The $600million 'mums' deal that isn't for 'mums' at all.

“Cash for mothers in PM’s $4b Nats bribe to bind Coalition”

MUM’S THE WORD. Urgh. That’s the headline screamed across The Daily Telegraph today.

The Daily Telegraph front page 16/09/2015

It relates to a $600 million deal that the new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has reportedly struck with the Nationals which includes an extra $1,000 a year for 140,000 families with stay-at-home mums.

What is the issue here? The idea that this is a cash grab for ‘mums’. That ‘mothers’ will pocket the proceedings from this generous windfall.

In the main, parents – not mothers – share the cost, responsibility and privilege of raising their children. A growing number of fathers take a “stay-at-home” role in Australia but even Dads who work outside the home deserve, at the very least, to have their parenting acknowledged.  To blithely dismiss the contribution fathers make to raising children is outdated at best, offensive at worst.

Using ‘mum’ as shorthand for ‘parents’ unfairly dismisses the role Dads play.

But, regardless of how two parents split their paid and unpaid work, I have a hot tip. Any money that a family saves on account of, or receives from, the government piggy bank will find its way into the household coffers. It will go towards paying the mortgage or rent, buying groceries, paying bills and covering the myriad of costs no household can avoid.

It is highly, highly, unlikely that the money will be stashed into a delicious fund a mum can uses to indulge her every luxe whim.

This package is less “cash for mums” as it is “cash for families”.  You might consider that an innocuous point of difference or consider me a pedant for pointing it out. I’d ask you to reconsider.

Cast your mind back to the public discussion about paid parental leave that took place earlier this year. Do you remember if it was ‘parents’ who were accused of double-dipping? Was it ‘parents’ who were blamed for partaking in this outrageous – yet perfectly legal – rort? Was it ‘parents’ framed as audacious and selfish for seeking to combine financial security with raising children?

Scott Morrison described accessing government paid parental leave and any employer-provided paid leave, which is perfectly legal, as a ‘rort’.

No. It wasn’t. It was mums. It was mothers who bore the brunt of the criticism for utilising a policy for the exact purpose it was intended.

And, again, nowhere in the conversation pegging paid parental leave as an illegitimate income source for mothers was the financial reality of being home with a baby referred to. The bit about household expenses continuing. The bit about having an additional mouth to feed, body to dress and little person to care for.  The bit about almost every cent paid in parental leave being immediately distributed back into the economy.

On a quick glance of the conversations at the time, you could be forgiven for believing that no sooner had these mums pocketed the cash, they were queuing up for flights to Thailand to sip cocktails poolside on the government’s tab for six months. Not bloody likely.

This is not a realistic depiction of “parental leave”.

Is it too much to expect recognition that in the vast majority of households, any government assistance provided is not going to be stashed away by greedy mums? That it will go toward household expenses?

Is it too much to expect some consensus around the fact that where money is provided to a family, a mother will very rarely be the sole beneficiary of those funds? That an entire family will benefit? Too much to expect us to not use ‘mum’ as shorthand for ‘parent’.

Please, for the love of mothers, can we stop singling out mums?

What do you think about the extra payment for “mums”?

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