Is there really anyone out there who thinks we’d
never vote for Julia Gillard as a potential PM simply because she is single and
childless? columnist Sally Morrell asked in yesterday’s Herald Sun.

Surely, the fact that she is childless makes her
all the more able to do the job… Superwoman is dead. She is buried in the grave
with the word “over-worked and over-stretched” carved into a headstone made
from a pile of unplayed board games and overdue library books.

We can’t have it all, after all. Not young children
and a high-profile career, anyway…

In most Australian households it is the woman who
does most of the child care, most of the day-to-day running of the house and
most of the other bits that keep life rolling along, such as keeping in touch
with the extended family and remembering birthdays.

And it’s pretty hard to do all that and run the
country as well. But apparently there are people out there who think Gillard’s
lack of a man and a baby actually bars her from the job…

But surely no woman who has ever tried to juggle young
children and a career thinks her childlessness is a vote loser. After all, they know how much more time they’d have for the
job, if they didn’t have kids waiting for them at home.

Morrell asks the obvious “Really, how much hands-on
family time did Bob Hawke, Paul Keating or John Howard have when their families
were growing up?” And states the obvious: “It’s not as if Gillard has never
seen families up close.”

Fluency with the facts of families is required to
participate in current political debate. Jackie Kelly is holding out for
childcare changes.
Yesterday Treasurer
Peter Costello rejected demands from some of his Coalition colleagues to axe
the 30% childcare rebate in the May budget and use the money to help
pay for a major expansion of the Family Tax Benefit scheme.
At the same time, however, he held out the promises of substantial tax breaks
for parents to help educate and raise children in an interview carried in the
News Limited metropolitan.

Morrell has captured a growing mood well in her
article. While conservative populists have and will try to tar Gillard with a
“barren spinster” line, her family status may well win her sympathy from
voters. Xers already know and Generation Y are learning as they near their
forties about the decisions that need to be made about child bearing, about
having as many children as they’d like – and the exhaustion of combining
careers and families.

“If you look at, for example, the three
(female) cabinet ministers, only one has a child,” federal Sex Discrimination
Commissioner Pru Goward told Sky News last week in an International Women’s Day interview.

If it hasn’t been done, there’s a project waiting – check the
biographies of women parliamentarians on the Parliament House websiteto see how they compare in terms of sex, age, marital status and children.

There’s been speculation that Vice President Dick
Cheney will stand aside and a childless, unmarried woman – Condoleezza Rice –
will be parachuted into his job to save the Republicans from disaster in
November’s mid-term elections.

At the
same time, however, there seems to be a new attack from conservatives on the
newfound pride for women who make the choice to focus exclusively on career and
not make children – and partners – suffer.

For all
the talk of “families”, the idea of changing workplace conditions
to enable men and women to share parenting responsibilities just
still seems too radical.

Peter Fray

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