Many of you may have seen Anne-Maree Slaughter’s piece in July edition of The Atlantic magazine about women trying to have it all, and the subsequent internet debate about it.
If you haven’t, you can read it here. You can also read pieces responding to it, here, here and here. It caused a bit of a fuss, largely because it allowed lots of journalists to get excited about whether feminism had got something wrong.
Most of this debate misses the point entirely. Many women in Australia grow up thinking we can have it all, and then the reality of having children and raising a family hits us. For some, it is the first time they experience any sort of discrimination, or realise the world isn’t fair. In Anne-Marie’s Slaughter’s case, she realised it was impossible to commute across the country and still see her children. I’m not sure what she expected or why that was news to her, but we’re all learning I suppose.
In my experience, many women are perfectly fine with taking a backwards step in their career to spend more time with their children, especially while they’re young. We know that this means less superannuation, a slower career path to seniority and less involvement in major work decisons that might happen when we’re not there. It’s frustrating, and when we know we’re capable of doing our bosses job it can drive us crazy, but we can cope.
The problem arises when we are willing to work, and know our kids will be fine if we worked at all/more days/different days, and we can’t find the childcare or the employer who will help us manage these responsibilities.
To that end, I am pleased to see that Childcare Minister Kate Ellis put removing restrictions on childcare centres being open after 6pm onto the agenda. For many families, this would reduce our burden considerably. As would more reliable public transport.
Another option could be to allow some centres to open on Saturday in areas where there is local demand among miners and shift workers. No-one wants to have children in 24 hour care, and so this would need to be regulated, but having some help available for families at odd hours would surely help the many shift workers we have in our economy, as well as those of us (like me) who battle Sydney traffic in the evening to avoid a fine by getting there after 6pm.
Would more flexible child care make a difference to you? What else do you need for your version of ‘having it all’?
- Stop press. Kids in child care are just fine. Good news for working mums (workingmumsaustralia.com.au)
- Government to boost in-home childcare places (smh.com.au)
- Any time child care, do we need it? (blogs.abc.net.au)