Watch your language! A word on words: "work", "stay-at-home mum", "single-earner

In the income-splitting and child-care debates, it is important not to devalue the work parents—especially women—do looking after our own children or any other form of unpaid, uncommodified work. The daycare lobby devalues this work already—we do not need to aid them. They vehemently oppose family taxation. Income splitting must be part of the effort to end the serious discrimination against those who do unpaid care work. Otherwise we justify continuing the existing policy of second class citizenship for most mothers.

The word “work” is often used to create the false impression that looking after your own children is not “work”. “Work” includes all work. “Jobs” are one form of work.

The term “stay-at-home mum” creates the false impression that some women never go out and are socially disengaged while “workers” are assumed to be socially engaged and have great careers. This is what’s called a “false dichotomy”. Most parents do both paid—full time and part time—and unpaid work. Some do paid work with their kids present. For some, all their work is unpaid work.

So let’s cut the talk about “working” vs “stay at home”.

The terms “earnings“, “dual earner” and “single earner” create the impression that pay is actually “earned”, that it is deserved, and that the unpaid work “earns” and therefore deserves nothing. But pay is very much the outcome of power struggles and other factors. Pay does not reflect the real value of any given activity.

Currently unpaid work subsidizes paid work. Financing work on an equitable basis would remove this form of exploitation of women. “Dual income” and “job income” are terms that are more accurate and less inherently discriminatory.

Language embodies thoughts, and thoughts lead to actions. Challenge those on either side of the income-splitting and child-care debates who use words that disparage the essential work of caring for our children.

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