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ParentsMarch 8, 2017

A message for the mothers, the aunties and the grannies – and all the women: We value your work

Clapping theater audience
Clapping theater audience

Because it doesn’t get said enough, Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw has a message of thanks for all the overworked and underappreciated women of the world.

Here at The Spinoff Parents our kaupapa is to love, uplift, care for, and support all parents – but especially mothers, would-be mothers, and all the women who support mothers. Our resident Dr Jess has this message for our wāhine: on this International Women’s Day may you know how valued your work is. – Editor, Emily Writes

Women, we value your work.

Women who do not have children, we value your work, your support for others who have children, and your equal value. We value the hard work it can be to be a woman without children in our society when others assign you less value because of it.

Women who work hard for women who desire not to have children, we value your work to give us freedom over own bodies, even while others devalue and demean and abuse you for this important work.

Women who are pregnant, we value the hours working, at what ever you do, when all you want to do is lie down and vomit in your own toilet. We value you because pregnancy is incredibly challenging for women no matter that millions of women do it every day. We value you even when every day women are discriminated against at work because of pregnancy

Women who give birth, we value your work giving birth, because it is visceral and traumatic, and amazing and vital, and has lifelong impacts that cost you physically and mentally. We value the work because this act of giving birth is what gives our society hope and purpose and continuation.

We value the work of the professional women who assist those who give birth, champion, and fight for women during this vital work of birth, many who are paid less because “it is women’s work”.

We value your work!

Sisters, friends, and mothers who support others in birth, we value the hard work of support as those you care for undertake the struggle between this world and another to give birth. We value the love and the time you commit to help other women. This work makes a difference, it has clinically meaningful benefits to women and babies; it is important work.

Mothers, grannies, aunties: we value your hard work in caring for babies and children, yours and others. For taking time out of your paid work to raise the next generation of citizens. Unpaid work contributes at least $40billion a year (39% of GDP) to the economy. Women do 65% of this unpaid under-recognised work. We value this work even when others might see it as no work at all.

Sole women parents, we value the hard work you do to raise our children. We acknowledge that you are paid the least of any adults in our society. We value your work even though others may punish you for it and push you to do ‘real work’, sometimes at the expense of your child’s wellbeing and your economic security. We value your work.

Women who are paid less than men, we value the work you do even when it is paid less simply because you are a woman. Because stereotypes that start as babies about the role of women have infiltrated our society to the point that others see you as less capable than men.

Women, we value your work and your knowledge of the pay gap even if others argue vociferously, aggressively, offensively on social media that this gap does not exist at all – people who having never read the research, debate the data, the science, the lived experience because they are scared of what it means to them. We know it is real and we value your work despite it.

Women who care for the elderly, for the disabled, for parents and children of other people: We value you for the work you do even though this work is paid less than others because you are a woman in a woman’s role.

Women, we value the work you do to look after your own parents when they are old, or children when they ill, and the time you will take out of your own career and earnings to do so.

Stay at home carers, we value the skills you gained while working at parenting and caring for no pay, even though others say this is of no value. We value it even when you are punished with less pay, less seniority than others around you when you return to work because you have “lost skills and time in the workforce”.

Women who work in paid employment when your children are young, we value your hard work even if others believe you should not be doing such work away from your children, but they say nothing to fathers who do the same.

All women, we value the work you do even though at retirement you will retire with less because the work (paid and unpaid) you have done throughout your life is not valued the same as the work men have done. We value your work even though when you struggle in retirement others say you should have just saved harder.

Pacific women, Māori women, women of colour and women with disabilities: we value your work even though you are paid less than men and less than other women. We value your work though others may believe there is no disparity between womens’ pay because they do not see it in their world of privilege. We value your work even though others may describe you as “less skilled”. We value your skills.

Transgender women, we value the work you do for communities even as your very lives are at risk. You fight to exist and be in a world that is increasingly hateful and hostile. We value your work. We  stand and fight with you, and for you, as others refuse to value you. We value the hard work of trans women of colour.

Women who fight for our equality, we value your work fighting for the rights  of women and for making us heard, even if those who are supposed to represent you use the very stereotypes you fight to devalue you. We value your work no matter what ‘type’ of woman you are.

Women who find yourselves poor, we value the hard work you do everyday to get through and provide food [PDF]. We value your work while others disparage you, blame you and treat you as ‘other’. We know that for those who find themselves poor the road is hard, the help is insufficient, and the stress is overwhelming. We value your work.

Women who are assaulted, abused and victimised, known and unknown, we value your work to stand up and fight for justice and for freedom from sexual and physical and mental assault. We value this hard, hard work even though others blame you and shame you and avoid doing the hard work they need to.

Women we value your work.

We know hard work.

We are women.

Wāhine Toa.

Dr Jessica Berentson-Shaw is a writer, scientist, and mother of two. 

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