I don’t know Catherine Deveny personally and this post is in no way an attack on her, in fact I actually agree with many of the points she raised in her recent post for The Guardian titled Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world. It’s right, being a mother is not the most important job in the world because being a mother is not a job. Neither is being a father. Being a parent is a lifestyle choice. Or if it is not of your choosing, it is a relationship or guardianship. Not a job.
For it to be a job you need to get paid. Parents, on the whole, do not get paid. There’s no overtime or double-time on weekends. You are “on-call” 24-hours a day. As parents or carers, we are not paid for what we do. We are responsible for our children’s life, education, sustenance, physical and mental health, transport, living conditions, social growth etc etc etc. Being a parent and carer is relentless. It is like living in groundhog day, it is often unrecognised, it is at times the hardest thing you will ever do, it is emotionally draining and for some heartbreaking. It is also the most enlightening and personally rewarding thing you will ever do, but as Catherine rightly points out it is not a job.
And here’s where the line in her article gets blurry for me – what is this “curious sliding scale to the argument” of who is more of a mother she talks of and how is it even relevant to the argument? Most parents out there I talk to do not think anyone less or more of a parent based on their work-to-parent ratio. It seems most of that judgement is reserved for commentators looking for click bait and ramped up, artificially fuelled, outdated debate on internet forums and the like. Rulers of the news cycles are always on the hunt for quick fix news fillers and “mummy wars” are so easy. But c’mon please let’s move on from relying on such antiquated views. The whole Mum’s think they’re holier than now and go around the supermarkets and school yards sprouting such drivel is tired and as Catherine did point out quite rightly it alienates all the other people who play vital roles in raising children in this country. So why does she go there? How is it even relevant to the point she’s trying to make in her article? In my experience parents are too focused on getting through the day to have time to rate other parents in a sliding scale of importance. It seems to be a small segment of the online community and media outlets who spend much of their time inflating that tried and tested judgement card.
What I would rather have seen her write about is not motherhood judgement or the semantics of a poll, I would have loved to have seen her devote her time to writing about bigger issues affecting parents and carers in this country.
There may not be a sliding pay scale dependent on how many “hours” you parent. In fact you don’t even get paid a base rate. But although it’s not a job, it is a role which is vital for the ongoing growth and future of this nation. And it is grossly undervalued in this country. Raising open-minded, driven, kind, inquisitive, loving, forward-thinking people to go forth into the future is not only necessary, but most important. And to do that requires a whole lot of people – parents, carers, grand parents, support networks, teachers, health professionals and the like – all of which need better support across the board. Stay at home parents (which in the majority are women) need government-funded superannuation, better access to childcare and more help to reenter the workforce. Carers and foster parents (our country’s unsung heroes) need more financial support. Grandparents need to be recognised financially by the government for the role they play in raising children. Regional families and people in remote communities need better access to quality education, childcare and healthcare. Those caring for children with special needs should be provided more support financially and emotionally. Kids born to unsafe homes need to be safe. Children entering this county on boats need more empathy and to be with loved ones.
It’s right to say raising children is not a job, but it’s not right to say it isn’t the most important role we will ever play in our lives. And by we, I mean all of the people who are integral in raising, supporting and guiding children. It takes a village to raise a child and what is most clear is that the village needs more recognition for it’s complexity of relationships, level of commitment and importance. Yes, mothers are not the most important people in the world – the children are. And as soon as we stop writing articles squabbling over the terminology of outdated polls the more time we’ll have to focus on why more importance is not placed on ensuring our children and their carers are getting all the support and recognition they need in this country. I’d like to see more articles dealing with the bigger issues surrounding parenting and not ones written purely for reaction.