Glutton for punishment

HePhoto owned by map (cc)
I received the confirmation of my maternity benefit from the Department of Social Welfare today. Don’t get me wrong I’d prefer to get it than not but I feel like I’m being punished for having a child. I know it’s a cliché but if a man had to take a pay cut like this everytime he had a child, there wouldn’t be any children or certainly doctors, lawyers and (normally I’d say builders or bankers but obviously…) civil servants would never have kids. Actually civil servants will always have kids because our taxes are paying for their (m/p)aternity leave top-ups. I’d prefer if my taxes were paying me decent leave benefit to be honest. Maybe they are but I’m not paying enough taxes but that’s a rant for another day.

I seem to be reading articles everywhere these days about women in the workplace, about working mothers and about caring for children. I suppose it’s on my mind. I have already posted about The Economist’s recent celebration of women in the workforce but could not have put it more succiunctly than their correspondent Jani-Petri Martikainen who wrote in to point out:

Remarkably, you managed to discuss the challenges women face in combining family and career without ever mentioning the role of fathers.

I also read an article in Image (bought it because Abigail is featured in it!) entitled The Mommy Wars which to be fair featured one father who had chosen to stay at home and care for his child because “I didn’t want to have a child unless I was prepared to look after him.” My ire is up, Daddio! I do concede that maybe I’m a little sensitive but there’s an implication in that statement.  The article is written by a woman who has no children and it’s basically about a book she read by a man who should not have children (allow me my little joke!) There are some reasonable points from some sources who have actually researched and studied the issue of women, work and childcare but all in all the article left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t normally buy women’s magazines but reading this and the Provocateur column (yes I did note it was called the Provocateur column) in a recent edition of Marie Claire reminded me why. I just don’t understand why these articles are about mothers versus non-mothers, why they are all about what monsters childcare is creating and none, not one that I read recently, queried why fathers weren’t being released from the workforce to mind their children. Not just released; ejected! If it’s so damn bad for a mother to put her child in creche it’s also bad for a father to do it too. Less about the moms, regardless of the demographic of your readership, and more about the parents please!

From my own experience I think it’s a myth that childcare is bad for kids. Bad childcare, long days and hassle is bad for kids as a bad workplace, long days and hassle are bad for all of us: they are human beings! Our kids love their childcare and my correspondence from the Department of Social Welfare today is taking that away from them. It’s taking the choice away from their parents. Sure there are days when they don’t want to go to créche and when they scrap with their minders but there are days when they feel the same way about their parents and vice versa!

That’s the nub of it I think: choice. Parents should be allowed choose what is best for their child. Maybe the father is a better parent (I often think so about our family unit!); maybe the mother earns more; maybe the circumstances change over the 18 years the parents are shepherding their child through the education system and towards adulthood; maybe the child goes through a phase where a different approach to education is better suited to their needs. All of these life cycles need individualized responses and if there is one element in the system that does not have the flexibility to cope with individualization the whole system will break down. I’m not saying I have the answer but if the burden of care becomes a parenting issue rather than a women’s issue we would be getting somewhere. This should start from day one of a child’s life. That would separate the men from the boys eh? I bet there would be less “single mothers” too if the “single fathers” got paid paternity leave too.

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