"Have One For Your Country"

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.


Filed under feminism, motherhood, politics

3 responses to “"Have One For Your Country"

  1. Anonymous

    I think this and the letter you quote in your next entry make excellent points.

    There is so much more that the Federal Government could do to truly support families.

    Now imagine if yet another, substantial, hurdle was thrown at you by the Government – you’re in a stable, loving relationship but the Government won’t recognise your relationship and tells you it doesn’t want you to have a child!

    This is what same-sex couples face every day. No recognition for family tax benefits or medicare and PBS family thresholds, and tonnes of public pronouncements about the dangers of allowing you to raise children or even be recognised as a family.

    This Government is big on the rhetoric of “family”, but it would be nice to see them put some serious thought into the proposals you raise and drop the bigotry, replacing it with support for ALL loving Australian families.

  2. Legal Eagle

    Support should be given to all families, including same sex families. The government is begging heterosexual couples to go forth and procreate, but positively discouraging same sex couples from doing so. Seems illogical to me.

    I have never understood why people get so hung up about the idea of same sex parenthood. As long as the parents are loving and committed it shouldn’t matter what their sexuality is.

    Critics of same sex parenthood raise a number of questions which I think apply equally well to heterosexual parenthood. If we took too much notice of these questions, none of us would become parents.
    For example:
    – What happens if the parents split up? Who gets custody?
    There is the same problem where parents are heterosexual.
    – One parent is biologically related to the child, the other is not.
    The same issue arises for blended families and for families with sperm/egg donors. In the case of adopted families, the child is not related to his or her parents at all. No one would deny any of those families the right to be families.
    – The parents will have to explain to the child that there are other people involved in their conception (and possibly upbringing).
    Again, the same issue arises for blended families, for families with sperm/egg donors and adopted families.
    – The parents might encourage the child to be “gay” as well.
    Surely people must realise that children will make their own choices on this one, regardless of the orientation of their parents (just like a child with heterosexual parents)? And what exactly is the problem if the child is gay anyway? This is a silly one.
    – Children of same sex parents might be teased at school about their parents.
    This is also silly. Should people of ethnic minorities and disabled people not have children because their children might be teased at school? Or should people who are slightly unusual be banned from having kids? Yeah right. Enough said.

    So, I agree that same sex couples should be allowed family tax benefits, and all rights given to heterosexual parents.

  3. Pingback: Motherhood and career - what is the answer? « The Legal Soapbox

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