A new policy was announced this week requiring teen parents (it will be young teen mums for the most part) to either get a job or go to school as soon as their child turns 6 months. I haven’t read the details of how this policy will be implemented but I seriously question its ethics.
I understand the need to ensure that young people receive a complete education and it’s absolutely important that young children and young people see their adults in paid employment.
However, I’m concerned the requirement that a primary caregiver must return to work or school at a specific mandatory date – when the child turns six months – misses the mark of these ‘good’ intentions.
Each person (teen, adult and baby) is different.
Some caregivers (teen and otherwise) are happy to return when babies are four months, others at six months. But many caregivers need to wait until their children are older.
So many factors will determine a caregiver’s readiness to return to work, including –
- financial needs
- professional needs
- the availability of suitable child-care arrangements – this includes the availabilty (or lack) of formal and affordable childcare close to home, work and/or school or the availability of partners, grandparents and/or extended family
- breastfeeding – many women choose to breastfeed their babies for longer than six months. Not all women easily breastfeed and will have difficulty expressing milk, which is what they will have to do should they be required to return to work/school. Forcing a mother to leave her baby when she wishes to breastfeed beyond six months is unethical.
- the needs of the baby – all babies are different. At six months some are teething, and many can still be quite unsettled. A mandatory six months cut-off does not allow for the needs of individual babies.
Rather than force parents to return to work in the name of getting ‘as many people as possible into the workforce’ (Quote from Finance Minister Penny Wong), why not create the dynamics that make returning to work a viable and attractive option (rather than punitive requirement) while at the same time creating all those support structures that empower parents of babies?
Why not spend more of the funding you would spend on implementing and policing this policy on making sure schools are completely able to cater to the needs of student-parents
- making sure schools are completely able to cater to the needs of student-parents
- create health, community and youth worker positions available in communities to guide and mentor young parents (both mothers and fathers) about positive parenting, how to be an effective school-parent and/or ‘working’-parent
- fund community playgroups that foster healthy linkages between young parents and their babies & children
And um, when the hell did parenting stop being work? Didn’t we work this out in the eighties or nineties? If I am a full-time parent looking after one, two, or twenty kids, I’m still WORKING thank you very bloody much. When did that idea suddenly change? How the hell did my feminist beliefs about the value of all women’s mothering-as-work (yes, I know there are blokes who do the main parenting role, but yes, it’s still mostly women) suddenly get so out of sync? Or are ‘adult’ mums the only mothers in this country allowed to have that school-of-thought applied to them?
Oh. And one more point – at six months – babies are.. you know.. BABIES!! They’re not toddlers and they’re not children. They’re BABIES. How about we slow it all down a bit and let babies be with their mums if they need to.
I don’t know about this one folks. Honestly, my gut feeling about this policy is that it’s a little more than a bit classist and youthist (I made this term up & I’m saying it means discriminatory against young people).
Will be following this one closely.
Oh and I VOTE! @swannyDPM my local MP, I’m talking to you mate.
Update: an article from The Age by Eva Cox