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RaeValuing the extras

Rae has been a nurse for over 27 years. She lives with her family in Brandon.

Rae says:

My mom was a single mother for many years, my father died when I was very young, so she raised 4 children and this was back in the 50s and 60s when it was not a common thing for women to be working let alone to be single mothers working. I was always really proud of my mom for doing that but I was also envious of my friends who had the stay-at-home moms. Because they were there at lunchtime and they baked cookies and they sewed, all those domestic tasks that we think of as being extras.

When I talk to my mom now, her perception of economy was well I have to be able to pay the bills and I have to be able to buy groceries and I have to be able to clothe you. That was economy to her. She did not give herself any recognition for the extras: on Saturdays when I'm home I wax the kitchen floor and I polish the hardwood floors and I do five loads of laundry and I go to the grocery store and on and on. To her that was not part of the economy.

You know what I never even began thinking about that until I was parenting and it was, "Ok, I work and I have this pay cheque and that's economy because I'm given dollar value for that. But now I still have to add the breastfeeding and washing the diapers and the grocery shopping and the cooking and the sewing and the mending…" And that's when the light bulb went on and I went, "Huh? What's this part of the economy? This is a really big part of economy that is not assigned dollar value." And for me I do say that it is part of the economy because economics means welfare of the state. For me it's what keeps things going round, it's what makes things tick.

But for me becoming a mother was a new job, a wonderful opportunity, the most important job I've ever done, and I chose to assign more hours to that task than my paid job. It was stressful for me. I would have preferred not to have worked at all during early childhood years. That's a personal preference and I'll stress that. I liked being at home with my children much more than I liked coming to work. I wish now that I myself would have assigned more value to being a stay-at-home mom, that I would have been willing to maybe make more sacrifices. But maybe not. And maybe that's the issue we need to address is should it be a matter of making sacrifices, personal and financial sacrifices, in order to do that very important job which is parenting.

Rae at workWhen I was returning to work part-time (15 years ago), I chose to remain breast-feeding this particular baby who was not very happy to be bottle-fed. All the arrangements that I made to drive home quickly on my lunch break, which I'm not paid for anyway, and quickly undress, feed the baby and eat my lunch as I was doing that, and return to work. Yes I will admit that quite often I might have been 5 or 10 minutes late returning to work. However, I was just blown away by the sometimes behind my back criticisms and comments that were made by my co-workers, other nurses, about my decision to remain breast-feeding and therefore make myself late all the time. This is a health-care setting and I work with majority women, and the majority of them are mothers. And here we are with posters all over this facility advocating the benefits of breastfeeding and yet we don't practice what we preach, at least not with our own co-workers.

From a feminist perspective, I am really happy that women have been receiving more support and encouragement to enter the workforce and doing well at that. I applaud that, that's an important piece, but what we've perhaps sacrificed with that is ignoring the bigger issue and it's a biological thing. I think that procreation, child rearing, mothering, deserves a lot more respect and recognition. Let's not just leave it rooted towards she became a judge or she became a doctor. Those are wonderful successes but being able to stay at home and financially manage your household so that you have a happy, healthy household is a very big success that has yet to be recognized.

I'm a firm believer in taxes, I think taxes are a wonderful thing if they're utilized properly. We have a wealthy country. And if we treated the next generation as our most rich resource, if we were very careful, if we looked at this as sort of an ecological project, it wouldn't take much to reassign the dollar value coming in from the tax base to provide financial support for stay-at-home parents.

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