From the National Director
NAWO e-newsletter Issue 5, July-August 2016
“Why do we judge other people’s choices? Who can possibly suggest what is a right or wrong choice when mostly, we are all working very hard to make the best choice possible for our families, our workplaces and ourselves given the circumstances we face and the environments of which we are part.”
The ‘best’ choice?
Prue Gilbert from Grace Papers* recently wrote in her newsletter about early childhood education and why Australia is falling behind. She started that article with this quote:
“Suppose then that what unites all women is the struggle to combine competition and care in a system that rewards one and penalises the other? Yet if they are two equally valuable and necessary human drives, why should that be? It is no more justifiable to value the production of income over the provision of care than it is to value white over black, straight over gay, or men over women. Competition produces money. But care produces people.” Anne-Marie Slaughter.
A couple of weeks ago I also read an article written by a full-time professional working parent, who was pleading with her audience to stop judging her choices.
Both articles have inspired me to write about something that has bothered me for quite some time.
Why do we judge other people’s choices?
Who can possibly suggest what is a right or wrong choice when, mostly, we are all working very hard to make the best choice possible for our families, our workplaces and ourselves, given the circumstances we face and the environments of which we are part.
I despise the linguistics defining the role of women, categorised as either ‘working mums’ or ‘stay at home mums’ each label loaded with assumptions about our values, our abilities, our ability to contribute and our worth.
There is not one ‘stay at home’ mum I know who hasn’t been asked… ‘so, how are you enjoying your time off work?’ (the assumption: that caring for another human being or beings is not work). Or the classic ‘such and such has time to volunteer, she doesn’t work’. Or a working mum who hasn’t been asked ‘how do you manage to do everything’ (the assumption: that you should be doing everything and if you are not you are a failure!). And ‘don’t you feel guilty spending so much time away from the children?’. I have been both, plus something in between, and I choose to face the challenge of managing the fluidity of the paid versus unpaid work, stopping to smell the roses as best I can whilst juggling through the chaos. And I choose not to judge anyone else for their choices.
Linguistics is a very powerful driver of human behavior and thought. Recently at my children’s school I tried to foster a change in terminology away from ‘stay at home mums’ and ‘working mums’ – for the reason mentioned above but also to try to better communicate and connect with Dads to encourage them to become more involved with the school community. I suggested that there are people who work mainly at home (‘at home workers’) and people who work mainly outside the home (‘outside the home workers’) and that most people do a bit of both! Whether or not they are paid for their extraordinary efforts is really neither here nor there – as a school we have to be equally good at communicating with, and engaging both groups.
But it’s hard to change a linguistic habit, I even catch myself slipping into the old lingo! Still, I will continue to influence within my circle of control, slowly but surely things shall start to change.
*NAWO is proud to endorse Grace Papers parenting and career program that supports working parents in navigating career and family, and enables workplaces to retain their talent.