Border Mail Column – Wednesday 16 May 2012
On Sunday in households throughout Australia and other countries, small and not so small children prepared breakfast-in-bed for their mums, handed over handmade cards and gifts from the school Mother’s Day stall to show their love for her, because that is what is done on Mother’s Day.
Grown up children may have travelled hundreds of kilometres to visit with their mums sharing lunch or afternoon tea or found other ways to be in touch with them, while some like me, again found Mother’s Day without our mother difficult.
Feelings are mixed about setting aside one day to show appreciation to mothers or the person who has played that role in a life; some embrace it while others decry its commercialism, even though its beginnings do not lie with Hallmark as is the popular belief.
For me this year the day came into particular focus as I sent my daughter-in-law a card to mark her first Mother’s Day, and awaited the arrival of my younger son’s first child, who was safely delivered on Monday.
Perhaps it was being in this mindset that gave such poignancy to Finance Minister, Penny Wong’s response to Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey’s reply to a question from the audience on Monday night’s Q & A program on ABC television.
The audience member’s question was about Hockey’s belief in equality, but his decision to not vote for marriage equality. The question went further to ask was he saying that he and his wife, Melissa were better parents than Penny and Senator Wong’s partner, Sophie Allouache?
Hockey responded that in life people should aspire to give their children the very best circumstances and that means being raised by a mother and father; a position supported by the Doctors for the Family, who in their submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Act, argued children with a mother and father were healthier than children with same-sex parents.
If the act passes, it will see same sex marriages recognised; a move this group formed in November last year, strongly opposes.
Senator Wong said she felt sad that some families have to justify who they are and that Mr Hockey’s reply equated to saying “the most important thing in our lives, which is the people we love are somehow less good, less valued.”
When asked by host, Tony Jones whether the remarks were hurtful she very quietly responded, “Of course. I know what my family is worth.”
Not everyone has her calm and confidence to defend the make-up of their family, but I too question why they have to put their case when many same sex couples give far more consideration to their decision to become parents than heterosexual couples who are legally married in accordance with the 2004 Marriage Act.
Families in their many and various forms, including those with same sex parents have existed for centuries, but the social circumstances may have meant these relationships were masked.
Research not cited by the Doctors for Family group exists to show that it is the quality of the parenting and not their gender that is important.
According to psychology professor of the University of Cambridge, Michael Lamb, “nothing about a person’s sex determines the capacity to be a good parent” and “it is well-established that children do not need parents of each gender to adjust healthily.”
There is an expression that it takes a village to raise a child, but surely this constant battlefield in the village where groups make claims that theirs is the “right” way to raise children, depletes the richness of the environment in which they might grow.