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READER REPORT:

Value of the family unit

NATALIE SWART
Last updated 05:00 07/03/2014

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Working for your family

A working mum, and proud of it A stay-at-home mum's memories Leaving baby at 4 weeks old New mum was 'paying to work' Help parents to help themselves 'Employers see mums as a risk' No-one paid for my kids Working parents need support Value of the family unit From poor to working poor

Motherhood took me by surprise and ended up turning my priorities upside down.

I got degrees, forged a professional career and did plenty of consuming, so I guess from the Government's perspective I was a class-A citizen.

Then I got married and had babies.

When my first baby turned one I dutifully trotted back off to work – living in Auckland and trying to buy our first home, I had no other option.

I paid $360 per week for childcare, narrowly missing out on any subsidies.

I spent two hours commuting each day.

I lasted 10 months and my heart grew heavier every day I left my baby with a stranger.

Then I quit. We relocated to the bright (tractor) lights of rural Waikato, my husband forged a new career in the dairy industry and we had another baby. We haven't looked back.

For now I choose to be a stay-at-home mum, with a 3-and-a-half-year-old and a 16-month-old.

I'm one of the lucky ones, my husband and I can make ends meet (just) on one income.

Some days I really don't like my "job" and fear my adult brain has atrophied beyond recognition. Sometimes I catch myself making excuses for not being back at work already, multitasking like a madwoman.

But most of the time I'm living the dream.

But I have to work at it.

I'm driven to learn about my children, all the things that make them tick, how their little brains are developing and how they are learning to interact with the world around them.

I only wish the Government dedicated more resource to inspiring a generation of informed and aspirational parents – the working and the non-working types.

I've been on a waiting list to do the one robust parenting course on offer in the district for over a year. That's just not cool.

I'm not contributing to GDP right now. I am pretty busy you see, helping lay the neurons in my babies' brains so they stand the best chance of leading fulfilled lives.

If it's any consolation I will most probably head back to the workforce for another 30-odd years. I reckon I'll make up for this little child rearing "holiday". And on my deathbed, I'm pretty sure I'll be glad I did.

I know my views will never be popular with policy makers. I only hope someone with enough passion and enough clout will stand up in the next Government, actually listen to our Commissioner for Children and help this country recognise the enormous value of the family unit and attachment in the first few years of a child's life.

Extending the period of paid parental leave is the very least we can do.

We don't live in the family utopia that is Scandinavia, but we risk looking like unenlightened fools if we remain as we are.


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