Do women need more access to nannies? (Rant alert)

The Sydney Morning Herald has carried a story about yet another thing some power women believe are holding women back: the lack of acceptability of nannies in the Australian culture. It’s an easy conversation starter. And it’s a conversation ender – no group of women have the same issues, we are all different. It’s impossible to generalise. But yet again, we do. Indulge me a little…

This story irritates me. The assumptions that are overlooked which are instrumental in their influence over women’s roles and the decisions they are forced to make are the things we need to unveil, not this superficial garbage. In fact, it’s shown in this very article, where Fiona Balfour (the shining example of what the Sydney Morning Herald would have us believe is a wonderful, successful, having-it-all working woman) reveals that she used a nanny when she took maternity leave, but after costs of the nanny and commuting at the time she was only clearing $100 a week.

Yep, that’s my problem. My really, really big problem.

We have gotten nowhere if we expect that in order for childcare to be used, then the money for it must come from the female’s income.

So many people assume this, and it’s just wrong. Women are already not earning as much money – even in the boardroom – as their male counterparts. They give birth and return to their place of employment, but any costs associated with childcare also have to be borne by the women who birthed? Woah.

But the article doesn’t stop there with its assumptions.

Add to that the implication that the only people who need childcare beyond standard working hours are those in executive positions because “they’re expected to work longer” is bloody insulting to every woman who works outside the home simply to be able to pay the bills. The mother who is a checkout operator in the supermarket is just as likely to need evenings, weekends and unusual hours of care as anyone in a boardroom – and in fact even more so, because she will have less say in the hours and locations she works in than someone who’s in the boardroom.

When those women only take home $100 a week after working on their feet all day, having travelled to and from daycare, sitters and all kinds of other patched-together childcare arrangements, paying all of them separately rather than a nanny who comes to their home, it’s often that same mother whose left-over money puts food on the table. None of those women could afford to pay a nanny’s salary – many of them are earning less than a nanny would.

It’s the unspoken assumptions that’s keeping women out of the boardroom my friends – not the lack of nannies. And when corporate women raise themselves above the real life experiences of the majority, effectively separating their own experience from the ones encountered by most women, then the cause of equality is left behind. This is not a gender argument. It is a have versus have not one.

Pic credit: Goat by Dano on Flickr.

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