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Can We Please Stop Telling Stay-At-Home Mums They Suck

Actually, we don't spend our days making daisy chains and baking.

14/02/2017 11:58 AM AEDT | Updated 14/02/2017 11:59 AM AEDT
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Why can't we empower all women, whatever they choose?

Last week, Miranda Devine, a columnist and social and political commentator, wrote an article discussing the ways in which women are being coerced into prioritising work over family and how in doing this, we as a community continue to devalue the role of the mother.

It was an article which deeply divided opinion; some commended Devine for her perspective and took her points as advocation for women who are in the period of their life where their foremost priority is meeting the needs of their family.

Others, however, took the piece as an attack against mothers, in particular working mothers, and voiced that this did nothing other than perpetuate the ongoing feelings of discrimination and guilt women experience for almost every decision they make.

Em Rusciano, media personality and radio presenter, shared the latter opinion. She took to her radio programme to offer an emotional rebuttal to Devine's comments and her pre-prepared statement, which she read out live on air, has travelled the social media circuits, with many claiming Rusciano speaks for the working mother and is a voice for women.

Those supporting Rusciano however, seemed to miss one rather important piece of information. She is empowering SOME women, not all of them.

Her comments clearly showed that she is a strong supporter of working mothers. With obvious conviction, they highlighted her apparent disdain for mothers who do not work outside of the home, and, as stay-at-home mums everywhere experience every day, continued to perpetuate the perception that women who stay at home to raise their children are contributing significantly less, not only to their own families but the wider community.

Upon reading Devine's article, it seems that perhaps the intended point was lost on Rusciano. It's an article that talks about the value of motherhood. It does not dismiss the contributions and importance of working mothers, but rather reminds us that mothers and their role within the home and within our society still matters and is incredibly important.

I do not agree with the entirety of Miranda Devine's article. The gender wage gap IS a real thing. It might not exist in her world, but it does in ours.

However she makes many points I do agree with, including discussing state-subsidised childcare as a 'carrot' to get mothers back into the workforce. Cheap childcare is not the solution for many families and the belief that it is only further diminishes the value of having a parent stay at home to raise their children.

Instead of taking on board the intended message of Devine's article, Rusciano took a stab at stay-at-home mothers. In affirming her own choices and those of other working mums, she referenced stay-at-home mothers who "faff about", "making daisy chains with the kids", and "spend time at home baking and folding sheets".

Her perception of the role of a stay-at-home mother is not unique. It is, in fact, the default perception in our society and one that leaves stay-at-home mums constantly tripping over their own apologies, desperately trying to explain and justify why they are raising their own kids and not out in the world doing the 'real work'.

I often hear stay-at-home mums talk with reverent respect for working mums. But I also see the way they shuffle their feet and avert their eyes when asked what they themselves do for a living.

I have tremendous respect for working mothers. They are capable, competent women, fitting more into their days than many could begin to comprehend. I commend them.

I often hear stay-at-home mums talk with reverent respect for working mums. But I also see the way they shuffle their feet and avert their eyes when asked what they themselves do for a living.

I hear the way they dilute their worth: "Oh, I'm just a stay-at-home mum". Just.

I feel the loss of self esteem they feel, every time another person tells them, in words or action, that what they do is just not enough.

I have no doubt that Em Rusciano did not intend to hurt stay-at-home mothers. I don't believe she wanted to exacerbate the already volatile 'Mummy Wars'. But I do believe she was so intent in her own convictions that she could not see outside of herself, could not hear the damage her words were inflicting.

Her comments may have uplifted mothers who work outside of the home. But they did so at the expense of those who do not.

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