Tanya Riches

About Tanya Riches

Tanya Riches is doing her PhD in Development studies, but is also a well-known Pentecostal singer/songwriter. She is committed to ending stereotypes by examining lived religion.

Motherhood is not the only stage where women face inequality

It’s fine to prioritise motherhood, and further discussion around parental leave is vital, but Tanya Riches asks, “What is it about humans that makes us want it all, at once, all the time?”


I find it pretty incredible that in 2015 I sit here knowing that my political representative and the Minister for Women is a man with known misogynist tendencies. I can’t imagine what it’s like to look into my daughter’s face and know that, even after centuries of pushing for equality, the world is sadly, still anything but equal.

Recently the discussion on parental rights has led many to despair about inequity in the workforce. There’s no doubt Australians should continue to be attentive to the rights of working mothers and fathers and push towards a better work-life balance, but it is slightly ridiculous to reinforce motherhood as the definitive stage where gender issues affect Australian women.

When Australian women talk about our careers, we’re ignoring that we’re largely reliant upon somewhat recent social changes, such as postponing our reproductive decisions through contraception. Without this, we’re all teen mothers or nuns. That an Australian first time mother can vote and be educated is due to the choices of a generation of women who fought hard for those rights.

Yet, incredibly, some women confidently still stand against feminism and many of them shout that wage gaps reflect their traditional family values.

If only women in the “majority world” could post these types of photos. Despite the UN’s millennial goals, maternal health care in other parts of the world is so bad that this debate becomes slightly surreal. I don’t think it’s either feminism or traditional family values.

Last year I outlined my personal decision to accept an international PhD scholarship before starting a family, contrasted by my best friend who left her workplace to be a mother. I framed our decisions around making our best contribution to the world. Some women angrily responded that they could competently do both.

I’m not saying it’s a zero sum game.

I’m saying there are twenty-four hours in a day.

Let’s be honest, it’s right (and legally necessary) that workplaces move around the absence of a colleague on maternity or paternity leave, but, on the day you return to the office, it’s probably best to thank your colleagues for their flexibility, rather than blithely remark to your supervisor that you can’t wait to exercise your maternity leave rights for your next child. They can’t smell the poo, if you know what I mean…

It’s okay to prioritise child rearing.  

However, if you choose to child rear and work, please be considerate of the burden maternity leave places upon your workmates and boss.

I know some women have already gotten out their pitchforks, as if I’m the enemy to women’s rights, but we’ve been too quick to forget that our mothers made sacrifices. Even with a pretty flexible boss, my mother will explain that she’s “only” an Associate Professor because she picked us kids up every afternoon at four o’clock and chose not to publish as frequently as her male peers. Admittedly, she’s now catching up…but only just.

Her boss manned the phone each day after she had left.

Maybe we need to go easy on ourselves, pick the contribution we most want to make in the moment and relax on the other stuff. I hope that someone is seriously grappling with maternity leave policy, but I hope this policy isn’t based on the ethos of I want to “do it all” at the expense of those around me.

Mothering (and fathering) is surely the ultimate act of understanding the interdependence of human connections?

What is it about humans that makes us want it all, at once, all the time?


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