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‘Men At Work’: Annabel Crabb On Australia’s Parenthood Trap

One of Australia's most significant voices on the complexities of modern parenting, shines a light on how differently we treat men and women leaders.

By Helen McCabe

The Latest

One of Australia's most significant voices on the complexities of modern parenting, shines a light on how differently we treat men and women leaders.

By Helen McCabe

Journalist and author Annabel Crabb is following her groundbreaking book The Wife Drought with a Quarterly Essay titled “Men At Work: Australia’s Parenthood Trap”.

Highlighting the contrasting reactions to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison both juggling their roles as parents, Crabb confronts the way male leaders are treated compared to their female counterparts.

She asks why do we accept that fathers will be absent? And why do so few men take parental leave?

In The Wife Drought: Why Women Need Wives and Men Need Lives, Crabb made the observation half a century of modern feminism had fundamentally changed the way women conduct their lives.

But for men, nothing had changed. They still operated in precisely the same manner: marrying, having children and trotting off to work according to the 9-to-5 demands of business and for the most part enjoying better pay and conditions than their wives or female colleagues. 

She argued if men were to recognise and adapt to the changing order they would benefit enormously from spending more time with the children instead of missing out on this precious time.

This time around, Crabb asks why haven’t men’s lives changed and why do so few take parental leave?

And she rails against female MP’s such as Tanya Plibersek and others being asked about how they juggle their roles when key male figures with small children are never asked about it.  

In her latest work she argues gender equity cannot be achieved “until men are as free to leave the workplace (when their lives demand it) as women are to enter it.”

Image Credit (R) Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison / Getty Images

Crabb, who began as a political journalist in Adelaide before joining the Canberra Press Gallery where she quickly became one of Australia’s most popular commentators, has already cemented herself as one of the most significant voices on the complexity of modern parenting.

“As much as juggling life is not easy, I think it is a tragedy – a proper tragedy – that men are encouraged to miss out on it, every day. It feels like a universe of experience from which fathers are disproportionately excluded, and that’s a sad thing”, she writes.

“As long as we assume women are the only losers in this situation, nothing will change. Because the truth is that everybody loses in a system like this. Women who feel hard done by, men who feel trapped at work, children who don’t see enough of their fathers.”

In her first book, she singled out Australia’s twenty-eight prime minister, Tony Abbott, who in 2013 promised to help women struggling to combine career and family.

“He was immediately as good as his word, appointing a Cabinet that did not create work-family issues for a single Coalition woman,” she says after only the childless deputy leader Julie Bishop made it to the top table.

Crabb’s much-anticipated Quarterly Essay is out September 9th 2019.

If you want to know more, Annabel Crabb and ABC TV colleague Leigh Sales are in conversation on Hamilton Island September 7, 2019