Australian columnist Sarrah Le Marquand argued that choosing to be a stay-at-home mother should be “illegal” in an op-ed published this week in The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
According to Bloomberg, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a recent report that there are consequences for the Australian economy because many women of child-bearing age are choosing to stay at home with their children or work part-time.
“There are potentially large losses to the economy when women stay at home or work short part-time hours,” the report said.
Le Marquand wrote that “hysteria ensued, with commentators from coast to coast howling in indignation at the very idea that the uppity OECD would insinuate Australia might have a tiny bit of a problem with our female workforce participation rates.”
“For days you couldn’t walk past a television, radio or computer screen without encountering a defensive rant about how the most valuable work a woman can do involves nappies, play-doh, and a strict adherence to only leaving the family home during the hours of 9am to 5pm to attend playgroup or a similar non-work sanctioned activity,” she wrote.
She argued that both mothers and fathers know “that everything else in life becomes a distant second to [a] child’s welfare, happiness and wellbeing.”
“So this is not a discussion about the importance of parenting — that is beyond dispute,” Le Marquand wrote.
She acknowledged that “the role played by parents in the early months and years following the birth of a child is vital and irreplaceable.”
But once a child goes to school, she argued, opting out of the workforce should no longer be an option.
“Rather than wail about the supposed liberation in a woman’s right to choose to shun paid employment, we should make it a legal requirement that all parents of children of school-age or older are gainfully employed,” Le Marquand wrote.
She argued that “it’s time for a serious rethink of this kid-glove approach to women of child-bearing and child-rearing age:
Holding us less accountable when it comes to our employment responsibilities is not doing anyone any favours. Not children, not fathers, not bosses — and certainly not women.
Only when the female half of the population is expected to hold down a job and earn money to pay the bills in the same way that men are routinely expected to do will we see things change for the better for either gender.
“Only when it becomes the norm for all families to have both parents in paid employment, and sharing the stress of the work-home juggle, will we finally have a serious conversation about how to achieve a more balanced modern workplace,” she said.
Le Marquand wrote that feminism is “not about choice, it’s about equality.”
She added that “only when we evenly divide the responsibility for workplace participation between the two genders will we truly see a more equitable division between men and women in all parts of Australian life.”
Some Twitter users criticized the proposal.