Today, if you’re a mother, it’s easy to get angry at the state of things. While each generation faces its own challenges and hardships I fear this one is bearing the brunt of a system designed to fail. Despite knowing the facts and figures, women today are still breadwinner with homemaker and I for one have had enough. For working women, in the home we are the default, wearing 70% of tasks which if you’re partnered surely is a 50/50 responsibility. In the workplace we give either 100% and feel torn knowing our kids are again in OHSC or we work part-time sacrificing pay equality and promotion. Stay at home mums receive neither the recognition nor the reverence they deserve as they forego society’s notions of acceptable. We know it’s a lot to bear and yet there we go, day after day, wearing ourselves down as we fulfil their, our, society’s expectations. The tragedy is that we don’t only rip ourselves off; we deny our partners and our families of so much. Is it any wonder that women report higher stress levels than men? That divorce is so prominent in the first three years after the birth of a child. That postnatal depression persists for both men and women. That children are experiencing high levels of anxiety?
Today partners are more involved in childrearing than ever before and it’s still not enough. Men, partners, are missing out on valuable bonding time with their children as they leave that job to the women like its 1953. And what’s worse, our government doesn’t provide a mandated solution for that, and nor do employers. If we want staff retention it would surely pay to create a culture of flexibility and family values. If we want equal pay for women then sharing the load with a partner allows room for both to leave and return to the workplace. But this needs support, we need the support of private enterprise and of government. We need the support of men and women to stand up and fight; women to step back and say no, I won’t do both and simultaneously let their partners into the home domain; let over control and invite them to participate equally which may very well be harder for many women than doing the two roles in the first place. There are some easy places to start. In the home it’s rosters. They’re the easiest way to make sure you don’t just fall back to defaults. Shared meal roster, shared home roster. Shared kids to sport and packing lunch roster. At work, if you’re the one who leaves the home stuff to the other partner, whether she works full or part time, this is your time to shine. Negotiate sick leave for when the kids are off, or flexible hours so you can share school pick ups and drop offs. Take them to the dentist and don’t pretend its for something else. Be transparent in your involvement as a partner and be the pebble that murkies up the pond. Bring the child to work occasionally. Why are we insistent that we keep our families and work lives so separate? If you’re feeling really brave, negotiate parental leave in your contract. Australia’s parental leave policies are dismal compared with other countries. We can pretend its parental leave because we changed the name but there’s no mistaking, its maternity leave. The benefits of being the misfit will not only directly affect your family dynamic but the relationship you share with your children will be deepened with quality time. Your children will gain a parent and a bond they will cherish, forever. Time. You’ll look back one day and not miss that half a day you didn’t spend at work in favour of your kids’ school play or movie at home as they lay with a tummy ache. The strategies are there if we choose to change the status quo which for me, is something I face head-on with everything in me for the sake of my health, my partners experience as a father and my two beautiful girls who will have no doubt as they grow into women, that I fought for their equality each and every day.