Sociologist Professor Barbara Pocock’s book “The Work/Life Collision” has been influential throughout my career. I taught Professor Pocock’s research for years at Swinburne University while I was still a lecturer/tutor; this book informed my thinking when I worked in social policy research; and I draw on her work still.
Professor Pocock talks about how Governments frame women’s paid and unpaid labour as a “choice,” which is ultimately damaging as it puts the burden of managing domestic labour, caring for self and family, and careers all on individual women.
Policies are also set up as if women with children belong to two separate groups, “working mothers” and “stay at home mothers,” but the reality is that many women move between paid and unpaid work. Additionally, women do the majority of unpaid work regardless of marital or employment status (housework and looking after other people).
Real policy choice would mean providing a “menu of options;” that is, a range of caring resources and support that reflect women’s diverse family situations. Key areas of support include affordable care (child-care, aged care); reduced hours of work without penalising women’s career progression; paid leave; flexible workplace arrangements; recognition of unpaid work; and support for sub-groups who need it more, including Indigenous women, refugees and new migrants.