Well, well, well: I’m a woman of calibre. How nice for me! I don’t earn that much, but the rest of it fits!
I never got a cent of paid parental leave. I didn’t get a baby bonus either, or a first home owners’ grant. I did earn a degree and damn hard work it was too. Readers of my memoir already know my parents both committed suicide when I was 15. I left school. I earned my degree working full-time, studying part-time and raising two kids. It was bloody hard work. I did Year 12 part-time over two years before I started the degree and missed medicine by 3 marks. I never did Year 11 at all.
Personally I have never believed in paid parental leave, but I’ll come to that. The baby bonus was just stupid. Here we are with a massively over-populated planet and we started paying people a bonus to have a baby while China has a one baby policy. W. T. F.? Billions of us on this planet and we started encouraging people to produce MORE of us? Not only encouraging, but PAYING! The mind boggles.
Paid parental leave? No. I believe in parental leave, most definitely. I think it is a wonderful thing if companies incorporate child care in their employment policies, as a number of companies do. I support flexible hours for parents and working from home.
I will support a parental benefit for single income families (be that one parent or two) but not for dual income families. What we SHOULD be doing is making it financially possible for families to live on one income. Before you accuse me of wanting to return to the 1950s, I am not suggesting we women of calibre pop on our lippy at 5pm and put a bow in our hair to be pretty for hubby after his hard day at the office. I am saying I believe the best thing for children is to have a parent at home until they reach school age. Yes, I know there are mountains of research papers out there arguing for and against having a parent at home and I have made my choice. Did I get to do it? No. Do parents get to do it now? Many do not. A parent may manage to take 12 months off before the economic realities of life today drive them back to work.
So the difference between when I was young and now isn’t that much. I’ve heard it said, and I tend to agree, we want too much. We want the McMansion AND kids. Five TVs and two cars and a holiday in Spain every year. That is where the economic realities of life drivers come from for many – not the economy, but social pressures. If a couple have over-extended themselves on their mortgage to buy the McMansion, THAT is what I am subsidising, not the childbearing. I will be paying an extra x dollars at the supermarket for someone else’s big house, yet I can’t afford my own. It is those who can least afford the increase in their weekly budgets that will end up paying for the women of calibre to receive a benefit they wouldn’t need if they had planned better.
For others, they are lucky to afford one car and one TV and the paid parental leave may well be of great financial comfort. But let me ask this: if people can’t afford to take six months off work to have this child, I can’t see how on earth they will afford to raise the child. Yes, I know surprises happen but realistically having children is something we should be planning. In this day and age, the Pope notwithstanding, planning parenthood is not that difficult. Trust me, having a child isn’t the expensive bit. Getting them to 21 is the expensive bit.
Oh, the aging population, you say? We need more kids to pay taxes to keep us all into our old age? There are enough people on this planet already, we really need to curb our population growth and relocate rather than procreate!
I cannot accept it is society’s responsibility to subsidise people’s childbearing. Give parents every non-financial support in the world, but I draw the line at paid parental leave. I know this may be an opinion that will be unpopular with some. I accept that. I also recognise that given I do support public health systems, public education and the National Disability Insurance Scheme I might be accused of not knowing if I am left or right. I’ll wear that charge – I’m a paradox, I admit it.
Besides, wasn’t Joe Hockey worried about the “entitlement mentality” about a year ago? What happened?
EDIT: For every argument or perspective, there is a counter argument or alternative perspective. I recommend you pop over to Crooked Fences to read Paid Parental Leave: Are we throwing out the feminist baby with the bathwater? for an alternate view.
- ‘Women of calibre’ controversy (smh.com.au)
- Surprise ‘leak’ behind Liberals’ parental leave row (theage.com.au)