Keeping the Faith

I Don’t Give a Rats About the Gender Pay Gap!

I sat down to write this column about five times.

First time, my son convinced me to help him build a cubby house instead – great fun! It was like an Arabian boudoir in there. Second time, my baby girl woke up from her nap, testing the strength of her lungs. They’re strong. Third time, mouths needed feeding.

You get the idea.

I love being a stay-at-home mum, I only wish people would believe me.

Warning: rant ahead.

Because stitched into every story on the gender pay gap or women’s rights is the assumption that I would prefer to be out there earning $ in the workforce, rather than colouring-in with my son or mopping the mouth of my daughter.

Smart people like journalist Annabel Crabb talk about the asymmetric rate of “wife-having” while influential people like Governor Kate Warner quote statistics like this one: 60 per cent of all Australian families with children under the age of 15 had full-time working fathers, and mothers who worked part-time or not at all. Apparently just 3 per cent of those represented a family with a working mother and a stay-at-home or part-time working dad.

This information is meant to shock me into derision.

working-mom-vs-home-mom

Well, thank you International Women’s Day for bringing this to my attention. I know, it was an age ago, but that shows how long I’ve been stewing on this.

Agreed – there are stereotypes of men and women that are just plain unhelpful. But, believe it or not, there’s also a bunch of women out there who choose not to go back to work when their babies are still in nappies. There are families who choose to live on one income.

That’s the choice we made, and we are so much richer for it.

It is not the poorer choice to stay at home for your children, in fact for me it is the richer choice, both in terms of status and wealth. Every day I revel in the richness of relationship with these precious children and know myself to be wealthy beyond measure.

My blue-eyed, blonde-haired babies attracted the ooohs and aaahs of a table of tourists at a café a few weeks back. We chatted with them about parenthood, Tassie and travelling. They asked what we “do” – as most conversations with strangers tend toward. I said, “I’m a stay-at-home mum,” with some gusto.

The group of retirees was admiring. They didn’t turn to my husband for a better topic of conversation. They gave me a verbal pat on the back. One lady said her one regret was returning to work too early, not giving her children the wealth of her time in those formative years.

I walked away feeling buoyed and empowered by this rare affirmation of my job description.

Then, I was talking to a friend whose son has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She had planned to return to work this year but instead found herself attending workshops and courses to equip her with information to help her son. Something she said really resonated.

“I want to advocate for him well.”

As parents we are advocates for our children. The needs of our children are upheld and, almost inadvertently, our own wants become secondary. That is the nature of love.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers… let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)

The truth is, we live in a materialistic, self-serving society. Double-incomes, careers, McMansions and luxury holidays are increasingly trumping the time we spend nurturing and advocating for our children.

Some working mothers juggle well and, hand to heart, I’m in awe of you.

But let’s change the vernacular around stay-at-home mums. I, for one, am sick of being treated like a second-rate woman for choosing children over career.

Now, excuse me while I go remove the dead fly from my daughter’s mouth.

First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday March 23, 2015.

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3 Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    I think you’re a tad mixed up, the gender pay gap is about working women earning less than working men, not whether you choose to work or not

    • Ok, perhaps my headline could be revised… but gender pay gap figures are impacted by those of us who choose to be a stay-at-home mum, and for how long. Say I exit the workforce to look after my children from age 30-35. When I return, my male work colleague of the same age has continued to progress in skills and pay scale, while I will need to pick up where I left off. Gender pay gap statistics reflect this. So, as you can see, there is a correlation.

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