a "drain on the economy" are they?
Apparently the OECD has put out a paper saying that Downunder needs to get more women into the workforce, that "stay at home mums" are a drain on the economy, that they should be back in the workforce - and their children should be in childcare.
My mother went back into full time work when the youngest of us turned three. It wasn't what she intended to do. Before that time she sometimes did days of "relief" or "supply" teaching to cover absences at the school we children were attending. My paternal grandmother would care for my baby sister.
I remember the embarrassment and misery of having my mother teach the class I was in for an entire week. Our teacher was off playing in the national netball championship of all things.
But, for the most part, my mother was home trying to make ends meet on a single salary. The Senior Cat was doing his university degree one subject at a time and had to pay fees as well so money was very tight. We ate and we were clothed but only just. Teachers were not well paid and there were four children.
Teachers were in very short supply at the time so when my father was offered promotion if my mother went back to work in a two teacher school they took the opportunity. It seemed like a good thing. It wasn't all good though. Good teaching requires a lot of out of hours work. It does have an effect on family life. Financially we were not a lot better off. Women were paid less than men and the cost of moving to a new location - including the essential new-to-us car - reduced the benefit dramatically.
Was my mother happier? I don't know. She was considered a good teacher and eventually ended up as the principal of more than one "infants" school. It was just assumed she would go on working.
But there were many women of her generation who were "not working". Is that really true?
These were the women who ran the school canteens, listened to children read, cared for the sick, cared for the elderly, did the housework, cooked the meals, made clothes, volunteered in all sorts of ways, and more. They did a lot of unpaid work. It was valuable work too. It was work society needed.
I know things have changed. Professionals run the canteen, teacher aides listen to children read, the elderly are supposedly cared for by "carers" or in nursing homes, cleaning services do the housework, cooking meals has become much less time consuming, and you don't need to make clothes unless you actually want to do it. As for volunteering - well that is what your very elderly parents do if they can.
One of the youngest federal politicians announced her "retirement" yesterday. She says she wants to spend more time with her young son. I'll be interested to see how long it takes her to get another job but right now she says she is leaving at the next election. Some sections of the community have praised her, others have ridiculed her. My own view is that, if you choose to have children, then you need to make sure you have a position or way of life which is compatible with child rearing. In this case she was away in the national capital for twenty weeks a year and now feels this is not compatible. Another politician feels differently. She has just had a second child and says she will, if necessary, breast feed the baby in parliament.
But I think what really bothers me about all this is not that women are encouraged to go back to work - I know it has as many benefits as draw backs. What bothers me is the idea that motherhood isn't work in itself and that all the other things my mother's generation did wasn't also an economic contribution to society.