02 March, 2009

Paid Maternity Leave and the Australian Public

When I say "Australian Public", I actually only mean the idiot ones. Well, certain idiots anyway, who send letters to the editor about stuff they no very little about. Take maternity leave for example.

As some people may know, the issue of paid maternity/paternity/parental leave was recently reopened by our beloved Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Add this to the recent closures of ABC Learning Centres, and low and behold! Idiots come out of the woodwork and offer their "enlightened" opinions. These are all paraphrased Letters to the Editor, published in The West Australian. They aren't quoted verbatim because, well, that would mean finding old issues of The West, copywright issues... drama drama drama. Also, it's the ideas I'm adressing, not the people themsleves. It's the same ideas I see repeated in that paper time and time again.

Letter One: Why would we want paid maternity leave? We already have the Baby Bonus! Paid maternity leave only helps working mums, but stay-at-home mums are more important than those women who chose to work.

Letter Two: I'm so glad the ABC Centres are closing! Maybe we'll finally see mothers at the park with their children!

Letter Three: Ever wonder why there's an escalating crime rate in this country? It's because mothers don't look after their children! Instead of teaching them proper morals, they leave them in the care of strangers.

Ok, so there's a few issues here that should be discussed.

Firstly, the whole "stay-at-home mums vs. working mums" dichotomy.
I would like to state that I think it's bullocks. Stay-at-home mums aren't worth more than working mums. Working mums aren't worth more than stay-at-home mums. The idea that you can reduce a woman's worth to how she chooses to raise her children is just unbelieveable! Not to mention the fact that some women don't have children, because they can't, because they don't want to, because of a hundred different reasons.
Reproduction is not the be-all and end-all of womanness.

Second, the choice to send children to childcare centres. Sometimes, yes, it is a choice. And when it is a choice, you damn well better respect that choice! Just the same as you damn well better respect the choice of some mothers who want to stay at home with their children.

But it's not always a choice. Lets look at this logically. Let's say you're a single parent. You are able to take a month off from work, unpaid of course, and more if you ask for it (but no guaruntees they'll hold your job for you). That job is your only source of income. The baby bonus is $5000 dollars, lump sum. With no other income and bills to pay, how the hell can you survive?
Or, say you have a double income, and are relying on that to pay your rent, mortgage, bills...? These aren't the only reasons for putting children into child care, but to be so dismissive of all working mothers is completely obsurd.

Third, what about the fathers? The stigma associated with stay-at-home dads is as big as it is stupid. And, yeah, it's a problem. Because fathers have as much of a right and responsibility as mothers with regards to children. But they aren't the ones accused of sending society spiralling out of control.

And finally, the idea that child care centres are going to turn children into psychopathic murderers and cop bashers is, well, absurd. And as someone currently studying to work in childcare, I'd like to give anyone who suggests that I'll screw their children a great big fuck you. But then I'm biased.


Lissy said...

Excellent post! Did you see that today the ACTU has backed down from it's calls for paid maternity leave? How lovely that they do so just in time for International Women's Day (please note sarcasm)!

Also many detractors of childcare in this country rely on studies from overseas to 'prove' the evils of childcare, these studies do not apply to the Australian context where as you know our child care workers are required to have training and to keep training and thus our quality of childcare is much higher than in other countries.

But you know I'm biased because I'm single mum who needs childcare so I can work and thus eat.

Pharaoh Katt said...

They did? Argh! Sounds like a call for research and another post. Thanks for the heads up.

As far as strict standards goes, hell yes! I needed to have a Working With Children Check, first aid certificate, medical clearence and three weeks of training just to be a student in a centre one day a week. The standards are high and penalties are harsh. That's why I think, and you might agree, that we have such good childcare (although not nearly enough trained workers).