Finally, the pollies and the Reserve Bank seem to have woken up to the financial reality which every small business owner and many employees have known for three years or more. While we have weathered the GFC better than most, we have been doing it tough, especially in regional and rural Australia. Even the man in the street could see that our resources boom was falsifying the economic picture – there isn’t much work out there, which is why men and women are flocking to the mines or other areas and industries away from home, to make sure their families keep a roof over their heads.
So what, you might think. What does that mean in real terms - at the cliff face of family life? Dad isn’t there – for the washing up, the rough and tumble, the bath times, story telling, song singing and arguments about teeth cleaning, getting dressed etc. He isn’t there for the hum drum and mundane realities of child raising. And Mum is on her own, which is exhausting – no respite, no down time, no one to hand over to when you are at screaming point. Which means that tempers are short and discussions heated when they probably wouldn’t be if the burden was shared.
It’s winter, which means fevers, coughs, colds and subsequently splintered or sleepless nights. Bleary eyed Mum doing it all plus going to work to help put the food on the table. In these days of relocation and community dislocation, she’s not close to family members and with friends in the same frazzled position, there’s no respite in sight.
Children need their fathers, especially boys. All children benefit from healthy parental relationships with equally involved and caring adults around them. This in no way demeans single parents who I have the utmost respect for (especially now I know how lonely and unrelenting the load is!)
Numerous studies have found that active, caring, fatherhood promotes better educational outcomes, and even higher IQ. Children are more likely to be emotionally secure, socially competent and engaged, and confident to explore and engage with their world. They are less rebellious and less likely to get into trouble at home, school or in their community and extra curricular pursuits. Kids need their fathers for healthy self esteem, hugs, affirmation and play. It doesn’t matter if Dad lives with Mum or not, as long as he is active in sharing time with his kids – doing the chores, building something, fixing things, camping, biking, fishing etc.
And having chosen to be a wife, I want to raise my family with the man I married. I feel like a single mum most of the time and when he does come home, I just want to dump the kids on him and run so I can have some peace and quiet. He’s just like the weekend babysitter - by the time the toddler is in bed on Saturday night, we’re too exhausted to do any more than eat in front of a movie and go to sleep. Last year he left on Sunday nights but this year I have fought hard for an extra night and the compromise that he takes our son to preschool on Monday mornings so I get a few hours to clean the house and go for a walk. Other families are not so lucky.
Who is this man anyway? We’ve been apart so much over the past for two years that when he does come home he is like a stranger to me, and like most women I need intimacy as a precursor to the act of love – my days of leaping into bed with strangers are long gone! I feel under pressure to perform during the weekend and quite frankly most of the time I’m too tired to bother.
Plus there’s all the financial stress and worry of trying to juggle all the bills and expenses in times of ever increasing prices and static incomes.
And how does he feel? Exhausted, drained, attacked and as if everything he does is wrong when he is doing his best in a frankly fearful financial marketplace. I’d love to paint a picture of happy families facing up to the FIFO lifestyle with Brady Bunch smiles, but it wouldn’t be true. I grew up with a Father away in the Forces and now that I have turned into my Mother, not only do I understand why she was so cranky all the time, but I have a real understanding and empathy for so many Australian families living these fractured, unsatisfactory and frustrating lives.
It’s a relief to see the pollies finally putting the financial facts of life on the table. Now they are going to have to learn to budget, just as Aussie battlers have been doing for years.
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