Maternity Leave and the Mother Wars

A brand new survey of what women really want concerning paid maternity leave is most revealing. Contrary to the usual line that basically all women want a paid career, with perhaps family thrown in on the side, this new Galaxy poll finds overwhelming support for the importance of stay-at-home mothering.

Commissioned by the Australian Family Association, the poll asked over 1000 people whether government paid parental leave plans should go to stay-at-home mothers, as well as those in the paid workplace. Some sixty-four per cent said that both groups should be equally funded.

The poll also asked whether government childcare funding arrangements should be provided equally to both groups of mums. A strong sixty-seven per cent replied that childcare rebates should go to both groups. AFA spokesman Tim Rebbechi said, “Why should stay home mums be treated as second-class citizens, missing out on paid parental leave, when they also give up income in those early months?”

And Kids First Director Tempe Harvey said, “Let’s face it – all mums work, but not all mums are paid for what they do. Parenting payments should not discriminate on this basis.”

This survey simply confirms what Australian women have been saying about this issue for decades now. Earlier polls found quite similar results. For example, one survey of 4500 adults found that 69 per cent of respondents preferred that the mother stay home when she had pre-school children.

Australian National University research found that only 4 per cent of respondents felt that women with pre-school kids should work full time, while only 31 per cent thought they should be in the labour force part time. Another survey discovered that one-third of working women who put their infants in child care centres would prefer not to work if they had the choice.

A major Australian study conducted in 2001 discovered that while only two per cent of mothers thought mothers should work full time when their children are of pre-school age, a large majority (71 per cent) thought it best to stay at home.

A 1997 survey by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that 83 per cent of women and 84 per cent of men believe that mothers should not work full-time, even when their youngest child is at school. Almost two-thirds of the respondents felt that families suffered if women work full-time.

The small percentage of Australians who actually use formal child care is testimony to this preference for home. Only 7.6 per cent of babies under one year are in formal care (centre or family day care), while 33.6 per cent use informal care (grandmothers, nannies). Most are cared for by their parents all the time.

Thus time and time again Australian women have spoken out about their preferences. Most really want to be with their small children in their first few years, and see motherhood as more important than getting straight back into the paid-workplace.

So why are political parties continuing to offer women only one choice here? Why do governments and opposition parties seem to think that all Australian women would rather be in the paid workplace instead of at home with their very young children?

Why are stay-at-home mums in effect penalised by governments, while non-stay-at-home mums are rewarded? Why should dual income families receive government subsidies for day care when single income families receive no or very little by way of subsidies? Why this discrimination? Governments should not be in the business of showing partiality to one kind of mother over another. They should treat all mums fairly. This is not a call for special favours or rights for stay-at-home mums, simply equity and fairness.

It seems that there are some groups with vested interests (eg., the feminist lobby) which are very eager to urge women into the paid work force. Indeed, these groups have made it clear what sort of agenda they are promoting here.

For example, in 1995 feminist Eva Cox rebuked women who chose to stay at home and said that all women should be in the market economy. Pamela Bone wrote back in 2001, “The idea that women want to stay home is being pushed by a few very privileged, conservative women writers. If the welfare of children really were their main concern they would be pushing for better parental leave and family-friendly workplaces.”

The various surveys and polls cited above of course give lie to such incredible claims. And just how exactly is being raised by strangers in the best interests of children? Talk about ideology trumping facts and evidence.

What agenda is being pushed by those calling for more and more day care? Why are some so intent on taking women out of the home, and so intent on institutionalising children? There are some feminists who have made it clear that this in fact is their goal. The child care mentality is an integral part of feminist theory. Consider a few representative quotes:

“The care of the young is infinitely better left to trained professionals rather than to harried amateurs with little time nor taste for the education of young minds” (Kate Millet).

“No woman should be authorised to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have the choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one” (Simone de Beauvior).

“A variety of ways have been suggested for reducing [women’s] desire for babies. One commonly suggested proposal to achieve this goal is greater encouragement of labor-force participation by women. . . . [Perhaps girls could] be given an electric shock whenever they see a picture of an adorable baby until the very thought of motherhood becomes anathema to them. . .” (Jesse Bernard).

“The heart of woman’s oppression is her childbearing and childrearing roles” (Shulamith Firestone).

“In order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families and communally raise them” (Mary Jo Bane).

“Unless women have, from the moment of birth, socialization for, expectations of, and preparation for a viable significant alternative to motherhood . . . women will continue to want and reproduce too many children” (Wilma Scott Heide).

