The headline in the paper yesterday contained an exhortation from Peter Costello to the Australian populace to go forth and procreate:
“I encourage people who can, if you have the opportunity, if you’re young enough, to have one for mum, one for dad and one for the country.”
This mades me MAD! Apparently, families with three children will now get an extra $250 per year. Not that I would turn down $250 if someone handed it to me, but big whoopie doos, I don’t think that’s going to really help out with the extra costs of raising another child.
Well, Mr. Costello, my husband and I would actually like three children. However, it will be very difficult financially. And what if we’d like to own a house as well? You’ve got to be joking! If you have done a combined law degree like me, you have spent at least five years at university. Add a large HECS debt as a result. Then you’ve spent another few years qualifying as a lawyer and establishing your career. By then the biological clock is well and truly ticking. If you want to have kids, you’d better get it in now!
We would love to have our own house, but it is just impossible with today’s prices. You can’t maintain a mortgage and a family on one salary and be comfortable. And as far as I am concerned, what’s the point of having a good career and a house if you don’t have any time to spend with your child? In a few of my previous lawyerly incarnations, I have acted for banks and enforced mortgages. My experience has made me very reluctant to over-extend myself. All too often I saw families on a knife’s edge, and one small thing pushed them over the edge.
The taxation situation in this country is insane. All too often, you get money from the government and have to hand it back again soon afterwards. After the birth of our daughter, we got the “baby bonus”, but as my husband owes a substantial HECS debt, we had to pay it back to the government again two months later. Let’s consider first home buyer’s grants. The Federal and State grants together don’t actually cover the amount of stamp duty on a house purchase – why don’t they just send the money straight to the State government coffers instead of pretending that they are giving it to us? Instead of all these baby bonuses, home buyer’s grants and childcare rebates, we would be much better off having substantially less tax in the first place, because the money is just going around in circles.
It is true that you can’t have it all. I have made a choice, which is to put having a child first, and career and buying a house will just have to come later. I don’t want to sound like I’m just whinging about all of this: I’ve made a choice and I’m very happy with it. But it just makes me mad, mad, mad when the government behaves like it’s just a matter of whim that women aren’t having more kids – it involves sacrifices which are totally unacknowledged, and the taxation system and childcare difficulties don’t make it easy.
Nevertheless, I consider myself blessed. I am very lucky that I am in a stable relationship and that I was able to conceive a child. Many women I know would love to have children, but have difficulties finding a partner. When they do find a partner, the partner is not necessarily interested in settling down and having children. And then there’s the whole question of whether one is able to conceive. I think a lot of modern women think “OK, I’ll have a baby now!” and get very distressed when it doesn’t happen according to schedule…or at all. There is a whole lot of anxiety out there, and women are afraid to even express it for fear of the backlash (often by other women).
All I want is for women to have a choice. But as things are currently structured, it is very hard for a professional educated woman and her partner to have children without sacrificing something, whether it be career, buying a house or spending time with the children. I wish the government would acknowledge this instead of coming out with trite statements.