Sunday, 24 February 2008

The Privilege of Breeding February 24

“Mum you can’t park here, it’s only for parents with babies,” said my youngest daughter in her patient voice. The one she uses to explain that I have my dress on inside out or I might be a little drunk.
“I don’t care, I’m making up for lost privilege,” I replied testily.
“Lost what?”
“The lost privilege of breeding, grab the shopping bags and lock your door.”
My local Foodtown has gone to the trouble of branding the 10 car parks closest to the door exclusively for use by parents with babies. It’s a fantastic idea especially for those working mums who dash in at 5.30 with overtired children recently retrieved from daycare and attempt to buy something resembling dinner.
I’ve been there, I know how they feel. Just as you finish one job you are about to start another, and it won’t end until dinner is cooked, babies are bathed and safely asleep. Approximately four hours to go and parking close is a great help.
But in my day we never had branded carparks. We had to park with the normal people, because in the 80s breeding was not a privilege. We didn’t even have those cute seats in the trollies and had to somehow fit the carseat in the trolley along with our 12 pack of Treasures and packets of mince.
Recently I’ve considered suing the government for that loss of privilege. I’d like to claim the 14 weeks paid paternal leave I never got for my four babies. The childcare subsidy which wasn’t available for my children, had there actually been childcare centres back then. The Working for Families tax subsidy which was non existent. I reckon it cost me $50,000 to choose to have a career and give birth to four children so where’s the back pay? Surely my babies are just as valid as today’s ones?
In 1986 when I had my first child there were only 52,823 of us breeding that year. And you didn’t’ really get much help especially if you insisted on being a working mum. Like many young women in the 80s I made the tragic mistake of believing I could combine the feminist dream of working full time and having children. I did it, but at a price thanks to Rogernomics, Ruthanasia and a Labour government more interested in free markets than free children. And it was very lonely. At 24 I was regarded as a bit eccentric having a baby, I had no friends who were pregnant, no one at work was pregnant, and there were no exceptions made for pregnancy in the newsroom. You still worked the late shift and if you went over your 10 days sick leave allowance because your other baby was in hospital with pneumonia your pay was docked.
It’s hard to believe employers could be so harsh when today they are falling over themselves to let mothers work part time, from home, up a tree if they want to all at full pay because there just aren’t enough workers out there to fill the jobs.
So, is it any wonder we are experiencing a baby boom not seen since 1963? Just over 64,000 babies were born last year to parents who planned their pregnancies knowing that they will receive everything a privileged couple should to help them add their precious bundle to our population.
But according to a shocked media obviously incapable of economic analysis, the baby boom can be explained by celebrities. Apparently women are more than happy to put themselves through nine months of strenuous baby growing, not drinking alcohol and limiting what they eat to look like Angelina Jolie and Heidi Klum. I don’t think so, Kiwi women just aren’t that thick. They know that Angelina and Heidi have an army of trainers, dieticians, beauty therapists and nannies ensuring they look fantastic during and two days after their pregnancy. But what pregnant celebrities have done is make it okay to walk around with your gorgeous naked belly exposing itself in a bikini or above low waist jeans. Gone are the days when we were reduced to hiding our bump under ridiculous gathered frocks and sewing wedges of elasticized material into the front of our jeans to make room.
There has never been a better time to have a baby, and it’s almost worth having another one just to make the most of all that privilege and the Foodtown carparks.

Illustration by Anthony Ellison

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