Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Having it all plus the laundry

Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.


Here I am, emerging from that strange other world which revolves mechanically around cut lunches, soaking socks, supervised music lessons (I use that term loosely, as I listen and shout encouragement from another room while stirring white sauce), Year Two Home Readers, water balloon games, unwrapped birthday presents, wiped food spills and overdue library books.  That is just my spare time. The bulk of the day is spent in the Big Open Plan Office reading and writing stuff of serious bureaucratic importance.  In addition to which, my work is entirely conducted in front of a computer screen.  In the remaining shreds of time at the day's end, therefore, I have hardly the energy to sit in front of computer even for leisure.  So this space if often neglected.

Lots of other women in this city juggle making or administering public policy with changing the sheets and pressing school uniforms. Most of my friends and colleagues are on the same mouse wheel. Sometimes I wonder if the hard-fought-for gains of the feminist movement weren't a little skewed.  It takes an exceptional person and lots of outsourcing of domestic tasks to keep a family afloat with two parents working outside the home.  Plus good parking or a fast commuter system.  I don't think you can really 'have it all'.  But the childcare industry, and a fear of not being able to exercise choice over essential items like health and education, creates an environment where we think we can, and possibly should 'have it all'. 

I read a ministerial press release today about measures to increase the standards of childcare in Australia.  It was citing the introduction of improved carer-to-child ratios and enhanced minimum training for childcare workers as huge advancements.  Indeed they may be.  But a small quiet voice in my head still thought that the care of children is best undertaken by a parent at home for the bulk of the time and that we have created an artificial industry out of Children's Services.   This is an issue I wrestle with daily. 

What do I tell my daughters and son as they work out their own careers? Am I doing the right thing? Is this a good example? Will I look back with regret at my efforts to 'have it all'?

Verse: Adam Lindsay Gordon, Ye Wearie Wayfarer
Images: Single quilt covers.  Laundry.


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