to work part-time.

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Later after a big international move, serious illness and a lack of interesting well-paid part-time jobs, I went completely freelance in between having my second son Leo in 2017.

What started with just the caring for our baby, then two kids, eventually included other types of ‘work’.

The ‘I’m home with a baby all day so it makes sense to put the washing on and do the shopping’ kind of work.

Slowly, slowly I moulded my career around the emotional and practical demands of family life. They were tiny incremental changes and adaptations that were made by ‘choice’, but then 10 years later here I am without enough personal superannuation to buy a decent car. 

I am not complaining – I have a loving husband who earns good money, works flexibly, cooks delicious meals and is a hands-on wonderful parent. I have two gorgeous boys that I adore and engaging freelance work that fits in around the school day. 

Aside from this good fortune however, I still feel frustrated that I contribute so little financially to our family coffers and that much of my ‘work’ around the home is repetitive, unseen (tidying up – give me strength) and unpaid. 

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I am lucky, and yet my experience illustrates how motherhood is not always about choice and why I believe mums – especially those now dealing with the ridiculous pressure of job loss and homeschooling – deserve compensation. 

The Marshall Plan for Mums is a great conversation starter for governments and thought leaders all over the world in 2021. 

These issues are not new, but the pandemic highlights the financial inequities mothers and primary carers face: lower incomes, missed career opportunities, the need to support co-parents (to enable them to work), the superannuation shortfalls and the repetitive but essential house and care work. 

The unpaid, unseen labour that mums continue to give is not just about choice or love – it is a job that is essential in order for families, towns, cities and countries to keep going.

As Reshma Saujani states, mums are the bedrock of society, and like her, I believe it is time they are valued as such.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Feature Image: Instagram / @lauracjackel

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