Chapter 35 from: J.J. Ray (Ed.) "Conservatism as Heresy". Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co., 1974

Women and Suburbia


LOOK HERE, FELLAS, there seems to be this mistaken idea around that we working mums work because we're bored to sobs with suburbia. Or that we're mad careerists or neurotic or something.

Frankly, I can imagine few jobs nicer than knocking off the housework in a couple of hours, then going to the beach or watching the midday movie and being all relaxed and smiling for my kids when they come home from school. That's if I could still afford to give them steak when I wanted to instead of sausages, and buy the odd good book, and go on the occasional holiday.

High Prices

Have you ever considered that the reason a lot of us work is to take a little of the load from our husbands so they're not crushed down with bills and dread? So they can take time out to laugh? OK, so we may have job satisfaction. But I know stay-at-home mothers who are equally satisfied learning pottery.

Do you know what I think of that suggestion of paying a weekly wage to women who prefer to stay at home with their children? Unreal.

Nearly all of us would prefer to stay at home with our kids. Most of us can't because the price of meat etc. has risen slightly lately (in case you hadn't noticed).

We may arrive at work all tarted up and composed (we have to-the competition's stiff) but don't imagine it's a breeze. The big bugbear is we get so tired. It's not the amount of work we necessarily have to do in each of our jobs-keeping the household in order, caring for the children. The job. It's knowing we have to do them all.

We're not doing our own thing either. We're incredibly timetabled. Make the beds 6.45, breakfast 6.50, shine dem shoes, tote dat bale. God help us if one of the kids decides to go slow.

No unwinding over a beer after work for us mums. We're so damn guilty it's straight back on the treadmill-- usually to a darkened house and the dinner to cook and the stories to read and the homework to help with.

Missing Out

Then there's the missing out bit. Like visiting day at the school. The vision of that little face, eyes fixed wistfully on the doorway, waiting for the Mum who never comes.

I used to work five days a week. I liked the job. No hangups about child care centres (or the lack of) because my children had reached primary school. A succession of non-tax-deductible house keepers (no, you can never rely on them staying despite all your blandishments) to keep the home scene from becoming too chaotic. Until the day my eight-year-old said: 'What's the point of having a mother if you hardly ever see her?'

Well I'm one of the lucky ones now with a part-time job. But a lot of my fellow working mums have to slog it out full-time through sheer economic necessity and/or because they can't get part-time jobs. See?

The Women's Electoral Lobby has an alternative proposal-- that the housewife's wage replace child endowment and that it be paid from the first child, but not increase with the number of children. At least we'd all get it. But I'd be surprised if the amount was much more than the drop-in-the-bucket child endowment is now.

Instead of mulling over 12th of Never projects, why don't you fellas get to work lowering the cost of living? Then indeed we might be able to spend more time with our children.

This chapter originally appeared as an article in the Sydney "Daily Mirror", 21 June 1973.

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