Last weekend I spent some time thinking about families and mothers in particular. They have a big job to do and they often need a second job to do it.
My mother was no different. She had four children in war years and simply had to find paid work to supplement my father’s saw miller’s wage in order that we had basic housing and food.
But it was rarer in those days that mothers would have an additional paid job.
Now of course the majority of mums return to the workforce. I got chatting to a couple of them last weekend and I came to the conclusion that a lot of senior people in business and public service don’t realise how difficult it is to manage the competing demands of a young family and the requirements of the workplace.
Women who find themselves back in a paying job are, more often than not, very highly motivated people with relentlessly busy lives and I don’t think we are making it easy for them.
I thought my conversation with these two successful middle-class women would have been dominated by the effects of the budget, negative gearing, superannuation and all the other big financial policy issues that have been in and out of the headlines for the last month or so.
But they weren’t their concerns at all. They were worried about managing a tight schedule of childcare with their paid job and trying to balance a budget that includes a complex bureaucratic array of rebates and benefits. They also had real fears about their mortgage payments, level of debt, job security, the rising cost of food and no wage increase for more than half a dozen years.
Their concerns boil down to a deeply worrying feeling that their family’s future is not secure in the way it once seemed to be.
Any wonder therefore that Treasurer Scott Morrison’s best go at economic wisdom didn’t give him much of a bounce when it landed. He’s just not talking about what a huge section of our society is worried about.
We have an economy that has been through a decade-and-a-half of boom time like nothing we’ve seen since the gold rush of the 19th century. It’s been a time of plenty without any hard landing because money has been freely available. You could borrow with low interest and it wasn’t too hard to pay back.
But those days are over and working people, especially women, know that. They also know that our leaders don’t really understand them especially when they try to convince the community they have moved to the middle of the road. As one famous Texan politician said, “The only things in the middle of the road is a white line and dead armadillos”.
“Or rabbits in our land of plenty,” pipes up Louise.
We’re crushing the confidence out of our own people with a combination of bureaucracy, weak political leadership steeped in spin and irrelevant gobbledegook. It was Woody Allen who said: “I believe there is something out there watching over us. Unfortunately, it’s the government.”
We are over-governed and under-led at every level – national, state and local ??? with some exceptions!
The feeling of an insecure future really kicked off with the GFC and we have never recovered. And nothing any leader has said has created confidence that our institutions can handle what confronts us.
Families know that the very structure of day-to-day life has changed. Grandparents, aunties, uncles and brothers and sisters don’t live around the corner anymore and with half of all marriages ending in divorce, mothers and fathers can end up living in different cities. As a result, childcare has been corporatised and almost forced out of the reach of ordinary people. One example I just discovered is a family that is paying $1000 a week to keep their two kids full-time in childcare so they can hold down their jobs. And they need to be very well paid ones to have something worthwhile left over.
Our regular working families know that we all face in our own lives a big structural problem of lengthening lifespan, shrinking workforce, high debt, low wage growth and a threatened environment.
They also know that we are in gridlock trying to fix the situation.
Louise is keen that we learn from the gallant emperor penguin. You can do your own research, but basically mum lays the egg then leaves for holiday while dad spends four months in the freezing Antarctic winter hatching the new offspring. Mum returns in the spring with a job of being mum all done by dad, while losing 45 per cent of his body weight keeping out the cold. The emperor of course, had no clothes.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.