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Wednesday, 24 October 2012


In those halcyon days of Paul Keating’s recession we had to have, I discovered I was pregnant. It was circa November 1990 and my then husband and I were eating tinned beans boiled in veal bones so we could pay our 17% interest rate mortgage. We were so poor we would go to KFC just to lick other people’s fingers. We thought about renewing our vows for the rice. Christmas was coming up and the only thing we could afford to exchange was glances.

So sex was clearly our preferred form of entertainment.

And I got pregnant.

Then, one month before baby’s due date, husband loses his job. Two weeks after baby was born, I was retrenched.

Now back then, maternity leave, paid or otherwise, didn’t exist in my private sector job. Thankfully I had a boss with a progressive wife who insisted he let me use up all my sick leave and annual leave. But that was it. No job guarantee on a return to work. No option of part-time on said return. No support structure, understanding nods or free money in the bank.

Because there was no baby bonus.

My retrenchment payout was about seven weeks pay. I was earning $30,000 a year so you do the math. The husband’s payout was zilch. So we did what we had to do.

He reinvigorated his truck driving licence, conveniently attained during a short stint in the military, and got behind a large wheel of a large truck.

I waited for the caesarean scars to somewhat heal and got a temp receptionist job for – guess who – Kevin Rudd. Go figure… Kevin was an arsehole, the scars weren’t properly healed, my six week old baby was with a day care mum and I wanted to keep my house. And eat.

Had we had the baby bonus, would things have been different? I don’t know. I can’t know. The way I figured it, I had fallen pregnant. The government hadn’t captured me, Matrix style, and forced a foetus into my womb under threat of torture or Barry Manilow on repeat. It was my responsibility so I had to manage it. Not the government. Not the tax payers of Australia. Just me. And a little help from my mum.

Sometimes I daydream about what $5000 would have got me. A fancier pram? A groovier change table? Groceries? Petrol?

But with the baby bonus changes currently underway, is it going to affect Australia’s reproduction? Or will families just go back to what they always did, and just make do or make the best?

Because clearly we can’t be affording to have sex anymore!!

1 comment:

  1. That is so true Bron. This generation has so much given to them and they expect more. I know of a young lady with incredibly rich parents (you know them as well) and she received a huge baby bonus which she spent on herself. Her mother tells me she fell pregnant as the boyfriend had lost interest in her and 'trapped him' by taking herself off the pill. It didn't work and he moved on, but the incentive was the baby bonus. Would she have fallen pregnant had the baby bonus not been available, I don't know, but gut feel says no. She was also on a large single mum pension as the babys father was still at university and unable to contribute. This is not isolated, she tells me of two of her school friends who did exactly the same. I have in fact met them at the childs birthday party. The mums and bubs were all still living at home with their parents. The girl in question was living in a multi million dollar house with the taxpayers paying her single pension. Parents provided roof over head free, food free, toys like you wouldn't believe free. Why did she need the money. I say means test any funds given to single parents and explore what support they have from their family.