Of course these are extremist positions, not held by the majority of women. But such thinking does have influence. The feminist agenda clearly has had an impact. Marian Sawer’s 1990 book, Sisters in Suits describes the success of the feminist bureaucracy in Canberra in achieving its goals. Child care has certainly been one of the big winners. As social analyst Michael Duffy has said, “Feminism in the form we have it today could not exist without childcare.”

It is clearly time that politicians of all stripes start actually listening to women – and to all women, not just the radicals who are pushing their own anti-family and anti-child agendas. This latest survey needs to be flashed in front of the eyes of both Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott. They ignore such surveys at their own peril.

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20 Replies to “Maternity Leave and the Mother Wars”

  1. Thanks for another great and true article, Bill.

    However, upon reading through I was saddened by a much wider thought. Even if we were to succeed in convincing all mothers to be with their children until they were mature enough to have their own families, we have still lost the other half of the war….. Fathers and (together) families!

    There is an underlying tone of mothers being home to care for children that has the benefit of the individual child as the objective. If that is the focus then we have already lost.

    We are in the feminist age where we are considering motherhood, but we lost the fatherhood battle through the industrial age. We need to rediscover biblical families where “a man will leave his Father and Mother to cling to his wife”.

    Let’s not forget the much bigger picture. That’s even more radical.

    Jeremy Peet

  2. Millet, Bane, De Beauvior, Bernard – where do these people come from? Talk about destructive social engineering!
    Steve Davis

  3. Thanks Steve

    Yes, if we wonder why things are in such a mess today, it is exactly because these radicals have hugely influenced the public policy debates with their poisonous ideas. They are in large measure responsible for the social engineering which is so anti-family and so destructive of society as a whole. As I keep saying, ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have bad consequences

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. Thank you Bill for your support of stay home mothers. I am one. I took a back seat so that I can be there every time my children needed me whether to pick them up at school, to feed them clean and bathe them. We are a family where my husband is the sole earner. He struggles but never complains. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss working (I am a professional and did have a career and a good salary) but my children became THE most important reason to stop. Now to get back slowly into the workforce is difficult but I will still try on that front as the children are a school going age. Some one told me that “they never really stop needing you, even more when they grow up” and that has been my reason to stay home. I don’t want them to feel no one was there for them. It has been tough financially but I will declare that faith and patience is also a factor towards teaching me that it was worth every minute of that decision to stay home. It was also my lesson in life. I hope that lack and struggle have taught me to be stronger. Those are my spiritual lessons for my heart and soul. I hope I can teach that to my children, that with every struggle, every difficulty He gives us a solution. It will be good if the government or any future government can help stay home mothers because in the long term they are investing in future Australians who can give back to the community because they had stable homes to grow up in.
    Siti Khatijah

  5. Thanks Siti

    Yes, your moving and inspiring story would be true of so many millions of other Australian families. Thanks for sharing it.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  6. Oh thank you both. I also want to say that we live in the most wonderful country Australia. A lot of wonderful opportunites. God given opportunites. Like this site that has taught me a lot.
    Siti Khatijah

  7. Clearly this was an opportunity for Abbott to capitalise on most women’s desires to be paid to stay at home and raise their own children. If he had stuck with his guns then this may have endeared him more to Australian women rather than just Australian feminists.

    Why, in their ideological zeal, do feminists love to push women towards the workforce? As Gerard Jackson put it against others that also demand women be slaves to the workforce:

    “So I’ll ask another question: do people exist to serve the economy? Believe it or not Treasury head Ken Henry seems to think they do. According to this fanatical Keynesian mothers should be in the workforce serving the economy rather than be at home raising their children. Alexander Gray — economist and free marketeer — truly had the number of men like Henry when scathingly condemned. The repellent doctrine that man exists for the production of wealth, rather than that wealth exists for the use of man, here finds its classical utterance. (Alexander Gray, The Development of Economic Doctrine: An Introductory Survey, Longmans, Green and Co, 1948, p. 189). Mr Henry’s genius is boundless. How does he know that it is much better for mothers to be press ganged into the labour force, as if raising children is not hard enough?”

