Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Census Night - counting the unpaid hours

It is Census night in Australia. Much has changed over the years and perhaps, many things have stayed the same. Families come in all shapes and sizes in 2011. So for that reason and because of a specific experience earlier this year, I found Question 48 on the 'Household Form', to be of particular interest...

In the last week, did the person spend time doing unpaid domestic work in their household?

[ ] No, did not do any unpaid domestic work in the last week
[ ] Yes, less than five hours
[ ] Yes, 5 to 14 hours.
[ ] Yes, 15 to 29 hours
[ ] Yes, 30 hours or more
Census night gives the perfect opportunity to make good on a promise to 'Jacqui' who, earlier this year, wrote a request in the comments section of Always Check Pockets. The blog that day included an instructional video from 'The Mighty Lisa' recorded for my benefit (in fact you see that video being used in the video below). Embarrassingly, your blogger had not learnt how to use the front loader, a washing machine that had been in the household almost a year. Lisa was heading overseas with four girlfriends on the trip of a lifetime to Europe.

Well Jacqui, the systems you can see I adopted were not as smooth as those of 'The Mighty Lisa'. In all seriousness, the seven weeks Lisa was away brought home to me all of the invisible work that she does. I say invisible, because the laundry never looked like this...

If the census was happening back in that seven week period, when I was a temporary single dad, I would have comfortably ticked the '15 to 29 hours' box. Tonight, I'll have to go through the past week and calculate. The reality is that with us back as a two parent set up, 'The Mighty Lisa' has racked up more hours than me. For sure. The statistics say that this is still the norm in most 'mum-dad' households. Simply, most mums do more. What I do know is that because of that seven week experience, we are getting closer to a balance, the work is appreciated and no longer invisible. I commend an experience like this to any dad... maybe the government could arrange to give all mums a holiday to bring home this reality!

Of course, as stated, families come in all shapes and sizes and in May this year, your blogger was chatting to Penny, at a Mother and Son night. Penny is a teacher with a year level leadership role. She kindly came along to assist at this Time & Space event at her school. It was in the time that I was a temporary single dad (my own dad was looking after my kids). Penny is a permanent single mum. She explained how she had dropped off her child at her mum and dad's place, a back up she explained she couldn't do without in her busy job. It was humbling as we swapped notes... a temporary single dad chatting with a full-time single mum.

Penny remarked, "When you're a single parent, there's no role-reversal... you have to do it all. It's me who goes out to the back yard to shovel up the dog poo!"

So as you are filling out your form tonight, think about all the people who are bringing up kids in lots of different situations. People doing what they have to do to help the next generation.

Respect goes out to all of you who do unpaid domestic work.

Whose work do you appreciate? Do you need to lift your own work rate? Who is someone you admire who is juggling heaps of roles and getting on with it?

Feel free to write your thoughts in the space below.

Bill Jennings