Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Doing the hoovering

It's the quick and the dead around here - after a couple of hours caring for Wriggly and thinking through a post about National's DPB policy in my head, I got to the computer to discover that both Deborah and The Ex-expat have beaten me too it. Lucky for me my point is slightly different, otherwise I'd have to find something else to rant about.

What's bugging me is the different way that we value stay-at-home parents, depending on the level and source of their income. Sue Bradford mentioned this in passing on The Panel yesterday (I paraphrase, and unlike Mr Key I do actually know what that means):
No one criticises Bronagh Key for staying home even though her children are all at high school.
Now I'm generally not in favour of bringing politicians' partners into these matters, and I'm not sure it was necessary for Sue to use Key's family as an example, but the point is clear; we don't mind women staying out of the paid work force to care for their children (school-aged or not), as long as they don't have the temerity to require financial support from our taxes.

So I'm confused. Parenting is the most important job in the multiverse, it's the best day's work you'll ever do, blah blah blah, but National want to minimise the role of our Government, the mechanism we use to run our society the way we want, in supporting that. Yes, they'll keep Working for Families, and 20 Hours Free ECE, because they don't want to create "uncertainty" for parents, but they're quite happy to make things insecure and shaky for our most vulnerable families, the ones with only one parent.

There seems to be this blissful ignorance that there are any tasks to parenting other than merely watching the children while they grow in front of your very eyes, all topsy turvy and without any intervention by you other than to prevent physical harm. In fact there's quite a lot of work involved in keeping a family going, none of it paid, some of it arduous and dirty, and all of it necessary. Different people have different abilities to cope, physically, emotionally and mentally, with the workload of parenting, as I'm discovering. For some getting through the week will be hard enough without trying to shoehorn in at least 15 hours of paid work, particularly if they don't have a village chipping in to help. They won't have this great bored vaccuum in the middle of their day, while the kids are at school, that could be filled with paying work, if only there was someone who would be tough enough with them to point out that they'd struggle less financially if they had a job.

Beneficiaries aren't congenitally stupid, they're poor. A compassionate, helpful, approach might be more successful than a regime that's rooted in blame and results in removal of the safety net if the parent doesn't comply.

But I suppose there's more votes in perpetuating the myth that sole parents have hours and hours of spare time where they sit around cackling all evil-like on their iphones to their DPB mates about how they are just "breeding for a business" and taking the compassionate, caring New Zealand taxpayer for every cent they can get.


Xavier said...

Hi Julie...totally agree with your post...was going to write something similar at gblog but you've pretty much summed up what I was going to say :)

Deborah said...

There's nothing quite like a bit of tag-team blogging. Fantastic points, Julie.