Reflections on motherhood...


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My two cents on the paid parental leave debate

This post got really complicated.  I went down all sorts of wormholes, and argued with myself over children being a choice, delayed gratification, the widening gap between rich and poor, whether institutional childcare is better than parent-care (conclusion: you're going to screw your kids up one way or another), and the pay gap between men and women being caused by women quitting their jobs to raise children. 

[SPOILER ALERT]  So before we go on, and you see the remains of my complicated meanderings, I'm just going to come out with it:

We should allow parents to "cash in" a few years of their superannuation while they raise children.

Since, as the diagram shows, New Zealand's doing pretty piss-poorly in comparison to other countries when it comes to giving parents a financial helping hand.

Source (edits to put NZ on the map by yours truly)

So why is it that we don't value what parents are doing enough to give them a financial helping hand for much longer than a baby's sneeze?  

The short answer is, supposedly, the country can't afford it

Underlying this excuse is the implication that having children is a choice.  And yes, for most people it is.  A difficult one.

As we all know, the time to bear children is when you're young and healthy.  For a start, your fertility is less impaired (unless you count all that pot you smoked at university).  And you have the energy to run around after the little terrors.  Nights out partying are not such a distant memory that you can hack the sleep deprivation.  Mostly.

However, for many people, the time you're expected to produce a family is also around the same time that you're trying to make a bit of a life for yourself and gain some financial independence.  Perhaps pay off a student loan, buy a house, sort out some semblance of a career.  Taking unpaid time off work really hurts your chances in all of these endeavours.  It's simply the worst possible time.  

It's too bad the human body is not designed to have kids upon retirement.  Think of this: you've more than paid off your student loan, you're financially secure, and you suddenly have time on your hands. The only problem is, your knees don't work so well any more, and you need more nana-naps than a toddler.

So why not allow people to cash in a few years of their superannuation to enable their financial security while they take time off work to raise kids?  The average superannuation is around $350/week, which is probably about the average paid parental leave.  It's not huge, but for some people would make the difference between working and paying for childcare or staying home with their kids a bit longer.  

Frankly, I would happily give up a few years of retirement to have a little more paid time with my monsters.  Or maybe this just shows that I would have failed that delayed gratification test they do on 4-year-olds.  Gimme that marshmallow!

**Disclaimer: I should note that I get absolutely nothing out of promoting extended paid parental leave, as we are SO done with having babies.

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