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Stay-at-home mums are under attack, yet again. But where are the dads?

Mamamia logo Mamamia 10/03/2017 Rachel Curtis

Women who stay at home to raise children are a problem for Australia’s economy, according to a major new study.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) claims stay-at-home mums and women who work short part-time hours are creating  “potentially large losses to the economy”.

Part-time workers and women with children are the “greatest untapped potential in the Australian labour force”, the study states.

The authors say more “prime aged” women (25-54) could enter the workforce and further efforts are needed to encourage mothers with young children into work.

The idea is that paid work is “important for women’s personal well-being and perceptions of their overall quality of life’’, the study states.

These are familiar motherhood battle lines, where women are told to choose a side in what’s presented as a black and white situation.

The Parenthood‘s Principal Campaign Manager, Nicole Lessio, says she’s angry that women are demonised for choices they’re sometimes “forced to make”.

“Stay-at-home mums should ignore the horrible headlines,” says Ms Lessio.

“As mums we’re either cold, ambitious and leaving our children to go to work or we’re a drain on the economy if we stay at home – we just can’t win.

“All mums should choose what is right for them in their circumstances but have the support and childcare options to make working choices easier.”

The daily accomplishments of brushing teeth, timing a nap, orchestrating siblings or negotiating a tantrum should not to be overlooked.

The selflessness of motherhood and caring for a child is completely under-rated as a purpose or vocation.

Parenting doesn't match the maternity leave time span. It doesn't end when you are due back at work. It's also not something you can do later.

So what's the solution?

"Childcare accessibility and affordability is a huge challenge that disproportionately affects women returning to work, so more affordable childcare is needed," says Ms Lessio.

 "But we also need to focus on creating more flexible and supportive workplaces so women and men can better balance work and home responsibilities," she added.

Obviously, mothers and families are as varied as the babies they bring into the world. Some want to stay at home, some don't.

Where are the dads in this equation? Would longer paternity leave mean they could contribute at home more and balance the employment gap?

For mothers who want to return to work and are searching for a balanced work-life balance there are real challenges for finding child-friendly part-time roles.

It's offensive to think that women who are giving their all to raising our little people could be thought of as a drain to the economy.

Life for me was messy after giving birth - not much went to plan. It is a new way of life, where a little boy is considered in the decisions I make.

The study highlights what we already know - the women who stay at home are a talented bunch of women and an incredible asset to Australia.

Women don't lose those their skills when they stay home - they re-apply them and work gruelling hours for their families.

Stay-at-home mothers are already doing the country's most undervalued job.

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