parenting, Uncategorized

My girly girl, pay parity and other thoughts on being a woman.

As the proud mum of a two-year-old girl, I am privy to the whimsical workings of her sweet little head. She is the personification of joy and we have such fun doing girly things together, like dancing around the dining table to the Frozen soundtrack, picking flower petals for a fresh batch of perfume and making “wiggly worms” from pink play doh. Every night as I tuck her into bed, she insists I tell a story with a “princess in pink dress, pink shoes, pink lipstick, riding a pink neigh.” For the record, I’m allergic to pink, so this has been quite a journey and proof that girly girls are born, not bred.

So, as we come around to another International Women’s Day awareness campaign, it is her I think of first.

“Be bold for change” is this year’s battle cry to achieve equality with men and, in particular, pay parity. And when I think of my daughter as she flits through the room in a tutu with fairy wand waving, I do want that for her. I want her to live a bold life taking hold of the desires and dreams planted deep within. I don’t want a ridiculous distinction like gender to come in the way of her becoming an engineer, a computer programmer, a dancer with the Australian Ballet, or whatever else she sees fit to pursue.

Yet, strangely, that isn’t my primary concern for her future. The movement for women’s rights is fierce and robust. I don’t doubt that, with every passing year, women in Australia will experience greater and greater equality in the workplace. No, what concerns me is that those intrinsic yearnings of a female will be squashed, suffocated, sidelined in the wake of the idea that a woman’s trajectory to greatness exists only in the realm of careerdom.

I have frequently been amazed at the way my daughter demonstrates instinctual caring gestures. I go to tidy her room and she shushes me, grasping my hand and guiding me out because “baby sleeping”. Her eyes are wide with seriousness and a peek over her shoulder reveals a dolly tucked carefully under the covers of her bed, extra blankets smoothed across her chest. She strokes the heads of my friends’ newborn babies and engages with coos of adoration, “so byooful!” Oh, and the heartstrings tug, because isn’t it so “byooful” to see unprompted gestures of love – gestures of motherhood – from our little ones?

So when I think of her future, I am not afraid that she won’t achieve her career goals. Not one bit. The vernacular of the moment pivots off self-empowerment. She will be fed endless encouragement when it comes to achieving her career aspirations. What concerns me is how she will be instructed to navigate motherhood. Like it’s an obstacle to get past, a nuisance blip on the career course.

What if my daughter wants to be a mum? “Just” a mum? Like, a career mum?

Not a mum who goes back to work a few months later and does the balancing act of job and motherhood, of expressing breastmilk in the toilet cubicle in the lunch break and grabbing takeout on the way home. We don’t need to #beboldforchange in that scenario, because it’s a new kind of normal in our society.

The role that needs true boldness is that of the purist mother – she who doesn’t consider childbearing and childrearing as a sacrifice, but as a sacred promotion.

It’s a very brave place to inhabit. Families who choose to forgo one income to allow the mother (or father) full care of the children are less and less in favour. The federal government’s Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill, soon to be considered by the Senate, proposes cuts to Family Tax Benefit A and B, channelling the money instead into the day-care industry. Another enticement for mothers to get back into the workforce.

As I snuggle in bed with my daughter and consider what storyline tonight for her pink princess with pink shoes and pink lipstick, riding a pink “neigh”, I resolve to choose those that honour motherhood as a precious part of a woman’s life. Sometimes she will fight fires and design Eiffel Towers and scale mountaintops, but this princess will know that motherhood is something to be celebrated and cherished as a chapter that gives colour and meaning to everything before and after.

I hope we can #beboldforchange in demonstrating the great difference between the roles of men and women, and that being a mum is the pinnacle of female accomplishment.


Written for Emily’s Voice.

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6 Comments

  1. Maria says

    It saddens me to see that motherhood is being promoted more as a reproductive duty which once accomplished, the ‘duty’ of the woman is to return to work and hand the baby to some stranger to raise. While I understand that some women may have no choice but to work so as to put food
    on the table, I also see some who work simply so the yearly cruise can be afforded, or the weekly cinema outing, or the designer clothes can be bought, or the career advanced, etc, etc. I feel sorry for these women and children who miss out so much on love, attention and the simple things in life. Unfortunately for the mothers who do choose to stay home and look after their children there is not much support and they get looked upon as maybe a bit weird. Society needs to recognise that motherhood is the most important career a woman can choose. Be the first teachers of your children, assume the responsibility of the great gift you have been given and maybe some of today’s ills will be eliminated.

  2. Bron Baker says

    I’ve always deeply valued motherhood as a high calling despite pressures around me ‘to conform to way of world’ to follow a career outside home. I gained paid part time employment later that complimented motherhood.
    I am sooo grateful to my Heavenly Father for providing my husband of almost 40 years with an excellent career that facilitated my availability in motherhood. Further on, my Grandma role supported my grandchildren rather than have them in childcare, thereby complimenting Christian family values rather than opposing values in their formative years. Along with the financial benefit gained for their parents not having to pay for care!

  3. Maryann Keach says

    I forward your article to my Daughter in Law!
    I wrote:This took my to the place that I see what a beautiful Mother you are!
    Her response was thank you that is my greatest compliment.

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