By SARAH BUTLER
‘I actually wasn’t enjoying my job anyway,’ my friend confided to me a few weeks ago, as she tickled her one year old under the chin, ‘so really, it was an easy way out.’
‘I totally agree,’ another new mother told me recently over coffee, ‘I LOVE that I don’t need to explain why I’m not going back to work, but it was really getting me down.’
They echoed another female friend I saw a few months ago who admitted that she is considering a complete career change and is hoping to pursue a more creative vocation, something she has always wanted to try, when she returns to the workforce after having a baby.
These conversations, along with yet another newspaper feature article about ‘mumprenuers’, got me thinking: is pregnancy the new exit strategy? Is giving birth perhaps one of the only legitimate ways to escape answering to the man and freeing oneself from the daily grind? Assuming you can afford it, is getting knocked up one of the only ways you can opt out or try something new without the risks typically associated with a new venture?
Unless you are an athlete or work in an industry where your talent has a shelf life, it can be hard to recognise burn-out, career fatigue or the fact that you might simply have become out of sync with your industry. Often one of the only ways that you can get the perspective required for this type of realisation is by stepping outside of your daily work routine and taking some time to literally watch the world go by without you standing in the thick of it.
Having a baby does, among many other things, provide this vantage point. But without the swell of a growing belly it can be difficult to admit to yourself, let alone anyone else, that you want some time out, a break from the crazy merry-go-round of working life.
Or simply articulating that you want to swap law for yoga. Especially if you’ve got one hand grabbing for the next rung on that godforsaken corporate ladder.
So thinking about all this has made me worry for the men. That’s right you heard. I am worried about the working men of Australia.
Of course there are females that fall into this category too but I would argue that they are still able to use child rearing as an acceptable reason to break from work and do a career 180.
Even if a female is single and decides to take time off to have a baby on her own, no one will question this. In fact most people I know would be incredibly supportive. Whereas a male resigning to raise a child on his own whilst he launches a new baby clothing range? I doubt this would be greeted with as much enthusiasm.
It is true that more Australian men than ever before are in part-time roles, indicating that more balance is being struck on the home front. There has been a 45% increase in part-time working dads since 2002 which I think is a great thing. But part-time isn’t the same as time out; a hard and fast break and a forced review of your current situation and whether it’s something you want to return to. I expect that long service leave was originally introduced to serve this very need but with such high attrition rates these days it’s unlikely many people get to enjoy this benefit. (Source: ABS)