Children need mums; and men need their wives

wife deficit

The flowers are wilting, the chocolates eaten, and mothers – having been exalted for one day, as is tradition – are being put back in their place (by the government, that is). And in today’s world, it seems a mother’s place is in the workforce.

But if mothers are working, who’s looking after the husbands?

This may seem an incredibly old-fashioned sentiment on the surface, but is it really? Annabel Crabb, political journalist and author of The Wife Drought, says no matter how much we like to think we’ve evolved, the modern world needs wives – who can be male or female – to continue revolving.

“A wife, traditionally, is a person who pulls back on paid work in order to do more of the unpaid work that accumulates around the home (cleaning, fixing stuff, being around for when the plumber doesn’t turn up, spending a subsequent hour on hold to find out why the plumber didn’t turn up, and so on),” she writes.

“This sort of work goes into overdrive once you add children to the equation, and the list of household jobs grows exponentially to include quite specialised work, such as raising respectful, pleasant young people, and getting stains off things with a paste of vinegar and sodium bicarbonate.”

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In The Wife Drought, Jennifer Baxter from the Australian Institute of Family Studies says, “I get a lot of journalists ringing me about stay-at-home dads. Everybody wants a story about how they’re on the rise. But they’re not, really.”

In Australia, 60 per cent of families with children under the age of 15 have a father who works full-time and a mother who works part-time or not at all.

This is particularly true at the pointy end of the corporate sector. In one study Ms Crabb found, 28 out of 30 CEOs had stay-at-home spouses. In contrast only two out of 31 female CEOs had stay-at-home husbands, even if they ran their own business.

The Government says changes to the childcare package, which include removing the cap on subsidies for families on incomes up to $185,000, will encourage more than 240,000 families to work more, including almost 38,000 who are currently unemployed.

In many cases this could put pressure on the whole family to juggle home, work and childcare responsibilities, rather than having clear lines about who is responsible for what in the family unit.

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A study by human resources consultant Kenexa worked out that full-time mums should be charging $115,000 per year for the work they do in the home; starting with a base salary of $36,968 plus $78,464 in overtime.

In 2011, Procter & Gamble commissioned research that found a whopping 64 per cent of mothers felt they “had” to go out to work. In 2015, it seems that pressure is still on.

The Daily Mail also reported that today’s mothers yearn for the “golden age” of mothering in the 70s and 80s, which they imagine meant more time with the kids and less pressure to work.

Do you think the pressure on mothers to work today is fair? Were you a full-time mum and wife, or did you work out of the home too?