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The Toronto Star

Actually, It's Pro-Family to Advocate Policies That Give Women Choices

Dear, dear Reader,

May we clear something up?

Just because I advocate for regulated child-care spaces, pay equity for women and reproductive freedom, does not mean I am anti-family. Nor does it mean I have a hate on for women who do not work outside of the home for pay, and who choose to be full-time moms.

Not every woman can choose.

I'm not talking about families who have a computer, flat screen TV and DVD player in every child's room. I'm talking no options, no way out.

The mother is single. Or her ex isn't meeting his support payments. Or her husband is disabled. Or he was abusive and she got out with her kids and her life. Or expenses are high, like when you have children in university or hockey leagues. Or the mortgage is crushing. Or any one of a million reasons that send women out the door and into the office, factory or store.

Marriages end. Husbands get laid off. Interest rates rise. Parents who were helping you out get old, sick or move to Florida. Stuff happens.

Sometimes a woman's husband "chooses" for her, as more than one reader has let me know. Some women, for cultural or controlling reasons, are told point-blank that their place is in the home.

One woman wrote to tell me that she despises the paraprofessional work she could do part-time on weekdays and she would much rather work in retail. But her husband forbids her from doing that because the evening and weekend hours would cut into her time with him.

Now some would argue that men have no choice either. It's their role to provide for the family.

Well yes, if you believe that, in the 21st century, biology is still destiny and it's men who must hunt the mastodon.

But why? As long as women are paid equitably, that is. Which they aren't. But that's another column.

Some women - Sarah Palin, you betcha - have babies and are back at work within days. Some women - wink, wink, Sarah Palin - put their careers ahead of their families.

They're lucky. They either can afford nannies, or have found decent daycare, or have stay-at-home husbands, all of whom can wipe a baby bum or runny nose more enthusiastically than their lawyer or banker wives can.

Again, it's a choice. These women know they'd go stir-crazy in the house, can make more than their husbands could, and so they go back to work, leaving somebody else to juggle the kids, cooking and cleaning. (Mind you, most women still do bear most of the responsibility for appointments and errands, taking care of ailing parents and sick kids, and many other burdens that tend to fall on female shoulders.) The thing is, most women do not have a choice. And so, they run around, sometimes from one job to another, just to provide their children with the basics: decent food, non brand-name clothing and, one hopes, safe shelter.

Look around this town. There are thousands and thousands of women in this position. One in four kids lives well below the poverty line, and often in places you wouldn't walk through in the daytime, let alone at night.

Stephen Harper's $100 a month for children under 6 doesn't cut it, even if it isn't taxed, which it is.

So when I advocate for regulated child-care spaces, or more choices for women, it's not because I am "anti-family" or want to "warehouse" children, as so many of my emailers maintain.

It's just the opposite.

You can't get any more pro-family than by wanting the best for children.

All our children.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do.

Antonia Zerbisias

Antonia Zerbisias is a former columnist for the Toronto Star and is the co-creator of #BeenRapedNeverReported.


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