    Damien Spillane

  8. The flipside of this is a push for paternity leave, including paid or compulsory paternity leave, which would remove one natural “advantage” that men enjoy in the workplace – that of not stopping work when their spouse or partner has a baby.
    Steve Walker

  9. Yes, Damien, that’s a key problem in “the atmosphere of feminism”.

    The philosophy of feminism demands that women be NOT PERMITTED to consider mothering as a career (that of raising the next generation of Australians). They MUST see it as a form of enslavement, and they MUST be trained to consider paid employment to be the only valid freedom.

    SLAVERY is FREEDOM anyone? Thank you George Orwell!

    John Angelico

  10. Steve, That depends on how long the “paid or compulsory” paternity leave is. In order to have the effect you intend it would need to be three to six months at least…

    Bill, very interesting article. I find it hard to comprehend that a time existed when it wasn’t normal for the “to work now or work later?” debate to start three months after a baby is born…

    Alison Keen

  11. Alison,

    Thanks for your comment. Sorry If I wasn’t clear but I don’t advocate paternity leave – quite the opposite! The Liberal Party have already announced that they will be seeking feedback about increasing two weeks of paid paternity leave to the full six months (in lieu of the mother taking it). It will happen, give it time 🙂

    Steve Walker

  12. “if we were to succeed in convincing all mothers to be with their children until they were mature enough to have their own families, we have still lost the other half of the war….. Fathers and (together) families!”

    Well … NO!

    Economic coercing of women into the workforce does four things very well: 1) increases two-income families; 2) increases no-earned-income families; 3) increases families with no father; and 4) decreases social cohesion.

    We need people and politicians to wake up to the fact that DISCRIMINATION IN FAVIOUR of marriage is best for everyone – father, mother, kids, taxpayers and society.

    Peter Newland

  13. Stay at home Mums need equal treatment through the taxation system to ensure that only one breadwinner, the husband, is all that is required to raise as many children as they desire as part of married life.

    Successive governments have gone along with propaganda about ‘career’ women when in actual fact most of those gone into the paid workforce because of the increased costs of housing due to locked up land and lack of decentralisation policies for more town and cities to be created outside the main five cities around Australia.

    Michael Webb

  14. The ‘mainstream’ media and the feminists love to publicise high income earning fellow power conscious feminists.

    Notice how they are not as concerned about the majority of women in average runaround jobs trying to make ends meet.
    The revolution was always about the benefit of the few.

    Michael Webb

  15. Fantastic article, Bill. Happily, my own experience (both in social circles and in my professional role) reveals increasing numbers of mums staying at home to raise their kids. This will result in healthier families, happier children and a healthier society as a whole.

    I think that feminism is a blip in history. Women are increasingly rediscovering the role of motherhood and child-rearing as a blessing to which they are better fitted, both biologically and psychologically. I suspect that in a generation’s time people will look back on the two-income family as a ridiculous, failed experiment.

    Now the government should stop its financial discrimination against stay-at-home mums. Socialised maternity leave and socialised child care are a crock.

    Jereth Kok

  16. Thank you, Bill, for standing up for stay at home mothers.

    Somewhere I read about a question put to children.: what did they want most from their parents..things or their time?
    You guessed it..their time! You can not compensate lack of time for things, no matter how many or what their monitary worth. Kids need their parents physical presence, not some child care worker who is here today and gone tomorrow. What does that teach a child about relationships?

    How did the Mother of the year get to be that?

    And apart from the blessing to all those children how much did she save the government?

    Thanks to all husbands who support their stay-at-home wives and their children. God bless you.

    I put 2 questions on another post and will ask them here as well, so that I can pass them on to my daughter who is being intimidated.
    What brief reasons for staying at home can you give people who criticise your position?
    Can anyone name some wellknown/famous person who chose family over career?
    Linda Ure

  17. My wife has just gone back to work after being a full time mother and wife for 26 years, so there goes all the volunteer work, being there for the children and I have to admit, family home time, now we spend Saturdays shopping. My children were even keen for her to join the paid work force, I thought it would be a two or three month faze, her friends (all double incomes) encouraged her, even the church did. Well thank you, now we have more money, our home is now a house instead of a home, what was quality time is now time for cleaning, shopping, and tiredness.
    Is this why people pressure women to leave the family, so that they can suffer too? Her new job would really suit a unemployed father whose family has NO paid income, but well, this is equality, whatever that means. Yes, she does enjoy the job, but look at the cost.
    John Archer

  18. Thank you for bring to us the GOOD debate we need as society. I am writing an article about the same subject and you help me a lot with yours!

    God bless! Ave Maria!

    Julie Maria

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